To me, sannyas does not mean renunciation; it means a journey to
joy, bliss. To me, sannyas is not any kind of negation; it is a
positive attainment. But up to now, the world over, sannyas has been
seen in a very negative sense, in the sense of giving up, of
renouncing. I, for one, see sannyas as something positive and
affirmative, something to be achieved, to be treasured.
It is true that when someone carrying base stones as his treasure comes upon a set of precious stones, he immediately drops the baser ones from his hands. He drops the baser stones only to make room for the newfound precious stones. It is not renunciation. It is just as you throw away the sweepings from your house to keep it neat and clean. And you don′t call it renunciation, do you? You call it renunciation when you give up something you value, and you maintain an account of your renunciations.
So far, sannyas has been seen in terms of such a reckoning of all that you give up - be it family or money or whatever. I look at sannyas from an entirely different angle, the angle of positive achievement. Undoubtedly there is a fundamental difference between the two view points. If sannyas, as I see it, is an acquisition, an achievement, then it cannot mean opposition to life, breaking away from life. In fact, sannyas is an attainment of the highest in life; it is life′s finest fulfillment. And if sannyas is a fulfillment, it cannot be sad and somber, it should be a thing of festivity and joy. Then sannyas cannot be a shrinking of life; rather, it should mean a life that is ever expanding and deepening, a life abundant. Up to now we have called him a sannyasin who withdraws from the world, from everything, who breaks away from life and encloses himself in a cocoon. I, however, call him a sannyasin who does not run away from the world, who is not shrunken and enclosed, who relates with everything, who is open and expansive.
Sannyas has other implications too. A sannyas that withdraws from life turns into a bondage, into a prison; it cannot be freedom. And a sannyas that negates freedom is really not sannyas. Freedom, ultimate freedom is the very soul of sannyas. For me, sannyas has no limitations, no inhibitions, no rules and regulations. For me, sannyas does not accept any imposition, any regimentation, any discipline. For me, sannyas is the flowering of man′s ultimate freedom, rooted in his intelligence, his wisdom. I call him a sannyasin who has the courage to live In utter freedom, and who accepts no bondage, no organization, no discipline whatsoever.
This freedom, however, does not mean license; it does not mean that a sannyasin becomes licentious. The truth is that it is always a man in bondage, a slave, who turns licentious. One who is independent and free can never be licentious; there is no way for him to be so. That is how I am going to separate the sannyas of the future from the sannyas of the past. And I think that the institution of sannyas, as it has been up to now, is on its deathbed; it is as good as dead. It has no future whatsoever. But sannyas in its essence, has to be preserved. It is such a precious attainment of mankind that we cannot afford to lose it. Sannyas is that rarest of flowers that blooms once in a great while. But it is likely that it will wither away for want of proper caring. And it will certainly die if it remains tied to its old patterns. Therefore, sannyas has to be invested with a new meaning, a new concept. Sannyas has to live; it is the most profound, the most precious treasure that mankind has. But how to save it, preserve it, is the question. I would like to share with you my vision on this score.
Firstly, it is a long time that sannyas has remained isolated from the world, and consequently it has been doubly harmed. A sannyasin living completely cut off from the world, living in utter isolation from the world, becomes poor, and his poverty is very deep and subtle, because the wealth of all our life′s experiences lies in the world, not outside. All our experiences of pain and pleasure, attachment and detachment, hate and love, enmity and friendship, war and peace, come from the world itself. So when a man breaks away from the world, he becomes a hothouse plant, he ceases to be a flower that blooms under the sun and the open sky. By now, sannyas has become a hothouse plant. And such a sannyas cannot live any longer. Sannyas cannot be grown in hothouses. To grow and blossom, the plant of sannyas needs an open sky. It needs the light of day and the darkness of night; it needs rains, winds and storms. It needs everything there is between the earth and the sky. A sannyasin needs to go through the whole gamut of challenges and dangers. By isolating him from the world we have harmed the sannyasin enormously, because his inner richness has diminished so much. It is amusing that those who are ordinarily called good people don′t have that richness of life their opposites have; they lack the richness of experience. For this reason, novelists think it is difficult to write a story around the life of a good person, that his life is flat and almost eventless. Curiously enough, a bad person makes a good story; he is a must for a story, even for history. What more can we say of a good man than this, that he has been good from the cradle to the grave? Isolating him from the world, we deprive the sannyasin of experience; he remains very poor in experience. Of course, isolation gives him a sort of security, but it makes him poor and lackluster. I want to unite the sannyasin with the world. I want sannyasins who works on farms and in factories, in offices and shops right in the marketplace. I don′t want sannyasins who escape from the world; I don′t want them to be renegades from life. I want them to live as sannyasins in the very thick of the world, to live with the crowd amid its din and bustle. Sannyas will have verve and vitality if the sannyasin remains a sannyasin in the very thick of the world. In the past, if a woman wanted to be a sannyasin, she had to leave her husband, her children, her family; she had to run away from the life of the world. If a man wanted to take sannyas he had to leave his wife, his children, his family, his whole world, and escape to a monastery or a cave in the mountains. For me, such a sannyas has no meaning whatsoever.
I hold that after taking sannyas, a man or woman should not run away from the world, but should remain where he or she is and let sannyas flower right there. You can ask how someone will manage his sannyas living in the world. What will he do as a husband, as a father, as a shopkeeper, as a master, as a servant? As a sannyasin how will he manage his thousand and one relationships in the world? - because life is a web of relationships. In the past he just ran away from the world, where he was called upon to shoulder any number of responsibilities, and this escape made everything so easy and convenient for him. Sitting in a cave or a monastery, he had no responsibilities, no worries; he led a secluded and shrunken life.
What kind of a sannyas will it be which is not required to renounce anything? Will sannyas without renunciation mean anything? Recently an actor came to visit me. He is a new entrant into the film world. He asked for my autograph with a message for him. So I wrote in his book: "Act as if it is real life and live as if it is acting." To me, the sannyasin is one who lives life like an actor. If someone wants to blossom in sannyas living in the thick of the world, he should cease to be a doer and become an actor, become a witness. He should live in the thick of life, play his role, and at the same time be a witness to it, but in no way should he be deeply involved in his role, be attached to it, He should cross the river in a way that his feet remain untouched by the water. It is, however, difficult to cross a river without letting the water touch your feet, but it is quite possible to live in the world without getting involved in it, without being tied to it.
In this connection it is necessary to understand what play acting is. The miracle is that the more your life becomes play acting, the more orderly, natural and carefree it becomes. If a woman, as a mother, learns a small truth, that although the child she is bringing up has been borne by her, yet he does not belong to her alone, that she has been no more than a passage for him to come into this world, that he really belongs to that unknown source from which he came, which will sustain him through his life and to which he will return in the end, then that mother will cease to be a doer; she will really become a play actor and a witness.
Conduct an experiment sometime. Decide that for twenty-four hours you are going to do every thing as acting. If someone insults you, you will not really be angry, you will only act as if you are angry; and likewise, if someone praises you, you will not really be flattered, you will only act as though you are flattered. An experiment like this, just for twenty-four hours, will bring astonishing results for you; it will open new doors to life and living for you. You will then realize to your surprise that you have gone through any amount of unnecessary pain and misery in life by being a doer; they could have easily been avoided if you had been an actor instead. When you go to bed after this experiment in play acting, you will have a deep sleep such as you have never known. Once you cease to be a doer, all your tensions and anxieties will disappear. Your miseries will just evaporate, because all your miseries and agonies come from your being a doer in life.
I want to take sannyas to every hamlet and every home. Only then can sannyas survive. We need millions of sannyasins; just a handful won′t do. And millions can take sannyas only if sannyas is positive and life-affirmative. We cannot have many sannyasins if you cut sannyas off from the world. Who will feed them? Who will provide them with clothes and shelter? Sannyas of the old kind, which was a haven for idlers and recluses, cannot produce the millions of sannyasins that we need. Those days are gone when society bore the brunt of a vast army of recluses. Moreover, sannyasins of the old kind have to be dependent on society, and as a result they became extremely poor physically and spiritually. Consequently, they cannot be as effective and influential as they should be. Sannyas on a massive scale is not possible if we cling to its old ways. If sannyas has to be effective on a large scale throughout the world - which is so very necessary - and if sannyas has to be meaningful and blissful, then there is no choice but to allow a sannyas that will not be required to break away from society and grow in isolation. Now a sannyasin should remain wherever he is, acting his role in society and being a witness to it.
So I want to unite sannyas with the family, with the workshop and with the market. It will be a unique and beautiful world, if we can make one where a shopkeeper will be a sannyasin. Naturally, such a shopkeeper will find it difficult to resort to dishonest means in business. A shopkeeper who is just acting his role as shopkeeper, and who is also a witness to it, cannot afford to be dishonest. We will change the world radically if we have sannyasins as doctors, lawyers, clerks and office assistants. A sannyasin living segregated from society is a poor sannyasin, and the society is poorer for him too, because he is one of its best products. When such a person leaves the society to become a sannyasin the society becomes lusterless. A worldwide campaign for positive sannyas has therefore become urgent. It is very necessary to have sannyasins in every home, in every field and factory across the earth. A sannyasin should be a father or a mother, a wife or a husband; he will remain where he is as a sannyasin. Only his outlook on life will change; now life for him will be no more than a drama, a play. Life for him will be a celebration and not a task, a duty, a drag. And with celebration everything will change.
I have yet another kind of sannyas in my vision which I would like to share with you. It is the vision of short-term sannyas. I don′t want a person to take a vow of lifelong sannyas. In fact, any kind of vow or commitment for the future is dangerous, because we are not the masters of the future. It is utterly wrong to think we are. We have to allow the future to take its course, and we should be ready to accept whatever it brings to us. One who has become a witness cannot decide for the future; only a doer does so. One who thinks that he is a doer can vow that he will remain a sannyasin for his whole life, but a real witness will say, "I don′t know what tomorrow is going to be. I will accept it as it comes and be a witness to it too. I cannot decide for tomorrow."
In the past, sannyas was much handicapped by the concept of lifelong sannyas: once a sannyasin, always a sannyasin. We closed the gate of society forever once one entered sannyas. Maybe a person takes sannyas in a particular state of mind, and after some time, when he finds himself in a different state of mind, wants to return to the world - but he cannot do so because the house of sannyas has only an entrance, it has no exit at all. You can enter sannyas, but once in it you cannot leave. And this single rule has turned sannyas into a prison. Even heaven will turn into hell if there is no exit.
You can say that sannyas has no hard and fast rule like this. That is true, but the fact that society looks down upon one who leaves sannyas is a stronger prohibition than any rule. We have an ingenious device to prevent a sannyasin from going back to the world again. When someone takes sannyas we make a big event of it, give him a farewell with great fanfare, with a band and flowers and eulogies. The poor sannyasin does not know that this is a clever way to say goodbye to him forever. He is not aware that if ever he returns to society he will be received by the same people with sticks instead of flowers. This is a very dangerous convention. Because of it, any number of people are prevented from participating in the great bliss that sannyas can bring them. It becomes too difficult for them to make a decision for lifelong sannyas, which is indeed a very hard decision. Besides, we don′t have the right to commit ourselves to anything for our whole lives.
In my vision, short-term sannyas is the right way. You can leave it any time you like, because it is you who take it. It is your decision, no one else can decide for you. Sannyas is entirely a personal, individual choice, others don′t matter in any way. I am free to take sannyas today and leave it tomorrow, provided I don′t expect any reward for it from others in the form of their praise and acclamation. We have made sannyas a very serious affair, and that is why only serious people - who are really sick people - take to it. It is now necessary to turn sannyas into a non-serious thing, a play. It should be entirely for your joy that you enter sannyas for a while and then leave it or remain in it forever. Others should have no say in the matter. If the vision of short-term sannyas becomes prevalent, if people are allowed to enter sannyas even for a few months from time to time, millions of people can enjoy this blessing. It will really be a great thing.
The king of his country came to visit him. The king said, "I am thirsty for God; I want to see God. Please help me." The fakir asked him to visit him the next day, and the king came again. The fakir told him, "Now you have to live with me for a week. Take this begging bowl in your hand and go every day into the adjoining villages to beg alms from house to house. After begging, return to this place, where you will get your meals and a place to rest. And then on the eighth day we will discuss God." The king was in a fix. He had to go begging in his own kingdom, from his own subjects, which seemed such an arduous and embarrassing task. So he asked for the fakir′s permission to go begging outside his kingdom, but the fakir refused him with a curt warning, "If you cannot go begging, it is better you return to your palace right now, and never come to me again to talk about God." After some hesitation the king ultimately decided to live with the fakir for a week. And for a week he was on the streets of his own city with a beggar′s bowl in his hand, visiting the houses of his own subjects, asking for alms. After seven days the fakir sent for him and said, "Now you can ask about God." The king said, "I now have nothing to ask. I had never dreamed I would find God only after a week′s begging." Then the fakir asked what had happened in the course of the begging. The king said, "Just a week′s begging destroyed my ego; it is now nowhere. I had never thought that I would attain as a beggar what I had never had as a king." The moment humility is born, the door to the divine opens.
It would be a great experience if someone takes sannyas for a
month or two every year and then returns to his householder′s world.
This experience will enrich his life in a great way; it will go with
him for the rest of his life. And if a person, in his sixty or
seventy years′ life, takes short-term sannyas - say twenty times -
he will not need to be a sannyasin again; he will be a sannyasin as
he is. Therefore I think that every man and woman should have the
opportunity of sannyas in his or her life. Up to now every kind of
sannyasin in the world has belonged to some religion, to this or
that religion. And this has done immense harm to both sannyas and
It is utterly absurd that a sannyasin should belong to some sectarian religion; a sannyasin at least should belong to religion alone, and not to this or that religion. He should not be a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Jaina; he should be a sannyasin of "religion", with no adjective attached to it. He should be the one who, in the words of Krishna, gives up all religions and takes shelter in the only religion there is. Religion, like truth, is one; it cannot be many. And it will be great if we can give birth to a sannyas that belongs to religion and not to religions, not to communal and sectarian religions. The sannyasin of true religion can be a guest everywhere, whether it is in a temple or a church or a mosque, none will be alien to him.
Another thing to bear in mind is the role of the Master, the guru, in sannyas. Up to now sannyas has been tethered to a Master who initiates someone into it. But sannyas is not something which anyone can give you as a gift; it has to be received directly from the divine. Who else but God can initiate you into sannyas? When someone comes and asks me to initiate him into sannyas, I tell him, "How can I initiate you into sannyas? Only God can initiate you. I can only be a witness to your being initiated. Get initiated by the divine, the supreme being, and I will bear witness that I was present when you were initiated into sannyas. My function is confined to being a witness, nothing more." A sannyas tied to the Master is bound to become sectarian. It cannot liberate you; instead it will put you in bondage. Such a sannyas is worthless.
There are going to be three categories of sannyasins:
One of them will consist of those who will take short-term sannyas, say for two or three months. They will meditate and go through some kind of spiritual discipline at some secluded place and then return to their old lives.
The second category will be of those who will take sannyas, but remain wherever they are. They will continue to be in their occupations as before, but they will now be actors and not doers, and they will also be witnesses to life and living.
And the third category will consist of sannyasins who will go deep into the bliss and ecstasy of sannyas that the question of their return to their old world will not arise. They will bear no such responsibilities as will make it necessary for them to be tied to their families; nobody will depend on them and no one will be hurt by their withdrawal from society.
The last category of sannyasins will live in meditation and carry the message of meditation to those who are thirsty for it. It seems to me that never before was the world in such dire need of meditation as it is today. And if we fail to make a large portion of mankind deeply involved in meditation, there is little hope for man′s survival on this earth any longer; he will simply disappear from the earth.
There is already so much neurosis and insanity in the world, there is so much political madness all around, that the hope for mankind remaining alive grows dimmer and dimmer with the passing of each day. And the sands of time are running out fast. So it is urgent for millions of men and women all over the world to become meditative in the short time that we have; otherwise man, with all his civilization, is going to perish. Even if he survives physically, all that is good and great in him will perish.
Therefore a very large band of young men and young women who have yet no responsibilities on their shoulders is needed. And we will include in this band those old people who have laid down their responsibilities and are free. This band of young and old together will first learn meditation, and then they will carry the torch of meditation to every nook and comer of the earth. The meditation that I teach is so simple, so scientific, that if a hundred people take to it, seventy of them are going to make it. There is no condition that you are qualified to do it; that you do it is all that is needed. Besides, you are not required to owe allegiance to any religion, any scripture, or to have faith and belief as a pre-condition to meditation. As you are right now, you can join it and do it and go deeply into it. It is such a simple and scientific technique that you are not required to have faith in it. All that is required of you is that you take it as a hypothetical experiment, as you do a scientific experiment, to see how it works. And I assure you it works; you will make it.
I feel that meditation can he spread throughout the world as a chain-reaction. If a person decides to learn meditation himself and then, within a week of his learning it, initiates another person into it, we will cover the whole earth with meditation within ten years. No greater effort is needed. Then all the lofty things of life that man is heir to, but has lost, all be restored to him in ten years. And then there is no reason why Krishna should not play his flute amongst us once again, why Christ should not come again and again, why Buddha should not get enlightened under the bo-tree over and over again. Not that the same old Krishna or Buddha will be born again, but that in us we have the potentialities of that meditation which can flower into a Krishna, a Buddha, a Christ over and over again.
It is for this
reason that I have decided to be a witness to your being initiated
into sannyas. I will be a witness for friends who are ready to join
one of the three categories of sannyasins that I have mentioned. I
will not be their Master, but only a witness to their initiation
into sannyas. In fact, sannyas will be a matter of a direct
relationship between them and God. There is going to be no ritual
for initiation into sannyas, so that one does not have any
difficulty in leaving it when he feels like it. And sannyas will not
be a serious affair; so you need not be worried on this score.
It should be such a simple and natural thing that if, one morning getting out of bed, a person feels like taking sannyas, he should not have to face any difficulty in the matter. There will be no difficulty, because it is not going to be a lifelong commitment. If the following morning he feels like quitting it, he can do so as easily. He is his sole judge and master; others have nothing to do with it.
I have explained to you how I envisage this neo-sannyas. Now you can ask a few questions that arise in your minds.