‘Renunciation’ and ‘detachment’ are two words which, while not being synonyms, are intimately related to each other. As verbs, they both are active (dynamic), in the sense of voluntary action, and, as nouns, both passive (static), implying a state or condition. But on the whole, is, or does ‘detachment’, not rather suggest passivity (to be detached) and ‘renunciation’ (to renounce) activity? (a different emphasis). Also, renunciation is more linked to desire, and detachment to disinterest, uninvolvement – which does not necessarily have a connotation or association with desire.
Here is an example where both senses, if not both words, are employed in the same paragraph:
Having mentally renounced all actions, the self-controlled embodied one rests happy [i.e. detached] in the fortress of nine doors, himself doing nothing and engaging no one else in any action. (Bhagavad Gita, 5-13)
Renunciation can be related not only to desire, but, as in the above example, to knowledge. But detachment can also be so related! More on this quotation and the issue of Knowledge in next post.