I really don’t know.  I remember a fascination when I was a little boy. Luckily, our home was a sort of open house for the sages, saints, monks. All the great literates, talented people. Whoever came to the village would come there to my home and my parents would receive them, treat them well. Even if a circus man wanted to come and perform a circus there they would come to our home first to get permission. But of all the people, when the swamis come even the servants were not allowed to go and treat them. My father and mother would go there themselves and bring them things, even though there were servants. Mother and father had to do it themselves. And, they would fall at their feet, worship these swamis. And of course, I must have done something in the past life. My mother got initiated by a swami and she repeated the mantra and then she gave birth to me.  I heard her say that, but later on when I became a swami my mother was sad. “How could you leave everything and become a swami?” I said, “Mommy, it’s not my mistake, it’s your mistake, you were initiated by a swami. You wanted a swami son, what can I do? If you had not prayed for that, I would be like anybody, rich, famous. That’s your mistake.” My mother said, “Ah, I made a mistake in telling you all that.

To give another example, you may read it in my biography: once in my room there was a sort of coat rack, and on the top of the coat rack there was a shelf to keep nice things. There was a beautiful vase sitting on the coat rack. All around it were hangers. So one day, in a hurry, I pulled my towel from the rack and it tilted and fell down, and the beautiful vase sitting on top broke into pieces. I felt a little sorry and I called the boy to come and collect all the pieces. But having heard the sound of something falling down and breaking, my dad came in, looked at it, “So what happened?” He was angry because he loved that piece of artwork.

“Sorry, this is what happened, I pulled it.”

“You pulled it, you broke it? You don’t even seem to be feeling sad about it”

“Daddy, I made a mistake, I broke it. Fine. But what’s the point of looking and crying over a broken thing?”

“Then what else would you want to do?”

So, I called my servant boy, “Come, sit next to me; we’ll both cry and see whether it will come together again.”

Father called mother: “Look at this philosopher.”

That as my childhood.

So it just happened naturally, maybe because of the past life. Because the book says after seven generations one gets a monk in the family. That means it’s a continuation. Continuity of that life ultimately makes you a monk. So it’s not that you become a monk. You are made into a monk by nature. Otherwise, it was not that I wanted to be a monk right away. I had my life. I had various businesses. I got married. Look at my grandson sittig there. Luckily he gave me a great-grand baby. But the thing is, no business lasted long. It was a fascination. I’d start something, then within a year I’d get disgusted with that. So I put my hands into electronics, engineering, automobiles, agriculture, into everything. But after a year or so, “Hmm that’s all? That’s nothing much.” So I wondered what else to do. I couldn’t think of anything else. The only thing left  was to become a swami. I just wanted to try if the swami life would inspire me for a long time. And it did. Even after forty or fifty years of monkhood I seem to be still enjoying the life, because there’s nothing more enjoyable than a sannyas life. And then of course, I first thought a sannyas life means, “Oh, I should not do this, should not get that” Even when my dad used to send me letters, and inside the letters he would put money. When I opened it, “Ah, I can’t even touch that money! I won’t even read the letter.” Threw it out.  In the beginning, there’s a sort of feeling, “Don’t touch anything.” And then later on I found out you can use all that for a good purpose: not for you, but for everybody else.

While I was in Rishikesh I built up the water system, I built up the electric line system, I built up the photographic section, because I was involved in those businesses before.  So what I learn, I use for every purpose, for everybody, not for me. In the beginning you shun those things, thinking that they will affect you, they will attach you. But afterwards, you can use all of them. So monkhood is a real good life, no doubt. But of course if you have a good partner, get married, it’s even better than monkhood. Why? Who will feed the monks? Somebody should feed the monks. Thiruvalluvar says, “These family people forgot to be monks for the monks sake.” So don’t all become monks, okay? Get married, bring up beautiful yogic children and then, at a later stage when you have finished all that, you can become a monk.

In the Hindu faith there are four stages in life: brahmacharya, grihasta, vaanaprastha, sannyasa.  Until you get married you are a bachelor brahmacharya you are learning. And then you are applying the learning in your life by becoming a married person, grihasta. And then, afterwards, if you have a couple of children, hand over everything to the children and both retire to sort of spiritual life. Have pilgrimages; spend some time visiting ashrams, vaanaprastha. And then both of you, or if one person passes away, the other person becomes a monk, sannyasa.  So one has to go through all four stages. But the culmination of the life is sannyas.

But in one sense you can all become sannyasis. We are all sannyasis, even in the family life, if you are doing it in a detached way, not for your sake. You’re thinking, “God gave me the family, God gave me my wife, God gave me my husband, God gave us children. I have a responsibility to take care of them.  They are not mine, they are God’s children.” Then even though you are a family person, you are a sannyasi because you are not doing anything for your sake. Sannyas means renunciation of the selfish I, me, mine. Then you can be anybody until you become a monk. But that comes later.  Gradually even if you get into this, you will realize it’s all God’s work. “I am doing nothing, I am only a tool.” When you realize that you are a tool in the hands of God, you are a real monk. One day or another that should happen to us all. Then the life is nothing but blissful. You will always be happy, ever be happy, enjoy happiness. You won’t grumble over anything. Don’t you want to have that life?  May God bless you with that kind of ever happy life.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Swami Satchidananda

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