Purpose of Karma Sannyasa and Spiritual Name

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When you are taking karma sannyasa or a spiritual name that in itself is a step further. Unless that idea comes into your mind you will not think of taking them. Everybody has a name and this name we have for convenience. That is not our real name. In ancient days they used to find the real name by consulting the rasi, lagna, etc, and they used to find the quality of the person, whether he was predominately fire or earth. The spiritual name is the name of your spiritual consciousness and the present name you have belongs to your outer personality by which people know you as Mr so and so.

Karma sannyasa

Karma sannyasa is a big and very great step towards liberation of the individual from ego; not liberation from oneself, or oneself from one’s worldly connections. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is said, you do not have to renounce your duties, your obligations, nor anything which can contribute for the good of others. Shubha karmas, positive, auspicious karmas, should not be abandoned. At the same time a dispassionate, philosophical attitude should be developed. That is karma sannyasa.

If I am going to Calcutta and I put my car in your garage, is that then your car? No, but still you take care of it. Your children, the people you love, property, money duties in society have to be considered in the same light. A fine day comes when you have to renounce these things compulsorily. You have to. So our relationships with each other, everything in the world has to be properly assessed and understood.

Many times, on account of avidya, ignorance, attachment and personality problems, you do not understand the proper type or angle of relationships. My mother is my mother. Of course she is my mother, but the way I understand my relationship with her or any other family relationship is not correct. The way I involve myself in understanding the type of relationship I have with them is wrong. There is a philosophical error. It is there on account of the quality of my personality. This correction when it is made takes you to karma sannyasa.

Karma sannyasa is a type of training when you are trying to understand your relationship with each and everything in the world, and in this you include everyone. You do not exclude anybody. You do not criticize or denounce, you respect everything, but you have to recognize and understand the fair value. Suppose there is a piece of glass and you think it costs 10,000 rupees. All the time you are thinking of the 10,000. rupees and that they must not be stolen. I say, “No. it is not worth 10,000 rupees, but 5 rupees! Keep it on the table.” Over estimation of our relationships with people and the things of the world makes us householders, grihasthas. Once we have a proper understanding of the people, objects and events of life, we are enhancing another area of duty, fulfilment and realization. That is called karma sannyasa.

In the olden days, this karma sannyasa was called vanaprashta ashrama. We had four ashramas: brahmachara, grihastha, vanaprashta and sannyasa. They were the four stages of life, not only from the point of view of self-realization or spiritual realization, but also from the practical point of view. After all, the sages knew that when a man is fifty, if he is still loaded with worries and anxieties, he is going to get a heart attack and nervous breakdown. It is much better that he takes to karma sannyasa or vanaprashta ashrama. In the olden days, there were places they could go and live with their wives. They lived the life of rishis.

In the olden days, there were great rishis like Vasishtha, Arundhati and Agastya. These rishis lived with their wives, led simple lives and had their children and their own tribesmen. If they were extraordinary kings, leaders of the community and politicians used to come to them for guidance. They did not aspire for this; they aspired for a spiritual life. They wanted to know what lies beyond karma and gratification. When you are totally satisfied with the objects of the world, property, prosperity, love, affection, family, eminence and so on, you wonder, ‘Is there anything beyond it or nothing?’ Is self-gratification the ultimate destiny of man? I do not think anyone will accept that.

I know that self-gratification, pleasures, are the inevitable experiences of human life. Even animals may get gratification though they may not understand it. They also run after comfort. You see the dog on the veranda, when it is cold he will come in and crawl under your bed. He does not want pain, he wants comfort. In the same way, a human being tries for gratification, comfort, pleasant experience. He wants good friends, no enemies, does not want disease or death. If God has granted him all this, will he not aspire for anything else?

What is beyond karma? Sannyasa is beyond karma. That is exactly what is going to happen in the western countries. Now they are crossing the border of karma, and as they do so they will not enter into the field of renunciation, they will enter into a field where karma and tyaga go hand in hand. Karma means involvement and tyaga means renunciation. When involvement and renunciation meet, that is called karma sannyasa.

It has nothing to do with orthodox concepts like becoming a vegetarian or non-vegetarian, a celibate or non-celibate, or that you have to speak the truth at all costs. Everybody has to speak the truth or be good at all costs, not only a sannyasi or a householder. These rules do not form a prerequisite of karma sannyasa. Whatever you are, with the same quality and content of your personality, you just enter into a new area of philosophical understanding of life – that is karma sannyasa.

Spiritual name

Now concerning your spiritual name. I had a friend many years ago whose name was Mr Wheatfield. He was my father’s superior officer. He was a superintendent of police. I was very close to him. Many times I told him, “Please change your name, you are not a field of wheat.” He was a very kind man who loved children. He used to gather them and talk to them. He hardly ever took any step against a subordinate, whether they took bribes or not. He did not even know that there is anything in the world called corruption. This was in the 1930s or 1940s. So I told him to change his name; someone suggested Mr Fox. These funny names exist.

I met a girl yesterday called Pinky. I asked her, ‘What does it mean?’ I told her I would give her a good name like Pooja or Arati, a nice name. These names ultimately become a part and parcel of your mind and your personality. In the course of time, they become a reminder that you have to be that.

My name is Swami Satyananda. Many times I thought to take pleasure in speaking the truth. I did, and that led me into much trouble. When I was in Rishikesh ashram I was a disciple, a worker, a senior worker, sometimes the senior most. I called a spade a spade. On account of that I was not popular; so I could not be blissful in truth. At the same time, I could not understand how truth could be so bitter. It should be ananda, bliss, not klesha. Swami Sivananda was also a truthful man, but he was very sweet. I was not sweet, only truthful. One day he said to me, “Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyat – Truth should be spoken but in a pleasant manner, people must understand, accept and listen to it.”

All these years I was thinking how to be truthful and sweet. Now I am trying to practise a little bit. So the spiritual name that is given to you by your guru is something you must meditate on, and try to be that in this life, even if only for a few days before death. Even if you can do that much, I think the purpose of the name is fulfilled.

1987, Munger