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Naiṣkramya (P. nekkhamma; T. nges 'byung ངེས་འབྱུང་; C. chuyaozhi/chuli) is an attitude of dissatisfaction with ordinary, worldly things, coupled with the wish to follow a spiritual path. This term is translated as "renunciation," "determination to be free from samsara," etc.

Naiṣkramya is identified as:

Within right intention

Bhikkhu Bodhi describes the intention of renunciation (naiṣkramya) in the context of right intention as follows:[1]

The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness. Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention. The intention of renunciation counters the intention of desire, the intention of good will counters the intention of ill will, and the intention of harmlessness counters the intention of harmfulness.


The Intention of Renunciation
The Buddha describes his teaching as running contrary to the way of the world. The way of the world is the way of desire, and the unenlightened who follow this way flow with the current of desire, seeking happiness by pursuing the objects in which they imagine they will find fulfillment. The Buddha's message of renunciation states exactly the opposite: the pull of desire is to be resisted and eventually abandoned. Desire is to be abandoned not because it is morally evil but because it is a root of suffering.[17] Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive for gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom from the hold of attachment.

The Buddha does not demand that everyone leave the household life for the monastery or ask his followers to discard all sense enjoyments on the spot. The degree to which a person renounces depends on his or her disposition and situation. But what remains as a guiding principle is this: that the attainment of deliverance requires the complete eradication of craving, and progress along the path is accelerated to the extent that one overcomes craving. Breaking free from domination by desire may not be easy, but the difficulty does not abrogate the necessity. Since craving is the origin of dukkha, putting an end to dukkha depends on eliminating craving, and that involves directing the mind to renunciation.

But it is just at this point, when one tries to let go of attachment, that one encounters a powerful inner resistance. The mind does not want to relinquish its hold on the objects to which it has become attached. For such a long time it has been accustomed to gaining, grasping, and holding, that it seems impossible to break these habits by an act of will. One might agree to the need for renunciation, might want to leave attachment behind, but when the call is actually sounded the mind recoils and continues to move in the grip of its desires.

So the problem arises of how to break the shackles of desire. The Buddha does not offer as a solution the method of repression — the attempt to drive desire away with a mind full of fear and loathing. This approach does not resolve the problem but only pushes it below the surface, where it continues to thrive. The tool the Buddha holds out to free the mind from desire is understanding. Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself, without need for struggle.

To understand desire in such a way that we can loosen its hold, we need to see that desire is invariably bound up with dukkha. The whole phenomenon of desire, with its cycle of wanting and gratification, hangs on our way of seeing things. We remain in bondage to desire because we see it as our means to happiness. If we can look at desire from a different angle, its force will be abated, resulting in the move towards renunciation. What is needed to alter perception is something called "wise consideration" (yoniso manasikara). Just as perception influences thought, so thought can influence perception. Our usual perceptions are tinged with "unwise consideration" (ayoniso manasikara). We ordinarily look only at the surfaces of things, scan them in terms of our immediate interests and wants; only rarely do we dig into the roots of our involvements or explore their long-range consequences. To set this straight calls for wise consideration: looking into the hidden undertones to our actions, exploring their results, evaluating the worthiness of our goals. In this investigation our concern must not be with what is pleasant but with what is true. We have to be prepared and willing to discover what is true even at the cost of our comfort. For real security always lies on the side of truth, not on the side of comfort.

When desire is scrutinized closely, we find that it is constantly shadowed by dukkha. Sometimes dukkha appears as pain or irritation; often it lies low as a constant strain of discontent. But the two — desire and dukkha — are inseparable concomitants. We can confirm this for ourselves by considering the whole cycle of desire. At the moment desire springs up it creates in us a sense of lack, the pain of want. To end this pain we struggle to fulfill the desire. If our effort fails, we experience frustration, disappointment, sometimes despair. But even the pleasure of success is not unqualified. We worry that we might lose the ground we have gained. We feel driven to secure our position, to safeguard our territory, to gain more, to rise higher, to establish tighter controls. The demands of desire seem endless, and each desire demands the eternal: it wants the things we get to last forever. But all the objects of desire are impermanent. Whether it be wealth, power, position, or other persons, separation is inevitable, and the pain that accompanies separation is proportional to the force of attachment: strong attachment brings much suffering; little attachment brings little suffering; no attachment brings no suffering.[18]

Contemplating the dukkha inherent in desire is one way to incline the mind to renunciation. Another way is to contemplate directly the benefits flowing from renunciation. To move from desire to renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness to grief, from abundance to destitution. It is to pass from gross, entangling pleasures to an exalted happiness and peace, from a condition of servitude to one of self-mastery. Desire ultimately breeds fear and sorrow, but renunciation gives fearlessness and joy. It promotes the accomplishment of all three stages of the threefold training: it purifies conduct, aids concentration, and nourishes the seed of wisdom. The entire course of practice from start to finish can in fact be seen as an evolving process of renunciation culminating in Nibbana as the ultimate stage of relinquishment, "the relinquishing of all foundations of existence" (sabb'upadhipatinissagga).

When we methodically contemplate the dangers of desire and the benefits of renunciation, gradually we steer our mind away from the domination of desire. Attachments are shed like the leaves of a tree, naturally and spontaneously. The changes do not come suddenly, but when there is persistent practice, there is no doubt that they will come. Through repeated contemplation one thought knocks away another, the intention of renunciation dislodges the intention of desire.

Perfection of renunciation

The perfection of renunciation (nekkhamma pāramī) is one of the ten paramis within the Pali tradition. One Teacher, Many Traditions states:

While different in name, the Sanskrit perfection of meditative stability and the Pāli perfection of renunciation deal with the same practices: renunciation of sense pleasures and cultivation of concentration. The perfection of meditative stability involves developing concentration through the nine stages of sustained attention. The method to do this was described previously.
While bodhisattvas renounce the pursuit of sense pleasures to develop the eight meditative absorptions, these are not their main interest. Their ultimate aim is to use their concentration to develop the insight focused on emptiness and then use that to cut the root of saṃsāra and eliminate the two obscurations.
The pāramī of renunciation is grounded in realizing the unsatisfactory nature of saṃsāra. Based on a sense of spiritual urgency (saṃvega), bodhisattas abandon attachment to sense pleasures and to existence in all saṃsāric realms. Renunciation protects bodhisattas from extreme asceticism, involvement in the afflictions of others, and indulging in sense pleasures.
To reinforce renunciation, bodhisattas reflect on the dangers of sense pleasures, the distraction of the householder’s life, and the benefits of monastic life. They see that career and family life lead to numerous entanglements that consume time and galvanize afflictions. “Sense pleasures give limited pleasure and abundant harm, like honey smeared on the blade of a sword. They are fleeting like a flash of lightning, and they intensify our thirst like drinking salt water.
Seeing these disadvantages, bodhisattas contemplate the benefits of renunciation, simplicity, and solitude and become monastics. Living with ethical conduct, they cultivate contentment with robes, almsfood, and shelter, and through this they come to delight in meditation and attain the jhānas. Here Dhammapāla discusses the thirteen ascetic practices and the forty meditation objects for the cultivation of serenity.[2]

Development of bodhicitta

Within the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition, renunciation is a necessary factor in the development of bodhicitta.

See also


  1. Access to insight icon 50px.png Bhikkhu Bodhi (1999), The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering, Access to Insight
  2. Tenzin Gyatso & Thubten Chodron 2014, Perfections of Meditative Stability and of Renunciation.


External links

Copyright info

This article includes content from Bhikkhu Bodhi, "The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering" on Access to Insight. The following copyright applies:

©1998 Buddhist Publication Society. You may copy, reformat, reprint, republish, and redistribute this work in any medium whatsoever, provided that: (1) you only make such copies, etc. available free of charge and, in the case of reprinting, only in quantities of no more than 50 copies; (2) you clearly indicate that any derivatives of this work (including translations) are derived from this source document; and (3) you include the full text of this license in any copies or derivatives of this work. Otherwise, all rights reserved. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions. The Wheel Publication No. 308/311 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1984), second edition (revised) 1994. Transcribed from a file provided by the BPS Last revised for Access to Insight on 30 November 2013.

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