Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai at the International six-day Retreat,
Bangkok, Thailand December 27, 1999
(Originally in Chinese) Videotape No. 682
True renunciation is renunciation in the heart. For one can also convey the gospel of "liberation in one lifetime" to people around the world, to those who are suffering, so that they can achieve self-realization. Whether we become monastic practitioners or remain lay spiritual practitioners, whatever work we do, or even if we work in a factory, we can still convey the message of the Truth among our colleagues. Look at my clothes; they don't look like monastic robes. As long as your hearts are not attached, you don't look like lay people either.
Therefore, it doesn't matter whether you take a monastic vow or not! The main point is that you're able to progress in your spiritual practice, are happy and free in both body and soul, and also are able to help others enjoy this bliss. That's our goal. Our goal is not to join the monastic order, but to bring happiness to others. That's how we should be, no matter where we are or what the situation is.
I don't mean that it's no good for you to become a renunciate. This ideal is good and noble, and I approve of it. It's just that the situation is not viable for some people. Even if you haven't shaved your heads and you wear layman's clothes, but your hearts are unoccupied and free, then that's true liberation. We should not be attached to outer appearances.