Chakra Discussions

The Luxurious Sannyasi Hoax

by Baladeva das

Posted March 7, 2005

Kapiladeva Prabhu has brought up an important issue about guru's accountability in regard to the utilization of public donations given to them in good faith. I agree with him that my article was about a different point- the problem of our sannyasis living in luxury. His point was about being honest in regard to common law, and of course this is essential. But in addition to that there must be honesty according to the standard of sastra. Both are necessary for the integrity of our movement.

I disagree with the idea that luxurious sannyasa life is acceptable if the funds came as an inheritance. A sannyasi is supposed to epitomize renunciation. He should accept only enough funds to maintain body and soul together, and use the rest for preaching or temple construction. That is yukta vairagya, an example set by all our acaryas. The Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita abound with stories of devotees who, taking the renounced order of life, gave up everything for the service of the Lord. For example, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was exceedingly pleased when Sanatana Goswami gave up his beautiful cloth for a torn one. Were He to be present now, would He be pleased if Sanatana took up residence in a palatial Malibu residence with millions of dollars in the bank? The principle is to minimize bodily necessities and use all one's energy- whether bodily, financial, or intellectual- in the service of the Lord.

Kapiladeva has rightly stated that it is none of our business what anyone does with their inherited funds, at least from a legal and technical point of view. But is our responsibility as members of a spiritual society limited only to that? Do we not have spiritual standards also that we are supposed to be showing or at least growing towards? Srila Prabhupada once said that it is better to be an honest street sweeper than a charlatan spiritualist. If this sannyasi desires to enjoy money and luxurious life, that is alright, but he should not do it in the sannyasa ashrama. He should not cultivate the spirit of material enjoyment in the name of yukta vairagya. But if I am wrong, and this sannyasi is actually using all his funds in the service of the Lord, isn't it better that we find out and have the matter settled? Indeed if that is the case, then it would be an inspiration for other sannyasis in ISKCON who may be tempted to go the other way and use their funds for personal aggrandizement. Either way, there is no offence in inquiring, for the outcome in either case is good.