In Buddhism, when we talk about renunciation, we immediately think of becoming a monk, cutting away our hair, giving away all our properties and forsaking all our relationship. These are the physical aspect of renunciation.
It is possible to go through all these “acts” of renunciation but still possess a heart that doesn’t renounce.
Renunciation is the act of letting go, to give up attachment. We can practice renunciation anywhere, but I find it easiest to practice it during meditation or chanting. To let go of our senses or attachment to its stimulants. Let go of our “self”
Eye-sight, ear-sound, nose-smell, mouth-taste, body-tactile, mind-thoughts
If you ever try to focus during meditation or chanting, you’ll probably find it totally impossible. Our senses keep on receiving stimulants from our surrounding, and our mind keeps running after them. Also various thoughts just keep on appearing in our mind. Zipping to the past and then to the future.
If you have such experiences, CONGRATULATION!
That means you have a perfect human body and you have the necessary “tools” to reach enlightenment in this lifetime.
To let go of all these, doesn’t mean we aspire to become comatose or become a vegetative state of being. It means we are aware but be are no longer bound by them.
If we want to achieve concentration, we really have to let go.
We need to let go of what is troubling us, we need to let go of memories that are both pleasant and unpleasant, we need to let go of fantasizing the future. let go of habituaal state of reacting to stimulation of the senses.
This attitude of being free from worldly concern is best expressed by Sakyamuni Buddha when he resolved to achieve enlightenment. He said
“though [my] skin, sinew and bone may dry up as it will, my flesh and blood may dry in my body, but without attaining complete enlightenment I will not leave this seat.”
That is true renunciation. A conscious decision to be free from mundane worries and concerns.
(Please note that the Buddha is not encouraging us to “glue” ourselves to one spot and die of starvation/thirst.) It simply means we need to embrace a determination to not loose focus of what we set out to achieve and let go of everything else.
What we are trying to achieve is right concentration (定) and for chanters, one minded focus (一心不乱) Enlightenment is possible once we can achieve this state because after that prajna (enlightening wisdom) will arise. Wisdom that help us understand the ultimate Truth (aka Enlightenment)