Barbara said the renunciation was the most important aspect of Buddhism. I suspect, like with “suffering,” that renunciation is often misunderstood. We talk about renunciates who deny themselves all the “good stuff” including dance, laughter, sex, drink, etc. But I suspect that this is not what Barbara was talking about. Buddha rejected living on 1/2 of a grain of rice a day. Perhaps his story tells us the physical renunciation is not the answer.
Yesterday I read about a test given to five year olds. They were given a cookie and told that if they didn't eat if for 15 minutes they would get two. The ones that were able to control their gluttony were destined for higher SAT scores. Were those that could sit still for 15 minutes the renunciates?
I don't think so. It seems that Barbara was talking about renouncing the three poisons: greed, hate, and delusion. It is more a mental state than a physical state. It is more about not being attached to the “good stuff.” Maybe when we can take it ... or leave it, then we can really enjoy it.
Some people can leave food on their plate. I'm not able to do that. I need rules. Current I eat 26 weight watcher points per day. My new rule is to write down food (using the iPhone app “iTrackBites”) before I eat it. For me, the self-control is freeing. I'm choosing to not make constant decisions about what I'll eat and not eat.
When we renounce greed we can embrace generosity. Not seeing ourselves as separate, we are free to share. And actually, it is hardly sharing, but rather giving to our larger selves.
When we renounce hate, we embrace love. And embracing love is accepting things as they “is.” (Suzuki Roshi used “is” rather than “are” to suggest that we are all part of one.)
When we renounce delusion, we realize that what we see and think is only that. It is what our mind has created. It may or may not describe a world that we can't know.
I think my food rules teach me not to go with every whim. I love chocolate soy gelato at Central Market, yet I usually walk by it, eyeing it lovingly, and realize the consequences of eating it. Will that help my SAT scores. I doubt it. (Note: later I went and bought a small container of the gelato. And, unfortunately, I forgot that it makes me cough.)
My food rules teach me a little about renunciation. Leaving the thoughts alone that arise when I'm meditating teach me a little as well. Not getting mad (leaking) at someone calling me to sell insurance is a form of renunciation.
Renunciation can be practiced any time or place. I saw some beautiful little flowers today. I dismissed the thought that they too will die. I enjoyed them, and then walked on, looking for the next gift.