Commentary on The Song of the Sannyasin


Swami Vivekananda

  The Poem, Song of Sannyasin, by Swami Vivikenanda, originally composed at Thousand Island Park, New York, July 1895. Quoted, Copied and excerpted from a personal copy of the original Second Edition, Jana Yoga, published by Brahmachari Kapila, Calcutta, 1911



Introduction to Commentary


Swami Vivikananda’s epic poem on the nature and calling of the Sannyasin, the ascetic renunciant path towards enlightenment has been the inspiration for many saints since its original publication. The Song of the Sannyasin, in modern times, is emphasized by the Ramakrishna monks and the Swaminarayan monastic orders. However, it also offers insightful keys to insight and inspiration for all seekers.


In this age the ascetic’s life is not for all seekers of wisdom and enlightenment. What about those of us who follow a fourth way, a way in life of pursuing higher consciousness and enlightenment in ordinary life? Can we not also benefit from and gain practical wisdom from this teaching? I believe so. Towards this end I offer a personal insight into this incredible work and hope if nothing else to inspire consideration of it.


Vivikanada’s words here are unedited and true to the original copy in my possession.


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!"


Wake up that which is sleeping and dreaming while the opportunity for a consciously lived life passes by. Hear the note, the song of the spirit crying for and towards the great liberation for it’s self and for all living beings. Listen to that sweet inner harmony coming from the deepest of deep places in the recesses of mind, body and spirit. It is time to satisfy a craving for realization that no external experience or achievement can satisfy. Turning inward bring awareness and the light of consciousness to the essential being or essence. The essence is that innate part of us, that abides in character regardless of events or circumstances, positive or negative. If you have an aim to be liberated, then be bold, be on to it!


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!"


Find that which obstructs and limits your true being. Release the constraints of false personality whether positive or negative. Give up attachment to expression of dualism especially in emotions. Understand the nature of our life is as a slave, a prisoner regardless of circumstances. Our attractions to excess drive us outward away from our true essence and nature. We are limited in our access to our true nature equally, in rich and in poor circumstances. The limitations on consciousness are no less severe for the wealthy or comfortable. Identification with external events creates a prison where the walls are supported by the unreal parts of us. When pursuing freedom from the slavery of the sense dominated world all pulls us away. All binds us. All blinds us. Good and bad (Munkan Mai Munkan: Thai Phrase) equal “same, same but different.”  Be bold and let go!




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!"


Darkness originates in the notion of the brevity and fleeting nature of our life. However, we are immortal and have parts able to continue from this life intact. All fear and darkness originates in attachment to illusion from the false self or false personality. Conquering the self elevates the essence and brings awareness to immortality. Do not be so attached to life or the preservation of it and lose ground to the unreal, the transient manifestations of ego manifest in the flesh.



"Who sows must reap," they say, "and cause must bring

The sure effect; good, good; bad, bad. And none

Escape the law, but who so wears a form

Must bear the chain."  Too true. Yet far beyond

Both name and form is Atman, ever free.

Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say,

"Om tat sat, Om!"


Karma, original law of cause and effect does not respect our opinions. Every thought, action and deed is both a cause and effect and a mechanical and predictable outcome of consciousness being manifest in a physical realm and body. We wear the form of a Human Being and so are subject to the laws under which organic life and human beings must operate. We need to learn and bring awareness to these laws in order to work within them and perhaps eventually to operate under superseding laws. Cause and effect are absolute, however they are relative. For example the law of gravity is a law, however, applying another law such as the law of lift allows us to fly. So, the laws of Karma are absolute, however, the law of origination and conscious connection to essence and spirit may provide a way to transcend it.



They know no 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!"


From the point of view of possible evolution everything not directly reflecting or originating from the essence is unreal and is simply an event. Our life details, the things we generally hold most dear, family, friend, our picture of our self and our life are insubstantial and to be challenged. We seek to resonate and have discourse with a part of us that has none of these things. We seek to resonate with a part of us that is not added to or diminished by ordinary life concerns. Our essence has no gender and it was not born of parents. The core is truth and the realization liberation. We are unique in that the essence of our true nature is reflected in all nature and the essential nature of all reflected within us.




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!"


There is but one true original self and all that obstructs it's vision is illusion. The illusion is the dream which we call life. The true self is that which can self remember, observe and witness. It sees the nature of our reality as it really is from it's objective, superior and lofty view point, and reflects the nature of an unrestrictive perspective. Know that this is within our grasp of consciousness not because it is superhuman but because it is our nature!




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!"


The Buddha stated "Man must himself rise and make way to the portals that give upon liberty, and it is in his power every moment so to do. That door is free of all bolts and bars save those that man himself has made". We run around asking for answers, asking those who do not know us or share our experience to tell us what to do. We wish for someone to show us or confirm our path towards enlightenment. Why do we look for the keys in external hands when the work is our own, the way is within and the resources we have to bring towards our great liberation unlimited? The greatest and most substantial impediments to our progress and liberation are our selves, our false personality and ego. We need to let go of all that holds us in chains, bound to the negative expressions of our ego and take hold of what is real within us.




Say ‘Peace! To all,  From me no danger be

To aught that lives. In those that dwell on high,

ln those that lowly creep, I am the Self in all.

All life, both here and there, do l renounce,

All heavens, earths and hells, all hopes and fears,

Thus cut thy bonds, Sannyasin bold! Say,

"Om tat sat, Om!"


To release the bonds of Karma is to immediately take the "Ahimsa" vow to do no harm. Create a template or base from which to begin the noble work of transformation. Cultivate peace and the non-expression of negative emotions in thought action and deed. Since every moment is conditioned Karmically by all that preceded it we must become partners in the crafting of our moments. Right now is a good time to start! We are as we think. We should practice the craft of cultivation of intentional thinking. There are many ways to craft good thoughts for the purpose of crafting a reality suitable for connecting with and cultivating essence while reducing the harmful and restrictive effects of Karma.


The Meta Sutra is a good example of how to cultivate or generate the Boddhichitta or a perfect thought. The Meta Sutra postulates a way of thinking an intentional thought or prayer for the liberation of all living beings regardless of state, level of being or consciousness. "May all beings be happy, may they be free from suffering,” We vow to no longer participate in the origination cycle for the creation of suffering for ourselves and for others.


I affirm that what I have been taught to believe as the nature of life and the world to be limiting concepts. I vow to free myself from identification with the ordinary concerns of life and the belief systems which they generate. I vow to seek an understanding and perspective that originates and resonates from within my self.



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!"


Cultivate an awareness separate from that of the machine. Allow the body to fulfill it's function as the stress adaptive human biological transformational machine, but do not be overly attached to it. It's function as a vehicle is only for a short time and in time it will deteriorate. Do not be overly concerned with it's life or how it looks and feels. At some point in this process of liberation we will be required to give it up!



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, however little, nor he

Whom anger chains, can ever pass through Maya’s gates

So, give these up, Sannyasin bold ! Say,

"Om tat sat, Om !"


The biology and emotional ups and downs of relationships are among the most challenging obstacles. Having relationships is a normal, healthy part of life. To work on negative emotions and false personality and get closer to our true self is possible in normal life circumstances.


We must be scholarly and see the reality of the presence of the false personality and the ego centered it is reflective of. We must release and give up our attachment to what happens to us and what originates in the limited ego. Negative emotions consume our life and rob us of the energy and vitality necessary for self-work.



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. The rolling river be

Thou ever, Sannyasin bold! Say,

“Om tat sat, Om !"


Practice non-identification, non-attachment and a way of being that is not at the whim of circumstances and the endless cycle of events in our daily lives. Observe, accept and enjoy the fruits of consciousness above all else. Whatever is external is transitory and if we wait a moment it will be different. It will pass. There is something within us that observes and abides. That is the part to cling to and indentify with.


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!"


Place less value or weight on the opinions of those not engaged in your work or process of working on your self. Do not expect anyone who does not know or understand the nature of your efforts to concur, praise or appreciate what your doing. Your satisfaction has to come from within.


We are a house divided within our self. There is a running discord between the parts of us reflecting the true self and the parts reflecting the ego and false personality. We must not listen to those parts that do not support our work! The old saying that we are our own worst enemy is no exaggeration. We must use the tools and make efforts to feed the parts of us that want to move towards consciousness and liberation of spirit. We must diminish the influence and power of those parts of us that do not. Fear of pain, search for pleasure are reflections of our mechanical nature and are not valuable to us. They represent the ambitions of the tissue not the spirit.


The parts of us (our many I's) that can attract the right kinds of efforts and intentions necessary for growth are few. With practice they will grow.


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

Becomes the All, the All is I, and bliss!

Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold ! Say,

"Om tat sat, Om!"


Our effort and work continue until the great day is done, through one lifetime, many lifetimes, or all that there is. The effort and the song remain the same. We are not done until we are, so be brave and get on with it!


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Commentary on the Song of the Sannyasin: Copyright© 2011, Anthony B. James CMT, ND, MDAM  All rights reserved under International and Pan American copyright conventions. World rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Inquires should be addressed to: Anthony B. James, ND, MDAM, Brooksville, FL.  http://www.ThaiYogaCenter.Com