"THE FURTHER SHORE"
THE HINDU SANNYAS
By Swami Abhishiktananda
Published by ISPCK, PO Box 1595, Kashmere Gate, Delhi 110006, on behalf of the Abhishiktananda Society .
Full copies of the book are available there on order : Fax to the distribution Manager, Sandeep Chawdury, 00 91 11 296 54 90, Gram Lithouse, Ph 00 91 11 296 63 23 possible remittance by cheque of a non-Indian bank also. First edition, 19751998
Other Publications by Swami Abhishiktananda at ISPCK:
The Further Shore (which includes the present text)$9
Hindu Christian Meeting Points $9
The Mountain of the Lord, Pilgrimage to Gangotri $ 2
Guru and Disciple : an Encounter with Sri Gnanananda $6
In Spirit and Truth $ 2
The Secret of Arunachala $10
Ascent to the Depth of the Heart - Spiritual Diary (in process)
And on the author "Swami Abhishiktananda through his letters" edited by James Stuart. $22
Swami Abhishiktananda The Man and His Message, edited by Vandana $6
THE UPANISHADS - AN INTRODUCTION
THE TRANSLITERATION OF SANSKRIT WORDS
This follows in general the established usage among scholars, though not in all respects; thus, for instance, the vowel r is printed with an 'i' (e. g., Brihad). A certain number of common words an names are given in their accepted English form: e.g., rishi, sannyasi, Sanskrit, Upanishad. To reduce the amount of italic type, Sanskrit terms which appear frequently in the text are normally printed in roman type.
For those who are not familiar with Indian pronunciation, a few general principles may be helpful:*Vowels, long or short, are pure, like Italian vowels; but the short 'a' is an indefinite sound, like the 'u' in the English word 'but'.*'c' corresponds to the English 'ch'; 'ch' is the same aspirated
*The retroflex dentals't', 'd' end 'n' with a dot below are pronounced with the tongue touching the front teeth, a softer sound than in English. Unfortunately, in this internet edition, the diacritics sign could not be reproduced.*Wherever a consonant is followed by an 'h', the sound is distinctly aspirated.*'h' (visarga) is 'pronounced as a hard 'h' followed by a short echo of the preceding vowel.
REFERENCES TO MINOR UPANISHADS
With the exception of the Mahanarfiyanopanishad, references are given according to the edition of 108 Upanishads published in Bombay in 1932. (Note: the edition of 108 Upanishads, published by the Sanskrit Sansthan of Bareilly, numbers the sections differently.) In the case of the Mahanarayanopanishad, references are according to Anandashram edition of the Taittiriyaranyaka (lOth Prapathaka, given in the Appendix on p. 783), which is also followed in the edition of the Upanishad published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras.
SANNYASA (or, The Call to the Desert) was Swami Abhishiktananda's last writing, and was completed in July 1973, a few months before his death.* In this penetrating essay he expounds the significance of the Indian tradition of renunciation (sannyasa), and thereby causes a compelling echo to resound in the heart of contemporary man. He underlines the profound link between the call to sannyasa and the call to the desert which was heard by the first Christian monks. More broadly he shows how the Christian conscience in general is challenged at depth by the advaitic experience to which sannyasa is the standing witness. The text has an unquestionable authenticity, so completely had Swamiji identified himself with what he here presents. Indeed, it is written in 'letters of fire,' and reveals the inner fervour which consumed him to his very depths and summoned him irresistibly to an ever more acosmic (out of the world) life, totally absorbed in the inward vision. The second essay, The Upanishads-an Introduction, (not reproduced on Internet) was written in French during 1971, but the author never gave it a final revision. Many of the notes written in the margin of his typescript were only brief reminders of what he intended to write, and at some points of the text his style is far from clear. However these closely packed pages are full of inspiration, and contain a profoundly original presentation of the Upanishads. Set in their actual context, their central intuition and their controlling themes stand out clearly. This provides an invaluable key for those who desire to penetrate to the heart of these wonderful texts, which reflect the experience of the first rishis as they awoke to the inner mystery. No one who reads these pages can fail to sense something of this mystery in himself.**
* The first chapter, "The Ideal of sannyasa", was written in 1969-70, being apparently intended as a contribution to Asia Focus. It was first published in English in the Annual Bulletin (1973) of the Rajpur Retreat and Study Centre. A French version appeared in the Revue Internationale of the Centre Monchanin in Montreal, Canada (cahier 43, p.2). The complete text in English, prepared in some haste by Swamiji himself, was first published in seven issues of The Divine Life, starting in September 1973. He hoped that it might also be revised and printed in book form. The text presented here is slightly fuller than the original, as (a) it includes some passages derived from the version which he wrote in French and (b) it incorporates in chapter 5 the thoughts which came to him after the actual experience of the 'Ecumenical diksa' in July 1973. In a letter of 30 September he wrote: "The last pages anyhow have to be revised, and I was feeling very much the need of adding a few pages about sannyasa as a 'mystery'. When the diksa took place, I realized so much that it was so much more than a simple sign. We might say, a 'symbol' in the language of Jung, in religious terms a 'mystery'. That should be a response to the chapter on 'contestation' (i.e., chapter 4). But for that the brain must work in a brighter way than it does for the moment... "
** A useful supplement to this essay will be found in an article called "The Upanishads and Advaitic Experience" published in the Clergy Monthly for Decembor 1974, Vidyayoti, Delhi.
The introduction to the Upanishads deals particularly with the great primitive Upanishads and their master-themes, while sannyasa is based on the mediaeval tradition of the sannyasa- Upanishads. These latter texts are unfortunately still for the most part not available in English, but Swamiji here presents their substance, enabling one to savour both their strength and their beauty.It is no accident that these two writings have been printed side in by side in a single volume. Indian tradition itself insists that the life of renunciation (sannyasa) and the knowledge of the mystery of Brahman (brahmavidya, the Upanishadic experience) are inseparable, and that one cannot exist without the other.On the one hand, the Upanishadic experience, that is, the discovery of the mystery of non- duality at the very heart of human consciousness, is regarded as an essential condition of genuine sannyasa. If sannyasa does not spring out of inner illumination and out of an awakening to the aham asmi (I am) in all its purity, then sannyasa is no more than one among many possible ways of living; it has lost its transcendent quality and its true significance disappears. In fact, only that man, 'the knots of whose heart' have been loosed, 'departs' in truth-for this departure first takes place in the depths of his own self-awareness; it becomes an imperative necessity from the very moment that his inner vision is realized and he discovers himself to be inwardly free from all attachment, possessed by the Spirit alone:"the very day on which he finds himself to be free from all inner attachment, that is the day on which he should go forth and roam abroad" (Naradaparivrajaka Up. 3.77).On the other hand, the true knowledge of the secret of the Upanishads-brahmavidya- is impossible without a life of absolute renunciation and total dispossession; as the Mundaka Upanishad (3.2.6) curtly says: "No vedanta without sannyasa yoga (renunciation)"; and the Mahanarayana Up. (12.14): "that mystery of glory and immortality, hidden in the depth of the heart and in highest heaven which only those can find who have renounced all". Apart from this complete dispossession, knowledge of the Upanishads is no more than a bookish knowledge and is totally ineffective, even if it be garnished with beautiful meditations and lofty thoughts. The inner nudity experienced by him who is ablaze with the light that comes from beyond all worlds, is a total desert. It is attained only by him in whose depths nothing but the supreme and absolute 'I am' is shining in all its purity; and such an illumination is unbearable apart from the total abandonment of the sannyasi, freed from all desire, all thought, all action and all possession-in fact, in the condition of the avadhuta who has nothing.
It is interesting to note that everything that the primitive Upanishads attribute to the Atman or to Brahman-above all, his uniqueness and aloneness (kaivalyam)-is attributed by the Sannyasopanishads to the sannyasi himself. The neti-neti becomes incarnate in the avadhuta by his total refusal of all. His nudity is only the symbol of fullness, a fullness realized in the mystery of non-duality, from which henceforth he can no longer experience himself as distinct.
In the life of Swami Abhishiktananda the Upanishads had a central place. His spiritual path essentially consisted in the complete appropriation of the advaitic experience of the Upanishadic rishis, without however losing hold of his own roots in the Christian tradition. He had made the Upanishads his own, and whenever he happened to comment on them, it was always with a reverent enthusiasm and in order to bring out the radiance of their marvellous intuition.
He never ceased to contemplate the Mystery-at once the Mystery which has a Face, even as the Gospel presents it to us in the person of Jesus; and at the same time, the Mystery that has no face, as it was revealed in the heart of India's rishis. For him there was but one single and unique act of contemplation, centred unfailingly on the non-dual experience of the absolute and unique aham asmi, pregnant with the resonance of the 'I AM' of Yahweh which Jesus pronounce in his own name. That aham is the mystery realized by Swamiji the essence of his illumination. In these two essays we are led directly to the texts and to the heart of the experience of sannyasa, without having to follow the detours introduced by later comparisons or interpretations. Swamiji had a single burning enthusiasm, which was to communicate to anyone who was ready for it the anubhava (experience) as it is at its very source, with all the vigour of its original strength and completely unencumbered by all that was later superimposed upon it. Though the Upanishads were his inspiration, he learnt in practice how to be free even from them, so that he might be nothing but a pure transparence to the mystery that is beyond all signs, even beyond all Scriptures. He was aware that the experience of advaita transcends all conceptualization and that it is a 'secret'-and this secret set him apart from everything, in the ekaivadvitiyam (One-only-without-a-second), the aloneness of the Self-the aloneness which perhaps is the highest form of true catholicity. ..
Sannyasa, written as it was a few months before his heart-attack, may be considered as Swamiji's spiritual testament-and that for more than one reason. It was thought out in the course of a dialogue with Swami Chidanandaji concerning the significance and forms of the 'ecumenical diksa' which is the subject of chapter 5 of his essay, and which he was soon to have the joy of imparting. But its importance far exceeds the particular occasion of its writing.
Far from describing a visionary ideal, the essay on the contrary conveys the very substance of sannyasa as Swamiji himself existentially lived it; and the correspondences between several of its paragraphs and the last weeks of his life are profoundly moving to those who are acquainted with the details. While he was working on it in his hermitage at Gyansu, he wrote to tell his friends how the re-reading of the Sannyasopanishads had once more stirred him to the depths, as he felt in himself again their irresistible call to the acosmic life.In his inspiring vision of sannyasa, Swamiji emphasises above all the absolute transcendence of sannyasa over against every state of life, whether secular or religious, and over against every dharma (it is beyond-dharmatita, tur yatita)' He thus stressed its derivation from the great advaitic tradition, of which the primitive Upanishads (above all the Brihadaranyaka Up.) were in his view the incomparable expression.
At the same time he brought out the correspondence between sannyasa and the call to the desert which sounded in the hearts of the first Christian monks of the 3rd and 4th centuries. All the false securities and 'concessions' which at times have found their way into later religious and monastic life are shattered by a genuine confrontation with the total renunciation of sannyasa. All who in our day are concerned for the revival of the eremitic life and of an eschatological witness at the heart of the Church and of our time, will find great inspiration in these pages, filled as they are with a prophetic fire. For example, the Vedic figure of the 'keshi', the 'hairy one', the perfect acosmic (ch. 2), at once recalls the prophetic figure of Elijah, the spiritual father of Carmel, the typical sannyasi of the Old Testament, whose acosmic life is also entirely rooted in the vision of God. sannyasa is thus a mighty challenge to the Christian conscience. If Christians are to be true to the eschatological mystery of the Kingdom of God, they cannot refuse to be questioned in their depths by this call to total renunciation, which is beyond all names, all forms, even all dharma.
The vision which Swamiji here sets out is drawn at one and the same time inseparably from the Upanishadic experience and from the Trinitarian experience in their mutual non-duality. The Trinitarian Experience itself, as far as we can see, appeared first of all in the consciousness of Jesus, very likely on the occasion of that Awakening which took place at his Baptism ( see p. 52 ). Only at this deep spiritual level can we hold together in a single non-dual intuition, on the one hand, the Christian experience of the desert and of the divine Kingdom, and on the other, the Upanishadic experience which culminates in the aham asmi-as Swamiji did, and this precisely was his charisma.
Now more than ever the Church has need of jnanis, awakened ones, who have realized in themselves the unique awareness of Being, hid for ever in their own depth, beyond themselves, having 'passed over' entirely into the non- dual Mystery of 'Brahman'-the self-same Mystery to which Jesus awakened when he cried 'Abbe, Father.'
The weeks before and after the ecumenical diksha marked a decisive turning-point in the life and spiritual furfilment of Swamiji. He had profound contacts with avadhutas, living in caves on the banks of the Ganges. He himself lived in a cave, then for a while roamed, begging his food. The myth of the keshi, the perfect acosmic, more and more filled the field of his consciousness. In the act of giving the diksa, he himself realised with overwhelming force, the quasi-sacramental value of sannyasa- diksa; this is what is referred to in the term 'means of grace' on p. 43 and 'grace' (p. 46). It became perfectly clear to him then that sannyasa is not only a sign of the Mystery, but is itself a mystery; and that diksha and the wearing of kavi (the orange colour of ascetics in India, also called gerua) have a 'sacramental' value. But only those to whom this mystery is revealed and who have been penetrated by it, can know its secret power.
Thus Swamiji entered into the final mystery of the avadhuta (the one who renounced all), living it in the fullness of his sannyasa, during his time in the jungle in July 1973 to which he was led by the Spirit. There he knew a fullness of grace which no words can express. From then on, as turi yatita, in the ultimate awakening to the sole Aham, he glowed with a transfiguring light which was soon to swallow up all that was left of his Aham. The 'adventure' (his own word) of the heart-attack, followed by his entry on mahasamadhi,( ie when he left his mortal frame) was in truth only the physical expression of his being swallowed up in the great Light, in his self.
Henceforward, as one who was kritakritya (the one who did what had to be done) (Niradaparivrajaka Up. 3. 86), that is to say, one who had completed all that he had to do and had reached his own fullness, to remain in the body or to leave it ceased to have any importance for him-as is the case with the avadhuta (complete renunciate) or the man who has found realisation (the jivan-mukta).In fact he was soon to leave his body (only five months later -and this is the last detail of which the Sannyasopanishads speak in connection with the avadhuta: 'one day the body is laid aside in some mountain-cave'. It is surely significant that the text of the Naradaparivrajaka Up. (4.38; cp. the Turi yatita Up.) passes, without the interruption of a single phrase, from the diksa of the vidvat-sannyasi (the one who has attained immediate knowledge) to the abandonment of his body; thus indicating that, for him who has entered into the mystery of sannyasa, all time and all activity is done away. The avadhuta, the kritakrtiyak, lives at a different level from that of the body or of external awareness. HE IS. So it was with Swamiji.Truly nothing that Swamiji wrote had not been lived by him, realized in himself. This is the beauty of his written work, which was the fruit of his silence.Sannyasa was his last word before being carried off in his final awakening to the Great Light beyond all worlds.
The Call to the Desert
*For Sanskrit terms, please see the glossary.
1. THE IDEAL
IT was India's privilege and her glory that she pursued her spiritual and philosophical quest for Being to its ultimate depths. In so doing she made man aware of his own deepest centre, beyond what in other cultures is termed 'mind,' 'soul', or even 'spirit'. At this transcendent point her sages discovered God, or rather, the divine mystery, beyond all its actual or even possible manifestations, beyond every sign which claimed to represent it, beyond all formulations, names, concepts or myths. At the same time they discovered their own true self to be likewise beyond everything that signifies it, whether it be body or mind, sense-perception or thought, or that which is normally called consciousness.It was this awareness that gave rise in India, for the first time in the history of the world, to the phenomenon of sannyasa. Men heard the call to total renunciation and the acosmic life; they abandoned the world and human society in order to live in mountains and deserts, or to wander ceaselessly from place to place, in silence and solitude, stripped of everything. Long before the first Christian monks began to go away and hide themselves in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, the followers of the Buddha had spread this way of life throughout the Far East of Asia.
Sannyasa is a fundamental characteristic of the traditional Indian approach to the divine realities, and without reference to it the religious mind of India can never be properly understood.
In the modern world, no doubt, the value of sannyasa has become a matter of debate. To some extent this is due to the unworthiness of many of those who wear kavi (the saffron garb of a monk); but far more, it is a symptom of the general questioning which affects all the religions of the world and challenges the rigidity which has come over so many institutions. The result will probably be that the external signs of sannyasa will become less obtrusive, but its essential nature will surely not be lost. Sannyasis may well be fewer in the years to come, but there is every reason to expect that a steady flow of Hindudevotees will never cease to hear the call to the life of renunciation and entire dedication to God alone. sannyasa-as was the case with monasticism when it first began to appeal to Christians-is the direct response to what Hindu spirituality calls mumuksutva, the longing for salvation. This longing is so intense that it leaves no place for any other desire, and is best compared with the action of a man whose clothes have caught fire, and who immediately, without a moment's thought, hurls himself into the nearest pool of water.
Men are naturally concerned with the things outside them, since the Creator pierced the openings of the senses towards the outside; and therefore man naturally looks outward and not within."Only the wise man, eager for immortality, turns his gaze within and there discovers the Self" (cp.Kathopanishad 4.1). He knows that what is permanent cannot be attained through anything impermanent (Kathopanishad 2.10), nor can the Uncreated (akrita) be reached by anything created or by any action (Mundaka Up. 1.2.12). yama (Death) tried to tempt the young Naciketas by offering him every conceivable earthly pleasure; but he wisely replied that when old age comes he will lose the capacity of enjoying them, and finally death itself will snatch them all away (Katha Up., 1.26ff). Even the rewards of the other world have little to recommend them, for they too will come to an end when the merits which earned them are exhausted. A reward must be of the same order as the action which merited it, and is necessarily conditioned by it; hence the merely relative value of prayers and offerings to the devas, including every kind of yajna, homa and puja; these at best - can only ensure a comfortable life on earth, followed by a pleasant interlude in a localized heaven (swarga). The Mundakopanishad therefore concludes (1.2.11-13): Leave everything and go to the forest, practise austerity and keep your soul in peace; approach a competent guru and learn from him the truth, the real Brahma-knowledge, which not even the Vedas can teach you.
Jesus also instilled into the hearts of his disciples an ultimate concern which was equally unsettling to human complacency: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world.... ?" "I came to cast fire upon the earth " (Mark 8:36; Luke 12:49; cp. Prov. 30:16). Nothing but the kingdom of heaven has in itself an absolute value to which all else should be sacrificed. The Gospel is incompatible with half-measures, and only when it loses its savour can Christianity be turned into a comfortable religion. For the Hindu jnani also, the kingdom of which something can still be.said is not the kingdom; just as the Tao which can be spoken of is not the Tao (Tao Te King 1). Of the Ultimate nothing can be said, except 'asti,' it is (Katha Up., 6. 12).
According to the Law of Manu and subsequent tradition, sannyasa should only be taken late in life, when a man has fulfilled his duty to the devas by prayers and ritual offerings and to the ancestors by begetting children, and when he has a grown-up son who is himself a parent and capable of taking his place in fulfilling the duties of man's estate. However, it may happen that the light of self-realization begins to shine so brightly in a man's heart that it can no longer be resisted; then, no matter what his age, his calling or his responsibilities in society may be, he has no alternative but to leave his home and become a solitary wanderer, far from the cities of men (Jabala Up., 4.1). As Shankara explains in his commentary on Brihadaranyaka Up. 1.4, that knowledge puts an end to all activity; no karma is compatible with it.
The call to sannyasa is primarily inspired by viveka, the ability to discriminate between the transitory and the permanent, which is the first requisite in anyone who aspires to brahma- vidya. There is nothing abstract or conceptual about this discrimination, which underlies all spiritual judgment and becomes the fundamental principle of action.What is the source of this viveka? One is reminded of Pascal's insight: "Thou wouldst not seek me, if thou hadst not already found me" ('The Mystery of Jesus"in Thoughts, frag. 552, Everyman edition). For many people, no doubt, the words viveka, moksa (salvation) advaita (non-duality)-and their conceptual or emotional equivalents in other religious contexts-convey enchanting ideas which may inspire profound meditation or learned discussion among the initiated. But there are others whose lives have been branded by the experience of their truth; willy-nilly they are snatched away from all that hitherto they had held most dear. Yet their first awareness of the call may well have been almost imperceptible, like the trickle of water that the prophet Ezekiel saw issuing from beneath the threshold of the Temple (47:1), which soon became a torrent, then a mighty river too deep to cross, sweeping all before it and bringing life to the whole land.
Originally, as was also the case with the first Christian monks, to take sannyasa simply meant leaving one's home and village and departing to the forest or taking to the roads (parivrajya). At most it meant receiving the characteristic dress from another monk or sadhu, as St Benedict did-always supposing that one felt the need for a special dress, or even for any dress at all. So also Jesus said to one who sought to enter the Kingdom of God; "Go, sell all your possessions, distribute the proceeds to the poor....and follow me" (Mark 10:21). It was only later on that the life of a sannyasi was organized and regulated by specific rules, as also happened in the case of Christian monks.
A formal initiation was soon evolved. It is interesting to note that it includes a sacrifice (yajna), in which the aspirant formally abandons all his possessions and his position in society, and addresses his son the words of 'handing over' (sampratti) which are normally . renounced at the moment of dying: "You are the sacred knowledge, you are the sacrifice, you are the world") (Br. Up., 1.5.17; sannyasa- Up. 1). This ceremony is, however, strictly obligatory for those only who have received the series of samskaras which make up the brahminical initiation, and who-at any rate in theory-cannot be released from their obligations to religion, family and society incurred thereby, except by a new rite. On the other hand, not a few dispense entirely with all rites. Ramdas, for example, simply began to wear saffron after a symbolic plunge in the Kaveri River at Srirangam. This is the case especially with avadhutas, who claim neither the name nor the status of sannyasi but accept the uncompromising ideal more rigorously than any others. Sri Ramana Maharshi simply left his home once for all and went straight to Arunachala. Before him Sadrigiva Brahmendra first, on the very day of his marriage, abandoned "his home, then left the ashram of his guru, and thereafter roamed, for ever naked and silent, up and down the banks of the Kaveri.
The kavi ( saffron) dress is not intended to mark off sannyasis as a special class within society, as is often unfortunately supposed. sannyasa should not be regarded as a fourth Drama, or state of life, which follows after the three stages of being a student (brahmacari), a householder (grihastha) and living in retirement in the forest (vanaprastha); rather it is atyastrama, beyond (ati-) every state of life. It belongs to no category whatever, and cannot be undertaken along with anything else. It is truly transcendent, as God himself transcends all, being apart from all, beyond all, and yet immanent in all without any duality. From this follows the impropriety, carefully avoided by well-bred Hindus, of asking a sannyasi such questions as, What is your name? From where do you come? and the like. Whoever he may be-and God alone knows the secrets of a man's heart-the sadhu Is among men to be simply the sign of the divine Presence, a witness to the mystery which is beyond all signs, a reminder to every man of the inner mystery of his own true self. All that one should ask of the sadhu, as of God, is the grace of his darshana, of looking at him with faith, and also, where possible, some words of help and encouragement in the way that leads 'from the unreal to the Real' (Br. Up., 1.3.28).
The essential rule of the sannyasi is to be totally free from desire. Or rather, he has but one desire-the desire for God alone. This of course has nothing whatever to do with desiring the favour of some deva (celestial being), who can be propitiated or enjoyed, for that would amount only to self-seeking (svartha). His desire for God is the desire for One who is beyond all forms, for communion with the One without-a-second, for a joy which is beyond all sensible delights and a bliss from which has disappeared all distinction between 'enjoyer' and 'enjoyed'. With this unique and transcendent desire the sannyasi may equally be called a-kama, free from desire, and apta-kama, one whose desire is satisfied (cp. Br. Up., 4.4.6); for his desire is for the Self alone, and the Self is ever-present in all fullness: "the heart filled with the unique experience of the Self" (Naradaparivrajaka Up., 4.38).
In his spiritual endeavour, however, the sannyasi will not strive to eliminate one after another the throng of desires which every moment spring up in the human heart. His non-desire for passing things comes rather from his sure possession of that which does not pass away. His heart knows so well the true bliss-even, or especially, when this knowledge leaves no mental impression-that ordinary pleasures no longer attract him. This does not mean that he despises the things of this world, such as marriage, family, human society. All these have their value, and the sannyasi appreciates it perhaps to a greater extent than others, simply because he penetrates to the ultimate depth of things and of the mystery of which they are signs. He has discovered 'the further shore', the Reality of which everything 'on this side' is simply a sign, like footprints which lead one 'to find this all' (Br. Up., I . 4. 7). He can no longer 'act his part' in this world; that is the business of others whose calling it is to act out the Lord's lila (play) in the universe. He is also well aware of the dangers which lie in wait for those who live at the level of signs. Signs may well serve as supports on the upward path, just as footprints may be necessary to show the right road; but these signs and indications are in themselves so wonderful that too often men stop at them and forget the goal to which they point-the further shore!
The sadhu therefore seeks none of the pleasures which the things of this world offer. But even so he has some basic requirements. So long as he is in this body he must have food to support life and clothing to cover him and protect him from cold and heat. However, in deciding what is suitable and necessary, he will be guided not so much by the rules laid down in the Shastras (Scriptures) as by his own inward sense of discrimination, viveka, which continually whispers: Use as liltle as possible, only that which cannot be done without......
As regards food, the general rule of the sannyasi is that he takes it in the same way as one takes medicine, not for its taste, but as something essential for keeping the body alive. He must of course eat strictly vegetarian food. Further, as is said in the Mundakopanishad, he should live only on food that he has begged; and this, even more than his dress, is an essential characteristic of the life of renunciation in India. For indeed, he no longer has a house with a fire at which his food could be cooked, and besides, he should avoid the distraction of preparing foodstuffs. More important still, to depend entirely on others for the quality, quantity, and even the availability, of his food is the best possible exercise in surrender to divine Providence. Complete insecurity and the lack of all foothold in this world belongs to the very essence of sannyasa. And lastly, the sannyasi no longer has any act, any karma, left to perform. He has been set free from all duties in this world, even towards his own body. He can no longer work to earn his living, for his whole activity is directed towards the inner vision.
His poverty and his complete freedom are again apparent in the sannyasi's clothing. The body is clothed, just as it has to be fed, because it is impossible in practice to do otherwise. In the Upanishads it is assumed that his clothing will become more and more scanty as he enters more deeply into the inner experience. Finally the sadhu should be content with any sort of rag picked up by the roadside, enough merely for a loincloth (kaupinam)-or better still, with nothing at all. He does not mind what people may say; if he wears anything, it is not to draw attention to himself; and equally, if he is naked, his external nudity must correspond to an inward stripping away of all of desires-or else it too may become a show.
Free from all anxiety and all desire, the sadhu passes on his way through the world like one who does not belong to it at all. Nothing affects him one way or the other (cp. I Corinth. 7:29-32). He is like one who is blind, deaf and dumb, as the old texts say. For him praise and blame are the same, since he has passed out of the sphere of the dvandvas, the pairs of contraries, like heat and cold, pain and joy, favour and disfavour. He no longer notices dvandvas anywhere. He does not judge anyone or compare himself with anyone, nor does he consider himself as 'above' or 'below' anyone at all. In his vision of the atman, the Self, he has left behind all sense of difference; from whom can he still feel himself to be 'other'?
He no longer has his own dwelling- place, he is aniketanah. He may stay, as the spirit moves him, at the foot of a tree, in a cave, on the bank of a river, or in some abandoned building, but never in a proper house. Hence people do not ask him, Where do you live ? but Where do you sit? where is your asana (seat) ? He goes from place to place, and eats or sleeps wherever his wanderings have brought him by midday or sunset. The only places that are forbidden for him are those in which he lived before taking sannyasa, or where he knows is relatives or old friends to be. Apart from that, his freedom is complete; he has no responsibility towards anyone else, and no one else is responsible for him. There is nothing on this earth that he can call his own, for he cannot even any more say 'I' in the name of this conglomeration of flesh and thoughts which is his shariram, being nirmamo nirahamkarah (free from I and Mine; Bhagavadgita 12.13). The shastras however allow him to give up his wandering during the four months of the rainy season; but even so his cave or hut (kutira) must only contain the bare minimum for his essential needs.
In view of the conditions of present-day society and the change in people's outlook, many sannyasis have chosen to give up mendicity and the life of perpetual wandering. The ideal, however, and must remain, despite all the adaptations that may be required by time and circumstances; and any sannyasi should certainly have had the experience of parivrajya (the wandering life) for a reasonable length of time. In any case, alongside the official and 'sensible' sannyasis there still exist in India-in caves, rock-shelters, or on the road an endless number of ascetics without any status, who to the indifferent or hostile eye of the casual passerby appear to be common beggars. And yet it is through people like this that the ideal of the ancient yati (world-renouncer) is most surely preserved and handed on. They are not concerned about changing times, they come and go as they please, free from all care, clad in a piece of old sacking, or perhaps wearing nothing at all. They sleep anywhere, they eat any food that is available, wild fruits or roots from the jungle, or grain soaked in water, and are perfectly content if they have to go for days on end with nothing but water.
In any case even those who feel bound to adapt their way of life to modern conditions, living in maths (monasteries) or ashrams and depending on the seva (gifts and offerings) of their disciples, are no less bound to preserve a spirit of poverty and an equal detachment in all that concerns their food, clothing and shelter. To accept more than is strictly necessary would be a denial of the ideal which they profess. In his Letters to the Ashram Gandhiji says that such a failure is simple theft.
The sannyasi has renounced the society of men to live in silence and solitude. Even when he moves among men, he will not indulge in idle conversation, or be anxious to hear the latest news. What interest in fact could the world's news hold for him, or how could it help him on his inward pilgrimage? Yet the sadhu's lack of interest in the personalities and events of the world does not at all mean that he is a self-centred egotist. Quite the reverse-the sadhu's self is supposed to have expanded to the limits of the universe, to share the very infinity of the Self. In fact, his own personal affairs concern him equally as little as the affairs of others-and this precisely is the real proof of the genuineness of his unconcern about the world and other men. He has been summoned in quite another direction. Some people feel themselves bound to be busy with the world's affairs, others to intercede in detail for the needs of men and society. The sadhu lives at the very Source, and it is not his duty to look after the waterworks and canals further downstream. His work, if one may put it so, is to make sure that the water flows plentifully and unceasingly from the Source itself.
If the sannyasi opens his mouth, it will normally be to speak about the inner Mystery, and how to discover it, hidden as it is in the depths of the heart. He will steadfastly avoid all purely intellectual discussions; not for him are the conferences and seminars of the learned, or even the gatherings of sages. But he will never refuse to help the humble and genuine seeker, one who is truly eager for brahmavidya, and will show him the way to the cave of the heart. Even so, in communicating with his disciples, he will not rely too much on verbal transmission 'from mouth to ear'; behind his words at a deeper level there will be the direct contact of heart with heart in the Spirit; and often silence will convey his meaning far more powerfully than any word.
To what extent should a sannyasi make use of books? Should he use them to keep contact with sages of past and present? Most of the best sadhus keep with them few, if any, books. Even a small library ill accords with the wandering life which remains the overriding ideal of the Hindu monk. Apart from this-to quote an old sadbu of Arunachala-"What is the use of being able to read and write? We have the living book of the heart which is ever open; is that not enough for us?" Many sannyasis are frankly scandalised if they find even a small library in the kutira of a would-be sadhu. "With all that, how can you ever hope to come to the inner vision?" asked one of them.
At all events it must be said that a sadhu should never read out of mere curiosity. All his reading should contribute at least indirectly to reaching his goal-the realization of the Self. It is even said in the shruti (Amritanadopanishad) that the Scriptures (shruti) themselves have to be put aside, once the light of truth has shone within, as a taper is thrown away once the lamp is lit; for after all, their sole function is to be a guide to that light. The philosopher-saint Shankara is on record as saying (in his commentary on Br. Up., 1.4.10) that scriptural teaching becomes useless when once the truth is known- and how much more that applies to other literature!
Even so a sadhu may sometimes read with a view to helping others. Ramana Maharshi is a case in point; after years of silence and seclusion he did this in order to help a neighbouring sadhu who was struggling vainly to understand some elementary Vedantic catechism. Thus a sadhu may be expected to give help to others in understanding the deep meaning of the Scriptures, which indeed is one of the reasons why four months of the year are appointed for him to remain in one place. In any case the explanation that he gives will not be a learned exegesis, but rather the overflow of his own silent contemplation of the sacred text. This should be even more true of anything that he may write. It is not for him to be either a teacher or an author; his call is of a different order-however difficult it may sometimes be to understand and accept this, whether for the man himself, or for those who would draw him from his solitude when they want his help. The true function of the sannyasi is, in the name of mankind, to stand fast in the secret place of the heart, hidden and unknown, unless the Lord himself in his own way makes him known to others, as happened for instance when Antony (the 'Father' of Christian monks who lived in the Egyptian desert in the third century) was led to discover Paul the Hermit. Then, when the time comes for him to share with others, his gift will be nothing but the pure water that springs directly from the Source, without admixture of any kind- or better still, he will help his brothers themselves to quench their spiritual thirst from the very Source, that which gushes forth in the cave ( guha) itself.
How will the sannyasi pray? In terms of the ideal, the sannyasi has passed beyond all possibility of formal prayer. His last yajna was offered when he brought to an end his life as a member of human society. On the same night he uttered for the last time the sacred gayatri. He is dead to the world, in the first place, to this world below where men live, but also to that other world, believed by men to be the heaven of the devas. Society no longer has any claim on him; and equally the devas can no longer demand his prayers or sacrifices (cp. Br. Up., 1.4.10). Indeed what does he have that he could offer? He has stripped himself of all his possessions, and there is nothing left that he can call 'mine'. If in fact there is no longer an 'I' to be the subject of rights and duties, 'who' is left to offer the prayer, and to 'whom' can it be addressed ? As Sadadiva Brahmendraso well puts it; "Where am I to turn to address God ? In which corner of the heart can I stand to adore him and pray to him? Whatever vantage point I take, he is there already. In any 'I' that I attempt to utter, his own I is already resplendent, and in its brilliance my 'I' has been swallowed up." The devas are only the sign of Brahman, his manifestation at the level of man's senses and intellect. When a man has realized the mystery of Brahman-and this self-realization is precisely what the sannyasi is supposed to bear witness to in the world-then in what can his prayer still consist, except for pure silence in his experience of fullness, and the OM which only emerges out of this inner silence in order to draw the mind back into it again ?
This does not mean that the sannyasi will spend his time in meditation, in samadhi, as is so often mistakenly asserted. As Ramana Maharshi pointed out, the highest form of samadhi is sahaja samadhi, that which is completely natural (literally, 'innate'). In this there is no restraint of a man's normal bodily and mental awareness, as in ecstasy (nirvikalpa samadhi), which itself implies a dualism; rather the jnani continues to be fully aware of himself and of all around him, but within the indivisible awareness of the Atman. Thus the prayer of the sannyasi, no less than his life, is not a matter of doing, but of being. 'Meditation', 'recollection', 'concentration', are far too activist-terms to convey accurately the nature of his prayer and inner communion with the One to whom he is no longer able to give any name.
The above description of the life of sannyasa may well appear too idealized to be possible, though it is entirely based on scriptural texts. However it is a true account of what may be observed even today, if one has the darsana, not indeed of famous 'Mahatmas', but of those humble men who have renounced the world, either as wandering monks or as hermits, and who generally remain quite unknown to the public.
In fact, as tradition has it, there are two forms of sannyasa, or rather, of the call to sannyasa-vidvat and vividisii-sannyasa. The first (vidvat-sannyiisa) comes upon a man of itself and, whether he likes it or not, he is seized by an inner compulsion. The light has shone so brightly within, that he has become blind to all t0h00e things of this world, as happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. In our times the best known case in India is that of Sri Ramana Maharshi, though such an experience is by no means entirely unique. Whether such a man should receive the formal initiation to sannyasa or not, matters very little. He has already become an avadhata, one
who has renounced everything according to the primitive tradition which existed before any rules had even been thought of. This is that original sannyasa without the name, which was described in Brihadaranyakopanishad : "Once a man has come to know Him (the great unborn Atman), he becomes a muni. Desiring him alone as their loka, the wandering monks begin to roam. The men of old knew it well, and then they had no wish for offspring. 'What should we do with offspring, since we possess the Atman as this loka?' Rising above the desire for sons, the desire for riches, the desire for lokas, they wander forth and live by begging" (4.4.22).
The other kind of sannyasa( vividisa-sannyasa) is taken by a man in order to get jnana (wisdom) and moksa (liberation). It is a sure sign of the greatness of Indian society that its tradition encourages a man to devote the last stage of his life to the sole quest for the Self, ,renouncing all else as if he were dead already. sannyasa, when genuinely lived with all its implications, is certainly a man's most direct route for becoming a jnani and finding liberation. Even then it is clear that no one would ever take sannyasa unless he had already glimpsed the light in his own depths and heard the summons within.
For no sincere devotee can have failed to sense something of the mystery when reading the Scriptures or the lives of the saints, and still more, when enjoying the satsang (frequentation) of great souls. However, the light is still too dim to guide his life or to effect in him that complete 'overturn' of the soul (metanoia, conversio, in their etymological sense), which characterises the first kind of sannyasa. Accordingly, to help him in this situation he will have all the regulations laid down by tradition, of which the most important have already been indicated. But one day, when he discovers that mere religious observances will never gain for him the true knowledge of Brahman, he departs in search of the wise Guru, the one who-in theory, at least-will guide his further steps in the monastic life and will finally impart initiation. But nowadays in fact the initiating guru is rarely, alas, the mokshada guru of whom the Brahmavidyopanishad speaks, the one who imparts the saving knowledge from heart to heart and is not content merely to talk about it, or to indicate from afar the road that leads to it.
The guru is indeed normally indispensible for anyone who would make effective progress on the spiritual path. No less than the Mundaka (1.2.12-13), the Katha Up. (2.8)asserts this without qualification. The guru is a man who has not only heard or read about the path to salvation (moksa); he is one who has himself reached the goal, and is therefore able to guide others from his own experience; through him there shines without obstruction 'the smokeless light of the Purusa who dwells within the heart' (cp. Katha Up. 4.13). To his guru the disciple must give complete shraddhha (faith), that total surrender which includes both faith and obedience in the fullest sense of the words. For the disciple the guru is the manifestation of God himself, and his 'devotion' to the guru is for him the final stage-beyond all external worship and every murti (icon)-in his pilgrimage towards Brahman who is utterly transcendent in his non manifestation. To such a disciple the guru will impart the ultimate knowledge, mouth to ear, and finally, for the most part silently, heart to heart. He will guide him step by step in the control of the senses and of the mind. He will foster in him vairagya (renunciation) and viveka (discrimination). He will sometimes be very hard on him, allowing him neither ease nor respite. But he will temper his firmness with gentleness, leading him in the path of true understanding which alone makes his tapas fruitful (Mundaka Up. 3.2.4).
The guru will chiefly help him little by little to discover the secret of true prayer. He will not of course reveal to him at the very start the heights of advaitic experience. If the disciple is not yet prepared for it, this could be dangerous, as even the best medicine may be, if taken at the wrong time. So long as a man has a strong sense of his own ego (ahamkara), God is necessarily 'another' for him. To him therefore advaita can only be an intellectual concept and not an actual experience, and can have the disastrous effect of enhancing his self-conceit and leading to a monstrous development of his ego. The guru will first teach his disciple to silence his mind by withdrawing it from the objects of sense and imagination (pratyahara), by fixing his attention on a single point (dharana, ekagrata) and by consistantly repeating the name of God (namajapa). When at last the disciple is sufficiently free from desire and self-concern and has come to know the bliss of inner silence, then only the guru, himself Brahmaninishtha, firmly established in Brahman, will teach him the supreme knowledge of Brahman in its very essence whereby one may know the Truth, the eternal Purusha (Mundaka Up., 1.2.13); and will lead him 'immaculate' through the doorway of the Sun, there where beyond death dwells that Purusa, the imperishable One (Mundaka Up., 1.2.11).
The sannyasi is essentially acosmic, just as were the original Christian monks. So long as this is not clearly understood, it is impossible to recognize either his essential commitment or the complete freedom (and non-commitment to the world) that he enjoys. As soon as he feels that he has some duty or obligation towards anyone else, whether it be self-chosen or imposed on him by others, he has fallen away from the true ideal of sannyasa, and no longer performs the essential function for which he was set apart from society-to witness to the one unique Absolute. This can never be sufficiently stressed in these days, when there is continual pressure upon Hindu sannyasis here (just as there is on Christian monks in the West) to do something or other-whereas in fact the only thing that should be required of them is to be, in the deepest sense of the word.
The sadhu has no obligation towards society in terms of things that can be seen or measured. He is not a priest whose duty is to pray and make offerings on behalf of mankind. He is not a teacher, not even of the Scriptures themselves, as has already been said. Still less is he a social worker, for he does not share in the political or economic life of society. He is as dead to society as the man whose corpse is being carried to the burning-ghat. It is India's great distinction that for thousands of years her society has accepted this, and has been ready to supply all the needs of the sannyasi without asking of him anything tangible in return, except just to be, to be what he is. Sannyasis are their people's oblation to God, their most precious yajna; they are the true human sacrifice (purushamedha), victims consumed in the sacred fire of tapas, their own inner oblation. In our day such acosmism is not merely questioned, rather it is condemned. Society's claim on the individual tends to be even more exacting than it was in the time of primitive tribalism, when personal existence was barely distinguishable within the consciousness of the group; and this outlook is world-wide, even in the sphere of religion and the churches. The sannyasi is the outward expression of man's ultimate freedom in his innermost being; his existence and his witness are vitally necessary for human society, whether secular or religious. In a world whose interest is increasingly restricted to what performs (or seems to perform) a function, there is an ever greater need for those who are supremely dedicated to an activity that has no ulterior purpose, that has no 'reason' (a-nimitta), that exists in and for itself alone and is tied neither to the past nor to the future.
However, when all is said and done, there is no doubt that Hindu , sannyasa will adapt itself to present circumstances, precisely in order that it may continue to fulfil its essential purpose. Some of its forms have become obsolete and will disappear. Its eccentrics will be less in evidence-though who is to judge what is 'eccentricity' ? The mass of those who are beggars rather than real sadhus will die out, as society will refuse any longer to support them. But the true sannyasis will continue to bear their witness, whether they pass their time in ashrams or depart on parivrajya, whether they remain in solitude or congregate in maths, whether they wear clothes or not, whatever name or outward appearance they may choose to adopt. And society will not fail to take care of them. The present crisis will effectively sift the chaff from the good grain, and only those will remain whose outward profession is a sign of their complete inner renunciation. This small 'remnant' will doubtless be less numerous and imposing than their predecessors, but they will survive and will continue to remind India and the world that God alone is. By their witness they will act as a most powerful leaven worldling for the transformation and spiritual progress of mankind.
One cannot however overlook the fact that an increasing number of sannyasis and sannyasin organisations are involving themselves in social work, in teaching or other forms of service (seva). This would certainly appear to be contrary to the scriptural tradition as given above, and in many cases is probably due to their losing the true sense of their calling, and hence to their inability to be wholly faithful to their ideal-as also happens with Christian monks in the West. Nevertheless there are many signs that this is an authentic development, in which the old spirit manifests itself along new lines. It would indeed be regrettable if the majority of Hindu sadhus were to be involved in such activities; but it would also be a denial of the Spirit not to permit such a response to the needs of contemporary society. It may well be that one important reason for these developments is the fact that nowadays, contrary to what used to be the case, many of those who feel the call to sannyasa are young people; and the acosmic life of silence, solitude and non-action is beyond what is possible for most youngsters, or rather, may actually be detrimental to their spiritual progress. That being so, it would seem a wise course to direct their energies into the path of service towards their fellow-men in that spirit of renunciation and total detachment which is taught so powerfully in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The jnani, after all, is above and beyond all dvandvas, and it is of no importance to him whether he is seated on a royal throne or tramping the roads as a beggar. Janaka the king is quoted as a model of the spiritual life just as much as the rishis on the banks of the Ganga. A jnani whose call is to live among men in the world may well set them the best example of the kind of life that they should lead in order to reach moksa and the knowledge of Brahman; for moksa and brahmavidya in themselves have nothing to do with any particular state of life. He will show them in his own life how to perform their ordinary human tasks with the fullest conscientiousness combined with total detachment; and at the same time how to maintain an unswerving attention to the Presence, even in the midst of their daily occupations and concerns.
The life of a jnani passed among men and in connection with ordinary human activities in fact calls for a deeper degree of renunciation even than the traditional life of silence and solitude. His choice of this kind of life must never be a surrender to weakness. Wherever the sannyasi may be, if his life is only a facade, he will certainly scandalize others, and for himself he will earn one of the worst possible hells, as is said in the Naradaparivrajakopanishad. Thus the early tradition was wise in requiring that no one should take upon himselfto teach others, or even consent under pressure to do so, unless he has first passed at least twelve years in solitude and silence, attentive only to the inner Presence. Otherwise what could he have to give to others ?
The Spirit blows where he wills. He calls from within, he calls from without. May his chosen ones never fail to attend to his call. In the desert or the jungle, just as much as in the world, the danger is always to fix one's attention upon oneself. For the wise man, who has discovered his true Self, there is no longer either forest or town, clothes or nakedness, doing or not-doing. He has the freedom of the Spirit, and through him the Spirit works as he wills in this world, using equally his silence and his speech, his solitude and his presence in society. Having passed beyond his 'own' self, his 'own' life, his 'own' being and doing, he finds bliss and peace in the Self alone, the only real Self, the parama-atman. This is the true ideal of the sannyasi.
2. THE TRANSCENDENT CHARACTER OF SANNYASA (ATYASHRAMA)
As has already been said, Hindu tradition speaks of sannyasa in two ways. It is sometimes counted as the fourth ashrama, or stage of life, of the twice-born (dvija) Hindu, following those of brahmacarya, grihastha and vanaprastha Sometimes it is regarded as transcending all stages of life, and therefore as being beyond the possibility of inclusion in any classification whatever; thus it is the atyashrama (ati-, beyond), mentioned in the Shetashvatara (6.21) and Kaivalya (v. 5) Upanishads.In the notion of a 'fourth' ashrama the historian cannot fail to recognize the attempt of Hindu society to win back and, at least to some extent, to reintegrate with itself those who had renounced everything. Such yati existed from the time of the Rig-Veda, men who renounced alike the advantages and the ties of social life, and passed through the world, subject only to the inspiration of the Spirit, naked and totally free, like the Wind, the king of Space:"The hairy one (Keshi) supports the fire (agni)... The hairy one supports both the worlds, he is called this Light (jyoti)...The munis, girdled with the wind, wear garments soiled, of yellow hue; after the wind's course follow they, when once the gods have entered them. Maddened with ecstasy (mauna), we have mounted the winds. Ye, mortal men, are able now to see our bodies and no more... The muni flies through regions of the air, beholding all the various forms... Friend of the gods, friend of the Wind, friend most sweet and most rapturous... he drinks at the very cup of Rudra.4 (RV. 10.136)".
Such also were those anchorites, mentioned in the Mundakopanisha (1.2.11) and the Panchagnividya (Br. Up., 6.2.1S and Chandogya Up., 5.10), who left their villages ( grama ) and withdrew to the forest (vana, aranya). They had given up all obligations and duties, both social and religious. For them religious rites (yajna, karma) no longer existed; they no longer worked in the fields or anywhere else for their living, but depended entirely on bhiksa, or food received as alms. All they sought was the inner vision, the real and ultimate knowledge of Brahman (Mundaka Up., 1.2.12-13).
However, as further reflection will suggest, the idea of sannyasa as the fourth ashrama is not so totally at variance with the estimate of it as atyashrama as it may appear to be at first sight. The relation of sannyasa, regarded as the fourth ashrama, to the 'other' three states of life is in fact of the same order as the relation of the fourth 'state of consciousness' to the 'other' three (waking, dreaming and deep sleep or susupti) referred to in the Mandukyopanishad. The fourth-whether we speak of the final stage of life or the ultimate state of (self-)awareness- is not one member of a group of four and cannot be numbered after the 'other' three. No doubt it is the last moment in a man's progress towards his ultimate goal, that to which the Spirit is directing and impelling everyone from within. But in the passage from vanaprastha to sannyasa, as from susupti ( deep sleep ) to turiya ( the fourth state of consciousness ), there is a break in continuity and, strictly speaking, we should not even say that there is a 'passage'. The ultimate, turiya, state of consciousness or of life does not enter into dvandva or opposition with anything whatever. It rests on its own greatness, mahiman, on itself alone, that is to say, on nothing else that can be seen, touched or expressed, as the Chandogyopanishad says (7. 24), referring to bhuman, fullness, infinitude. "It is everywhere... the Self is everywhere...I am everywhere" (cp. Ch. Up., 7.25).7Therefore, as the Naradaparivrajakopanishad says on the subject of distinguishing classes among sannyasis (see below), we may well say that the conception of sannyasa as a fourth ashrama, as commonly understood, is only useful so long as one remains in avidya, in ignorance of the ultimate truth.
Sannyasa is beyond all dharma, including all ethical and religious duties whatever. Sannyasopanishads never tire of celebrating the glorious freedom of the sannyasi. They apply to him all that the ancient Scriptures have to say of the awakened or liberated man, the jivanm - mukta of later tradition. They go even further, and claim for him even the attributes of the Atman itself-its utter freedom, its being unborn, untouched, unseen, beyond comprehension. The sannyasi is indeed the witness to the world of that final state in which man recovers, or rather, wakes up to, his own true nature (srarupa, svabhara). In that awakening he realizes himself as a-ja, (unborn), sprung from nowhere and going nowhere, as a-nimitta, purposeless, as srarat, absolutely autonomous, and kamacara, free to move in every loka, every plane, both literal and symbolic." His I can no longer be in opposition to any other I-No one is different from or other than myself. His awakened I, piercing like a laser beam, now lights up to its very depths the I that is uttered by any conscious being (cp. Br. Up., 1.4.10: the awakened man has become the self of the devas). The sannyasi is the sthitaprajna, the man with stabilized mind of the Bhagavad-Gita (2. 54), the a- kama, the man free from all desire (Br. Up., 4.4.6), the one who is free from all ritual obligations, from all dharma, as is said in the Kathopanishad (2.14):
Other than dharma andadharma, other than what is done and not-done (krita and a-krita), other than what has been and what will be....He has abandoned everything in this world or the other, and indeed in any conceivable world: OM! 'Earth, air, sky-all worlds are renounced by me!
He no longer has any desire, whether for anything here below (physical pleasure, human fellowship, even the joy of sacred knowledge or religious ecstasy), or for any loka at all, not even the world of the devas, in which they might invite him to take his pleasure (cp. Mundaka Up. 1.2.6). The only loka that interests him and is sought by him is the atma-loka (cp. Br. Up., 4.4.22); and that world is beyond all worlds, since it is restricted to no world that can be seen, touched or attained, but rather comprises all worlds.' In awakening to this atman, he has passed beyond all that he believed in and adored, and all his human and religious assurance of security and support has been left behind. As is forcibly said of Brahman in the Kenopanishad (1.4ff): It is this Brahman that you must know, and not what people here take for Brahman and adore. ' The sannyasi has discovered that unique Brahman, and has discovered himself in that unique Brahman beside which there is no other (ekam advitsyam, cp. Br. Up 1.4.1); he has no further desire, for he has reached the fullness, bhuman, purnam, infinite bliss (Ch. Up., 7.23ff; cp. Taittiriya Up.,2.7).
The sannyasi no longer has any obligation whatever, either towards human society, or towards the pitri(the ancestors), or towards the devas, those personifications of the divine Mystery on the plane of manifestation. Whatever he might once have possessed, from which he could provide for his own needs and those of his dependents, with which he could share in the building of man's city, and with which he could offer shraddha to the ancestors and yayna to the devas -all was given away on the eve of his taking sannyasa, when he celebrated the prajapatya- isti (the yajna in which a man strips himself of all his possessions, sarvavedasam, making this the sacrificial fee). On that same night he offered a last shraddha for his departed ancestors, but on that occasion it was an astashraddha and included the offering of rice-balls (pinda) for himself also, in token that he himself had departed from this world (pretya). For the last time too he venerated the ritual fire, and by the act of inhaling it, symbolically caused it to pass into his own breath (prana) as a sign of the interiorization of his worship."Having duly offered gifts to the departed spirits, to celestial and human beings, having performed shraddha for departed ancestors and human relations having performed his own funeral rites, and having taken the sacred fire within his own self, one enters the order of sannyasa (Haritasamhita 6. 3). "
From now on he passes through the world of the living like a ghost:"Ye, mortal men, are able now to see our bodies, and no more (RV 10.136)";and wherever he goes, he is hidden, unknown, with no token by which he may be recognized-avyaktalinga, avyaktacara (Jabala Up., 6)."Desireless...established in his inner vision let him roam the earth ... Of this sage no work or sign exists ... let the yati move about in secret."Even the Vedas no longer concern him, for they deal with the devas and with the worship that men are bound to offer them. Certainly he may still remember and meditate upon the Upanishads, the culmination of all Vedas (Veda-anta), but even that is only for the time being Soon only the mahavakyas will stay with him, and finally nothing but OM will remain to irradiate his consciousness:
"Let the wise one study the Scriptures, intent on wisdom but later let him discard them altogether like the husk when one wants rice (Amritabindu Up., 18; cp Amritanada Up., 1)." For him nothing remains to be learned, said or listened to apart from the pranava (OM) there is no theology and no Scripture left for him to study.
Everything that relates to the world of maya, such as rules of life or the paraphernalia of classical sannyasa, is simply a concession where proper knowledge and inner experience is lacking. When the guru gives monastic initiation to a krama-sannyasi, that is, to one who comes to sannyasa after passing through the three normal stages of the Brahmanical life (brahmacarya, grihastha and vanaprastha), he makes him discard his tuft of hair (£ikhd), his sacred thread, his waistband and all his clothing in the water, and sends him away naked towards the north. Then, when the candidate has gone about 100 paces (§atapatha, says Naradaparivrajaka Up., 4.38), he makes him stop, saying: "Halt, O blessed one!" (Tistha, tistha, mahabhaga), and calls him back to confer on him the insignia of sannyasa-the kamandalu (begging-bowl), the dandy (stick), the kaupinam (loin-cloth) and the saffron cloth to cover him.This last part of the disksa, however, only takes place in the case of the krama- or karma- sannyasi, that is, one who comes to sannyasa in order to fulfil the scriptural precepts concerning the last stage of human life and finally to attain to brahmavidya, without which moksha is impossible; such is the case of the vivitsu- or vividisa-sannyasi.The case of the vidvat-sannysi is completely different. There are indeed certain blessed souls who from childhood never give place to any worldly desire and who, as soon as they become aware of themselves, without hesitation abandon their home and human society (as did Ramana Maharshi and many others)-sometimes even while still avratin, that is, before receiving the sacred thread in the upanayana samskara. These are the vairagya-sannyasis. Among the vidvat sannysis the Scriptures also speak of jnana-sannyasis, in whose heart such a blaze of light has been kindled by the reading of the Scriptures and the testimony of the guru that it becomes impossible for them to remain any longer in the midst of worldly occupations. Here there is no question of a sannyasa taken as a result of a human decision after lengthy consideration, or in obedience to the Scriptures. It is not a self-imposed sannyasa, but rather one that is imposed by the Self. It is an irresistible inner urge, a sheer necessity springing from the depth of the spirit. It is a spontaneous thrust towards the infinite in the heart of one who can no longer be held back by anything. It is I not at all a matter of seeking to acquire light or wisdom or of practising renunciation; it is rather the strong impulse of a man's own nature, unborn and unfettered. The rule of Scripture forbids anyone to take sannyasa so long as he has not yet begotten children: "A twice-born man who seeks final liberation without having studied the Vedas, without having begotten sons and without having offered sacrifices sinks downwards" (Laws of Manu, 6. 37; tr. C. Buhler, SBE 25, p. 205.) But this counts for nothing when once the Spirit summons the chosen one (cp. Katha Up., 2.23-and John 3.8) and sweeps him away inexorably. "The very day that a man becomes indifferent, on that very day he should go forth and roam" (Naradaparivrajaka Up., 3. 77).' He may still be a student or brahmacari, he may be a householder with wife and children, with position and responsibilities in the world; but the inner awakening frees him from all duties, and for him the life of sannyasa has become a necessity, whether or not he passes through a diksa. In his case, if he receives a formal diksa in order to be officially released from his previous samskaras, then the rite has a completely different significance from what it has in the case of the krama-sannyasi. This diksa is not performed with the object of gaining some further result; it is essentially a-nimitta, without purpose. It is simply the public acknowledgment of the inner freedom which he has already himself realized at the very source of his being. In this rite, therefore, the initiating guru does not call back the aspirant, nor does he present him with any of the outer tokens of sannyasa; he merely whispers in his ear the pranava and the mahavakyas, and then the disciple departs " naked as when he was born, clad in space, full of joy, knowing that no one at all is 'other' to himself, his heart overflowing with the unique experience of his own being. Thus, unkown to all, he wanders freely over the face of the earth until the time comes for him to lay down his mortal frame in some mountain cave (Naradaparivrajaka Up., 4.38).In fact for every sannyasi that day should come for him to strip himself of everything, depending on when the inner light attains in him to the fullness of its splendour (tejas)
"when the (inner) sun in him has reached its zenith, when it no longer moves, no longer rises and sets-for in reality never has it either set or risen" (cp. Ch. Up., 3 .11.1-2).
When that happens, no regulations concerning the condition of a parmahamsa can bind him any longer. With the words "OM bhuh svaha," he tosses into the river the whole paraphernalia of danda and kaupinam, kamandalu and kavi robe. As the Naradaparivrajaka , Up. (5.1) says, all such things are merely provisional; they are only meaningful while awaiting the full inner awakening, until a man has 'alam buddhi,' that is, sufficient wisdom to realize that henceforth he no longer needs anything whatever.
"Then space is his garment, the palm of his hand his begging-bowl, ' the earth his couch (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.2)."
All this goes to show that any distinction of degree in sannyasa, starting with the kuticaka and leading up to the highest ranks of parmahamsa, turi yatita, and avadhuta, is merely a matter of names; and this, according to the Naradaparivrajaka Up. (5.1) is due to ignorance and mental weakness. The typical and ideal sannyasi is the avadhuta-literally, the 'drop-out,' the one who has shaken off everything (cp. Ch. Up., 8.13); he is free from all rules (a-ni yama) and fixed in the contemplation of his own true nature, clad in space. The sannyasi no longer has to trouble himself with the anxieties of this life, and especially the worries of those who formerly were most dear to him-friends, wife, children, parents; he should not not even think of them. No longer need he conform to any rules of courtesy in his meetings with others ( namaskarak). He is completely indifferent to all things, even to physical conditions of heat and cold and the like. No more than a corpse or one who is deaf, dumb and blind, does he react to anything that comes his way, be it pleasant or unpleasant, either at the level of sense or at that of the mind (praise, insult, etc). He is beyond dharma andadharma, what is done and what is not-done, mantra- na mantra. He has no sense of otherness or opposition, for he has transcended all the pairs of opposites. His departure towards the north-the path of the sun's ascent- when he rose naked from the waters, was for him the symbol of his inner departure towards the place from which 'there is no return, where there is no death, no birth, no aging, no becoming." In the infinite serenity of his being he has risen up from the body, reached the supreme light, and been revealed in his own form." He goes the way of Prajapati, and after passing through all worlds, all beings and all places (since he is born in all ), at last, through himself, in himself, he has attained to himself.
3. SANNYASA AND RELIGION (DHARMATITA)
BOTHas an inner experience and as the outward expression of this experience in human life, sannyasa transcends all the dvandvas, or pairs of opposites. It even transcends the fundamental dvandva which religious men have discovered in dharma-adharma:"He who knows this-to him these two thoughts do not occur: 'So I have done evil.' 'So I have done right.' He shrugs them off. What he has done and what he has left undone do not torment him" (Br. Up., 4.4.22.)."Even more the sannyasi stands beyond the manifold distinctions and dvandvas which differentiate the various dharmas or religions with their sacred symbols, by whose guidance man strives to reach his goal.
There is no question here of that facile syncretism which seeks to reduce all religions to their lowest common denominator, or what is often called their 'essence,' in the form of a few universal truths, and then, on the basis of some hasty and superficial comparisons maintains that their fundamental elements and essential beliefs are really the same. Nor is this a plea to treat all religions, from a practical, existential point of view, as equivalent. Every great dharma in fact takes its rise from the awakening to the Real of some mighty personality-or it may be, of some close-knit group, as in the case of the Vedic rishis- and it develops within a social and intellectual world which is generally highly particularized. No doubt it deeply influences this world, but it is itself strongly marked by the conditioning received from this world. In the last resort no one is capable of standing outside his own conditioning, so that he can pass a dispassionate judgment on the conditioning of others-a fact that strictly limits the scope of studies of comparative religion, and even more so, of any philosophy of religion claimed to be inferred therefrom.
Every dharma is for its followers the supreme vehicle of the claims of the Absolute. However, behind and beyond the namarupa, the external features such as creed, rite, etc., by which it is recognized and through which it is transmitted, it bears within itself an urgent call to men to pass beyond itself, inasmuch as its essence is to be a sign of the Absolute. In fact, whatever the excellence of any dharma, it remains inevitably at the level of signs; it remains on this side of the Real, not only in its structure and institutional forms, but also in all its attempts to formulate the ineffable Reality, alike in mythical or in conceptual images. The mystery to which it points overflows its limits in every direction. Like the nucleus of an atom, the innermost core of any dharma explodes when the abyss of man's consciousness is pierced to its depth by the ray of pure awakening. Indeed its true greatness lies precisely in its potentiality of leading beyond itself.
Beyond all manifestations of the Spirit, beyond the level of namarupa, there is the Spirit itself (cp.Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, 12:4ff), which can neither be defined nor imprisoned in any system whatever. All a priori deductions and speculations fall short of discovering the Spirit in itself beyond the level of religions. It can only be reached existentially, that is, by piercing to the very heart of the religious experience itself. But as long as we feel able to name or define this central core, we prove that we are still at the level of dvandva and namarupa which inform the consciousness of each individual at the very source of his reflexive thinking. But in every religion and in every religious experience there is a beyond, and it is precisely this 'beyond' that is our goal.
Sannyasa is the recognition of that which is beyond all signs and paradoxically, it is itself the sign of what for ever lies beyond all possibility of being adequately expressed by rites, creeds or institutions. Hindu dharma very early recognized this truth, so clearly discerned in the intuition of the Upanishads, and even kept a place (the highest) within its own structure for the privileged witnesses to that which in the end neither itself nor any other dharma is able to express.
In one form or another sannyasa has emerged in every great dharma. As a matter of history this happened first in India within the sanatana dharma; and to this day Hindu sannyasa, despite all the changes and even the times of degeneration through which it has passed, remains the most radical witness to that call to the beyond which sounds, however faintly, in the heart of every man. In India too, the Jain and Buddhist religions originated as monastic reformations, and it was primarily through the Sangha of its monks that Buddhism spread all over East Asia, proclaiming everywhere the call to awake and pointing out the Path thereto which was first taught by Gautama the Buddha. In the West, from the third century of the Christian era, Christian ascetics in increasing numbers began to flee the world and flocked to the desert in search of peace and salvation; and this tradition is still alive in the churches of our own day. Even Islam has a place for those who renounce the world, and all through its : history the ufimovement (which indeed owes much to Indian influence) has borne witness to the call from the beyond.
Of Terms like 'Hindu sannyasa', 'Christian' or 'Buddhist monasticism', despite their convenience, should be used with caution, since they only have meaning on the phenomenological level (the level of appearance). No epithet or qualification, religious or other, can rightly be attributed to the core of what in India is called sannyasa, and elsewhere monasticism. The call to complete renunciation cuts across all dharmas and disregards all frontiers. No doubt the call reaches individuals through the particular forms of their own dharma; but it corresponds to a powerful instinct, so deep-rooted in the human heart, nihitam guhayam, that it is anterior to every religious formulation. In the end, it is in that call arising from the depths of the human heart that all the great dharmas really meet each other and discover their innermost truth in that attraction beyond themselves which they all share. This fundamental urge towards the Infinite is altogether beyond the reach of either sense or intellect.
It is therefore perfectly natural that monks of every dharma recognize each other as brothers across the frontiers of their respective dharmas. This follows from that very transcendence of all signs to which all of them bear witness. There is indeed a 'monastic order' which is universal and includes them all-not of course any kind of 'order' that might seek to 'organize' them, for this would simply destroy the essential charisma of the monastic life, which is to be an unquenchable desire for the Absolute. It is enough that they should thus recognize each other whenever they happen to meet, and in fact those who are genuine do infallibly respond to each other. Despite all differences in observance, language and cultural background, they perceive in each other's eyes that depth which the One Spirit has opened in their own hearts. They sense the bliss, the light, the ineffable peace which emanate from it; and when they embrace each other, as they so often spontaneously do, it is a sign that they have felt and recognized their innate 'non- duality', for in truth in the sphere of the ajata, the unborn, there is no 'otherness'.
It has to be granted, however, that the unconditional summons to the Beyond, which is implied in all monasticism, is not always accepted with the same degree of radicalism. In India itself over the centuries various orders of sannyasis came into being, which were devoted to the worship and service of particular deities, or rather, of particular forms (murti) of the unique and transcendent divine Mystery. Others sought to combine the ritualistic tradition of the Vedas and Brahmanas with the call to pass beyond all dharma and all karma, which is recorded in the most ancient Upanishads and is the immediate source of sannyasa itself (cp. Br.Up., 3.5 and 4.4.22). No one has any right to pass judgment on the masters who founded such orders; but equally, no one can challenge the right of those who choose to abide strictly by the great tradition which comes down from the earliest days and was powerfully restated in the imposing series of mediaeval Sannyasopanishads. Unquestionably the main point of their teaching is that the sannyasi is beyond all rites and all worship, as he is equally beyond all rules, all karma, all dharma:
"Let him not mix with the singers of kirtanas, who repeat the name of the Lord! Let him not attend religious festivities! Let him not offer any worship at all nor receive any prasada!"(Na.Pa.Up 7.1)
Here also no doubt we have to abide by the commentary of the Niradaparivrajakopanishad, that the ceremonies and rules of sannyasa have indeed meaning and value, but only so long as the paramjyoti (the supreme light) has not penetrated to the ultimate depths of the heart;
"that Splendour which shines in the cave, beyond all heavens only the yatis have access to it."
In the case of Christian monks also it is true that most of them can be described as bhaktas and karmins, that is, as engaged in a life of worship and activity. They belong to Orders which are highly organized and usually lay much emphasis on common worship (the rite). A central element in such monasticism is the life in community under obedience to a superior. On the other hand, the Hindu tradition of sannyasa lays stress on solitude (exterior, if possible, but certainly interior), complete freedom of movement (non-stability), and total independence in every respect-this solitude and freedom being themselves symbolic of the absolute aloneness (kaivalyam) of the atman. However the profession of a Christian monk certainly implies, at least in its roots, the full renunciation and radical transcendence which shines out so clearly in the tradition of Hindu sannyasa. For instance, the Rule of St Benedict, in its enumeration of the various kinds of monks (ch. 1) places the hermits first; and while regarding this calling as somewhat rare, lays down that only those should aspire to it who have first been found perfect in community life. Above all the call to solitude which, beginning in the fourth century, carried off so many Christians to the deserts of Egypt and Syria, and then a thousand years later, to the great forests of Central and Northern Russia, was certainly no less radical than the call of Hindu sannyasa, and in its extreme form implied separation from all ecclesiastical associations and even from the sacraments.
"This call to solitude, alone with the Alone, alone with the aloneness of the One who is Alone"
is still heard by Christ's disciples. Indeed it seems to be heard with all the greater urgency in these times when most people are unable to resist the temptation to gregariousness, activism and exteriority. More than ever before Christians are being called to a life of renunciation that is very similar to the strictest ideal of Hindu sannyasa, as found in the Upanishads:
"established in the contemplation of his own nature; . his heart filled with the unique experience of the Self".(Ma.na.Up 12-14)
In this reappearance of the tradition of the desert it is impossible not to discern the impulse of the Spirit and the outpouring of his fullness. Christian monks first began to flee the world after the ending of the fearful persecutions of the third and fourth centuries. At that time the Church began to identify itself with the transitory world and to acquire a social and intellectual structure like any other human institution, and thus virtually forgot its eschatological and transcendental calling. At the present juncture in the history of the world and of religions, in the East as well as in the West, the sense of the Mystery is everywhere being increasingly obscured even in those whose special vocation is to bear witness among their brothers to the eschaton, to the presence here and now of the ultimate realities. The spirit of secular activism corrodes everything. So in the West monks and clergy seek to establish their status in society and ask for a social recognition which is purely secular in character. In the flood of secularism which is sweeping away all the adventitious sacredness with which their calling was overlaid (cp. adhyasa) in previous ages they rose the sense of their real identity. Thus they forget that their primary function is to be the witnesses in the midst of society to what is truly sacred-that which is beyond all forms and definitions. They merely replace the forms of a false sacredness with secular forms which are no less alienating, instead of plunging directly into the Infinite-though this is what is imperatively demanded at this turning-point of history. Meanwhile society itself is becoming all-engrossing. It permits no one to escape from its hellish cycle of production and consumption. It does not allow that anyone has the right to stand aside and live on religious alms; still less does it recognize its own duty of providing for the needs of those who have been summoned to pass beyond its structures, whereas in fact such people are the guardians of its purity and its need for transcendence. It is therefore more than ever important that many 'keshis' should go forth both from the churches and from the world, and first of all in India, which from the beginning has been the faithful herald of the mystery of transcendence. Following the great tradition of the desert in the West and of parivrajya in India, they are needed to remind everyone that there is a Beyond, an eschaton (a transcendent finality), already present, something permanent in the midst of all that passes away, deeper than words, deeper than acts, deeper than all exterior relationships among men. Their motto might well be that spoken by the angel to the great Arsenius, the high officer of the emperor Theodosius, who in the midst of his career left the world and the court to hide himself among the hermits of Scete in Egypt: "Flee away; keep silence; be at peace!" India, the world, and the religions need such prophets as never before, for they alone can safeguard the right of every man to be himself.
Here the question inevitably arises, what is to be the relation of those who follow the way of renunciation to their original dharma ? In India, Hindu society has made numerous attempts to reintegrate them with itself. According to some scholars, the Mahanarayanopanishad is a kind of prayer-book for ascetics, who are invited to recite the mantes, even if they do this only mentally (manasa). However that may be, some have laid stress on heartfelt piety (bhakti), the need for which is so deeply rooted in man's heart; others insisted on concern for the spiritual needs of people living in the world; and finally, on the pretext of dharma, the monk's freedom was restricted by a whole network of regulations. However the great tradition to which we have been referring throughout this essay cannot allow that the parmahamsa is bound by any rules whatever, whether of family, society, religion or cult (in Christian terms, not even of the sacraments).
"He goes wherever he will, the immortal,the golden Purusa, the unique Hamsa....There are some who see his pleasure-grove; but him, no one sees at all "(Br. Up, 4.3.12,14)
He is the man who has passed beyond the realm of signs, whose function in this world is to remind each and every one that 'all is over' (tetelestai; John 19 :30), that the time for parables has gone (John 16 :18), that shadows have vanished before the reality (Heb. 10:1)-not that a new rite has taken the place of the old, but rather that all signs and rites have been transcended by the passage 'through the veil' (Heb. 10:20). Christ's unique and final oblation has put an end to all rites, since nothing further is left to be done or obtained (Heb. 10:14). By his whole being the monk testifies that the eschaton, the 'last time', is already present (John 4:23; 5:25; cp. 1 Cor. 10:11).
The 'Sign' of this is not so much the monk who lives in a community, but the hermit, whose communion with his brothers is no longer at the level of the sign, in outward human fellowship, but at he level of the advaita of the Spirit, in which he sees no one as 'other' to himself.35 That is why no society, not even a religious society, can legislate for its hermits. The most it can do is to recognise-not to bestow-their right to be 'themselves', and to endorse publicly their 'departure' from this world. It cannot impose anything whatever upon them; it can only hand them over to the Spirit, as Indra delivered the well-deserving departed souls to Vayu, the Wind- Spirit (Vayu is pneuma) according to Br. Up., 3.3. And yet no hermit can presume upon the ritual diksa which he may have received in order to lay a claim for himself to any right, even the right to be free. It is not the diksa that confers freedom on him. Indeed, as soon as anyone boasts of possessing freedom, he has already lost it; the would-be possessor of freedom has fallen back to the level of the dvandvas, and is therefore subject to the obligations of the law. This freedom is the fruit of his inner awakening, and that cannot be 'given' by anyone. That which is essentially akrita, not made or produced, cannot be produced by any action, any rite or any teaching. It is discovered spontaneously in the innermost recesses of the heart, in the guha (cave) where the Spirit dwells alone.
It is also undoubtedly true that the Christian contemplative has passed together with Jesus beyond the veil of the flesh, which is the body of Jesus' Through death he has conquered death, and has discovered himself alive with Christ in a life which simply IS, which cannot be defined and transcends all categories and cannot be said to have either beginning or ending (cp. Katha Up., 2.18). The Christ who rose from the dead was independent of any particular sign; he used whatever manifestation he wished, in making his presence known to his disciples. So Hindu tradition holds that the guru is only truly and finally recognized as guru, when the disciple no longer distinguishes him from his own inner mystery, when "there is no guru and no disciple." In the same way, Jesus the Sadguru (the True Guru), is only known for what he really is, when the form that he has assumed disappears, as happened when he revealed himself to the two disciples at Emmaus on Easter night. It was somewhat the same when the prophet Elijah was taken away from his disciple Elisha in the chariot of fire-then only the Spirit was given. The Spirit who is Wind cannot be imprisoned anywhere; his loka is the Akasha, the infinitude of space, whether in the heart or in the universe. The Spirit who is Fire burns all that comes in contact with him. The true 'baptism of the Spirit' is a plunging into fire, a passage beyond all words, all forms, all names. There only the Spirit is recognized. In the recognition of the Spirit, Jesus is recognized; in recognizing Jesus, one at last discovers his own true self. There remains only the guha, the cave of the heart, and the Silence of the Father, ekam eva advitiyam, the One without a second.
4.RENUNCIATION ITSELF RENOUNCED (TURI YATITA)
IT is precisely the all-transcending character of sannyasa that makes some people vehemently deny the possibility of its existing as an institution within the framework of any social or religious order. In their view, to speak of sannyasa as 'a sign of what is beyond signs' is a mere playing with words; it shows that once more one is caught in the snare of maya. sannyasa is an inner experience - just that. The sannyasi is the man whom the Spirit has made 'alone', ekaki.
Any attempt to group sannyasi together, so that they mav be counted or included in a special class, is a denial of what sannyasa really is. The sannyasi is unique, each individual sannyasi is unique, unique as the atman is unique, beyond any kind of otherness; he is ekarsi since "no one is different from or other than myself." The sannyasi has no place, no loka. His only Ioka is the atmaloka, but this is both a-loka (without loka) and sarva-loka (in all lokas). He cannot enter into dvandva (duality) with anything whatever-so, if there is a class of sannyasis, it is all up with sannyasa !
They have renounced the world splendid ! So from then on they belong to the loka, the 'world', of those who have renounced the world ! They constitute themselves a new kind of society, an 'ingroup' of their own, a 'spiritual elite apart from the common man, and charged with instructing him, very like those 'scribes and pharisees'
whose attitude made even Jesus, the compassionate one, lose his temper. Then a whole new code of correct behaviour develops, worse than that of the world, with Its courtesy titles, .respectful greetings, orders of precedence and the rest. The wearing of saffron becomes the sign, not so much of renunciation, as of belonging to the 'order of swamis'. Rare indeed are those who do not at least expect, even if they do not actually demand, to be treated with special respect on account of their dress. Along with their diksa it is assumed that they were admitted to the rank of 'spiritual men'; and became entitled to receive food and all kinds of seva (service) from others.
At the beginning of his diksa the one who is taking sannyasa repeats this mantra: "OM bhur bhuvah svah samnyastam maya"--"All the worlds are renounced by me.'' But so long as there remains a "by me" (maya) in the one who is renouncing the world, he has not yet renounced anything at all! The'maya' (I, me) is annihilated, blown to pieces, when the renunciation is genuine; and the only genuine renunciation is a total one, that is, when the renouncer is himself included in the renunciation. Then 'maya' is wiped out renunciation is wiped out and so is the renouncer. Then the heavens are torn open, as happened at the baptism of Jesus, and the truth of advaita shines out, needing no words, names or expressions, being beyond all expression. Words are quite incapable of expressing the mystery of that truth which pierces through to the unfathomable abyss of the inner experience,
beyond the I/Thou, Father/Son, of Jesus' baptismal initiation, beyond the tattvamasi/ ahambrahmasmi (That art thou/I am Brahma) of the Upanishadic initiation, beyond all sannyasa, beyond all light that can be men or spoken of, beyond; any 'desert' that is still known as such.
sannyasa no doubt carries within itself its own abrogation, in the same way that the Upanishads contain verses which shatter all then formulations. For this reason sannyasa- diksa cannot be compared with any other diksa, because it points towards and can lead to that 'beyond' of which it is the sign. And yet there cannot actually be any act of renouncing, for who in fact is there to pronounce the ritual formula: "OM bhu...samnyastam maya"', "I have renounced..."? The only one entitled to utter it without telling a lie is no longer
capable of uttering it. What indeed can he renounce? Everything has disappeared; and the 'maya', the 'I' that renounces, what meaning does it have? Of course, the impalpable ego still subsists; it escapes every attempt to suppress it and every moment it is born again from its ashes; but the bonds which have to be broken will never be broken by any kind of rite. That can only be done when the tejobindu the
'pearl of glory', the self-luminous one of which the Upanishads speak, flashes forth, the ray of light that illuminates the depth of the souI.
There is no rite for passing beyond rites, no rite for reaching , ati -dharma (beyond dharma). There is no passage to the atman, the Self... I am, I wake up to mvself.
Whether one likes if, or not, the fact is plain that in the end the formal sannyasa, with ifs rite of investiture, its distinctive dress and its strict code of rules, is one of the Hindu -ashramas or stages of life, and is quite literally the caturtha; or fourth. The man in whose heart the flame has been kindled may quite understandably have nothing to do with this rite and its accompanying rides: "The very day that a man becomes indifferent, on that day he should go forth and roam"." Such was Ramana: he just went to Arunachala, abandoned his clothes, and sat on the steps of the temple, taking no thought for guru or mantra, but simply' gazing at Arunachala, the holy Mount, the guru who had summoned him.
The real turiya is atiashrama, and no diksa can convey this turiya in its fullness. It is only because he is moved from within and over~-powered by the glory of the light that blazes in his heart, that the paramahamsa throws aside his paraphernalia and passes without more ado beyond that 'turiya' which still belongs to the series of ashramas. The real turiya is turyatita, beyond the turiya. The man who has transcended and forgotten his place in any series whatever, becomes avadhuta. He is no longer conscious of his f shariram (which includes both body and thinking faculty), and so no longer identifies himself with any of the states of consciousness of his shariram, neither the waking, nor the dreaming, nor the state of deep sleep, and, least of all, the turiya.
Too often people try to persuade themselves that"This is it", and this temptation especially lies in wait for those who live in a 'spiritual' environment. We read a few scriptural texts, hear others speak of them, and ponder them ourselves with the help of our little mind (manas); this is'enough to convince us that there is some wonderful experience of which the whole Vedantic literature proclaims the greatness, that which is commonly spoken of as 'self-realization'. The only real sign of this experience is that all awareness of the shariram has disappearad, but this is as yet far from being true of us. Nevertheless we strive to discern at least some of the antecedent signs in ourselves, and any little psychic experience is taken for a great step forward.
Next, Vedantic commentaries and manuals come in to preserve and build up that experience with elaborate considerations from various points of view--philosophical, cosmological, psychological, mythical, mystical and the rest. This slowly but surely produces in the individual's life the kind of conditioning which is inevitable in any closed group just as, in another context, it is produced: by catechisms and theological manuals. We encourage ourselves-with the word of the masters that the distinction between the jnanai and the ajnani only exists from the
point of view of the latter. We recall their dictum that the last obstacle to.realization is the thought that we are not yet realized--overlooking the fact that an equally great obstacle is the idea that we are realized!
Finally we talk as if it had really happened, and try to convince ourselves that it is true.
However, as long as the light has not shone fully within, and the tejobindu--that pearl of glory in the depth of our being, has not yet totally transformed the buddhi (discriminating faculty) to its ultimate recesses, one has no right to pronounce the mahavakya: aham Brahma asmi (I am Brahma). The 'aham' of which he is aware in his outer
consciousness is still essentially the ego of the one who utters the formula, and only very indirectly does it point to the deep aham to which the Scriptures refer.
Of course, faith in the Scriptures can be called in to bridge the gulf. Christians too are expected to have such a faith. But on what is this faith based, what is its pratistha In a Christian context it is related to the divinity of Christ--but this too is a matter of faith, and its formulation is deeply indebted to the intellectual and cultural environment in which it arose. On the other hand, in a Hindu context it would normally be said that faith , sraddha, simply exists and has no need of further proof. It is a part of that dharma which has been handed down from generation to generation since the time of the rishis. In the words of the Chandogyopanishad (7.24) already quoted, the Scriptures rest on their own mahimna, greatness, or on nothing. Any attempt to solve the problem inevitably faces a dilemma: either the light which shines in the depth of the heart reveals that the Scriptures are true, in which case the sphere of Scripture is transcended (cf. Amritanadopanishad-'once the lamp has been lit, we forget the taper'); or else the Scriptures are repudiated in the name of reason which refuses to be bluffed any longer.
The atman, the Self, rests on itself alone. To try to provide it with a would-be ''"support"' outside itself amounts to letting the sand slip through one's fingers. The game can be said of sannyasa, the supreme renunciation. As long as we try to find a support for it in anvthinn else--say, a mantra, a diksa, a tradition, a lineage (vamsa), we simply miss the point. Anyone who relies on such things in order to gain recognition and acceptance in society - or, in an extreme case, to be pardoned for having chosen to be a dropout, an avadhut has not yet understood....
His true support is not here. It is nothing that can be shown, dated, described, proved by witnesses (such as the guru or the abbot who gave him diksa)--for all such things themselves depend on other things, outside themselves (cp. Ch. Up., 7.24). No revelation, no ecstasy, no Scripture, no man, no event, no diksa, nothing whatever can be his support. He does not have a support; he is founded on himself. The inner awakening sets him free from every bondage, and enables him to see with direct vision'what the eye could never see. For that there can be no 'sign', just as there cannot be for the second coming of Christ or for the final advent of the'Kingdom: "They will tell you,'He is here,' or 'He is there;' do not believe it" (Matt. 24:23; Mark 13:21).
Long ago the Christ-sign, despite his being so perfectly transparent ("He who has seen me, has seen the Father", has been misread: and misinterpreted because men are either unable or actually refuse to free themselves from signs so that they may pass yonder-or rather, simply lose and find themselves where signs are no more. In the same way, the pellucid sign which the Upanishads are in themselves has been obscured by making endless commentaries on them; whereas the text of the Upanishads is utterly pure, utterly transparent for the man who is open within.
The flame-coloured robe of the sannyasi signifies the blazing fire in which the sariram is supposed to have been consumed. Yet it is too often only play-acting. The ego should have vanished; and yet on the very evening of his initiation the new sannyasi can be heard to say: "I have received sannyasa!"
In the heart of every man there is something-a drive- which is already there when he is born and will haunt him unremittingly until his last breath. It is a mystery which encompasses him on every side, but one which none of his faculties can ever attain to or, still less, lay hold of. It is not be located in anything that can be seen, heard, touched or known in this world. There is no sign for it--not even the would-be transcendent sign of sannyasa.
It is a bursting asunder at the very heart of being, something utterly unbearable. But nevertheless this is the price of finding the treasure that is without name or form or-sign-- arupa, anama, alinga, avyakta. It is the unique splendour of the Self--but no one is left in its presence to exclaim, "How beautiful it is!"
It is an invisible ray issuing from the Pearl of Light, the tejobindu in the deepest abyss of the Self; it is also a death-ray, ruthlessly destroying all that comes in its way. Blessed death! It pierces irresistibly through and through, and all desires are consumed, even the supreme and ultimate desire, the desire for non-desire, the desire for renunciation itself. As long as any desire remains, there is no real sannyasa and the desire for sannyasa is itself the negation of sannyasa. "The only true sannyasi is the one who has renounced both renunciation and non-renunciation."Farewell then to any recognition by others that I am a sannyasi!"
The keshi does not regard himself as a sannyasi. There is no world, no loka, in which he belongs. Free and riding the winds, he traverses the worlds at his pleasure. wherever he goes, he goes maddened with his own rapture, intoxicated with the unique Self. Friend of all and fearing none, he bears the Fire, he bears the Light. Some take him for a common beggar, some for a madman, a few for a sage. To him it is all one. He is himself, he is accountable to no one. His support is in himself, that is to say, in the Spirit from whom he is not 'other'.
Any diksa, any offcial recognition by society, would amount to bringing him back to the world of signs, the world of krita, that which is made, fabricated, even the world of sukrita, that which is well done, praiseworthy (cp. Mundaka Up 1.2.6); but without sign, without name, the yati goes his way....
No doubt, in the heart of many people there are the beginnings of inner illumination, but often that light is perceived only through the lens of the intellect. That reflection is itself so beautiful that normally men do not think of looking directly at its source--or may be they have an instinctive fear of being blinded by the full splendour.
In a Vedantic environment it is natural to interpret this in terms of non-duality In the Semitic world, in which Jesus lived and which has left such a deep mark on the spiritual experience of the West, the 'seer' quite simply finds himself in the presence of God, One whom he adores and loves, whose almighty power complements the weakness of man, while his holiness cleanses him from his sin:
Father, blessed be thy name! Let thy Spirit come! Give as the food. we need and forgive us our sins (cp; Luke 11-2-4).
The non-dualistic formuIations of Vedanta and the apparently dualistic formulations which arose from the deep sources of the Semitic mind are both alike the result of conditioning. Only faith makes possible the leap beyond-and faith rests on itself alone.
It is necessary to detach ourselves even from the experience of advaita, or rather, from what we think it to be, from every concept that has been formed of if. In that precisely lies the criterion of its truth..
It is necessary likewise to detach ourselves from sannyasa, or rather, from all that men think or say about it, from all definifions that are given of it, from every form in which it has been expressed. That precisely is the criterion of its truth. But then what is left, what remains?
When the embodied one is about to leave the body, when he frees himself from it, what is leffthere?
That, just That ! That is the Pure, that is Brahman, that is called the Immortal; In him all the worlds are established, and none can go beyond. That, just That! (Katha Up, 5.4 and 8)
Yes indeed-"That, just That". But who remains to say 'That', to think of it, to feel it? For the one about whom we continue to speak- he has disappeared blissfully in the mystery of the Source.
From the call of the Spirit there is no release. Nothing can continue to have meaning or value for the man on whom the Spirit has descended. He no longer has either a past or a future. All plans made by him or for him, even the loftiest religious projects, are swept away like leaves before the wind. It is the same as when death takes off some young person, full of promise, from whom the world expected much. He has passed into the silence, a silence which no one else can ever penetrate; for this tomb is sealed from within;
Awakening must not be confused with any particular human or religious situation, with any specific state of life, or with any condition (or conditioning) which sets one.'apart.' Even.Gautama the Buddha seems to have tied the possibility of awakening too closely to the monastic life, and too often Hindu dharma has thought on the same lines. But the jivan-mukta is not distinguished by any particular sign, just as Jesus gave no description of one who has irsen from the dead.
'Self-realization' is the great myth (here understood to mean a complex of signs and meanings which symbolizes a reality so rich that it cannot be expressed directly in logical terms) of the vedanta. When Sri Ramana says that the final obstacle to realization is the very idea that one ought to strive after it, he is in fact setting forth the definitive purification of the spirit, that which sets man free and cuts the last 'knot of the heart,' hridayagranthi.'It is the equivalent of the 'dark night of the soul' according to John of the Cross, who teaches that the ultimate act of union and perfect love is an act so spiritual that nothing in our created nature is able to feel it or lay hold of it, to understand or express it. .It happens without our mind being aware of it or being able to apprehend it. Yet something in us knows that 'It is', 'asti'. Both of these great seers refuse to allow that the final perfection, the awakening, has anything to do with space or time, or even thought. It is utterly mistaken to try to attain to some ultimate experience,. As a result of which one might hold oneself to be a 'realized man'. To seek for such an experience or such a condition of being 'realized' within the world of space and time, or even in the mental sphere, is merely a sign of lacking the most elementary purification required for the decisive awakening. As soon as self~realization is spoken of, and still more when it is applied to any particular person, it is simply caricatured and reduced to the level of manas, being made an object of thought (however 'spiritual'), and therefore something quite incapable of leading to moksa. No one is realized, no one is awakened, there is no awakening; and this is no playing with words. The.evamvid, who knows thus, smiles and says nothing, or maybe he dances like a madman, or perhaps he remains motionless and indifferent.
We therefore have to accept the fact that nothing in us is capable of appropriating or containing this famous self-realization, the central myth of vedanta. Once the deva of that myth is discovered and exposed, all the other devas make themselves scarce without more ado. They vanish; only Brahman, the Atman, the Self, shines with his own light, and all else lights up in him:
"that supreme dwelling of Brahma, founded on which all the universe shines brilliantly (Mundaka Up., 3.2.1); in his shining everything shines; all that is reflects his radiance (Mundaka Up., 2.2. 10)."
Once that central myth has been unveiled, all myths are lit up from within and yield their secrets. This is the potent draught which the kesi carries with him, drinking if from the very cup of Shiva-Rudra (RV 10.136).
Is such a total purity possible? Even to raiset he question estroys the life of which it is asked. The only man who could answer it is he who has met on the way a kesi, a true guru. From him hje received a marvellous diksa in which all things were revealed to him; but such a diksa was supported on nothing whatever. That guru had no vamsa (lineage) authorizing him to initiate others, nor did he recite any mantra hallowed by tradition. He did not: even realize that he was giving diksa, because he had no idea that ha was a guru. If he made any gestures, they were spontaneous, unrehearsed. If he spoke any words, they arose naturally from the inner Source, direct and unmediated. This was the mauna-diksa, the silent initiation, an infinitely pure communication within the mystery of the non-dual Spirit, a glance which pierces to the very depths, an embrace which abolishes all distinctions...
But the kesi in the spirit can beget only kesis.."The horse has shaken out his name The wave has shed its foam,The water is pure, The runner is free...Freely, riding the winds, the kesi traverses the worlds intoxicated with the unique Self.. Solitude and silence, total nakedness without sign or memory..."
5. SANNYASA -DlKSA
SANNYASA confronts us as a sign of that which is essentially beyond all signs--indeed, in its sheer transparency, it proclaims its own death as a sign. This is bow it has been handed down from generation to generation by the dominant tradition of renunciation in India. This also is how it appears above all to those whose heart and mind is overwhelmed by the call to sannyasa, and to whom the Spirit has given a glimpse of that infinite Space that is within the heart.
However the sannyasi lives in the world of signs, of the divine manifestation, and this world of manifestation needs him, 'the one beyond signs', so that it may realize the impossible possibility of a bridge between the two worlds; the kesi bears up the two worlds, keeping them apart, and yet being the way through which man has access to the brahma~world(cp.- Ch. Up, 8.4.1; Br. Up., 4.4.22).
These ascetics who flee the world and care nothing for its recognition are precisely the ones who uphold the world. They are like the Vedic stambha (column) which maintains the stability of the universe (cp. Atharvaveda 10.7 and 8). It is their renunciation which is symbolized by all the yajnas and homas offered by the priests. In them the primordial sacrifice of this Purusa is accomplished in the full reality of the Spirit. From their inward fire, the agni manifested in their austerity (tapas), all sacrificial fires are lit.
As far as they are concerned, being known or unknown is of no importance. They go their way in secret. There is no sign to identify them, they run alinga, avyaktacara. But society needs to know them. It needs to know that they are there, so that it may preserve a reminder of transcendence in the midst of the transient world.
For this reason, despite the risk of sclerosis in anything human that becomes an institution, it is none the less good for society to allow a place for monks and publicly to acknowledge their condition as 'apart'. Further, it is normally through the institution of monasticism that the Spirit reveals himself in making his call heard by those whom he chooses, even if, later on, this very same call thrusts them remorselessly beyond all signs. sannyasa-diksa can never be made obligatory, but no more can it be denied to those who sincerely ask for it, not to gain prestige from its special status, but that they may be free to devote themselves more entirely to the quest for Brahman, "dedicated to Brahman, established in Brahman, in search of the supreme Brahman" -Prasna Up. in fact, 'seeking: God' quaerere Deum), as St Benedict says.
It would certainly be wrong to regard sannyasa-diksla as an empty sign with no real content. Its rich significance entitles it to be termed a symbol rather than a sign (to adopt the widely accepted distinction in coritemporary thought, with which is related the recent treatment of the Christian sacraments as symbols). sannyasa- diksa in fact, carries all the concreteness of a symbol whose roots penetrate to the very source of being itself---so deepily that in some sense it bears within itself the very reality which it signifies. The sign of sannyasa--and equally that of diksa--stands then on the very frontier, the unattainable frontier, between two worlds, the world of manifestation and the world of the uninanifesf Absolute. It is the mystery of the sacred, lived with the greatest possible interiority, It:is a powerful means of grace--that grace'which is nothing else than the Presence of the Absolute, the Eternal, the Unborn, existing at theheart of the realm of becoming, of time, of death and life; and a grace which is at the same time the irresistible drawing of the entire universe and its fullness towards the ultimate fullness of the Awakening to the Absolute, to the Atman. This sign, this grace is supremely the tarana, the raft by which man passes over to the 'other shore' ('the ultimate' shore of theBeyond'; Katha Up. 3.2). Finally, it is even the taraka, the actual one who himself carries men across to the other shore, the one and only 'ferryman', manifested in manifold ways in fhe form of all those rishis, mahatmas, gurus and buddhas, who throughout history have themselves been awaken and in turn awake their brother-men.
While it is true, that monastic life is transcendent in relation to any dharma, it is perfectly natural for the 'profession' or initiation which marks the offcial entry oin monastic life to be performed within the particular religious tradition into which each individual is born and in which he has grown up in the spirit. As long as we remain at the level of signs, the best-signs for us are normally those among which we first awoke as men, and as men devoted to God, even if later on those signs have to he purified and freed from their limitations and particularity. However, there is in Hindu sannyasa something so strong, such a burning savour of the Absofute, that it is irresistibly attractive to those who have discovered within that ineffable mystery to which the Upanishads give their insistent testimony. Then, no matter which dharma happens to be theirs--and even more when they feel themselves unrelated to any dharma--they have a strong desire to be coopted into the great Indian tradition of sannyasa. Tbrough the sign of the vamsa, linking thein with the ancient rishis, their hope is to discover more surely the unique Seer, ekarsi, who reposes in the depths of their heart.
Let us take first the case of Christian monks, who are already bound--and freed--by their religious profession. when they come into contact with their Hindu brother-monks and meet with the uncompromising ideal of sannvasa, they discover in their own dedication a compelling summons, even more interior than exterior, which no longer allows them any respite. They feel a natural urge to take the garb of the Indian sannvasi and to observe at least the most essential of their customs in matters of poverty, abstinence, abhayam,(fearlessness) etc. Even more fundamentally, they surrender themselves to that freedom breathed in their hearts by the Spirit. In such cases to receive a new diksa would be without meaning, since in the total surrender of their original profession, expressed in the prayer "Suscipe ....," the essential oblation was already made. Their case is comparable with that of the paramahamsa who, when the full light shines within him, passes over, quite naturafly and without further thought, to the condition of a turyatita or of an avadhuta.
There are, however, others who come to India with no previous monastic or even religions affiliations and, when here,'awake', sometimes as a result of hearing the Scriptures, or more particularly through contact with a true guru, in whom they encounter a burning fire which consumes all their desires and previous aspirations. Then, whether or not they intend, or are allowed, to remain in India, or perhaps have to return to the country of their birth, they often dream of pronouncing their vow of renunciation in the Indian manner, and seek permission to do so, that they may be officially set apart from society and may thereafter spend their life in undivided attention to the mystery within. This raises a problem; for, although it. is true that sannyasa diksa means an end of all rites and a final passing beyond the world of signs, the fact remains that diksa is so intimately connected with Hindu ritual and tradition that it can have no meaning for those who do not belong to the Hindu dharma.
For a Hindu the initiation to sannyasa belongs to the series of rites which mark the stages in the life of a the dvija (twice-born) from his conception to his being carried to the funeral-pyre. Indeed it actually anticipates the performance of that funeral agnihotra (cp. Ch. Up., 5.4-9). sannyasa- diksa is therefore regularly accompanied by rites which signify the end of all rites; thus the candidate repeats the gayatri one thousand times at each of the two sandhyas which precede his initiation.
Further--at least: in the case of a krama-sanny- the ceremony concludes with the guru handing over to the disciple the paraphernalia of sannyasa, namely, the danda and kamandalu, the kaupinam and the kavi (orange) covering. These insignia are barely intelligible outside the particular social and cultural context of India, and their handing over by the guru has little meaning in the case of a non-Indian sannyasi who will have to live outside India, despite the rich significance inherent in this ceremony.
One might dream of investing sannyasa with signs of universal significance, both as regards the rite and in the external appearance of the sannyasi. But by definition all signs are particular, belonging as they must to some given culture and milieu. Once again we are face to face with the paradox (or rather, the contradiction) at the heart of sannyasa, that it is at the same time not at home in any world (aloka and also present to all worlds (sarvaloka), the sign of what is beyond signs. Inevitably we are led back to the original sannyas described in the ancient texts as 'without sign' (aliriga), 'without rules' (aniyama).
The ambivalence of sannyasa is such that, in the last resort, when stripped of all rules and outward signs, it can no longer be differentiated from the spontaneous inner renunciation of any awakened man. Nothing external can serve as the sign of the sannyasi, just as there is nothing that could be the sign of a jivan-mukta. He may roam through the worlds like the kesi of the Rig-Veda, he may hiide himself in caves and jungles, and equally he may live in the midst of the multitude and even share in the world's work without losing his solitude. The unperceptive will never notice him; only the evamvid (the one who knows thus) will recognize him, since he too abides in the depth of the Self. However, anyone who is already in the slightest degree awakened cannot fail to experience something of his radiance--a taste, a touch, a gleam of light--which only the interior sense can perceive, and which leaves behind it a truly wonderful impression.
Sannyasa can only be given (and this applies all the more to the cases under consideration) when the guru feels confident that the disciple has really seen, is evamvidvan, and possesses the physical, mental and spiritual strength to remain faithful under any circumstances to the fundamental demands of the ascetic life. Normally he should have given proof of his quality, not only in his life in the guru's company (antevasin) but also in solitude and wandering (parivrajya);and even more, in the case of a westerner, in the persevering practice of the acosmic life in the midst of a world which rejects such acosmism. It is also understood that his diksa will involve for him the actual departure for a period of wandering and bhiksacarya (living on alms), which should last as long as possible. The candidate should also renounce the possession of all that could be called his; and if actual and legal dispossession is not possible, he must realize that he no longer holds any right of ownership in anything at all, and must be ready to set out with anything or nothing whatever, when circumstances call for this. Only then can the guru agree to be the witness before earth and heaven to the final commitment of the candidate.
The days which precede the dikha are passed in retreat, that is, in silence, meditation and appropriate reading, either alone or in thecompany of the guru. Immediately before the initiation the Scriptures prescribe a day of fasting and a night of prayer. That night will be spent in silent meditation, and possibly in reading over again those Upanishadic texts which have most strongly formed the spititual experience of the aspirant. (For instance the texts of the Sannyosopanishads, of which the most important have already been quoted; the texts on renunciation in Br. Up. 3.5; 4.4.22; and Mund.Up., 1.2 ; those on non-desire in Br.Up. 4.4.6 and on the departure of Yajnavalkya in Br.Up. 4.5; those who contains the mahavakyas; also Chand.Up. 7 with its climax in Brahman; 8.1 on the discovery of the place of the heart; the hyms of jubilation of the awakened man in Ch.Up 8.13-14, in Tait.Up 1.1.4 and 10; the first three chapters of the Katha Up - for the aspirant is none other than the young Naciketas who compelled Death to reveal his secret, and discovered himself in himself beyond death and rebirth.)
The homas and shraddhas which take place during that night in the ritual of a dvija are unnecessary when the candidate does not belong to the Hindu fold and has not been invested with the sacred thread. Nor need he repeat the gayatri, the supreme mantra which until now has been an essential element in the life of a brahmachari.
........[Abhishiktananda now develops the possibility of a kind of ecomenical rite for monastic initiatiation, while acknoledging that the real initiation, the direct transmission of shakti (spiritual power) from guru to disciple is beyond rituals]Now all the preparations are finished, completed. Only the rite of the diksa itself has to be enacted in the bare simplicity of its symbolism. All signs are about to be fulfilled in that ultimate sign which bears the elect one beyond all, to the final discovery of himself. All graces are to be summed up in that definitive gift of grace, beyond which there is only the unique and non-dual mystery of grace in itself. The rite will be the supreme symbol of the interior departure beyond oneself to the Self, who alone permits "aham brahmasmi" to be uttered in truth. Now the whole life of the aspirant comes to its final point, and his spirit, freed from all bonds, takes light into the infinity of the Self, as is expressed in the mantra from the Chandogyopanishad which he will soon recite. As Jesus said on the eve of his great departure: The hour has come.... I go to the Father.Guru and disciple come to the river bank--if possible, to the Ganga which in the course of many centuries at countless points along its banks or at its prayagas (confluences) has so often witnessed such initiations. Below them is the Water, the Ganga; above them in the sky is Agni, the Fire of the rising Sun; water and fire, the two sacred elements in which is made the oblation of everything that has to be consecrated.They first sing the hymn to Dakshinamurti, the supreme Guru. Here indeed it is not only one man who gives the initiation. For the disciple in whom the Inward Light has shone, this man is only the manifestation at this moment of the unique Guru who manifests himself at every place and time, whenever the heart is opened from within.OM! Salutation to all gurus! OM! Salutation to the unique Guru!
All gurus are present here, all the awakened ones, the unique Awakened One, for there is but one awakening and a single Awakened one. The aspirant enters the water waist-deep. He takes a sip (acamana) of the holy water, as if to purify the mouth which will offer the great vow. Then, turning to the East, he repeats after the guru the formulas of the vows, which do not so much indicate a decision now taken for the future, but rather manifest that which is already true in the depths of the soul and transcends all past and future:" Om bhur bhuva suva sannyastam maya"
I have renounced all worlds-this world of earth, the so-called world of heaven, all possible worlds in between, all lokas, all places where I might rest and find security (pratishtha), whether in the materiel or the mental sphere, in that of human fellowship, or even in the so-called spiritual sphere. My adoration, my total dedication (upasana) is to the unique Self, the Brahman that I AM. I have risen beyond all desires, desire for progeny, desire for riches, desire for any loka whatever. Let no creature have fear of me, since everything come from me (Na Pa Up 4-38)
The new sannyasi plunges into the water. Then the guru raises him like the Purusa of the Aitareyopanishad "Arise, O Man! Arise, wake up, you who have received the boons; keep awake!" (cp. Katha Up., 3.14) Both of them then face the rising sun and sing the song to the Purusa from the Uttara- Narayana:
"I know him, that supreme Purusha, sun-coloured, beyond all darkness; only in knowing him one overcomes death; no other way exists". (V. Samhita 31.18) Then they recite the sacred mantra of the Chandogyopanishad, which so powerfully sums up the mystery which is taking place: In total serenity he rises up from this body, reaches the highest light, and is revealed in his own proper form; he is the supreme Purusa, he is Atman, he is Brahman, he is the All, he is the Truth, he is beyond fear, beyond death, he is unborn. And I myself am He.(Ch.Up 8,3,4)
The new sannyasi then unties all the clothes he may be wearing and lets them float away in the stream. Then the guru calls him back to the bank and receives him in his arms, dripping with water and naked as he was when he came forth from his mother's womb. He then covers him with the fire-coloured cloth of the sannyasi, the flame-colour of the Purusha, of the golden Hamsa (Br. Up., 4.3.11), All has been burnt up; he is a new man-or rather, he is the unique Man, the unique Purusha, the unique Spirit, whom no garment can ever again clothe, other than the garment of fire, which consumes all other garments superimposed on the essential nudity of the original Purusha, the non-dual Spirit.Now the guru makes him sit before him and gives him his last brief instructions. He reminds him of the uniqueness of the Atman, and so of his total freedom towards all beings, of his lack of obligation to anyone apart from the unique Spirit, and of his sole duty is to remain fixed in the vision of his self, the inner mystery which is the non-dual Brahman, while his mind remains totally absorbed in repeating endlessly the sacred OM with every breath he takes and every beat of his heart.The guru stands beside him. With all the power that springs from the inner awakening he imparts from mouth to ear, and still - more from heart to heart, the OM and the mahavakyas. He says "OM! Brahma is consciousness "(Aitareya Up., 5.3) and the disciple repeats it after Him. "OM! This self is Brahma" (Man.dukya Up., 2)and again the disciple repeats it after him. But when he comes to what is, properly speaking, the mantra of initiation, the upadedesha-mantra of the Chandogyopanishad (6.8.7ff): "OM! Thou art That!" the disciple answers with the fundamental mantra of the Brihad-aranyakopanishad, (1.4.10) which now issues with full spontaneity from his deepest self; "OM! I am Brahma !OM! Aham asmi OM! Aham OM!"
Now the last sign itself is over; the time has come for the great departure from which there is no possible return. Hence forward the guru has no right to recall his disciple.
" Go, my son, in the freedom of the Spirit, across the infinite space of the heart; go to the Source, go to the Father, go to the Unborn, yourself unborn (ajata), to the Brahma-loka which you yourself have found and from which there is no returning."(inspired by Ch.Up. 8 end)
Immediately the new sannyasi sets out on his path, the path of the Self, the 'ancient narrow path' (Br. Up. 4.4.8)
In this world, out of this world, seer of what is beyond sight, he goes secretly and hidden, unknown, mad with the madness of those who know, free with the freedom of the Spirit, filled with essential bliss, established in the mystery of the non-dual, free from all sense of otherness, his heart filled with the unique experience of the Self, fully and for ever awake...