On Sannyasa

BKG folded hands

From: B.K. Giri

Email Dated: December 29, 2012

Dear Sriman Dayalu Dulal,

Please accept my humble obeisances.

It is very kind of you to write to me addressing the issues you mention in your email.

My first thought while reading it was, “Devotees are so beautiful, humble, thoughtful and kind.” You did nothing to offend me, yet you were still concerned that you might have. That is a very rare quality in this world and you are blessed to possess it.

Srila Govinda Maharaja was speaking one time about our Srila Prabhupada and glorifying him for his humility. Although his Godbrothers abused him and mistreated him constantly, Srila Prabhupada always tolerated it without making any objection. Not only that, he always tried to help them with their preaching, collecting and other programs, putting them in the forefront. Govinda Maharaja said it disturbed him to see the way Prabhupada was treated. His Godbothers called him a “dirty householder”, and he knew of this, but never objected.

I know the type of talk you referred to goes on, and your analysis of it is correct. Therefore it is so important to always try to find good association of like-minded devotees.

As to your comments about the sannyasa ashram, there are some points I would like to make.

All our immediate gurus were sannyasis and they gave sannyasa to many of their disciples. To condemn the sannyasa ashram and declare it has no place in this age is to indirectly blame our gurus who accepted sannyasa themselves and encouraged their disciples and the public to not only show honor to those in that ashram but also to accept the order of sannyasa themselves.

To write as you did “Modern sanyasa does not fall into line with scripture. So it should be forbidden…” is indirect criticism of our gurus, saying they did not follow the scriptures and encouraged practices which “should be forbidden.”

I began a letter describing some of the faults with your analysis but did not have time to finish it. It is still unfinished but I will include some of the points herewith for your further consideration. These things are certainly known to you. I am just offering them as some reminder.

Your wrote:

I was talking about mainly the ISKCON Sannyasis who live like kings and abuse the position. I was expected to make some critism for those misguided souls but it was in no way directed towards the real sannyasis

In your mind you may have been talking mainly about “ISKCON Sannyasis who live like kings and abuse the position”, but that is not what your statement says. Your statement-

“As far as I am concerned this ‘ashrama’ of sanyasa can only exist as it always has in India, basically for retired old men, or some very rare soul. Modern sanyasa does not fall into line with scripture. So it should be forbidden, because it creates a great disturbance to devotion proper and is the haven of cheaters and hypocrisies.”

makes no mention of ISKCON nor does it even refer to those sannyasis who abuse their position. In any case I don’t understand the emphasis on sannyasis, be they ISKCON or otherwise. Anyone who abuses a position of leadership or respect may be fairly criticized for doing so without regard to his standing as brahmachari, grhasta, vanaprastha or sannyasa.

While sannyasa may well be “a” “haven of cheaters and hypocrisies”, I can hardly believe it is “the” haven, meaning the sole haven for such rascals. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura found Vrndavana to be full of such persons in the dress of babaji and others in the dress of grhasta vaishnavas calling themselves brahmins and “Goswami”. Srila Saraswati Thakura found many things in Vrndavan but he lamented over the one thing he couldn’t find, a single Vaishnava.

Our Srila Prabhupada found there were many envious and jealous persons in the dress of vaishnavas “in this Krsna consciousness movement”:

“A mundane person in the dress of a Vaisnava should not be respected but rejected. This is enjoined in the sastra (upeksa). The word upeksa means neglect. One should neglect an envious person. A preacher’s duty is to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendships with Vaisnavas, show mercy to the innocent and reject or neglect those who are envious or jealous. There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaisnavas in this Krsna consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaisnava. When Narottama dasa Thakura says chadiya vaisnava seva nistara peyeche keba, he is indicating an actual Vaisnava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaisnava.” –Sri Bhakti Vedanta Swami, CC, Madhya 1.218

Because there are cheaters, hypocrites, abusers and rascals in all sorts of dresses and positions, even if you meant to refer to “mainly the ISKCON Sannyasis”, I don’t understand why they are singled out for your condemnation as those “who live like kings and abuse the position.”

However, even if that was your intent, your statement did not reflect that intention. It divides all sannyasis into only two categories, the Indian and the modern, without mentioning ISKCON at all.

As to the Indian, you wrote: “As far as I am concerned this ‘ashrama’ of sanyasa can only exist as it always has in India, basically for retired old men, or some very rare soul.”

Srila Prabhupada could not agree with this statement. He heard many statements similar to this from those that criticized him for giving brahman initiation and sannyasa to his mleccha born disciples.

Prabhupada did not believe one should be judged on the basis of his birth, but on his relationship with the Supreme Lord. This siddhanta is consistent with the teachings of all Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharyas.

(emphasis added)

There are gradations of human beings in terms of proportionate faith in the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The first-class faithful men are the Vaisnavas and the brahmanas, then the ksatriyas, then the vaisyas, then the sudras, then the mlecchas, the yavanas and at last the candalas. The degradation of the human instinct begins from the mlecchas, and the candala state of life is the last word in human degradation. All the above terms mentioned in the Vedic literatures are never meant for any particular community or birth. They are different qualifications of human beings in general. There is no question of birthright or community. One can acquire the respective qualifications by one’s own efforts, and thus the son of a Vaisnava can become a mleccha, or the son of a candala can become more than a brahmana, all in terms of their association and intimate relation with the Supreme Lord.

SB 1.16.20

The method of worship — chanting the mantra and preparing the forms of the Lord — is not stereotyped, nor is it exactly the same everywhere. It is specifically mentioned in this verse that one should take consideration of the time, place and available conveniences. Our Krsna consciousness movement is going on throughout the entire world, and we also install Deities in different centers. Sometimes our Indian friends, puffed up with concocted notions, criticize, “This has not been done. That has not been done.” But they forget this instruction of Narada Muni to one of the greatest Vaisnavas, Dhruva Maharaja. One has to consider the particular time, country and conveniences. What is convenient in India may not be convenient in the Western countries. Those who are not actually in the line of acaryas, or who personally have no knowledge of how to act in the role of acarya, unnecessarily criticize the activities of the ISKCON movement in countries outside of India. The fact is that such critics cannot do anything personally to spread Krsna consciousness. If someone does go and preach, taking all risks and allowing all considerations for time and place, it might be that there are changes in the manner of worship, but that is not at all faulty according to sastra. Srimad Viraraghava Acarya, an acarya in the disciplic succession of the Ramanuja-sampradaya, has remarked in his commentary that candalas, or conditioned souls who are born in lower than sudra families, can also be initiated according to circumstances. The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them Vaisnavas.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommends that His name should be heard in every nook and corner of the world. How is this possible unless one preaches everywhere? The cult of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is bhagavata-dharma, and He especially recommends krsna-katha, or the cult of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. He recommends that every Indian, considering this task to be para-upakara, or welfare activity, take the Lord’s message to other residents of the world. “Other residents of the world” does not refer only to those who are exactly like the Indian brahmanas and ksatriyas, or like the caste brahmanas, who claim to be brahmanas because they were born in the families of brahmanas. The principle that only Indians and Hindus should be brought into the Vaisnava cult is a mistaken idea. There should be propaganda to bring everyone to the Vaisnava cult. The Krsna consciousness movement is meant for this purpose. There is no bar to propagating the Krsna consciousness movement even among people who are born in candala, mleccha or yavana families. Even in India, this point has been enunciated by Srila Sanatana Gosvami in his book Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which is smrti and is the authorized Vedic guide for Vaisnavas in their daily behavior. Sanatana Gosvami says that as bell metal can turn to gold when mixed with mercury in a chemical process, so, by the bona fide diksa, or initiation method, anyone can become a Vaisnava.

SB 4.8.54

You wrote, “As far as I am concerned this ‘ashrama’ of sanyasa can only exist as it always has in India”. Even if that were true, why single out the sannyasa ashram for your criticism and call of apartheid for those who would accept sannyasa before they are “retired old men” or living outside the boundaries of India? Wouldn’t your statement be equally true of all the ashrams, brahmachari, grhastha and vanaprastha along with sannyasa? Ashram is, after all, ashram, is it not? It exists in four divisions (five including babaji) for cultivation of spiritual life. If one’s interest in cultivation of spiritual life is strong, within any of the ashrams, then that ashram exists “as it always has in India”, does it not?

I do not understand the material limitations of age and geography you wish to impose on the spiritual ashrams.

Isn’t “India” a territory existing within particular geographical boundaries? In other words, a place defined by material description? Is it only possible to make progress in spiritual life (following the duties prescribed for a particular ashram) within the boundaries of India?

It is incomprehensible to me that those, such as yourself, who benefited so greatly from Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual vision to push Krishna Consciousness beyond the boundaries of India now want to push it back there, thus denying their (and your) own certification as being suited for spiritual life; by living within one of the four ashrams, accepting Brahmin initiation, worshiping the guru and the Deity, offering bhoga and so on.

If one truly believed that real cultivation of spiritual life can only be performed by one of Indian birth, or by living in India, then logic demands that only they are qualified to offer an opinion on spiritual subjects. Therefore, your own opinion, and others like you, who are not Indian or living in India could not have any validity or be worthy of consideration. Applying your material standard related to age and geography demands that your own opinion on the subject be rejected, as you are not “retired”, do not reside in India, and may not be one of the “rare soul[s].”

Furthermore, one reading your statement would have to conclude that only those fortunate enough to reside in India have any hope of making spiritual progress within the guidelines of any one of the spiritual ashrams. The rest are doomed to continue their material sojourn until they can somehow get to India, which comprises the only land mass conducive to making spiritual progress.

In the following passages, acceptance of sannyasa is clearly authorized by Sri Chaitanya to be practiced in Kali Yuga. The idea that it is only for the elderly is also refuted herein as Mahaprabhu accepted sannyasa when he was only twenty four years old, and I suspect his brother Vishvarupa was even younger. I am not aware of any statement by Sri Krishna Chaitanya declaring sannyasa should be confined to the boundaries of India. (emphasis below added by me.)

Adi 15.13

suni, saci-misrera duhkhi haila mana

tabe prabhu mata-pitara kaila asvasana


suni’ — hearing this; saci — of mother Saci; misrera — and of Jagannatha Misra; duhkhi — very unhappy; haila — became; mana — minds; tabe — at that time; prabhu — Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu; mata-pitara — of the parents; kaila — did; asvasana — pacification.


When Sacimata and Jagannatha Misra heard of the departure of their elder son, Visvarupa, they were very unhappy, but Lord Caitanya tried to console them.

Adi 15.14

bhala haila, — visvarupa sannyasa karila

pitr-kula, matr-kula, — dui uddharila


bhala haila — it is very good; visvarupa — Visvarupa; sannyasa — the renounced order of life; karila — has accepted; pitr-kula — father’s family; matr-kula — mother’s family; dui — both of them; uddharila — delivered.


“My dear mother and father,” the Lord said, “it is very good that Visvarupa has accepted the sannyasa order, for thus He has delivered both His father’s family and His mother’s family.”


It is sometimes said that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu disapproved of the acceptance of the sannyasa order in this Kali-yuga because in the sastra it is said:

asvamedham gavalambham sannyasam pala-paitrkam

devarena sutotpattim kalau panca vivarjayet

[Cc. Adi 17.164]

“In this Age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of the order of sannyasa, the offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and a man’s begetting children in his brother’s wife.” (Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Krsna-janma-khanda 185.180)

Nevertheless, we see that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself accepted sannyasa and approved of the sannyasa of His elder brother, Visvarupa. It is clearly said here, bhala haila, — visvarupa sannyasa karila pitr-kula, matr-kula, — dui uddharila. Therefore, should it be thought that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu made statements that are contradictory? No, actually He did not. It is recommended that one accept sannyasa to dedicate his life for the service of the Lord, and everyone must take that kind of sannyasa, for by accepting such sannyasa one renders the best service to both his paternal and maternal families. But one should not accept the sannyasa order of the Mayavada school, which has practically no meaning. We find many Mayavadi sannyasis simply loitering in the street thinking themselves Brahman or Narayana and spending all day and night begging so they can fill their hungry bellies. Mayavadi sannyasis have become so degraded that there is a section of them who eat everything, just like hogs and dogs. It is such degraded sannyasa that is prohibited in this age. Actually, Srila Sankaracarya’s principles for the acceptance of sannyasa were very strict, but later the so-called Mayavadi sannyasis became degraded because of their false philosophy, which propounds that by accepting sannyasa one becomes Narayana. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected that kind of sannyasa. But the acceptance of sannyasa is one of the items of the varnasrama-dharma. How then can it be rejected?

We find the following from Srila Sridhara Maharaja in The Golden Staircase:

The Meaning of Sannyasa for the Vaisnava

Devotee: Since the general order to go out and preach has been very broadly given to all devotees by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, what is the special utility of the sannyasa order in our sampradaya when Mahaprabhu has said that it is forbidden in this age of Kali-yuga?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The answer is explained in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. This is a general question not only for the Gaudiya Sampradaya, but also for the followers of Ramanuja, Madhvacarya, and even Sankaracarya. The Buddhists may not care for the directions of the Puranas, but the Sankara school and the Vaisnava schools accept sannyasa. Sankara was a sannyasi and for the most part his successors were all sannyasis as well. This is true of Ramanuja also, Madhvacarya, and the Visnuswami Sampradaya also.

The interpretation is this: in Kali-yuga, sannyasa in the strict sense of karma-sannyasa is forbidden. Karma-sannyasa means that you leave everything, and that type of sannyasa is not possible in Kali-yuga.
It is described in the sastras that in Satya-yuga, as long as a man’s bones exist, that is how long he will live. Along with the longevity of the bones, the life will be

there. In Treta-yuga, life may be maintained by the nervous system; but it is stated that in Kali-yuga, kalav annagatah pranah – one’s longevity depends on food. Therefore sannyasa in the strict sense is not possible in Kali-yuga.

Previously, Valmiki was engaged in tapasya for so many years that the insects captured his whole body and reduced the flesh into earth, yet he remained present within his bones. Then later, by the help of some spiritual miracle his whole body was restored. But in Kali-yuga, without food it is not possible to live. All penances have been especially adjusted for Kali-yuga, and the only continuous fast allowed in Kali-yuga is for twenty-four hours; not more than that. In other ages, at least twelve days fasting was generally done. If a person had done anything wrong, then according to the Smrti sastra, twelve days fasting was the standard punishment for any sins. But in Kali-yuga, twenty-four – hour fasting is the maximum because without food a man cannot survive.

If he were to take karma-sannyasa while being so extremely dependent on material giving and taking, then he wouldn’t he able to maintain his existence. But the life of Vaisnava tridanda-sannyasa, which is not very extreme – take prasadam, do service – is a sort of modified form based on yuktahara viharas ca, and one living according to this principle can take sannyasa.

Mahaprabhu took sannyasa, Sankaracarya, Ramanuja – all the pioneers of the different sampradayas took sannyasa. That has been interpreted as karma-sannyasa, but still, sannyasa is of several kinds. There is also vidvat-sannyasa, which is considered by the salvationist section to be the highest. Their idea is that when one has fully realized that his connection with this material realm is a negative one, he will finish his material encasement and enter into the spiritual sphere. When he is fully established in this firm consciousness that “my connection with the material world will be injurious to me,” he will then relinquish his body and go away to the spiritual sky. That is vidvat-sannyasa.

There is also narottama-sannyasa:

yah svakat parato veha jata-nirveda atmavan hrdi krtva harim geyat pravrajet sa narottamah (Bha: 1.13.27)

In the narottama system of sannyasa, one has realized the presence or existence of God within his heart, and thinking of Him, he leaves his present engagement and duties of the household and remains outside, anywhere and everywhere – under a tree or in a cave or wherever – careless of his physical needs. He does not immediately relinquish his body, but he takes whatever food he gets, and when he does not get any food he fasts, and in this way he goes on. He leaves the household for good; that is narottama-sannyasa.

And there are also different stages of sannyasa mentioned in the sastra: kuticaka, bahudaka, hamsa, and paramahamsa, progressively. But tridanda-sannyasa is when the sannyasi engages himself fully in the service of Godhead by spreading His messages and doing some good to the public, and that characteristic is different. It is categorically different. The tridandi-sannyasi is not adopting an attitude or tactic of leaving all of the engagements of this world as a result of becoming disgusted with its many temptations. Rather, he is engaging himself in the higher duty of the upper world through an agent, so his body has got utility. Remaining here, maintaining connection here, he is drawing some higher thing from above and distributing that in the environment. That is another conception of sannyasa, and it has positive value.

This is a similar engagement to that performed by the Lord’s closest associates.
When an incarnation of God comes down, His favorite parsadas, His friends and servitors, are also sent by Him to come down to do some service to help Him. There are also sub-agents who have received some engagement from the higher agent, and by moving within this world in that capacity, they can earn more spiritual wealth than those who are very eager to disconnect completely from this material plane. They want to try to utilize their connection with this mundane plane to earn some substantial wealth of the upper house. So like the Lord’s parsadas, the tridandi-sannyasis want to work as God’s agents.The Golden Staircase

Some unfortunate souls, whose ISKCON guru had left or fallen were there, even Jayatirtha’s wife who had to heal spiritually from that was there.

While it is indeed unfortunate that one’s guru would fall from the principles of sannyasa or leave the seat of the guru, it need not be an impediment to a soul’s progress in spiritual life. Many such persons came to the lotus feet of Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja and continued their spiritual journey without any noticeable diminution.

As to complaints about sannyasis or guru’s accumulating assets, or some type of opulence, objections should only be raised in specific instances where there is some factual indiscretion in their use for some unscrupulous purpose. It is unfair to paint all “ISKCON Sannyasis” or, as you have done, all sannyasis with such a broad derogatory brush.

It is not uncommon that a sannyasi or guru will be offered wealth of all descriptions to be utilized in the service of the Lord and His devotees.

Srila Prabhupada was a good example of this and was severely criticized by many, just as those you mentioned are now offering their criticisms.

In his 1961 Vyasa-puja Offering to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada spoke to several of the materialistically conceived prejudices you referred to (emphasis added):

3. Mahaprabhu’s principal conclusion is that renunciation is prime;

Not only that, but it is to be distributed to everyone.

4. The neophytes have no ability to make any solution,

But you are a maha-bhagavata and you have given us direction.

5. Bewildered by ignorance, what kind of renouncers can they be?

They are simply false renouncers, giving up externally.

6. Real renunciation comes from transcendental feelings.

Without such feelings, a renouncer is known simply as ‘show-bottle’.

7. But there is another show-bottle, with preaching as its purpose:

The Lord’s sannyasa, which is the defeat of the impersonalists.

8. Lord Caitanya’s teachings are beyond varnasrama-dharma.

They are Bhagavata-dharma and destroy all cheating processes of religion.

9. Performing dry renunciation, preaching will not be successful;

‘Yukta-vairagya’ is the essence of all Caitanya philosophy.

10. “The sannyasa I have given you” is for preaching in devotion.

The atheistic sense enjoyers are bewildered in understanding.

Second Vaisistya

11. The sannyasis go and stay in the mountain caves,

But you, master, keep your sannyasis in marble mansions.

12. To see a sense enjoyer’s face is just like drinking poison,
But you, master, are giving your darsana here and far away in foreign lands.
13. Mlecchas and yavanas are not allowed to enter Hindu temples,
But you, master, make them the chairman and sit them in the assembly.

14. To cross the ocean is not allowed for Hindus,
But you send your devotees across the ocean.
15. In Kali-yuga’s cities the guru’s instructions are “forbidden”.
But you remain there anyway with your special purpose in mind.
16. The devotees want to go to some lonely place to perform their bhajan alone,
But you don’t accept this in your judgement.
17. Where there is an increase in the measurement of people,
There your preaching work is to be seen.

Wealth is meant for one purpose only, to be used in the service of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. A disciple, regardless of his ashram, will consider all property to be the property of his guru, to be used in his service. Srila Prabhupada was very clear on this point and thus instructed his grhasta disciples that they should give at least 50% of their income to the service of the Lord, the Vaishnavas and the Brahmins (including sannyasis). Srila Prabhupada mentions this standard again and again in his writings and talks. I don’t know how much it is followed by those in the grhasta ashram but my personal estimate is that it is followed in a proportion similar to that of the “rare souls” you have conjectured to be the only true sannyasis.

The next item is charity. Charity is meant for the householders. The householders should earn a livelihood by an honorable means and spend fifty percent of their income to propagate Krsna consciousness all over the world. Thus a householder should give in charity to institutional societies that are engaged in that way. Charity should be given to the right receiver. There are different kinds of charity, as will be explained later on — charity in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Charity in the mode of goodness is recommended by the scriptures, but charity in the modes of passion and ignorance is not recommended, because it is simply a waste of money. Charity should be given only to propagate Krsna consciousness all over the world. That is charity in the mode of goodness.Bg 16.1-3

The major portion of our monetary income, not less than fifty percent, must be spent to carry out the order of Lord Krsna. Not only should we give the profit of our earning to this cause, but we must also arrange to preach this cult of devotion to others because that is also one of the orders of the Lord. The Lord definitely says that no one is more dear to Him than one who is always engaged in the preaching work of the Lord’s name and fame all over the world. The scientific discoveries of the material world can also be equally engaged in carrying out His order. He wants the message of the Bhagavad-gita to be preached amongst His devotees. It may not be so done amongst those who have no credit of austerities, charity, education, etc. Therefore, the attempt must go on to convert unwilling men to become His devotees. Lord Caitanya has taught a very simple method in this connection. He has taught the lesson for preaching the transcendental message through singing, dancing and refreshment. As such, fifty percent of our income may be spent for this purpose. In this fallen age of quarrel and dissension, if only the leading and wealthy persons of society agree to spend fifty percent of their income in the service of the Lord, as it is taught by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, there is absolute certainty of converting this hell of pandemonium to the transcendental abode of the Lord.

SB 1.5.36

Householders who do not follow these practices are known as grhamedhis. Sannyasis who do not follow them are equally condemned. Srila Prabhupada criticized both. I have already referenced Prabhupada’s contempt for the “show bottle” renouncers. He also spoke extensively to the problem of the grhamedhis:

srotavyadini rajendra
nrnam santi sahasrasah
apasyatam atma-tattvam
grhesu grha-medhinam
srotavya-adini — subject matters for hearing; rajendra — O Emperor; nrnam — of human society; santi — there are; sahasrasah — hundreds and thousands; apasyatam — of the blind; atma-tattvam — knowledge of self, the ultimate truth; grhesu — at home; grha-medhinam — of persons too materially engrossed.
Those persons who are materially engrossed, being blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth, have many subject matters for hearing in human society, O Emperor.
In the revealed scriptures there are two nomenclatures for the householder’s life. One is grhastha, and the other is grhamedhi. The grhasthas are those who live together with wife and children but live transcendentally for realizing the ultimate truth. The grhamedhis, however, are those who live only for the benefit of the family members, extended or centralized, and thus are envious of others. The word medhi indicates jealousy of others. The grhamedhis, being interested in family affairs only, are certainly envious of others. Therefore, one grhamedhi is not on good terms with another grhamedhi, and in the extended form, one community, society or nation is not on good terms with another counterpart of selfish interest. In the age of Kali, all the householders are jealous of one another because they are blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth. They have many subject matters for hearing — political, scientific, social, economic and so on — but due to a poor fund of knowledge, they set aside the question of the ultimate miseries of life, namely miseries of birth, death, old age and disease. Factually, the human life is meant for making an ultimate solution to birth, death, old age and disease, but the grhamedhis, being illusioned by the material nature, forget everything about self-realization. The ultimate solution to the problems of life is to go back home, back to Godhead, and thus, as stated in the Bhagavad-gita (8.15), the miseries of material existence — birth, death, old age and disease — are removed.SB 2.1.2

Srila Saraswati Thakura, in his Dusta-Mana describes how all Vaishnavas should live regardless of their ashram:

yatha-yogya bhoga, nahi tatha roga,

‘anasakta’ sei, ki ar kahabo

‘asakti-rohita,’ ‘sambandha-sahita,’

visaya-samuha sakali ‘madhava’


yatha-yogya — whatever is appropriate for survival; bhoga — enjoyment; nahi — is not; tatha — in that way; roga — the disease (of materialism); anasakta — detached; sei — he; ki ar — what more; kahabo — shall I say; asakti-rohita — devoid of attachment; sambandha-sahita — endowed with a relationship; visaya-samuha — the multitude of sense objects; sakali — all; madhava — Lord Madhava.


One is indeed detached who moderately partakes of worldly things that are deemed necessary for living in devotional service; a devotee acting in that manner does not fall prey to the disease of material infatuation. Thus devoid of selfish attachment, and endowed with the ability to see things in relation to the Lord, all sense objects are then directly perceived as being Lord Madhava Himself.—Dusta-Mana, 12

Finally, what is sannyasa?

jneyah sa nitya-sannyasi

yo na dvesti na kanksati

nirdvandvo hi maha-baho

sukham bandhat pramucyate


jneyah — should be known; sah — he; nitya — always; sannyasi — renouncer; yah — who; na — never; dvesti — abhors; na — nor; kanksati — desires; nirdvandvah — free from all dualities; hi — certainly; maha-baho — O mighty — armed one; sukham — happily; bandhat — from bondage; pramucyate — is completely liberated.


One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, free from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.

Bg 5.3

sri-bhagavan uvaca

anasritah karma-phalam

karyam karma karoti yah

sa sannyasi ca yogi ca

na niragnir na cakriyah


sri — bhagavan uvaca — the Lord said; anasritah — without taking shelter; karma-phalam — of the result of work; karyam — obligatory; karma — work; karoti — performs; yah — one who; sah — he; sannyasi — in the renounced order; ca — also; yogi — mystic; ca — also; na — not; nih — without; agnih — fire; na — nor; ca — also; akriyah — without duty.


The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.

Bg 6.1

And, from the Purport:

The sannyasis sometimes artificially think that they have become liberated from all material duties, and therefore they cease to perform agnihotra yajnas (fire sacrifices), but actually they are self-interested because their goal is to become one with the impersonal Brahman. Such a desire is greater than any material desire, but it is not without self-interest. Similarly, the mystic yogi who practices the yoga system with half-open eyes, ceasing all material activities, desires some satisfaction for his personal self. But a person acting in Krsna consciousness works for the satisfaction of the whole, without self-interest. A Krsna conscious person has no desire for self-satisfaction. His criterion of success is the satisfaction of Krsna, and thus he is the perfect sannyasi, or perfect yogi. Lord Caitanya, the highest perfectional symbol of renunciation, prays in this way:

na dhanam na janam na sundarim

kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye

mama janmani janmanisvare

bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi

[Cc. Antya 20.29, Siksastaka 4]

“O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women. Nor do I want any number of followers. What I want only is the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth.”

In this verse from His Sikshatakam, Mahaprabhu is not speaking only to those in the sannyasa ashram, he is speaking to anyone who desires progress in Krishna Consciousness. Whether a brahmachari, a grhastha or sannyasi, everyone desirous of progress in Krishna Consciousness will have to leave any interest in accumulating wealth, enjoying beautiful women, etc. for one interest only “the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth.”

From the scriptures quoted above it is clear that the inherent principle of sannyasa, wholesale dedication to the service of Sri Krishna, is a necessary part of every practitioner of Krishna Consciousness.

I was talking about mainly the ISKCON Sannyasis who live like kings and abuse the position. I was expected to make some criticism for those misguided souls

In my personal opinion, it is better to elevate conversations rather than adopt the expected criticisms, which tend to feed the misconceptions of the ignorant masses. Within ISKCON I believe there must be sannyasis worthy of our respect. It may be helpful to look at the example of Srila Prabhupada who, by all external measures, was living like a king, although a sannyasi. He was personally criticized for this by many who did not care to look any deeper than the external trappings of his preaching life.

As you are well aware, Srila Prabhupada encouraged us in the practice of yukta vairagya:

“One should not be attached to material opulence, but material opulence may be accepted in the Krsna consciousness movement to facilitate the propagation of the movement. In other words, material opulence may be accepted as yukta-vairagya, that is, for renunciation.

SB 4.29.55

I suspect it is on this basis you feel justified in taking up the practice of music making and even encouraging, almost insisting, that I, a sannyasi, listen to the sweet tunes you and your guitar, etc. have produced, even knowing full well sannyasis are all but forbidden to engage in such practices.

Thus, it is irrelevant whether a sannyasi is living as a king or a pauper as long as he is fully dedicated to serving the Lord and His devotees:

subhasubha-phalair evam

moksyase karma-bandhanaih


vimukto mam upaisyasi


subha — from auspicious; asubha — and inauspicious; phalaih — results; evam — thus; moksyase — you will become free; karma — of work; bandhanaih — from the bondage; sannyasa — of renunciation; yoga — the yoga; yukta-atma — having the mind firmly set on; vimuktah — liberated; mam — to Me; upaisyasi — you will attain.


In this way you will be freed from bondage to work and its auspicious and inauspicious results. With your mind fixed on Me in this principle of renunciation, you will be liberated and come to Me.


One who acts in Krsna consciousness under superior direction is called yukta-vairagya. The technical term is yukta-vairagya. This is further explained by Rupa Gosvami as follows:

anasaktasya visayan

yatharham upayunjatah

nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe

yuktam vairagyam ucyate

(Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.255)

Rupa Gosvami says that as long as we are in this material world we have to act; we cannot cease acting. Therefore if actions are performed and the fruits are given to Krsna, then that is called yukta-vairagya. Actually situated in renunciation, such activities clear the mirror of the mind, and as the actor gradually makes progress in spiritual realization he becomes completely surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore at the end he becomes liberated, and this liberation is also specified. By this liberation he does not become one with the brahma-jyotir, but rather enters into the planet of the Supreme Lord. It is clearly mentioned here: mam upaisyasi, “he comes to Me,” back home, back to Godhead. There are five different stages of liberation, and here it is specified that the devotee who has always lived his lifetime here under the direction of the Supreme Lord, as stated, has evolved to the point where he can, after quitting this body, go back to Godhead and engage directly in the association of the Supreme Lord.

Anyone who has no interest but to dedicate his life to the service of the Lord is actually a sannyasi. Such a person always thinks of himself as an eternal servant, dependent on the supreme will of the Lord. As such, whatever he does, he does it for the benefit of the Lord. Whatever action he performs, he performs it as service to the Lord. He does not give serious attention to the fruitive activities or prescribed duties mentioned in the Vedas. For ordinary persons it is obligatory to execute the prescribed duties mentioned in the Vedas, but although a pure devotee who is completely engaged in the service of the Lord may sometimes appear to go against the prescribed Vedic duties, actually it is not so.

It is said, therefore, by Vaisnava authorities that even the most intelligent person cannot understand the plans and activities of a pure devotee. The exact words are tanra vakya, kriya, mudra vijneha na bujhaya (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 23.39). A person who is thus always engaged in the service of the Lord or is always thinking and planning how to serve the Lord is to be considered completely liberated at present, and in the future his going back home, back to Godhead, is guaranteed. He is above all materialistic criticism, just as Krsna is above all criticism.

Bg 9.28

All glories to the sannyasa ashrama.

Yes. The sannyasis are the arms and legs carrying out the work directed by our exalted Sri Guru Varga.

During an installation ceremony for the Deities in Veracruz, Mexico Srila Govinda Maharaja suggested I leave his company to attend the ceremony. When I modestly offered that there would be no value to my presence there he told me “The presence of a sannyasi is always auspicious.”

Sriman Mahaprabhu has given us the full and final verdict as to our highest aspiration in a very concise form:

naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
naham varni na ca grha-patir no vanastho yatir va
kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah

“‘I am not a brahmana, I am not a ksatriya, I am not a vaisya or a sudra. Nor am I a brahmacari, a householder, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi. I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.'”Madhya 13.80

Again I will say that I was very touched by your thoughtful email explaining some of the circumstances that led to the statements you posted, coupled with your natural humility, concern for my reaction and your true appreciation for the sannyasa ashram.

I have known you for a long time. I have never seen anything offensive in your behavior or words. On the contrary, you have always taken great pains, as you are doing now, to offer due respect to everyone.

I am a very lowly servant of the Lord’s devotees. If I should ever fall prey to the illusion that I am worthy of being offended, and thereby also worthy of offering forgiveness, I pray you will remind me that I ha