What does Renunciation Mean in Modern Spiritual Life? | Mark Whitwell

By Mark Whitwell Yoga Teacher at Heart of Yoga

Mark Whitwell
5 min readAug 16, 2022
From ancient Veda to UG Krishnamurti. Understanding UG is a bit like Prapatti except it dawns on you that the body actually IS the great power of the cosmos. That there really IS nothing to change. There IS nothing to be liberated from. You are not the person looking for Reality. You are Reality | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

This article is part of a series in which Mark Whitwell tackles humanity’s dysfunction around intimate relationship and the root cause of sexual abuse in societal patterns of separateness, conflict, fear of commitment, and co-dependency. He explains how the real pleasure of intimacy that Yoga gives is the social solution that vanishes the duplication of limiting beliefs and transforms life into intimate participation in Life as it actually as, for everyOne.

To renounce ‘the world’ is to fall out of the patterned thought-structures of civilization. It is to no longer be a player in the chequerboard pattern of dissociation and hostility that is the worldwide activity of separate ‘egos.’

We see the samskaras (patterns) of separation playing out all around us, whether in the lunchroom at work where people are complaining and hostile all the way to military campaigns of mass murder currently taking place in Ukraine.

There is a statement in the traditions, “Where there is an ‘Other’ there is fear.” The root presumption of the separate self is that entire world is ‘other’ to ‘me.’ The ‘Other’ must then be possessed, controlled, or destroyed lest they destroy “me.”

In Reality, however, the next sentence reveals: “There are no others.”

“Much of the pain and confusion we feel around love, Sex, and relationships, the very cause of sexual abuse, stems from this cultural legacy that has scorned the feminine — the body, the world, other people, and reality as it is experienced — in search of other, ‘higher’ realities” God and Sex: Now We Get Both | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

So to renounce ‘the world’ is to unlink (viyoga) from the mistaken thought patterns of civilization — the presumption of separation — that we have all been innocently born into and instead choose to participate in what is actually going on — the prior unity of Life on earth. The action of renunciation often comes less through rejecting what is false, but by embracing what is Real.

By contrast, the renunciation that is taught by exoteric religions of both east and west is an egoic search that begins from the mistaken presumption that “I” am separate from the Absolute.

Because civilization itself has been built upon the thought-structure of religious hierarchies, the sneaky idea that truth, beauty, eternity, is somewhere else outside of this materiality is now woven into the thought-structures of civilization, whether a practicing religious person or not.

“In promoting such distinctions, the world religions have put humanity in conflict with our own reality. Instead of embracing our lives, these cultures have promoted only the ‘witnessing’ of experience, which inherently is a project of dissociation” God and Sex: Now We Get Both | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Renunciation, in the exoteric sense is dissociation from the tangible conditions and people of the world. “Because you are not interested in the everyday things,” my friend U.G. Krishnamurti said, “and happenings around you, you have invented the beyond, timelessness, God, truth, reality, enlightenment or whatever, and search for it.”

The psychology of trying leave this realm and ‘get to God’ as other underpins the religious denial of relationship and sex — a denial that inevitably produces outbursts of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

In Reality, your body is not a separate self struggling in a separate world. Your body is energy, consciousness, light, nature, unity. The body is the cosmos. The beauty of the birds song is the beauty of your voice. The softness of the leaves on the tree is the softness of your face and throat. The nurturing power that eternally springs forth as beauty and regenerative intelligence is the same beauty that is you

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time,” the great English mystic poet William Blake wrote. This includes you, me and all the ‘objects’ of the world.

Intimacy with all tangible conditions is the principle devotional method of humanity’s wisdom traditions. Traditional religious renunciation turns us away from one another and underpins all kinds of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The way forward for humanity is to become intimate with our own reality. | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Yogic participation in Reality is a simple matter because union has already occurred. You are already participating. My teacher Krishnamacharya said that prana (the energy of life) has its own perfect movement and intelligence. It requires no manipulation of our thought system. The pranas are said to spiral from the hridaya (heart) like flower petals blooming in all directions. Just as a plant or flower inherently knows how to bloom, so too the floral intelligence of life functions in us, as us. The body, right now, knows what it is doing.

Asana and pranayama is simply to link body, mind and breath in unitary movement. By linking movement to breath, the mind automatically becomes linked to the whole body, and the whole body is prana, is the energy of life. The nurturing flow of prana then enters the mind, restoring the thinking mind to its natural function as an expression of the heart. The mind becomes clear and perceives its inherent connection to the cosmos.

“When we are well loved, we inevitably give love to those around us” | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

The paradox of renouncing the world’s patterns, of losing interest in taking a position relative to patterned behaviour, is that you are then free to love everybody. When the effort that we usually put in getting somewhere spiritually vanishes, then we have all this excess energy that we put to good use. Now we can do our life and relationships: to care for others in local community even in the midst of that patterning continuing all around us.



Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.