The question is to be of the world and still be out of it. Sounds paradoxical. The religion as propounded by Guru Nanak and the later gurus does not reconcile people to poverty, misery, hunger and disease. All these are regarded by the gurus as great evils.
In one of his compositions (it is included in Guru Granth Sahib) sage Kabir said: “I cannot carry on my devotion on an empty stomach. Here take thy rosary away.” But at the same time, all the gurus say that if these evils are inescapable and incurable in spite of all efforts, they must be endured, not only with fortitude and firmness, but sometimes even the joy. It has ordained thus.
Gurbani says that one should be happy and comfortable in this world and blessed in the next life. The human body is sacred or, as Guru Amardas says: “The body is an extremely beautiful temple of God.” So do please keep it neat and clean and pure.
A diseased body is not a worthy instrument for the service of the Almighty. The real devotee should not seek God in forests and mountains – in secluded places because God dwells in our own heart. Says Guru nanak: “Meditate on Truth. That will give you true light. Then you will be able to live unattached amid the pollution of the world.”
The gurus stress on the inner aspect of renunciation. The love of God is considered as aspect of renunciation. And it is very worthwhile. A devotee is a renounce even while living in his house. Says the Granth Sahib: “He is a saint and a renounce that cherishes God’s name is his heart.”
Guru Dev has his own philosophy: “O Nanak! by meeting the true teacher you acquire perfect wisdom and achieve success; for while laughing, playing, eating, and in full enjoyment of these pleasures, you attain union the Lord.” The gurus insisted on family life and not asceticism.
True renunciation according to Guru Gobind Singh lies in temperance and moderation along with service to people and devotion to God. The Gurus do not despise worldly commodities.
Their only concern is that if a person becomes engrossed in the enjoyment of the material world, he will forget the Lord. But if that danger is avoided, then the person can enjoy worldly goods and yet be spiritual for all intents and purposes.
All he has to do is to remember the Lord and follow the path laid down by him: to be in the world and yet not of it, to remain in the midst of world’s pleasures, yet to be unattached to them, and to share his earnings, with other in a fixed, reasonable proportion. Sharing brings joy and plentitude.