I found Hare Krsna Dasi's article, "Is Brahma- Vaivarta Purana Right About Sannyasa?," reposted December 13, 2002, to be well-thought out and objective in its approach, free from any envious finger-pointing accusations. It is evident that she has spent a lot of time reflecting on this issue and her comments are very well taken. It is good that she has spoken up about it in such a tactful way.
It is obvious that there is a problem with this order in our movement when more than half of its members fall away. To me, it means that many devotees take to the renounced order of life for the wrong reasons: seeking respect, trying to get out of a difficult marriage, or even trying to force themselves to a higher level of devotion, (what to speak of baser reasons as pointed out by Hare Krsna Dasi).
I am a little leery of those renunciants who have taken to the sannyasa order at an early stage in life. In my view, sannyasa is meant to be taken at the last stage of life, after having gone through the rigors of married life, raising a family, and after having gone through a period of vanaprastha with the wife, taking sannyasa with her permission. The purpose is to depend totally on the mercy of Krsna, while engaging in His service one hundred percent. Even then it should be a rare event, a step to be undertaken by a rare soul.
Srila Prabhupada accepted the sannyasa order at the age of 59 years, after having gone through married life, and he took it up only at the coaxing of his godbrother for the purpose of fulfilling the mission of his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. This should be the proper way to take up sannyasa. Similarly, Bhaktivinode Thakura accepted the status of babaji at a very late stage in his life.
Actually, one may find many more renounced devotees within the ranks of the householders, both male and female. In their spiritual advancement they cultivate real humility (the first symptom of advancement) and therefore they do not care to advertise themselves as spiritually advanced.
What is the need for taking sannyasa? Simply to impress neophytes? Lord Caitanya taught us:
na danam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye /
mama janmani janmanisvare bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
"O my Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I want any number of followers, nor do I want to enjoy beautiful women. What I want only is your causeless devotional service in my life, birth after birth."(Sri Siksastakam, 4)
Prema Bhakti dasa Adhikari,
Your servant in Niles, Michigan, USA