Renunciation: Brahmacharya or Family?


I am a bachelor (38 yrs.) & spiritually inclined. I think being single is more helpful in spiritual life but at the same time I am concerned turning a renunciate brahmachari/ sannyasi. Although there are ashrams in India which take care of basic needs however as per varnashrama dharma, a renunciate should live on madhukari (begging). Given this, I feel more tempted to pursuing a job for living and remaining single. Is it against Dharma?

—Manoj, India


Dear Friend in God,

I know of two saints in India who, in the 20th century, discouraged disciples from entering the monastic life (renunciation). Lahiri Mahasaya, the Bengali kriya yogavatar from Varanasi, and Ramana Maharshi from Tiruvanamalai. Life in the 21st century around the world and in India itself is not encouraging to the monastic life, neither by how society lives and the ideals it reveres nor also in the consciousness even of sincere devotees.

The Ananda communities throughout the world are inspired by the experiments and counsel given by Paramhansa Yogananda in the 1940’s. He predicted, after experimenting with a “world brotherhood colony,” that communities of like-minded devotees would spontaneously form in the times to come. These would be places where men and women and children would live together in harmony, seeking God and serving society together, living simply, modestly and guided by high ideals. Some would be married; others, single; others would also be renunicates. There are some eight Ananda Communities: 6 in USA; 1 in Italy; 1 in India (near Pune). In India, especially, there is a monastic order (monks) north of Pune. They earn their living needs through service.

But in the world around us, there is very little support for traditional sadhus, begging for example for food. A “new dispensation” of spirituality is emerging throughout the world. Swami Kriyananda, founder of the Ananda communities and a direct disciple of Yogananda, established the Nayaswami Order ( This worldwide order contains levels of renunciation such as pilgrim, brahmacharya, tyagi, and swami. In the order, one can hold an ordinary job; a tyagi can be married, e.g.; you may but are not required to live in one of the Ananda Communities. You see, true renunication is of the ego; it is of the heart. Outward renunciation of marriage, home, or business are only affirmations of true renunciation. Indeed, the pitfall for traditional renunciates (swamis, sadhus, etc.) is the temptation towards pride, especially in relation to householders and others who are not wearing robes, so to speak.

India, too, needs to strengthen its material sustainability, adding it to India’s powerful spiritual legacy. It is not time to reject the world but to see in all things the loving hand of God. It is time to bring “Spirit to work” in the world. We have entered Dwapara Yuga, according to the calculations of Swami Sri Yukteswar, who discovered an error of calculations in the traditional Hindu calendar. (It occurred after the war of Kurukshetra on the cusp of entering Kali Yuga.) Ours, then is an age of energy. It is an age of individual liberties and initiative, as well as cooperation with others.

If your inclination to traditional monasticism is strong, you may need to at least try it. Perhaps visit the monks near Pune, India. But given your age that you have not done this by this point, it seems to me that what you may be seeking is more in line with what I have described above. What you may be lacking, however, is the form it can take and the power of “satsang” with others of like-mind. Have you visited any of the Ananda centers in India? (Several throughout Delhi; nearby Noida; Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, etc). You’ve seen

May I suggest you visit one of the Ananda centers and speak with members there, especially the acharyas? I think they can help you very much.

May the light of wisdom shine upon you!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA