One night Srila Prabhupada had a striking dream, the same dream he had had several times before, during his days as a householder. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati appeared, just as Srila Prabhupada had known him, the tall, scholarly sannyasi, coming directly from the spiritual world, from Krishna's personal entourage. He was asking Srila Prabhupada to take sannyasa.
Srila Prabhupada first had to approach one of his Godbrothers for permission. He decided to turn to Bhaktivilasa Tirtha Maharaja (formerly Kunja Vihari), the leader of the Chaitanya Math in Calcutta. In April 1959, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Tirtha Maharaja, inquiring about sannyasa as well as about the Chaitanya Math's printing some of his manuscripts. Without printing books and going to the West, sannyasa did not have meaning for Srila Prabhupada. He wanted to go to the West right away, and he had thought the Chaitanya Math would welcome his offer. He thought that with the world's crying need for Krishna consciousness staring them in the face, they might see that Srila Prabhupada was convinced and enthusiastic and so should be sent right away with whatever he required. But they had other priorities.
Srila Prabhupada next turned to Kesava Maharaja in Mathura, and Kesava Maharaja told Srila Prabhupada to take sannyasa immediately. On the morning of September 17, 1959, in the fifty-by-twenty-five-foot Deity room on the second floor of the Kesavaji Math, a group of devotees sat before the Deities of Radha-Krishna and Lord Chaitanya. Srila Prabhupada sat on a mat of kusa grass beside ninety-year-old Sanatana, also to receive sannyasa that day. Then, to everyone's surprise, Kesava Maharaja asked Srila Prabhupada to speak. After Srila Prabhupada's speech, each initiate received his sannyasa-danda, the traditional head-high staff made of four bamboo rods bound together and completely enwrapped in saffron cloth. Kesava Maharaja said that Srila Prabhupada would now be known as Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja.
After the ceremony, the two new sannyasis posed for a photo, standing on either side of their sannyasa-guru, who sat in a chair. Yet Srila Prabhupada knew that to become A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami did not mean merely that he was giving up family, home comforts, and business. Changing from white cloth to saffron cloth, from Abhay Babu to Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, had a special significance: it was the mandate he had required, the irrevocable commitment. Now it was only a matter of time before Bhaktivedanta Swami would travel to the West as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had ordained.