What Is Renunciation?

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by Michael Maciel

We are awash with the world, saturated by it. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night, our cares and concerns fill our consciousness and shape our thoughts. No wonder we feel so powerless in the face of world events and human interactions. The Priesthood is about changing all of that. It’s about carving out a space in the clutter, about creating an eye in the storm of the world’s circumstances, and finding a stillpoint for humanity’s self-awareness.

This is the meaning and purpose of renunciation in the life of a priest. It’s one thing to be engaged with life and all of its normal arrangements—family, job, friendships, entertainments—and quite another to be caught in life’s thrall. Nothing saps our strength like distraction. Renunciation, on the other hand, is the power to say no, not just to this or that, but to everything. It is an intentional clearing of the space around us, both physical space and psychic space. It is what in the Upanishads is called, “neti neti ” (not this, not that), the complete rejection of the contents of the mind as a means of creating a clearing in which reality can show up.

How does renunciation work? Simply stated, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” When we create a space around us, we set up an immediate potential—an empty space. No doubt you have seen this demonstrated many times in your life. Any time you see people who command authority, people who cannot be swayed by popular opinion and who are not easily swept away by the emotions of others, you are seeing people who have mastered this skill. They are renunciates. They have the ability to say no to the world. Consequently, the world tends to move around them, and not the other way around.

Renunciation is a principle—a law—an aspect of the Priesthood. It acts like a filter, a barrier through which only the real can pass. Without it, you will be so infused with the world’s mind that you will be indistinguishable from it.

Knowing God is a process of elimination. As we reject everything that our intellect wants us to believe, we set up a force field in the mind, a force field that destroys all that is not eternal. God cannot be slain; we cannot destroy that which is real. Truth is forever the enemy of falsehood, so we need not fear losing anything of spiritual value. When it comes to emptying our mind, the baby can never be thrown out with the bathwater. The mind cannot throw itself out, only its contents. When the particulate matter (our thoughts) settles to the bottom, the water (our mind) is clear, and sunlight illuminates the whole body.

(These are excerpts from my book, World Priest, available on Amazon.)

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