The Spirit of Sannyasa
By Giriraj Swami

Recently, I heard a conversation (recorded on April 12, 1975, in Hyderabad, India) in which Srila Prabhupada spoke about the true spirit of sannyasa.

Srila Prabhupada began, “You should submit, and you should feel, ‘I am worthless. My guru maharaja has given this chance to serve Krsna, to offer to Krsna: “My Lord, I am worthless. I have no capacity to serve You. But on the order of my guru maharaja, I am trying to serve You. Please do not take any offense. Accept whatever I can do. That’s all. That is my request.”’

“That mantra is sufficient,” Prabhupada continued. “Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, yo me bhaktya prayacchati. Krsna never said, ‘One who offers Me with Sanskrit mantras.’ Yo me bhaktya prayacchati—the real thing is bhakti, feeling, ‘How to serve Krsna? How to please Him?’ That is wanted. Not to see that you are a very good scholar in speaking in Sanskrit or English. Always feel, ‘I am worthless, but I have, by the grace of my guru maharaja, been given the chance. So kindly accept whatever little service I can give. I am offensive. So kindly excuse me.’ In this way be humble, meek, and offer your feeling, and Krsna will be satisfied. Not that you have to show how you can speak in Sanskrit language.”

A guest interjected with a sloka from the Siksastaka (3): “Trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih.” (“One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honor yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.”)

Prabhupada explained further, “Anasritah karma-phalam karyam karma karoti yah, sa sannyasi [‘One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life’ (Bg 6.1).] Everyone is expecting some good result for his sense gratification. That is asritah karma-phalam. He has taken the shelter of good result. But one who does not take shelter of the result of activities . . . ‘It is my duty, karyam.’ Karyam means ‘It is my duty. It doesn’t matter what is the result. I must do it sincerely to my best capacity. Then I don’t care for the result. The result is in Krsna’s hand.’ Karyam: ‘It is my duty. My guru maharaja said it, so it is my duty. It doesn’t matter whether it is successful or not successful. That depends on Krsna.’

“Anyone who works in this way is a sannyasi—not the dress, but the attitude of working. That is sannyasa. Karyam: ‘It is my duty.’ Sa sannyasi ca yogi ca. He is a yogi, first-class yogi. Just like Arjuna. Arjuna did not officially take sannyasa. He was a grhastha, a soldier. But he took it very seriously, karyam—‘Krsna wants this fight. Never mind that I have to kill my relatives. I must do it’—that is sannyasa. First he argued with Krsna, ‘This kind of fighting is not good, family killing,’ and so on. He argued. But after hearing the Bhagavad-gita, when he understood, ‘It is my duty. Krsna wants me to do it’—karyam—in spite of his being a householder, a soldier, he’s a sannyasi. He took it as karyam: ‘It is my duty.’ That is real sannyasa. ‘Krsna wants that this Krsna consciousness movement must be spread, so this is my karyam. This is my duty. And the direction is coming from my spiritual master, so I must do it.’ This is sannyasa, sannyasa mentality. But there is formality. That may be accepted.”

“That has got some psychological effect,” a guest added.

“In India especially,” Prabhupada continued, “people like. A sannyasi may preach. Otherwise, the formula of sannyasa is given—karyam: ‘This is my only duty. That’s all. The Krsna consciousness movement should be pushed. This is my only duty.’ He’s a sannyasi. Because Krsna personally comes, He demands, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [‘Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me’ (Bg 18.66).]. And Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna, says, yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya: ‘Anyone who knows the science of Krsna, he’s guru.’ And what is the guru’s business? Yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa—‘Whomever you meet, just try to impress upon him the instruction of Krsna, sarva-dharman parityaja.’

“In this way, if you take it up very seriously—‘This is my duty’—then you are a sannyasi. That’s all. Krsna certifies, sa sannyasi.”

Hare Krsna.