Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati’s reflections on sannyasa at his 26th Sannyasa birthday celebration at Ganga Darshan, 11 January 1996.
It was only with great difficulty that I was able to convince everyone not to celebrate my physical birthday, because that is not the real one. If there has to be any celebration at all then it should be of the day when I took sannyasa. That is my actual birthday, because when I was given sannyasa by my guru I was born again.
There is another aspect also. One’s sannyasa birthday is very much a private affair, in the sense that it is a day to remind one of the commitment that one took with sannyasa. It is a day to reflect on the follies committed in the past and to make a sankalpa not to commit them again in the future. It is a day when one has to be true to the vision of sannyasa, to the initiation and the trust placed in one by the guru. Therefore, it cannot be a public affair. The sannyasa day is always celebrated in private, in isolation, in solitude. With due respect to everybody’s feelings, my request is: from next year leave me alone. The physical birthday is finished, there is no use celebrating it, and the sannyasa birthday is my personal affair with my guru. Don’t interfere in it because on that day I like to be in mind, thought, emotion and spirit with my guru, and nobody else. When many people come here there is dilution and distraction in the channelling of my being towards my guru. I hope you can understand this.
Faith and trust
As far as your personal love and affection towards me are concerned, as shown by this celebration, I definitely respect that. But just as everybody needs an opportunity to take stock of their inner feelings, on this day I need an opportunity to take stock of my inner feelings. One thing is certain. As a sannyasin I can only aspire to make an effort to be true to the aim and direction given to me by my guru. If you want to celebrate at all, do so in your own rooms, in your own homes, and give me your good wishes so that I can become a true sannyasin. Because that is the only aim in life. Other things are done as kartavya, obligation, as dharma, duty. But sannyasa is not an obligation or a duty. Sannyasa is a recognition of the faith and trust placed in me by my guru. It is a day when I have to be away from all kinds of hatreds and ego trips. It is a day when I have to be sincere to myself, truthful to myself, and your help, cooperation and good wishes are needed to experience all these things.
Everybody thinks of sannyasa in their own way. For some sannyasins it is a good life, for others it is rejection of life, for others a commitment. My definition of sannyasa cannot apply to you and your definition of sannyasa cannot apply to me. Sannyasa is an ongoing process. Just as we mature in life, so do we mature also in sannyasa life, and according to the maturity of one’s concept of sannyasa, the area of action in life changes also, the attitude changes, the behavior changes. I always remember a poem by Paramahamsaji:
Let me go wherever I want to,
Far, far away, beyond the horizon
Where earthly rays do not penetrate,
Where worldly ways cannot reach.
Don’t bind me by your social rules.
Don’t influence me with your religions.
Don’t drag me down with your conventions.
Leave me alone.
Let me be.
My sannyasa birthday is definitely a day when I have to be free. All I wish from you today is that you evolve your own concept of sannyasa and live that in whatever way possible.
From my understanding, a sannyasin has only three obligations or commitments:
1. Control over speech. No nonsense, no unnecessary talk, no unnecessary gossip, no harsh words. These guidelines are ancient ones. Buddha said the same thing, Swami Sivananda said the same thing, Paramahamsaji says the same thing. Of course, there has to be discrimination, viveka. But control over speech is one of the most important obligations of a sannyasin.
2. Control over mind is the second important obligation of a sannyasin. Decide what your aim is in life and be true to that aim. Be like an arrow which flies straight towards the bull’s eye. The bull’s eye is the aim, the holder of the bow and arrow is the guru. When the guru lets fly the arrow it has to go straight towards the bull’s eye. On the way the arrow doesn’t think, Oh! let me divert a bit, tour around the world, and then go and hit the bull’s eye. This happens when there is control over the mind, when the mind doesn’t behave like a monkey or a donkey – like a monkey meaning running from one idea to another, from one desire to another, from one ambition to another, which of course takes time, or like a donkey, meaning stubborn, refusing to move, because there has to be flexibility.
Control over the mind can only come when you identify with the guru. If you identify with yourself there cannot be mind control. We all identify with ourselves – I like, I dislike, I love, I hate, I am tired, I am happy, I am sad. The ‘I’ is of course identification with oneself. But if you live life as a kartavya or obligation, as a dharma or duty, then you are free from headaches and hatreds. You don’t have to think, whom do I obey, whom should I listen to; you don’t have to think of your connections and loyalties.
3. Control over ego is the third obligation of a sannyasin. In the gross sense ego is ambition, in the subtle sense ego is arrogance, and in the causal sense ego is I-identity, me and mine.
When these three aspects can be controlled then sannyasa will definitely be an experience of growth and not stagnation. I see many people who feel stagnated and others who are stagnated. The reason for stagnation is that they are not able to realize the three basic principles of sannyasa: control over speech and behavior, control over the mind and desires, and control over ego, arrogance and ambitions.
If you can live these three principles then it doesn’t really matter how you live your external life. Whether you wake up at 4.00 a.m. to do your meditation or whether you sleep till 10.00 a.m. makes no difference. That is the main discipline of sannyasa.
Become an immortal flower
Be a flower that doesn’t dry up, that doesn’t get crushed underfoot. There are so many flowers in the world that get crushed. Only a few people have become immortal flowers, accepted by the world and by God. The way to become an immortal flower is to follow these three principles in life – control over speech, mind and ego. Immortal flowers in the modern age whose fragrance has permeated everywhere are Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Baba Nityananda and Swami Sivananda, and we have smelt the freshest fragrance during the Chandi Yajna in the form of Swami Satyananda. So try to be like an immortal flower, not like the ones which die after a few hours of life. That is sannyasa.