When asked: ‘How does a grihastha (householder) fare in the scheme of Moksha (liberation)?’
Bhagavan said, ‘Why do you think you are a grihastha? If you go out as a sannyasi (ascetic), a similar thought that you are a sannyasi will haunt you. Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind goes with you. The ego is the source of all thought. It creates the body and the world and makes you think you are a grihastha. If you renounce the world it will only substitute the thought sannyasi for grihastha, and the environments of the forest for those of the household. But the mental obstacles will still be there. They even increase in the new surroundings. There is no help in a change of environment.
The obstacle is the mind. It must be got over whether at home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not at home? Therefore, why change your environment? Your efforts can be made even now – in whatever environment you are now. The environment will never change according to your desire.
If objects have an independent existence, i.e., if they exist anywhere apart from you, then it may be possible for you to go away from them. But they do not exist apart from you; they owe their existence to you, your thoughts. So where can you go to escape them? Where can you go, fleeing from the world or objects? They are like the shadow of man, which the man cannot flee from. There is a funny story of a man who wanted to bury his shadow. He dug a deep pit, and seeing his shadow at the bottom, was glad he could bury it so deep. He went on filling the pit, and when he had completely filled it up, he was surprised and disappointed to find the shadow on the top. Even so, the objects or thoughts of them will be always with you until you realize the Self.
Why should your occupation or duties in life interfere with your spiritual effort? For instance, there is a difference between your activities at home and in the office. In your office activities you are detached, and so long as you do your duty you do not care what happens, or whether it results in gain or loss to the employer. But your duties at home are performed with attachment and you are all the time anxious as to whether they will bring advantage or disadvantage to you and your family.
It is possible to perform all the activities of life with detachment and regard only the Self as real. It is wrong to suppose that if one is fixed in the Self, one’s duties in life will not be performed properly. It is like an actor. He dresses, acts and even feels the part he is playing, but he knows that he is really not that character but someone else in real life. In the same way, why should the body-consciousness or the feeling ‘I am the body’ disturb you once you know for certain that you are not the body but the Self. Nothing that the body does should shake you from abidance in the Self. Such abidance will never interfere with the proper and effective discharge of whatever duties the body has, any more than the actor’s being aware of his real status in life interferes with his acting a part on the stage.
Renunciation is always in the mind, not in going to the forest or solitary places, or giving up one’s duties. The main thing is to see that the mind does not turn outward but inward. It does not really rest with a man whether he goes to this place or that, or whether he gives up his duties or not. All that happens according to destiny.
– The teachings of Sri Ramana Maharishi summarized by A. DEVARAJA MUDALIAR in the book: GEMS FROM BHAGAVAN. Excerpt from Chapter X. RENUNCIATION