Sannyasa – A Sight for Gods to see


50 Amherst Street, the Morton School. M. is seated in his room on a cot on the fourth storey. It is 9 a.m., Friday, 14 February, 1930.

Ananda has come from the Belur Math. He pays his respects lying prostrate on the ground. Full of love and consideration, M. asks him to take a chair beside him. Ananda pulls a chair near M. and sits.

M. enquires about the Math. After polite enquiries, and after being asked by M. to do so, Ananda reads the diary to M. A sadhu has been writing this diary daily. He says that the news from the Math is tidings from immortality.

The reading from the dairy–

Belur Math. Tuesday, 1 January, 1930, 17th Pausha 1336 (B.Y.). Many sadhus and devotees have assembled at the Math today because of Kalpataru day. Thakur’s temple has been beautifully decorated with flowers. Sri Mahapurusha is in a wonderfully beautiful mood today. Ananda listens, standing in the passage from Swamiji’s room.

Sri Mahapurusha was loudly uttering: Om Namo Rämakåñëäya… Jaya Rämakåñëa, Jaya öhäkura Kalpataru… Saccidänanda Rämakåñëa, Saccidänandavigraha Rämakåñëa, Ahaituka Kåpäsindhu Gurudeva.[1] Ananda says to himself: He seems to be filled with Sri Ramakrishna today.

Sri Mahapurusha is seated in the room on a cot. It is quarter to eight. He says, “Once I was living in Allahabad in the house of a Marwari. It was a very tall building overlooking the Ganges. They used to sing: ‘Rama mends…’ They are great devotees and serve sadhus.”

Belur Math, quarter to six in the evening, Friday, 3 January, 1930, 19th Pausha, 1336 (B.Y.), winter.

The passage to Swamiji’s room.

Sri Mahapurusha comes out of the office and walks up the passage. A sadhu stands in front of him. As soon as he sees the sadhu, he says, “Ananda, how are you?” The sadhu replies happily, “Quite well, Maharaj.” Sri Mahapurusha says, “Very good, may you remain so. May you keep fit by His grace.”

Sri Mahapurusha goes to the verandah on the second storey facing the Ganges. He has covered his body with a light saffron wrapper. On his head is a cap reaching down over his ears, on his feet socks and carpet slippers. He walks unsteadily. Behind him is a sadhu. He says, “I cannot walk.” The sadhu says, “You are ill, and you are old in body. That’s why.” Sri Mahapurusha explains his ill health like a child and says, “No. I have some problem with my chest. That’s why I stagger.” 

M. listens to the account of a sadhu whose mind is not keeping fit.

This sadhu is not well. Hearing a doctor’s opinion, he has become mentally ill too. He has been worried for the last few days. He says to himself, “Looking around, I see nobody who can provide me shelter. The refuge of the organization is Gurudeva. He has become child-like because of age and disease. He is dependent for service on others. For many days, I have been thinking of asking Sri Mahapurusha Maharaj to ask Thakur to grant me more strength and greater will power. May he destroy my sharp intellect, so that I may be able to take refuge in Thakur.

“My health is not good. I fear that I will become a total invalid. I pray that I may be able to serve him as long as possible. It is so troublesome to be confined to bed because of bad health. I have seen so many sadhus suffering in this way. It’s one’s own fault to fall ill by working hard goaded by one’s intelligence. I have experienced it in my case. Where do I stand now? Is there a midpoint between hard labour and no work at all? I can’t figure it out with my intellect. All I’ve understood is that the path is to take refuge in Him.

“Thakur used to say, ‘A human being has good qualities as well as faults.’ While living in the organization, not everybody appreciates the troubles of others. But then to live outside also means much trouble. One has to live with worldly-minded people and beg of others.

“Besides, as long as the body lasts I have to work according to my nature wherever I may live. Thus it is better to work living under the shelter of the organization. Let it be what it may.

“At first, when they don’t understand my inner state, they may be critical of the little work I do. But gradually, when they begin to appreciate the state of my mind, they won’t say anything.

“A sadhu’s life is the best – there is not the least fault in it. I’ll have to adopt it and live it. Let there be disease if it must come. Even while suffering, I’ll keep looking at the lotus of the face of Sri Sri Thakur. Leading the life of a sadhu and self-surrender are my only refuge.”

M.: “Yes, there is only one path, none other, and it is to surrender oneself to Him. ‘Nänyäù panthäù vidyate'yanäya,[2] the rishis said. It’s a very ancient Vedic doctrine. The ideal you have taken up is very good. Just see how Thakur is ever with the devotees. He himself has entered your mind and shown you this path and direction as he always does good to others. Understand this and live in the world. This will half liberate you in life.”

The reading continues –

Belur Math. Saturday, 4 January, 1930, 7 a.m. Sri Mahapurusha is sitting on the cot in his room. He has a cap on his head and a shawl wrapped around his body. In front of him is a hookah on a stool with its pipe close to his mouth. He takes a puff every now and then. He enquires about the welfare of the sadhus and brahmacharis who are offering their salutations to him, saying, “Are you well?”

After offering their salutations, Swamis Sharvananda, Nirvanananda, Atmaprakashananda and another sadhu stand in Sri Mahapurusha’s room. Swami Sharvananda is close to the southwestern window, Swami Atmaprakashananda to its right near the table, Swami Nirvanananda to the south of the cot, and the other sadhu is near the door.

Some sadhus of the Math have established an independent organization in Calcutta. This is the topic of conversation. One of Thakur’s sons [Swami Abhedananda] is the head of this institution. 

Sri Mahapurusha smiles with contempt and says, “They have formed a group, Hee! Hee! Hee! How much is one able to offer in one’s old age! I cannot understand this play of Mahamaya.”

A sadhu: “Such and such are its members.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “Let them be. So many people do so many different things. However, you people should go on attending to your duties, holding the teachings of Thakur, Swamiji, the Holy Mother and Maharaj.[3] Let them do what they like. So many people are doing so many things.”

Swami Sharvananda: “He [Swami Abhedananda] is not so mean and has his own moods, but it seems like he is seeking revenge.”

Sri Mahapurusha (excited): “What is he doing? Mahamaya! Mahamaya! He is bubbling forth so much in his old age!”

Swami Sharvananda: “So and so has not helped him.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “He is an intelligent boy. He did not go [to the new centre] for his mind is not there. My Lord, this is the work of worldly people – no spiritual practice, no japa, no renunciation, and no austerity. It is the work of householders.”

Swami Nirvanananda: “So and so is a very good sadhu. He is gradually realizing.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “That’s good. He thinks it over before he engages himself in any work. He is an intelligent boy.”

The evening worship is over. It is half past six.

Sri Mahapurusha is seated on a cot facing west in the smaller room on the second storey. Swami Shankarananda is sitting on the floor. He came to the Math from Calcutta in the evening. He is about to leave.

Swami Shankarananda (humbly): “Maharaj, bless me that I may have love and devotion at His lotus feet, that my mind may stay steady and peaceful.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “Yes my child, I say this to Thakur with my heart and soul. I say, ‘Thakur, correct the mind, bring it unwavering bhakti. May the bhakti be as steady as the Himalayas. Thakur, correct the mind, and bring health to the body.’”

A sadhu, standing in the passageway in front of Swamiji’s room, hears these holy blessings. He says to himself, Ah, what a heart-felt prayer, what grace! He is always thinking of the good of others and he prays to Thakur with his whole heart and soul.


Next day, seven in the morning in Sri Mahapurusha’s room. He is sitting on his cot covered with a woolen wrapper. He is puffing at the hookah rather casually, his mind drawn inward. He recites the shanti path.

oṃ pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidaṃ pūrṇāt pūrṇamudacyate,
pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate.
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ.

Inside the room are the Elder Hiren Maharaj, Nanjappa and a sadhu. A sadhu lies prostrate to offer his salutations. Touching the paduka[5] he prays mentally: “Gurudeva, correct my mind and give it strength.”

The reading continues –

The verandah on the second storey of the old building of the Math, the Ganges flowing in front of it, 5 p.m. The sadhus of the Math are holding a meeting. The topic of discussion today is: Sri Mahapurusha has said to the sadhus of the Math that they should all accept the decisions of the working committee, whatever they may be.

They have talked not at all of the life of Turiyananda Maharaj, though they had all assembled to do so. Today it is 12 January, 1930, the 14th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Pausha.

Sri Mahapurusha is seated in an easy chair. Behind him is the door to the verandah of Swamiji’s room. To the right is the passageway. Sadhus are seated on the cotton carpet. Some of them are in Khoka Maharaj’s room, others stand holding the railing. Behind them is the Ganges.

The following persons are present – Swamis Shankarananda, Sharvananda, Madhavananda, Omkarananda, Shashwatananda, Nikhilananda, Deveshananda, Ishanananda, Nityatmananda et al.

A sadhu had taken down the notes of the talk. They have been published in the Udbodhan, the Prabuddha Bharata and the Vedanta Kesari. After their publication it was realized that some things had been left out that were added later from the diary of a sadhu.

Sri Mahapurusha: “Maharaj said that Hari Maharaj was like Shukadeva. He spent his whole life in austerities. During his last days (while he was nursed during his illness) people derived benefit from him.”

Swami Madhavananda (to Sri Mahapurusha): “Nobody wants to work, as you have to meet a lot of people. Instead, everyone wants to meditate.”

Sri Mahapurusha (entreating, touchingly): “They should be asked to delve a little deeper. This work started when Thakur was in his mortal body, in Cossipore Garden. This work started there by rendering service to him.

“Whoever has come here is a jnani. He is not to be persuaded. That’s what I believe and have also seen it.  I have taken refuge in him. If you want me to speak to them, I can do that.”

Sri Mahapurusha (answering the question): “First, you should take up work with faith in the words of the guru. Only then can you realize that work is also service to Him.

“But my child, you need to practice spiritual disciplines and worship. What work can he who has given up spiritual practices and worship perform? One must meditate on this at least thrice a day: I and He (Thakur) – God exists. Later on this ‘I’ will vanish, it will only be He. At that stage, the Math, work, and duties will all vanish.”

Swami Sharvananda: “Meditation and repeating God’s name are neglected while working and we all know that these are higher than work.”

Swami Omkarananda: “Meditation is certainly higher, as it is a direct way to attain samadhi. Who has ever attained samadhi while carrying a load on his head?”

Swami Madhavananda: “Yes, there are two types of austerities, internal and external.”

Sri Mahapurusha had heard this conversation before he instructed as above.

Swami Nikhilananda: “Maharaj, the organization exists under Thakur’s instruction and the working committee members, or the trustees, constitute the organization?”

Sri Mahapurusha (without giving a definite answer): “Yes, if one has to work, he must listen to one person. Otherwise, the work does not go on.

“If you ask me, I would appeal. I have noticed that if you try to help another person understand, he is never stubborn. These are all knowledgeable men.”

Swami Shankarananda: “Maharaj[6] was living in Puri when he encouraged Kedar Baba to meditate and practice japa.”

The next morning in Sri Mahapurusha’s room. Swamis Sharvananda and Nirvanananda arrive. They salute and stand before him. Conversation begins.

Sri Mahapurusha (to Swami Sharvananda): “So and so came yesterday.”

Swami Sharvananda: “Yes, I met and talked to him.”

Nirvanananda: “He has toned down a lot.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “The Divine Mother teaches by putting one in unfavourable circumstances.”

Belur Math. Thursday, 16th January, 1930, 3.30 p.m. Sri Mahapurusha is seated on an easy chair at the foot of the southern door in his room. His legs are covered with a woollen shawl as it is chilly. He is reading letters heaped up on a stool next to him. Sadhus and devotees talk to him about their troubles in their letters, having been scalded by the fire of the world. He reads them and instructs accordingly. The sadhus implore him to give various instructions with regard to work and practicing austerities and worship.

Swami Nikhilananda stands outside the door with a European lady. She is a disciple of Swami Abhedananda. Sri Mahapurusha asks them to come in. The lady sits on a chair facing south, to the right of Sri Mahapurusha, to the west of the cot. Having offered her salutations, the lady enquires after his welfare.

Lady disciple: “What are your troubles?”

Sri Mahapurusha: “Old age. I am about eighty. Asthma, blood pressure, weak heart. These are the troubles, these are the complaints.”

Lady disciple: “Who suffers, the body or the soul?”

Sri Mahapurusha: “Certainly the body.”

Lady disciple: “Who takes birth and who dies?”

Sri Mahapurusha: “The body! The soul never suffers, nor dies.

“No, I never suffer. I have neither birth nor death.

“This body has come. It has lived. It must go, not me. I am ever-living.”

A sadhu standing outside Swamiji’s room listens to the conversation. He has seen this divine scene standing at the foot of the staircase. He says to himself: This is an intimate disciple of an avatara! Having the vision of God, everyone is liberated in this very life, but it appears that the intimate disciple of an avatara has a greater power. He is already liberated, ever-perfect and of the class of God-men. Even while he is suffering so much, Sri Mahapurusha says: It is the body that suffers not I. I am ageless, permanent and immortal.

The sadhu says to himself when he overhears Sri Mahapurusha Maharaj’s conversation: This is certainly a divine saying: I am the Atman – I have no pain and suffering, I have no birth or death. Thakur made Sri Guru utter these great words for my sake only – to give strength to my weak mind. This is the great remedy for mental disease. I am the Atman, ageless, immortal and without fear.

Having heard the diary, M. speaks –

M.: “Yes, this is the real thing. I am ageless, immortal and without fear. The more one’s awareness of the world is firmed by taking this idea, the more one’s peace, happiness and joy becomes steady. To put it in one word, this is attaining immortality by the embodied being. This is what the eternal culture of India is.”


The reading of the diary continues.

Belur Math, Sri Mahapurusha’s room, 7.30 a.m. Sri Mahapurusha is sitting on the cot facing west. A number of sadhus come to pay their respects. Swami Shashwatananda, Mati Maharaj of Arabia, Brahman Das, Vamadevananda, Ananda and others are standing in the room. Today is Sunday, 19 January, 1930.

A sadhu from the Sonargain Ashrama kneels before Sri Mahapurusha after offering his salutations. He implores Sri Mahapurusha to initiate him into sannyasa. In this context, inspired, Sri Mahapurusha gives spiritual instructions.

Sri Mahapurusha (to the sadhus): “I see that the young men are inclined these days to embrace sannyasa, as if, just by embracing sannyasa, the goal is achieved.

“I say: Why should those who have taken refuge under Thakur be like this? Thakur resides within the hearts of all beings.[7] It would be right for Thakur’s children to cultivate love, devotion and faith on him, to attain spiritual knowledge and experience samadhi.

“That is the fact. There are so many sannyasins! Recite some mantras and become a sannyasin!

“There are rules for it: you have to perform the viraja and homa daily. Even when one has no articles for the homa, it can still be performed mentally. But who cares? One recites a bit of mantra and becomes a sannyasin! How hypocritical that is! The real thing is to merge the mind in Him through meditation, japa, and study of the scripturesto develop love and devotion for Him,

“Thakur would hardly talk of sannyasa to us. But by his grace, he had set our minds right as though we were sannyasins. He said, ‘Put on the gerua at the time of meditation and repeat His name ­– put it away at other times.’

“He never once talked to us of this kind of sannyasa [formal sannyasa]. It is Swamiji who instituted all our external sannyasa.

“Those who are devotees of Thakur do not need all this. The real thing is how to attain devotion and faith in him, how to have love for him.

“There is no need to be worried while living under the shelter of those who have taken refuge in Him. Instead of gaining devotion and faith, instead of longing for them, instead of praying to Him day and night – to ask for sannyasa!

“The gerua is needed for begging alms. One may put it on – so many people have done it!”

Swami Gangeshananda enters. He is Sri Mahapurusha’s secretary.

Sri Mahapurusha (to Swami Gangeshananda): “He is asking for sannyasa. He knows no Sanskrit, cannot understand the meaning, does not know how to read and write. What will it be to him?”

Swami Gangeshananda does not reply. Sri Mahapurusha is quiet.

Another aspirant will ask for sannyasa today. The birth anniversary of Swamiji is only two or three days away and the sannyasa ceremony will be held then. A year ago, Sri Mahapurusha had written to this aspirant that he would initiate him when he came next time to Belur. He was then doing the service of Thakur in Madras [centre]. He has now come to the Math, but he has brought bad health with him. He is under the treatment of a doctor, so he is trying to postpone his request for sannyasa.

There is another reason for postponing it. He says to himself: Sri Mahapurusha is my Guru, God, knower of the heart. He wrote to me himself that he would initiate me into sannyasa. Let him now say it, whether or not there is the need for me to be initiated into sannyasa.  He is hesitant to ask for it. He says to himself: How can I ask of a person who loves me so much, who is so near and dear to me? He will call me and give me whatever is good for me.

“There is no end to Sri Mahapurusha’s compassion. After the passing away of Baburam Maharaj,[8] since he has become the director of the Math, his compassionate heart has been noticed. If one happened to be absent from the Math during the class, he would send somebody to inquire and ask the person to come to the Math. We realized then how great he was and how big his heart was.  I am an ordinary individual. Even for me, he has so much consideration. Unconditional grace. Truly, he is one’s own.

“Once he suggested that after brahmacharya or sannyasa, I should go there (to M.) and live with him. In those days the rules and regulations of the Math were not so strict.

“Only a few years ago, I lived at the Math for three months. Whenever he met me, he would say, ‘Get ready for gerua…’ But I did not consent. So I say now, why ask him for anything? He is one’s own – guru, father, mother, all. He will do what is good for me himself. How much unasked grace he grants.”

On the one hand he has these feelings, on the other, the sadhu thinks that the Vedas talk of begging for sannyasa of a teacher, one who is established in Brahman, a knower of the Vedas. The scripture says, “Uttiñöhata jägrata präpya varännibodhata.”[9]

The sadhu has another fear: Just now the body is, the next moment it may perish. Besides, I have been diagnosed with a disease. Suppose it takes away the body, or it makes me helpless. Then I will never be able to embrace sannyasa.

This struggle of whether or not to ask for sannyasa goes on in the sadhu’s mind. The closer the anniversary of Swamiji’s birthday came, the more his mind is disturbed. The sadhu resolves that he will ask for sannyasa today.

He also says to himself: A worldly man begs for worldly enjoyments from his parents, from his near and dear ones, but I am praying for sannyasa from my spiritual father. I am asking for renunciation of sense enjoyments. He is a sannyasi and I am his child. I am asking for his holy wealth – a piece of cloth, just a loin cloth. There is no cause for any hesitation here. Maybe he will not fulfill my desire because of my bad health. Perhaps he will feel irritated at my request in such a bad health, maybe he will reprimand me, but then, what does it matter? Even when parents reprimand their son, it is for his good.

 The sadhu makes up his mind to ask for sannyasa. And he is also sure in his mind that Sri Mahapurusha will not be able to deny it if he asks for it. Making up his mind, he consults his brother disciples.

Somebody says, “That’s fine. Try for it.” Another says in a light vein, “Ask for the fulfillment of his promise, like Kaikeyi did.” (Sri Mahapurusha had said in an earlier letter that he would initiate him into sannyasa when he visited.) And yet another says, “Yes, he wrote it himself. He’ll initiate you. Now that you have come, ask for it.” And yet another says, “Lest your health deteriorates, or you should die, ask for it now.”

Since his own decision tallied with the opinions of his friends, the sadhu resolved that he would beg for sannyasa that very night. Sri Mahapurusha usually sat in his room after dinner. That would be the right time to ask.

The evening worship is over. Sri Mahapurusha first goes to the office from the verandah. Then he enters his room. Dinner is over. Now, seated on his cot, he smokes. It is 9.45 p.m. Raman, his attendant, stands to the north of the cot. Swami Deshikananda is standing in front of Sri Mahapurusha to make a request.

The sadhu stands for awhile outside Sri Mahapurusha’s room and watches all this. Now, saying “Durga,” he enters the room and stands to the south of the cot. Sri Mahapurusha’s head is bent as he thinks of something. As soon as he raises it, the sadhu says, “I wish to embrace sannyasa on the birth anniversary of Swamiji. Kindly grant it to me. I beg of you.”

Sri Mahapurusha says, “You are unwell and taking medicines. Get initiated later. Allow your health to recover a little.”

 The sadhu goes back to his seat in the room below Swamiji’s room. As he sits there, he says to himself: Sri Mahapurusha is undoubtedly happy [with me]. Since I am not well, he is worried because of fasting and other things in connection with sannyasa; he’s concerned that I might become sicker. This is his worry.

The sadhu is peaceful within. He is delighted.

M. (as he listens to the diary): “It is a sight for the gods to see. Ah, where can one find this ideal in such an illuminated form in the world? The entire world finds such respect for complete renunciation only in this country. Indian sannyasa is unparalleled. The Vedas say: tyägenaike amåtatvamänaçuù.[10] When the world was submerged in sense enjoyment, the rishis of India discovered this great truth.

“First, renunciation of worldly enjoyments, and then God. Thakur used to say: ‘God comes first and the rest later. God is real, the world transitory.’

“A certain class of people long to take vows of renunciation. So this sadhu asks his guru to initiate him. He asks for vows of complete renunciation. He is ill, but he takes no heed of it. He has resolved: Let the body perish if it must, I must embrace sannyasa. Some people are mad for sensory enjoyments, others run after renunciation – for example, this sadhu and Nachiketa.

“This resolve to renounce has become radiant with the coming of Thakur. Thakur is the chief of all renouncers. He could not even carry a small clod of earth from one place to another. Just by touching a rupee, his hand would become stiff and his breathing stop. Where can you find such an ideal state, this heavenly sight?

“So I ask devotees to visit the Math daily. There lies a mine of truth. By visiting it, the mind remains rightly disposed.”


The reading of the diary continues –

Belur Math. It is the eve of Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary, Monday, 20 January 1930, the room of Sri Mahapurusha, the President of the Math. Sri Mahapurusha is seated on his cot. It is 7 a.m. As soon as the sadhu rises after saluting him, Sri Mahapurusha talks to the sadhu.

Sri Mahapurusha: “How are you, son?”

Sadhu: “I am well, Maharaj.”

Sri Mahapurusha (blessing him): “May you be well, son, fit. It is to remain well that, giving up your all, you came here. Live in joy, in great joy. Such joy is not in the world. The source of this joy is Thakur, Sri Bhagavan. He came as Sri Ramakrishna in a human body. You and I, we are his children, his servants, his attendants. Swamiji is his chief attendant. Today it is Swamiji’s birth anniversary. Victory to the Lord, victory to Him.”

9 o’clock. Sri Mahapurusha is pacing the second storey verandah of the Math. He is full of joy. Now and then he peeps into Swamiji’s room, folding his hands in salutations. He mutters, “Victory to Swamiji, victory to the Compassionate One, salutations, salutations.”

Sri Mahapurusha says to the room attendant, “You were given sannyasa many years ago in this Math in Thakur’s temple. This is the real sannyasa. Internal sannyasa is the real sannyasa. Thakur used to give this sannyasa to the devotees. He would make their insides hollow [to fill them with devotion to God]. All the intimate devotees of Thakur are sannyasins, whether they live in the family or renounce their household. He coloured their minds completely red. One day he said, ‘Those who come here with a sincere heart are truly my own. These intimate disciples are all sannyasins. Not one of them is worldly.’”

Sri Mahapurusha walks a little north-south with an unsteady gait. Then he comes back and again stands near Swamiji’s room. He talks again with the attendant of the room.

Sri Mahapurusha: “I wrote to you when you were in the south that you had already developed sannyasa within yourself and that external sannyasa would be given when you come here. Now you are keeping bad health. You are taking medicine and I am worried that the ill effects of fasting may worsen your health. How are you feeling now?”

The Attendant: “Very much better.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “Why did you fall so ill all of a sudden?”

Attendant: “The extra work involved. Besides, I had smallpox, which has made me an invalid.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “Well, have the external sannyasa. It has only to be done once. It is only like an introduction. Real sannyasa is the internal sannyasa. This you already have. Well, the vows will be done tomorrow.

“Yes my child, may there be more and more jnana and bhakti within you, this is my blessing. Submerge yourself in the contemplation of Thakur. Thakur is Sat-chit-ananda and is Paramatman and he is Param-brahman, who is the essence of sannyasa. These are his own words, not mine. His life is this. He constantly remained absorbed in Parabrahman. Submerge yourself in the meditation of this side of his life. This is real sannyasa.”

The ancient tradition of the community of sadhus says to pray for the blessings of the spiritually elevated before embarking upon a holy act like sannyasa. One saint said, “It is really a very happy thing that you are going to embrace sannyasa. To embrace sannyasa, the good wishes of the guru are most important. In the fourth ashrama[11] the main thing is the contact between the disciple and the master. (Jocularly) And then you have bad health also. But if your health becomes worse, I will throw you into the Ganges.” Saying this, be began to laugh delightfully like a child.

Some other sadhus offering him their good wishes said, “The earlier an auspicious work is done, the better. In sannyasa the main thing is the blessing of the guru. It is a matter between the disciple and the guru.”

A person who liked rules and regulations said, “You may embrace sannyasa on your own responsibility. It is the prerogative of the President. He can always initiate one if he likes and the sannyasa comes automatically.”

Another sadhu, disagreeing, said, “How strange! Can sannyasa ever be the responsibility of some other person? God’s grace, blessings of the guru and the heartfelt desire of him who is to embrace sannyasa are the main elements of sannyasa.

“How can sannyasa be automatic? Is a sannyasin machine-made? If a person hasn’t sincerely asked for it, can he embrace sannyasa by another’s wish? What mainly matters is the desire of one who is going to attain sannyasa. To devote oneself throughout one’s life to a high ideal is not possible at the wish of others. The will of him who is to takes sannyasa is the chief element.”

Some other sadhus also favoured this opinion and very happily offered their good wishes. They said, “çubhasya çéghram.”[12] Another sadhu recited a line of the Shanti Path from Samaveda and said, “Tadätmani nirate ya upaniñatsu dharmäste mayi santu, om çäntiù çäntiù çäntiù.”

The reading from the diary continues –

The birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda is being celebrated today. It is Tuesday, 21 January 1930, the seventh of the dark fortnight of Pausha. Sadhus from various ashrams and maths have come to the Belur Math. They are all full of joy. On one side of the Math ground arrangements are going on for a big feast and service to God-in-the-poor;  on the other, are puja, homa and the initiation ceremony of sannyasa are being arranged. Six people are to take sannyasa vows today. They have been freed from their duties at the Math for the last three days. Swami Gopalananda has become the attendant of Swamiji’s room.

The aspirants have fasted throughout the day. At midday they ritually renounced their worldly life near the spot north of the Math at the pumping station of the E.I. Railway. A priest conducted the prescribed ceremony. The shaven aspirants offered their own pindas[13] at their own feet. First they offered the cakes to their ancestors. From today on these people will not be eligible for any Vedic ritual. Henceforth, they will observe the vows of sannyasa.

Many people have assembled at the Math: visitors, devotees, and God-in-the-poor. After the midday offering of food to the deity, many thousands sit together and partake of prasad to their hearts’ satisfaction.

One person made all the arrangements for the sannyasa ceremony, another made sticks for the ceremony with the branches of the bamboo trees in the Math.

One of the sadhus is not well but he is also to take sannyasa vows. Sri Mahapurusha watches everything. He says to his attendant, “Please go and ask him to take some fruit, sweets and milk.” The sadhu takes some fruit and sweets from Swamiji’s room at half past eight at night. 

The aspirants now take rest, but they are not asleep. They say to themselves, We are surrendering our body, mind and soul at the holy feet of Sri Sri Thakur. No one in this world is ours except God.

True sannyasa means to remain in samadhi, absorbing oneself in Parabrahman. In that state there is no world, because then there is no independent ‘I’. So long as there is ‘I’, there is the world. Our insignificant ‘I’ gets dissolved into its natural state, the sea of Parabrahman, having done away with its independence like the salt doll. Not everybody can attain this state, such an exalted experience. The attainment of Nirvikalpa Samadhi is not possible for everybody. It is only possible for a great soul like Sri Ramakrishna, the avatara, the god-man, the superman. It is rare. An ordinary man has to practice it, keeping the high ideal before himself. Having resolved with the help of his intelligence to reach that state, he must practice gradually and regularly smaraëa,[14] manana[15] and nididhyäsana[16] of the supreme illumined form of Param-brahman. This is called abhyäsa yoga, the Yoga of Practice. By following this path one attains that matchless state of samadhi by God’s grace, gradually in one life or many. And there is another way to attain this state. This is the path of the renunciation of one’s all – body, mind, atman, whatever be the action, to give them all to Sri Bhagavan; and take oneself as far as possible, as only an instrument. Yastu karmaphalatyägé sa tyägétyabhidhéyate.[17] Sannyäsaù karmayogaçca niùçreyaskarävubhau.“[18]

3 a.m., the meditation room at the Belur Math, situated in the western portion of the shrine on the second storey. The senior sannyasins of the Math are seated in rows. Arrangement has been made for the performance of virajä homa in the centre. One of the sannyasins acts as the priest. Another sannyasin is the tantra-dharaka.[19] The priest faces east. In front of him is the burning flame of fire in a utensil for homa. The aspirants are seated on three sides of it. The priest recites the Vedic mantras of oblation one by one and the aspirants, while reciting them, offer vilwa leaf smeared with ghee into the fire, uttering svähä with each offering. These Vedic mantras have dual significance – one is to pray, knowing the whole world to be one’s own Self; two is to meditate on the illumined form of Param-brahman, the Formless, the Attributeless, the Decayless, the immortal, the Fearless one, through one’s own Self.

The homa is performed in accordance with scriptural injunctions. Then the ceremonies of cutting the top tuft of hair, initiation into mahamantra, and the special instructions and receiving of the monastic clothes from the guru.

Sri Mahapurusha, not being well, remains seated on his cot in his room. Everybody paid him obeisance by prostrating himself before him. It is 5.30 a.m. The sadhus take a bath in the Ganges and put on the clothes. The morning sun is rising in the eastern sky.

Sri Mahapurusha, in his instructions to the new sannyasins, says, “This sannyasa is of little importance. It is the outer sannyasa. The real sannyasa is internal. Without the latter, the former has no meaning. It is trivial – and there is nothing in it.

“Thakur is the inner soul of all. Get absorbed in meditation on him. This is the real sannyasa.”

The new sannyasins follow formal customs of sannyasa for three days. They do not touch fire. They eat food by begging alms in the village. On the first day, Sri Mahapurusha took a particle of the holy alms from the cloth bag hanging from a monk’s shoulder. One of these days, a monk distributes a little portion of the holy alms to others seated for their meal. Swamiji’s vilwa tala, the garden, and the bathing point on the Ganges are the spots for the new sannyasins to eat.

The highest ideal of life is to attain Sat-chit-ananda and become one with Brahman. Sannyasa is nothing but to practice the attainment of this ideal. The sannyasins do just two things: attain the Self, freeing themselves from the bonds of the world; and work for the good of the world. From today, the entire world is their own, their family.

M. is full of joy when he hears this rare account of the holy vows of sannyasa. He begins to talk in a sweet voice overwhelmed with emotion.

M.: “The sannyasins of the Indian civilization are teachers of the world, so they are to be revered by all. The highest duty in man’s life is to realize God. The founders of the Indian civilization, the rishis, have laid down all social rules of society to keep this ideal before it. This is their basic contribution. 

“Thus, in spite of so many ups and downs, India still holds its head high. The sannyasins are holding onto this eternal ideal. Sannyasa is the jewel of the heart.”

The reading of the diary continues.

Belur Math, Sri Mahapurusha’s room. Today is Sunday, 26 January 1930, the month of Magha.

It is now 7 a.m. Sri Mahapurusha is smoking, seated on his cot. The hookah is in front of him on a stool. A long wooden pipe touches his mouth. He puffs at it rather casually.

Swami Chitswarupananda, the manager of the Math’s kitchen, comes in and tells Sri Mahapurusha what the food offering to the deity will be today. Seeing sparks of fire flying in the air from the receptacle for tobacco,[20] he covers it with a lid.

A sadhu offers his salutations to Sri Mahapurusha by lying prostrate on the ground. Touching the red velvet slippers, he silently prays, “Guru, God, Father, grant me the right intelligence.”

As soon as the sadhu raises his head, Sri Mahapurusha asks if he is well. The sadhu replies, “Yes, sir, I am well.”

Sri Mahapurusha then says, “It’s good that you have been initiated. You wanted it for so long. It has finally come about. May you keep well. Now absorb yourself in remembrance and meditation on Him. Drown yourself in contemplation upon That, Brahman.

(Smiling a bit for awhile) “Thakur is truly Brahman, Swamiji is Brahman. Swamiji is the right hand of Thakur, a rishi-like man, a man who has realized Brahman. A man of such devotion is rare and the opportunity to serve such men is also rare.”

A sadhu says to himself: How fortunate for us! It is religion itself talking directly. Sri Guru, the living embodiment of religion, is before me, a knower of Brahman, an intimate disciple of an avatara. He is about eighty years old. Then there is this holy bank of the Ganges. Only the very fortunate few can recognize him a little. They have the personification of the sage of Vedic Upanishad before their eyes, a Brahman-realized rishi seated in front of them.

It is 8 a.m. A thin ray of the sun has entered the verandah on the second storey. Sri Mahapurusha is seated on a chair with a green cushion in the smaller room to the north facing south-east, his head wrapped in a woolen shawl. His attendants, Umesh and Shailesh, stand close to him.

The attendant of Swamiji’s room goes downstairs, washes a big saucer, and brings it up. He hears Sri Mahapurusha talking from the passage.

Sri Mahapurusha: “I am His son, His servant. Why should I fear Yama[21]? In such a state of mind, there can be no fear.”

Shailesh: “Bless us, sir, that we may also have this state of mind.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “It is coming. It will come, it is already there – it is coming gradually.”

Shailesh: “Well, sir, Thakur’s bhava is working through you after his passing away. Will your bhava work in us too?”

Sri Mahapurusha: “It is already working, I can see it.  Yes, after the gross has passed away, the subtle is doing it all. This really is the specialty of the advent of an avatara.”

Shailesh: “While meditating and practicing japa, I say to myself, The devotees of Thakur who have already left this mortal body, like Maharaj (Swami Brahmananda), cannot meditate, worship, and practice japa in their physical bodies. So it is through us that he is getting these done.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “That’s all right. This too is a state of mind.”

Shailesh: “I shall not think that way if it is wrong.”

Sri Mahapurusha: “No, it is helpful – the devotees who have given up their physical bodies help in spirit, in a subtle body.”

The reading of the diary has ended. Now M. talks.

M.: “Yes, this is right. It is his spirit that is still working in the same way through the all-renouncing sadhus and householder devotees of Thakur. Because Thakur himself said, ‘Verily I say, he who thinks upon me inherits my wealth like a son inherits his father’s wealth.’ My wealth is discrimination and dispassion, knowledge and loving devotion, joy and peace, samadhi and higher samadhi, prema and Nirvikalpa samadhi.’ He also said, ‘You will attain when you know who I am and who you are.’ And he said, ‘Thinking upon me alone would be enough. You people will not have to do anything more.’

“The spirit of Thakur is working within you when you hold Thakur, as you live with meditation, japa, singing of his glories and thinking about him. And since you do his work, having given up everything and taken shelter at his feet.”

M. talks full of joy.

M.: “Ah, what a nice description, as if the Math has been brought before my eyes. I am old, I cannot always go there. So Thakur sends you here so graciously. The Math is the place of those who have renounced everything. Hearing about the Math is just like hearing about complete renunciation. You should keep this picture of renunciation before your eyes as you proceed. Only then will the maxim that the highest ideal in life is to have vision of God or realize the Self constantly remain awake in your heart. The world is the abode of God because of renunciation.”

It is half past ten in the morning. Ananda gets up after offering his salutations to M. He has to go to the dentist with Swami Deshikananda.

Morton School, the staircase room on the fourth storey. It is 5.45 p.m. M. is seated on a chair facing south at the foot of the door. Swami Srivasananda is sitting on a bench to the left of M. He has been waiting here for a long time. M. is resting in his room. Shortly Shukalal, Purnendu and others arrive. A number of devotees assemble.

Swami Deshikananda and Swami Nityatmananda arrive. With affection and consideration, M. makes them sit close to him. They came in the morning. They had been to a dentist in Dharamtala. Now they have come from there to pay homage to M.

A review of ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ Part I and II by M. has appeared in the Modern Review. Mahesh Ghosh is the reviewer. M. reads a favourable portion of the review to the sadhus – it contains both favourable and unfavourable comments. At one place he says, “Look, this is an assertion. It means that they accept Thakur as an avatara.” M. does not read the unfavourable portions and says, “They have to be taken with a pinch of salt.”

Swami Nityatmananda says, “That he has read a number of books on Thakur before writing this review – this is his gain.” M. says at the same time, “Is it the only gain? Romain Rolland’s book is the basis of this review.” Swami Srivasananda and Deshikananda go the Math.

M. takes Vinay, Amulya, Jagabandhu, Purnendu and Balai in a taxi to the cinema house called The Pearl – to see the movie of the Kumbha Mela. Doctor Bakshi has arrived. Vinay and Jagabandhu go to the Bagh Bazaar in the Doctor’s cab and take the last steamer for the Math.


Belur Math,


[1]. Om, I bow to Ramakrishna… Victory to Ramakrishna, victory to Thakur, the wish-yielding tree… Sat-chit-ananda Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna the image of Sat-chit-ananda… Gurudeva the ocean of motiveless grace.

[2]. There is no other path for final emancipation. śvetāśvataropaniṣat 6-15.

[3]. Swami Brahmananda.

[4]. That (Supreme Brahman) is Infinite and this (Conditioned Brahman) is infinite. The infinite proceeds from the Infinite, yet the Infinite remains Infinite. Om! Peace! Peace! Peace! – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – 5.1.1.

[5].  India’s oldest, most quintessential footwear. It is little more than a sole with a post and knob, which is engaged between the big and second toe.

[6]. Swami Brahmananda.

[7]. Antaryami; God as the Inner Controller.

[8]. Swami Premananda.

[9]. Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the excellent ones. – Kathopanishad I.iii.14.

[10]. By renunciation alone some (rare ones) attained Immortality kaivalyopaniat 3.

[11]. Sannyasa ashrama.

[12]. Sooner a meritorious work is done the better.

[13]. Performed pinda dana, offering cakes for salvation.

[14]. Remembrance.

[15]. Reflection.

[16]. Constant meditation.

[17]. He who renounces the fruit of action is called the real relinquisher. – Bhagavad Gita 18:11.

[18]. Renunciation and performance of action, both lead to freedom. – Bhagavad Gita 5:2.

[19]. One who assists the priest in rituals.

[20]. Chilam.

[21]. The God of Death.