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By Sri Swami Chidananda

This article is a chapter from the book Swami Sivananda, Our Loving Awakener.

The real meaning and the true glory of Sannyasa can be best understood by devoutly observing saints and men of God who are so many living embodiments of the highest and the best in Sannyasa. They personify Sannyasa in the truest sense of the term. And therefore to closely observe them, to carefully follow them and to humbly and earnestly emulate them is indeed the surest and the most effective way of living up to the high ideals of Tyaga and Sannyasa. Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is verily the greatest exemplar of the true Sannyasa spirit. Every act of his is the illuminating revealer of the secrets of real renunciation and Sannyasa. As a fitting tribute to the memory of his great renunciation, we should all try to walk in the footsteps of this leader amongst Sannyasins. Gurudev is renunciation-incarnate. And by trying our humble best to embody in ourselves even partially a few aspects of his ideal life, we shall be fittingly observing this great occasion of his Sannyasa anniversary.

It is the duty of every aspiring seeker and earnest Sannyasin to try to take note without fail of two significant factors, namely, theoretical conception of Sannyasa as laid down in the authoritative scriptures and the practical living of Sannyasa as immortalised by the vital tradition of this great land. What does the true discerning Hindu take Sannyasa to be? We know that Sannyasa is the fourth order or stage in life (Ashrama). The individual entering this stage of life gets the Diksha through the Guru and performs Viraja Homa (sacrifice). It is this Viraja Homa that gives you the right clue and right answer as to what Sannyasa implies. The Viraja Homa throws a flood of light upon the true meaning of Sannyasa. Sannyasa means annihilation of the old, deluded egoistic consciousness. It means the burning up of all desires and attachments in the blazing fire of absolute renunciation. It means reducing to ashes the last vestige of physical consciousness. It is the emergence of a glorious new consciousness. “I am neither mind nor body, immortal Self am I” is the consciousness of a Sannyasin whose body, mind, senses, Pranas and the ego all have been offered up in the Viraja Homa flames. It is the supreme renunciation. Sannyasa therefore implies Sarvatyaga. Hence his daily vow becomes: “I renounce the pleasures of this world. I renounce the pleasures of the astral world. I renounce the pleasures of heaven.”

All desires are annihilated for anything here or in the hereafter. At this juncture we are given a startling revelation. We find that at the top of this great renunciation comes another vow. For the monk declares: “I will not cause fear to any being.” The monk gives the promise of absolute fearlessness to all creatures, whereby no living being need fear any harm from him. By this he pledges himself to Visva-Prema or universal love. For, fear can exist only where harm or pain is forthcoming and the latter are manifest only where hatred or animosity is present. But where love becomes enshrined, only loving service and joy flow forth, and all creatures may fearlessly partake of it with perfect assurance and confidence. Such universal love and service are therefore the spontaneous offshoots of Mahatyaga or supreme abandonment of selfishness. Therefore, these two great and sublime elements of Tyaga, i.e. abandonment of desires for name, fame and reward, and Seva, i.e. service to the sick, poor and needy, constitute the sublime elements in the spirit of Sannyasa. Tyaga is for Atmasakshatkara or Self-realisation. Therefore service and Self-realisation form the lofty twin impulses that move in the life of a true Sannyasin taking him towards the attainment of the highest consciousness of Truth Absolute.

May we awaken in us the spirit of Sannyasa. May the blessings of Gurudev and the countless saints and sages whom he represents keep alive in us this glorious spirit of Sannyasa!