Weaver’s Wisdom

THE IDEAL FOLLOWED BY THE RENUNCIATE IS ELUCIDATED IN THIS SECTION OF WEAVER’S WISDOM. IN THE WEAVER’S DAY, LONG AGO, AS IT IS TODAY, the two paths—that of the family and that of the renunciate—were and are the core of society. In India today, millions pilgrimage to the great festivals called kumbhamela, where the two paths meet for a few months every three years. Thousands of renunciates teach and preach in tents to millions of seekers. In the nine chapters here are found the essential teachings to be passed on by the ministers of the religion to their followers, especially by example, for it is the renunciates who can live these truths most fully and constantly. Householders can only try. There is one hope in every devout Hindu’s heart: that each elderly father, having raised his family well, will retire in his later years and join the band of renunciates, to perform penance and make ready for yet another life, when he may take up the highest path, that of the renunciate, which Valluvar calls by the sweet Tamil name, thuravi.§

The eminent Swami Vivekananda defined this path so eloquently in his never-to-be-forgotten poem, “Song of the Sannyasin.” When I was a young man, this poem moved me, brought before my vision the Great Path of the Hindu monk and world-renouncer, led me at an early age to give up the world and seek God, just as many in the weaver’s time were so inspired. Fifty years earlier, my spiritual preceptor, Satguru Yogaswami of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, stood in a festive crowd as Swami Vivekananda was paraded through Jaffna on his return to India from America. The young Tamil man, later to become the greatest sage of the 20th century, was also moved by Swami Vivekananda’s living example to choose the path of the renunciate. I commend Vivekananda’s poem to all who wish to know the spirit of the path that leads to liberation from rebirth, the path known and valued in Valluvar’s day as one-half of dharma’s fulfillment.§

Song of the Sannyasin

Wake up the note! the song that had its birth
Far off, where worldly taint could never reach,
In mountain caves and glades of forest deep,
Whose calm no sigh for lust or wealth or fame
Could ever dare to break; where rolled the stream
Of knowledge, truth, and bliss that follows both.
Sing high that note, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Strike off thy fetters! bonds that bind thee down,
Of shining gold, or darker, baser ore—
Love, hate; good, bad; and all the dual throng.
Know slave is slave, caressed or whipped, not free;
For fetters, though of gold, are not less strong to bind.
Then off with them, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Let darkness go; the will-o’-the-wisp that leads
With blinking light to pile more gloom on gloom.
This thirst for life forever quench; it drags
From birth to death, and death to birth, the soul.
He conquers all who conquers self.
Know this and never yield, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

“Who sows must reap,” they say, “and cause must bring
The sure effect: good, good; bad, bad; and none
Escapes the law. But whoso wears a form
Must wear the chain.” Too true; but far beyond
Both name and form is atman, ever free.
Know thou art That, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

They know not truth who dream such vacant dreams
As father, mother, children, wife and friend.
The sexless Self—whose father He? whose child?
Whose friend, whose foe, is He who is but One?
The Self is all in all—none else exists;
And thou art That, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

There is but One: the Free, the Knower, Self,
Without a name, without a form or stain.
In Him is maya, dreaming all this dream.
The Witness, He appears as nature, soul.
Know thou art That, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Where seekest thou? That freedom, friend, this world
Nor that can give. In books and temples, vain
Thy search. Thine only is the hand that holds
The rope that drags thee on. Then cease lament.
Let go thy hold, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Say, “Peace to all. From me no danger be
To aught that lives. In those that dwell on high,
In those that lowly creep—I am the Self in all!
All life, both here and there, do I renounce,
All heavens and earths and hells, all hopes and fears.”
Thus cut thy bonds, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Heed then no more how body lives or goes.
Its task is done: let karma float it down.
Let one put garlands on, another kick
This frame: say naught. No praise or blame can be
Where praiser, praised, and blamer, blamed, are one.
Thus be thou calm, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Truth never comes where lust and fame and greed
Of gain reside. No man who thinks of woman
As his wife can ever perfect be;
Nor he who owns the least of things, nor he
Whom anger Chains, can ever pass through maya’s gates.
So, give these up, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Have thou no home. What home can hold thee, friend?
The sky thy roof, the grass thy bed, and food
What chance may bring—well cooked or ill, judge not.
No food or drink can taint that noble Self
Which knows Itself. Like rolling river free
Thou ever be, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Few only know the truth. The rest will hate
And laugh at thee, great one; but pay no heed.
Go thou, the free, from place to place, and help
Them out of darkness, maya’s veil. Without
The fear of pain or search for pleasure, go
Beyond them both, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

Thus day by day, till karma’s power’s spent,
Release the soul forever. No more is birth,
Nor I, nor thou, nor God, nor man. The “I”
Has All become, the All is “I” and Bliss.
Know thou art That, sannyasin bold! Say,
“Om Tat Sat, Om!”

“Song of the Sannyasin” by Swami Vivekananda is quoted, with written permission, from Inspired Talks, My Master and Other Writings; copyright 1958 by Swami Nikhilananda, trustee of the estate of Swami Vivekananda; published by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. Remarkably, the handwritten original was discovered (long after his passing in 1902) hidden in a wall during the 1943 restoration of a retreat where Swamiji had spent the summer and given darshan and discourses to Western seekers. §