The Song of the Sannyasin

Portrait of Vivekananda

[Swami Vivekananda 1863-1902]

Swami Vivekananda’s famous "passion of sacrifice and renunciation" resounds with the affirmation "Thou art That" at every line, and summons us to our divine Destiny.

 In the summer of 1895, Swami Vivekananda spent seven weeks in retreat at Thousand Island Park in upstate New York with a small group of disciples and students, staying in a small cottage belonging to one of them. Some of his teachings from those weeks are recorded in Inspired Talks. Ellen Waldo describes the setting: "There, close by his own door, sat our beloved Teacher every evening during our stay and communed with us who sat silent in the darkness, eagerly drinking in his inspired words. The place was a veritable sanctuary. At our feet, like a sea of green, waved the leaves of the tree tops, for the entire place was surrounded by thick woods. Not one house of the large village could be seen, it was as if we were in the heart of some dense forest, miles away from the haunts of men. Beyond the trees spread the wide expanse of the St. Lawrence, dotted here and there with islands, some of which gleamed bright with the lights of hotels and boarding-houses. All these were so far away that they seemed more like a pictured scene than a reality. Not a human sound penetrated our seclusion; we heard but the murmur of insects, the sweet songs of the birds, or the gentle sighing of the wind through the leaves. Part of the time the scene was illumined by the soft rays of the moon and her face was mirrored in the shining waters beneath. In this scene of enchantment, "the world forgetting, by the world forgot," we spent seven blessed weeks with our beloved Teacher, listening to his words of inspiration.

 Mary Funke remembers: "There were twelve of us and it seemed as if Pentecostal fire descended and touched the Master. One afternoon when he had been telling us of the glory of renunciation, of the joy and freedom of those of the ochre robe, he suddenly left us and in a short time he had written his ‘Song of the Sannyasin,’ a very passion of sacrifice and renunciation.

* A sannyasin is a monk who has taken the final vows of renunciation according to Hindu rites.




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, for ever 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

Escape 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 thro’ 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 powers spent

Release the soul for ever. 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!"

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