IV Qualities of Sannyasa

>> “Srila Prabhupada Quotes” > Activities of sannyasa

1. Fearlessness
2. Humility
3. Mercy
4. Equanimity
5. Determination
6. Simplicity
7. Spiritual heroism
8. Silence
9. Surrender
10. Sees the lord everywhere

1. FEARLESSNESS (top)

FEARLESSNESS SHOULD BE THE FIRST QUALIFICATION OF A SANNYASI

For a sannyasi, the first qualification should be fearlessness. Because a sannyasi has to be alone without any support or guarantee of support, he has simply to depend upon the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If he thinks “After leaving my connections who will protect me?”, he should not accept the order of renounced life. One must be fully convinced that Krsna or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His localized aspect of Paramatma is always within, that He is seeing everything and that He always knows what one intends to do. One must have firm conviction that Krsna as Paramatma will take care of a soul surrendered to Him. “I shall never be alone”, one should think. “Even if I live in the darkest regions of a forest I shall be accompanied by Krsna, and He will give me all protection.” That conviction is called abhayam, without fear. This state of mind is necessary for a person in the renounced order of life.
(B.g. 16.1, purp.)

A PERSON SHOULD NOT BE IN THE RENOUNCED ORDER UNLESS FIRMLY CONVINCED OF THE LORD’S PROTECTION

But Vidura wanted to achieve sincere devotional service of the Lord and therefore became a soul absolutely surrendered to the Absolute Personality of Godhead. He could realize this in the progress of his pilgrims’s journey, and thus he was freed from all doubts. He was not at all sorry to be bereft of his hearth and home because he now had experience that dependence on the mercy of the Lord is a greater freedom than so-called freedom at home. A person should not be in the renounced order of life unless he is firmly convinced of being protected by the Lord. This stage of life is explained in Bhagavad-gita as abhayam sattva- samsuddhih: every living entity is factually completely dependent on the mercy of the Lord, but unless one is in the pure state of existence, he cannot be established in this position. This stage of dependence is called sattva-samsuddhih, or purification of one’s existence. The result of such purification is exhibited in fearlessness. A devotee of the Lord, who is called narayana-para, is never afraid of anything because he is always aware of the fact that the Lord protects him in all circumstances. With this conviction, Vidura traveled alone, and he was not seen or recognized by any friend or foe. Thus he enjoyed freedom of life without obligation to the many duties of the world.
(Bhag. 3.1.42 , purp.)

A SANNYASI IS DUTY BOUND TO TAKE RISKS FEARLESSLY

It is the duty of a mendicant (parivrajakacarya) to experience all varieties of God’s creation by traveling alone through all forests, hills, towns, villages, etc., to gain faith in God and strength of mind as well as to enlighten the inhabitants with the message of God. A sannyasi is duty bound to take all these risks without fear, and the most typical sannyasi of the present age is Lord Caitanya, who traveled in the same manner through the central Indian jungles, enlightening even the tigers, bears, snakes, deer, elephants and many other jungle animals.
(Bhag. 1.6.13 purp.)

A sannyasi or one in the renounced order of life must be situated in fearlessness, sattva-samsuddhih (purity and jnana-yoga (knowledge).
(B.g. 16.1-3 purp.)

BY PURIFICATION, A SANNYASI FEELS THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD EVERYWHERE AND THUS DOES NOT FEEL ALONE

A sannyasi should always live alone, without company, and he must be fearless. He should never be afraid of living alone, although he is never alone. The Lord is residing in everyone’s heart, and unless one is purified by the prescribed process, one will feel that he is alone. But a man in the renounced order of life must be purified by the process; thus he will feel the presence of the Lord everywhere and will have nothing to fear (such as being without any company).
(Bhag 2.2.5, purp.)

A SANNYASI IS NOT DEPENDENT ON ANY PERSON OR PLACE

TRANSLATION: The sannyasi, completely satisfied in the self, should live on alms begged from door to door. Not being dependent on any person or any place, he should always be a friendly well-wisher to all living beings and be a peaceful, unalloyed devotee of Narayana. In this way he should move from one place to another.
(Bhag. 7.13.3 )

2. HUMILITY (top)

SANNYASIS ARE HUMBLE

“My dear Sir, why are You sitting in that filthy place?” he asked. “Please come and sit with us.” “Oh, I belong to an inferior sect of sannyasis,” Lord Caitanya replied. “Therefore I think that I should not sit with you. Let Me remain down here.”
(TLC ch. 18, page 197 ) (Prakasananda Sarasvati to Lord Caitanya in Banaras)

A SANNYASI SHOULD BE HUMBLE AND MEEK

TRANSLATION: The Lord replied: “I belong to a lower order of sannyasis. Therefore I do not deserve to sit with you.”
PURPORT: Mayavadi sannyasis are always very puffed up because of their knowledge of Sanskrit and because they belong to the Sankara-sampradaya. They are always under the impression that unless one is a brahmana and a very good Sanskrit scholar, especially in grammar, one cannot accept the renounced order of life nor become a preacher. Mayavadi sannyasis always misinterpret all the sastras with their word jugglery and grammatical compositions, yet Sripada Sankaracarya himself condemned such jugglery of words in the verse, prapte sannihite khalu marane nahi nahi raksati dukrn-karane. Dukrn refers to suffixes and prefixes in Sanskrit grammar. Sankaracarya warned his disciples that if they concerned themselves only with the principles of grammar, not worshiping Govinda, they were fools who would never be saved. Yet in spite of Sripada Sankaracarya’s instructions, foolish Mayavadi sannyasis are always busy juggling words on the basis of strict Sanskrit grammar. Mayavadi sannyasis are very puffed up if they hold the elevated sannyasa titles tirtha, asrama, and sarasvati. Even among Mayavadis, those who belong to other sampradayas and hold other titles such as Vana, Aranya, Bharati, etc., are considered to be lower-grade sannyasis. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted sannyasa from the Bharati-sampradaya, and thus He considered Himself a lower sannyasi than Prakasananda Sarasvati. To remain distinct from Vaisnava sannyasis, the sannyasis of the Mayavadi- sampradaya always think themselves to be situated in a very elevated spiritual order, but Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in order to teach them how to become humble and meek, accepted Himself as belonging to a lower sampradaya of sannyasis. Thus He wanted to point out clearly that a sannyasi is one who is advanced in spiritual knowledge. One who is advanced in spiritual knowledge should be accepted as occupying a better position than those who lack such knowledge. The Mayavadi-sampradaya sannyasis are generally known as Vedantists, as if Vedanta were their monopoly. Actually, however, Vedanti refers to a person who perfectly knows Krsna. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah: “By all the Vedas it is Krsna who is to be known.” (B.g. 15.15 ) The so- called Mayavadi Vedantis do not know who Krsna is; therefore their title of Vedanti, or knower of Vedanta philosophy, is simply a pretension. Mayavadi sannyasis always think of themselves as real sannyasis and consider sannyasis of the Vaisnava order to be brahmacaris. A brahmacari is supposed to engage in the service of a sannyasi and accept him as his guru. Mayavadi sannyasis therefore declare themselves to be not only gurus but jagad-gurus, or the spiritual masters of the entire world, although, of course, they cannot see the entire world. Sometimes they dress gorgeously and travel on the backs of elephants in processions, and thus they are always puffed up, accepting themselves as jagad-gurus. Srila Rupa Gosvami, however, has explained that jagad-guru properly refers to one who is the controller of his tongue, mind, words, belly, genitals and anger. Prthivim sa sisyat: such a jagad-guru is completely fit to make disciples all over the world. Due to false prestige, Mayavadi sannyasis who do not have these qualifications sometimes harass and blaspheme a Vaisnava sannyasi who humbly engages in the service of the Lord.
(Cc. Adi 7.64 )

A SANNYASI PREACHES OUT OF HUMILITY

Humility is also one of the qualifications of a transcendentally situated person, and out of sheer humility the sannyasi goes from door to door, not exactly for the purpose of begging, but to see the householders and awaken them to Krsna consciousness. This is the duty of a sannyasi.
(B.g. 16.1-3, purp.)

LORD CAITANYA WAS CONSIDERED HUMBLE AND MEEK BECAUSE HE RETAINED HIS BRAHMACARI NAME

TRANSLATION: “The sannyasi is very meek and humble by nature, and His person is very beautiful to see. Consequently my affection for Him increases. PURPORT: Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya considered Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu a very humble and meek person because although Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a sannyasi, He still retained His brahmacari name. The Lord took sannyasa from Kesava Bharati in the Bharati sampradaya, in which the brahmacaris (the assistants of the sannyasis) are named “Caitanya”. Even after accepting sannyasa, Caitanya Mahaprabhu retained the name “Caitanya”, meaning a humble servant of a sannyasi. Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya appreciated this very much.
(Cc. Madhya 6.69 )

A SANNYASI TAKES THE VO W OF HUMILITY AND NON VIOLENCE

Vratam means that one should take a vow as explained in Bhagavad-gita, amanitvam adambhitvam, without hankering for personal respect and without being proud of one’s material position. Ahimsa means not being violent. There are eighteen processes for attaining knowledge and perfection, and by his vow, Kardama Muni adopted all the principles of self-realization.
(Bhag. 3.24.42 )

3. MERCY (top)

SANNYASI AS MERCIFUL

Ramananda Raya very much appreciated the Lord’s touching a man of wealth. A king, governor or any politician is always absorbed in thoughts of political affairs and pound-shillings-pence; therefore such persons are avoided by sannyasis. Lord Caitanya, however, knew Ramananda Raya to be a great devotee, and therefore He did not hesitate to touch and embrace him. Ramananda Raya was surprised by Lord Caitanya’s behavior, and he cited a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam (10.8.4) : “The great personalities and sages appear in the homes of worldly men just to show them mercy.”
(TLC ch. 27 , page 293 )

KARUNAIKA (MERCY) AS QUALIFICATION OF A SADHU

TRANSLATION: The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.
PURPORT: A sadhu, as described above, is a devotee of the Lord. His concern, therefore, is to enlighten people in devotional service to the Lord. That is his mercy. He knows that without devotional service to the Lord, human life is spoiled. A devotee travels all over the country, from door to door, preaching, “Be Krsna conscious. Be a devotee of Lord Krsna. Don’t spoil your life in simply fulfilling your animal propensities. Human life is meant for self-realization, or Krsna consciousness.” These are the preachings of a sadhu. He is not satisfied with his own liberation. He always thinks about others. He is the most compassionate personality towards all the fallen souls. One of his qualifications, therefore, is karunika, great mercy to the fallen souls. While engaged in preaching work, he has to meet with so many opposing elements, and therefore the sadhu, or devotee of the Lord, has to be very tolerant. Someone may ill- treat him because the conditioned souls are not prepared to receive the transcendental knowledge of devotional service. They do not like it; that is their disease. One of the qualifications of a sadhu is that he is very tolerant and is merciful to all fallen souls. He is merciful because he is the well-wisher of all living entities. He is not only a well-wisher of human society, but a well-wisher of animal society as well. It is said here, sarva-dehinam, which indicates all living entities who have accepted material bodies. Not only does the human being have a material body, but other living entities, such as cats and dogs, also have material bodies. The devotee of the Lord is merciful to everyone–the cats, dogs, trees, etc. He treats all living entities in such a way that they can ultimately get salvation from this material entanglement. Sivananda Sena, one of the disciples of Lord Caitanya, gave liberation to a dog by treating the dog transcendentally. There are many instances where a dog got salvation by association with a sadhu, because a sadhu engages in the highest philanthropic activities for the benediction of all living entities. Yet although a sadhu is not inimical towards anyone, the world is so ungrateful that even a sadhu has many enemies.
What is the difference between an enemy and a friend? It is a difference in behavior. A sadhu behaves with all conditioned souls for their ultimate relief from material entanglement.
Therefore, no one can be more friendly than a sadhu in relieving a conditioned soul. A sadhu is calm, and he quietly and peacefully follows the principles of scripture. A sadhu means one who follows the principles of scripture and at the same time is a devotee of the Lord. One who actually follows the principles of scripture must be a devotee of God because all the sastras instruct us to obey the orders of the Personality of Godhead. Sadhu, therefore, means a follower of the scriptural injunctions and a devotee of the Lord.
(Bhag. 3.25.21 )

4. EQUANIMITY (top)

EQUANIMITY AS SANNYASA DHARMA

TRANSLATION: “Since I am in the renounced order, My duty is to make no distinctions but instead be equipoised. My knowledge must be equally disposed toward sandalwood pulp and dirty mud.”
PURPORT: It is the duty of a sannyasi, a person in the renounced order, to be always equipoised, and that is also the duty of a learned man and a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava, a sannyasi or a learned person has no conception of the material world; in other words, he has no conception of anything materially important. He has no desire to use sandalwood pulp for sense gratification, nor does sense gratification make him hate mud.
Acceptance or rejection of material things is not the concern of a sannyasi, a Vaisnava or a learned person. An advanced devotee has no desire to enjoy or reject anything. His only duty is to accept whatever is favorable for the advancement of Krsna consciousness. A Vaisnava should be indifferent to material enjoyment and renunciation and should always hanker for the spiritual life of rendering service to the Lord.
(Cc. Antya 4.179 )

A SANNYASI SHOULD ALWAYS BE NEUTRAL SEEKING ONLY THE MEANS TO ADVANCE IN SPIRITUAL LIFE

TRANSLATION: Literature that is a useless waste of time–in other words, literature without spiritual benefit–should be rejected. One should not become a professional teacher as a means of earning one’s livelihood, nor should one indulge in arguments and counter-arguments. Nor should one take shelter of any cause or faction.
PURPORT: A person desiring to advance in spiritual understanding should be extremely careful to avoid reading ordinary literature. The world is full of ordinary literature that creates unnecessary agitation in the mind. Such literature, including newspapers, dramas, novels and magazines, is factually not meant for advancement in spiritual knowledge. Indeed, it has been described as a place of enjoyment for crows (tad vayasam tirtham). Anyone advancing in spiritual knowledge must reject such literature. Furthermore, one should not concern oneself with the conclusions of various logicians or philosophers. Of course, those who preach sometimes need to argue with the contentions of opponents, but as much as possible one should avoid and argumentative attitude. In this connection, Srila Madhvacarya says:

aprayojana-paksam na samsrayet

naprayojana-paksi syan
na vrtha sisya-bandha-krt
na codasinah sastrani
na viruddhani cabhyaset

na vyakhyayopajiveta
na nisiddhan samacaret
evam-bhuto yatir yati
tad-eka-sarano harim

“There is no need to take shelter of unnecessary literature or concern oneself with many so-called philosophers and thinkers who are useless for spiritual advancement. Nor should one accept a disciple for the sake of fashion or popularity. One should be callous to these so-called sastras, neither opposing nor favoring them, and one should not earn one’s livelihood by taking money for explaining sastra. A sannyasi must always be neutral and seek the means to advance in spiritual life, taking full shelter under the lotus feet of the Lord.”
(Bhag. 7.13.7 )

A SANNYASI SHOULD OBSERVE THE ETERNAL TIME FACTOR AND THE LIVING ENTITIES’ ENTANGLEMENT IN IT

TRANSLATION: Since the material body is sure to be vanquished and the duration of one’s life is not fixed, neither death nor life is to be praised. Rather, one should observe the eternal time factor, in which the living entity manifests himself and disappears.
PURPORT: The living entities in the material world, not only at the present but also in the past, have been involved in trying to solve the problem of birth and death. Some stress death and point to the illusory existence of everything material, whereas others stress life, trying to preserve it perpetually and enjoy it to the best of their ability. Both of them are fools and rascals. It is advised that one observe the eternal time factor, which is the cause of the material body’s appearance and disappearance, and that one observe the living entity’s entanglement in this time factor. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura therefore sings in his Gitavali:

anadi karama-phale, padi ‘bhavarnava-jale,
taribare na dekhi upaya

One should observe the activities of eternal time, which is the cause of birth and death. Before the creation of the present millennium, the living entities were under the influence of the time factor, and within the time factor the material world comes into existence and is again annihilated. Bhutva bhutva praliyate. Being under the control of the time factor, the living entities appear and die, life after life. This time factor is the impersonal representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who gives the living entities conditioned by material nature a chance to emerge from this nature by surrendering to Him.
(Bhag. 7.13.6 )

5. DETERMINATION (top)

A SANNYASI REQUIRES PARATMA-NISTHA, DETERMINATION TO SERVE THE LORD

TRANSLATION: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu approved the purport of this verse on account of the determination of the mendicant devotee to engage in the service of Lord Mukunda. He gave His approval of this verse, indicating that it was very good. The real purpose of accepting sannyasa is to dedicate oneself to the service of Mukunda. By serving Mukunda, one can actually be liberated from the bondage of material existence.
PURPORT: In this connection, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the sannyasa order and recommended the determination of the Avantipura bhiksu to engage in the service of Mukunda. He accepted the brahmana’s version due to his determination to serve Mukunda. The sannyasi dress is actually an attraction for material formality. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not like such formality, but He wanted the essence of it–service to Mukunda. Such determination in any condition is paratma-nistha. That is required. The conclusion is that the sannyasa order depends not on the dress but the determination to serve Mukunda.
(Cc. Madhya 3.7-8 )

6. SIMPLICITY (top)

SIMPLICITY IS THE FIRST QUALIFICATION IN A SANNYASI

TRANSLATION: The Lord replied, “I cannot tolerate seeing the face of a person who has accepted the renounced order of life but who still talks intimately with a woman.
PURPORT: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments that saralata, or simplicity, is the first qualification of a Vaisnava whereas duplicity or cunning behavior is a great offense against the principles of devotional service. As one advances in Krsna consciousness, one must gradually become disgusted with material attachment and thus become more and more attached to the service of the Lord. If one is not factually detached from material activities but still proclaims himself advanced in devotional service, he is cheating. No one will be happy to see such behavior.
(Cc. Antya 2.117 )

7. SPIRITUAL HEROISM (top)

UNLESS ONE IS MASTER OF THE SENSES HE CANNOT BECOME A GOSVAMI, A SPIRITUAL HERO

One can also become a hero by being master of the senses, a gosvami. Material activities are false heroic activities, whereas restraining the senses from material engagement is great heroism. …Being part and parcel of Krsna, the living entity is certainly a great hero, but due to his own weakness he becomes attracted to the material features.

krsna-bahirmukha hana bhoga-vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japtiya dhare

It is said in the Prema-vivarta that when a living entity wants to enjoy material nature, he is immediately victimized by the material energy. A living entity is not forced to come into the material world. He makes his own choice, being attracted by beautiful women. Every living entity has the freedom to be attracted by material nature or to stand as a hero and resist that attraction. It is simply a question of the living entity’s being attracted or not being attracted. There is no question of his being forced to come into contact with material energy. One who can keep himself steady and resist the attraction of material nature is certainly a hero and deserves to be called a gosvami. Unless one is master of the senses, he cannot become a gosvami. The living entity can take one of two positions in this world. He may become a servant of his senses, or he may become master of them. By becoming a servant of the senses, one becomes a great material hero, and by becoming master of the senses, he becomes a gosvami, or spiritual hero.
(Bhag. 4.25.25 , purp.)

8. SILENCE (top)

A SANNYASI IS SILENT

Mauna means “silence.” Unless one becomes silent, he cannot think completely about the pastimes and activities of the Lord. It is not that because one is a fool and cannot speak nicely he therefore takes the vow of mauna. Rather, one becomes silent so that people will not disturb him. It is said by Canakya Pandita that a rascal appears very intelligent as long as he does not speak. But speaking is the test. The so-called silence of a silent impersonalist svami indicates that he has nothing to say; he simply wants to beg. But the silence adopted by Kardama Muni was not like that. He became silent for relief from nonsensical talk. One is called a muni when he remains grave and does not talk nonsense. Maharaja Ambarisa set a very good example; whenever he spoke, he spoke about the pastimes of the Lord. Mauna necessitates refraining from nonsensical talking, and engaging the talking facility in the pastimes of the Lord. In that way one can chant and hear about the Lord in order to perfect his life.
(Bhag. 3.24.42 , purp.)

9. SURRENDER (top)

SANNYASI AS SURRENDERED SOUL

There is no essential difference between a fully surrendered soul and a person in the renounced order of life. The only difference is that a fully surrendered soul is completely dependent upon Krsna. There are six basic guidelines for surrender. The first is that one should accept everything that is favorable for the discharge of devotional service, and one should be determined to accept the process. The second is that one should give up everything that is unfavorable to the discharge of devotional service, and that one should be determined to give it all up. Thirdly, one should be convinced that only Krsna can protect him and should have full faith that the Lord will give that protection. An impersonalist thinks that his actual identity is in being one with Krsna, but a devotee does not destroy his identity in this way. He lives with full faith that Krsna will kindly protect him in all respects. Fourthly, a devotee should always accept Krsna as his maintainer. Those who are interested in the fruits of activities generally expect protection from the demigods, but a devotee of Krsna does not look to any demigod for protection. He is fully convinced that Krsna will protect him from all unfavorable circumstances. Fifth, a devotee is always conscious that his desires are not independent; unless Krsna fulfill them, that cannot be fulfilled. Lastly, one should always think of himself as the most fallen among souls so that Krsna will take care of him. Such a surrendered soul should take shelter of a holy place like Vrindavana, Mathura, Dvaraka, Mayapur, etc., and should surrender himself unto the Lord saying, “My Lord, from today I am Yours. You can protect me or kill me as You like.” A pure devotee takes shelter of Krsna in such a way, and Krsna is so grateful that He accepts him and gives him all kinds of protection. This is confirmed in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.29.34 ) where it is said that if a person who is about to die takes full shelter of the Supreme Lord and places himself fully under His care, he actually attains immortality and becomes eligible to associate with the Supreme Lord and enjoy transcendental bliss.
(TLC ch. 12 p. 123 )

10. SEES THE LORD EVERYWHERE (top)

A SANNYASI SEES THE SUPREME IN EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING RESTING ON THE SUPREME

TRANSLATION: The sannyasi should always try to see the Supreme pervading everything and see everything, including this universe, resting on the Supreme.
(Bhag. 7.13.4 )

AN ADVANCED DEVOTEE SEES THE LORD EVERYWHERE

TRANSLATION: During unconsciousness and consciousness, and between the two, he should try to understand the self and be fully situated in the self. In this way, he should realize that the conditional and liberated stages of life are only illusory and not actually factual. With such a higher understanding, he should see only the Absolute Truth pervading everything.
PURPORT: The unconscious state is nothing but ignorance, darkness or material existence, and in the conscious state one is awake. The marginal state, between consciousness and unconsciousness, has no permanent existence. Therefore one who is advanced in understanding the self should understand that unconsciousness and consciousness are but illusions, for they fundamentally do not exist. Only the Supreme Absolute Truth exists. As confirmed by the Lord in Bhagavad-gita (9.4):

maya tatam idam sarvam
jagad avyakta-murtina
mat-sthani sarva-bhutani
na caham tesv avasthitah

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” Everything exists on the basis of Krsna’s impersonal feature; nothing can exist without Krsna. Therefore the advanced devotee of Krsna can see the Lord everywhere, without illusion.
(Bhag. 7.13.5 )