Sannyasa and Women

[Sita and Rama]“Giving up His very valuable upper garments, that very celebrated one put aside any thoughts of the kingdom and told me to stay with His mother.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.26)

sa vihāya uttarīyāṇi mahāarhāṇi mahāyaśāḥ ||
visṛjya manasā rājyam jananyai mām samādiśat |

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Situated right beneath the purest system of living that is bhakti-yoga is varnashrama-dharma. Real love and devotion to God is difficult for anyone in the conditioned life to reclaim, so there are ways to help reach that elusive destination in a gradual process. What separates man from the animal community is religion, which also goes by such names as religiosity, duty and piety. Undoubtedly the most difficult institution to accept and follow in the varnashrama system is sannyasa, which is complete renunciation. The foundation of this institution is separation from women, especially attachment to them. In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi confirms that the Supreme Lord is always as good as a sannyasi in mind, even if the less intelligent think otherwise.

Why is sannyasa necessary? What are the other institutions?

The first is brahmacharya, or student life. Taking the duration of life to be one hundred years, each phase gets allotted twenty-five years. So the first quarter of life is spent learning. What conditions are conducive to learning? Living with the spiritual master, not having outside distractions of marriage and family life, and remaining completely celibate – these are vital for thriving in student life.

[Rama and brothers in Gurukula]The next phase is married life, which is followed by retirement. Sannyasa is after that, and it is something like becoming homeless voluntarily. You can’t accept too much charity, no matter how much someone is willing to give you. You’re not supposed to rely on any one person for your livelihood. You beg, but not at places where you know you will get a lot. You move around, not staying in one place for too long.

The point is that without distractions and attachments you’ll be better able to focus on God, which is the goal of the birth to begin with. Sannyasa is towards the end of life since the closer you are to death, the more important your consciousness becomes. Better to be conscious of God at the end of life than at only the beginning, since with the passage of time you can forget.

Sannyasa benefits others outside of the institution also. That is the real reason for the prohibition from association with women. Sannyasis are best equipped to teach others the fundamental truth of the spiritual science: you are not your body. You are spirit soul at the core, transcendental to the changes that occur to the covering that you have. Others possess the same covering, and so they are spirit at the core also. In this way everyone is equal, going through the same cycles of birth and death, repeatedly, under the laws of karma, until there is a change in consciousness for the better.

anta-kāle ca mām eva

smaran muktvā kalevaram

yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ

yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

A sannyasi should teach from a position of authority; namely, they should show that they know that they are spirit soul. The greatest indication of ignorance is attachment to someone else’s body. Sex attraction is based on this attachment. If a sannyasi maintains intimate association with women, his power to teach gets diminished a little. Though consciousness is what matters most, reputation helps in getting a message across. The sannyasi becomes a prime target for the ad hominem attack if he shows any signs of attachment to the body.

In His incarnation as Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord set the ideal example for others to follow. He followed dharma very closely, though He didn’t necessarily go through the phases in the typical order. He accepted vanaprastha, retired life, shortly after being married. He did this out of someone else’s choice; namely His father, who was driven to the decision by a jealous wife.

From reading the Ramayana, it is known that Rama did not enter vanaprastha alone. He had His wife Sita Devi with Him. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana also came along. This makes Rama a ripe target for the enemies of religion. They could say that since He is attached to His wife, He is not spiritually inclined. Though Sita repeatedly describes Him as a knower of the self, the enemies of Rama will say that He is a knower of the body instead, since He had His wife always with Him.

[Sita and Rama in the forest]Here Sita clears up any confusion. She tells Hanuman that Rama asked her to stay at home. Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya and not return for fourteen years. The order applied only to Him. Sita was not to be affected, so Rama told her to stay under the care of His mother.

In this way Rama is not attached to body. Since He is God, body and soul mean the same thing to Him. At the same time, by Sita coming along, we learn something else about the Supreme Lord. Varnashrama-dharma is not everything. It is not the system that pleases Him the most. In pure devotion, sometimes piety, duty and religiosity get violated. Sita insisted on accompanying Rama. A short argument ensued; one which Rama did not win.

God is won over by devotion. There is no limit to what He will do to please His devotees, who by definition only want to serve Him, think of Him, and be with Him. In this regard, Rama will always be underestimated. The fiend Ravana in Lanka was different. He was always attached to the illusion of maya, and there was no persuading him to do anything proper for someone else’s favor. Sita asked him to return her to Rama, from whose side he had secretly taken her. Ravana refused. Rama gave in to Sita’s requests because He loves His devotees. Through Hanuman, He would find Sita and then come and rescue her.

In Closing:

Since sannyasi from authority to speak,

From women to keep a distant reach.


Attachment to body a mistake,

As spirit soul your identity take.


Rama with Sita and Lakshmana going,

Prime target by those knowledge forgoing.


Actually Sita at home told to stay,

But to bhaktas Rama ready to give way.

Categories: sita and hanuman

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