The Qualities of a Sannyasin

No two sannyasins are the same. They each express themselves and attain realisation in a way which depends on their own personality and samskaras. As each sannyasin progresses, his quest becomes clearer and clearer before his mind. He begins to embody higher values and attitudes which reflect a spontaneously growing spiritual awareness and an expanding conception of himself, his aim, and his mission in life.

Aiming high

The sannyasin seeks perfection by doing his best in whatever he is engaged. This is the essence of sannyas life. The sannyasin who is satisfied with second best or who doesn't really try, cannot progress. He has to try to the best of his ability in every activity and under all circumstances, whether adverse or otherwise. He has to seek and aim for perfection, not in others, but in himself.

Perfecting sannyas involves two things: feeling and willpower. It is the whispering voice of inner feeling that tells if one is doing the right thing or the wrong thing, saying the right thing or the wrong thing. It tells the sannyasin when to act and when not to act, when to speak and when not to speak. When the path of right action is known, then all of his energy is thrown into doing and accomplishing what has to be done. This is willpower, which increases according to the degree that he feels, or knows that the actions are correct. Inappropriate actions sap the energy whereas appropriate actions replenish and increase willpower and energy. It is the aim of all sannyasins to become impeccable.

The mission of a sannyasin

The sannyasin is dedicated to self-realization. He seeks to make himself 'real'; to fully accept responsibility and control of his health, his mind and his destiny. For a sannyasin, it is not enough to believe in second-hand dogmas, nor to half-heartedly practice religions or rituals. He seeks direct perception of the truth in his life, without support from any external agency. He seeks to embody the highest state of consciousness, and he will not be satisfied with anything less. He chooses to live in an ashram environment where his mind will be laid bare of all its preconceptions and false beliefs; where he will confront all his inadequacies and problems directly.

He seeks the assistance and guidance of his guru, who has trod the path before him, and has direct perception of the highest reality. For a sannyasin, only the guidance of an enlightened man of knowledge is acceptable. The sannyasins mission is to serve his guru, and the guru's mission is to serve all mankind. He lives a higher life on the earthly plane, not for himself, but for the only self that really exists, the universal self which underlies all of creation and is reflected in every individual. In the guru's service, the sannyasin learns to work with absolute dedication, but without emotional involvement, accepting the limitations of others, while leading an exemplary life amongst them.

The sadhana of a sannyasin

For the sannyasin, the whole of life becomes sadhana. Every event and every incident is an object of awareness, and no special times, places or activities are considered any more beneficial spiritually than any others. For the sannyasin, if God dwells in the temple, then he surely dwells just as much anywhere else. Although he is fully familiar with yoga, the sannyasin himself does not practice a specific yoga sadhana. The practices of yoga are necessary for householders who are living amongst the stresses and strains of worldly life, but not for the sannyasin, who lives in a relaxed ashram environment, free from personal problems.

For sannyasins yoga is not merely a practice, but a dedication of life, which is all fullness in itself. Service is the most important aspect of a sannyasins life, and brings peace and pleasure. Because they have accepted and understood the mind, yoga practices are unnecessary for sannyasins, although they may study and practice yoga in order to teach others.

Because his life is dedicated to the expansion of awareness, to transcending the animal nature and expressing the greatest, noblest, purest and most illumined aspect of spiritual life, a sannyasin seeks not to miss even one moment in indolence, or one breath in carelessness. In a sense, the sannyasin is meditating all day, closely watching his mind and its reactions, even in the midst of duties and responsibilities. He lives above matter and stabilises his awareness, while having every dealing with matter. It is a mistake to try to live the spiritual life exclusively, so in the ashram environment, the spiritual life and the material life are lived together. This is the path of modern sannyas.

The attitude of a sannyasin

A sannyasin lives totally in the present, without regrets for the past or plans for the future. His only expectation is to lose all expectations. The more completely the awareness is maintained in the present, the more powerful the thoughts and actions become. The mind loses its power whenever its attention is drawn away from the task at hand and dwells on past worries or future fears and expectations. The sannyasin attempts to remain totally absorbed in the present activity, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. He is not even concerned with whether he is happy or unhappy. In this way, his mind becomes very powerful and one-pointed.

The sannyasin takes a chance on life, by renouncing all the things that most people find most meaningful. He does not depend on name, fame, money, home or family as the basis for meaning in his life. Many people hold on to their rigid life patterns, possessions and values for fear of discovering that their lives are totally meaningless. The sannyasin releases his conformity and lets go of rigid thinking and living, in an effort to find freedom. He takes a chance, not knowing whether he will lose everything or gain everything. One cannot be a sannyasin without making that jump for the sake of freedom. The essential difference between a sannyasin and a non-sannyasin is that one forsakes all in a bid for freedom, while the other clings to the bondage of false security.