Samsar literally means the ‘world’ or the ‘path’. It refers to the worldly life that causes endless cycles of birth and death.
There are two ways to move in any path: either with baggage and people or by yourself. In the first case, you may have to wait for a longer time. In the second case you can reach, even this very minute.
Sannyas is the decision not to carry any baggage while moving. You can have everything, but you don’t have to carry it. When you don’t carry anything, Existence brings to you what you need for the moment. That is sannyas!
There is a beautiful story from the life of Buddha.
Buddha’s disciples gathered around him one day and asked him to teach them the essence of sannyas. He told them a small story:
One man was living on an island by himself. Suddenly he got the feeling it was time to move from the island. He did not have a boat. So he made one with whatever he could find – some twigs, branches, leaves. It was a difficult journey but somehow he crossed and reached the other side.
Buddha asked the disciples, ‘After reaching the other side, should the man keep the boat or discard it?’ The disc- iples came out with different answers. Buddha continued, ‘The man of sannyas discards the boat knowing that he will be provided for as needed in the future. The man of samsar keeps it so that his effort doesn’t go waste if he wants to journey back! A sannyasi walks with his thoughts on Existence. A samsari walks with his thoughts on how to exist. A sannyasi uses the boat to cross the ocean of life. A samsari carries the boat even beyond the time it is needed, not knowing he can drop it. That is the difference. There is nothing right or wrong in this. It is just two different ways to live.
Let me explain sannyas in the context of karma because sannyas is the shortcut to exhausting karma.
Karma is nothing but the unfulfilled actions of your past that pull you again and again to take birth to fulfill them. It is the very cause of the cycle of birth and death. It makes you take birth again and again in this world until it is exhausted. There are three types of karma – sanchita, prarabdha and aagamya. Sanchita karma is your entire bank balance of unfulfilled actions (karma) accumulated over many lives. Prarabdha karma is that portion of sanchita that you bring and come to exhaust in this one birth. Every time you take birth, you bring with you a small portion of sanchita as your prarabdha to exhaust. It includes all your unfulfilled desires, lust, anger, fear, and such things. The third karma, agamya karma, is the fresh karma that you create in this birth because of fresh, unfulfilled actions.
Ultimately, these three things need to be done in order to exhaust all karma completely. First, the fresh agamya should not get created because it only adds to the bank balance or sanchita at the end of the lifetime. Second, the prarabdha with which you came should get exhausted, or fulfilled, in this life completely without a trace. Third, the volume of the sanchita itself should somehow be burnt so that the number of times you take birth reduces. This happens by fulfilling the prarabdha without accumulating the agamya in a lifetime. If the prarabdha is exhausted in the right way, agamya will not get created. The same intelligence that properly exhausts the prarabdha will take care of not creating new agamya. The sanchita itself can be exhausted only by the grace of an enlightened master.
Now understand clearly: if the fantasy of your prarabdha is greater than your intelligence, then samsar (marriage) is the path for you. If the fantasy of your prarabdha is lesser than your intelligence, then sannyas is the path for you! In the path of sannyas, your intelligence wins over your prarabdha and brings it to control and exhaust it. In the path of samsar, life teaches you in different ways and you exhaust your prarabdha through millions of births.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras there is an eightfold path to enlightenment. All eight parts have to be followed simultaneously. Three of the parts are pratyahara, dharana and dhyana. Pratyahara is drawing the mind inwards, away from the five senses. The next is dharana or the merging of the mind with the inner Self. The third is dhyana, meditation.
Withdrawing the mind from the five senses itself can happen only when the mind merges with the inner Self! For example, you can release the foot from the lower rung of the ladder only after establishing yourself in the higher rung, is it not? You can let go of the lower branch of the tree only after clinging to the higher branch. We all think that only after renouncing worldly attachments, we can attain god. No! The truth is, only after attaining god can you really shake off the worldly things. Only after you experience nithyananda or eternal bliss, you can shake off mithyananda or worldly fantasies.
If you can become aware of and hold on more firmly to the higher rung you may let go of the lower rung more easily. That awareness is called sannyas. It is the process of understanding and moving to the higher rung and leaving the lower rung. As you move, renunciation happens as a byproduct. Because you realize that to climb higher you don’t need anything but yourself! Anything you take with you is only going to make it more difficult to climb.
A small Zen story:
Having renounced his kingdom, a king requested a Zen master to accept him as his disciple.
The master told him, ‘I will accept you, but I feel you have to wait until you gain more maturity.’
The king was too impatient to wait. He pleaded with the master.master finally agreed on the the condition that the king would move to another forest and live there. The king followed the master’s words.
After a few days in the forest, the king was unable to bear the mosquitoes in the forest. He bought a mosquito net and protected himself. A few days after that he felt it would be better to have a cot to sit on for meditation, so he went and bought a cot. Then he found that the rain was spoiling the cot. To protect the cot from rain, he built a small room and kept the cot inside it. A short time later he felt the need for someone to clean the room everyday, so he brought in a helper. Then, to keep the helper occupied, he brought in one more person. This went on and on and eventually, he created a kingdom in the forest!
Understand, a king creates a kingdom even in the forest. A samsari goes to places to see the beauty of Existence. A sannyasi sees everything around him as already divine and beautiful. When the samsari starts turning inward, he becomes a sannyasi. Until he finds the burning need for that, it is better for him to continue with what he is doing. For a sannyasi, the mind is happy all the time. What he gets is what he wants. He is always living in the mood of grateful and welcome acceptance. For a samsari, the mind is occupied with too many conflicts. He keeps trying to get what he wants. With intelligence, the samsari can awaken to the truth that what he is getting is what he needs for that moment and for his ultimate fulfillment.
There was a sannyasi who lived in a mountain area. The animals and birds would talk to him and he would respond. They would spend the whole day near his hut and at night would go back to their homes. Three times a week the sannyasi would go to the market place and preach. He spoke a lot about how to share what one has with others without the fear of becoming poor. He taught that Existence would shower abundantly if one trusts and does this.
One day, he found three men approaching his hut in the mountains. They came and asked him, ‘You have always told us to share what we have and how good it is to do it. Now, we are in need of money for business. Can you give us some money which we will return to you as soon business picks up?’
The sannyasi was surprised. He took them into his hut and showed them. He had a mat, one set of clothes and a jug of water. He said, ‘Take these if you wish to. I don’t have any gold or silver to give you.’
The men became angry and shouted at him, ‘So you teach and preach what you yourself don’t follow!’
The samsari is concerned with material things and living life in a limited way. The sannyasi is concerned about death – death of all that is not him: ego, possessiveness, lust, anger, fear, jealousy and discontent. He knows he is something beyond all this. His whole quest is to find this, because once he finds it, he has found the higher rung of the ladder and he can leave the lower rung where the constant push and pull of all these emotions and material things reside.
Sannyas is the search to answer the question ‘Who am I?’ A sannyasi puts his whole energy into discovering the answer to this question. If people ask you, ‘Who are you?’ you will generally reply, ‘I am so-and-so’s son, I am an engineer, I am a professor.’
But those words describe who you are in your relationships with the world. If there were no world, then who are you?
The great enlightened masters who founded the world religions have said one thing repeatedly: Aham Brahmasmi or ‘I am That’ in the Hindu tradition, or ‘Be still and know that I am god’ in the Christian tradition, or Anal-Haq or ‘I am the Truth’ in the Islam tradition. Experiencing that you are god is the purpose of human life.
Once this purpose is experienced, the inner bliss that all these great masters talk about starts happening. Then you understand that the outer world is a beautiful stage where the divine play is happening. There is ultimate freedom from all worldly difficulties. You do, and yet you don’t do, you speak and yet you don’t speak. You cry and yet you don’t cry. Your inner Self remains untouched. You are in ‘eternal bliss’ or nithya ananda.
The problem is that people generally think sannyas is a hindrance to worldly life. They think sannyas is seriousness. No! Sannyas is a certain quality for living life to its optimum. Seriousness will never help one live life to its full potential. Only sincerity and laughter will help. Laughter is the greatest spiritual quality. So understand, sannyas is your very energy. How can it be a hindrance to anything? Not only that, with the energy of sannyas, you are always young. With the energy of sannyas, you are ready for the challenges of life.
Sannyas is strength. It is the quality of supreme self-discipline in this fantasy world.
Someone asked Mahavira, the great enlightened Jain master, ‘Who is more superior, the samsari or the sannyasi?’
He replied, ‘Self-discipline is the most superior! A samsari can sometimes be more self-disciplined than a sannyasi.’
Please understand that self-discipline is not self torture. It is a beautiful resting that happens within you. It happens out of a deep understanding of the nature of your mind and the world. That’s all. It happens from inside you.
When I share this idea, people ask me, ‘Then why can’t we continue in samsar and live with the consciousness of a sannyasi?’ You see, the nature of man is such that unless a conscious decision is taken, it is difficult to bring about a permanent transformation in the consciousness. Sannyas is a conscious decision to transform the consciousness. Sannyas is a conscious decision. That is why sannyas needs to be taken. With a conscious decision, there is continued awareness. Continued awareness decreases the chance of slipping back. Without it, there is nothing binding one to keep on the path. It becomes easy to slip.
With sannyas, you will continue to do what you are doing but in a much better way, in a more confident way, in a more creative way, in a way that is closer to god. Creation is the quality of god or Existence. Existence continuously creates. Sannyas is imbibing the very qualities of Existence, and knowing that everything is the creation of Existence.
source: Living Enlightenment