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Yadunandana prabhu to take sannyasa at Radhadesh

Monday, 23 February 2009 / Published in Announcements / 6,889 views

By Manohara Dasa

We are very happy to announce that ISKCON’s GBC body approved the sannyasa initiation of Yadunandana prabhu (the principal of Bhaktivedanta College).

His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami will initiate Yadunandana prabhu into the sannyasa order of life in Radhadesh on the all auspicious occasion of the Gaura Purnima festival on 10 March 2009.

His Holiness Prahladananda Swami, His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami and His Holiness Kadamba Kanana Swami will be invited to give Srimad-Bhagavatam class. The program will include: a fire ceremony, abhiseka of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, maha-harinam, theater, gift ceremony, bhajans, kirtans, and of course a delicious feast.

Everyone is cordially invited to attend this wonderful event and to spread the good news as far and as wide as you can so that all those who would like to come can make plans and necessary arrangements.

24 Responses to “Yadunandana prabhu to take sannyasa at Radhadesh”

  1. isvaradas says :

    I wonder why making a big announcement about someone taking sanyassa of life. Sanyassa order of life is consider to be a social suicide, when someone turns his back completely to the material world and dedicates his mind, life and body to the Supreme Lord Krishna. Somehow in ISKCON we’ve made it to be some big social position.

  2. It is a good question, Isvaradas.

    Of course the life of devotional service is renunciation of material engagements. Srila Prabhupada initiated young sannyasis at great risk, because he said “without sannyasis there is no life”.

    The sannyasis in ISKCON do a great deal of important preaching. Their sannyas often (not always) makes them high-profile preachers and helps them increase their service to Prabhupada’s preaching mission.

    It may seem like a kind of paradox that in ISKCON sannyasis are given more facility to control material energy (rather than wandering alone and penniless as we imagine sannyasis generally do), but I think the idea is that, first, in a society that truly values detachment from material engagements like family life and economic development, those who have dedicated themselves to completely spiritual pursuits are naturally given honor and recognition as the spiritual masters of the other varnas and asramas, and second, the facilities we give sannyasis in ISKCON are meant to be used by them to increase ISKCON’s preaching work and not for material sense gratification.

    It might seem like they are being given honor and wealth, but a lot more honor and wealth is available to successful materialists like film stars, captains of industry, political leaders, etc. It is nice that we have a society that at least recognizes the value of renunciation and gives due deference to those in the renounced order. Society runs better if sannyasis are properly respected and offered facility for their preaching service.

    And we favor yukta vairagya. To go off and live in a cave and chant 100 rounds a day is certainly exalted, but in ISKCON Srila Prabhupada really preferred his disciples to preach constantly as he was doing, as gosthyanandis.

    Of course the perils are there for any sannyasi who becomes attached to whatever material comforts or honor is afforded him. A sannyasi still has to remain fearless and fixed in the mood of na dhanam na janam na sundarim… We like to think they *could* go off and live in a cave if they did not have this more important preaching work to do.

    We have many great sannyasi preachers in ISKCON who deserve our respect, service and attentive listening to the spiritual instructions they give.

    And we also have dedicated householder preachers who also deserve all honor and respect.

  3. ccd says :

    I guess anytime anyone gets any initiation in the Vaisnava path other Vaisnavas are happy. Especially devotees are happy to see others being rightfully situated as is the case of Yadunandana Prabhu. He is such a friendly and smiling person, hard to resist the spiritual charm of this naistika brahmacari.

    But even if it was not him. say someone who is giving up life of sense gratification for good. Still its the cause of celebration and an opportunity to do kirtan and discuss Bhagavata.

    Not only sannyasi preachers are the people who deserve respect. Certainly all the preachers or any steady devotees do if they follow principles of Bhagavatam, so certainly Akruranatha Prabhu is right, that dedicated householder preachers are to get all respect. As well as even a newcomers who chants for the first time.

    But the celebration is about victory of knowledge and bhakti over maya. We are happy for anyone to overcome maya — thus be a sannyasi (even if in white). This happiness is not a material thing.

    In the same time the tears that Bhaktisiddhanta sarasvati cried, when just at the time of initiation into sannyas one of his disciples was ‘snatched’ by his wife, were also not material. We should regret and cry out in compassion if we see such a disaster: “I could not deliver this soul” — cried Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.

    And exactly because it will definitely not going happen in this case, is a rightful cause for celebration! After all all his friends will be there, friends for many years. Nothing to be sorry about is there?

  4. Yugal Kishor Dasa says :

    Hare Krishna prabhus!

    Just as we are honoring someone who is entering the sannyasa order of life, we should also honor those who take any asrama. In ISKCON we have accorded, mostly, honors to sannyasis, and rarely to anyone else.

    I think it is time that we also honor ISKCON members who take up the grhastha order, since it is in this asrama that we are supposed to produce Krishna conscious children, and create wealth that should benefit, not only ourselves but ultimately ISKCON.

    Moreover, being an examplary grhasthas is as important as being an examplary sannyasis. The materialists are utterly confused about following leaders, in all spheres of human life, e.g. religious, political, in business and economics.

    In comparision to sannyasis, grhasthas have the double duty and responsibility of being role models to the world because not only are they called upon to be leaders in the secular world, but also in the ethical, religious and spiritual realm of human society.

    In a sense, it is easier to renounce “making wealth” than producing wealth. Grhasthas should be encourage (and given the credit) of being pillars of our ISKCON communities all over the world.

    Hence, I concur with Akruranath’s prabhus words “And we also have dedicated householder preachers who also deserve all honor and respect.”

    Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
    Yugala Kishor dasa / Alachua, FL

  5. We say that to be a true grhastha Vaisnava (and not a grhamedhi) is as good as being a sannyasi. One who actually controls his senses in married life and uses sex only to beget Krishna-conscious children is also a brahmacari in one sense (in the true, most important sense).

    And yet there is something important about the sannyas stage of life where one officially dedicates one’s self (body, mind and words) exclusively to devotional service without any concern for material or family affairs. Therefore, when an ideal householder like Yudhisthira Maharaja meets an ideal sannyasi like Narada Muni, it is the sannyasi who is given the seat of honor and worshiped by the householder.

    Even though the householder pure devotee is also dedicated 100% to Krishna consciousness, in playing the social role of a householder properly he gives special deference to the sannyasis. And he may aspire to eventually enter the renounced order at a later stage.

    I agree with Yugala Kishor that we need to focus on making ideal grhasthas. After all, 99 or so percent of the population is going to be married and productive for some part of their lives. We need to show ordinary people how one can have a job and family and household responsibilities and still practice Krishna consciousness. It is not only for monks, students and retired people. Krishna consciousness is for everyone.

    And yet the sadhu who has renounced material activities is a kind of important symbol of the goal of an ideal spiritual life. These ideal shows practically how there is no necessity for anything but Krishna consciousness. Like Jesus reportedly said, the lilies of the field do not toil and yet they are dressed so elegantly, or as Srila Prabhupada often said, the big elephants in the jungle and the millions of little ants are somehow getting their food every day by nature’s arrangement, and similarly we will too, so we should not concern ourselves so much with making arrangements for eating, sleeping, etc., but should dedicate ourselves to understanding and serving God.

    We should not be offensive like Dhrtarastra and think, “These sannyasi beggars are dependent on me.”

    In America the idea of sannyas is not generally understood. Once in Canada I was arrested for soliciting on book distribution. I told the policeman that by begging I was building character. He was totally puzzled. He thought character required self-reliance and hard work, and begging was the opposite of character.

  6. pustakrishna says :

    It is good to read the Adi Lila portion of Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, about the sanyas of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mostly we are concerned with our own pratishta, regardless of ashram. The central point is that all activities should be for the pleasure of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. Pratishta must not enter. Any desire for position in this world is a stepping stone to svarga-loka, not Krishna Loka. Krishna lila takes place amongst the vaisya class of cowherdsmen and women. There is hardly a brahmana except Madhumangala.
    We must be happy to see greater and more exclusive dedication to Krishna consciousness in any form, not the least of which is someone desirous to exclusively preach Krishna consciousness. At age 21 when Srila Prabhupad met me for the first time in Bombay, having returned from preaching work in Bangladesh where the war had broken out in 1971, Srila Prabhupad said of me to Gargamuni and Brahmananda Maharaj, “I will make that boy a sanyassi!” I had not even taken first initiation. One year later, and before I had even taken 2nd initiation, Srila Prabhupad gave me the sanyas order in June 1972, and advised me to go to LA enroute there to take my brahmana initiation. Although my sanyas time lasted until mid-1976, in that short time and inspired by Srila Prabhupad, I was able to accomplish alot of very nice preaching for his mission in Europe and South Africa. I have no regrets. Like a kamakazi pilot, we aimed directly at the heart of Kali yuga with the weapons of Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan. Don’t worry about position. By the grace of Guru and Krishna, I still have been able to continue preaching and practicing Krishna consciousness to this day, almost 40 years from the time I began serving Srila Prabhupad. And so, to the future preacher, Sripad Yadunandana Maharaj ki jaya!! Pusta Krishna das

  7. It seems our effort to establish varnasrama dharma in part depends on properly understanding Krishna’s instructions on karma yoga in the first 5 or 6 chapters of the Gita. (Chapter 6 deals primarily with meditation but in the beginning it says that until one reaches the stage of yogarudha, even in the raja yoga system, work is said to be the means.)

    We are presenting the highest thing, bhakti yoga, and inviting everyone to take up the bhakti path, but real suddha bhakti begins after one reaches the brahma bhuta stage (“mad bhaktir labhate param”).

    In Canto One, Chapter Five of Bhagavatam, Narada Muni encourages Vyasadeva to describe that which is pleasing to the paramahamsas (i.e., the science of Krishna), for the benefit of the whole world. He says, “tasyaiva hetoh prayateta kovido….” This is the mood of a sannyasi: “Why should we bother for anything other than Krishna consciousness? Material happiness will come of its own accord without separate endeavor.”

    True devotional service is based on this mood. Devotees do not care about material happiness because they experience a higher taste in pleasing Krishna.

    But in Chapter Three of the Gita, Krishna advises Arjuna, “na buddhi bheda janayed ajnanam karma-sanginam…” [3.26]

    Most people are not yet free enough of their misgivings, doubts, anarthas to try to take up the sannyasa order. For them, it would be a fiasco. They would restrain their senses while dwelling on sense objects within their minds, becoming mithyacaras (pretenders). [3.6]

    For those of us who belong to this category, it is nice to see examples of ideal pure-devotee householders.

    (This is another teaching of the Third Chapter…”na karmanam anarambhan naiskarmyam puruso ‘snute…” [3.4] One does not have to be inactive to attain perfection: Real perfection is action in Krishna consciousness. )

    Of the Panca Tattva, only Gadadhara Pandit remained unmarried all His life. The Personality of Godhead Himself sets an example for householders, or else people would follow Him and varna sankara would result [3.22-24]

    But society also needs to see the ideal of fully-renounced sadhus. Sure, sannyas in ISKCON is meant for preaching, but the reason sannyasis are good preachers is that they really display the ideal of determined renunciation.

    Therefore Prabhupada took the risk of initiating immature sannyasis, it was so necessary to have sannyasis. But he did not take lightly when his sannyasis fell.

  8. Kulapavana says :

    I often wondered about some final instructions on the sannyasa ashrama Srila Prabhupada gave his disciples:

    Srila Prabhupada Conversation, January 7, 1977, Bombay:
    Prabhupada: “If you talk in the modern society they will laugh: “What nonsense this man is… ‘By sex life one becomes conditioned.’ ” They cannot understand. Hare Krsna… (japa) This should be strictly outlawed, no more sannyasis. And those sannyasis who have fallen, you get them married, live like a… No more this showbottle, cheating. It is very ludicrous. Even there is a promise that “We shall not fall down again,” that is also not believable. What is the use? Better go and speak philosophy in your grhastha dress, not this dress, but you have nice coat, pants, gentleman. Who says no? I never said. Rather I shall be glad to see that up-to-date gentlemen with tilaka and sikha are speaking. That is very prestigious everywhere…”

    “And this kind of hypocrisy–they have taken sannyasa and mixing with woman. This is not to be allowed. If you want woman you get yourself married, live respectfully. We have no objection. But this hypocrisy should be stopped. There have been so many fallen down. First of all there will be no sannyasi anymore. I have got very bad experience.”
    (Room Conversation, 7th January, 1977)

    After 1977 we have seen many sannyasis come and go. Every time I see a young person taking sannyasa I can’t help but wonder whether this is yet another case of premature decission.

    Still, I wish Yadunandana Prabhu all the best in this undertaking.

  9. ccd says :

    I have to say that over the last few years ‘sannyasa’ is not as important or desirable as it used to be in 1970s or 1980s. And Kulapavana seems to be quoting from the pool of quotes where Prabhupada was very clear that he did not want to continue on with ‘showbottle’ sannyasis. However I have to make it very clear. It is not the case with Yadunandana Prabhu. He is anything but ‘showbottle’.

  10. pustakrishna says :

    I think that some mis-thinking is taking place. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sanyas according to the Chaitanya Charitamrita because of the criticism that was levelled at Him by so many students. He thought that if they will give pranams to Him as is natural toward a sanyassi, then the common people will gain sukriti. If Gargamuni Prabhu (formally Swami) had not come to Gainesville Florida, to preach on the campus of the University of Florida campus where I and others like Amarendra were students, then what would have become of our connection to Srila Prabhupad? When I were not sent by Srila Prabhupad to South Africa in 1973 at a critical time in the infancy of the movement there, what would have happened to Krishna consciousness development there, that people all take for granted now. It is laudable to become a faithful grihastha bhakta, but griha means home, and stha means situated. Situated in the home, entangled with so many illusory obligations, it is rare to see grihasthas spread Krishna consciousness outside of their locality. It is not a criticism, but rather a fact of life. Understand what potential exists for spreading Krishna consciousness through the freedom from outside obligations that exist for the sanyas preacher in Krishna consciousness!!! You who have not seen that side of risk and danger taken for the sake of Srila Prabhupad and Mahaprabhu cannot grasp this perhaps, but I want you to know that Srila Prabhupad gave so many young people in their 20s sanyas to expand the preaching of Krishna consciousness all over the world, in S. and N. America, Africa, W. and E. Europe, China, Australia…without those sanyas preachers, it would not have happened. You cannot conceive of the sacrifices these young men took during the best years of their lives for Srila Prabhupad, and I cannot appreciate some sentiments here that seem more concerned with a safe position. That is my opinion. I loved the dedication of these great souls during their years of preaching and sacrifice, and to ascribe any dishonor to them because they may not have lasted into their old age as sanyasins is intolerable to me and to many others who know and understand the great challenges we faced and the responsibilities we took on for Srila Prabhupad. Pusta Krishna das

  11. It is certainly true that, at least in America, renunciation does not seem that impressive to people in general. Everyone here wants to be young and rich and beautiful and famous. Wise old humble monks and beggars are not particularly on everyone’s list as the people to listen to. And yet, shouldn’t they be? Isn’t part of our mission to teach Americans to pay more attention to the true sadhus and brahmanas who can give spiritual instructions and lead society in the right direction?

    Some Buddhists and Jains teach that unless you are a monk or sannyasi (and male) you have no chance of attaining perfection in this life. Krishna of course refutes this teaching. Every person regardless of varna or asrama or sex or lineage can attain perfection in the performance of his or her own duty by worshiping Krishna.

    Sannyas is but one of the asramas in the varnasrama system. It has its own duties to help purify one who executes them correctly, and to help serve all society by playing an important role as a model of spiritual dedication.

    All the varnas and asramas are meant for hari tosanam. If one executes the duties of a sannyasi perfectly but is not a devotee then it is of no use. Maharaja Ambarish was a householder and yet he defeated the sannyasi Durvasa by his constant humble dedication to Krishna consciousness.

    However, characteristics like austerity, renunciation, detachment from material entanglements, spiritual knowledge, Vedic study, sacrifice, charity, humility, tolerance, equanimity, self control, kindness to all beings, nonviolence, eating little (“mita bhuk”), not talking unnecessarily, not wasting time in frivolous sports, etc. are high grade qualities. They generally are found among those who have good spiritual qualifications. They are ornaments of pure devotees. These are the high qualities displayed by sannyasis.

    In India (and other Hindu communities internationally) and also in the Buddhist communities of Asia there does seem to still be some respect for monasticism and the life of austerity and renunciation. [It also sometimes plays an economic role by letting the next generation inherit and run the family farm or business while still in the energetic, productive years].

    There just seems to be something wrong with the senior citizen singles’ scene that we have in our retirement communities in the U.S., where people are still trying to squeeze “fun” out of old age without spiritual guidance or dedication.

  12. Kulapavana says :

    Pustakrishna Prabhu writes: “…without those sanyas preachers, it would not have happened. You cannot conceive of the sacrifices these young men took during the best years of their lives for Srila Prabhupad…”

    No to diminish the positive role of sannyasis during that period, but if we look at the very successful launch of the Hare Krsna movement in England, it was done by the householders, proving perhaps that what matters is the dedication and effort, not the dress that matters. I also still remember householder Kirtiraja Prabhu’s preaching travels to countries behind the Iron Curtain and our meetings in Poland where I was struck with his great humility and dedication. Householders made sacrifices too, and believe me – I can conceive of them quite well.

    One could also bring up several not-so-positive effects generated by the sannyasis in our movement during that period (and beyond) to balance their valuable preaching role. The history of our movement is full of them.

    In the West, if one wants to command respect by his official position, it would perhaps be better if our movement concentrated on turning out PhDs in fields related to our preaching instead of sannyasis. But that is just one bhakta’s opinion. Still, the Prabhupada quotes I cited above are very, very relevant to the subject matter of taking sannyasa in our movement after 1977.

  13. Yugal Kishor Dasa says :


    I second Pusta Krishna prabhu in his no. 10 post!

    All disciples of Srila Prabhupada who dedicated their youth to help him spread Krishna Consciouness, in so many parts of the world, are indeed great souls.

    Some of them, sannyasis, who later could not maintain their celibacy vows are commandable for their efforts. Nothing is lost in the service of the Lord.

    All devotees are honable. The problem, lately, of giving honor to others is that important or conspicuous devotees have fallen down and committed major blunders along the way, dragging others into their misery, usually followers and formal disciples.

    The problem became compounded by the fact that there were “many” of such personalities. Building trust again, after such a shock, as ISKCON has gone through, is very difficult. Yet it has to be done! Hence, those who didn’t leave ISKCON have the major job of building trust again. We were left to pick the pieces, deal with the traumas, with political problems, with intrusion from other sampradayas (Gaudiya mathas, etc.) who see an opportunity in a weak ISKCON, who see an opportunity of an ISKCON in crisis.

    In ISKCON, we are in the business of “selling ourselves,” so to speak. People cannot perceive the presence of Sri Krishna, unless it comes funneled through a devotee of Krishna. That means, whoever protrays himself as a devotee of Krishna is basically saying: “Hey, here I am. Do you want to get to know Krishna? Then, watch me. This is how it is done.”

    Hence, the task of preaching KC is, first of all, a task of personal transformation. A transformation of character, of morality, and of ethics. And then a transformation that leads to purity of the heart, cleansing of the mind, of the intelligence. Then, a transformation of getting rid of all misidenfications and come to level of bhakti. Then a transformation from kanistha, to madhyam, to uttama…
    … That’s not easy at all.

    But the empowerment is there; Prabhupada gave it to us, even to those who never met him, or heard personally from him…

    At any rate, it is better to be a decent grhastha than a pretender renunciant. After all, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed that at any stage, in any body, under any social designations, the whole idea, the whole deal, is to engage oneself in sadhana-bhakti.
    Nonetheless, we need sannyasis, devotees who have made the major commitment of their lives, in service others by giving themselves to others, in the service of Srila Prabhupad

  14. I also second Pusta Krishna in his no. 10 post, and Yugal Kishor in no. 13. In fact I think everyone here has spoken very nicely.

    Caitanya Caran seems concerned that people may be suggesting Yadunandana Prabhu could be a “showbottle” sannyasi. I do not think anyone was suggesting that. Maybe it was a bit improper to use the announcement of his initiation as a springboard for a more general discussion of the sannyas order in ISKCON. I agree with Caitanya Caran that the announcement of this initiation should be a cause for celebration.

    I have never met Yadunandana Prabhu or even heard of him (as far as I know) before the announcement, but my reaction was to think how wonderful it is that so many excellent devotees like this abound in ISKCON. I know Jayadvaita Maharaja would not accept him as a sannyas disciple unless he is highly qualified.

    Pusta Krishna Prabhu seems concerned that the magnificent preaching of many ertswhile sannyasis in ISKCON was not being properly honored or that these individuals were being criticized for their failure to maintain their sannyas vows. Again, I did not see anyone suggesting that.

    I have scoured the different post looking to find what Pusta Krishna found “intolerable” and I have the sinking feeling he was reacting to some of my statements that Prabhupada dfid not like it when sannyasis fell down. If that is the case, I apologize. It was not my intention to dishonor or discredit any devotee. I did not think I was doing that.

    Reading through the posts, I think about the harshest thing anybody said was when Pusta Krishna himself said, “Mostly we are concerned with our own pratishta, regardless of ashram.” This sweeping condemnation is sadly true, and certainly applies to me. I am glad it does not apply to some great souls like Yadunandana Prabhu.

    It was a special genius of Srila Prabhupada to use the mixed ambitions of his disciples to propel them to great feats of dedication and draw devotion out of them that is to their eternal credit. Better to have loved and lost in bhakti, because devotees never lose.

    Sannyasis are not the only ones who have broken vows in ISKCON, and vows are very serious matters. Yet, by their prominence it becomes more disruptive when they fail, as Yugal Kishor points out.

    Some other yoga groups have “sannyasis” who get married, practice “tantric sex”, follow no regulations. Unlike those groups, Srila Prabhupada’s society is genuine. Thus we have…

  15. Unlike other yoga societies who give sadhus a bad name by having so-called sannyasis who are not regulated, Prabhupada gave us a genuine path with actual regulative principles. We have a duty to maintain the authority and dignity of ISKCON (prospectively) by doing something to improve our record on having our sannyasis stick to their vows.

    The GBC has made it more difficult to be initiated as a sannyasi in ISKCON over the years out of recognition for these concerns. Sannyasis hold important positions of respect and leadership in ISKCON and therefore we should not give out sannyas initiation lightly to those who might not be prepared to set good lifelong examples of sannyas. This is a good development.

    In recognizing these things, I certainly mean no disrespect to so many great devotees who did so much preaching while they tried to embody the ideals of the sannyas asram, even if they did so imperfectly.

    And how much more glorious are the many, many sannyasis in ISKCON who have remained true to their voiws although they accepted the renounced order in their youth?

    Generally men accept the sannyas order when they are in their 60s or 70s, after raising a family and then spending some years in a transitional retired “vanaprastha” stage. (Is it Manu Smrti that says they should see the sons of their sons and their hair should be white?)

    Initiating young sannyasis in ISKCON was a risk Srila Prabhupada took, and often publicly regretted, because of the emergency demands of establishing ISKCON. We are glad he took these risks and we offer all respects to all of his sannyas disciples and the remarkable service they did, even if he had to later approve them accepting a safer position from which to fight maya (see, the famous 8th Canto Purport regarding Gajendra’s struggle with the crocodile).

    But I am also glad the GBC has seen the necessity of maintaining some restriction of who can become a sannyasi going forward.

    I do not agree with the idea raised by Kulapavana that perhaps we should do away with the sannyas ashram in ISKCON (if that is what he was suggesting), but it is worthwhile toi at least raise and discuss the question, especially in light of the quotations he posted.

    Lord Caitanya told Cand Kazi sannyas was forbidden in Kali yuga, but SBSST revealed that only the ekadanda sannyas is forbidden, and that the Vaisnava tridandi sannyas needs to be established in society and in our line. I am glad its being established carefully.

  16. When we stop to think about it, outside of the Aryan civilization of India there is not much of a concept of the formal renounced order of life.

    There have always been certain mystic sects or individuals who lead a life of self-abnegation, whether in Taoist China or among the Abrahamic religious traditions or in the shamanic practices of uncivilized societies. And there are monastic orders among different Christian groups, especially in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

    And of course Buddhist societies, though very diverse, have their own monks and nuns (and often the young people are expected to undergo a kind of brahmacari training in different Buddhist cultures by living austerely as monks for a period of time). But Buddhists and Jains can clearly be seen as offshoots of Vedic civilization anyway, a sort of heterodox permutation of Vedic culture.

    In varnasrama society, there is a formally-recognized renounced order of life, and one can even say that the self-controlled yogi or sannyasi presents a kind of model of the “ideal man” for the Aryan culture.

    This is an important part of the educational and cultural mission of ISKCON. We want to bring the people of the world to recognize the importance of the sannyas stage of life.

    In American civilization the ideal is to continue enjoying bhogaisvarya as far as possible to the very end of life, even when old age has brought one to death’s door. For a certain segment of American culture, Hugh Hefner still represents the “ideal type.” (Ouch!) There is little or no awareness of the unlimited internal happiness that is available to those who can, at least by the end of life, fully immerse themselves in the spiritual dimension.

    In the beginning of Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna proposes going to the forest and living by begging. Krishna rejects this proposal as unmanly and non-Aryan, and much of the dialogue that follows concerns the actual meaning of sannyas and the renounced order. Krishna establishes that true sannyas involves becoming His pure devotee, regardless of the specific role one is playing in society according to varnas and asramas.

    And yet, the ideal of the formal sannyas asrama is something to be celebrated and respected. Krishna does not denigrate but rather upholds the varnasrama system as His own creation.

    To demonstrate the practical value and beauty of this natural social organization, if for no other reason, we need some ideal sannyasis. And we have some!

  17. isvaradas says :

    It is well understood that the sannyasa ashram is the last order of spiritual life wherein someone enters a life of full dedication to the Supreme Lord. Thus a sannyasi is regarded as the spiritual master of all the ashrams. Lord Krishna elaborated this fully to Uddhava in the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam as to the role and duty of someone who is in the renounced order of life. Thus a real sannyasi is expected to emulate whatever ideals have been explained in the Srimad Bhagavatam and all the allied scriptures.

    In ISKCON the sannyasa order of life has arguably taken on a different form and might now been seen more akin to the Indian caste system, where a qualification is not necessarily the main criteria once one has become a sannyasa. Often being a sannyasi in ISKCON is seen as ‘reaching the top’ due to the many ‘perks’ associated with it like; maha-prasad, priority accommodation, donations, transportations, unlimited obeisances from devotees etc. Some ISKCON sannyasis apparently own properties, which is something you will struggle to see in other societies such as for example; Gaudiya Math, as a sannyasi is supposed to stay with the brahmacaris in the ashram. The famous siksastakam verse ‘na dhanam na janam na sundarim’ is in danger of serious neglect.

    The sannyasa order of life is a life of simplicity, but how many of our ISKCON sannyasis are living that simple life? Many sannyasis have neatly pressed silk dhotis and comfortable living arrangements etc. Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed that a person who has entered the renounced order of life should not eat palatable foodstuffs, wear good clothes or have a comfortable sleeping arrangement. There is of course the principle of ‘yukta vairagya’ , but we must be very careful not to abuse that principle.

    The bottom line is a pure sannyasi is worshipable by one and all, and while there are many sannyasis in ISKCON who warrants such worship, we all must be vigilant to ensure that if the basic standards demanded of the sannyasa ashram are not being met, action should be taken. Such actions will both protect the sannyasi/s in question as well as good name of ISKCON long into the future.

    Haribol, Isvara dasa.

  18. Kulapavana says :

    Akruranatha Prabhu wrote: “I do not agree with the idea raised by Kulapavana that perhaps we should do away with the sannyas ashram in ISKCON (if that is what he was suggesting), but it is worthwhile toi at least raise and discuss the question, especially in light of the quotations he posted.”

    That idea was raised by Srila Prabhupada, and coming from him (see quotes above) it looked more like an order than an idea he was merely floating around.

    Based on my research, Srila Prabhupada initiated at least 55 sannyasis. At least 80% of them fell down over the years (in a confirmed way) and at the present moment most of these initiates are not even active in his movement. These are not very encouraging statistics and they do not include the more numerous (in sense of both initiations and falldowns) “second wave” sannyasis (devotees who received sannyasa from SP disciples).

    It can be argued that sannyasa ashram in our movement simply insitutionalized pratishta – position giving one all kinds of material benefits. As Isvara Prabhu writes: “In ISKCON the sannyasa order of life has arguably taken on a different form and might now been seen more akin to the Indian caste system, where a qualification is not necessarily the main criteria once one has become a sannyasa.” He makes some very good points in his post.

    While much has been done to reform the sannyasa ashram in our movement in the last 20 years, much still remains to be done. One can live a simple and austere life filled with service to Krsna and His devotees without taking sannyasa. After all, none of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana was a sannyasi.

  19. In ISKCON we have many householder preachers who do fantastic preaching work, but we also should appreciate the very strong work done by our many sannyasis.

    Should sannyasis have bank accounts or property? We cannot imitate Srila Prabhupada, but he certainly set an example of a modern tridandi sannyasi who controlled immense wealth and property and large spiritual enterprises. (And yet he warned us that sannyasis are advised not to open too many temples or have too many disciples.)

    Srila Prabhupada appointed numerous sannyasis to serve as property trustees in his last will and testament.

    I do not know the answers to many of these questions, but I take comfort in knowing that devotees in leadership positions such as the GBC’s sannyas ministry consider them deeply and decide accordingly. It is certainly something worthwhile talking about.

    One thing that comes accross in the quotes from January 7, 1977 is where Srila Prabhupada said, “Better go and speak philosophy in your grhastha dress, not this dress, but you have nice coat, pants, gentleman. Who says no? I never said. Rather I shall be glad to see that up-to-date gentlemen with tilaka and sikha are speaking. That is very prestigious everywhere…”

    This raises the question of devotional dress, not just for sannyasis, but for grhasthas, too. Srila Prabhupada seemed more concerned with tilaka and sikha than with dhoti and kurta.

    Of course we have all experienced going to some program and trying to establish some important philosophical points about the soul, reincarnation, the nature of God, the fact that the Absolute Truth is ultimately a person, and then fielded questions about our hairstyle and clothing. It is a little frustrating, but people do seem to be obsessed with external style and appearance.

    On the other hand, the distinctive dress and apearance of our ISKCON sannyasis has proven to be a great asset in most parts of the world. People walk up to them and ask them questions because they are obviously wearing the uniform of holy men.

    Before I joined I was in a grocery store and I saw a devotee in white dhoti wearing sikha and tilak, buying cauliflower (it was Urukrama). I walked up to him and said “Hare Krishna”, and he took me to his camper in the parking lot, fed me prasadam and sold me a Gita.

    Soon after I encountered a devotee wearing “karmi clothes” and short hair wig in Atlanta airport. It impressed me that a regular “young man on the go” was also a devotee.

  20. I had been reading the Gita I got from Urukram on the plane, but I was so impressed with this “normal guy”-looking book distributor (it was the first time I saw a devotee with hair and western dress), that I not only bought a Bhagavatam volume from him, but at his prompting I canceled my connecting flight and spend the weekend at the Atlanta temple, going to morning program, tasting Charnamrta, reciting Bhagavatam verses in Sanskrt at class time, etc.

    My sister-in-law once told me that she used to see devotees at rock festivals, but she began to take them seriously when she saw them at harinam with whole families and children.

    The point of these anecdotes is that it seems there is a place for all kinds of devotees. The sannyasis still play a very important function, and the successful householders (who with their wives and children and business affairs are always going to have opportunity for “pratistha” if they want it) play another important role.

    Some people see “far out” looking, committed devotees, and it inspires them with a vision of an intense spiritual life. On the other hand, one reaction might be, “That is fine for those unusual people, but it does not relate to me or my own life or anything I could ever do.” So we need householders to whom people can relate, and sannyasis as our paragon or ideal.

    But when I consider these quotes from Srila Prabhupada, I keep thinking that it is important to me to shave my head and wear a sikha and tilak. That stands out in many quotes. Srila Prabhupada was not as concerned about the dhoti as he was about the tilak and sikha. I do not think the sikha would be too hard for people to appreciate nowadays (back in the 1970s long hair was the fashion, but a lot of men wear buzz cuts or even “shave clean” these days).

    But my wife will not let me. That is my excuse. She says I will look like a wierdo and the clients, judges and opposing counsel will react unfavorably. I have no sense of style or fashion (and very little concern for it), so I have to trust my wife on this. But still, I am always thinking Srila Prabhupada would want me to shave up again.

    Sorry to meander a bit…

  21. It does not seem to me that the quotations provided by Kulapavana amounted to an order by Srila Prabhupada to do away with the sannyas asram in ISKCON. If Srila Prabhupada were going to do something as revolutionary as that he would have done more than just make these statements in a room conversation.

    The quotation does seem to me to reflect Srila Prabhupada’s concern, however, that we should be very careful and not make a mockery out of the asram.

    It reminds me of how Srila Prabhupada at first did not want to go meet Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada. He had already met so many so-called sadhus who smoked bhidis and were not pure.

    As for Isvara and Kulapavana’s concern that we should all be vigilant that the principle of yukta vairagya is not abused, and that becoming initiated as a sannyasi is not like achieving some post or position in an institution to enjoy, it sounds like good advice for all of us. Not just sannyasis can abuse the principle of yukta vairagya or exploit a position or post for sense gratification.

    [Any initiation, be it harinama or gayatri or sannyas, should be seen as a beginning (that is what “initiation” litereally means), not as an accomplishment.]

    And yet as Yugal Kishor suggested, it is more noticeable if a sannyasi has faults, because of his formal position as a totally dedicated devotee and spiritual leader.

    I hope none of us are coming across as if we disrespect any particular sannyasis or former sannyasis. There does seem to be a sense in some of the posts that there is a seriouis problem of sannyasis in ISKCON who are in it for the wrong reasons, whereas I can think of scores of wonderful sannyasis in ISKCON who are all highly qualified by their character and by their practical preaching service.

    [Someone just wrote me about his experience at the Laguna Beach festival last night where Indradyumna Swami and Sri Prahlad Prabhu took hundreds on harinam sankirtan. Certainly Indradyumna Swami is one of the many sterling ISKCON sannyasis who stand out for amazing preaching exploits.]

    I do not really agree with Isvara and Kulapavana that sannyas in ISKCON is abused like the caste system based on birthright and not qualification. I think that characterization is too harsh. But anyway I am glad to be reminded of the high standards all of us should aspire to and the dangers and pitfalls we should avoid.

  22. pustakrishna says :

    What can I say…the editiors won’t publish what I have said on some of my writing for this topic. Srila Prabhupad said…I am looking for one moon, because one moon’s cooling rays surpass the light of all the stars combined. The light of the moon is the reflection of the Krishna Sun. Parampara.
    I do not believe that Srila Prabhupad made any “mistakes” in choosing to give responsibility to so many young westerners. His Divine Grace created good fortune for us. What he achieved, starting from age 70, in his preaching service to his Gurudeva, is truly astonishing. He established the standard for Mahaprabhu’s future worldwide influence.
    I want to wish all good fortune to Yadunandana Prabhu in his future responsibilities. It is somewhat sad that any negativity could enter into this. And, I have nothing but compassion for any and all who have taken risks for Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. The many images I have in my bhakta experiences in America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the many images others may have in their experience, dwarf anything that I could ever have expected in this life for myself. It is all the mercy of Srila Prabhupad. I truly am unqualified, and yet Srila Prabhupad gives so much to one as unqualified as me. He took me into his inner circle to help him fight the great battle of the Kali Yuga with the weapons of Samkirtan and association of devotees. He literally gave unparalleled responsibilities to represent him. While we were not truly sadhus or holy, he planted the seed of holiness within us…the bhakti-lata. He showed us how to water it with sravanam-kirtanam.
    Srila Prabhupad made no mistakes. He created good fortune, an ever well-wisher, ever optimistic about the path of bhakti. External considerations cannot measure up to the eternal benefit of consciousness of Krishna. Dharma, artha, kama, moksha, the realm of human activities, cannot compare to even a moment of Krishna consciousness.
    Submitted with gratitude and humility, Pusta Krishna das

  23. I sympathize with Pusta Krishna and Caitanya Caran that this announcement should be occasion for celebration rather than a wide-ranging discussion about sannyas that included some questions about negative aspects of sannyas in ISKCON. [I loved reading the interview with Yadunandana Swami and viewing the video and photos posted on Dandavats today]

    On the other hand, I appreciate Dandavats as a forum where devotees can address wide-ranging concerns and feel free, within limits, to point out their ideas of room for improvement in ISKCON.

    Some of the comments expressed concern over whether sannyasis may exploit their honored position for gross or subtle sense gratification, and the impression could be that envy of sannyasis crept into the discussion, but I found the questions to be sincere, and certainly the problem of sannyasis not remaining true to their vows was something that Srila Prabhupada himself often lamented.

    I do take Pusta Krishna’s excellent point that genuine bhakti stands unlimitely far above the concerns of mundane morality or rigid adherence to varnasrama principles. As another former sannyasi, Acyutananda Prabhu, used to preach, “The rules of the Vedas were meant to be broken by Vaisnavas.”

    Of course Acyutananda did not mean we should go around acting immorally. Generally we please Lord Krishna by acting in our proper role in society while giving up attachment to fruitive action and mental speculation, and telling everyone we meet as far as possible about Krishna consciousness and Prabhupada’s books. (sthane-sthita sruti-gatim….)

    Sriman Acyutananda was concerned (in L.A. circa 1979) that a group of householders was becoming too obsessed with ritual and Vedic-style lifestyle, astrology, etc., and losing the thread of dynamic preaching. (I suppose it didn’t help that one of this group, Jaya Sacinandana, had sort of stolen Acyutananda’s thunder as ISKCON’s leading bhajan singer.)

    But the basic idea is that to think of pure devotional service on the same level as mundane piety is, essentially, the eight offense to the holy name. And yet at the same time it is important for our mission not to give the impression that we condone impiety. As a spiritual beacon we should uphold Krishna’s rules for society.

    Srila Prabhupada made no mistakes. He demonstrated how a pure Vaisnava will risk his own moral reputation for the sake of spreading bhakti. And yet he impressed on us how sacredly vows of sannyas should be kept…

  24. Mundane moralists might criticize Srila Prabhupada for initiating young sannyasis who were not prepared for a lifetime of renunciation. They could criticize him (as he sometimes pointed out) for performing weddings (in an emergency) for his disciples, although a sannyasi is not supposed to perform weddings. I suppose there are even those smartas who consider it a major transgression for a brahmana to cross the ocean.

    Of course any such criticism of Srila Prabhupada must be condemned as offensive to a great Vaisnava acarya of the highest order.

    As for those disciples who broken their vows of first initiation, second initiation, sannyas, marriage vows, etc., we should be able to deal with them without envy and without judging them. Those few of us (if any) who are really pure enough to cast the first stone seem to have no interest in casting any stones. We should emulate such pure-hearted souls and simply encourage everyone to join or rejoin the kirtan.

    Srila Prabhupada’s main concern seemed to be not to chase anyone away from the association of devotees, as long as they would be willing to behave properly (he would not let Rayaram stay at the temple unless he gave up marijuana). When sannyasis fell he invariably encouraged them to get married if necessary, but to continue chanting Hare Krishna at all costs. He did not want us to “shame” each other into leaving the Krishna consciousness movement.

    The class I posted some time ago by H.H. Radhanatha Maharaja about Srila Prabhupada’s gratitude and unlimited affection for Hayagriva even when he was engaged in immoral behavior, his desire to bring Hayagriva back (and how Hayagriva ultimately became pure and went back to Godhead by Prabhupada’s grace) is very pertinent to the discussion.

    Those who have broken vows to Prabhupada have enough on their consciences without having to suffer haughty disapproval from their juniors. “For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.”

    And yet disapproval and even punishment is one way society regulates itself and protects its members from crimes and transgressions and peccadillos of other members. A devotee who is “ananya bhak,” chanting constantly without interruption, is to be considered saintly, but how far does this apply to those who chant inconsistently?

    The question may legitimately be raised about how a society of devotees deals with immoral behavior, from “little white lies” to violent crimes and murder.

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