It is 7 p.m. and very cold. M. is seated on his bedstead facing west in his room on the fourth storey of the Morton School. The Younger Nalini, the Elder Amulya and Jagabandhu enter. M. says to them affectionately, “Here, eat this sweet lemon.” The three share it as prasad. One of the devotees goes downstairs to wash the plate. Now M. starts the conversation.

M. (to the devotees): “What did he say in his lecture?”

The Elder Amulya: “He talked about bhakti, but when he spoke of jnana yoga he attacked sannyasa and was critical of sannyasi sadhus. He said, ‘Sannyasa is not practical in the Kali Yuga. Today’s sannyasin has lowered his ideal. He sits comfortably on a high pile of superior blankets and wears the best sweaters. It’s better to live in the household practicing bhakti yoga, and so on.’”

They are referring to a Theosophical Society discourse by Radha Vinod Goswami on ‘Bhakti Yoga’. The Elder Amulya and Jagabandhu have come back from listening to the talk.

M. becomes excited when he hears that sannyasa and sadhus were criticized. He asks, “What did he say? There is a very big difference between a sadhu and a householder! It burns me up to hear this. The difference between the two is like the difference between Mount Sumeru and a mustard seed, or between the sea and the hoofprint made by a cow. Instead of criticizing them, it would have been better for everybody if he’d spoken well of them. If you have no love and devotion for sadhus, your existence is completely worthless. A householder only brings confusion to things when he preaches. He can’t speak the truth, and maybe if he did, nobody would come to hear him. It would be better to say, ‘Do this and do that too.’

 “He hasn’t been able to see the greatness of sadhus. Is it of no consequence that they have shunned lust and greed? Lust and greed, which hold such attraction for so many people, have been completely given up by sadhus. He hasn’t been able to see what strength of character that takes! He’s only seen the blankets and sweaters. In winter, clothes are necessary. What doesn’t one need when he has a body? In winter clothes are necessary. Does one lose one’s sadhu-hood just by wearing clothes?  There is a difference between self-indulgence and physical need. The blankets and sweater are necessary for a person with a body. Besides, not everyone is an avadhuta sadhu[1] – there are degrees in sadhus also. Is it right to judge them just from their dress? One should rather judge the qualities they have within.

“Forsaking parents, friends and relations, everyone, he stands alone on the road. Has he come here after deceiving the world?  Can anybody else renounce the world?

“Let me see how many can live without a blanket and a sweater for a year. I’m sure they would die. He [the speaker] is immersed in worldly affections and he finds fault with others! Should a person who gets upset when he doesn’t see his wife, son, daughter even for a day criticize a sadhu? Let him live on alms for a year. Let me see his heroism. If there is one dish missing in his meal, the whole house is turned topsy-turvy.  For such a man to criticize sadhus! He who is himself drowned in a sea of disgrace should not see faults in others.

“So Christ said: ‘And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7:3).’ The sieve says to the needle, ‘Why do you have a hole in you?’ Does it mean nothing that sadhus refuse all the joys of the world? They desire a higher joy, the joy of Brahman. Does it mean you have no physical needs just because you are a sadhu? He needs at least the minimum. There is no harm in it.  Does it mean nothing that they have left everything for the sake of God? Is society not getting benefit out of it? Seeing a sadhu, doesn’t one feel that this fellow is preparing to attain to God, that he is sacrificing everything else? Is it achieved just in one life? anekajanmasaṃsiddhastato yāti parāṃ gatim.[2]  Gradually he will reach his goal.

“Thakur used to say, ‘There are two kinds of flies: flies and bees. One sits on excreta as well as on a flower. The other sits only on the flower.’ Sadhus belong to the latter class – bees. They only drink the honey of flowers, which is to say, the nectar of the joy of the Lord. Worldly men are like the other class – flies. Thakur also used to give the example of a pigeon. A sadhu is like the sort of pigeon that won’t let its beak touch another – it will pull away. And then there is the other type. As soon as the beak is touched, it yields completely. Worldly men are like that.

“There is the ancient story of Nachiketa in the Veda. He was attached to nothing – money, gold, horse and chariot, kingdom, beautiful women – he rejected them all and wanted only the joy of Brahman. Nachiketa is the ideal of sadhus: uncompromising, totally uncompromising. If one says that not every sadhu is Nachiketa or Sukadeva, the answer is: ‘Is every householder a Janaka?’

“There are two kinds of people – one picks up good qualities, the other only sees faults. A swan only drinks pure milk. If milk is mixed with water, it takes only the milk and leaves the water aside. On the other hand, put five kinds of food before a pig – rice cooked in gravy, halwa, rice milk, thickened and sweetened cream and sandesh. It will not eat any of these, but will go where a man is defecating and eat the excrement.

“That fellow (the Theosophist speaker) saw no quality in sadhus after looking so keenly for them! He only found fault. All worldly men, even if they are religious preachers, are like this. Shame! Is it right on his part to say these things? Where can a householder take his stand if he is critical of sadhus? Thakur used to say, ‘The daily company of sadhus is a must. Their watch is right and that of householders wrong. So the wrong watch has to be set right daily with the right watch.’ Then alone does one know where he stands. Otherwise, the mind says that we are already right. How can one rise spiritually then? You have to accept the ideal of full renunciation. You have to give the sadhu his traditional respect; otherwise know that you have fallen. Tell me, why has God created a free class of people? For shame! To criticize sadhus! What can listeners get from such men? My lord! They will come to harm, they will reap no benefit.”


The Morton School, Calcutta,

Saturday, 30 January 1926,

16th Magha 1331 (B.Y.).



[1]. A hermit.

[2]. The yogi perfected through many births reaches the Supreme Goal. Bhagavad Gita 6:45.