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Sivananda Ashram, Victoria, BC



 A pious social worker was somewhat upset by certain young Sannyasins going astray. He had heard many stories from the Rishikesh public of such misconduct on the part of the Sannyasins. What struck him as unique was the fact that in the Master's Ashram almost all the Sannyasins were young.

"Swamiji, pardon my presumption, but would it not have been better for these people to have waited for some time more before embracing this holy order, which is so very difficult to stick to? Are you sure that these young initiates have really understood the duties of the order and that they will adhere to its principles? I think it is a great mistake to initiate them so early."

The Master laughed gently.

"Why, I myself can give you many examples of young Sannyasins going astray. One young man took Sannyas. He had great dispassion. His exemplary life made his brother also take to Sannyas. Later on his dispassion waned. He married and ate eggs and meat. His brother, however, stuck to the line. The former did not live with his Guru. He had his own whimsical Sadhana. He had not protected himself by means of seclusion and Satsang.

"Another young Sannyasin was fiery in his Sadhana. He inspired and elevated many aspirants. Later on he married and now has a child. How did this happen? He mixed freely with householders. He allowed women to shampoo his legs. He had a downfall and brought forth a child. There are many such instances." 

"That is exactly what I mean, Swamiji. In such cases is it not better to refrain from giving Sannyas to them?" "My dear Bhagatji, this is where you are mistaken. Even though they fall, yet they are worthy of your veneration. For at least one day they were Sannyasins. They had the courage to throw up their hands and say, 'I renounce the pleasures of the three worlds.' How glorious is Sannyas! How glorious is such renunciation of the pleasures of the three worlds!

"They had the boldness and daring to stand up against the greatest forces of Nature--the forces of self-preservation and procreation--that maintain this worldly existence. They stood as masters of Nature. You, on the contrary, are driven mercilessly by these forces whose slave you are. Maybe some young renunciates do not assess properly the strength of these opposing forces. So they are sometimes taken unawares when they are a little heedless. But those who never renounce for fear of having a downfall are cowardly; so they never know what it is to renounce. They fear to look at the battlefield lest their nose be injured. They jest with scars that never felt a wound. But a brave warrior wears these scars as ornaments, for they taught him how to protect himself in battle.

"Churchills are required for Sannyas! Courageous and brave even in the face of successive defeats, Sannyasins should learn lessons and pin their faith in ultimate victory. Sure victory will be theirs if only they persist, persevere and plod on, without yielding midway. Let the light of God shine brightly in their hearts; let them protect their faith with tenacious adherence to the Lotus Feet of the Lord. Storms of passions may sweep the externals, but when God's Grace descends on the aspirant, everything will be quiet and tranquil. Glory, glory to Sannyas and Sadhana!

"Aspirants should learn lessons from these stories. They should be vigilant and cautious. There is no need to lose heart. Each such episode ought to re-awaken in the young Sannyasin a love for seclusion, for Satsang with his own Guru. Aspirants should never drift away from their Gurus. They should plunge themselves in Sadhana and at every moment endeavour to realise God.

"A wise man profits by the experiences of others, a middling by his own, and a fool by neither. The story of the downfall of some Sannyasins ought not to dishearten others. On the contrary, it should teach them a lesson. It should put them on guard. They should uphold the glory of Sannyas. Because one young man has failed to live up to Sannyas, one should not think that the order itself is not suitable for the youth.

"What about the names of great Sannyasins like Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, Swami Dayananda and Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi. As a matter of fact you will discover that many of the noteworthy Sannyasins renounced the world while yet youthful. What can an old man achieve?

"When the power of hearing is gone he will not be able to hear the scriptures being expounded. No Sadhana would be possible for an old man. It is only mock-Sannyas if he embraces the holy order. Sannyas would then become a formality. Further, conditions are such these days that an old man finds himself inextricably entangled in family life. 

Therefore, it is essential that young boys should renounce the world and embrace Sannyas. They have fewer worldly ties.

"It was because, perfectly or imperfectly, man has striven to live, to exist, that we see his survival today when countless other species have perished and gone. Similarly, it is because men, young or old, felt a disgust for worldly life and embraced Sannyas, that today that glorious and most ancient order has survived. Whether they later rose to eminence or fell victims to animal nature is immaterial.

"Young Sannyasins should keep themselves busy in Japa, Kirtan, study, meditation and enquiry. They should live in the company of their Gurus and practise vigorous Sadhana. They should never enter a city. As far as possible they should avoid moving among crowds. Seclusion is the key to a successful Sannyas life. I advise my disciples never to enter the plains. And even if they have to do so owing to the exigencies of selfless service, I ask them to finish their work quickly and run back to their Himalayan abode. The Himalayas is the home of Sannyasins and aspirants. A Sannyasin is safe so long as he is there. Sannyas was born in the Himalayas; it continues to live, and will ever live in the Himalayas alone."

"There was no end to the domestic troubles that Krishna had, no limit to the social and political disturbances and threatening situations in which Krishna was involved, no bound to his responsibility and yet there was no match to his success, no equal to his shining example of the Life Perfect. Certainly, only an Avatara (incarnation of God) can be such a perfect being. The man on earth, the householder, with the weight of responsibility on his head and an environment attempting to menace and flout him at every step, should learn the science and art of right, good and happy life, from Sri Krishna, who combined knowledge with action with wonderful dexterity, for the good of the universe." -

 H.H. Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj.

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