This article is from the book Forest Academy Lectures on Yoga.
This is a most sacred and auspicious day on which we have to bring before our mind’s eye the supreme ideal for which Bharatavarsha has stood right from the ancient Upanishadic times to the present day in the Atomic Age, viz., the ancient ideal of Sanyas, of a life of perfect detachment, renunciation and pure selfless love and service of all Jivas, seeing in the Jivas the full and direct manifestation of the Eternal Siva Himself. We have been observing for several years past the 1st of June as the day commemorating the stepping into Sanyas, by Sri Gurudev who is himself to us the most glorious and ideal exemplifier of what Sanyas in all its grandeur can be and has to be for every one of us. It is our great privilege to commence this function of the Sacred Sanyas Day of Gurudev by first of all mentally invoking the blessings of all the Great Satgurus of the past, and the Sanyasins of the present-day who have kept up the most glorious line effectively so that out of their strength and the blazing of Bharatavarsha’s inner culture, humanity may once again be saved from the unfortunate fate towards which it is heading, and once again peace and blessedness may be established upon earth.
What is the real spirit of Sanyas which alone, our ancients have declared, will enable us to attain the great goal of life, Self-realisation, the great aspiration of Bharatavarsha? Our ancients have declared: Na Karmana Na Prajayaa Dhanena Tyaagenaike Amritatwamaanashuh. By total absolute desirelessness, by total renunciation alone can the supreme goal be attained. Tyaga is the very life-breath of Sanyas.
Should this Tyaga be a mere passive shrinking from all these external things or is it something more positive, heroic and dynamic? Sanyas has always been the crowning one of the four orders of social life as given by our law-givers. The three lower orders are in fact merely preparatory stages for qualifying the individual for Sanyasa. In Brahmacharya the foundation is laid by giving the individual all the knowledge that he need have of the real purpose of human birth. What is Dharma and Adharma; what is truth and how is one to lead a life of self-control, so that he may progressively go towards the perfect life embodied in Sanyas — a man is taught in the Brahmacharya Ashrama. All the great noble ideals, the sublime lessons that he has imbibed in the first order are put into practice in the Grihastha Ashram. He tries to train himself in living detached amidst attachments and also by being in the world and yet not of the world and exerting constantly to produce goods, to earn wealth and yet not with selfish aim for his own sake. He tries to develop himself into an ideal mental Sanyasin. The second stage is thus the stage of practical experimenting where he tries out the knowledge gained in the first Ashrama. When he has risen higher in the ladder of evolution, our Varnashrama Dharma leads him on to the life of almost a Sanyasin. That is the Vanaprastha period when the external portion of the Grihastha is completely left, yet there are certain inner problems which he has not yet learnt to solve. When the Grihastha leads an ideal life of detachment born of self-control; the ego comes up as the very terrible foe from inside, and he feels: “I have done Dharma. I am very selfless. I am trying to keep up a high standard of ethical perfection.” When he starts the third order of life, he has to do the process of shedding off all these inner subtle obstacles. Then alone will he be completely qualifying himself for the last stage, Sanyas, where the external life is completely eliminated and he plunges inwardly into deep meditation alone. The Dharma of Sanyasin is to engage himself in deep meditation constantly.
This is the crowning glory of Indian social life. As a matter of fact, if only this social structure had been devoutly preserved, instead of being neglected or allowed to lapse, if it had been preserved with the necessary modifications to suit it to the present day, we would have found that the life of Bharatavarsha is pervaded by Sanyas. Sanyas is the one spirit which hovers over the entire Bharatavarsha from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin, from the West to the East, end to end of India. For right at the very beginning of our history Manu has declared that the great purpose of the human being’s life is Paraopakara. Vyasa says that all that brings suffering upon others leads to sin and its inexorable reactions and all that helps others, relieves others of pain and sorrow, and helps them, leads to Punya or merit, which bestows upon us the Ultimate Bliss. Based upon this we find out that the social order was built up through a series of Four Ashramas, each one progressively developing in the individual a higher and higher intensity of selflessness, of giving himself, culminating in the glorious Ashrama of Sanyasa.