One cannot be really renounced until one actually becomes disgusted with material activity and sees it as a stumbling block to spiritual advancement. Renunciation should not be phalgu, temporary, but should exist throughout one’s life
"You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it."
The word markaṭa-vairāgya, indicating false renunciation, is very important in this verse. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, in commenting on this word, points out that monkeys make an external show of renunciation by not accepting clothing and by living naked in the forest. In this way they consider themselves renunciants, but actually they are very busy enjoying sense gratification with dozens of female monkeys. Such renunciation is called markaṭa-vairāgya—the renunciation of a monkey. One cannot be really renounced until one actually becomes disgusted with material activity and sees it as a stumbling block to spiritual advancement. Renunciation should not be phalgu, temporary, but should exist throughout one's life. Temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is like the renunciation one feels at a cremation ground. When a man takes a dead body to the crematorium, he sometimes thinks, "This is the final end of the body. Why am I working so hard day and night?" Such sentiments naturally arise in the mind of any man who goes to a crematorial ghāṭa. However, as soon as he returns from the cremation grounds, he again engages in material activity for sense enjoyment. This is called śmaśāna-vairāgya, or markaṭa-vairāgya.
In order to render service to the Lord, one may accept necessary things. If one lives in this way, he may actually become renounced. In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.108), it is said:
- yāvatā syāt sva-nirvāhaḥ svī-kuryāt tāvad artha-vit
- ādhikye nyūnatāyāṁ ca cyavate paramārthataḥ
"The bare necessities of life must be accepted, but one should not superfluously increase his necessities. Nor should they be unnecessarily decreased. One should simply accept what is necessary to help one advance spiritually."
In his Durgama-saṅgamanī, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī comments that the word sva-nirvāhaḥ actually means sva-sva-bhakti-nirvāhaḥ. The experienced devotee will accept only those material things that will help him render service to the Lord. In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.2.256), markaṭa-vairāgya, or phalgu-vairāgya, is explained as follows:
- prāpañcikatayā buddhyā hari-sambandhi-vastunaḥ
- mumukṣubhiḥ parityāgo vairāgyaṁ phalgu kathyate
"When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, thinking them to be material, their renunciation is called incomplete." Whatever is favorable for the rendering of service to the Lord should be accepted and should not be rejected as a material thing. Yukta-vairāgya, or befitting renunciation, is thus explained:
- anāsaktasya viṣayān yathārham upayuñjataḥ
- nirbandhaḥ kṛṣṇa-sambandhe yuktaṁ vairāgyam ucyate
“Things should be accepted for the Lord's service and not for one's personal sense gratification. If one accepts something without attachment and accepts it because it is related to Kṛṣṇa, one's renunciation is called yukta-vairāgya.” Since Kṛṣṇa is the Absolute Truth, whatever is accepted for His service is also the Absolute Truth.
The word markaṭa-vairāgya is used by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to indicate so-called Vaiṣṇavas who dress themselves in loincloths trying to imitate Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Such people carry a bead bag and chant, but at heart they are always thinking about getting women and money. Unknown to others, these markaṭa-vairāgīs maintain women but externally present themselves as renunciants. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was very much opposed to these markaṭa-vairāgīs, or pseudo Vaiṣṇavas.