Inner Sannyas

Harnama (Dr Howard Rivet, MBBS)

You begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end, and then stop.
Lewis Carroll

Society is made up of householders, so householders must carry on. They must find the inner path as well. How does the practice of yoga affect householders in their daily life, in their professional life, in their family life, and within the society in general?

You in the West can be divided into four stages, for four different categories of people, four different states of mind:

  • Category one is for people who look to yoga for something to do, a social event, a nice excuse to get out of the house, a change from the daily routine, a chance to meet some friends and have something to talk about, a way to get away from the family who won't let them out otherwise.
  • Category two is made up of those people who want to be fit, supple and beautiful.
  • Category three is made up of those people who are looking for relaxation, who are looking for meditation, for something to relieve the burdens and pressures of their lives.
  • Category four contains the people who are trying to develop their self-awareness.

Householders own houses, run businesses, or work for a boss. They are involved in society, and they work for their own self-appraisal, their own self-esteem, for rewards. At this stage it is important for them to come to grips with their present position in society. They must not wrestle with the problems that are constantly confronting them, rather they must take everything in their stride. Householders have the opportunity to experience life fully. People are born with five senses and a lot of sensuality. Householders must experience this, without repression, without denial, but with full awareness of what they're doing and why they're doing it.

Householders can't all become monks. They can't renounce all the things in life that they play with every day. They can't just say 'No' to everything. They can, however, mentally renounce all the lovely things that they have in their homes, all the attachments. The beginning of renunciation is the awareness that you don't need attachments to get somewhere in this world.

Long ago, Indian thinkers and sages devised a system by which people could live fully, experiencing every facet of life. From birth to twenty-five years of age was the period dedicated to growth and study. From twenty-five to fifty was the time of married life, the period during which one was under full obligation to carry out his duties to the family and society. From fifty to seventy-five was the time to retire, live quietly, to relax, to practise sadhana and discover the inner life. The fourth stage from seventy-five onwards was the period of renunciation, that beautiful time when the samskaras have been experienced and rejected, when one is finally able to come to terms with himself, to find his true self.

Householders must fulfil their needs and desires; suppressing them only makes people neurotic. The drive to do, to be, this is a natural thing. This is why man is progressing in a society. The sensual desires, whether for sex or food, are part of the basic human drive. It's very necessary to have this human drive, without it no one would be here.

Those who suppress their needs, their desires, their human drives, become neurotic. Those who overindulge these three delude themselves. They think they are enjoying life, getting something out of life, but it's all an empty shell. For house holding life to be harmonious, there must be a balance. Householders must become inner sannyasins, karma yogis. They have to work to keep society together. So they must follow on, become dedicated, dynamic workers and move among people, move among families. They can influence people positively to understand each other, to love one another, to become more aware. Inner sannyasins, householders on the spiritual path, have developed their awareness and intuition to a higher degree. Therefore they know what people should do and they can offer their knowledge, their advice, to them when it is asked for.

The modern manifestation of the active, dynamic sannyasin is the karma yogi - the householder or worker, acting with awareness and detachment. Mentally he should be above the interplay of society, while physically and materially he lives and functions daily within it. Wisdom, intuition and common sense flow through a person who is detached. This interaction with society will not only benefit society, but the inner sannyasin or householder will be able to work out his karma as part of his spiritual sadhana. Work and action will form an integral part of his path to wisdom and self-knowledge.

Many traditions and scriptures tend to prescribe suppression of desires and negative personality traits such as anger and jealousy. This is all right for people with a great deal of mental control who have already purified themselves to a greater extent, but it is not advisable for the majority who have numerous mental disturbances, ambitions and desires. With most people, suppression will do more harm than good. Whether they are consciously treading the spiritual path or looking for peace of mind, the way is not suppression but allowing mental disharmonies to slowly melt away in the course of time. For both sannyasins and non-sannyasins, this will occur naturally and smoothly through actively participating in the world, rather than through passivity. If one tries to escape society and adopt a more passive life, then all one's mental conflicts, desires, ambitions and so on will merely tend to dam up inside the mind, they will not be exhausted or worked out. An active life will allow all latent mental disharmonies to be expressed. The negative aspects of mind will fade away.