Sannyasa - Renunciation
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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Sannyasa- Renunciation

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Quotations from the Mundaka Upanishad

From The Mahabharata
Sannyasa- Renunciation

Renunciation is of six kinds
From The Mahabharata)
Sanat-sujata's teachings relating to Renunciation from Udyoga Parva
Topics include:
Thirteen kinds of wickedness that are the faults of asceticism
These twelve constitute the practice of Brahmanas (Brahmins)
Mada or pride analysed

The Essence of all the Vedas
From The Mahabharata

From The Bhagavad Gita
Sannyasa- Renunciation

Rites of Sannyasa
From Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master

The Story of Tota Puri
From Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master

Ideals of the Sannyasin
By Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa

Sannyasa-Its Ideals and Practice
By Swami Vivekananda

From Mundaka Upanishad
Translated by Swami Gambhirananda
Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati

This Self is not attained by one devoid of strength, nor through delusion, nor through knowledge unassociated with monasticism. But the Self of that knower, who strives through these means, enters into the abode that is Brahman.

Having attained this, the seers become contented with their knowledge, established in the Self, freed from attachment, and composed. Having realised the all-pervasive One everywhere, these discriminating people, ever merged in contemplation, enter into the All.
  - 3.2.5

Those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained, and who endeavour assiduously with the help of the Yoga of monasticism, become pure in mind. At the supreme moment of final departure all of them become identified with the supreme Immortality in the worlds that are Brahman, and they become freed on every side.

It is not comprehended through the eye, nor through speech, nor through the other senses; nor is It attained through austerity or Karma. Since one becomes purified in mind through the favourableness of the intellect, therefore can one see that indivisible Self through meditation.

Sannyasa- Renunciation
From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CCXLV
Translated by sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

[Notes are comments by the scholar and
translator Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli]

Suka said: While living in the due observance of the duties of the foremost of life, how should one, who seeks to attain to That which is the highest object of knowledge, set one’s soul on Yoga according to the best of one’s power?

Vyasa said: Having acquired (purity of conduct and body) by the practice of the first two modes of life, viz., Brahmacharya and domesticity, one should, after that, set one’s soul on Yoga in the third mode of life (Vanprastha). Listen now with concentrated attention to what should be done for attaining to the highest object of acquisition!

[Note: By the first line of this verse, Vyasa answers his son’s question. Having answered the question, the speaker (in the second line) proceeds to indicate the simple or straight path for reaching the highest object of men’s endeavour, viz., Parmartham or Brahman.]

Having subdued all faults of the mind and the heart by easy means in the practice of the first three modes of life (viz., pupilage, domesticity, and seclusion) one should pass into the most excellent and the most eminent of all the modes, viz., Sannyasa or Renunciation. Do thou then pass thy days, having acquired that purity. Listen also to me. One should, alone and without anybody to assist him or bear him company, practise Yoga for attaining to success (in respect of one’s highest object of acquisition). One who practises Yoga without companionship, who beholds everything as a repetition of his own self, and who never discards anything (in consequence of all things being pervaded by the Universal Soul), never falls away from Emancipation.

Without keeping the sacrificial fire and without a fixed habitation, such a person should enter a village for only begging his food. He should provide himself for the day without storing for the morrow. He should betake himself to penances, with heart fixed on the Supreme. [Note: Bhava-samahitah is explained as chitta-samadhanavan.]

Eating little and that even under proper regulations, he should not eat more than once a day. The other indications of a (religious) mendicant are the human skull, shelter under trees, rags for wearing, solitude unbroken by the companionship of any one, and indifference to all creatures. [Note: The skull is to be used as a drinking vessel. Kuchela, which I render ‘rags’, is supposed by the commentator to signify reddish or brown cloth which has, from age, lost its colour.]

That person into whom words enter like affrighted elephants into a well, and from whom they never come back to the speaker, is fit to lead this mode of life which has Emancipation for its object. [Note: Elephants, when hurled into a well, become utterly helpless and unable to come out. That person, therefore, into whom words enter like elephants into a well, is he who answers not the evil speeches of others. What is said here is that only a person of such forbearance should betake himself to mendicancy or Sannyasa.]

The mendicant (or Renouncer) should never take note of the evil acts of any person. He should never hear what is said in dispraise of others. Especially should he avoid speaking evil of a Brahmana (Brahmin). He should always say only what is agreeable to the Brahmanas. When anything is said in dispraise (of himself), he should (without answering) remain perfectly silent. Such silence, indeed, is the medical treatment prescribed for him. That person in consequence of whose single self the place he occupies becomes like the eastern sky, and who can make a spot teeming with thousands of men and things appear to himself perfectly solitary or unoccupied, is regarded by the deities to be a true Brahmana. [Note: I have given a closely literal version of this verse. The commentator explains that first line refers to the person who deems himself to be everything to be himself. The second line refers to the same individual who, by Yoga, can withdraw his senses and the mind and consequently make the most populous place appear as totally solitary or unoccupied. This is the Yoga process called Pratyahara.]

Him the gods know for a Brahmana who clothes himself with whatever comes by the way, who subsists upon whatever he gets, and who sleeps on whatever spot he finds. Him the gods know for a Brahmana who is afraid of company as of a snake; (afraid) of the full measure of gratification (from sweet viands and drinks) as of hell; and (afraid) of women as of a corpse. [Note: Suhitya, whence Sauhitya, means no satiety but the full measure of gratification from eating. The speaker wishes to lay down that the mendicant or renouncer should never take food to the full measure of gratification. He should eat without completely appeasing his hunger.]

Him the gods know for a Brahmana who is never glad when honoured and never angry when insulted, and who has given assurances of compassion unto all creatures. One in the observance of the last mode of life should not view death with joy. Nor should he view life with joy. He should only wait for is hour like a servant waiting for the behest (of his master). He should purify his heart of all faults. He should purify his speech of all faults. He should cleanse himself of all sins. As he has no foes, what fear can assail him? He who fears no creature and whom no creature fears, can have no fear from any quarter, freed as he is from error of every kind. As the footprints of all other creatures that move upon legs are engulfed within those of elephants, after the same manner all ranks and conditions are absorbed within Yoga.

[Note: I follow the commentator in his exposition of Kunjara which he derives as Kun (earth or the body which is made of earth) Jaravati iti kunjarah, i.e., a Yogi in Samadhi. The sense seems to be that the fruits of Yoga include or absorb the fruits of every other act. The rank and status of Indra himself is absorbed within what is attained to by Yoga. There is no kind of felicity that is not engulfed in the felicity of Emancipation, which Yoga alone can confer.]

After the same manner, every other duty and observance is supposed to be engulfed within the one duty of abstention from injury (to all creatures). [Note: The commentator thinks that by the ‘one duty of abstention from injury’ is implied the fourth mode of life or Sannyasa. What is said, therefore, is that the observance of the single duty of harmlessness includes that of every other duty; or, what amounts to the same thing, the fourth mode of life is singly capable of giving merit which all the others may give together.]

He lives an everlasting life of felicity who avoids injuring other creatures. One who abstains from injury, who casts an equal eye upon all creatures, who is devoted to truth, who is endued with fortitude, who has his senses under control, and who grants protection to all beings, attains to an end that is beyond compare. The condition called death succeeds not in transcending such a person who is content with self-knowledge, who is free from fear, and who is divested of desire and expectancy. On the other hand, such a person succeeds in transcending death. Him the gods know for a Brahmana who is freed from attachments of every kind, who is observant of penances, who lives like space which while holding everything is yet unattached to anything, who has nothing which he calls his own, who leads a life of solitude, and whose is tranquillity of soul. The gods know him for a Brahamana whose life is for the practice of righteousness, whose righteousness is for the good of them that wait dutifully upon him, and whose days and nights exist only for the acquisition of merit.

[Note: Hartyartham means ‘for the sake of Hari’ i.e., one who takes away merit, implying a disciple or attendant. Some texts read Ratyrtham, meaning ‘for the happiness (of others)’.]

The gods know him for a Brahmana who is freed from desire, who never exerts himself for doing such acts as are done by worldly men, who never bends his head unto any one, who never flatters another, and who is free from attachments of every kind. All creatures are pleased with happiness and filled with fear at the prospect of grief. The man of faith, therefore, who should feel distressed at the prospect of filling other creatures with grief, must abstain entirely from acts of every kind. [Note: Because all acts are fraught with injury to others. Whether ‘acts’ betaken in its general sense or in the particular sense of ‘religious acts’, their character is such.]

The gift of assurances of harmlessness unto all creatures transcends in point of merit all other gifts. He, who, at the outset, forswears the religion of injury, succeeds in attaining to Emancipation (in which or) whence is the assurance of harmlessness unto all creatures. [Note: The commentator correctly explains that Tikshnam tanum means the religion of injury, i.e., the religion of sacrifices and acts. ‘So’ for ‘sa’ is Arsha; as also anantyam for anantyam which, of course, implies moksham or Emancipation. The commentator correctly supplies yatah after apnoti and shows that prajabhyah is equivalent to prajanam. The last clause of the second line, therefore, means sa moksham apnoti, yatah prajabhyah (or prajanam) abhayam. The dative, not ablative as the vernacular translators take it, is not bad grammar, although the genitive is more agreeable with usage.]

That man who does not pour into his open mouth even the five or six mouthfuls that are laid down for the forest recluse, is said to be the navel of the world, and the refuge of the universe. The head and other limbs, as also the acts good and bad, become possessed by Fire. Such a man, who sacrifices in his own self, makes a libation of his senses and mind into the fire that dwells within the limited space of his own heart. In consequence again of his pouring such a libation into such a fire within his own self, the universe with all creatures including the very gods, become gratified.

He that apprehends the Jiva-soul (embodied soul) that is endued with effulgence, that is enveloped in three cases, that has three attributes for its characteristics, to be Iswara partaking of that which is foremost, viz., the nature of the Supreme Soul, becomes object of great regard in all the worlds. The very gods with all human beings speak highly of their merits. He who succeeds in beholding in the soul that resides in his own body all the Vedas, space and the other objects of perception, the rituals that occur in scriptures, all those entities that are comprehensible in sound only and the superior nature of the Supreme Soul, is sought to be worshipped by the very deities as the foremost of all beings.

He who sees in the soul that resides within his body, that foremost of beings which is not attached to the earth, which is immeasurable in even the (measureless) firmament, which is made of gold, which is born of the egg and resides within the egg, which is equipped with many feathers, and which has two wings like a bird, and which is rendered effulgent by many rays of light, is sought to be worshipped by the very deities as the foremost of all beings. [Note: All these expressions apply to the Supreme Soul. Immeasurable in the firmament implies that the Supreme Being is vaster than the firmament. ‘Made of gold’ means, as the commentator explains, Chit having knowledge only for its attribute. ‘Born of the egg’ i.e., belonging to the universe. ‘Within the egg’ means ‘capable of being apprehended in the heart’. ‘Equipped with many feathers’ i.e., having many limbs each of which is presided over by a particular deity. The two wings are absence of attachment or complete dissociation from everything and joy and gladness and aptitude for enjoyment. ‘Rendered effulgent by many rays of light’, i.e., transformed into a living and active agent by means of eyes, ears, etc.]

The very deities worship him in whose understanding is set the wheel of Time, which is constantly revolving, which knows no decay, which swallows up the period of existence of every creature, which has the six seasons for its naves, which is equipped with two and ten radii consisting of the two and ten months, which has excellent joint, and towards whose gaping mouth proceeds this universe (ready to be devoured). [Note: The sense is that he who understands the wheel of Time is a person worthy of universal regard. The excellent joints of that wheel are the Parva days, viz., those sacred lunations on which religious rites are performed.]

The Supreme Soul is the capacious unconsciousness of dreamless slumber. That Unconsciousness is the body of the universe. It pervades all created things. Jiva, occupying a portion of that capacious unconsciousness gratifies the deities. These last, being gratified, gratify the open mouth of that unconsciousness. [Note: I give little version of verse 33, following the commentator as regards the meaning of Samprasadam. The sense, however, of the verse is this: Brahma, in the previous sections, has often been spoken of as Sushupti or the unconsciousness of dreamless slumber. The universe flows from Brahma. Unconsciousness, therefore, is the cause or origin or body of the universe. That unconsciousness, therefore, pervades all things, viz., gross and subtle. Jiva, finding a place within that unconsciousness existing in the form of gross and subtle, gratifies the deities, prana and the senses. These, thus gratified by Jiva, at last gratify the open mouth of the original unconsciousness that waits to receive or swallow them. All these verses are based upon the figurative ideas that find expression in the Upanishads.]

Endued with effulgence as also with the principle of eternity, Jiva is without beginning. It acquires (by following particular paths) infinite regions of eternal happiness. He, of whom no creature is afraid, has never to fear any creature. He who never does anything censurable and who never censures another, is said to be a truly regenerate person. Such a man succeeds in beholding the Supreme Soul. He whose ignorance has been dispelled and whose sins have been washed away, never enjoys either here or hereafter the happiness that is enjoyed by others (but attains to complete Emancipation). A person in the observance of the fourth mode of life wanders on the earth like one unconnected with everything. Such a one is freed from wrath and error. Such a one regards a clod of earth and lump of gold with an equal eye. Such a man never stores anything for his use. Such a one has no friends and foes. Such a one is utterly regardless of praise or blame, and of the agreeable and the disagreeable.

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Renunciation is of six kinds
From The Mahabharata
Udyoga Parva, section XLIII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Addressing King Dhritarashtra:

Sanat-sujata said: Renunciation is of six kinds. The reverse of those six again are faults called Mada. The six kinds of renunciation are all commendable. (Of these six kinds of renunciation) the third only is difficult of practice, but by that all sorrow is overcome. Indeed, if that kind of renunciation were accomplished in practice, he that accomplishes it overcomes all the pairs of contraries in the world.

The six kinds of renunciation are all commendable. They are these:

  1. The first is never experiencing joy on occasions of prosperity.
  2. The second is the abandonment of sacrifices, prayers and pious acts.
  3. That which is called the third, is the abandonment of desire or withdrawing from the world. Indeed, it is in consequence of this third kind of renunciation of desire, which is evidenced by the abandonment of all objects of enjoyment (without enjoying them) and not their abandonment after having enjoyed them to the fill, nor by abandonment after acquisition, nor by abandonment only after one has become incompetent to enjoy from loss of appetite.
  4. The fourth kind of renunciation consists in this: One should not grieve nor suffer his self to be afflicted by grief when one’s actions fail, notwithstanding one’s possessions of all the virtues and all kinds of wealth. Or, when anything disagreeable happens, one feels no pain.
  5. The fifth kind of renunciation consists in not soliciting even one’s sons, wives and others that may all be very dear.
  6. The sixth kind consists in giving away to a deserving person who solicits, which act of gifts is always productive of merit. By these again, one acquires the knowledge of Self. As regards this last attribute, it involves eight qualities. These are truth, meditation, distinction of subject and object, capacity for drawing inferences, withdrawal from the world, never taking what belongs to others, the practices of Brahmacharya vows (celibacy; abstinence), and non-acceptance (of gifts).


Dhritarashtra said: O Sanat-sujata, how can ascetic austerities which are all of the same kind, be sometimes successful and sometimes unsuccessful? Tell us this in order that we may know it.

Sanat-sujata said: That asceticism which is not stained by (desire and other) faults is said to be capable of procuring emancipation, and is, therefore, successful, while the asceticism that is stained by vanity and want of true devotion is regarded unsuccessful. All thy enquiries, O Kshatriya, touch the very root of asceticism. It is by asceticism that they that are learned, know Brahman (the Supreme Reality) and win immortality.

Dhritarashtra said: I have listened to what thou hast said about asceticism unstained by faults, and by which I have succeeded in knowing an eternal mystery. Tell me now, O Sanat-sujata, about asceticism that is stained by faults.

Thirteen kinds of wickedness
that are the faults of asceticism

Sanat-sujata said: O king, the twelve, including anger, (are also the thirteen kinds of wickedness,) are the faults of asceticism that is stained. Anger, lust, avarice, ignorance of right and wrong, discontent, cruelty, malice, vanity, grief, love of pleasure, envy, and speaking ill of others, are generally the faults of human beings. These twelve should always be avoided by men. Any one amongst these can singly effect the destruction of men, O bull among men. Indeed, every one of these wait for opportunity in respect of men, like a hunter expectant of opportunities in respect of deer. Assertion of one’s own superiority, desire of enjoying others’ wives, humiliating others from excess of pride, wrathfulness, fickleness, and refusing to maintain those worthy of being maintained, these six acts of wickedness are always practised by sinful men defying all dangers here and hereafter.

These seven are others that are also called wicked

He that regards the gratification of lust to be one of life’s aims, he that is exceedingly proud, he that grieves having given away, he that never spends money, he that persecutes his subjects by exacting hateful taxes, he that delights in the humiliation of others, and he that hates his own wives, - these seven are others that are also called wicked.

These twelve constitute the practice
of Brahmanas (Brahmins)

Righteousness, truth (abstention from injury and truthfulness of speech), self-restraint, asceticism, delight in the happiness of others, modesty, forbearance, love of others, sacrifices, gifts, perseverance, knowledge of the scriptures, - these twelve constitute the practices of Brahmanas (Brahmins). He that succeeds in acquiring these twelve becomes competent to sway the entire earth. He that is endues with three, two or even one, of these, should be regarded of heavenly prosperity.

Self-restraint, renunciation, and knowledge of Self, - in these are emancipation. Those Brahmans that are endued with wisdom say that these are attributes in which truth predominates. Self-restraint is constituted by eighteen virtues.

Mada or pride

He that is freed from these (eighteen) vices is said by the righteous to be self-restrained.

The eighteen faults (that have been enumerated) constitute what is called Mada or pride.

Breaches and non-observance of ordained acts and omissions, falsehood, malice, lust, wealth, love of sensual pleasure, anger, grief, avarice, deceit, joy in the misery of others, envy, injuring others, regret, aversion from pious acts, forgetfulness of duty, calumniating others, and vanity- he that is freed from these (eighteen) vices is said by the righteous to be self-restrained. The eighteen faults (that have been enumerated) constitute what is called Mada or pride. Renunciation is of six kinds. The reverse of those six are faults called Mada. (The faults, therefore, that go by the name of Mada are eighteen and six).

The attribute of Mada (the opposite of Dama or self-restraint) has faults, which have all been indicated (in the scriptures). These faults should be avoided. I have spoken (to thee) of renunciation and self-knowledge. And as self-knowledge has eight virtues, so the want of it has eight faults. Those faults should be avoided. O Bharata, he that is liberated from the five senses, mind, the past and the future, becomes happy, O king, let thy soul be devoted to truth; all the worlds are established on truth; indeed, self-control, renunciation, and self-knowledge are said to have truth for their foremost attribute. Avoiding these faults, one should practise asceticism here. The Ordainer has ordained that truth alone should be the vow of the righteous. Asceticism, that is dissociated from these faults and endued with these virtues, becomes the source of great prosperity.

I have now briefly told thee about that sin-destroying and sacred subject which thou had asked me, and which is capable of liberating a person from birth, death, and decrepitude.

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The Essence of all the Vedas
The Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CCXLVI
Translated by sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Vyasa said: The Jiva-soul is endued with all those entities that are modifications of Prakriti. These do not know the Soul but the Soul knows them all. Like a good driver proceeding with the aid of strong, well-broken, and high-mettled steeds (horses) along the paths he selects, the Soul acts with the aid of these, called the senses, having the mind for their sixth. The objects of the senses are superior to the senses themselves. The mind is superior to those objects. The understanding is superior to the mind. The Soul also called Mahat, is superior to the understanding. Superior to Mahat is the Unmanifest (or Prakriti). Superior to the Unmanifest is Brahman. There is nothing superior to Brahman. That is the highest limit of excellence and the highest goal.

The Supreme Soul is concealed in every creature. It is not displayed for ordinary men to behold. Only Yogis with subtle vision behold the Supreme Soul with the aid of their keen and subtle understanding. Merging the senses having the mind for their sixth and all the objects of the senses into the inner Soul by the aid of the Understanding, and reflecting upon the three states of consciousness, viz., the object thought, the act of thinking, and the thinker, and abstaining by contemplation from every kind of enjoyment, equipping his mind with the knowledge that he is Brahman’s self, laying aside at the same time all consciousness of puissance, and thereby making his soul perfectly tranquil, the Yogi obtains that to which immortality inheres.

That person, however, who happens to be the slave of all his senses and whose ideas of right and wrong have been confounded, already liable as he is to death, actually meets with death by such surrender of self to (the passions). [Note: Smriti is memory. One whose smriti is lost means one whose conceptions of right and wrong are confounded. Atmanah sampradanena is ‘by the surrender of oneself’ to one’s own passions or Kamadibhyah as the commentator explains.]

Destroying all desires, one should merge the gross Understanding into one’s subtle Understanding. Having thus merged the gross into the subtle Understanding, one is sure to become a second Kalanjara mountain. [Note: Chittam is explained by the commentator as the gross Understanding, and Sattwa as the subtle Understanding. The Understanding that is concerned with the images brought by the mind or the senses is called gross; while that which is concerned with ideas about Brahman is called subtle. Kalanjara is explained by the commentator either as standing for the mountain of that name, i.e., irremovable as the mountain so called; or, as one who destroys the effect of Time, i.e., one who subdues Time instead of being subdued by that universal conqueror.]

By purifying his heart, the Yogi transcends both righteousness and its reverse. By purifying his heart and by living in his own true nature, he attains to the highest happiness. [Note: The purification here referred to consists in transcending the consciousness of duality. Righteousness should be transcended because of its incapacity to lead to Emancipation, which is much higher than heaven. Atmani sthitwa means living in one’s real or true nature, i.e., merging everything into the Soul. This is attained when the consciousness of duality is transcended.]

The indication of that purity of heart (of which I speak) is that one who has attained to experiences that state of unconsciousness (with respect of all one’s surroundings) which one experiences in dreamless slumber. The Yogi who has attained to that state lives like the steady flame of a lamp that burns in a place where the atmosphere is perfectly still. Becoming abstemious in diet, and having cleansed his heart, that Yogi who applies his Soul to the Soul succeeds in beholding the Soul in the Soul. [Note: Atmanam in the first line is the Jiva-soul, and atmani is the Supreme Soul. In the second line also, the same distinction is observed between the two words.]

This discourse, O son, intended for thy instruction, is the essence of all the Vedas. The truths herein disclosed are incapable of being understood by the aid of inference alone or by that of mere study of the scriptures. One must understand it oneself by the aid of faith. By churning the wealth that is contained in all religious works and in all discourses based on truth, as also the ten thousand Richs, this nectar has been raised. As butter from curds and fire from wood, even has this been raised for the sake of my son, this that constitutes the knowledge of all truly wise men. This discourse, O son, fraught with solid instruction, is intended for delivery unto Snatakas. [Note: Brahmanas (Brahmins) who have completed the study of the Vedas have betaken themselves to the domestic mode of life, are so called. Here, probably, the reference is to persons having faith in the Vedas and of pure conduct.]

It should never be imparted to one that is not of tranquil soul, or one that is not self-restrained, or one that has not undergone penances. It should not be communicated to one that is not conversant with the Vedas, or one that does not humbly wait upon one’s preceptor, or one that is not free from malice, or one that is not possessed of sincerity and candour, or one that is of reckless behaviour. It should never be communicated to one whose intellect has been consumed by the science of disputation, or one that is vile or low. Unto that person, however, who is possessed of fame, or who deserves applause (for his virtues), or who is of tranquil soul, or possessed of ascetic merit, unto a Brahmana who is such, unto one’s son or dutiful disciple, this discourse containing the very essence of duties should be communicated, but on no account should it be communicated to others. If any person makes a gift of the whole earth with all her treasures, unto one conversant with truth, the latter would still regard the gift of this knowledge to be very much superior to that gift.

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From The Bhagavad Gita

He should be known  a perpetual sanyasi who neither hates nor desires; for, free from the pairs of opposites, O mighty armed Arjuna, he is easily set free from bondage.
-Gita  Ch.5, verse 3

Mentally renouncing all actions and self-controlled, the embodied one rests happily in the nine-gated city (human body with nine openings), neither acting nor causing others (body and senses) to act.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 13

Their intellect absorbed in That, their self being That, established in That, with That for their supreme goal, they go whence there is no return, their sins dispelled by knowledge.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 17

Resting in Brahman, with steady intellect and undeluded, the knower of Brahman neither rejoices on obtaining what is pleasant nor grieves on obtaining what is unpleasant.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 20

With the self unattached to external contacts he finds happiness in the Self; with the self engaged in the meditation of Brahman he attains to the endless happiness.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 21

The enjoyments that are born of contacts (through senses with sense-objects) are only generators of pain, for they have a beginning and an end, O Arjuna. The wise do not rejoice in them.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 22

He who is able, while still here (in this world) to withstand, before the liberation from the body, the impulse born out of desire and anger- he is a Yogi, he is a happy man.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 23

He who is happy within, who rejoices within, and who is illuminated within, that Yogi attains absolute freedom or moksha, himself becoming Brahman.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 24

The sages (Rishis) obtain absolute freedom or moksha - they whose sins have been destroyed, whose dualities (perception of dualities or experience of the pairs of opposites) are torn asunder, who are self-controlled, and intent on the welfare of all beings.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 25

Absolute freedom (or Brahmic bliss) exists on all sides for those self-controlled ascetics who are free from desire and anger, who have controlled their thoughts and who have realised the Self.
-Gita, Ch.5, verse 26

Shutting out all external contacts and fixing the gaze between the eyebrows, equalising the outgoing and incoming breaths moving within the nostrils.
-Gita Ch.5, verse 27

With the senses, the mind and the intellect (ever) controlled, having liberation as his supreme goal, free from desire, fear and anger, the sage is verily liberated for ever.
-Gita , Ch. 5, verse 28

He who knows Me as the enjoyer of sacrifices and austerities, the great Lord of all the worlds and the friend of all beings, attains to peace.
-Gita, Ch.5, verse 29

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Rites of Sannyasa
From Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master
By Swami Saradananda, Belur Math
A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna

Tota Puri comes to Dakshineshwar

Desirous of bathing in the confluence of the sea and the Ganga (Ganges river), and of having the vision of Sri Jagannath at Puri, the itinerant teacher Tota came, wandering at will, from Central India to Bengal. He was merged in spiritual practices on the banks of the holy river Narmada, where he lived alone for a very long time and attained the immediate knowledge of Brahman (Supreme Reality) by practising disciplines leading to Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The old monks of that place bear witness to this fact even now.

When he realised Brahman in this way, a desire to wander at will arose in his mind and under the impulse of that urge, he now came to Eastern India and travelled from one place of pilgrimage to another. A knower of Brahman is ever content in the Self. When he is in Samadhi, (super conscious state) he is merged in Brahman. At other times he sees the whole universe as a manifestation of Brahman through Maya and engages himself in visiting temples, holy men and places of pilgrimage, experiencing Brahman in them. He came to Dakshineshwar on his way back to the northwestern parts of this country after visiting the two places of pilgrimage mentioned above.

It was not customary with him to spend more than three days at one place. He, therefore, came to the Kali temple to spend there three days only. He did not at first understand that, in Her inscrutable sport, the Mother of the universe brought him there in order to complete his own knowledge and to make Her own child (Sri Ramakrishna) practice Vedantic discipline with his help.

Arriving at the Kali temple, Tota Puri came first of all to the big open portico of the Ghat (river bank). Wearing only one piece of cloth, the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) was then sitting in an absent-minded mood looking like any ordinary person. As soon as Tota’s eyes fell on the Master’s face, radiant with austerity and beaming with the surge of devotion, he was attracted towards him and felt in his heart of hearts that this was not an ordinary person and that there were few who were so fit for Vedantic Sadhana (austerity). Filled with curiosity and astonishment, Tota stepped forward and came up to the Master, thinking, "Ah, can there be such a fit aspirant for Vedantic discipline in Bengal, which is saturated with Tantric practices?"

Observing him carefully, he asked the Master of his own accord, "You seem to be well qualified aspirant; do you like to practice Vedantic discipline?"

The Master said in answer to the tall, naked mendicant with matted hair: "I know nothing of what I should do or not do; my Mother) knows everything; I shall do as She commands."

Tota replied: "Then go, ask your mother and come back; for I may not be staying here for long."

Without saying anything in reply, the Master went slowly to the Divine Mother’s temple. There in a state of ecstasy he heard the Divine Mother’s words of advice, "Go and learn; it is in order to teach you that the monk has come here."

Tota Puri at first did not believe
in The Mother of the universe

In a divine state of semi-consciousness, the Master then returned to Tota, his face beaming with joy, and informed him of his Mother’s instruction. On knowing that what the Master meant by ‘Mother’ was not his earthly mother but the image of the Devi (goddess) installed in the temple, Tota, though charmed with his childlike simplicity, thought that the attitude of his mind was due to ignorance and superstition. We can very well imagine how at this thought the corners of Tota’s lips curved in a smile of pity and derision. For, his keen intellect did not permit him to have any great regard for deities. He accepted only the idea of an Isvara of God spoken of in the Vedanta as the distributor of the fruits of the Karmas of the Jivas. According to him, beyond entertaining a faith in Him, there was no need for worshipping and practising devotion to Him as far as an aspirant endowed with self-control and given to the practice of meditation on Brahman was concerned.

If this was his conception of Isvara, we can well guess his idea about Maya, the power of Brahman, consisting of the three Gunas (Sattwa, Rajas & Tamas). That is why the learned monk looked upon Her as but a delusion and did not feel any necessity for admitting the experience of Her personally, far less for worshipping or propitiating Her. He felt in his heart of hearts that the aspirant’s personal effort alone was what was necessary to liberate himself from the bondage of ignorance, and there was not the least utility in prayer for the benign grace of Brahman united with Its power, otherwise called Isvara. Consequently, he considered such persons as offer prayers, to be labouring under the influence of impressions born of ignorance.

He however did not say anything about it to the Master and introduced other topics, thinking that the above-mentioned impressions of the Master’s mind would very soon vanish when, initiated by him, he would begin practising the discipline of the path of knowledge. He said that the Master would have to give up his sacred thread and the tuft of hair on his head before the scriptural initiation into Sannyasa (renunciation). The Master hesitated a little and said that he had not the least objection if it could be done privately. But he would by no means be able to do it publicly, as it would deal a terrible blow to the heart of his old grief-stricken mother.

The itinerant teacher understood the reason why the Master wanted to be initiated privately and said: "Very well, I shall initiate you in private when the auspicious moment comes."

Then with a view to spending a few days in a suitable place, he came to the beautiful Panchavati situated to the north of the temple garden and spread his seat there.

Rites of Sannyasa (Renunciation)

Later, when the auspicious day arrived, Tota asked the Master to perform the Sraddha and other ceremonies for the satisfaction of the souls of his forefathers, and when those rites were finished, Tota made him offer Pinda (made from rice, flour etc) according to scriptural injunctions for the satisfaction of his own soul. For, from the time of being initiated into Sannyasa, the aspirant totally renounces the hope of, and the right to the attainment of any of the worlds such as Bhuh, Bhuvah, and Swah. That is why the scriptures enjoin his offering Pinda to himself.

The Master submitted himself without reserve to any one whom he ever accepted as his spiritual teacher and did his bidding with absolute faith. Therefore, it is needless to say that he followed to the letter what Tota now asked him to do. He performed the Sraddha and other preliminary rites, kept the necessary fast, collected at the Sadhana Kutir (hut) near the Panchavati all the articles, as instructed by his teacher, for the rites connected with the initiation into Sannyasa, and waited for the arrival of the auspicious time for the ceremony.

When about two hours before daybreak, the auspicious moment of Brahma-muhurta arrived, the Guru and the disciple met in the hut. The preliminaries finished, the Homa-fire was lighted. And the woods and the gardens round the Panchavati reverberated with the sound of the holy and profound Mantras chanted before taking the vow of utter renunciation for God- the vow that has come down in an unbroken line from the Guru to the disciple from the beginning of time till today and has maintained India as the foremost country in the field of Brahman realisation.

The sensitive and affectionate bosom of the Bhagirathi (Ganges) of holy waters, vibrating with the delightful touch of that sound, felt the extraordinary infusion of a new life. She flowed dancing with joy, as it were, through her murmurs to all quarters the message that, after the lapse of ages, a true Sadhak (aspirant) of India was once again undertaking the vow of total renunciation for the good of the many of this country and of the world at large. The Guru was now ready to recite the Mantras and the disciple to repeat them carefully and to offer oblations in the lighted fire. The prayer-mantras (the Trisuparna-mantras) were first uttered.

"May the truth of the Supreme Brahman reach me! May the Reality having the characteristics of supreme bliss reach me! May the indivisible, homogeneous, sweet reality of Brahman manifest itself in me! O Supreme Self, who art eternally co-existent with Thy power of revealing the Brahman-consciousness of all Thy children- Devas (gods), human beings and others- to Thee may I, Thy child and servant, be an especial object of compassion! O great Lord, the destroyer of the evil dream of the worlds, destroy all my evil dreams, the perception of duality! O Supreme self, I offer as oblations my vital forces, and controlling my senses, I set my mind on Thee alone. O shining One, who directs every being, remove from me all blemishes that are obstacles to right knowledge and ordain that the knowledge of Reality, free from absurdities and contraries, arises in me! May all the things of the world- the sun, the air, the cool pure water of rivers, grains like barley and wheat, trees etc., ordained by Thee, illumine and help me to attain the knowledge of Truth! Thou art manifest in the world, O Brahman, as various forms with especial potency, I offer oblation to Thee who art fire, with a view to achieving , through the purity of body and mind, the capacity to retain the knowledge of Reality. Be Thou gracious to me!"

Then began the Viraja homa:

"May the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space in me be purified. Freed from the blemishes produced by Rajoguna (Rajas), may I, by virtue of offering oblation, attain the nature of the Light of Consciousness Itself-Swaha!

May the vital airs, Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana in me, be purified! Freed from the blemishes produced by Rajoguna, May I, by virtue of offering oblation, attain the nature of the Light of Consciousness Itself – Swaha!

May the five sheaths of gross body, vital air, mind, intellect and bliss be purified! Freed from the blemishes produced by Rajoguna, may I, by virtue of offering oblation, attain the nature of the Light of Consciousness Itself – Swaha!

May the impressions produced in me by the objects, sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell be purified! Freed from the blemishes produced by Rajoguna, May I, by virtue of offering oblation, attain the nature of the Light of Consciousness Itself – Swaha!

May my mind, speech, body, actions, be purified! Freed from the blemishes produced by Rajoguna, May I, by virtue of offering oblation, attain the nature of the Light of Consciousness Itself – swaha!

O person of red eyes, dwelling in the body of fire and capable of destroying the obstacles to the attainment of Knowledge, do thou wake up! O fulfiller of desires, ordain that all obstacles to my attainment of Knowledge be destroyed and the knowledge heard from the lips of the Guru arise in my mind! May everything that is in me be completely purified! Freed from the blemishes produced by Rajoguna, may I, by virtue of offering oblation, attain the nature of the Light of Consciousness Itself – swaha!

A reflection of Consciousness, I, who am of the nature of Brahman Itself, offer as oblation in fire- all my desire for wife, son, wealth, honour, beauty and other objects! I renounce them all – swaha!"

Many oblations were thus offered and the Homa was brought to an end by the disciple, saying, "I give up from this moment the desire of attaining the Bhuh, and all other worlds; I assure all beings of the universe, of freedom from fear on account of me."

He then offered as oblation his sacred thread and the tuft of hair on his head, according to scriptural injunctions. Then putting on a pair of Kaupina and ochre cloth given by the Guru according to the custom followed by successive generations of Sadhakas from the beginning of time, he sat beside Tota to receive instruction from him.

Tota, a knower of Brahman, now encouraged the Master to practise the contemplation of "Not this, not this" (neti-neti), a well known discipline in the Vedanta, and remain identified with Brahman Itself.

He said to the Master: "Brahman, the one substance which alone is eternally pure, eternally awakened, unlimited by time, space and causation, is absolutely real. Through the influence of Maya, which makes the impossible possible, it seems that It is divided into names and forms. Brahman is never really so divided. For, at the time of Samadhi, not even an iota, so to say, of time and space, and name and form produced by Maya, is perceived. Whatever, therefore, is within the bounds of name and form, can never be absolutely real. Give up this unreal world of name and form. Break the firm cage of name and form with the overpowering strength of a lion and come out of it. Dive deep into the reality of the Self-existing in yourself. Be one with It with the help of Samadhi. You will then see the universe consisting of name and form vanish, as it were, into the Void; you will see the consciousness of the little ‘I’ merge in that of the immense ‘I’, where it ceases to function; and you will have the immediate knowledge of the indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss as yourself.

The consciousness, with the help of which a person sees another, knows another or hears another, is little or limited. Whatever is limited is worthless; for the supreme bliss is not here. But the knowledge, established in which a person becomes devoid of the consciousness that one is seeing another, knowing another, and hearing another, is ‘Bhuma’, the immense or the unlimited. With the help of that knowledge, one gets identified with the Supreme Bliss. That immense and unlimited consciousness who is the Knower in all beings and whose light reveals everything, - how can It be known by the limited mind and intellect? How can the Knower at all be the known?"

Tota tried to make the Master attain Samadhi (super-conscious state) on that day with the help of various arguments and conclusive quotations from the scriptures. We were informed by the Master that Tota strove his best on that occasion to put him immediately into the state of non-dual consciousness to which he himself had attained through life-long Sadhana.

The Master said, "After initiating me, the naked one taught me many dicta conveying the conclusions of the Vedanta, and asked me to make my mind free of function in all respects and merge it in the meditation of the Self. But, it so happened that when I sat for meditation, I could by no means make my mind go beyond the bounds of name and form and cease functioning. The mind withdrew itself easily from all other things, but, as soon as it did so, the intimately familiar form of the universal Mother consisting of the effulgence of pure consciousness, appeared before it as a living presence and made me quite oblivious of the renunciation of name and forms of all description. When I listened to the conclusive dicta and sat for meditation, this happened over and over again. Almost despairing of the attainment of the Nirvikalpa Samadhi (supreme transcendental state of consciousness in which the spiritual aspirant becomes completely absorbed in Brahman so that all sense of duality is obliterated), I then opened my eyes and said to the naked one. ‘No, it cannot be done; I cannot make the mind free from functioning, and force it to dive into the Self.’

Scolding me severely, the naked one said very excitedly, ‘What! It can’t be done! What nonsense!’

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

He then looked about in the hut, and finding a broken piece of glass, took it in his hand and forcibly pierced my forehead with its needle-like pointed end between the eyebrows and said, ‘Collect the mind here at this point.’

With a firm determination I sat for meditation again, and as soon as the holy form of the Divine Mother appeared now before the mind as previously, I looked upon knowledge as a sword and cut the form mentally in two with that sword of knowledge. There remained then no function in the mind, which transcended quickly the realm of names and forms, making me merge in Samadhi.

Tota remained sitting for a long time beside the Master who entered into Samadhi in the manner mentioned above. Then coming out of the hut, he locked up the door lest some one should enter the hut without his knowledge and disturb him. He took his seat under the Panchavati, not far from the hut, and was awaiting the Master’s call to open the door.

The day passed into night. Slowly and calmly days rolled on. At the end of three days, when Tota did not still hear the Master’s call, he was filled with curiosity and astonishment, and left his seat to open the door. With a view to knowing the condition of his disciple, he entered the hut and saw that the Master was sitting in the same posture in which he had left him and that there was not the slightest function of the vital force in his body. His face, however, was calm and serene and full of effulgence. He understood that the disciple was completely dead to the external world and that his mind, merged in Brahman, was calm and motionless like an unflickering lamp in a windless place.

Being versed in the mystery of Samadhi, Tota became astounded and exclaimed within himself, "Oh, wonderful! How can I believe my eyes? Has this great soul actually realised in a day what I could experience only as the result of forty years of austere Sadhana?"

Filled with doubt, Tota applied his mind to the examination of the state of the Master and scrutinized minutely all the signs manifested in the disciple’s body. He examined especially whether his heart was beating and whether there was the least sign of breath in him. He touched repeatedly the disciple’s body which was in a steady posture, like a piece of wood, firm and fixed. But there was no change or modification, nor was there any return to normal consciousness. Beside himself with joy and astonishment, Tota cried out, "Oh, the divine Maya! It is indeed Samadhi –the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the ultimate result attained through the path of knowledge spoken of in the Vedanta! Ah, how very strange is the Maya of the Divine!"

Tota then undertook the process of bringing the disciple back to the consciousness of the external world. Profound sounds of the Mantra, "Hari Aum", filled the land, water and sky of the Panchavati.

There arose immediately after this event a strong determination in the Master’s mind to remain in unbroken Samadhi in the non-dual plane of consciousness. He could remain continually for six months in that high plane of non-duality where even the Adhikarikas who are only a little lower than the incarnations of God, cannot dwell for a long time, not to speak of the ordinary Sadhakas, the Jivakotis.

Attracted by the love of his disciple and desirous of making him firmly established in the Nirvikalpa plane of consciousness, Sri Tota spent here day after day and month after month. With help of the Master, he had his own spiritual life made complete in all respects. Tota lived continuously at Dakshineshwar for eleven months.

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The Story of Tota Puri

Tota accepts the Divine Mother

Swami Tota puri was a recipient of the grace of the Mother of the universe from his birth. He was in possession, from his childhood, of good impressions, a sincere mind, the company of a great Yogi, and a firm and strong body. Maya, the power of the Lord, did not show him her dreadful and all devouring form, horrible as the shadow of death; nor did she draw him into the snares of Her bewitching forms of spiritual ignorance. Therefore, it became an easy affair for him to go forward with the help of his individual effort and perseverance, attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi, realise God, and acquire Self-knowledge. How could he understand that the Divine Mother Herself had removed all obstacles and impediments with Her own hands from the path of his progress and Herself moved away from it? Now, after so long a time, the Mother was pleased to explain it to Swami Tota Puri. He now got the opportunity of detecting that mistake of his mind.

The revered Tota Puri had the robust physique found in the northwestern parts of India. He never knew what illness, indigestion and a hundred other kinds of bodily indispositions were. Whatever he ate he digested. He was never in want of deep sleep wherever he was. And mental bliss and peace arising from the knowledge and direct realisation of God flowed in his mind in incessant streams in a hundred channels.

Tota's illness

The water of Bengal, and its warm and dense air full of humidity told upon his health, and his firm body fell an easy prey to illness. He had a severe attack of blood dysentery. On account of the wringing pain in the intestines day and night, his mind, although calm and tranquil and accustomed to Samadhi, moved away from its abidance in Brahman and came down to body-consciousness. "Brahman has been caught in the net of the five elements"; what was the way out now except the grace of the Divine Mother, the ruler over all!

For sometime, before he fell ill, his watchful mind poised in Brahman had made it known to him that inasmuch as the body was not keeping well, it was not reasonable that he should remain any longer there (at Dakshineshwar). But should he go away out of love for his body, leaving behind the wonderful company of the Master? The body was a cage made of bones and flesh, full of blood and other filthy fluids and abounding in various kinds of germs and worms. Its very existence has been asserted in the Vedanta Sastra to be a delusion. And looking upon such a body as ‘mine’, should he go away hurriedly forsaking the company of that divine man, the source of infinite bliss? And what was the good of going elsewhere- was it not possible that the disease of the body and other kinds of trouble could occur anywhere? And what fear had he, even if diseases and other troubles came upon him? It was the body that would suffer, become emaciated, or at the most get destroyed. But what was that to him? He had, without the shadow of a doubt, seen and felt clearly that he was the Self-unattached and immutable, and he had never any relation with the body; what should he then be afraid of? These and other similar thoughts saved the revered Tota Puri from being restless.

Gradually as the pain increased a little, the strong Swami Tota Puri felt a desire to leave the place. He went to the Master from time to time to take leave of him, but absorbed in talks on divine topics, he forgot completely to mention that. And when he happened to remember to take leave of the Master, some one from within, he felt, stopped his mouth for the time being. Feeling hesitant to speak out, the Swami thought that he would better talk of it on the morrow and not on that day. After taking such a decision and having had a conversation on the Vedanta with the Master, the Swami Tota would return to his seat under the Panchavati.

Time passed. The Swami’s body became weaker and the disease grew more acute. Seeing that the Swami’s body was thus daily becoming emaciated, the Master had in the mean time made arrangements for his special diet and a little medicine and other remedies. But, in spite of all that, the illness went on worsening. The Master began to take care of him and serve him to the best of his power. He asked Mathur to make a special arrangement for medicine and diet for him. Up till now it was only in the body that the Swami felt much pain. He had perfect peace of mind. He could forget all physical pains by merging the mind at will in Samadhi; for, up till then, he retained full control over his mind.

It was night. The pain in the intestines had very much increased. That pain did not allow the Swami even to lie quietly. He tried to lie down a little but could not, and sat up immediately. There was no relief even then.

He thought, "Let me merge the mind in meditation and let anything happen to the body." But scarcely had he brought the mind to rest by its withdrawal from the body, when it turned sharply towards the pain in the intestines. He tried again and again, but with little success. Hardly had the mind reached the plane of Samadhi where the body was forgotten, when it came down on account of the pain. He failed as many times as he attempted. The Swami then became terribly annoyed with his own body. He thought, "Even my mind is not under my control today on account of the trouble from this ‘cage of bones and flesh’. Away with this nuisance of a body! I have undoubtedly known that I am not the body; why do I then remain in this rotten body and suffer pain? What is the utility of preserving it any more? I will put an end to all suffering by immersing it in the Ganga at this dead of night."

Tota's vision of the Divine Mother

Thinking so and fixing the mind with great care on the thought of Brahman, the ‘naked one’ slowly got down into the water and gradually waded farther into deeper water. But was the deep Bhagirathi (Ganges) in truth dry that night? Or was it only the external projection of his mental picture? Who could say? Tota almost reached the other bank but could not get water deep enough for drowning himself in. When, gradually, at last the trees and houses on the other bank began to be visible like shadows in the deep darkness of the night, Tota was surprised and thought, "What strange Divine Maya is this? Tonight there is not sufficient water in the river even to drown oneself in! What a strange unheard-of play of God?"

And immediately some one, as it were from within, pulled off the veil over his intellect. Tota’s mind was dazzled by a bright light and he saw, "Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, the origin of the universe! Mother, the unthinkable power! Mother in land and Mother in water! The body is Mother and the mind is Mother; illness is Mother, and health is Mother; knowledge is Mother and death is Mother; everything I see, hear, think or imagine is Mother. She makes ‘nay’ of ‘yea’ and ‘yea’ of ‘nay’! As long as one is in the body one has no power to be free from Her influence, no, not even to die, till She wills! It is that Mother again, the supreme ‘Fourth’, devoid of all attributes! That one whom Tota has so long been realising as Brahman, to whom he has been offering his heart-felt love and devotion, is this very Mother! Siva and Sakti are One, ever existing in the form of Hara-gauri! Brahman and Brahma-sakti are one and the same!

Wading his way through the water in the same manner in which he had gone, Tota now started back to the shore. His heart was now full of devotion. He felt that all the quarters were reverberating with cries- Mother! Mother! At the dead of night he had directly realised the Mother of the universe in Her all-pervading form, beyond the ken of the senses and the sense-bound intellect. He had offered himself completely as an oblation at Her feet. Though there was pain in the body, there was now no feeling of it. His heart was now beside itself with an unprecedented bliss arising from the memory of Samadhi. The Swami came slowly to the Dhuni under the Panchavati, sat there, and spent the rest of the night in meditation and repetition of the name of the Divine Mother.

As soon as it was morning, the Master came to enquire about his health and found him a different person altogether. His face was beaming with bliss, lips blooming with a smile, and his body, free from all illness whatever. Tota asked the Master by a sign to sit near him and described slowly all the events of the night.

Tota said, "It is the disease that has acted as a friend to me. I had the vision of the Mother of the universe last night and am freed from the disease by Her grace. Ah, how ignorant I was for so long! Well, please persuade your Mother now to allow me to leave this place. I am now convinced that it was She who kept me confined here somehow or other in order to teach me this Truth. It cannot be otherwise; for I thought long ago of going away from this place, and went to you over and over again to take leave of you. But some one, as it were, diverted my mind to other topics and prevented me every time from mentioning it to you."

The Master said smilingly, "Well, you did not accept the Mother before and argued with me saying that Sakti was unreal! But you have now seen Her yourself, and direct experience has now got the better of your arguments. She has convinced me already of the fact that just as fire and its burning power are not different, so, Brahman and the power of Brahman are not different, but one and the same.

When they heard the morning tunes from the Nahabat, both the great souls, bound to each other in the relation of teacher and disciple like Siva and Rama, stood up, went to the temple of the Divine Mother, and prostrated themselves before Her holy image. Both of them felt in their heart of hearts that the Mother was pleased and had graciously given Tota permission to leave that place. A few days later, Tota took leave of the Master, left the Dakshineshwar Kali temple and started westward. This was his first and last visit to the temple. He never again went there.

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Ideals of the Sannyasin
Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
From ‘Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna’
Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore

The first birth of a man is from his father; Upanayan (Sacred Thread Ceremony of the Twice-born) marks his second birth, and Sannyasa the third.

The mind is much wasted while one is engaged in worldly pursuits. And that loss can be made good, only if one takes to the life of renunciation (sannyasa).

Who is a fit candidate for the holy order of Sannyasins? He who gives up the world altogether without having any thought of the morrow, as to how he will eat or how he will be clothed, is fit to be a true Sannyasin. His mentality must be like that of a man who can, if need be, let himself fall fearlessly from the top of a tall tree, without any thought of saving his own life or limbs.

Yogins and Sannyasins are like snakes. The snake does not dig out a hole for itself, but lives in the hole made by the mouse. When one hole becomes uninhabitable, it enters into another hole. Just so Yogins and Sannyasins make no house for themselves. They pass their days in other men’s houses- today in one house, tomorrow in another.

Sadhus (Monks) never settle down in a place where there are no ‘jungles’ nearby and where ‘food and drink’ is hard to get. ‘Jungles’ means solitary spots for answering the calls of nature; and ‘food and drink’ means alms. As Sadhus live on alms, they select only those places for their temporary residence where alms can be easily procured. When they get tired in the course of their journey they may halt at a place for a day or two, in spite of the difficulty of procuring alms. But they never stay anywhere if there is scarcity of water and of solitary spots for answering the calls of nature. Good Sadhus never attend to these matters of physical cleanliness in places where they may be observed by others. They finish these things in solitude, far away from the haunts of men.

If a white cloth is stained even with a small spot, the stain appears very ugly indeed. So the smallest fault of a holy man becomes painfully prominent.

A Sannyasin may himself be perfectly unattached and may have full control over his senses. Yet to set an example to mankind he must make a rigorous renunciation of ‘woman and gold’ (lust and wealth). For only when they notice the thoroughness of the Sannyasin’s renunciation, will men take courage; only then will they make efforts to renounce sex and riches. And who indeed will impart this lesson on renunciation, if not the Sannyasin?

What is the sign of a genuine Sannyasin and a Tyagi? (Tyagi = man of renunciation). Both must be entirely unconnected with lust and gold. Should they feel an attachment for gold, or be troubled by pollution even in a dream, all their spiritual exercises would come to naught.

When one has taken up the garb of a Sannysin, one has to conduct oneself precisely like a true Sadhu. Don’t you see in the drama how the person playing the part of a king always acts like a king and how he who is in the role of the minister always plays the minister?

Once a village clown put on the garb of a Sannyasin and appeared before the Zamindar (landlord) of the place. The Zamindar wanted to present him with a purse, but he refused to accept it and went away. After a while he came back, having washed himself and changed his dress, and asked for the money that the Zamindar wanted to give. When he dressed like a Sadhu, he could not even touch the money, but now he was ready to feel gratified even with a four-anna bit (four dimes).

A person went to a holy man to get some medicine for his sick child, carrying the little patient in his arms. The holy man asked him to come next day. Next day, when the man went, the Sadhu said, "Give no sweets to the child, and the child will soon be cured."

The man replied, "Sir, you could have told me this yesterday even."

The Sadhu said, "Yes, I could have, but yesterday I had a quantity of sugar lying before me, and seeing that, your child would have thought that the Sadhu who advised others not to take sugar but ate it himself was a hypocrite.

The man who becomes an ascetic owing to some misunderstanding with his father, or mother, or wife may be called an ‘ascetic-by disgust’. His asceticism is momentary; he gives up the ascetic way of life as soon as he gets a good lucrative job in a wealthy family.

Question by a disciple, "How can we recognise a truly pious man (sadhu)?"

The Master replied, "He is truly pious whose heart and soul are wholly dedicated to God. Truly pious is he who has renounced ‘woman and gold’. The truly pious man never views women in the ordinary worldly light. He always remains at a distance from them, and if they happen to come near, he looks on them as his mother and shows respect to them. He thinks constantly of God, and serves all creatures knowing that He resides in all. These are the general traits of the truly pious.

Trust not a Sannyasin, who practises medicine, uses spells and incantations, receives money, and displays his piety with the signboards of elaborate external marks.

Forgiveness is the true nature of the ascetic.

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Sannyasa-Its Ideals and Practice
By Swami Vivekananda
The foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa

On the eve of his leaving for the West for the second time, Swami Vivekananda addressed the junior Sannyasins of Belur Math on 19-06-1899.]

This is not the time for a long lecture. But I shall speak to you in brief about a few things, which I should like you to carry into practice. First, we have to understand the ideal, and then the methods by which we can make it practical. Those of you who are Sannyasins must try to do good to others, for 'Sannyasa' means that. There is no time to deliver a long discourse on ‘Renunciation’, but I shall very briefly characterise it as "the love of death". Worldly people love life. The sannyasin is to love death.

Are we to commit suicide then? Far from it. For suicides are not lovers of death, as it is often seen that when a man trying to commit suicide fails, he never attempts it for a second time. What is the love of death then? We must die, that is certain; let us die then for a good cause. Let all our actions – eating, drinking, and everything that we do- tend towards the sacrifice of our self. You nourish your body by eating. What good is there in doing that if you do not hold it as a sacrifice to the well being of others? You nourish your minds by reading books. There is no good in doing that unless you hold it also as a sacrifice to the whole world. For the whole world is one; you are rated a very insignificant part of it, and therefore, it is right for you that you should serve your millions of brothers rather than aggrandise this little self.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Ch. 13, verse 13) it is stated:

"With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads, and mouth everywhere, with ears everywhere in the universe, That (God) exists pervading all."

Thus you must die a gradual death. In such a death is heaven, all good is stored therein- and in its opposite is all that is diabolical and evil.

Then as to the methods of carrying the ideals into practical life. First, we have to understand that we must not have any impossible ideal. An ideal, which is too high, makes a nation weak and degraded. This happened after the Buddhistic and Jain reforms. On the other hand, too much practicality is also wrong. If you have not even a little imagination, if you have no ideal to guide you, you are simply a brute. So we must not lower our ideal, neither are we to lose sight of practicality. We must avoid the two extremes. In our country, the old idea is to sit in a cave and meditate and die. To go ahead of others in salvation is wrong. One must learn sooner or later that one cannot get salvation if one does not try to seek the salvation of his brothers.

You must try to combine in your life immense idealism with immense practicality. You must be prepared to go into deep meditation now, and the next moment you must be ready to go and cultivate these fields (pointing to the meadows of the Math). You must be prepared to explain the difficult intricacies of the Shastras (scriptures) now, and the next moment to go and sell the produce of the fields in the market. You must be prepared for all menial services, not only here, but elsewhere also.

You must stand on your own feet. You must have this new method- the method of man making. The true man is he who is strong as strength itself and yet possesses a woman’s heart. You must feel for the millions of beings around you, and yet you must be strong and inflexible and you must also possess obedience; though it may seem a little paradoxical- you must possess these apparently conflicting virtues.
Related articles

Senses- self-discipline
Pravritti- Nivritti

Ideal behind the idol
Good and pure


Renunciation and Abandonment

Who am I?

Direct Path
Direct Perception versus Scriptures

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