Awareness in the Ashrama of Sannyasa

The Ashramas or stages of life are four, viz., Brahmacharya, the stage of student life; Grihastha, the stage of householder life; Vanaprastha, the stage of seclusion (forest-living); and Sannyasa, the stage of total renunciation. Each order of life has its own duties. In none of these stages must a man grasp at the special duties of the other three. At the present moment, it is difficult to maintain or observe the exact details of the ancient rules, as the conditions have changed very much. But, if we can have a clear idea of the fundamental duties of each, we shall still be able to shape the life through a regulated course of development and steady growth… He [the householder] must give good education to his sons and daughters and treat his wife well as she is his partner in life and religious performances (Ardhangini). Parents are veritable gods on earth. Therefore he should serve them nicely, and carry out their behests to their entire satisfaction. He should perform Sraddha (annual rites to the departed souls) every year and offer Tarpana to his Pitrus or ancestors. When the householder sees that his sons are able to bear the burden of his duties, when his grandsons are around him, the time has come for his wife and himself to retire from the world and spend their time in study and meditation. -   Sri Swami Sivananda

For some, there is an inclination toward disinterest.  Such a person might, enthralled by their disinterest, throw away their life, or put it down like something which is disused.  A common comparison is made to trash, or last year's fallen leaves: such things are of no use.  This act of renouncement can happen at an old age, or a young age.  Such a person has no possessions of their own, nor any action of their own.  They do not live for others as someone in the Ashrama of Vanaprastha, nor for themselves, as someone in the Ashrama of Grihastha.  They do not seek for anything, as a Brahmacharya.  But, through profound practices of awareness, realize their liberation from suffering.

Cultivating the necessary awareness through mental and physical strengthening by training and practice in Yoga requires great strength of heart.  This can only be developed in the Ashrama of Brahmacharya.  Sannyasa can only begin when a person stops their searching; but this requires that they had sought.  For the Ashrama of Sannyasa, Brahmacharya is but a temporary and transitory stage, which sometimes wanders through the Ashrama of Vanaprastha.  But someone who lays down the burdens of Grihastha, and makes a defense of their a home for its own sake, without reward or punishment, this is also a path to Sannyasa.

In Sannyasa, someone who is hungry is not lacking food any more than anyone who fasts is not lacking hunger.  In Sannyasa, someone who no longer requires a home, or who is at home everywhere, is not homeless; they know no home.  It is exceedingly difficult to stop an activity of living, to lay things down - and not pick them back up again.  But it is possible through awareness.  By awareness, we can discover that we are already liberated from suffering - if we but shake off the chains which bind us.

What would you do if there was nothing left to be done? How would you spend your day? How would you devote your week, your month, your years, the remainder of your existence?  What use is your life if you have laid it aside, if others do not want it? What use is your death? What use is rebirth to you?  The perfection of Sannyasa results in no further redeath.

It is sometimes easier to conceptualize no rebirth than it is to conceptualize no redeath.  When a car is parked in a wrong neighborhood, it can sometimes be dismantled by thieves while the owner is away from it.  If one thief took the engine block, another the wheels, another the radio, another the axles, another the frame - and so forth - could the owner, returning to find nothing left, say that their car went here, or there?  Who would the owner say took their car?  The car existed only because it was a combination of such parts and though the parts, once fenced, will constitute other cars, the car they came from is gone, and no one thief took the car, nor would any one thief ever confess to taking the car.  One thief would say, "I only took the radio," and other would say "I only took the wheels."  Such a car did not die, but is yet gone.

If a fire exhausts its fuel, can you say that the flame went north, or south, or east, or west?  The plasma does not exist in of itself.  Plasma is a state of matter, heated by combustion; it does not exist on its own, and is gone; it did not die, but it is gone.  A frozen lake does not go away in the summer; the lake is still there, but the "frozen" is not.  It was still a lake in the winter, but its form was frozen.  In Sannyasa, a person is gone; what they are cannot die, or cease to be, for it did not exist.  Does such a person desire, or fear, or hate?  Does such a person suffer?

Awareness permits realization; understanding what is real is the beginning of freedom from suffering.