Who is a True Sanyasi?, What is a Sanyasi’s Dharma according to Swami Vivekananda?

Life introduction

Swami Vivekananda’s Ancestral House – Kolkata . Now this house has been transformed into a museum.

BIRTH:- Swami Vivekananda was born on 12 January 1863 in his ancestral house in Gurumohan Street, Kolkata. Swami Vivekananda was born on the day of Makar Sankranti according to the Hindu calendar. 

Makar Sankranti, one of the most famous and sacred festivals of Hindus, took place on 12 January in 1863. The birthday of Swami Vivekananda is also celebrated as National Youth Day in India.

The Government of India mentioned the significance of the day—-

“It was felt that the Philosophy of Swami ji and the ideals for which he lived and worked could be a great source of inspiration to the Indian youth”. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MAKAR-SANKRANTI PLEASE VISIT:- https://nithinks.com/2021/01/18/makar-sankranti-is-an-ancient-hindu-festival-or-the-burden-of-old-tradition/


FATHER:- Vishwanath Dutta

Mother:- Bhubaneswari Devi

NAME:- Narendranath Dutta 

Nickname:- Naren 

Childhood name:- Bireshwar (Biley)

Siblings : Haramani , Swarnamayee , Kiranbala ,Jogendrabala , Mahendranath , Bhupendranath

Death:- 4th July 1902, Swami Vivekananda leaves his mortal body.


First image in the slideshow – Vireswar Mahadev temple in Varanasi

Second image in the slideshow – The room in Kolkata in which Swami Vivekananda was born.

Bhubaneswari Devi(Swamiji’s mother) offered her worship to Lord Shiva daily. At the end of her worship, each day she prayed to Shiva while offering pranam, “O Shiva, give me a son on my lap.”

she already had a few daughters. But how could she live without a son? So, she offered daily worship to Shiva for a son. She had even asked one of her relatives, who lived in Benares (Varanasi)to offer daily worship to Vireswar Shiva there on her behalf. God heeds to whatever is asked from him with devotion. Bhubaneswari Devi’s wish was also granted.

On January 12, 1863, in the early morning, she gave birth to a son. The child was named Vireswar after Vireswar (Shiva) as Bhubaneswari Devi believed that she was granted her son as a boon from the lord. But their family members thought that “Vireswar” was a bit to difficult to be pronounced and used in daily life. So everybody in the house used to call him Biley, which thereby became his Nickname.

He was named Narendra Nath Dutt at the annaprasshana ceremony but still he remained Biley for all his family members. (Info source:- Vivekananda for children -publisher: Sri Ramkrishna Math Chennai) For more information about this subject please visit: https://nithinks.com/2019/09/19/bileybanarasvivekanandavaranasi/

How Narendranath Dutt got the name Swami Vivekananda.

Because of Vivekananda’s sweet nature, his guru Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to call him “Anand”. Khetri King Ajit Singh, after meeting Narendra Nath Dutt, found him very meritorious along with his sweet nature, so Raja Ajit Singh started calling him “Vivek + Anand” thus yielding the name Vivekananda.

The word swami is commonly used in North India to express reverence for a sadhu. Soon the general public and newspapers also started using this same name to address him. He also participated in the World Religions Conference Chicago 1893 as Swami Vivekananda. For more information about this subject please visit: https://nithinks.com/2020/12/03/hindu-philosophy-and-the-importance-of-peace-9-11-1893-9-112001/

According to Swami Vivekananda: – Sadhus in India can be divided into four-types. (1) Sanyasi (2)Yogi (3) Vairagi (4)Panthi

SANYASI: Sannyasis are often the followers of Shankaracharya and are non-dual.(ADVAIT). Shankaracharya :- A Great philosopher and Hindu religious leader who was born in Kerala in 700 CE(disputed). He was instrumental in providing a solid foundation to Advaita Vedanta. He became a sannyasi at the age of eight. Like Swami Vivekananda, he also died at a very young age. He established four Dhams. These Dhams are considered very holy and sacred even today. Every hindu desired to visit these Dhams at least once his/her life. These four Dhams are as follows

Badrinath:- It is situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state.

Dwarka: – It has also been the capital of Shri Krishna during the Mahabharata period. At present, this city is located in the state of Gujarat.

Jagannath Puri:- It is located in the present province of Orissa. Lord Krishna, Balarama, and her sister Subhadra are worshiped here.

Rameshwaram: – It is located in the state of Tamil Nadu, it is believed that while going to Sri Lanka, Shri Ram installed the idol of Lord Shiva and worshiped him here.

YOGI: Yogis are monistic but their special emphasis is on yoga. Due to different practices of yoga, a different category has been added to them. For more information about yoga and yogis please visit. :https://nithinks.com/2021/06/20/yoga-how-tech-yogi-saw-the-light-of-the-future-in-the-brahmastra-of-the-hindu-nationalists/

VAIRAGI : Vairagis are the followers of Ramanuja(born :25 april 1017 CE) and other dualistic masters.

Ramanuja : (Vishisthadwait ) Non- Dualism. He was born in the Tamil Nadu state of South India. Ramanuja believed that Bhakti does not mean worship-recitation, Bhajan-Kirtan. He believed that meditation is the true devotion to God. Ramanujacharya presented Bhakti in an ideal form and also provided a philosophical basis for Bhakti.

PANTHI : Panthis include both duality and non-duality. They established themselves during the Mughal period.

“Sannyasa, in essence, means to love death. Not self-annihilation but rather knowing that death is inevitable, offering oneself, in mind and body, completely, to the good of others”.

The very first duty of a sannyasi is public service. The only goal of a sannyasi is to sacrifice his whole life in the service of others.

In ancient Hinduism, very high merits were set for a sannyasi. While becoming a sannyasi, a person has to perform his funeral rituals that take place after his death, with his own hands while he is alive! this is known as Atma-shraddha. By the end of this ritual the sannyasi attains complete freedom from his family, friends, worldly obstacles, after this any kind of worldly attachment is prohibited for him and his only goal is public service.

Now no obstacle can stop or frighten him in the way of his public service because he has already conquered the biggest fear, the fear of “DEATH“.

Family background (There was a tradition of becoming Sanyasi in the Dutta family)

Vivekananda’s mother was a pious woman and his father Biswanath Dutt also had a special interest in Hinduism. Vivekananda’s ancestors also had unwavering faith in the Hindu religion and culture.

Vivekananda’s grandfather’s was Durgaprasad. Durgaprasad ji had great reverence among the sadhus and sanyasis. Later he renounced worldly attachment and became a sannyasi himself. It is believed that one night he left the house and no one ever saw him again.

The life of Swami Vivekananda was also deeply influenced by the eminent sannyasis, yogis, sadhus of that time. A clear impression of the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Pavahari Baba, Tailang Swami is visible in the literature of Vivekananda. In those days social, economic, and religious changes were taking place rapidly in Bengal. Old beliefs were falling apart, a new society was being born, it was the time of Bengal’s renaissance.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, who studied from the Presidency College of Kolkata(the same college from where Vivekananda studied), created a stir in the gentleman society of Kolkata by writing a wonderful book “Anand Math”.

This book was based on a historical incident of the Sanyasi rebellion. Instilled in the spirit of sannyasis sacrificing everything for their motherland, for their religion, this book soon became popular all over India. Later on, this book became as holy as the Bible for Hindu nationalists. And what to say about the popularity of Vande Mataram, a poem which was mentioned in this book. Later on, this poem became so popular that it came to be known as the national song of India. For more information about Anand Math and the sanyasi rebellion please visit: https://nithinks.com/2021/08/12/sachindra-nath-sanyal-a-great-forgotten-freedom-fighter/

We do not consider anyone else as a mother – we believe only in the motherland. (Anand Math)

Most famous image of Swami Vivekananda.
Swamiji’s portrait photographed by Thomas Harrison, at his studio in Central Music Hall, Chicago. Seven such ‘Chicago style cabinet card photographs known as the Harrison series were taken in September 1893 during the World’s Parliament of Religions. Coloured posters based on this photograph were printed by a lithographic company and displayed all over Chicago

Contribution of Swami Vivekananda to Sanyas Ideology

Hinduism does not consider any one person, idea, or book as paramount. Hinduism has a gradual history of thousands of years. Various philosophers, sannyasis, scholars in different periods added different ideas to it over time.

Twenty-six hundred years ago, BUDDHA while giving a public welfare sermon said, “Don’t follow my teachings in a permanent manner. When I told them, the circumstances were different, take your own decision according to the time and circumstances that you are subject to.” Due to Islamic imperialism and then the British Raj, for centuries, there were no changes in the Acharya Samhita (CODE OF CONDUCT)of the sannyasis there were also no changes in their functioning, due to the lack of necessary changes over time, the sanyasi class was getting cut off from the common people, becoming irrelevant in the society. In such circumstances, Swami Vivekananda came like a breeze of fresh air, he tried to oppose and change the things of the sannyasi society which have become irrelevant in the modern times.


Swami Vivekananda had a lifelong attachment with Varanasi, the holy city of Hindus, the city of his beloved Lord Shiva. Elaborating this topic of how Vivekananda is linked to Varanasi in this post would be totally bizarre as it is a vast topic for discussion. I have written a separate post on this topic so if you want to read more on this topic please visit https://nithinks.com/2020/07/05/the-unknown-life-of-swami-vivekananda/

Swami Gambhirananda (Eleventh President of Ramakrishna Mission and a famous scholar) once mentioned an incident and told that during his stay in Kashi, once Swamiji got very upset after hearing about the death of someone close to him.

Pramada Das Mitra saw Swamiji weeping. Seeing this, he said, “Does it suit a sannyasi to be distressed like this?, Do worldly attachments and weakness of human nature befit a sannyasin”? Hearing this Swamiji replied “WHAT DO YOU MEAN? BY BECOMING A MONK, HAVE I BECOME DEVIOD OF FEELING”?? A true sanyasi’s heart is more tender and affectionate than that of an ordinary man. It must be more tender and affectionate than an ordinary man, to understand others feelings and help them in the way they want. We are, after all, humans.


First Image in the slideshow – When Swami Vivekananda came to Varanasi in 1888 he stayed in the house of Pramada Das Mitra this is a postcard written by Swami Vivekananda in his own handwriting mentioning the same.

Second image in the slideshow – Bengali Dyhodi, Pramada Das Mitra’s ancestral house in Varanasi.

Third image in the slideshow – An Imaginative painting made by Kripa, one of my fellow painter, describing how Gopal Lal Villa might have looked in 1902 when Swami Vivekananda stayed there when he visited Varanasi for the last time before leaving his body.

Last Image in the slideshow – How Gopal Lal Villa looks at present.

Who was Pramada Das Mitra ? Pramada Mitra was a friend of Swami Vivekananda. He lived in Varanasi. Swami Vivekananda stayed at Pramada Das’s house many times when he was in Varanasi. Pramada Dasa was a distinguished scholar of Hinduism. He had a very firm grip on Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages. He translated Gita from Sanskrit to English and also the British national anthem English to Sanskrit. He also taught Sanskrit to Swami ji during his stay in Varanasi.

Pramada Das Mitra remained a friend of Swamiji for his whole lifetime. A few days before his death, Swami Vivekananda visited Benares for the last time in 1902 and this time he stayed at Gopal Lal Villa, the garden house of Raja Kali Krishna Thakur. By this time Pramada Das had passed away and his son Kalidas Mitra had come to Gopal Lal Villa to meet Swamiji.

Vedas teach morality, the first words are, Let the mother be your God” and that she is. When we talk of woman in India, our idea of women is mother. The value of women consists in their being mothers of the human race. That is the idea of the Hindu. TAITTRIYA UPANISHAD 1.11


Vivekananda’s mother – Bhubaneswari Devi Ji

Swamiji always remained in touch with his mother. Even after becoming a sannyasi, Swamiji handled all his responsibilities. After the death of his father, Swamiji carried the financial responsibilities of the family on his shoulders, helped his siblings, and never let his mother feel lonely. Swami Vivekananda had mentioned on many occasions that “whatever I am today is because of my mother”.


A tea shop located near one of the Ghats in Varanasi

Today it may seem surprising that at one point in time there was a ban on drinking tea for sanyasis. Drinking tea and making tea was prohibited in many Hindu monasteries. This was for the reason that any kind of intoxicant or stimulating food is prohibited for sannyasis and tea was considered an agitating drink at that time, but Vivekananda changed this tradition. Swami ji used to make tea in the monastery and all the sannyasis used to drink tea with pleasure.

In the Ghats of Varanasi, where rituals related to the Hindu religion take place all the time, tea shops are plentiful and at any point in time, a crowd of Hindu devotees can easily be seen at the tea shops. Not only this, the people who come to attend the funeral of the dead person can be seen drinking tea at the cremation Ghat Manikarnika, Harishchandra, whenever I see people involved in religious rituals and funerals, drinking tea at the Ghat of Varanasi.

I think that if a young sannyasi had not got tea recognized in Hindu monasteries, would it have been possible for so many tea shops to exist in Varanasi on the Ghat. With the ease with which Hindu ascetics are seen enjoying tea, no doubt they have to be deprived of this divine drink. If you want to read more about how Swamiji contributed in making tea one of the most popular beverage in India and about how tea slowly got famous in India please visit : https://nithinks.com/2021/06/10/a-happily-tea-adict-country/

Swami Vivekananda was a versatile character. He contributed in many fields. In the same way, he had influenced people of different thinking from different countries. Swamiji has been a source of inspiration to people like Nikolai Tesla, Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi. My effort here was just to introduce the reader to how swamiji left his immpression on sannyas and ascetics. I have written this post based on what I saw during my stay in Kolkata, places associated with Swamiji in Varanasi and based on what I came to know from the family members of Pramada Das Mitra.

Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience in writing in various journals, from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write on international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

5 thoughts on “Who is a True Sanyasi?, What is a Sanyasi’s Dharma according to Swami Vivekananda?”

  1. I am more than happy to read your extraordinary post again! Everything you have written lifts my spirit because I love and revere Swami as my guru.
    Thank you!


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