I’m currently working on a novel (The Arrowsmith’s Daughter) that somehow weaves together street art, Buddhism and issues about creative blocks (yeah, I know…it’s more fun than it sounds!). One of the things that has come up thematically is the concept of renunciation, the giving up of a way of life. The Tibetan word for it is nge jung (no idea how you pronounce it) which means ‘get out’. This is quite different than the western conception of what renunciation means. Fortunately my favorite Tibetan teacher has a better explanation:

“The Tibetan sense of ‘renunciation’ is a little different. For example, if you were to tell your children that they have to give up playing with their toys, they would find it very painful. But as children grow up they lose their fascination for these toys. They outgrow them. Leaving their toys behind does not seem like ‘renunciation’ to them; it’s just a matter of growing up.

Likewise, in the spring and summer when the trees are full of leaves, there is resistance if we try to pull a leaf from a branch. But when autumn comes, the leaves spontaneously and of themselves part from the tree. Renunciation is closely aligned  with this sense of parting. Outwardly it may seem like one is giving up something, and there might even be pain, but inwardly, interest in these things has been outgrown. Things fall away naturally.”

– Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Into the Heart of Life

The big challenge at this point is to not sound preachy- there are no enlightened characters in the book, at least not yet!

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