Sannyas is of the Highest
September 28, 1970 was a memorable day. At Manali in the Himalayas, Osho initiated His first group of sannyasins. This event was followed by this special evening discourse, on the significance of Neo Sannyas.
To me, sannyas does not mean renunciation; it means a journey to joy bliss. To me, sannyas is not any kind of negation; it is a positive attainment. But up to now, the world over, sannyas has been seen in a very negative sense, in the sense of giving up, of renouncing. I, for one, see sannyas as something positive and affirmative, something to be achieved, to be treasured.
It is true that when someone carrying base stones as his treasure comes upon a set of precious stones, he immediately drops the baser ones from his hands. He drops the baser stones only to make room for the newfound precious stones. It is not renunciation. It is just as you throw away the sweepings from your house to keep it neat and clean. And you don't call it renunciation, do you?
You call it renunciation when you give up something you value, and you maintain an account of your renunciations. So far, sannyas has been seen in terms of such a reckoning of all that you give up - be it family or money or whatever.
I look at sannyas from an entirely different angle, the angle of positive achievement. Undoubtedly there is a fundamental difference between the two view, points. If sannyas, as I see it, is an acquisition, an achievement, then it cannot mean opposition to life, breaking away from life. In fact, sannyas is an attain. ment of the highest in life; it is life's finest fulfillment.
And if sannyas is a fulfillment, it cannot be sad and somber, it should be a thing of festivity and joy.
Then sannyas cannot be a shrinking of life; rather, it should mean a life that is ever expanding and deepening, a life abundant. Up to now we have called him a sannyasin who withdraws from the world, from everything, who breaks away from life and encloses himself in a cocoon. I, however, call him a sannyasin who does not run away from the world, who is not shrunken and enclosed, who relates with everything, who is open and expansive.
Sannyas has other implications too. A sannyas that withdraws from life turns into a bondage, into a prison; it cannot be freedom. And a sannyas that negates freedom is really not sannyas. Freedom, ultimate freedom is the very soul of sannyas. For me, sannyas has no limitations, no inhibitions, no rules and regulations. For me, sannyas does not accept any imposition, any regimentation, any discipline. For me, sannyas is the flowering of man's ultimate freedom, rooted in his intelligence, his wisdom.
I call him a sannyasin who has the courage to live In utter freedom, and who accepts no bondage, no organization, no discipline whatsoever. This free. dom, however, does not mean license; it does not mean that a sannyasin becomes licentious. The truth is that it is always a man in bondage, a slave, who turns licentious. One who is independent and free can never be licentious; there is no way for him to be so.
That is how I am going to separate the sannyas of the future from the sannyas of the past. And I think that the institution of sannyas, as it has been up to now, is on its deathbed; it is as good as dead. It has no future whatsoever. But sannyas in its essence, has to be preserved. It is such a precious attain ment of mankind that we cannot afford to lose it. Sannyas is that rarest of flowers that blooms once in a great while. But it is likely that it will wither away for want of proper caring.
And it will certainly die if it remains tied to its old patterns.
Therefore, sannyas has to be invested with a new meaning, a new concept. Sannyas has to live; k is the most profound, the most precious treasure that mankind has. But how to save it, preserve it, is the question. I would like to share with you my vision on this score.
Firstly, it is a long time that sannyas has remained isolated from the world, and consequently it has been doubly harmed. A sannyasin living completely cut off from the world, living in utter isolation from the world, becomes poor, and his poverty is very deep and subtle, because the wealth of all our life's experiences lies in the world, not outside. All our experiences of pain and pleasure, attachment and detachment, hate and love, enmity and friendship, war and peace, come from the world itself.
So when a man breaks away from the world, he becomes a hothouse plant, he ceases to be a flower that blooms under the sun and the open sky. By now, sannyas has become a hothouse plant. And such a sannyas cannot live any longer.
Sannyas cannot be grown in hothouses. To grow and blossom, the plant of sannyas needs an open sky. It needs the light of day and the darkness of night; it needs rains, winds and storms. It needs everything there is between the earth and the sky. A sannyasin needs to go through the whole gamut of challenges and dangers. By isolating him from the world we have harmed the sannyasin enormously, be cause his inner richness has diminished so much It is amusing that those who are ordinarily called good people don't have that richness of life their opposites have; they lack the richness of experience. For this reason, novelists think it is difficult to write a story around the life of a good person, that his life is flat and almost eventless. Curiously enough, a bad person makes a good story; he is a must for a story, even for history. What more can we say of a good man than this, that he has been good from the cradle to the grave?
Isolating him from the world, we deprive the sannyasin of experience; he remains very poor in experience. Of course, isolation gives him a sort of security, but it makes him poor and lackluster.
I want to unite the sannyasin with the world. I want sannyasins who world on farms and in factories, in offices and shops right in the marketplace. I don't want sannyasins who escape from the world; I don't want them to be renegades from life. I want them to live as sannyasins in the very thick of the world, to live with the crowd amid its din and bustle. Sannyas will have verve and vitality if the sannyasin remains a sannyasin in the very thick of the world.
In the past, if a woman wanted to be a sannyasin, she had to leave her husband, her children, her family; she had to run away from the life of the world. If a man wanted to take sannyas he had to leave his wife, his children, his family, his whole world, and escape to a monastery Or a cave in the mountains. For me, such a sannyas has no meaning whatsoever. I hold that after taking sannyas, a man or woman should not run away from the world, but should remain where he or she is and let sannyas flower right there.
You can ask how someone will manage his sannyas living in the world. What will he do as a husband, as a father, as a shopkeeper, as a master, as a servant? As a sannyasin how will he manage his thousand and one relationships in the world? - because life is a web of relationships.
In the past he just ran away from the world, where he was called upon to shoulder any number of responsibilities, and this escape made everything so easy and convenient for him. Sitting in a cave or a monastery, he had no responsibilities. no worries; he led a secluded and shrunken life.
What kind of a sannyas will it be which is not required to renounce anything? Will sannyas without renunciation mean anything?
Recently an actor came to visit me. He is a new entrant into the film world. He asked for my autograph with a message for him. So I wrote in his book: "Act as if it is real life and live as if it is acting."
To me, the sannyasin is one who lives life like an actor. If someone wants to blossom in sannyas living in the thick of the world, he should cease to be a doer and become an actor, become a witness.
He should live in the thick of life, play his role, and at the same time be a witness to it, but in no way should he be deeply involved in his role, be attached to it, He should cross the river in a way that his feet remain untouched by the water. It is, however, difficult to cross a river without letting the water touch your feet, but it is quite possible to live in the world without getting involved in it, without being tied to it.
In this connection it is necessary to under stand what play acting is. The miracle is that the more your life becomes play acting, the more orderly, natural and carefree it becomes. If a woman, as a mother, learns a small truth, that although the child she is bringing up has been borne by her, yet he does not belong to her alone, that she has been no more than a passage for him to come into this world, that he really belongs to that unknown source from which he came, which will sustain him through his life and to which he will return in the end, then that mother will cease to be a doer; she will really become a play actor and a witness.
Conduct an experiment sometime. Decide that for twenty four hours you are going to do every, thing as acting. If someone insults you, you will not really be angry, you will only act as if you are angry, And likewise, if someone praises you, you will not really be flattered, you will only act as though you are flattered. An experiment like this, just for twenty-four hours, will bring astonishing results for you; it will open new doors to life and living for you. You will then realize to your surprise that you have gone through any amount of unnecessary pain and misery in life by being a doer; they could have easily been avoided if you had been an actor instead. When you go to bed after this experiment in play acting, you will have a deep sleep such as you have never known. Once you cease to be a doer, all your tensions and anxieties will disappear. Your miseries will just evaporate, because all your miseries and agonies come from your being a doer in life.
I want to take sannyas to every hamlet and every home. Only then can sannyas survive. We need millions of sannyasins; just a handful won't do. And millions can take sannyas only if sannyas is positive and life affirmative. We cannot have many sannyasins if you cut sannyas off from the world.
Who will feed them? Who will provide them with clothes and shelter? Sannyas of the old kind, which was a haven for idlers and recluses, cannot produce the millions of sannyasins that we need. Those days are gone when society bore the brunt of a vast army of recluses. Moreover, sannyasins of the old kind have to be dependent on society, and as a result they became extremely poor physically and spiritually. Consequently, they cannot be as effective and influential as they should be. Sannyas on a massive scale is not possible if we cling to its old ways.
If sannyas has to be effective on a large scale throughout the world - which is so very necessary - and if sannyas has to be meaningful and blissful, then there is no choice but to allow a sannyas that will not be required to break away from society and grow in isolation. Now a sannyasin should remain wherever he is, acting his role in society and being a witness to it.
So I want to unite sannyas with the family, with the workshop and with the market. It will be a unique and beautiful world, if we can make one where a shopkeeper will be a sannyasin. Naturally, such a shopkeeper will find it difficult to resort to dishonest means in business. A shopkeeper who is just acting his role as shopkeeper, and who is also a witness to it, cannot afford to be dishonest. We will change the world radically if we have sannyasins as doctors, lawyers, clerks and office assistants.
A sannyasin living segregated from society is a poor sannyasin, and the society is poorer for him too, because he is one of its best products. When such a person leaves the society to become a sannyasin the society becomes lusterless.
A worldwide campaign for positive sannyas has therefore become urgent. It is very necessary to have sannyasins in every home, in every field and factory across the earth. A sannyasin should be a father or a mother, a wife or a husband; he will remain where be is as a sannyasin. Only his outlook on life will change; now life for him will be no more than a drama, a play. Life for him will be a celebration and not a task, a duty, a drag. And with celebration everything will change.
I have yet another kind of sannyas in my vision which I would like to share with you. It is the vision of short-term sannyas. I don't want a person to take a vow of lifelong sannyas. In fact, any kind of vow or commitment for the future is dangerous, because we are not the masters of the future. It is utterly wrong to think we are. We have to allow the future to take its course, and we should be ready to accept whatever it brings to us. One who has become a witness cannot decide for the future; only a doer does so. One who thinks that he is a doer can vow that he will remain a sannyasin for his whole life, but a real witness will say, "I don't know what tomorrow is going to be. I will accept it as it comes and be a witness to it too. I cannot decide for tomorrow."
In the past, sannyas was much handicapped by the concept of lifelong sannyas: once a sannyasin, always a sannyasin. We closed the gate of society forever once one entered sannyas. Maybe a person takes sannyas in a particular state of mind, and after some time, when he finds himself in a different state of mind, wants to return to the world - but he cannot do so because the house of sannyas has only an entrance, it has no exit at all. You can enter sannyas, but once in it you cannot leave. And this single rule has turned sannyas into a prison. Even heaven will turn into hell if there is no exit.
You can say that sannyas has no hard and fast rule like this. That is true, but the fact that society looks down upon one who leaves sannyas is a stronger prohibition than any rule. We have an ingenious device to prevent a sannyasin from going back to the world again. When someone takes sannyas we make a big event of it, give him a farewell with great fanfare, with a band and flowers and eulogies. The poor sannyasin does not know that this is a clever way to say goodbye to him forever. He is not aware that if ever he returns to society he will be received by the same people with sticks instead of flowers.
This is a very dangerous convention. Because of it, any number of people are prevented from participating in the great bliss that sannyas can bring them. It becomes too difficult for them to make a decision for lifelong sannyas, which is indeed a very hard decision. Besides, we don't have the right to commit ourselves to anything for our whole lives.
In my vision, short-term sannyas is the right way. You can leave it any time you like, because it is you who take it. It is your decision, no one else can decide for you. Sannyas is entirely a personal, individual choice, others don't matter in any way. I am free to take sannyas today and leave it tomorrow, provided I don't expect any reward for it from others in the form of their praise and acclamation.
We have made sannyas a very serious affair, and that is why only serious people - who are really sick people - take to it. It is now necessary to turn sannyas into a non-serious thing, a play. It should be entirely for your joy that you enter sannyas for a while and then leave it or remain in it forever.
Others should have no say in the matter. If the vision of short-term sannyas becomes prevalent, if people are allowed to enter sannyas even for a few months from time to time, millions of people can enjoy this blessing. It will really be a great thing.
There was a Sufi fakir known for his wisdom. The king of his country came to visit him. The king said, "I am thirsty for God; I want to see God. Please help me."
The fakir asked him to visit him the next day, and the king came again. The fakir told him, "Now you have to live with me for a week. Take this begging bowl in your hand and go every day into the adjoining villages to beg alms from house to house. After begging, return to this place, where you will get your meals and a place to rest. And then on the eighth day we will discuss God."
The king was in a fix. He had to go begging in his own kingdom, from his own subjects, which seemed such an arduous and embarrassing task. So he asked for the FAKIR'S permission to go begging outside his kingdom, but the fakir refused him with a curt warning, "If you cannot go begging, it is better you return to your palace right now, and never come to me again to talk about God." After some hesitation the king ultimately decided to live with the fakir for a week. And for a week he was on the streets of his own city with a beggar's bowl in his hand, visiting the houses of his own subjects, asking for alms.
After seven days the fakir sent for him and said, "Now you can ask about God."
The king said, "I now have nothing to ask. I had never dreamed I would find God only after a week's begging." Then the fakir asked what had happened in the course of the begging. The king said, "Just a week's begging destroyed my ego; it is now nowhere. I had never thought that I would attain as a beggar what I had never had as a king."
The moment humility is born, the door to the divine opens.
It would be a great experience if someone takes sannyas for a month or two every year and then returns to his householder's world. This experience will enrich his life in a great way; it will go with him for the rest of his life. And if a person, in his sixty or seventy years' life, takes short-term sannyas - say twenty times - he will not need to be a sannyasin again; he will be a sannyasin as he is. Therefore I think that every man and woman should have the opportunity of sannyas in his or her life.
A few things more and then you can put your questions.
Up to now every kind of sannyasin in the world has belonged to some religion, to this or that religion.
And this has done immense harm to both sannyas and religion. It is utterly absurd that a sannyasin should belong to some sectarian religion; a sannyasin at least should belong to religion alone, and not to this or that religion. He should not be a Christian, or a Hindu, or a Jaina; he should be a sannyasin of "religion", with no adjective attached to it. He should be the one who, in the words of Krishna, gives up all religions and takes shelter in the only religion there is. Religion, like truth, is one; it cannot be many. And it will be great if we can give birth to a sannyas that belongs to religion and not to religions, not to communal and sectarian religions. The sannyasin of true religion can be a guest everywhere, whether it is in a temple or a church or a mosque, none will be alien to him.
Another thing to bear in mind is the role of the Master, the guru, in sannyas. Up to now sannyas has been tethered to a Master who initiates someone into it. But sannyas is not something which anyone can give you as a gift; it has to be received directly from the divine. Who else but God can initiate you into sannyas? When someone comes and asks me to initiate him into sannyas, I tell him, "How can I initiate you into sannyas? Only God can initiate you. I can only be a witness to your being initiated. Get initiated by the divine, the supreme being, and I will bear witness that I was present when you were initiated into sannyas. My function is confined to being a witness, nothing more." A sannyas tied to the Master is bound to become sectarian. It cannot liberate you; instead it will put you in bondage. Such a sannyas is worthless.
There are going to be three categories of sannyasins. One of them will consist of those who will take short-term sannyas, say tor two or three months. They will meditate and go through some kind of spiritual discipline at some secluded place and then return to their old lives. The second category will be of those who will take sannyas, but remain wherever they are. They will continue to be in their occupations as before, but they will now be actors and not doers, and they will also be witnesses to life and living.
And the third category w ill consist of sannyasins who will go deep into the bliss and ecstasy of sannyas that the question of their return to their old world will not arise. They will bear no such responsibilities as will make it necessary for them to be tied to their families; nobody will depend on them and no one will be hurt by their withdrawal from society. The last category of sannyasins will live in meditation and carry the message of meditation to those who are thirsty for it.
It seems to me that never before was the world in such dire need of meditation as it is today. And if we fail to make a large portion of mankind deeply involved in meditation, there is little hope for man's survival on this earth any longer; he will simply disappear from the earth. There is already so much neurosis and insanity in the world, there is so much political madness all around, that the hope for mankind remaining alive grows dimmer and dimmer with the passing of each day. And the sands of time are running out fast. So it is urgent for millions of men and women all over the world to become meditative in the short time that we have; otherwise man, with all his civilization, is going to perish.
Even if he survives physically, all that is good and great in him will perish.
Therefore a very large band of young men and young women who have yet no responsibilities on their shoulders is needed. And we will include in this band those old people who have laid down their responsibilities and are free. This band of young and old together will first learn meditation, and then they will carry the torch of meditation to every nook and comer of the earth.
The meditation that I teach is so simple, so scientific, that if a hundred people take to it, seventy of them are going to make it. There is no condition that you are qualified to do it; that you do it is all that is needed. Besides, you are not required to owe allegiance to any religion, any scripture, or to have faith and belief as a pre-condition to meditation. As you are right now, you can join it and do it and go deeply into it. It is such a simple and scientific technique that you are not required to have faith in it. All that is required of you is that you take it as a hypothetical experiment, as you do a scientific experiment, to see how it works. And I assure you it works; you will make it.
I feel that meditation can he spread throughout the world as a chain-reaction. If a person decides to learn meditation himself and then, within a week of his learning it, initiates another person into it, we will cover the whole earth with meditation within ten years. No greater effort is needed. Then all the lofty things of life that man is heir to, but has lost, call be restored to him in ten years. And then there is no reason why Krishna should not play his flute amongst us once again, why Christ should not come again and again, why Buddha should not get enlightened under the bo-tree over and over again. Not that the same old Krishna or Buddha will he born again, but that in us we have the potentialities of that meditation which can flower into a Krishna, a Buddha, a Christ over and over again.
It is for this reason that I have decided to be a witness to your being initiated into sannyas. I will be a witness for friends who are ready to join one of the three categories of sannyasins that I have mentioned. I will not he their Master, but only a witness to their initiation into sannyas. In fact, sannyas will be a matter of a direct relationship between them and God.
There is going to be no ritual for initiation into sannyas, so that one does not have any difficulty in leaving it when he feels like it. And sannyas will not be a serious affair; so you need not be worried on this score. It should be such a simple and natural thing that if, one morning getting out of bed, a person feels like taking sannyas, he should not have to face any difficulty in the matter. There will be no difficulty, because it is not going to be a lifelong commitment. If the following morning he feels like quitting it, he can do so as easily. He is his sole judge and master; others have nothing to do with it.
I have explained to you how I envisage this neo-sannyas. Now you can ask a few questions that arise in your minds.
QUESTIONER: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF WEARING ORANGE CLOTHES AS A SANNYASIN?
It is true that wearing a particular kind of clothes does not make one a sannyasin, but it is also true that sannyasins do wear some particular kind of clothes. Clothes don't make for sannyas, but that does not mean that a sannyasin cannot have his own clothes. He can. Clothes are not that important, but they are not that unimportant either.
What clothes you wear has meaning. And why you wear clothes has meaning too. Someone wears loose clothes and someone else prefers tight ones. There is not much of a difference between loose and tight clothes, but it does say something about the mental makeup of the people who wear them. Why does someone choose loose garments for himself while another chooses tight ones? If a person is quiet and peaceful he will go in for loose clothing, he won't like tight ones. On the other hand, tight clothing is preferred by one who is disturbed, hot-tempered and sexual. Loose clothes are not good for fighting. That is why soldiers all over the world have tight-fitting outfits; they cannot be given loose uniforms. The job of a soldier is such that he needs to be tight and smart. His clothes really should be so tight that he is always ready for action, that he feels he can jump out of his body whenever he is required to do so. But a monk, a meditator, a sannyasin, needs loose and light clothes.
Orange clothes have their own utility. Not that one cannot be a sannyasin without being in an ochre robe, but the ochre robe does have its due place in sannyas.
And those who discovered it, after long search and experiment, had a good many reasons to commend the ochre color for sannyas.
We will come to know the significance of different colors if we make some small experiments with them. Our difficulty is that we never make such experiments. Take seven glass bottles of different colors - there are seven colors in all - and fill them with water from the same river and leave them for a while under the sun. You will be amazed to find that the colors of the glass have affected the quality of the water, each in its own way. There are now seven kinds of water in those bottles. The water in the yellow bottle will deteriorate in no time, while the water in the red bottle will remain pure for a long time.
You can ask, "What does the color of a bottle do?" The color of the glass affects the rays of the sun in its own particular manner when they pass through it. While the yellow color accepts a particular kind of ray, the red one accepts another kind, and the water inside the bottles is affected by those rays in a big way. The rays of the sun serve as food and nourishment for the water.
Experiments and research conducted over thousands of years led to the discovery of ochre clothes for sannyas, and it has yielded rich results. Physicists know well the function of colors. They know that the color of your clothes keeps the same color away from it. We think just the opposite; we think that a piece of red cloth is red, but it is not so. For instance, when the rays of the sun, which have seven colors, fall on a particular object and the object appears to you as red, it means that the said object has absorbed all the colors of the sun except the red one; it has kept the red away. And that is why you see the object as red. And if some object appears to you to be blue, it means that the object has repelled the blue color. So when this blue of the rays of the sun reaches your eyes, you see the object as blue in color. So whatever color you have on your body, it will not allow the same kind of color to enter you.
Ochre was selected as the color of sannyas after a great deal of investigation and experiment. The color red arouses many kinds of sexuality in a human being, because it is very strong and vital. On entering a human body it provokes its sexuality. For this reason people living in hot countries are more sexual than others. The hotter a country's climate, the more sexual its people.
It is not accidental that a book on sexology like the KAMASUTRA was not written in a country with a cold climate. It is the same with TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS; it is the product of a tropical climate. People living in tropical climates are more sexual because of the sun. Therefore people who were working on sannyas from many directions thought that sexuality could be calmed if the red color were kept away from sannyasins' bodies - hence ochre was selected.
You can ask why ochre was selected and not red. Pure red could well have been selected; it would have been more effective in calming sexuality. But there was a difficulty in choosing red, true out- and-out red; it would have totally prevented red from entering the body. But the body needs some amount of red rays to keep fit, so it would have been bad for the health to keep red totally away from the body.
There is yet another reason we did not opt for pure red. Even the sight of the pure red is harsh and harmful; we had to be wary that the color of sannyas should be such that it did not hurt others.
Sannyas takes care of everybody and everything. You put a piece of red cloth in front of a bull and see how furious he becomes. The red hits the bull's eyes hard; he cannot take it.
You will be surprised to know that people who work on color psychology in the West have arrived a very strange conclusions. A lot of work on colors is in progress in the West; large scale research is under way. And they have found many new uses of colors. An owner of a department store in America had a study done on the colors on cans and containers of goods he sold. It was amazing to find that even the color influenced the sale of goods in a big way. A researcher kept constant watch on the customers - mostly women do the shopping just to see how they were attracted to various colors. It was found that while the yellow attracted only twenty percent of the customers, red attracted eighty percent. The sale of the same article increased fourfold when the color of its container was changed from yellow to red. Red attracts women like anything, and it is not surprising that this color has been the most popular among women all over the world.
So the selection of ochre for sannyas is meaningful. Ochre is a shade of red; it is less bright, less offensive. While it retains all the advantages of red, it discards its disadvantages. It diminishes sexuality as much as red does; at the same time it does not harm you in the way red does.
There are many other advantages of the ochre, but it will not he possible to go into them all here. It would be a lengthy subject if we were to go into colors in detail. But a few things can be discussed.
Ochre is the color of the sunrise. When the sun is just emerging on the eastern horizon, when the first light of dawn begins to show itself, its color is exactly ochre. When you enter meditation, the first light that you see is ochre, and the ultimate light of meditation is blue. Meditation begins with ochre and ends with blue; it reaches its peak with blue. Ochre is the index of the beginning of meditation; a sannyasin encounters this color on entering meditation. So in the course of the whole day the color of his own clothes reminds him of meditation again and again. An association is established between the two, clothes and meditation. Ochre helps him in going into meditation, which is an integral part of the life of a sannyasin.
If you want to remember you have to buy a particular thing from the market you make a knot in your handkerchief or in any other part of your clothing so it reminds you in time. There is obviously no connection whatsoever between a knot and something to be purchased from the market, but when you reach the market the first thing that comes to mind is the knot, and in association with it, the thing to be bought. The knot becomes associated with it; it becomes a kind of conditioning.
Pavlov's experiment in this respect has become famous. He put a piece of bread before a dog and rang a bell at the same time. The sight of the bread immediately made the dog salivate. Pavlov continued this practice of putting the bread before the dog and ringing the bell for a full fifteen days, after which he stopped putting the bread but continued to ring the bell. But he found to his surprise that the dog still salivated just at the sound of the bell. What has happened to this dog? An association between the sound of the bell and the secretion of saliva has been established, and this association has created a conditioned reflex. Now the sound of the bell is enough to remind the dog of the bread that came with the bell.
We live our whole life in this way; we live like Pavlov's dog. All our behavior is nothing but a bunch of conditioned reflexes, and the irony is that most of our reflexes are wrong.
If, while he is walking, eating or taking a bath, his clothes repeatedly remind a sannyasin of the first color of the meditative experience, then the ochre color has served a great purpose. It is a kind of conditioning, a knot to remind him over and over again that meditation is his way. But this does not mean that one cannot be a sannyasin without the ochre robe. Sannyas is such a lofty thing that it cannot be confined to garments. But garments are not altogether useless; they are very meaningful.
I would like millions of people to be seen in ochre all over the world.
QUESTIONER: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SEER AND A SANNYASIN? CAN'T ONE BE A SEEKER WITHOUT BEING A SANNYASIN?
One cannot be a seeker without being a sannyasin, because to be a seeker is the beginning of sannyas. A seeker is one who is seeking sannyas. What else can a seeker do except seek sannyas, except practice and perfect sannyas? He has to gradually transcend the pains and pleasures of the world and attain to bliss. He has to transcend the doer and attain to witnessing. He has to go beyond his ego and attain to emptiness. He has to transcend matter and be one with God. All these things are collectively known as sannyas.
Being a seeker means he is starting on a journey to sannyas. A seeker is a beginner on the path of sannyas, and a siddha, an adept, is one who has fulfilled his sannyas. The whole of seeking is directed towards sannyas. A seeker is one who is in search of sannyas.
But always remember what my sannyas means. It is a journey to positive achievement, to achievement of the immense, the infinite.
QUESTIONER: WHAT WOULD BE THE DAILY ROUTINE, THE DISCIPLINE OF YOUR SANNYASIN?
You ask what the daily routine of my sannyasin would be. It is not a question of my sannyasin. How can anyone be my sannyasin? He or she will be just a sannyasin. And what would be his routine, his schedule of daily life, his discipline?
If we try to impose a fixed daily routine on a sannyasin, it is bound to harm him instead of doing any good. Someone asked a Zen sage, "What is your everyday routine?"
The sage said, "When I am sleepy I sleep, and when I wake up I am awake. When I am hungry I eat and I don't eat when I am not hungry." And the sage is right. A sannyasin is one who does not impose something on himself, who takes life as it is and lives it very naturally, spontaneously, moment to moment We are a strange people. When we feel like sleeping we resist it, and when we cannot sleep we chant mantras and try to get to sleep somehow. We eat when we are not hungry, and we don't eat when we are hungry, because we have a fixed schedule of eating according to the clock. That is how we destroy the inner harmony of our body, and that is why we are in a mess.
A sannyasin will live in accord with the wisdom of the body. He will sleep when he feels sleepy, and he will wake up when his sleep is over. He will not wake up in what the Hindus call the brahmamuhurta, the divine hour, the hour before dawn. Whenever he wakes up will be his brahmamuhurta. He will say, "When God brings me out of sleep, I call it my BRAHMAMUHURTA."
He will live naturally, easily, spontaneously.
That is why I cannot give you a routine, a discipline of living. You will be in trouble, you will suffer if I impose any discipline on you, because I will determine it the way it suits me, and my way of life can never be yours. If I tell you to wake up every morning at three o'clock, maybe waking up at three is blissful for me, but it will ruin your health.
Everybody's physical organism is unique and different, but we are not aware of it. People say that modern women are very lazy, that they keep sleeping and their husbands make the morning tea for them, but that is how it should be. The inner organism of woman is such that her body clock is always behind man's by two hours. If a man leaves his bed at five in the morning, a woman should leave hers at seven.
A lot of study and research has been done in this respect, and the findings are very surprising. It has been found that in the course of every twenty-four hours our body temperature goes down for two hours, and it usually happens in the latter part of the night. You might have noticed that nearabout four in the morning you usually feel cold. This cold is caused by the fall in your body temperature, and not by any change in the weather. And this period of the fall in temperature is different for everybody. For me it might occur between three and five and for another between five and seven.
And it is in these two hours of low body temperature that one goes into deep sleep each day.
Over the last five years ten thousand people in America were put under observation while they were sleeping, and it was confirmed that this time of deep sleep is different for everybody. So your time of going to bed and leaving it cannot be determined in a collective way. It has to be left to each individual to find out from personal observation what time is most suitable for him to rest and sleep.
And the criterion is that a good night's sleep should keep you fresh and energetic for the whole of the following day.
Even the duration of one's sleep has to be determined individually. For someone, five hours sleep can be sufficient, while another person might need seven hours sleep each day. And there are a few people who do with just three hours sleep and it goes well with them. But this person who completes his sleep in three hours can prove to be dangerous for others. He will think himself a pious person and call all those who sleep long hours idlers and good-for-nothings. He will sermonize that three o'clock is the best time to get out of bed, and say that those who don't conform to this rule will go to hell. Beware of such people There can be no hard and fast rule for things like this. We cannot have set laws about what to wear, about what to eat and how much to eat, about when to sleep and how long to sleep. We can discuss these things in a general manner, but It would not be proper to set rules about them. Everyone should find his own discipline, his own way of living; it should be entirely an individual decision. And this much freedom you must have, that you decide your own way of living. Others don't do it, but a sannyasin should. He should insist on this freedom to be the way he is, and to live in the way that is joyful and blissful for him. In this respect he has also to bear in mind that he does not live in a way that impinges on the freedom and happiness of others. And this is enough.
I repeat that we can broadly discuss the question of a daily routine and a discipline for a sannyasin, but we cannot lay down strict rules about them.
There is a person who is addicted to smoking. The whole world is against him, and yet he goes on smoking. Physicians tell him that smoking will ruin his health, and he says he knows it, yet he cannot quit. What is the matter with this person? Is it that he lacks something necessary for him and smoking provides it? An investigation on smoking done recently in Mexico came to a very strange finding. It says that people who are mad about smoking are those whose bodies lack nicotine. These people are seeking nicotine through tobacco, tea and coffee. But smoking is being condemned as something immoral. But what is immoral in taking some smoke in and out? It is of course senseless, but it is never immoral. He is not harming anyone except himself. It is an innocent stupidity and nothing more. Maybe it is his need; maybe he lacks something which he is fulfilling through smoking. He would be better to discover and know his problem.
Our knowledge of the human body is very poor. It is poor in spite of so much development in medical science. We have yet to understand the body fully, its needs. its problems. And because of this the body has to tackle its problems on its own. If it lacks nicotine it makes you smoke. And once you take to smoking you are in the clutches of habit and you become helpless. It is not that everyone smokes for lack of nicotine, nine out of ten smokers simply take to smoking out of imitation, And then it becomes a mechanical habit, they become prisoners of a habit.
However, no routine, no discipline can be imposed from the outside. It is not possible, nor is it desirable to prescribe a general code for the daily life of sannyasins, as to when they should leave their beds and what they should eat. Of course, some broad guidelines can be given. What is essential is that whatever a sannyasin does, he does it with awareness; whatever he does, he does it keeping his own good and the good of others in view. And whatever he does is right if it promotes his health, his peace and his happiness. And if, on the other hand, it harms his health and happiness, he should shun it.
In the matter of food, he should take care that his food is fresh, light and health giving. He should avoid unnecessary violence in eating; he should not eat anything that is obtained by killing and maiming living beings. In brief, health should be your prime consideration in the selection of food.
Another important thing in respect to food is to learn and develop a sense of taste in eating. And it depends more on the art of eating than on the food itself. On the basis of such broad hints about food one should draw up his menu in accord with his own individuality.
Others can't give you a discipline; it is just absurd. In fact, everybody is the architect of his own destiny. Being initiated into sannyas means that a man chooses to be his own master, that he will make his own decisions, that it is his right to conduct himself in his own way. You can say that a sannyasin is liable to err if he makes his own decisions. Let him err; he will suffer for his mistakes.
Why should you worry about it? If he does things rightly he will be happy, and if he does them wrongly he will suffer. It is wrong to take undue interest in what others do and how they do it. It is really immoral to interfere in another's life. Who are you to come in his way? One should come in another's way only if his mistakes begin to harm others; otherwise, he should not be interfered with.
He can make mistakes and learn from his mistakes.
A sannyasin is one who lives with discrimination, with wisdom, who is always investigating what it is that brings happiness and what it is that causes pain, and who, through his own experiences, learns what is good for him. He is on a journey to his bliss; you need not worry about him.
Sometimes I am amazed to see that others become more worried than a sannyasin himself that he does not err. It is just silly. These self-appointed judges are always prying into the lives of sannyasins - whether they wake up in brahmamuhurta or not, whether they sleep in the daytime or not. But who are they? Why should they be after others?
But it is not without reason they do so. These are the ways to persecute and torture others; it is so pleasurable to them. They often say that they respect the unerring sannyasin, which is another way of dominating him. If the sannyasin wants to have their respect, he will have to obey their rules and live in the way they would like him to live. There is yet another danger to the sannyasin from these self appointed judges. To earn their respect he will turn into a hypocrite; he will publicly show that he follows their rules of conduct while privately he will go on living outside those rules.
I am not going to allow a sannyasin to be a hypocrite. I hold hypocrisy as the worst sin ever. And the only way to save him from turning into a hypocrite is to abstain from imposing any discipline on him and to leave him free to live in the way that comes naturally to him; otherwise he is bound to be a hypocrite. This is how we have made hypocrites of all the old sannyasins the world over. And so they are in a mess. There is a class of monks in India who cannot take a bath, because people around them are always watching tO see if they bathe themselves. They have thus forced them to remain covered with dirt and filth. In return they give them respect. So these monks have sacrificed cleanliness for the sake of respectability. But whenever they find an opportunity, whenever they are away from the watchful eyes of their followers, they hurriedly dip their towels in water and sponge their bodies. And then they suffer guilt and self-condemnation.
Recently a gentleman came to me and said, "I have heard that a certain Jaina nun, who often visits you, uses toothpaste. Is it not deplorable?"
I told him, "Have you gone mad? Whether a nun uses toothpaste or not is none of your concern. Do you sell toothpaste? What have you to do with it?"
In reply he said, "The use of the toothbrush is prohibited in our community."
"Then don't use it if your community does not permit it," I told him. This gentleman himself uses a toothbrush and toothpaste with impunity, but a nun of his community cannot. This is the price she has to pay for the respect she receives from the community.
I will ask my sannyasin, who I think is a true sannyasin, not to expect respectability from the society, because this expectation will create bondage for him. There are dishonest people all around and they will immediately entrap you and make you their prisoner. They will say, "Since we respect you, since we touch your feet, you will have to fulfill certain conditions of ours, you will have to obey our laws."
In fact, a sannyasin is one who says, "I don't care for your society, for your laws, for your conditions.
Now I have started caring for myself, so you need not be concerned about me."
A sannyasin's own wisdom sheds light on his path.
QUESTIONER: YOU SAID THAT SANNYAS IS A BLISSFUL PHENOMENON; IT IS NOT RENUNCIATION. IN MY VIEW, THE FIRST SHANKARACHARYA WAS A SANNYASIN OF BLISS, AND IN THAT SENSE HE CAN BE TAKEN FOR YOUR SANNYASIN. PLEASE EXPLAIN. ALSO EXPLAIN WHY YOU LAY SO MUCH STRESS ON PLAY-ACTING. AND CAN A BUSINESSMAN, WHO TAKES TO YOUR SANNYAS, PLAY-ACT AS A BLACK MARKETEER? AND LASTLY, WHY DON'T YOU USE THE OCHRE COLOR FOR YOUR CLOTHES WHEN YOU PRESCRIBE IT FOR YOUR SANNYASINS?
You ask, "It is okay if a sannyasin play-acts as a businessman, but can he play-act in the same way as a black marketeer?
If he does, it would not be that harmful. He would have indulged in black marketing if he were not a sannyasin, so it would not be that harmful if he also play-acts as a black marketeer. But I think that a person who has the courage to take sannyas, and who is going to make a great experiment in his life, and who is ready to play act as a businessman, will not play-act as a black marketeer. Because to indulge in black marketing one will have to be a doer; play-acting is not enough. The more evil you want to indulge in, the more of a doer you have to be, because evil is painful. To go into it, you will need to be involved in it, to be deeply committed to it. You cannot play act stabbing a man with a knife, because another man's life will be at stake, and play-acting at real stabbing is meaningless.
If you understand the idea of play-acting you will know that even if a sannyasin indulges in black marketing he will not be harming anybody, because if he remains a black marketeer as a sannyasin, it means that he has been a black marketeer and would have remained one if he had not taken sannyas. Therefore you need not be unnecessarily concerned about it. The greater possibility is that one who is inspired with the thought of sannyas will not play-act as a black marketeer; he cannot.
The wisdom of sannyas, its awareness, will guide him and his actions. He will play-act only at that which is worth doing, which is his responsibility and which he cannot shirk without putting those he is responsible for in great difficulty. He will not do more than that. Play-acting will be confined to that which is utterly necessary and which he must do. Unnecessary things will drop by themselves.
You also want to know why I don't wear ochre clothes. I don't use ochre knowingly. Firstly, it is so because in my case sannyas happened long before I knew the ochre robe was necessary for sannyas to happen. And it became meaningless after sannyas had already happened; there was no reason for me to use ochre clothes then. Secondly, if I wear ochre clothes and then I ask you to do so, that would mean I am anxious to impose my kind of clothes on you. I have, however, no wish to impose myself on anybody in any manner. I don't want you to imitate the way I live, the way I function. If I wear ochre clothes and then commend them to you, it would perhaps mean I am attached to them and therefore I admire them. But because I don't use them, it is obvious that I don't have any attachment to them and commend them purely for objective and scientific reasons. Since I don't use them I can be objective and impartial about them.
You say that it was out of bliss that Shankaracharya took sannyas. I don't accept this suggestion.
Shankaracharya is very negative towards the world. His negativity is so deep that he is always trying to prove that the world is mere illusion. To assert over and over again that the world is false, that it is illusory, that it is not, evidently means he is in great difficulty with this world. It offends him so much he cannot do without denying it, without calling it dream stuff. Shankar's negativity is much too deep.
Of course, Shankar talks of bliss, but there is a fundamental difference between my bliss and his.
He talks of a bliss which is attained after renouncing this world, which comes after shedding the illusion and attaining the supreme. But I talk of a bliss which is attained through the acceptance of all, of the whole, of this world and God together. I am for total acceptance of all that is. And there is no place for negativity in my vision; I am absolutely against renunciation. Shankar's bliss lies in the renunciation of the world; his bliss is limited. For me bliss is so immense, so infinite, that it includes the world and God and everything else in it. For me bliss never negates anything.
The last thing. When I said, "my sannyasin" it was not a slip of the tongue. My tongue is strange, it rarely slips. The first time one friend referred to someone as my sannyasin I asked him not to. But I said it for a reason: that a sannyasin cannot be mine or anybody else's. But when I use the term "my sannyasin" the second time, it was certainly not a slip of my tongue. No sannyasin belongs to me, but I can belong to all sannyasins whose witness I have consented to be. And I have a special relationship with the sannyasins of bliss I have been talking about. I don't expect them to be attached to me; I have no expectation from them that they should relate with me in any manner. But I do have a relationship with them, because I see in them the future of sannyas. It is only through the kind of sannyasin they are that there is hope for sannyas in the future.
QUESTIONER: YOU SAID THAT SANNYAS IS A DIRECT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A SANNYASIN AND GOD, AND THAT YOU ARE JUST A WITNESS TO IT. BUT THEN THE QUESTION ARISES IF YOUR WITNESSING WILL NOT CREATE A KIND OF DISTRUST IN SANNYAS. PLEASE EXPLAIN.
You are right when you ask: If sannyas is a matter between you and God, what is the use of my being witness to it?
There is no use if you really understand that sannyas is a matter between you and God, but the very fact that you have come to me says there is no relationship between you and God yet. At least you are not aware of it; otherwise you would not have wandered to this distant place.
Then I am going to be your witness.
QUESTIONER: DON'T YOU THINK THAT INITIATION INTO SANNYAS WILL LEAD TO THE FORMATION OF A SECT AROUND YOU?
You think it will lead to the formation of a sect. No, it will not. To form a sect certain things are essential. To form a sect one needs a Master, a scripture, a doctrine and an adjective for the sect. Besides these, one also needs a blind, dogmatic belief that one's doctrine alone is right and everything else is utterly wrong. None of these things are here.
The sannyasin of my vision is not going to have any adjective like the rest of the sannyasins, who are either Hindus, Christians or Buddhists. And a sect cannot be formed without such an adjective; it is extremely difficult. I call a man a sannyasin who does not have a religion, who does not belong to any religion. And you cannot organize a sect without a religion. I call a man a sannyasin who has no scripture like the GEETA or the Bible, and who does not belong to a temple, church or gurudwara.
And without them a sect becomes impossible, It should be our great endeavor to see that no sect is born, because nothing has harmed religion as much as these sects have. Sects have done more harm to religion than irreligion itself. In fact, a genuine coin is always harmed by its counterfeits; nothing else can harm it so much. Similarly, if ever true religion is harmed, it is harmed only by pseudo religions. And a tremendous awareness is needed to avoid this danger.
A sect is not going to emerge in the wake of our efforts, because no one is my disciple and I am no one's guru or Master. And if I am offering to be a witness to some people taking sannyas, it is because, right now, they cannot connect with God directly. And I ask them to be on their own and not to disturb me any longer when they become directly connected with the supreme. I don't want unnecessary troubles, I have no axe to grind. It is great if you can relate with existence on your own; nothing is greater than this. Then the question of someone being a witness does not arise. And it is of the highest.
QUESTIONER: IS THERE A SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE IN CHANGING ONE'S NAME AND WEARING A MALA GIVEN BY YOU?
Yes, it has significance, great significance. The change of name has great significance for a sannyasin. It is an index, a symbol. Everything in our life is symbolic. You have a name; you are identified with this name. This name has become your symbol; it is identified with your individuality.
Your name has an association with everything that you have been before yesterday. Changing the name of a sannyasin means we disconnect him from his old identity, from his old associations. We say to him, now you are not the same as you were before yesterday. Now you are starting on a new journey with a new name, a new identity.
Since ancient times they have had a small ceremony at the time of one's initiation into sannyas. It is a kind of cremation ceremony. Exactly as we bathe a dead body and shave its head before putting it on the pyre, a candidate for sannyas was bathed and shaved and then put on a pyre of wood.
People stood around the pyre, like witnesses at his initiation, telling him, "Let all that you have been before now be burned in the fire, and what will emerge from this pyre will be an altogether new you.
You ate now reborn, you are now a dwija, a twice-born."
It was a ritual, a symbolic ritual. And because it was symbolic you can think there would be no harm if you did not go through this ritual. You can do without it provided you have a deep understanding of the thing. With deep understanding we need no rituals whatsoever. But where is that understanding?
The change of name is helpful in breaking your old identity. With the changed name you suddenly come to know that you are not the same person now. Every time, while you are on the road, somebody calls you by your new name, not by the old one, vou will be startled to learn that vou have ceased to have your old identity. Every day your identification with your old life will wither; every day a new man will come into being in his place. You will be reminded again and again that you are now on a new journey. The change of name is useful for this purpose.
Secondly, you want to know about the mala and its meaning. Nothing in this universe is meaningless.
It is different if something loses its meaning through long usage. Everything wears out and becomes dirty after being in currency for a long time. The same has happened with the mala. But it is meaningful.
There are one hundred and eight beads in a mala. Do you know what this number stands for? There are one hundred and eight techniques of meditation, ways of meditation, and this mala will be with you to remind you of the hundred and eight possible paths to meditation. And if you and I continue to be related I am going to acquaint you with all the different techniques of meditation.
The hundred and eight beads of the mala represent all the techniques of meditation there are.
And when a witness like me gives this mala to an initiate into sannyas, he only tells him through this symbol that while he has explained only one path to the unknown to him, there are really many others, as many as one hundred and seven. So don't be in a hurry to say that people who are on paths other than yours are wrong. And always remember that there are countless paths, all of which lead to the divine.
At the bottom of the mala hangs a large bead which says that whatever path you follow you will reach, because all paths lead to the one, to the ultimate one. So all the beads, including the large one, are symbolic and meaningful.
When someone in our family marries a woman and brings her home as his wife, we change the name of the woman. Why? Just to break her identity with the past. She comes from another family where she was born and brought up, where she was educated and conditioned in their ways of life.
Her whole past is associated with her name, so we change her name after she joins her new family.
Thus a new journey of her life begins. Thus she is asked to forget her past, her old associations and conditionings and begin her life anew in a new family, a new environ ment, a new world. Now, around her new name a new crystallization will take place.
Whether it is a mala or a new name - there are many such things - they are very meaningful for the journey of sannyas. Unfortunately they have fallen in disrepute through long use, and that is why I speak against them over and over again. I criticize the uselessness to which they have been reduced. You cannot understand my difficulty in this matter My difficulty is that I know how useful they are and how useless they have become. So I will continue to speak both for and against them.
That is my difficulty and destiny, and I would like you to understand it.
I will continue to speak against many things, because they have been rendered useless. And yet through different ways I will do everything to resurrect them, because I, for one, know their basic significance, and their basic significance has to be saved. So both processes will go together. For this reason, will lose many of my friends, and many of them will turn into my enemies. But this will go on, and there is no way to stop it, If some traditionalist will come to me and talk about the importance of the mala, I am going to simply decry it.