Sannyasins as universal benefactors
Sannyasa is resting in one’s own Satchidananda swarupa. Sannyasa is self-realization. Our forefathers, our gurus, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara–the four Kumaras, the mentally born sons of Brahma–were asked by Brahma to lead the life of householders, but they refused, because they knew the worth of this samsaric life. So they at once entered the nivritti order. They were our sannyasins’ forefathers. The sannyasins are the children of Sri Shankara, Gaudapada, Dattatreya–glorious divine personages who had knowledge of Brahman, and who shone with divine splendor having attained oneness with the Paramatman, the supreme soul.
Sannyasa is a life of self-restraint and renunciation–renunciation not only of external objects and worldly activities, but renunciation of egoism, cravings, vasanas, kartritwa-buddhi (the feeling that I am the doer) and bheda buddhi (the intellect that differentiates one from the other), which instead of producing homogeneity produces heterogeneity. External sannyasa is renunciation of objects and selfish activities along with internal sannyasa.
A sannyasi is an atma-samrat, a self-king. A sannyasi or sadhu is one who has knowledge of God, who has controlled his indriyas, who is compassionate to ail, who has equal vision and balanced mind, and who is a friend to everybody. A cosmic benefactor is the sannyasi. A sannyasi is a veritable god on earth.
A person who has enrobed himself in orange-colored clothes is Lord Vishnu Himself. He blesses all. He elevates them, gives them advice how to lead the life divine, how to control the mind, how to cultivate virtues, how to remove dehadhyasa and how to identify oneself with the all-pervading Atman. He uplifts the worldly people, raises them to the status of Brahmanhood, and makes them shine with divine splendor and pristine purity.
A sannyasi is not a useless person as some people think. He is a king of the world, he is the emperor of the three worlds. Even the very sight of him will destroy one’s sins. Every religion has got this band of anchorites. Buddhism has got Buddhist monks. Jainism has got digambaras and swetambaras. Islam and Sufism have got fakirs. These anchorites are the glory of every religion. They have disciplined themselves. If you remove these people, there is no essence in religion. These people glorify the religions.
Some people bring the charge that a sannyasi is unproductive, a burden on this earth. Sannyasins are those who have renounced their own wealth, read much, attained distinctions, and are given over to intense meditation and dynamic selfless service. They write articles, and give lectures. They hold classes. They impart instructions to the men of the world. They do work. They are not useless. The whole world is maintained by the glory of the sannyasins. They serve them in a variety of ways. Their very existence is a glory and splendor on earth. When people are in distress, and when they do not know what to do, these sannyasins speak one word. This one word elevates them, removes their sufferings. The very sight of sannyasins destroys one’s sufferings. Such is the glory of sannyasins.
There are many hidden sannyasins in the Himalayas. They are sending their thought-vibrations to the world. It is not necessary that a sannyasi should come to the platform and give lectures and interpret the Gita and the Upanishads. They can purify the whole world by their thoughts. Such is the glory of sannyasins.
Sannyasins have established ashrams. They are helping people. They hold Vedantic conferences. Recently Prem Puriji held a conference in Bombay, for five days. There are Divine Life Conferences in Salem, Venkatagiri, Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore, and Copenhagen. These are all productive.
People expect that sadhus and sannyasins should go to the agricultural field and plough the field and produce so many bags of rice and go to mills and weave so many yards of cloth. They think that only he who produces fifty yards of cloth, or he who goes to the dairy farm and makes so many pounds of butter or ploughs the fields and raises so many pounds of paddy is productive. To train people in Brahmavidya, in knowledge of the Self, in self-discipline, in disciplining the mind and the senses, and in attaining discrimination is productive. Ignorant people have no idea of spiritual things. They see only the external objects. They are ignorant of transcendental things.
Sannyasins are storehouses of power
Sadhus and sannyasins are potent powers; they are those that have got through tyaga, through renunciation, through vairagya and meditation, an eternal storehouse of energy. Meditation is the key to open the door of Elysian bliss. Renunciation is the first step, and vairagya is the passport to enter into the kingdom of eternal bliss. Our mahatmas are storehouses of energy and power. They are whole-time aspirants and when they utilize their energy we can easily effect the moral and spiritual regeneration not only of India, but of the whole world at large.
We require the cooperation of the sadhus and sannyasins for the moral uplift of the people and for their spiritual advancement. Their instructions will penetrate the heart. They are selfless people, endowed with viveka and vairagya. It is time for the sadhus and sannyasins to pool their energies, time, and wisdom, for the moral and spiritual uplift of the world.
There must also be sannyasins who can devote themselves to whole-time meditation. We have got medical research institutes, scientific research institutes, and various other research centers. We must also have people who devote their time to concentration and meditation and bring out the atmic pearl. There must be people who devote their whole time for atmic research. It is these people who can contribute to the moral and spiritual uplift of the whole world at large.
God as the greatest sannyasi
A sannyasi is Sakshat Narayana Himself. The greatest sannyasi is Parabrahman Himself. He is without the least tinge of samsara. There is no prapancha or vyavahara in Him.
The secret of sannyasa is renunciation of egoism and desires. Renunciation of “I”-ness and “mineness” is real sannyasa. Without yoga, sannyasa is hard to attain. Sannyasa bestows immortality and eternal bliss.
A real sannyasi alone can teach Brahmavidya. The glory of sannyasa is ineffable. Practice of fourfold means, sadhana-chatushtaya, will prepare you for sannyasa. A sannyasi is the happiest and the richest man in the world. Therefore, renounce and rest in the Absolute.
Make courage your rosary, desirelessness your staff, discrimination your deerskin, dispassion your kamandalu, and meditation your holy ash.
Make perseverance your raft, the Name of the Lord your boat, and cross this formidable ocean of samsara fearlessly.
Sannyasa for the Western world
These days many Western people are taking sannyasa. In our own ashram, there are a number of American and European sannyasins. Hundreds of them have taken sannyasa here in the Sivanandashram and have gone back to their respective countries for dissemination of India’s upanishadic wisdom. Many Americans have taken sannyasa and joined the Ramakrishna Mission. It is gratifying to note that Western people are coming to India to take sannyasa and live a life of yoga and meditation.
Renunciation is the only means for attaining self-realization. “Not by works, not by progeny, not by wealth, but by renunciation alone one attains immortality.” Through sannyasa alone can we entirely cut off moha for property and relatives. Sannyasa is very necessary. The glory of sannyasa, the fruit of sannyasa, is indescribable.
Characteristics of a sannyasi
The distinguishing quality of a sannyasi is universal love. Erudition by itself cannot be the mark of saintliness because an erudite man will not be able to love or to be loved as much as a man who has surrendered himself completely to the Lord and who lives in the world only for the purpose of carrying out the behests of the Lord in the manner in which he is able to conceive of them. Such a person will have absolute peace of mind, complete cleanliness and purity, intuitive recognition of what is of permanent value, a quickness of intelligence to understand at one stroke and without much effort the essence of the scriptures, an innate and intense longing for self-denial so that he might be of utmost use to the people around him and, last but not the least of all, deep devotion to and unfailing faith in the dispensation of the Lord.
The mission of sannyasins
Sadhus and sannyasins as a body have a universal purpose for which they exist. They are the custodians of the spirituality of the land and have a definite part to do in the advancement and elevation of humanity. To equip themselves for the noble task entrusted to their care, the monks and sadhus of the world isolate themselves in the beginning from the rest of mankind as a necessary discipline. But unfortunately we have allowed this separation to become a permanent condition and thus to a great extent the sadhu community has come to regard itself as a unit outside the pale of the rest of humanity struggling valiantly in the plains and the cities.
Losing touch with others has consequently made us forget the part we have to do and to neglect our work as educators and enlighteners of the other three orders. We have once again to bestir ourselves and commence playing our destined part in the nation’s life. We are to be one united body dedicated to the noble ideal of exerting ourselves unselfishly and wholeheartedly for ushering in of the new era of brotherhood and peace that must follow after the years of savage strife and bloodshed the world is now plunged in. [This was written during the Second World War. Editor.]
Every section of humanity will play its part in the reconstruction of the New World on a worthier basis. If the new civilization is to be enduring one (not merely a prelude to a bigger war), it has to be based on lasting values of a spiritual nature. The providing of this fundamental spiritual basis to the new humanity is the work of the sannyasins and sadhus, monks and celibates of the world.
The onus of spiritualizing the coming generation rests upon the shoulders of the men of Spirit, the sannyasins, the saints, the mahatmas. They should do this without fail to keep the glorious tradition of this land and to maintain their respected place as a useful unit of society.
The lay people always look up to the sadhus for active guidance in matters of moral and spiritual import. We have, therefore, to set to work by precept, actual example and active life-work. In bringing together the saints of the country into a united and harmonious association, let us all join with enthusiasm and help in every way to make it a thorough success. In view of the greater work that lies before us all, the sadhus of the holy places in India, let us start with earnestness and faith in the Almighty.
Such a Sanghatana is to be a preliminary and a preparatory step for the grander union of all the saints and sannyasins of the world, for the noble work of lokasangraha in the postwar world. India is to be made the glorious Bharatvarsha of King Bharata once again and she will be the spiritual Mother of the world not in theory, but actually in fact. The instrument to achieve this divine work is this selfless union.
To make itself qualified, fit and ready for the task is the initial work of this organization. To this end the first measure will be to take stock of the united strength of the Sangha. Even as was done on the eve of Mahabharata, Yuddha, this will provide an idea of our capacities. For verily we represent the force of sattwa and good for overcoming the force of tamas and evil that has the world in its grip today.
The genuine sadhus of our country constitute in themselves a most honorable community, and each of them bears an eloquent testimony to the exemplary nature of his individual character, affords a proof of the heights scaled in the spirit of sacrifice, in the development of spiritual wisdom, in a resolute disregard of the merely materialistic values and whole-hearted devotion to the supreme ends and values of human existence. It has been, through several centuries, the distinctive role of the enlightened sannyasins to disseminate more by the example of their lives than by the word of mouth, the knowledge which is embodied in the rich cultural heritage of our country. They have sustained and vitalized the wisdom of the ancient rishis, kept up the traditions of spiritual development, breathed thoughts of peace and welfare for all mankind, proved the worth, beauty and suzerainty of the inner spirit in man over the body-mind organism that the human individual is, over the temptations and allurements of the material and the worldly, and have sought successfully to establish relations with the infinite Being that alone sustains all the manifest universes, maintains the dharma in the land of the mortals, and yet yields strength, life and joy to all living forms.
The world of ours is a world woven by the threads of light and darkness, good and evil, truth and falsehood; therefore, we find in the body of the social life of humanity several evils recurrently manifesting themselves; and into the body of the sadhu and sannyasin community, too, there have entered several unwholesome or hostile elements and thus have necessitated a reorganization of the sadhus, the creation of a new spiritual center which could seek to eliminate the unworthy from the cadre of its order and assimilate for the cultural development of contemporary India the best services of the worthy.
All over India we find strenuous efforts being made for the economic, political and social reconstruction; and where the moral, mental and spiritual culture of the people is concerned, a great responsibility and privileged role rests upon the educated, enlightened, spiritually-developed sadhus. It is only when the basis of all cultures, the foundation of all movements, the divinity in man, is inspired to make itself manifest in the environment of high aspiration and moral growth rendered possible and maintained by the impact of the efforts and labors of the sadhus, that we can find on earth peace, happiness, genuine progress, real prosperity and the delights of a purposive, meaningful and fulfilled existence.