Chapter 22: Sannyas: A Journey to Joy and Bliss
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 good-bye 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.”