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Title: Tyāga  
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Subject: Indian philosophy, Jain philosophy, Asceticism, Causality, Buddhist Bráhman
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Tyāga (Sanskrit: त्याग) is derived from त्यज् - meaning risking one’s life or giving up one’s person.[1] Tyāga means – sacrifice, renunciation, abandonment, resignation, donation, forsaking, liberality, withdrawal [2] Tyāga which is not merely physical renunciation of the world is different from Sannyasa; Sannyasa which comes from the root as means – "giving up entirely", Tyāga means – "giving up with generosity what one could probably have kept".[3]


Tyāga or abandonment refers to giving up of all anxieties for enjoying the fruits of actions; through practice of this kind of tyāga infusing discipline in daily activities the momentary anxiety to enjoy fruits of actions is overcome. It is a subjective renunciation of selfishness and desire. Tyāga or renunciation refers to abandonment of duty merely because it is difficult or because of physical hardship; renunciation of obligatory work is due to delusion.[4]

Vedic version

Yajna is Tyāga . The Vedic interpretation of renunciation (tyāga ) of the fruits of ritual acts including – agnistomena svargakāmo yajeta – "the desire for heaven", which renunciation is to be found expressed in the phrase – agnaye idam na mama – "this is for Agni, not for me" – pronounced by the yajamana at the time of the oblation.[5]

In the very first verse of Isha Upanishad which Chapter XXXX of the Vajasaneyi Samhitā of Shukla Yajurveda, the sage, Datyang Aadarvanar, on being approached seeking guidance tells his son:-

ईशावास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् |
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गर्धः कस्यस्विधनम् ||
îsHâ vâsyamidaM sarvaM yat kiñca jagatyâM jagat,
tena tyaktena bhuñjîthâ mâ gRidhaH kasya sviddhanam
"All this—whatever exists in this changing universe—should be covered by the Lord. Protect the Self by renunciation; lust not after any man's wealth. "

The sage prescribes the discipline of renunciation of the longing for offspring, wealth and heavenly worlds for him alone who devotes himself entirely to contemplation of the Self as the Lord. Such an aspirant has no further need of worldly duties. It is renunciation that leads to the Knowledge of the Self and protects its Immutability, eternity and immortality. Protect means to liberate the Self from grief, delusion and other evil traits.[6] The sage of the Tejobindu Upanishad belonging to Krishna- yajurveda explains that in Tyāga ('renunciation') one abandons the manifestations or objects of the universe through the cognition of Atman that is Sat and Cit and this is practiced by the wise as the giver of immediate salvation.[7] Thus, Kaivalya Upanishad portrays the state of man on the way of renunciation (tyāga) as having become free of all attachment to the worldly and who, consequently knows and feels himself only as the one divine essence that lives in all.[8]

Jaina version

According to Tattvartha Sutra, an ascetic’s dharma consists of ten elements i.e. abstract virtues, which are – ksama ('forebearance'), mardava ('humility'), arjava ('uprightness'), sauca ('desirelessness'), satya ('truthfulness'), samyama ('self-discipline'), tapas ('self-mortification'), tyaga ('renunciation'), akincanya ('poverty') and brahmacharya ('celibacy'). Hemachandra has recognized only two of the ten pratyakhyanas viz. sanketa-pratyakhyana and addha-pratyakhyana, the former, which is of eight types, is symbolic and the devotee refrains from taking food for some time by which renunciation he recalls his mind to his religious duties; the latter, is ritualistic, also connected with abstention from or renouncing food, and has a set methodology to adopt. Ahimsa-vrata practiced by the Svetambras refers to the renunciation of killing. Basically, there are five kinds of tyāgas included in the eleven pratimās viz. sacitta-tyāga pratimā, the stage of renouncing uncooked food; ārambha-tyāga pratimā, the stage of abandonment of all professional activity; parigraha-tyāga pratimā, the stage of transferring publicly one’s property to a son or relative; anumati-tyāga pratimā, the stage of leaving the household and refraining from counselling in household matters, and uddista-tyāga pratimā, the stage of not eating food especially prepared for oneself i.e. the stage of seeking alms like a monk, commonly followed by Svetambras , Digambaras and Avasyaka-Curni. Nemicandra gives a list of eighty-four asatanas which includes sacittanām atayāga or failure to remove sentient objects and ajive tyāga or failure to remove non-sentient objects.[9]

Tyaga of Bhagavad Gita

Moksha consists in securing lasting freedom from the bondage of existence in the form of birth and death and realizing God who is no other than Bliss (Brahman). Chapter VIII of the Bhagavad Gita deals with Sannyasa and Tyāga, the Paths of Knowledge and Action that are means to the attainment of moksha. Krishna tells Arjuna that even though sannyāsa is understood as the giving up of all actions motivated by desires, and tyāga consisists in relinquishing the fruit of all actions; that all actions are worth giving up because they contain a measure of evil that acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not worth shunning, there are three kinds of Tyāga – Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika (Sloka XVIII.4). Whereas acts of sacrifice, charity and penance, the purifiers of wise men, must be performed without attachment and hope of award, Krishna states - मोहात्तस्य परित्यागस्तामसः (the abandonment of prescribed duty through ignorance) is not advisable, it is the Tamasika form of tyāga; if it is owing to कायक्लेशभयात्तयजेत् (abandonment for fear of physical strain) then it is Rajasika form; if it is –

कार्यमित्येव यत्कर्म नियतं क्रियतेऽर्जुन |
सङंग त्यक्त्वा फलं चैव स त्यागः सात्त्विको मतः| (Sloka XVIII.9)
"A prescribed duty which is performed simply because it has to be performed, giving up attachment and fruit, that alone has been recognized as the Sattvika form of renunciation. "

Thereafter, Arjuna is told about the marks of a Sattvika-man of renunciation and that since all actions cannot be given up in their entirety by anyone possessing a body, he alone, who abstains from prohibited actions and those that are motivated by desire and performs duties, renounces the fruit of actions is called a man of renunciation; no fruits of actions accrues for him (Sloka XVIII.11-12).[10] In the preceding discourses, Krishna had recommended to Arjuna actions which ought to be performed as duty (Ch.III.19); He told him to perform ordained actions (Ch.III.8), to be free from attachment (Ch.III.9,19 & Ch.II.48), and to have no desire for the fruit of action (Ch.II.47); Krishna had recommended Sattvika-tyāga.[11]

Sannyasa and Tyāga

Sannyasa literally means – throwing away, absolute rejection, formal monastic life; in the Bhagavad Gita, it means – mental state of thorough-going renunciation, of uncompromising abandonment of all that is unfit and unworthy, of intense dispassion toward things of the world, both internal and external. Tyāga literally means – abandonment, the turning from all that hinders the realization of the Self; in the Bhagavad Gita, it means – renunciation in the sense of relinquishment of the fruit of action. Sannyāsa is external, even though it is based on internal disposition; Tyāga is completely mental, it is a state of thought and attitude. Arjuna is emphatically told that it is possible to act and accrue no karma whatsoever; it is a matter of consciousness.[12]

In this context, Chinmayananda remarks that abandonment is the true content of the status of renunciation – sannyāsa without the tyāga spirit is but an empty show; real abandonment is meant for rising to a nobler status of fulfilment, leading on to the ampler fields of expression, to fuller ways of living and to greater experiences of joy.[13] And, Aurobindo explains that – "Sannysa in the standing of the terminology of the sages means the laying aside of desirable actions. In that sense Tyāga, not Sannyasa, is the better way. It is not the desirable actions that must be laid aside, but the desire that gives them that character has to be put away from us... The spiritual transference of all works to the Master and his Shakti is the real sannyāsa in the teachings of the Gita.... The essence of renunciation, the true Tyāga, the true sannyāsa is not any rule of thumb of inaction but a disinterested soul, a selfless mind, the transition from ego to the free impersonal and spiritual nature. "[14]

Self-discipline too becomes a form of Sattvika-tyāga, during the course of which exercise one has control over negative emotions and behaviours such as anger, greed and pride.[15] The Bhagavad Gita projects action to serve as steps on the path of spiritual ascent, as an effective means to purify the mind through diligently cultivated mental discipline in action; the true fruit of Tyāga is an elevating sense of peace and fulfillment, even if it entails a bit of physical discomfort.[16]


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