Every religion has a band of anchorites who lead a life of seclusion and meditation. There are bhikkus in Buddhism, fakirs in Islam, sufistic fakirs in Sufism, fathers and brothers in Christianity. The glory of a religion will be absolutely lost if you remove the hermits or sanyasins or those who lead the life of renunciation and divine contemplation. It is these people who maintain and preserve the religions of the world. It is these people who give solace to the householders when they are in trouble and distress. They bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the depressed, strength to the weak and courage to the timid by imparting the knowledge of yoga and vedanta, and the significance of, “That thou art.”
True renunciation is the renunciation of all passions, desires and egoism. If you have a stainless mind, a mind free from attachment, egoism and passion, you are a sanyasin – no matter whether you live in a forest or in the bustle of a city, whether you wear white cloth or an orange coloured robe, whether you shave your head or keep a long tuft of hair.
Shave the mind. Someone asked Guru Nanak, “O saint, why have you not shaved your head? You are a sanyasin.” Guru Nanak replied: “My dear friend, I have shaved my mind.” In fact, the mind should be cleanly shaved. Shaving the mind consists of getting rid of all attachments, egoism, infatuation, lust, greed and anger. That is real shaving. External shaving of the head has no meaning so long as there is internal craving.
Many have not understood what true renunciation is. Renunciation of physical objects is no renunciation at all. True renunciation lies in the abnegation of the mind. It consists of renouncing all desires and egoism, and not world-existence. The real renunciation is the renunciation of the ego. If you can renounce this, you have renounced everything in the world. If the subtle egoism is given up, identification with the body goes away automatically.