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Why Ochre robes?

Swami Nirviseshananda Tirtha

16 August 2021

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This colour represents the ultimate Knowledge. Since this Knowledge means renunciation of all possessiveness or ego, the Ochre colour also represents tyāga or renunciation.

Swamiji, why are you always using Ochre colour dress? Is there any special significance?

Yes! The Ochre or Gerua colour has quite a few implications for a Sannyāsin:

1. It is the colour of fire. We generally compare Knowledge with fire – Jnāna-agni or Knowledge-fire. If you put anything in fire it will turn into ash. The original form, colour, smell – everything will be lost and you will get uniform ash. Likewise this Knowledge of the ultimate Truth also burns off all our partisan outlook, preference and prejudice. The variegated world becomes a display of one uniform Consciousness. Knowledge of Truth burns all blemishes, smallness, rigidity and constrictions.

Sannyāsa style of life is meant for exclusive pursuit of Knowledge. We are not supposed to do any Pooja, Yajna, homa or any religious worship. The last religious sacrifice a Sannyāsin performs during his initiation into Sannyāsa is called “Virajā Homam”, which means renouncing the right to perform any Vedic Karma.

So, this colour represents the ultimate Knowledge. Since this Knowledge means renunciation of all possessiveness or ego, the Ochre colour also represents tyāga or renunciation. That is why this is one of the three colours in our National flag. Ours is a Knowledge civilization. It is a civilization where tyāga (leaving, and not grabbing) is given the supreme position.

2. This colour also represents earth. Earlier, Sannyāsins used to dye their cloth with a special ochre coloured earth called ‘Geri-mitti’. Now, of course, mostly people use chemical dye.

One great quality of the Earth is patience or tolerance. Normally if someone slaps you, you would return the slap. Even if a friend abuses you, you would return the abuse. But when you do so many wrong things on the earth, does the earth ever fight back? You take away its minerals recklessly, you spoil its water and air by poisonous effluents, flatten its hills for your construction materials!

When there is devastating earthquake caused by construction of a huge dam, you may say that the Earth is fighting back. That is not true. If you suddenly store huge water in a certain place, then the earth has to balance its load to keep on its orbit. Through earthquake, the earth is only readjusting its balance. It is like bending your body to the left when 30 kg is put on your right shoulder. It is not fighting back – the Earth is only balancing its weight. It is extremely tolerant.

Similarly, Sannyāsins have to be extremely tolerant. We are not supposed to fight back. If you abuse me, I will not quarrel with you. I may try to find out whether what you are saying is true. But I will not fight back. We may fight for societal reformation, but not for any personal cause.

3. The last significance is perhaps the most practical reason for wearing this colour. Sannyāsins are generally supposed to be wandering. Olden days, we used to move from place to place on foot. So, naturally the dress would become dusty. Over the earth colour the dust would not show up or look dirty!…

– From a Satsang in Ohio–June 2019

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“Sannyāsins have to be extremely tolerant. We are not supposed to fight back. If you abuse me, I will not quarrel with you.”

“That is why this is one of the three colours in our National flag. Ours is a Knowledge civilization. It is a civilization where tyāga (leaving, and not grabbing) is given the supreme position.”

“This colour also represents earth. Earlier, Sannyāsins used to dye their cloth with a special ochre coloured earth called ‘Geri-mitti’. ”

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