People, particularly the householders, have a vague idea of what true renunciation is. Tyaga or renunciation demands an extraordinary state of mind. To illustrate this idea Sri Ramakrishna used to narrate a beautiful story.
In a rare instance of coincidence, a husband and wife renounced the world and together undertook a pilgrimage to various holy places. Once, as they were walking along a road, the husband, being a little ahead of the wife, saw a piece of diamond on the road. Immediately, he began to scratch the ground with his foot to create a small hole so that he could hide the diamond in it. The reason was that he was worried about his wife’s strength of renunciation. He felt that if she saw it, perchance she might be tempted to possess it and thus lose the merit of renunciation. While he was scratching the ground, the wife came up and asked him as to what he was doing. The husband struggled for an answer. Finally, he gave an evasive reply in an apologetic tone. The wife however was quite intelligent. She saw the diamond and reading his thoughts remarked, “Why did you leave the world if you still feel the distinction between a diamond and dust?” Thus the wife was far ahead of the husband in the path of renunciation. While he was afraid that she might be tempted by seeing the diamond, she was so advanced that she didn’t see any distinction between a diamond and a speck of dust.
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would explain that true renunciation demands a very high state of mind which exhibits an uncompromising attitude. A person established in renunciation would never come down from the dizzying heights of awareness or true knowledge. For him the water of the gutter and that of the holy river Ganga, both will be equally pure and acceptable.