In Jainism renunciation has nothing to do with abandonment of outer things but abandoning our attachment to the outer things is the real definition of renunciation. “External renunciation is meaningless if the soul remains fettered by internal shackles”, said Lord Mahavir. According to the teachings of all omniscient Tirthankaras, “We need nothing to renounce, because there is nothing to renounce. All the external things can never be achieved because the soul is an independent substance and has no relation with the external souls and matter.” Similarly, there is nothing that we can gain because the soul is complete with infinite bliss. All we need is to shift our vision from the outer world to the inner world by gaining the true knowledge of the attributes of the soul and its discrimination from the matter and other souls. If the right perception and conduct are then taken, then it leads to ultimate liberation.
All we need is to change our inner intent and focus the cognitive faculty (upa-yoga) to the pure nature of the soul. If the inner intent is purified then true renunciation is achieved. And when true renunciation is achieved the attachment towards the worldly things automatically ceases.
To understand this fact more deeply we need to go through a beautiful Jain story.
Once there lived a monk who had renounced all his luxury and became a nirgranth (unattached) monk. After renunciation he used to meditate day and night in solitary places. When meditating, he would stand like a statue and fix his eyes on an object in front of him and stop all his activities of mind, speech and body and remain in tune with the soul. Soon his fame spread all over and he became known as a great renouncer. Many people wanted to see him but it was hard to find him as he was living in the deep jungles. Once he arrived in a town to spend the four months of rainy season. All the people of that town wanted to see him. All were standing in a queue.
The king of that town also heard the news and his eagerness to meet the monk found no limit. He quickly approached the monk, bowed down to him and said, “oh monk! You have renounced all worldly attachments, you are great renouncer!” The monk grasped the king’s as well as the people’s wrong understanding about renunciation so he decided to teach them the true meaning of renunciation. He stood up and bowed down the king! Everyone present there were dumbfounded and there was a pin drop silence. The king asked the monk, “oh venerable, why are you bowing down to me? I am a worldly being and having attachment towards my wealth and kingdom.” The monk replied, “Oh king! If giving up only the kingdom is the definition of renunciation according to you then you’re great renouncer than me because I have renounced just my kingdom but you have renounced your soul which is full of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite power and infinite bliss!” He further said, “Now tell me, oh king! Which one is greater? The kingdom or your own soul? I actually have renounced nothing but have gained my real self. To gain something more precious than you have, you will give up attachment towards the things you already have because something more precious is there and that is your own soul.”