Chapter 8: This World Is a School
The first question:
When Shankara was very young, his mother would not give him permission to take sannyas. But one day, as he was bathing in a river, he was caught by a crocodile. At death’s door, Shankara asked his mother to give him permission to take sannyas. The permission was given, and Shankara was saved. Please explain this event.
The event is not valuable - it is not even definite that the event really happened - but its meaning is to be understood. And always remember that the events in the lives of the enlightened ones are not just events but symbols; some secret is hidden in them. They may or may not be historical, but they are spiritual. It may or may not have happened in the flow of time, but it did happen in the flow of consciousness. Don’t try to understand the buddhas through history; understand them through poetic experience, otherwise the whole thing is misunderstood. This is a parable.
“When Shankara was very young his mother would not give him permission to take sannyas.” A lot of things are hidden in this. “Mother” means, the love of the mother; “mother” means attachment. It is difficult for attachment to give permission for sannyas, because sannyas means the death of attachment. Sannyas means that a person is becoming free of the family; the mother will now not be the mother, the father will not be the father, now the brother will not be the brother. That is why Jesus has said again and again, “Whosoever wants to come with me has to deny his mother and his father; whosoever wants to come with me has to give up his family.” You cannot be a part of the family of Jesus until you give up your family.
Sannyas means that this life between birth and death is futile, meaningless. If this life is futile, then the mother who gave birth also becomes futile. Not only did she give birth, she created a dream.
Basically, sannyas is freedom from life. And freedom from life means freedom from the mother, freedom from the father, freedom from the family, freedom from the society. All this becomes futile, meaningless. So how can the mother give permission? Will a mother ever give permission for sannyas? It is impossible. It is very difficult. Attachment cannot give permission for sannyas; the love of a mother cannot give this permission. It is impossible to get permission to be free of life from the very source from where life comes.