Advice To Sannyasins


Sri Swami Sivananda

Every religion has a band of anchorites who lead the life of seclusion and meditation. There are Bikshus in Buddhism, Fakirs in Islam, Sufistic Fakirs in Sufism, Fathers and Reverends in Christianity. The glory of a religion will be absolutely lost if you remove these hermits or Sannyasins or those who lead a life of renunciation and divine contemplation. It is these people who maintain the religions of the world. It is these people who give solace to householders when they are in trouble and distress. They are the harbingers of divine wisdom and peace. They are the messengers of Atmic knowledge and heavenly messages. They are the disseminators of Adhyatmic (spiritual) science and Upanishadic revelations. They heal the sick, comfort the forlorn, nurse the bed-ridden. They bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the depressed, strength to the weak, courage to the timid by imparting the knowledge of Vedanta and the significance of the ‘Tat Tvam Asi‘ Mahavakya.

A real Sannyasin is the only mighty potentate on this earth. He never takes anything. He always gives. It was Sannyasins only who did glorious, sublime work in the past. It is Sannyasins only who can work wonders in the present and in the future also. Sri Sankara’s name can never be obliterated so long as the world lasts. It was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda, and Swami Rama Tirtha who disseminated the sublime teachings of the scriptures and preserved Hindu religion. A Sannyasin alone can do real Lokasangraha, because he has divine knowledge, he is a whole-timed man. One real Sannyasin can change the destiny of the whole world. It was one mighty Sankara who established the doctrine of Kevala Advaita philosophy. He still lives in our hearts.

Just as there are research scholars or post-graduate students in Science, Psychology, Biology, Philosophy, etc., so also there should be post-graduate Yogins and Sannyasins who will devote their time in study and meditation, in research over the Atman. These post-graduate Yogins will give to the world their experiences and realisations in the field of religion and spirituality. They will train students and send them into the world for preaching. It is the duty of householders, zamindars and the administration of the nation to look after the wants of these Sannyasins. These Sannyasins will take care of their souls and in turn they will have to take care of their bodies. Thus the wheel of the world will revolve smoothly. There will be Peace in the land.

Sannyasins should, on their part, be rooted in Advaitic Consciousness. Mere study of Vichara Sagar or Panchadasi cannot bring in the experience of pure, Advaitic Consciousness. Vedantic gossiping and idle, dry talk on Brahma Sutras and Upanishads cannot help one in feeling the unity or oneness of life. There is no hope for him to feel the Advaitic unity of consciousness–‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’–‘all indeed is Brahman’, unless the aspirant destroys ruthlessly all sorts of Ghrina, hatred, petty-mindedness, jealousy, envy, ideas of superiority, and all barriers that separate man from man, by incessant, protracted service of humanity with the right mental attitude or Divine Bhava. Practical Vedanta is rare in these days. There are only dry discussions and meaningless fights over the non-essentials of various religions.

The central teaching of the Gita is Self-realisation in and through the world. The same thing is preached by sage Vasishtha to Sri Rama. To serve humanity,–God in manifestation,–and to think of God while living in the world amidst various activities, is superior to a cave life. Selfless work is Yoga. Work is Atma Pooja. There is no loss in Nishkamya Karma. Real spiritual progress starts with Nishkamya Karma Yoga.

Glorious Sannyasin! Serve everyone with intense love, without the idea of agency, without expectation of fruits, reward or even appreciation. Utilise this body-machine in selfless works. Feel that you are only Nimitta (instrument) in the hands of God or a Sakshi (witness) of Prakriti’s activities when you do Karma Yoga. Have no attachment to any place, person or thing. Keep up the mental poise amidst the toil and moil of the world without consideration of success or failure, gain or loss, victory or defeat, respect or disrespect, pleasure or pain. Have always a balanced mind. Have the mind firmly rooted in the Self amidst all activities. Then you will become a true Karma Yogi. Work elevates, when done in the right spirit. Even if people scoff at you, revile, beat, kill or taunt you, always be indifferent. Be steady in your Sadhana.

This Sadhana demands constant practice, steadfastness, patience, perseverance and endurance. Practice of combined Karma and Jnana Yoga in the world is far more difficult than the practice of pure Jnana Yoga in the cave of Himalayan retreats. The former Yogi will have no Vikshepa or tossing of the mind, while the latter will be easily disturbed by a little sound, or bustle of the city. To keep up meditation while performing actions is a different kind of difficult Sadhana. That Yogi who keeps up the meditation while performing actions is a powerful Yogi indeed. He has a different mind altogether.

Sannyasins do not want to remove Mala (impurities) by Nishkamya Karma Yoga. They think that service and Bhakti are nothing. They at once shave their heads, put on coloured clothes, remain in a cave and pose as great Munis or Yogins. They study a few books on Vedanta and style themselves as Jivanmuktas. This is a serious mistake. Even if there is one real Jivanmukta, he is a great dynamic force to guide the whole world. Some Sannyasins of the old, orthodox school think that a Jivanmukta is without powers. He can change or alter the destiny of the whole world.

A Sannyasin should understand that this body which is supported by the pillars of bones, bound by ligaments, which is plastered over with flesh and blood, and covered with skin, as the foul-smelling refuge of urine and excreta. He shall have to quit this bodily frame which is subject to old age and imbecility which is the abode of diseases, afflicted with pain and suffering, the transitory embodiment of material elements, characterised by the impure quality of Rajas and Tamas.

As a tree tumbles down from the bank of a river, as a bird quits a tree at daybreak, so does the self become liberated from this delusion of a body. Thus by gradually abandoning all associations, and becoming free from pairs of opposites, his self shall merge in the Great Brahman.

The knowledge of the Supreme Brahman, extinction of all feelings of ‘I’ or ‘Mine’ etc.; become patent to a Sannyasin only through the practice of unbroken meditation on the Supreme Brahman at all times. He who has not acquired this Knowledge of the identity of the individual with the Supreme Brahman will not obtain the highest good through mere dull meditation.

A Sannyasin must constantly mutter the sacred Mantras related to the Wisdom of Brahman and the sentences of the Vedanta which treat of the Eternal Truth. Brahman is the refuge of the all-knowing as well as ignorant beings. It is the final Goal of the aspirations of all who wish to become Immortal.

On account of the privilege of witnessing the Self, a Sannyasin gets freed from all work, and becomes indifferent to the pleasures of heavens as factors of embodiment and enchainment. By constantly brooding over the Supreme Brahman, the wise one attains the Highest Bliss.

Sannyasins, however exalted they may be in spirituality, should not eat meat, eggs, etc., and should not take tobacco, Ganja and opium. They should not smoke also. If they do so, they set up a very bad example to the public. They should lead an ideal exemplary life and advice the householders to give up meat, eggs, etc. Mind always imitates. If the Guru eats one pound of meat daily, the disciple will eat five pounds daily. ‘Yatha Guru Tatha Sishyal’–‘Just as the Guru is, so is the disciple.’

It is a great pity to see that some Sannyasins eat meat and eggs. They argue vehemently: “We are Paramahamsas. We can convert Tamasic foodstuffs into Sattvic ones. Meat helps our meditation. We do not care for public criticisms. For us vegetable and meat are the same. We will take whatever is served on the table. We see Brahman in everything. Eggs come under vegetable diet only.” Very fine logic indeed! They can see equal vision in meat and vegetable but they cannot have equal vision in censure and praise, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. A single harsh word or slight disrespect will throw them out of balance!

Sannyasa is sterner stuff, indeed. Comfortable Sannyasa is very dangerous. It is no Sannyasa at all. All the rules prescribed for Sannyasins in the Narada-Parivrajaka-Upanishad should be rigidly followed by Sannyasins. Then only they can shine as true ideal Sannyasins. Then only they can set an example to the householders. Glory to the true, ideal Sannyasin, who leads an exemplary life! This world is in dire need of true, ideal Sannyasins who will serve the country and humanity with Atma Bhava and disseminate Self-knowledge and Bhakti, far and wide.

May Sannyasins, the repositories of divine knowledge, the torch-bearers of Truth, the beacon light of this world, the corner-stones of spiritual edifice and the central pillars of the eternal Dharmas of religion, guide the different nations of the world.

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