On saints and sainthood

There is no dearth of ‘devils citing the scriptures” to cheat people. Fraud and deception in the name of God and religion is prevalent everywhere.

In Indian philosophy, there is a group of seventeen Upanishads, collectively called ‘Samnyasopanishads’ which deals with the subject of asceticism, the qualities of a renunciate, the necessary prerequisites for taking on sainthood, the duties and responsibilities of such persons, the evil effects of forced and premature renunciation, fraudulent renunciation and other such matters.

The basic concept is that renunciation or ‘Samnyasa’, should come in the natural course of evolution of the soul and not be imposed by force from outside. Renunciation is only an accessory to realize the supreme truth and not an end in itself. Here, it is made clear that suppression or repression of man’s worldly needs is not required to be undertaken, either as a misguided effort or as a hypocritical, boastful showcasing of one’s religiosity. It is possible to be ‘in the world’, yet take a detached viewpoint.


These Upanishads say that just as the sun absorbs water from everywhere, just as fire burns up everything in its path, a true Yogi or saint enjoys everything, yet no merit or sin attaches to him on account of his absolute purity.


He is not attached to any worldly objects, nor affected by the praise or censure of people. There is a time for everything in man’s life. A student, first acquiring knowledge, a householder afterwards, discharging familial duties, then a gradual withdrawal from worldly activities, developing an inner conviction of higher things and finally, if the temperament and attitude permits, renunciation.


Of course, there are those rare souls who are born renunciates. But, the Upanishads declare, such a one, an ‘Avadhuta’. If at all there is such a one, he alone is the ever pure, the embodiment of non-attachment, of the form of transcendental knowledge, one who has transcended everything else, standing as the personification of supreme oneness with the ultimate truth, the ‘Self or Brahman’.

How does this renunciation take root? By abstaining from evil, unnecessary activities and concentrating the mind on higher things like the scriptural sayings and the Guru’s teachings.


Now, on the pseudo-saints. The Upanishads denounce them strongly. One who is full of greed and attachments, who puts on the garb of a saint to fill his stomach will go to the lowest of hells.
He who eats everything and anything, simply attires himself in ochre robes, carries a staff, who is devoid of virtues like tranquility, knowledge, non-attachment, who leads a lazy, unproductive life is the worst sinner .

Trying to be a saint while still full of greed is like trying to enjoy fruits from the images of fruit laden trees in water. Mean, quarrelsome, misguided, impure, untruthful, such men are to be avoided.

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