Swami Sivananda's Views on Sannyas

Lectures from his book 'Necessity for Sannyas'

Sannyas Dharma

Sannyas is an absolute necessity. The mere desire to remain aloof and alone shows that there is an Advaitic inclination in you. Every moment you should be ready for sannyas. The very longing for sannyas shows that there is growth of spirituality.

Sannyas destroys all worldliness, all evil samskaras, and establishes you in Advaitic meditation.

Supreme Glory of Sannyas

Sannyas is necessary for attaining Self-realisation. Even in the preliminary stage one should join the ascetic order, as this voluntary renunciation while yet a neophyte, will qualify the aspirant for Vedantic study.

The Sannyasi is free from all kinds of worldly distractions, ties and attachments. The garb puts a check on the aspirant from going astray or doing evil actions. When there is internal change, when one is ready for entering the fourth ashram of life, why should one be afraid of putting on the orange coloured robe? Why should one say 'I have given colouring to my heart?' It is a sort of timidity and hypocrisy.

If you like seclusion; if you are free from raga or passion, worldly ambition karmic tendencies and attractions of this world; if you are reticent and serene; if you have disciplined yourself while remaining in the world; if you can live on simple food; if you can lead a hard life; if you have a strong constitution; if you are not talkative; if you can remain alone without company and talk; if you have a meditative temperament or reflective nature; if you can bear all the difficulties in the spiritual path; if you can lead the difficult life of an ascetic till the end of your life; if you can bear any amount of insult and injury done to you, then you can take to the path of renunciation. Only then will you be benefited by embracing Sannyas.

Sannyas has got its own glory and advantages! The freedom of a sannyasin can hardly be described. Only a sannyasin can entirely cut off all connections and ties. Though you have 'coloured your heart' still all members of your family will cling to you like leeches till the end of your life. You cannot entirely eradicate moha or infatuated love and attachment for your family. When you fall sick you will be tempted to go in for their help and vise-versa. The old samskaras will get a new life and moha will bind you with stronger chains once again, It is only when you take sannyas they will leave you free. They will leave all hopes which they had in you. Only then you become dead for them. They will not approach you again.

History of Sannyasins

The history of sannyasins starts with the four Kumaras - Sanak, Sanandan, Sanatkumar and Sanatsujat. These four Kumaras were the mental sons of Brahma, the Creator. Brahma created these four Kumaras through his mind and asked them to help him in the work of creation. The Kumaras refused to fulfil his request. They were Nivritti-Niratas, possessed of absolute renunciation. In spite of Brahma's anger, they took to the life of nivritti and meditation on Brahman. Brahma, in his rage wanted to burn down these Kumaras, but the powerful Kumaras, who ever lived in the Supreme Soul, unconnected with pravritti, could not be harmed by Brahma. Brahma's rage burst through his forehead and from there emerged the ferocious Rudra, Such is the power of renunciation and life in the Absolute.

The Kumaras were initiated by Lord Siva, in the form of Dakshinamurti, into the mysteries of Brahma Jnana, through silence and Ghinmudra. Dakshinamurti sat under a banyan tree and taught them Jnana by silence. They Imbibed wisdom through silence and got rid of their doubts.

Dattatreya is the father of all men of renunciation. We are all the children of Dattatreya. Adorations to him at all times! Dattatreya's 'Avadhuta Gita' and his instructions to King Yadu mark out his Supreme Wisdom of Brahman. He lived in Brahman and he breathed Brahman.

We trace our ancestry from Lord Narayana. From Narayana was born Brahma. From Brahma's mind was born Sage Vasishtha, the reputed embodiment of wisdom, the spiritual preceptor of the kings of Ayodhya. He gave us the Yuga-Vasishtha, the transcendental guide-light to humanity. Vasishtha's son was Sakti. From Sakti was born sage Parasara. From Parasara was born Vyasa, the great Badarayana, or Krishna-Dvaipayana, who divided the Vedas, and wrote the Mahabharata. Vyasa's son was the ideal sage Suka-Deva, who gave the Bhagavata to Parikshit. Suka, was initiated into Sannyas by Lord Siva himself. Read the Suka-Rahasya Upanishad. You will find that Suka was initiated into the Mahavakyas by Sadasiva at the request of Sri Vyasa Maharshi.

The blood of Suka-Deva is said to run in the veins of Goudapada, the famous Advaitic metaphysician, the fattier of Advaita-Vedanta. Goudapada initiated Govindapada into Sannyas, who, in turn, initiated into Sannyasa, Sri Sankara, the wondrous giant of Indian philosophy and religion. Sankara's name will be remembered as long as the divine names of Rama and Krishna wilt last in this world. But for the timely incarnation of Sankara, the Upanishadic Wisdom would have sunk into oblivion. Glory to the greatest sannyasin, Sankara, the 'Loka-Sankara', who showered the rain of peace all over the land!

The famous disciples of Sankara, Sureswaracharya, Padmapada, Hastamalaka and Trataka became the disseminators of Upanishadic and Vedantic knowledge all over the four quarters. Glory to all of them!

Among the later Sannyasins, sage Vidyaranya ranks the foremost. He kept up the light of Advaita even in the midst of political bloodshed and suffering in the country. Next to Sankara and his direct disciples, none is so famous in the history of Sannyas and Vedanta as Swami Vidyaranya, the disciple of Swami Sankarananda. The commentary on the Bhagavad Gita written by Sankarananda is meant for the sannyasins. It is purely a Sannyasic interpretation of the Gita.

There are innumerable sannyasins at present belonging to one or the other of the four centres established by the four disciples of Sankara - Sringeri, Dwaraka, Badrinath and Jagannath Puri. They are called Dasanami Sannyasins, i.e., sannyasins with ten names. The credit of vigorous insistence on the necessity for sannyas goes solely to the adorable Advaitic sannyasin, the glorious Sankara!

Glory, glory to the Sages, the Gurus, the Sannyasins, who have opened our eyes from sleep, who have widened our hearts, brightened our intellects and immersed us in Supreme Knowledge!

Glorious Sannyasis

The indispensable necessity and the extreme importance of Sannyas can be very well imagined by the fact that it was not men alone but also women that took sannyas in doing sadhana for self-realisation. We know of the existence of sannyasinis, Bhairavis and Yatiswaris who have been a glory not merely to womankind but to the nation and the world as a whole. The Chronicles of Christian mystics teem with immeasurable Instances of such renowned all-renouncing nuns who were the examples of fiery aspiration, intense vairagya and supreme tyaga.

A most brilliant example of a woman sannyasin: is that of the great Bhairavi Brahmani who was the tantric Guru of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. She was a fiery example of wonderful renunciation, great boldness and courage, that distinguished her as a fearless yogini. Among the later lady devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, and the holy Mother Saradamani Devi, the came of Gauri Mata should be mentioned. She felt the call for the higher life from her very girlhood, and resisting all efforts of her relatives to get her married, she renounced hearth and home and became a sannyasin. She wandered about fearlessly in many parts of India and performed severe austerities in the Himalayas, and later on in Brindavan.

A woman is not a woman if she is devoid of spiritual fire, if she is ignorant of a higher life in the Soul! A woman's duty is not merely family; her duty is also to transcend family! Her duty does not lie in saris, bangles, powders and scents! Her duty does not lie in getting employment for her children! Her duty is also concerned with the Self, the Atman , the Brahman! Such a woman is a real symbol of God, she is to be adored, she is to be worshipped.

General Rules for a sannyasin

  • A sannyasin should shun praise like poison. He should accept censure as if it is nectar. He who is censured sleeps soundly, wakes soundly, but the person who censures perishes quickly.
  • A sannyasin should not argue, he should not denounce anybody. For the sake of the body, he should not create any enmity.
  • He should not be angry with one who is angry with him; he should be friendly with him who censures him.
  • Desiring for nothing else than the final liberation of the soul, he should wander with his Self as his sole guide.
  • Company with other sannyasins will lead to talks on politics, talks on Bhiksha, talks about friendship, enmity, jealousy, etc. Therefore company should not be made.
  • He should not crave either life or death. He should be indifferent to thorn. He should patiently await the time when he will be liberated.
  • Never should a sannyasin even think in his mind to love, hate, supersede, delude, censure or injure other beings.
  • The sannyasin shines like gold, like the sun, with his orange robe. He renounces the whole universe at a stretch and has nothing to do with anything except the One Self.
  • The sannyasin has no heat, no cold, no joy, no sorrow, no day, no night, no sleep, no respect, no disgrace, no delusion, no hunger, no thirst, no birth, no death. He has no body; he is nobody.

Sadhana for sannyasins

  • Not by wearing a danda, not by shaving the head, not by dress, not by egoistic action, is liberation to be attained. He who possesses wisdom is a real sannyasin. Wisdom is the sign of a sannyasin. The wooden staff does not make a sannyasin.
  • To the sannyasin, fame and name are equal to the faecal matter of a pig. Therefore renouncing name and fame, the sannyasin wanders like a fly.
  • The sannyasin should take bis bhiksha while walking, sitting, talking, lying down, or standing. He should not observe formalities and rules.
  • Even if he is beaten, kicked, offal poured on his face, bathed in urine and bloody he should remain ever absorbed in the Universal Brahman. He should always feel, "I am Brahman".
  • The sannyasin who has attained Paramahamsa hood has no bath, no japa, no puja, no homa, no particular austere sadhana, no agnihotra, no duty, no pilgrimage, no obligation, no Dharma, no Adharma, no social custom. All rules of the world perish for him.

Real Sannyas

Sannyas is real internal transformation. It is not mere taking geru cloth from somebody.' It is not shaving the head, wearing orange coloured robes and bearing a kamandalu. The mere taking of sannyas is no sannyas; there must be complete transformation of mind.

Such a transformed mind is wholly free from lust, desires and egoism, raga-dwesha, jealousy and vanity. It is free from outgoing tendencies. It has no attraction for sense-objects. It is free from ambitions and planning.

Such a mind which makes for real sannyas, is always filled with sattwic qualities. It is free from kartri-bhoktri-bhvas, (feeling that one is not the 'doer' neither the 'enjoyer'). It always moves inwards. It is antartnukha vritti (the state of looking within). It has renounced all work done with desire. It has relinquished the fruits of all actions. It rests in its own satchidananda swarupa. This is real sannyas.

Who is a Sannyasin?

A sannayasin has a different angle of vision. He has different eyes. He looks upon everything from an absolutely different point of view. Just as the man who wears green spectacles sees green objects everywhere, so also a jnani sees atman everywhere through his new eye of wisdom- There is absolutely no personal element in him. He has not a bit of self-interest. The lower self is completely annihilated. He lives for serving all. He feels the world as his own Self. He actually feels that all is himself only. There is not a single thought or feeling for his personal little self. He has cosmic vision and cosmic feeling. Just as the river has joined the ocean, he joined the ocean of bliss, knowledge and consciousness. He thinks and feels and works for others.

A sannyasin is absolutely free from worries, difficulties, troubles, tribulations, sorrow and anxieties under any circumstance or condition. He is always cheerful and happy. He is not a slave or victim of different moods. He is not moved a bit by sorrow, grief or persecution.

A sannyasin has got all-round development. He has a spotless or unblemished character. All sattwic virtues shine in him. He is an embodiment of mercy, sympathy, love, patience, serenity, etc. He has high qualities. The whole nature has been perfectly unfolded. All divine attributes are fully awakened in him.