Srila Prabhupada’s Sannyasa Initiation

Srila Prabhupada's Sannyasa initiation

(Muni Maharaja, Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami)

Today marks Srila Prabhupada’s acceptance of Sannyasa. Thanks to Prabhupada Connect for so nicely putting together this list list of quotes by Srila Prabhupada on Sannyasa, which we have re-posted here.

Srila Prabhupada’s Sannyasa Initiation

Srila Prabhupada accepted the order of sannyasa from Sri Srimad Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja on September 17, 1959 at the Kesavaji Math in Mathura. Included below are some relevant quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s lectures and letters.

“When I was householder, several times there was indication given by my Guru Maharaja that I should give up family life and become a sannyasi and preach this Krishna consciousness movement. In several way there was hints from my spiritual master, but still, I was not willing. I was thinking, ‘If I go away, then my family, my sons, my daughters, they will suffer.’ But actually, I have left my family connection in 1950. Actually ’54, but introductory in ’50. For the last twenty years. But they are living; I am living. They are not dying in my absence, and I am not suffering without being in my family. On the other hand, by Krishna’s grace, I have got better family members. I have got nice children in a foreign country. They are taking so much care of me, I could not expect such care from my own children.

So this is God’s grace. We should depend on Krishna. If Krishna is kind, wherever we go, everyone will be pleased, everyone will be kind. And if Krishna is unpleased, even in your family life you’ll not be comfortable. Therefore, according to the Vedic system, at a certain age, it is indicated that one should retire from family life.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Tittenhurst, London, September 12, 1969)

“The Krishna consciousness movement is not that we are asking everyone to become a sannyasi like me, and give up everything. No. That is not our program. You act as a brahmaṇa, as a ksatriya or a vaisya or a sudra. It doesn’t matter. But you try to satisfy Krishna. That is the program.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay, December 30, 1972)

“So my godbrother — his name is Kesava, Bhaktiprajnana Kesava — did this favor for me because he was an ocean of mercy; krpambudhi. We offer our obeisances to Vaisnavas: Vancha-kalpa-tarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca. The Vaisnavas, the representatives of the Lord, are so kind. They bring the ocean of mercy for distributing to the suffering humanity. Krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye. So I am offering my respectful obeisances unto this His Holiness, because he forcefully made me adopt this sannyasa order.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Seattle, October 21, 1968)

“I have got my personal experience. I never tried, never accepted that I shall become a sannyasi. And I tried my best to keep myself in this material world. And He has, several times He has frustrated me and has brought me by force (to) this life. And now I am happy. I can understand that how much favor has Krishna showed me. Yes. I did not understand in the beginning.

So sometimes, if Krishna takes special care for you, He’ll do in such a way that you will have no other way than to go back. He’ll take charge, take charge. If we sincerely want Krishna, if He sees that ‘Here is a person. He wants Me. But he’s a foolish. He wants Me; at the same time he wants to enjoy this material world. So crush this, crush this, his material propensities, and let him become simply devoted.’ Yes. Sometimes we see like that.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, New York, November 23, 1966)

“In the beginning, when my Guru Maharaja ordered me, I thought it that ‘I shall first of all become very rich man; then I shall preach.’ So I was doing very nice in business. In the business circle, I got very good name, and with whom I was dealing business, they were very satisfied. But Krishna made so trick that He broke everything, and He obliged me to take sannyasa. So that is Hari. So that I had to come to your country with only seven dollars. So they are criticizing, ‘The swami came here with no money. Now he’s so opulent.’ So they are taking the back side, black side, you see? But the thing is… Of course, I have become profited, profitable, or I have acquired profit. I left my home, my children and everything. I came here as a pauper, with seven dollars. That is no money. But I have got now big properties, hundreds of children. And I haven’t got to think for their provision. They are thinking of me. So that is Krishna’s favor. In the beginning, it appears to be very bitter. When I took sannyasa, when I was living alone, I was feeling very bitter. I, sometimes I was thinking, ‘Whether I have done wrong by accepting?’

So when I was publishing this Back to Godhead from Delhi, one day one bull thrashed me, and I fell down on the footpath and I got severe injury. I was alone. So I was thinking, ‘What is this?’ So I had very, days of very tribulations, but it was all meant for good. So don’t be afraid of tribulations. You see? Go forward. Krishna will give you protection. That is Krishna’s promise in the Bhagavad-gita. Kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati (BG 9.31): ‘Kaunteya, My dear son of Kunti, Arjuna, you can declare throughout the whole world that My devotees will never be vanquished. You can declare that.’ And why He’s asking Arjuna to declare? Why He does not declare Himself? There is meaning. Because if He promises, there are instances that He sometimes broke His promise. But if a devotee promises, it will be never broken. Krishna will give protection; therefore He says His devotee that ‘You declare.’ There is no chance of being broken. Krishna is so kind that sometimes He breaks His promise, but if His devotee promises, He takes very careful attention that His devotee’s promise may not be broken. That is Krishna’s favor.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, New York, April 17, 1969)

“So anyway, so I was officially initiated in 1933, just before three years of his passing away from this mortal world. So at the last moment also, just a fortnight before his passing away, he wrote me the same thing. I wrote him one letter and just he replied the same thing that ‘You should try to preach this gospel amongst the persons who are conversant in English language. That will be very nice for you.’ So I was dreaming sometimes that my Guru Maharaja is calling me and I am leaving my home and going behind him. I was dreaming like that, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, I have to give up my home? My Guru Maharaja wants me to give up my home life and take sannyasa?’ So I was thinking, ‘It is horrible. How can I leave my home?’ This is called maya. Of course, it’s a long story, but incidentally I am speaking to you because you are my dear children. So I was thinking that ‘How can I take sannyasa and leave my home, my children?’ So that was a horrible thought for me, I tell you. I was thinking seriously, ‘Oh, I will have to take this course. Guru Maharaja wants me.’ But actually I did not like to give up my home life. But Guru Maharaja made me obliged to give up my home life. So now, by his order, or by his plan, I gave up my home life, I gave up a few children, but Guru Maharaja is so kind that has given me so many nice children.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Montreal, July 26, 1968)

“When my Guru Maharaj ordered me… When I was manager in Bose’s laboratory, so he ordered me. So I thought, ‘Oh, I cannot do this. I cannot accept this sannyasa.’ But he was so kind, and he is so kind still. Then he forced me, that ‘You must do it,’ taking… pulling my ear, he brought me to this life. In the beginning I was not willing. So it is his causeless mercy upon me. That I can understand now. I can understand now how much I have been relieved by accepting this life.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, July 13, 1971)

“And in 1922 I met him. At that time I was manager in a big chemical factory. So I thought that ‘I am married man. I have got so many responsibilities. How I can join immediately? It is not my duty.’ Of course, that was my mistake. I should have joined immediately. I should have taken the opportunity immediately. But maya is there. So I thought like that. So that’s a long history. Then in 1954… no, not 1954, 1968, when I was fifty-four years old… Nineteen hundred fifty-four, yes. Nineteen hundred fifty-four, I was at that time fifty-eight years. So I left home, and I was living alone. Then, 1958, I took sannyasa, and then I decided to take up the responsibility of my Guru Maharaja. I thought that ‘My other godbrothers are trying, so I am not capable to do it. They are better situated.’ But somehow or other, they could not do very much, appreciative activities, in this connection.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Atlanta, March 2, 1975)

“In this way I passed my life as a householder until 1950, when I retired from family life as a vanaprastha. With no companion, I loitered here and there until 1958, when I took sannyasa. Then I was completely ready to discharge the order of my spiritual master. Previously, in 1936, just before His Divine Grace passed away at Jagannatha Purī, I wrote him a letter asking what I could do to serve him. In reply, he wrote me a letter, dated 13 December 1936, ordering me, in the same way, to preach in English the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as I had heard it from him.

After he passed away, I started the fortnightly magazine Back to Godhead sometime in 1944 and tried to spread the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu through this magazine. After I took sannyasa, a well-wishing friend suggested that I write books instead of magazines. Magazines, he said, might be thrown away, but books remain perpetually. Then I attempted to write Srimad-Bhagavatam.” (CC Antya Concluding Words)

“You are all my children and I love my American boys and girls who are sent to me by my spiritual master and I have accepted them as my disciples. Before coming to your country I took sannyas in 1959. I was publishing BTG since 1944. After taking sannyas I was more engaged in writing my books without any attempt to construct temples or to make disciples like my other Godbrothers in India. I was not very much interested in these matters because my Guru Maharaj liked very much publication of books than constructing big, big temples and creating some neophyte disciples. As soon as he saw that His neophyte disciples were increasing in number, He immediately decided to leave this world. To accept disciples means to take up the responsibility of absorbing the sinful reaction of life of the disciple.” (Srila Prabhupada Letter, July 27, 1970)

“So far the title Swami is concerned, although this word is used generally for Sannyasins, this Swami is my particular name as Sannyasi. Therefore, it must be suffixed at the end of my real name, A.C. Bhaktivedanta. So far the prefix ‘Swami’ is concerned, every sannyasi has got to do that, but two ways Swami (Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami) is not good looking. The end ‘Swami’ is necessary because it is my Sannyasa name. The first Swami may be transformed into Goswami, which is on the same order of Swami. Therefore, I use the prefix Tridandi Goswami and suffix Swami, as I have printed on my card enclosed herewith. That will be nice. In small lettering, it can be written above my name ‘Tridandi Goswami.’ Vaisnava sannyasins are known as Tridandi gosvamis, and Mayavadi sannyasins are know as only Swami.” (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rayarama, Unknown Place Unknown Date)

“When I was householder, several times there was indication given by my Guru Maharaja that I should give up family life and become a sannyasi and preach this Krishna consciousness movement. In several way there was hints from my spiritual master, but still, I was not willing. I was thinking, ‘If I go away, then my family, my sons, my daughters, they will suffer.’ But actually, I have left my family connection in 1950. Actually ’54, but introductory in ’50. For the last twenty years. But they are living; I am living. They are not dying in my absence, and I am not suffering without being in my family. On the other hand, by Krishna’s grace, I have got better family members. I have got nice children in a foreign country. They are taking so much care of me, I could not expect such care from my own children.

So this is God’s grace. We should depend on Krishna. If Krishna is kind, wherever we go, everyone will be pleased, everyone will be kind. And if Krishna is unpleased, even in your family life you’ll not be comfortable. Therefore, according to the Vedic system, at a certain age, it is indicated that one should retire from family life.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Tittenhurst, London, September 12, 1969)

“The Krishna consciousness movement is not that we are asking everyone to become a sannyasi like me, and give up everything. No. That is not our program. You act as a brahmaṇa, as a ksatriya or a vaisya or a sudra. It doesn’t matter. But you try to satisfy Krishna. That is the program.” (Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay, December 30, 1972)

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