Renunciation & Verse 5 of The Three Principal Aspects of the Path

Summary of commentary by Venerable Thubten Chodron

Verse 5 tells us how we know when we have developed renunciation:

By contemplating in this way, do not generate even for an instant the wish for the pleasures of cyclic existence. When you have, day and night unceasingly, the mind aspiring for liberation, you have generated the determination to be free.

When we contemplate the disadvantages of cyclic existence, we really want to get out.

  • "Even for an instant"—If you want to quit drinking, you don’t take even a drop of alcohol, because that will lead to more. So even an instant of the pleasure of cyclic existence and we’ll keep inviting samsara.
  • The determination to be free from cyclic existence, i.e., renunciation, really means having compassion for ourselves.
  • Remember, what we’re renouncing is suffering and the causes of suffering. We see the predicament we’re in, and we want to escape it.
  • Think about this when dealing with our various difficult habits. Think, "I respect myself. I care about myself. This habit is not caring about me. I need to let it go." If we really care about ourselves, we’ll work on some of these mental-emotional habits that keep us stuck in difficulties.

The definition of generating the determination to be free—the first principal of the path—is "when you have, day and night unceasingly, the mind aspiring for liberation."

  • At this point, there is incredible energy behind your practice, and incredible focus.
  • You’re very clear about what the meaning of your life is and what you’re going to do, so the eight worldly concerns don’t trip you up anymore.
  • Instead of trying to make our prison cell prettier, we now aspire to get out of prison.

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