Sannyas and Time-Rich Living, by Nitya Prem

Nitya Prem writes: “Here’s  an article on the dilemma we all face about how to live as sannyasins in the modern world. We all need to earn a living, but sannyas life needs time too, and so we have to balance these things.”
There was a time when there were quite a few Osho meditation centres here in the Netherlands, and Osho seemed to be at the forefront of bringing a new wave of Eastern philosophy to the West. But I think he was also far ahead of his time in bringing the best of Western thinking to the East. It was as if he was a bridge, and there was two-way traffic. It puts me in mind of this…


“In the West they have destroyed poverty, they have destroyed much disease, they have made man’s life longer. They have made man’s body more beautiful, they have made man’s existence more comfortable, but the man himself — for whom all these comforts, all these conquests of science and technology have been done — is missing. They have completely forgotten for whom it was done. The inside is hollow. Everything is there, all around, and in the middle there is a retarded consciousness, almost non-existential.”               (Osho, ‘Beyond Enlightenment’)

To not get caught up in society’s games, to realise what really is important to us, is one of the questions that comes with the spiritual path. Once you start thinking about freedom, happiness, what is causing your suffering, you soon find out that society is not your friend. Society wants to make you into a replaceable cog in the machine of business.

When Osho says “the inside is hollow” we get an inkling of what is missing. As soon as you resign yourself to being a cog, you lose a certain authority over your life, you take the dollars industry offers to you and obey the goals set for you; but in fact taking sannyas is a taking back of that authority. It is an act of rebellion against society’s machine.

In my case and in my father’s that took the form of finding a way to have time for ourselves. My father — also a sannyasin — worked as a teacher and was able to reduce his hours, so that he basically had half-days off, as well as having long holidays. I worked in the games industry as a software developer and technical director, and have been able to take a ten-year career break. These two different approaches to earning money allowed us to find time to spend on the spiritual quest.

In the time following Osho’s death this took the form of occasionally visiting Poona. The last time I was there was in 1997, I remember standing in front of the Ashram gates and later working in the book design department. My father and I shared a little flat overlooking the river, near the burning ghats, I remember the unmistakable smells of India, spices and plants and execrable other influences.

Living this life has been a letting go of luxury, that is true. I always followed my passion, doing what I enjoyed and being good at it, but with simple surroundings. Ultimately, as U.G. Krishnamurti said, man does not need more than shelter, clothes and food. Simply living and being content with ordinary things is a good discipline, although I was never afraid to spend money on the things I loved, whether that was single malt whiskey or photography. For me it was clear that it’s better to have been time-rich but money-frugal, than to have been money-rich and died of stress at age fifty-five.

Then, what does being time-rich bring? My father used his half-days to meditate, read the paper and snooze. I joke a little, he also did a lot of Yoga, but there is a certain relaxation which is conducive to spiritual growth. It reminds me: there was a slogan on t-shirts sold in the commune, which went “Is-ness is my Business”. I took it to mean that ‘being’ was what was important, and that meditation was about discovering what was within. Later I found that prolonged silence is good for one’s being and self-knowledge, that there are things to be found in silence which you will not find in partying.

Yet is sannyas not also about celebration? It is the little things in life, bringing a farmer’s cake from the supermarket or some fried fish to share with friends from the Wednesday market in town. A good new film on DVD in the evening. A Saturday paper to read with a double espresso. A birthday at a friend’s house nearby. Ordinary life, it turns out, is pretty good.


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39 Responses to Sannyas and Time-Rich Living, by Nitya Prem

  1. satchit says:

    Good article, Nitya Prem.

    But what is the case if society is an illusion?
    Why should one escape from an illusion?

    Not only Sannyas is about celebration.
    The whole Existence celebrates itself in its different forms.

    And yeah, good auld words:
    “Living in the world but not being part of it …”

    • Nityaprem says:

      I don’t think it is about escape from society. You spend time in society earning your money, and you spend time pursuing the spiritual path. How much time you want to dedicate to that is a personal thing, for some people listening to an evening lecture is enough, while others want to go all-in, give up working and do nothing else.

      But always you are confronted with “shelter, clothes and food”. U.G. found a good woman to be with, and she took care of him. For others all they can afford is a yearly solo holiday to the Resort, which is a celebration and a de-stressing. There are different strategies for earning money and the spiritual path.

      The ultimate, I think, is the way of the Buddhist monk, where you give it all up, live with no possessions and beg for food in a distant corner of Thailand. The problem with that is that you’re no longer free to follow your own spiritual path, but have to spend your time thinking about Buddhist beliefs.

      • satyadeva says:

        The other problem with that is you depend upon the goodwill of others to keep you from starving. How can that option be considered “the ultimate”, NP?

        • Nityaprem says:

          Buddhist belief in those parts is that giving food to a monk brings you merit and a better rebirth in a future life. So it’s more a trade than pure goodwill, the monk strives to reach enlightenment and the common folk who support him share in his merit. It’s a cultural thing.

          In Europe Christian monks used to be supported by the wealth of monasteries, who owned vast tracts of land, often settled on them by the nobility in return for spiritual favours. It’s a different system, a different culture, but the same spiritual trade.

          The way of sannyas where each sannyasin is responsible for earning his own living is maybe more honest, more everyday.

        • Nityaprem says:

          I meant ‘ultimate’ only in the sense of a total focus on the spiritual life, and not having to bother with the realities of living and money.

      • satchit says:

        “You spend time in society earning your money, and you spend time pursuing the spiritual path.”

        I don’t think it is sannyas-style to make this distinction.

        Maybe it is Christian style:
        During the week you work and earn money and on Sunday you go to the church and pray to God.

        Osho’s teaching is: This life is that life!

        • Nityaprem says:

          In the early days maybe that was the case, when everybody’s ideal was to live in the commune, but I think by the time Poona 2 rolled around the idea was to “visit the mystery school” and later the meditation resort, after you saved up your money for it. In practical terms.

          Of course you still had a life to live even while earning money at a job, it doesn’t stop, so it is all one life. But arranging it in such a way that you can spend time close to Osho was a challenge, and today it is still a challenge to find time and money for groups and festivals.

          • swamishanti says:

            Actually, many of Osho’s talks on living with a worldwide network of communes, even of living communally without money, where given in Poona Two, although he had argued that also during the sixties, that capitalism , when mature enough, should ultimately evolve into wealth distribution and more fairer systems.

            Clearly in those early talks in the 1960’s were given when he was talking in the environment of a very undeveloped , third world country, that he believed was not at that time ready for socialism, communism, anarchism etc. Indian intellectuals were talking a lot about moving into socialism at that time.

            Unfettered capitalism simply produces a class born with silver spoons in their mouths which feeds off the work of the majority of the population, whist the poorest always end up becoming poorer when that class raised to rule is in power. Obviously some of the wealthiest people do support the idea of wealth distribution or fairer alternatives. Capitalism provides a certain amount of freedom and can generate wealth quickly but is inherently not good for the poorest and most vulnerable, but presumably will evolve into something fairer as humanity gradually evolves in its consciousness.

            The wealthiest are able to put their energy into meditation as Osho pointed out but the majority of workers don’t have the time. Which is why the sadhu traditionally left the world behind so he can focus his energy on meditation.

            The Indian sadhu has no problem collecting donations all he has to do is knock along a street of shops or houses and people feel obliged to give as he is at the highest stage of life.

            The practical alternative would be to have communes where people work a few hours a day and have plenty of time left over to meditate.

            “ The whole world should be one humanity, only divided by small communes on a practical basis. No fanaticism, no racism, no nationalism – then, for the first time, we can drop the idea of wars. We can make life with honesty, worth living, worth enjoying – enplayful, meditative, creative – and give every man and every woman equal opportunity to grow and bring their potential to flowering. “

            ‘The Golden Future’

            He can read some of those talks here at :


            Although they don’t like to put those ones out on YouTube.

            • Nityaprem says:

              True, Swamishanti, but the question is not how society should evolve but how we as sannyasins can best live in it.

              I’m not in favour of capitalism, although I understand that the wealthy and powerful want to keep their privileges and will do everything in their reach to keep the status quo.

              • satchit says:

                “I worked in the games industry as a software developer and technical director, and have been able to take a ten-year career break.”

                Means the last ten years you’ve lived from your savings and pursued your spiritual path?

                • Nityaprem says:

                  Yes, that’s right, Satchit. I’ll write more about it in a future article, but basically I spent ten years reading about Buddhism and meditating, and listening to the odd Osho discourse. It was a time of a lot of silence and solitude.

    • Nityaprem says:

      Satchit quoted “Living in the world but not being part of it…”

      It depends on how you go about doing that. If you are an artist living off the proceeds of your art, then it would be a lot easier than if you were to live as say a freelance photographer taking any job going.

      Any job which requires you to work with ordinary folks as customers will need you to wear a business hat and be in the world, I should think.

      • satchit says:

        NP, the quote “Living in the world but not being part of it” means: create a distance to yourself!

        In the world you cannot escape from playing roles.

        Artist, freelancer photographer, technical director, father, son, husband, Buddhist monk,
        sannyasin – they are all roles you can play in the world.

        Watching them, witnessing them, being aware of them creates a distance from them.

        Means living the roles, but not being part of them.

        • Nityaprem says:

          Does it mean that? I think if you start identifying with the masks that you wear you are in trouble, regardless of whether you try to create distance…

          Does that mean one should try to wear no masks and be nakedly honest all the time? I never got into the habit of wearing masks and communicating in patterns. Being responsive, actually present as an individual, is better than communicating in a conditioned way.

          The whole idea of masks is about a certain stance and pre-selected series of responses that one adopts, to not have to be present in the situation. Just drop it, and be honestly present.

          • satyadeva says:

            Your ideas here, NP, are echoed (with further suggestions and observations)) by Eckhart Tolle in this response to a question re how to approach business relationships, ‘The Practice of Conscious Business Relationships’:


            • Nityaprem says:

              Thanks for the link, SD. I have a lot of respect for Eckhart Tolle, and he usually has sensible things to say from the perspective of a lived human presence. I will definitely watch the video.

            • Nityaprem says:

              I’ve watched it, and I thought his comments about not getting attached to outcomes was spot on. It’s always a problem when ‘you’ want something, desire gets in the way, you attach too much importance to things.

              The idea of people playing roles is also very true, it’s a shortcut to certain patterns of behaviour which are “good for business” but in reality you are not wholly present when you do that. It’s a form of unconsciousness, the automatic pilot.

              It’s good that Eckhart talks about these things, because that too is a version of samsara, the world of unconsciousness, ignorance and suffering.

              • satyadeva says:

                Playing a role, if that’s all you’re capable of or if that’s what the sitation requires, is ok though, isn’t it, if you can manage to be aware, conscious that’s what you’re doing? It can be an easy or even skilful way to cope with certain situations that might otherwise be problematic, anxiety-creating.

                I recall Osho (as Bhagwan) advising someone about to do military service and resisting the prospect not to create unecessary problems for himself, that he should simply follow orders, do what he’s told and, most important, watch himself doing that. I think he highlighted marching, like an automaton, as being particularly conducive for this.

                • satchit says:

                  “Playing a role, if that’s all you’re capable of or if that’s what the sitation requires, is ok though, isn’t it, if you can manage to be aware, conscious that’s what you’re doing?”

                  You can be conscious and play a role.
                  Every actor is capable of this.

                  Osho did this too, playing the Master/Guru role.

                  If he had not done, nobody would have played the disciple role.

                • Nityaprem says:

                  Funny story, Satyadeva, I can hardly imagine a sannyasin doing military service. Some countries allow you to do a form of replacement service, if you want to avoid the military. Maybe that’s a better option for a meditator?

                  I think we all use the shortcut of roles sometimes, it’s just a question of becoming aware of where a certain reaction is coming from. Often a man defaults to being a husband, for example. Does the fact that the Valentine’s Day flowers he buys his wife are an automatic thing mean anything?

                • Nityaprem says:

                  Satyadeva said, “playing a role, if that’s all you’re capable of…”

                  I think we adopt roles in an effort to appear sophisticated…as if our natural responses aren’t good enough, and we have to try to be something more.

                  But really you leave the ability to respond in the moment when you do that. A genuineness, an openness disappears.

                  It’s up to you to determine whether you need that mask, which is also a shield, or whether you gain more from a real meeting with the world.

                  In the end, it’s all play, the world doesn’t matter so much. If you can just stay relaxed, it’s cool, it’s easy to be happy…That laid back being with the world, while you keep a little distance, don’t get caught up, is a key to a life of ease.

  2. VeetTom says:

    Angel Girl loves Devil Doll !
    This meditation is not for kids only:

  3. VeetTom says:

    Oh, man, what a serious Approach.

    • Nityaprem says:

      You’re not entirely wrong, seriousness is very often the mind trying to be in control. But all these supernatural entertainments are the dreams of other people, they are not real. It is a question of the power of ideas, you can take in lots of other people’s memes, but they can move you away from what’s true.

      All religion’s ideas of heaven and hell are based on what people experience as pleasurable or painful here on Earth. The Muslim heaven is supposed to contain rivers of wine, which is forbidden on Earth. The Christian hell is a place of torture, no doubt based on all the things the Inquisition did. But wine and torture exist on Earth. There is nothing spiritual in these beliefs, they are the merest beginnings of dreaming about better and worse places.

      A big part of the spiritual search for me is about finding truth and clarity, and throwing out that which makes no sense. A walk through the woodland can tell you a lot more about truth, than most imaginings of men. It comes down to de-programming, de-conditioning.

  4. Nityaprem says:

    One thing that I have found important is to become aware of our deep connection with beauty. You can look at a rose, and examine petals and thorns and its heart, and miss the beauty of the whole rose. In a way, this beauty is a message from the beyond. It speaks to us, about the essence of life, about the sense of things in the unconscious mind.

    There are many things that are beautiful — women, sailing ships, horses — and each contains a drop of that essence. You gain an appreciation for things, and this tendency to appreciate, this sense of beauty in what you see is an echo of the essence of things. It is the heart calling to you about your purpose in life.

    Learning to recognise what makes your heart sing, what inspires you, is an important step. It is only then that you can work to bring these things into your life, can explore or multiply them. In a way these things breathe life into our vision of the world. Things are ordinary, and seeing the beauty in them makes them magical.

  5. VeetTom says:

    And…when everything goes to shit…
    I go where I went first…to my happy place:

    • Nityaprem says:

      Morning, VeetTom…There are always silver linings around the clouds we see. I’m involved with caring for an older sannyasin who has now reached his end-of-life journey, he is comfortably sleeping with a morphine drip in his arm, and the thing he said yesterday to his wife was, “I’m experiencing such a sense of wonder.”

      Even shit is necessary for fertilising tomorrow’s growths, it has a place in the world which is a continuous cycle of transformations, of building up and breaking down.

  6. VeetTom says:

    :::: BREAKING NEWS ::::::: BREAKING NEWS ::::::: BREAKING NEWS ::::::: BREAKING NEWS ::: The end is near: “Swarm of mosquitoes forma ‘tornado’ over Pune, cause panic among residents.”

  7. Nityaprem says:

    Rest in Peace Swami Anand Yatri, my good friend.

    I got to know him when I was just 13 on the Ranch when he met up with my mother. He introduced me to The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, and I introduced him to computer games where he much enjoyed playing Aces of the Pacific in the mid 1990s. He was an artist, author, graphic designer and illustrator, and one of just a few people with regular walk-in access to Osho in Poona One. He was also known for doing the cartoons in The Rajneesh Times.

  8. I’ve been reading articles from Sannyas News for some time and your words about Yatri prompted me to join this forum. He was a wonderful soul, vibrant and full of creativity. I worked with him in the darkroom in Poona 1 and I remember us playing with ways to colourise black and white prints in Radha Hall. The side effect of this was we produced such noxious-smelling chemicals that we had to evacuate the area. I don’t remember them smelling much (perhaps there’s a reason for that) but I remember his positivity and boundless energy when while we played.

    • Nityaprem says:

      Hi Devaprem,

      Yes, Yatri often told me stories about the Indian printers and the old typesetting machines from the design days of Poona 1. He taught me graphic design in the period after my university studies in the mid-1990s, when he, my mother (his partner) and I lived together in Charmouth, Devon. I saw him often over the years, we spent many happy Christmases together, although he was indignant when I once called him ‘paps’ (dad in Dutch) which he misunderstood as the English ‘pops’ meaning ‘old geezer’.

      About duotone colouring he mentioned a few things. He did a book called ‘Iron Horse’ about old steam trains when he lived in Italy after the Ranch, which was done with duotone printed images. The little tricks of mixing colours so that first one, then another part of the mix would become dominant, great stuff!

      He did a lot of work for magazines and illustrated books later in life, producing images for Stephen Hawking’s ‘Universe in a Nutshell’ and publications such as the Scientific American and Welt der Wunder.

    • Nityaprem says:

      Many of Yatri’s old friends are tuning in apparently, quite a few people on Facebook (or so I hear – I’m not on FB), a few more on OshoNews and many people he knew are getting in touch by email. There’s a lot of love for him around. People in New Zealand are holding a little vigil, a small group of friends are meeting up to sit silently and swap stories.

      I liked Veena’s ‘Voyages’ piece on OshoNews, I would have written something if no-one else had, but it has been so busy arranging the ceremony. I was doing the PowerPoint presentation for the photos for the goodbye this morning, and that took a while.

      The goodbye and cremation are on Monday, just a small circle of family and friends will attend.

  9. VeetTom says:

    I am not sure how Yatri looked in “those days” to reactivate my memory…Subhuti seems to be from the same decade ;-) …also with another face now, here, below…
    Just my association…

    I very much recommend his book! It’s well written and witty. I’ve read half of it so far. Every chapter collects inspiring aspects, filled with some insider’s stuff, but especially meaningful for the almost complete newbies about Sannyas history and Osho, so it’s for those who – already guesssd it? – only saw the netflix docu.

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