Can One Renounce Worldly Pleasures Yet Serve the Nation?


Is it possible for one to renounce all the worldly materialistic pleasures and yet serve the nation?

—Utkarsh Ujwal, India


Dear Utkarsh,

Did not Mahatma Gandhi do precisely that: renounce material goals and yet serve the nation? These two goals are not mutually exclusive. Did not Rama and Krishna and countless others do both: they renounced all outward things yet offered countless others  wisdom and service. (Is not sharing wisdom service itself?)

There isn’t necessarily a connection between renunciation and public service. Where renunciation enters the picture is on the level of ego. Too many people seek political power (“serve the nation”) with a mixture of self-interest and public interest. Some seek only to serve themselves! A true kshatriya (servant of the people) serves without thought of self-interest and only with the thought of duty — ideally, God-given duty.

The extremes to which Gandhi went in his personal life aren’t practical for most high-minded, potential public servants, but what is needed is humility; self-sacrifice; devotion to good and devotion to God (who is all good); self-honesty, and especially lack of ego self-aggrandizement.

But these qualities are infrequently found in public office in the age in which we live. Honesty and high ideals are about the epitome of what we can ever hope for, speaking in general terms. Few saints, if any, have the dharma (duty) to serve in public roles in this age. Gandhi was a rare exception.

Are you seeking to serve the nation? If so, let your affirmation be: be the change you seek. Like Gandhi, understand first and foremost, that you must first embody the consciousness you want to see in others before you can ask them to change. Pray and meditate and purify yourself if you seek to enter the arena of politics!

I hope this will be helpful to you,
Nayaswami Hriman