THE JOY OF LIVING

Every one has the power to become a flower of love, we are just seeds and we have to help the seed to become a flower. Very few succeed actually as most are not committed and alert. The future is an illusion and the past a history. To be alive and grateful to the present is wise contentment. There can be either a negative or a positive contentment. The real is present.

When you look at someone dear to you, just look at the present in total with no comparison and you will see divine energy dancing ‘here and now’. Happiness is within us, declares the Gita. In the state of deep sleep, all of us are happy. Where does it come from? It comes from within. Look within and discover the joy of happiness—meditation makes you come in touch with happiness.

Growth oriented thinking allows us to grow. Thinking in a new way will open life in a new perspective. The sensual mind, which solely depends on the senses, perceives life in a limited way. One cannot receive the spirit of truth that is beyond the senses if one’s life is only based on the sensual mind. All the enlightened masters teach us to think in a new way so as to discover who we are and our relationship with the world outside.

The “I” in us is based on a sensuous mind filled with unnecessary thoughts, emotions, disappointments and expectations. In this noisy state, we hardly hear the real call of the soul inviting us to experience the world beyond. The sensuous mind transcends in deep meditation. Thus the sacred soul in us surfaces. It reflects who we are. We are the music of silence. In such a silence we can celebrate life and death, success and failure. The ego in us wants only success and life. Death is also a part of life.

Life is like a university. Those who love to learn to help one another graduate with distinction. To learn involves openness. Openness is an enlightened framework. One has to reframe all experiences with a quality of openness. Almighty can do anything for you, if you can give Him a chance, if you can give him openness. Being closed is like a cage where you are locked up. Openness is the key to enlightenment. Openness gives you serenity, as you are not hijacked by worry. Serenity opens the door for infinite possibility.

Tradition is like the footprints of truth. It is just wrapping. It is an outer layer. It is just only an indicator and not the indicated. But every tradition claims it has truth; it is like the shadow claiming the very object reflected as real.. One has to look into it to find out the truth of life. In order to discover the truth one should be open. Only in the space of openness one discovers truth. Truth is beyond likes and dislikes beyond tradition, beyond dogmas and beliefs. Such a truth blesses a person beyond concepts. One should be like a traveler open to see and explore into “what is” and not “what should be”. Also one should be like a tourist, who, while in Toronto, is thinking of Vancouver. There is no end to foolishness if one does not realize the truth.

If today’s humanity is going to survive the many threats against it, we need authentic preceptors and free thought Gurus exposing light and love into this dimension by uncovering the light and love inherent in all of us. Humanity is not a sinful species, but a community poised to be liberated through genuine compassion. Humanity is a community whose heart can stand in the brilliance of integrity.

People are able to let go of the beliefs that stand between them and their direct experience. Humanity is not its beliefs. We don’t need faith based moderates and appeasers arguing for the continuance of dimming our light and love, pretending that their avoidance and form-based conceptions, including morality, belief and moderation, are compassion.

The motivation of comparison to liberate sentient beings proceeds from an uncovered heart-mind. Until the heart is open, that is, free from beliefs, there can be no true compassion. Only through emptiness can compassion be understood. Transcending the effects of duality, all struggle ceases. The still nowness of life reveals the light within heart-mind. Embracing the reality beyond duality, the origin of ecstasy, where fear –filled pasts and hope-laden futures never existed, is the supreme goal. Transcending attachment of the objective world liberates us from the illusion of polarized choice. Without fear, there can be no hope. Without hope, there can be no fear.

Awakening spiritual understanding cannot occur in the past or in anticipation of the future. Enlightenment is a clear realization beyond the conceptual construct of any oneness. The oneness of duality is an electro-dynamic reality of compression and expression, expression and compression.

By secular enlightenment, I mean a fearless compassion for the liberation of all, so that all can rise to higher levels of bliss than is currently possible in the repressive, disempowering, disconnected society of today.

There are lot of terminologies like self-realisation, transformation of self and all connected with self. Students may wonder what are these and what do they denote Let us see what is this “transformation”.

 Mere philosophy and intellectual knowledge cannot stand in time of need, if one does not know how to use the essentials of that philosophy in one’s daily life. Applying theoretical knowledge and living with it in daily life for a genuine and everlasting transformation, one must practice a systematic method of is called practice.

Practice requires discipline. Discipline should not be rigidly imposed, but students should learn to commit themselves and accept discipline as essential for self-growth. Imposing rigidity and following it is not helpful at all.

On the way to self-transformation, self-discipline is indispensable to both those who live in the world and those who renounce the world and resort to monasteries. Even those who renounce their homes and duties still carry with them the deep-rooted samskaras sown in earlier lives. It takes a long time to become free of those samskaras.

Becoming a swami or monk is not so important. What is important is to accept a self-disciplined life. There needs to be a bridge between life within and without. Discipline is the foundation of that bridge. People should not be tempted by mere techniques, but should learn to cultivate discipline within themselves.

People have formed a habit of leaning on others. They always want others to help and tell them what to do and what not to do. This is a bad habit. You are a human being; you should take charge of yourself. If you become too dependant on a therapist, a preacher, or a healer, then what’s the difference between you and an animal? It means you are allowing your life to be governed by your trainer. By becoming dependent on such therapies and therapists, your power of self-motivation and self-guidance will never be allowed to unfold. The scriptures, the treasure house of the sages’ experiences, clearly state that self-help alone helps. For such self-help we need a sound method of self-training.

Among all the methods for training and therapies, the highest of all is self-training in which one remains conscious of one’s thoughts, speech, and actions. When you work with yourself you will notice that whenever you calm down your conscious mind, bubbles of thoughts will suddenly come up from the unconscious mind.

In learning to control the mind and its modifications, it is essential to go through the process of self-observation, self-analysis, and meditation. Learning to control the mind, and careful study of the relationship between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, take a long time. Many times you may think that you have conquered your thoughts and your mind is under your control. After a few days, some unknown bubble arises from the unconscious and disturbs your conscious mind, thus changing your attitudes and behavior.

The process of transformation requires regularity and vigilance. Without regularity it is not possible to transcend one’s habit patterns or transform one’s personality. Patience helps one maintain regularity, whereas self-analysis and observation help one remain vigilant.

At times you may find yourself disappointed and depressed, but if you are determined and committed to self-training and self-transformation, you will certainly find help in one way or another. Do not worry about success, failure is a part of success. However, not to make an effort is wrong.

Take a look at the greatest marvels of human ingenuity and creativity and one will often find a seer’s unconditional love as the dynamic force behind man’s incredible feats. From the sacred temples of India to the great Sufi poetry of Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī and to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, connections and relationships with self realized masters spurred these achievements and many of those in found in-between.

Places of samadhi of self-realized masters have become the epicentres for glorious temples, mosques, and churches. Unconditional love has inspired mausoleums like the Taj Mahal. The grief of parting with his spiritual mentor and guru, spurned the most popular poetry of the modern times of Rumi. A correspondence with an Indian guru helped Albert Einstein articulate concepts already declared in revelations by great rishis about the nature of the universe. Like these, countless examples emerge of the silent and invisible grace of self realized masters making the ordinary human’s life become richer by pushing him/her towards the only goal of self-realization.

The illustrious seers from around the world from time immemorial explored and mastered all subjects. By connecting with the Supreme Intelligence and with complete detachment from narrow identities of the small self, these seers objectively, in the absolute sense, investigated many “ologies”. Developing systems of exercise, music, medicine, mathematics, art, dance, cuisine, and even sex, the seers made sure that every avenue ultimately pointed to the Self within. Everything was meant to show that is the goal of human existence to seek that which is eternal and unchanging, the common denominator of the Universe, the Self. The seers hoped that by doing so, all of humankind can enjoy creation.

With many faiths and religions, it may be very difficult to find these contributions of seers as those who came after them veiled the true nature of the very religion or faith they now practice. However with Sanatana Dharma, it is so evident the absolute and unconditional love the seers had for humankind. Every rung of the spiritual ladder, from the very bottom to the unbounded top, is catered with so much encouragement and affirmation to meet the goal of self- realization. Bhagawan Vyasa, the saint that all Hindus should be giving first benedictions to, created the rich philosophical mythologies of the Mahabharatha and the Bhagavad Gita. Meant to make deep philosophical truths more accessible for the ordinary human, these mythologies were taken in the literal sense and has manifested as the blind ritualism of today’s Hinduism. Regardless of the current reality, Bhagawan Vyasa showered his grace in actually being the first to record the revelations from time immemorial of all the great seers and rishis into the meticulously organized systems of Vedas as discussed earlier. Many traditions continued to be passed down orally i.e. Ayurveda, Hatha yoga, laughing yoga, tantric yoga, Bharatha Natyam, and much more. In eastern Asia, self-realized masters created martial arts that were meant to tame the body and mind and help unleash the spirit.

 Mythologies of Sanatana Dharma

Puranas

The Puranas generally deal with primary creation or cosmology, secondary creation or dissolution and renovation of worlds, including chronology, the genealogy of the Gods, patriarchs, reign of the different Manus (called manwantaras) and the history of the solar and human dynasties and their descendents.

There are innumerable characters in the Puranas and none can be taken specifically as a hero or a heroine.

There are eighteen Mahapuranas divided into three categories of six each:

Brahma Puranas: Brahma, Brahmanda, Brahma vaivarta, Markandeya, Bharishmya and Vamana

Vaishnava Puranas: Vishnu, Naradiya, Bhagavata, Garuda, Padma, and Varaha

Saiva Puranas: Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Vayu, Skanda, and Agni

  In addition to these 18 puranas, there are 46 upapuranas (so in all 64) out of which 18 are considered important. They are under, known after their authors:

Sanatkumar

Narasimha

Naradiya

Siva

Durvasa

Kapila

Vamana

Ousasana

Varuna

Kalika

Bhargava

Nandi

Soura

Samba

Maheswara

Parasara

Ganesa

Vasishta

 

The Ithihasas

These are historical anecdotes centering around a hero and a heroine whose lives and deeds serves as inspiration for humanity, for realizing the four Purusharthas namely Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.Iti-has-asa” literally means “It so happens” and “It so will continue to happen”. So these can be taken as permanent histories of human life and endeavour.

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two Itihasas in that chronological order.

Ramayana

Ramayana, which means “the goings of Rama” is the smaller of the two great epics of India and is anterior to the other more voluminous one, the Mahabharatha.

Through the generations, this book has exercised tremendous influence on the life of the Hindu and his culture. Herein describes Rama, the ideal hero, brother, king, son, husband, warrior, an embodiment of Dharma. In Laksmana and Bharata, we have the ideal brothers and in Sita, the noblest flower of Indian womanhood, devoted to her Lord in thought, word and deed. There can be no better text book of morals to be placed in the hands of youth to inspire them to higher and nobler planes of character and conduct.

Perhaps it will be news even to the vast majority of Hindus that the 24, 000 stanzas of Ramayana are amplifications of the 24 letters of the “Gayatri” and that after every thousand stanzas, the next stanza in Ramayana starts with the next letter of Gayatri in that order.

The names of the characters conceal in themselves meaning of metaphysical import which would us stand aghast in wonder and amazement. It would require a separate volume to deal with that.

The Mahabharata

This is the greater of the two great epics of India and in volume is more than eight times the size of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey put together. In philosophical content, this is unparalleled in any other language or literature of the world.

This grand book of knowledge contains more than one hundred thousand stanzas in original- hence it is called “Satasahas-Ri”– in eighteen chapters, called Parvas, and is the monument work of the great sage Krishna Dwaipayana Badarayana Vyasa, commonly known as Veda Vyasa. He was the person who first collected and codified the Vedas. The central theme of the book is “Yato Dharma-Stato Jaya”- “where there is Dharma, there is victory”- unfolding ‘through’ the story of an intertwine war fought towards end of Dwapara Yoga, between two sets of first cousins of the same royal family.

The ultimate triumph of good over evil is the underlying theme of the Epic and again the story is only a vehicle to convey eternal philosophical truths of the highest order.

The book is full of lofty instructions on all aspects of human life and endeavour and is an inspiring saga of all that is great and noble in human trait, in striking contrast to the despicable depth to which man can go in greed and Adhramam and the glory that was India of the past.

The guiding spirit throughout the epic is the divine figure of Lord Krishna who brings home unto Him the pure and virtuous and exterminates evil and the evil doers. The Great Bhagavad Gita or the Lord’s celestial song occurs in this great book.

It will be interesting to know that the two great epics of India centre round two great women the world has produced namely Sita of Ramayana and Gandhari of the Mahabharata. These two characters are the crystallization of thousands of years of Indian culture and tradition and eloquently reveal what glorious status women occupied in the India of the past.

Temple Structure 

 The origin of the word temple can be traced to word the “templum” which were used by Roman soothsayers indicating a section of the sky and also a piece of the ground to gaze and mark divine signs for foretelling the future. Eventually, temple referred to a building constructed at the site. A Hindu temple refers to in Sanskrit language to Devaalaya consisting of two words namely Deva (God) andAlaya (House).

In Vedic Hindu view, an individual’s body is referred as a temple with the indweller as God. The Vedic seers (Rishis) having realized God within themselves gave designs and functions of temples in scriptures (agama shastras) of Vedic Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma). Its purpose is to enable a devotee to use a physical temple and the ritualistic worship as a reminder to the spiritual journey to be carried out within oneself. In addition, it also serves as a place for celebrations of Hindu religious festivals.

A Vedic Hindu temple’s architecture is a divine and yogic representation of a human being as shown in the figure (ref: Agama kosha by S.K. Ramachndra Rao). The feet represent the spire (rajagopura). The hands represent the walkway (prakaara) encompassing all around the temple. The main hall (mandapa) represents the abdomen. The entrance porch (antaraala) represents the heart. The sanctum sanctorum (garbha griha) represents the head. The deity is consecrated with religious rites in the sanctum sanctorum. There is proportionality between the size of the deity in the sanctum sanctorum and the sizes of the temple construction details.

The ritualistic worship (pooja) of consecrated deities (vigrahas) is carried out by priests on behalf of devotees to remind them of the inward yogic process of approaching the indwelling God. The various steps in a pooja offered to the deity with prayers and mantras (in Sanskrit) include steps such as washing feet and giving sacred bath using milk and water. Then with screen closed the deity is decoratively dressed with special cloths, flowers and ornaments. After the decoration the screen is opened to devotees to signify removal of veil of illusions so that devotees can see the beautifully decorated God. Then fruits and food are offered and incense sticks and lamps are waved to the deity. During the waving of lamp by a priest, devotees need to see with eyes open the radiating face of the fully decorated deity so that its memory will provide the spiritual joy. Then the priests distribute the sacred water (teertha) and sacred food (prasada) that devotees drink and eat for spiritual blessings. Thus the entire ritualistic worship can also be seen as expressing love, devotion and respect to one’s guest of honor. The joyful resonance between the external and internal worship provides the bliss.

The elaborate worship of consecrated deity along with sacred rituals with Vedic mantras and the materials used in rituals such as water, milk, flower, incense, sandal paste, bells, conch-shell etc is to help devotees to focus their mind on the Supreme Being. The Vedic seers have recommended the temple and rituals so that devotees through sensory experiences can spiritually experience the bliss of God. It is inspiring to remember the words of my Sadguru Sriranga, a seer-yogi, “The worship of deities and rituals in a temple should be carried out with child-like loving mind by the devotees as little children play with joy using their toys as medium.

Vedic Hinduism or Santana Dharma is based on the Vedas and Vedic literature. Solutions and approaches to all levels of inquiry into the nature of soul, universe and God are provided in Vedic Hinduism. Rituals, Music, Dance, Yoga, Meditation, Vedanta etc express its many facets. The celebrations of Vedic Hindu festivals bring out the various aspects namely religious, cultural, educational and social. A devotee focusing on the meaning of the Vedic mantras and ritualistic procedures will gain the spiritual knowledge. One focusing on the prayers and feelings in rituals will experience joy of devotion.One focusing on service in a temple will experience the joy of selfless service.

A temple plays an important role in providing a sacred place and means for spiritual development of a seeker.

A Hindu temple (Devaalaya) has not only religious purpose but also spiritual, cultural, educational and social objectives. It provides a place for devotees to focus and develop their spiritual insight. A Hindu temple in essence can be recognized in three forms. The first is oneself with God within. The second one is a dedicated room (with altar and deities) in a home. The third one is the Hindu temple in which devotees participate collectively that reflects the pluralistic nature of Vedic Hinduism or Santana Dharma. Thus a devotee needs to integrate all the three forms of temples to develop the spiritual insight and enjoy the peace and bliss.

WHAT IS SPIRITUAL LIFE?

 One objective of the sadhana [spiritual practices] of all believers in God is to be somewhat godlike. As God’s universe, which is both his garment and Self-expression, is not a dreary desert, the life and externals of a godlike person need not always be the imitation of a desert.

As bare deserts are, however, a phase of God’s creation, asceticism may be a phase of God-seeking and Self-realization, but not the whole of it. Genuine asceticism for finding one’s own soul and for the good of humanity is worthy of reverence.

Equally worthy of reverence, if not more, is the treading of the fuller and more difficult path of sadhana of those who are in the world, but remain above it. The lotus is often used as a symbol in Indian culture and mythology because the lotus grows in the mud, yet remains above, untouched and unaffected by the mud and water.

You can live in the world and yet be spiritual. It is not necessary for you to renounce the world. Wherever you are, stay there. Simply follow two formulas. One formula is for living in the external world:

All the things of the world that are given to me are given to me by the Lord. They are meant for me and I have the right to use them, but I don’t have the right to possess them, for they are not mine.

All things will become means in life if you have this attitude, instead of, “This is mine, this is mine.” You are afraid of losing what you have; you are afraid it will decay and go to decomposition. You should learn to use the things of the world without being possessive. As St. Bernard said, “Love the Lord alone. Use the things of the world as your means.”

In addition, you should do your actions selflessly, lovingly, and skillfully. Nothing more than that is needed just the one formula for the external world. What to do for the inner self?

God is everywhere. The Lord is in me; I am his shrine. As a shrine is kept neat and clean, I will try my best to keep my body, breath, and mind pure and orderly.

For a person of wisdom who knows the Truth, internal and external are one and the same. Inner freedom is born of self-sacrifice, self-purification, and self-control. This freedom releases the spirit and gives it wings to soar to the boundless sphere of the unfathomable levels of being.

Freedom is truth. Why then do we live in a cage with no sky beyond it—in a closed world of hard facts? We are like seeds with hard outer coverings, crying from within for liberation. Millions of people die like seeds that have lost the urge for generation.

The resources for living and being successful on the earth that are offered by Mother Earth for her children are immense, but those who are not aware of the real and limitless resources lying dormant within human life are deprived, and this self-deprivation is the cause of suffering.

Shall there be a day when the consciousness of the large multitude will be illumined? Only then will human beings and society understand the profound meaning of the Reality that offers us love and emancipation.

The joys received through prayer, meditation, and contemplation are the highest of all joys. I am one living witness who confirms that the highest of joys cannot be given by the world. All the joys in the world give you but a taste. That taste can never be satisfied. A momentary joy is called vishaya ananda. It is ananda (bliss), but it lasts only for a short time.

Sages say there is another ananda—paramananda—that is something higher, something everlasting, something that can never be snatched, and that is liberating and emancipating.

What is unique in the human being is the awareness of consciousness. The burning desire to attain immortality, the perfect, and the eternal, makes the human being superior to all other creatures.

Sadhana is prescribed for the attainment of a happy life on the earth, in heaven thereafter, and at length, liberation. Spiritual practices lead the aspirant toward divinity or inner experiences that further help to attain the final goal of life.

Entire life is sadhana.

You ask, “Is it possible for me to know God? Is it possible for me to be a spiritual person? Is it possible for me to do this?”

Patanjali, the codifier of yoga science, says, “O aspirant, learn to practice until the last breath of your life.”

Let the heavens shower all the blessings upon you, so that you can grow and unfold yourself, and accomplish the purpose of life. My prayers are always with you.

Why Spiritual Practice?

Sadhana [spiritual practice] is important. It will give you a comprehensive knowledge of life with all its currents and crosscurrents.

It is amazing to observe that most of the people enveloped in sloth and lethargy are not aware that life on this earth is but a brief moment, and that moment should be utilized to purify the way of the soul. Those who do not do their duties and yet expect the best in life, are fools who live in a fool’s paradise.

In life’s primitive paradise, fools aspire to live for a long time. They live perpetually on charity. They are beggars who are burdens to society and even to themselves. These beggars are envious of one another and habitually suspicious of each other, like dogs living upon their master’s favors, showing their teeth, growling, barking, and trying to chew up one another. Their very existence is described as a struggle. Their paradise lacks peace, equilibrium, and tranquility.

I worked hard in my life and attained something that gives me solace. I found out that life is mingled with sorrow and joy; both of these feelings should not be allowed to disturb the course of life.

A human being is not imperfect, but incomplete. Man’s essential nature is a limitless horizon. The call to inner Truth is present in him with all profundity, but his analytical logic is shallow.

Peace cannot be attained through mere speculative philosophy or logic. I am willing to believe that philosophy is useful for the comprehension of the Ultimate Reality, but I do not admit that philosophy alone can lead us to the ultimate goal. However great the philosophy may be, it must be supplemented by faith, emotion, and strict discipline of the functions of the will.

A sadhaka has to go through a series of internal experiences. When a sadhaka’s convictions are filtered by the systematic and organized way of sadhana, the mind becomes penetrating and one-pointed.

An aspirant must control the dissipation of the mind. Conquest over the senses and the mind helps one to attain freedom from the charms and temptations of the world. Free from worldly distractions, nothing remains in the mind but the longing to know God.

Once such an exclusive longing awakens, one becomes absorbed in contemplating and meditating on God. Through constant contemplation and meditation, one begins having glimpses of the Truth, and these experiences strengthen his faith. Growing internally, that exclusive faith becomes the source of inner strength, enabling the aspirant to move along the path until perfection is achieved.

The first detachment achieved by the aspirant is physical, inspiring him to develop the power of instinctive love and knowledge that helps him to relate with the world and nature. Nature has her own laws and helps all creatures to receive her blessings and grace in many ways.

The human mind is complex with all its typical moods, manners, and weapons. The purpose of sadhana is to be free from the magic wonders of the mind and remain free all the time.

Freedom is a divine gift lent to mortals. A seeker of Truth should first have freedom from all time-honored taboos. Mental freedom is an accepted fact and is definitely higher than physical freedom. Free spirit is godly and alone can claim kinship with God.

The potential to realize the Truth is present in every person. In some it remains dormant, while in others it is awakened. The more one directs one’s awareness toward the Divine Force, the more one realizes the emptiness of the objects of the world. That realization helps one to withdraw one’s mind from the external world, and to compose oneself for inner exploration.

All sadhanas, all practices, are meant to purify and strengthen the mind that disturbs your being and prevents you from being aware of the Reality that is within you.

To be spiritual means to be aware of the Reality all the time, to be aware of the Absolute Truth all the time, and to be aware of the Lord within you all the time.

A Renunciate

Often people ask questions like, “What is a swami?” or “Why did you become a swami?” In areas such as Rishikesh or Haridwar, India, along the Ganges, it is not a question that needs to arise. Many swamis are there, and all you have to do is say, “Behold, those are swamis!” However, in geographical areas where there are few swamis wandering around, these are more curious questions.

The word swami means master; it means striving for the mastery over one’s smaller self and habit patterns, so that the eternal Self within may come shining through. The act of becoming a swami is not so much an acting of becoming, of adding on, of allegiance, as it is an act of setting aside, of renunciation. A swami is a monk, one who has set aside all of the limited, worldly pursuits, so as to devote full time effort to the direct experience of the highest spiritual realization, and to the service of others along those lines. Renunciation is not anti-world, in any sense of the world being a bad place. Rather, it is a matter of priorities about how one will spend his or her time, the twenty-four hours in a day, and the seven days in a week. Traditionally renunciation is the fourth of four stages of life, although one who feels the call might renounce and become a swami at any stage of life.

While there are many swami lineages, with a wide range of beliefs, perspectives, and loyalties, a swami of the Himalayan tradition will at some point no longer claim allegiance to any particular group or religion, seeing all as the outpouring of the one, indivisible reality, truth, or God, which goes by many names to different people of different cultures, including the word Brahman, the Absolute Reality. Though most would likely have self-identified as Hindu, other individual practitioners in the Himalayan tradition have personal roots in virtually all of the world’s most known cultures and religions. During childhood the decisions about religion were left by parents for my own later choice. My renunciation as a swami has been one of setting aside any sense of exclusive identity so as to embrace the whole.

The true samnyasi (renunciate or ascetic) does not identify with any form of division or multiplicity. The Sanskrit word samnyasi comes from samnyasyati, meaning he renounces. Sam means together, ni means down, and asyati means he throws. He or she throws down any personal identity whatsoever, including not only those related to physical objects, but also to nationality, religion, work or family identities. If there is the external appearance of any identities such as these, it is only in the perception of, and for the benefit of others whom the samnyasi may serve. Even the name used by the samnyasi or swami is primarily for the convenience of others.

The goal of the samnyasi or swami is “atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha” which means one who strives “for the realization and liberation of the Self and for the benefit of the world.”

There are deeper, heartfelt aspects of these questions “What is a swami?” or “Why did you become a swami?”. One of the most inspiring and validating writings I have encountered is a short paper written by Pandit Usharbudh Arya, entitled “What is Renunciation?” This remains in my heart the clearest written description of what it really means to be a swami. It captures not only an accurate definition, but also a description of the ideal aimed for, and the spirit of the inner longing for one drawn to this path. It well answers the questions, “What is a swami?” and “Why did you become a swami?” The entire text of the paper is below.

Swami Rama has also written a succinct and clear description of the path of renunciation in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Here, he describes seven important points about the path of the swamis. That text is also included below, and has been entitled “The Basis of Renunciation.”

If you are not familiar with swamis or other monks, and are a sincere seeker, it is very important to know and keep in mind that the path of Self-Realization is not exclusive to the renunciates. The two paths of renunciation and action in the world are equally valid and fruitful for aspirants who are devoutly committed to the practices of contemplation and meditation.

What is Renunciation?

Renunciation is the final forgetting of “I” and “mine”. It is that mode of thought and experience in which the entire creation becomes as oneself. One who has taken vows of renunciation, and thereby become a swami, considers himself a member of every family on earth, with their physical and spiritual welfare as his prime concern. He is as concerned for them as the novices in the practice of love, leading a limited worldly life, are concerned with their own families. A renunciate claims an intimate relationship with all, attached to none. “Attached to none” means that he claims nothing from them, desires and seeks nothing from anyone, needs no emotional support from anyone but gives the support and encouragement to all. Like the rising sun, wearing orange/saffron robes, he must dispense light to every nook and cranny of the world. Wherever the evening catches him is his home whether under someone’s roof or under God’s own sky. Free and ever moving like the breeze he gives life-breath to all. Ever-flowing like a river, he quenches, cleanses and irrigates all. Like a fire he purifies all. Like a light he illuminates all. Like the sky, he remains untouched, clear, calm, giving his space to everyone; he invites every being to find rest, solace, succor and consolation within his field of being that emanates from him.

A candidate for swamihood walks into the holy river Ganges, and doffs all clothing. S/he is given fresh robes by the guru for convention’s sake. Mentally s/he must be as Adam or Eve before the fall, and totally genderless, for s/he is no longer a physical body in his personal self-identification. Yet s/he must continue to bestow the best of care on the physical vehicle so that s/he may serve others all the better. As s/he owns nothing one’s own (svam), s/he is called a swami, the master of it all, for s/he has become a gentle master over his own will.

In taking the vows of swamihood one declares “a-bhyam” to all living beings: I am a threat to none, a danger to none; may no living being henceforth fear me. In a great fire-offering he names each and all his organs, sense-faculties, pranas, mental states and functions, and as he pours a libation of ghee (clarified butter) into the fire, as though offering his own faculties to the universal fire, he declares regarding each of them, “No more mine”; “free of all dust I had gathered heretofore, I am now sinless; I am light.

Thereafter, if he owns anything it is only formally in his name, as a convenience for his universal mission of service and love for which he grants and distributes of himself freely, unstintingly. He must avoid all honor and recognition, unless that too would enhance his service to the world. He must do, speak, think, wear, eat whatever would help those whom he serves.

One may renounce at any stage of life whenever his universal love crosses the boundaries of limitation. Renunciation is not, definitely not, an abandoning of any duties. Those who have any claims on him first renounce their claims on him and grant him their happy permission to let go. Theirs is no less an act of renunciation, more difficult, because they have yet to struggle with the world. He renounces because his karma with them has been fulfilled; all he leaves behind is their happy thoughts about him. There are cases in history where someone became a swami by speaking a lie that he had no relatives or that he had obtained their happy permission. After it was found out to be untrue, such people were expelled from the monastic order and told to fulfill their worldly duties.

In some cases a renunciate’s guru may order that he continue to perform some residual duties to his erstwhile family, for example, continuing to finance a child’s education. The great Shankara returned to his dying mother and performed her last rites. Why should not a renunciate do these duties which he would ordinarily perform for any member of his universal family, without claims or attachments and free of any weak emotions. He refers to his pre-renunciation family as purvashram: “relations from my previous ashram”. [previous stage of life]

The act of renunciation is therefore not an escape, not a divorce. Just as someone taking the vows as a Catholic nun, and changing her name, is not denouncing her parents, only enhancing the scope of her love, so it is with someone becoming a swami from out of married life. The spouse of such a one considers him/herself wedded but claiming nothing from the swami, for his personage is now sacred, beyond flesh and beyond the reach of touch. The parents, spouse, children who have let go of their child, spouse and parent are to be admired for their renunciation so that someone may save the entire world freely.

In the Indian Law the act of sanyasa, or becoming a swami, is regarded as civil death. For example, any property acquired after becoming a swami passes to one’s disciples following the swami’s death, and not to the children of one’s body in the previous ashram [stage of life].

That human beings are in unfinished product. A swami is the finished product, ideally speaking; or aspiring to become a finished product soon, in this very life; this is the ultimate in human evolution. He has no specific name (except for others’ convenience so they may refer to him), no birthplace, no caste, no social grouping, no religion, no countries. He is a citizen of all earth, everyone’s closest relative to whom anyone may confide anything. He is the kind shower when someone is suffering a drought of love.

In the life of a spiritual seeker or teacher there comes a moment when a decision can no longer be postponed. One passes through emotions like those of a bride: sadness at separation from past love, looking forward to a future of a different expansion of love, enhancing oneself. All weak emotion is to be watched and conquered–not by suppressing it but by merging the little love into the greater one. One simply knows, at a certain time in life, that the pressing details of one’s business from the worldly life will never be finished–while billions are dying without light. He ties up as many loose ends as possible, and walks out carrying a torch into the night. At that moment of decision, no consideration is weighty enough to tie his feet. The call to walk (to become a pari-vrajaka) has come:

for the benefit of the many, bahu-jana-hitaya

for the comfort of the many, baha-jana-sukhaya,

as the Buddha said when exhorted and sent out his first batch of monks. At that moment one’s own physical discomforts, mental sadness, and such, becomes as unimportant as a mother’s need to get a full night’s sleep is ignored when her infant is suffering from a burning fever.

Such a moment is a moment of dying; dying to one’s erstwhile limited self. The renunciate performs that ceremony to himself which is normally performed by relatives following the funeral of someone physically dead. Story of a man in a certain city in India. Every astrologer in the city predicted that he would die on a certain morning. The evening before the predicted date for this man’s death a Swamiji arrived in the city and the man went to see him. This dialogue followed:

He: Swamiji, every astrologer in the city predicts that I am to die tomorrow.

Swamiji: Do you want to live on?

He: Indeed, I do.

Swamiji: Then renounce the worldly life and become a swami tomorrow morning; die to your previous world.

He: Oh, but what will my wife say?

Swamiji: What will she say if you died in the morning?

The gentleman went home, got his wife’s permission, became a swami, and lived on.

On the day one is meant to become a swami, if one decides not to renounce but to continue to cling on, the physical death is bound to grab him by the hair, for his work for “the previous ashram” is already done.

Intense sadhana (undertaking concentrated spiritual observances); the realization of universal love; the satisfaction derived from seeing the others’ ignorance and consequent suffering have been reduced; and the unbounded grace of one’s guru; these help a novice renunciate to walk on firmly and not to falter.

As to the renunciate’s well-being, besides the guru’s grace, the whole world takes care of him ever so lovingly. Those above him bless him, those below him are ever so grateful. How wonderful is the life of a renunciate, the life of an all-embracing, incorruptible sky.

The Basis of Renunciation

The goal of the renunciate is to fathom one after another of the various stages of consciousness that lead to the innermost One. The following principles are the basis of the path of renunciation:

The renunciate directs all his energy toward the attainment of the goal of life, Self-realization.

He does not waste time and energy pursuing desires based on self-interest.

The renunciate’s journey is inward; it is neither action nor inaction nor retreat. It consists of performing actions mentally and directing the mind and its modifications inward rather than toward the external world.

Non-attachment is attained spontaneously because the renunciate is not involved with objects; they have all been consciously renounced.

With pure reason all the samskaras are burned in the fire of knowledge.

There remains only one desire: the desire for Self-realization. That desire does not motivate one to do actions in the external world but becomes a means to build determination, will power, and one-pointedness. Therefore such desire is an essential means rather than an obstacle in the path of sadhana.

In the path of renunciation, Self-realization alone is the goal, and any action that does not become a means is firmly rejected and renounced. There is no half-here and half-there; total dedication and devotion are essential limbs for renunciation.

This path of the rare few is the highest of all. It is difficult but not impossible. Those who are fully prepared should walk this path of fire and light. They should not listen to the suggestions of those who are not capable of following the path of renunciation.

Those who are not prepared to become renunciates should not think they cannot realize the Self. That which is important to understand and attain is the state of non-attachment, without which treading either path–renunciation or action–is meaningless.