Chapter 22: Sannyas is of the Highest

Question 1



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Question 1


It is true that wearing a particular kind of clothes does not make one a sannyasin, but it is also true that sannyasins do wear some particular kind of clothes. Clothes don't make for sannyas, but that does not mean that a sannyasin cannot have his own clothes. He can. Clothes are not that important, but they are not that unimportant either.

What clothes you wear has meaning. And why you wear clothes has meaning too. Someone wears loose clothes and someone else prefers tight ones. There is not much of a difference between loose and tight clothes, but it does say something about the mental makeup of the people who wear them. Why does someone choose loose garments for himself while another chooses tight ones? If a person is quiet and peaceful he will go in for loose clothing, he won't like tight ones. On the other hand, tight clothing is preferred by one who is disturbed, hot-tempered and sexual. Loose clothes are not good for fighting. That is why soldiers all over the world have tight-fitting outfits; they cannot be given loose uniforms. The job of a soldier is such that he needs to be tight and smart. His clothes really should be so tight that he is always ready for action, that he feels he can jump out of his body whenever he is required to do so. But a monk, a meditator, a sannyasin, needs loose and light clothes.

Orange clothes have their own utility. Not that one cannot be a sannyasin without being in an ochre robe, but the ochre robe does have its due place in sannyas.

And those who discovered it, after long search and experiment, had a good many reasons to commend the ochre color for sannyas.

We will come to know the significance of different colors if we make some small experiments with them. Our difficulty is that we never make such experiments. Take seven glass bottles of different colors -- there are seven colors in all -- and fill them with water from the same river and leave them for a while under the sun. You will be amazed to find that the colors of the glass have affected the quality of the water, each in its own way. There are now seven kinds of water in those bottles. The water in the yellow bottle will deteriorate in no time, while the water in the red bottle will remain pure for a long time.

You can ask, "What does the color of a bottle do?" The color of the glass affects the rays of the sun in its own particular manner when they pass through it. While the yellow color accepts a particular kind of ray, the red one accepts another kind, and the water inside the bottles is affected by those rays in a big way. The rays of the sun serve as food and nourishment for the water.

Experiments and research conducted over thousands of years led to the discovery of ochre clothes for sannyas, and it has yielded rich results. Physicists know well the function of colors. They know that the color of your clothes keeps the same color away from it. We think just the opposite; we think that a piece of red cloth is red, but it is not so. For instance, when the rays of the sun, which have seven colors, fall on a particular object and the object appears to you as red, it means that the said object has absorbed all the colors of the sun except the red one; it has kept the red away. And that is why you see the object as red. And if some object appears to you to be blue, it means that the object has repelled the blue color. So when this blue of the rays of the sun reaches your eyes, you see the object as blue in color. So whatever color you have on your body, it will not allow the same kind of color to enter you.

Ochre was selected as the color of sannyas after a great deal of investigation and experiment. The color red arouses many kinds of sexuality in a human being, because it is very strong and vital. On entering a human body it provokes its sexuality. For this reason people living in hot countries are more sexual than others. The hotter a country's climate, the more sexual its people.

It is not accidental that a book on sexology like the KAMASUTRA was not written in a country with a cold climate. It is the same with TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS; it is the product of a tropical climate. People living in tropical climates are more sexual because of the sun. Therefore people who were working on sannyas from many directions thought that sexuality could be calmed if the red color were kept away from sannyasins' bodies -- hence ochre was selected.

You can ask why ochre was selected and not red. Pure red could well have been selected; it would have been more effective in calming sexuality. But there was a difficulty in choosing red, true out-and-out red; it would have totally prevented red from entering the body. But the body needs some amount of red rays to keep fit, so it would have been bad for the health to keep red totally away from the body.

There is yet another reason we did not opt for pure red. Even the sight of the pure red is harsh and harmful; we had to be wary that the color of sannyas should be such that it did not hurt others. Sannyas takes care of everybody and everything. You put a piece of red cloth in front of a bull and see how furious he becomes. The red hits the bull's eyes hard; he cannot take it.

You will be surprised to know that people who work on color psychology in the West have arrived a very strange conclusions. A lot of work on colors is in progress in the West; large scale research is under way. And they have found many new uses of colors. An owner of a department store in America had a study done on the colors on cans and containers of goods he sold. It was amazing to find that even the color influenced the sale of goods in a big way. A researcher kept constant watch on the customers -- mostly women do the shopping just to see how they were attracted to various colors. It was found that while the yellow attracted only twenty percent of the customers, red attracted eighty percent. The sale of the same article increased fourfold when the color of its container was changed from yellow to red. Red attracts women like anything, and it is not surprising that this color has been the most popular among women all over the world.

So the selection of ochre for sannyas is meaningful. Ochre is a shade of red; it is less bright, less offensive. While it retains all the advantages of red, it discards its disadvantages. It diminishes sexuality as much as red does; at the same time it does not harm you in the way red does.

There are many other advantages of the ochre, but it will not he possible to go into them all here. It would be a lengthy subject if we were to go into colors in detail. But a few things can be discussed.

Ochre is the color of the sunrise. When the sun is just emerging on the eastern horizon, when the first light of dawn begins to show itself, its color is exactly ochre. When you enter meditation, the first light that you see is ochre, and the ultimate light of meditation is blue. Meditation begins with ochre and ends with blue; it reaches its peak with blue. Ochre is the index of the beginning of meditation; a sannyasin encounters this color on entering meditation. So in the course of the whole day the color of his own clothes reminds him of meditation again and again. An association is established between the two, clothes and meditation. Ochre helps him in going into meditation, which is an integral part of the life of a sannyasin.

If you want to remember you have to buy a particular thing from the market you make a knot in your handkerchief or in any other part of your clothing so it reminds you in time. There is obviously no connection whatsoever between a knot and something to be purchased from the market, but when you reach the market the first thing that comes to mind is the knot, and in association with it, the thing to be bought. The knot becomes associated with it; it becomes a kind of conditioning.

Pavlov's experiment in this respect has become famous. He put a piece of bread before a dog and rang a bell at the same time. The sight of the bread immediately made the dog salivate. Pavlov continued this practice of putting the bread before the dog and ringing the bell for a full fifteen days, after which he stopped putting the bread but continued to ring the bell. But he found to his surprise that the dog still salivated just at the sound of the bell. What has happened to this dog? An association between the sound of the bell and the secretion of saliva has been established, and this association has created a conditioned reflex. Now the sound of the bell is enough to remind the dog of the bread that came with the bell.

We live our whole life in this way; we live like Pavlov's dog. All our behavior is nothing but a bunch of conditioned reflexes, and the irony is that most of our reflexes are wrong.

If, while he is walking, eating or taking a bath, his clothes repeatedly remind a sannyasin of the first color of the meditative experience, then the ochre color has served a great purpose. It is a kind of conditioning, a knot to remind him over and over again that meditation is his way. But this does not mean that one cannot be a sannyasin without the ochre robe. Sannyas is such a lofty thing that it cannot be confined to garments. But garments are not altogether useless; they are very meaningful.

I would like millions of people to be seen in ochre all over the world.


Next: Chapter 22: Sannyas is of the Highest, Question 2


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Chapter 22






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