Question time
12 August 2008

Here’s something that sometimes puzzles newer devotees. I got this from Bhakta Ilya on the forum: 

 “Many sannyasis left the movement and I heard that Shrila Prabhupada had known that this would happen. Where did he speak about that? Or was this an assumption made by his disciples?”Thank you. Your servant Ilya.”

My answer:

Srila Prabhupada was well aware that he was giving sannyasa to young, untrained men. It was a risk that he took for expanding the preaching. 

You can read about one such sannyasi in Transcendental Diary Vol 2, in the section on Hawaii.

Madhudvisa Swami was a dear disciple who had achieved prominence for his kirtans and preaching in San Franciso, India and Australia. He was well liked not only by Srila Prabhupada but by all the devotees who worked under him.

He had some difficulties and when he left, Srila Prabhupada was working on the section of the Eighth Canto of the Bhagavatam about Gajendra the elephant and the crocodile. He was meditating on Madhudvisa’s difficulties and he composed the following purport:

SB 8.2.30


Thereafter, because of being pulled into the water and fighting for many long years, the elephant became diminished in his mental, physical and sensual strength. The crocodile, on the contrary, being an animal of the water, increased in enthusiasm, physical strength and sensual power.


In the fighting between the elephant and the crocodile, the difference was that although the elephant was extremely powerful, he was in a foreign place, in the water. During one thousand years of fighting, he could not get any food, and under the circumstances his bodily strength diminished, and because his bodily strength diminished, his mind also became weak and his senses less powerful. The crocodile, however, being an animal of the water, had no difficulties. He was getting food and was therefore getting mental strength and sensual encouragement. Thus while the elephant became reduced in strength, the crocodile became more  and more powerful.

Now, from this we may take the lesson that in our fight with maya we should not be in a position in which our strength, enthusiasm and senses will be unable to fight vigorously. Our Krsna consciousness movement has actually declared war against the illusory energy, in which all the living entities are rotting in a false understanding of civilization. The soldiers in this Krsna consciousness movement must always possess physical strength, enthusiasm and sensual power. To keep themselves fit, they must  therefore place themselves in a normal condition of life.

What constitutes a normal condition will not be the same for everyone, and therefore there are divisions of varnasrama-brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is advised that no one take sannyasa.

asvamedham gavalambham sannyasam pala-paitrkam

devarena sutotpattim kalau panca vivarjayet

[Cc. Adi 17.164] (Brahma-vaivarta Purana)

From this we can understand that in this age the sannyasaasrama is forbidden because people are not strong. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed us an example in taking sannyasa at the age of twenty-four years, but even Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya advised Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to be extremely careful because He had taken sannyasa at an early age.

For preaching we give young boys sannyasa, but actually it is being experienced that they are not fit for sannyasa. There is no harm, however, if one thinks that he is unfit for sannyasa; if he is very much agitated sexually, he should go to the asrama where sex is allowed, namely the grhastha-asrama. That one has been found to be very weak in one place does not mean that he should stop fighting the crocodile of maya.

One should take shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna, as we shall see Gajendra do, and at the same time one can be a grhastha if he is satisfied with sexual indulgence. There is no need to give up the fight. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore recommended, sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhih. One may stay in whichever asrama is suitable for him; it is not essential that one take sannyasa. If he is sexually agitated, he can enter the grhasthaasrama. But one must continue fighting.

For one who is not in a transcendental position, to take sannyasa artificially is not a very great credit. If  sannyasa is not suitable, one may enter the grhasthaasrama and fight maya with great strength. But one should not give up the fighting and go away.”

 I hope this answers your query satisfactorily.

Your humble servant, Hari-sauri dasa

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