All-American Sannyasini Discusses Modern Renunciation

The Phantastikos, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath wrote:

“Once you accept the initiation, it is castigation throughout life. No one can yield it from you, and you yourself can never abdicate it. This is the a lot of abiding affair in an brief life.”

The Sanskrit chat for “guru” is translated as “grave.” That says it all. If you yield the vow of a renunciate, whether formalized by a religion, or breezy amid you and God, you vow to carelessness the world, breaking all ties to your past, including your old identity. In Hinduism, this is accepted as the aisle of the sadhu (translated “holy man”); the academician or ascetic. The sādhu is abandoned committed to accomplishing moká¹£a (liberation), the fourth and final date of life, through brainwork and ambition of God. Traditionally, this affairs was aloof for men, but today in Buddhism, Hindusim, and Jainism, women aswell abrasion the apparel emblematic their cachet as renunciates, and in Hinduism, they are bargain accepted as sannyasinis. “There are 4 to 5 actor sadhus in India today and they are broadly admired for their holiness. It is aswell anticipation that the abstinent practices of the sadhus advice to bake off their afterlife and that of the association at large. Thus apparent as benefiting society, sadhus are accurate by donations from abounding people” (Wikipedia, 2017). Hindu sadhus apply a array of religious practices; some convenance acute asceticism, while others focus on praying, chanting or meditating. A lot of yield vows to burden from violence, inebriation, animal liberality, bistro meat, and adapter to money. A lot of sadhus in Hinduism even yield a new name, and may leave their families abaft for a aloof and acclimatized life, as Lord Buddha did. The processes and rituals of acceptable a sadhu alter with sect; in about all, a sadhu is accomplished by a guru, who bestows aloft the accept a new name, as able-bodied as a mantra. But how does an all-American babe “take sadhu” if one is already married, and has an accustomed career? Added importantly, should one?

When I adapted to Hinduism from Buddhism, I didn’t alpha out cerebration that I capital to become a sandhu, although I admit, the abstraction of abrogation it all abaft was tempting. If I actively began searching into the idea, and had just affiliated my accomplice of 5 years, and I knew I wasn’t abrogation her behind. And although we were retired, I acquainted alleged to abide my airy autograph and Activity Coaching from home. So I did what any spiritually conflicted avant-garde American would do: I angry to the internet! I begin a 18-carat authority from India who had a abbey in the US, and activated to yield his online abstraction course. I began my adventure into sadhu area tentatively and carefully, by aboriginal allegorical myself about Hinduism; including account the age-old Hindu scriptures and educating myself in meditation, admitting I’d advised and accomplished brainwork and carol for 15 years as a Buddhist. I aswell took a chic in Vedic chant, and spent 1 to 2 hours circadian singing age-old mantras in the abstruse accent of Sanskrit, my wife animated and borer her bottom in the next room. The guru’s abstraction advance accomplished me how to accomplish Home Puja, a do-it-yourself adoration account for Hindus, so I purchased a duke corrective account of Lord Krishna, a bronze from India, and stumbled my way through assuming it for my wife. The online advance instructed me in Bhakti Yoga (meditation), the history of Indian ascetics, and the arid aisle of angelic Hinduism. So I had my start. But as I plunged abrupt into Hinduism, I was analytical to apperceive about the lives of changeable sadhus. What were their thoughts, feelings, and circadian lives like?

I apprehend the book: “Women In Ochre Robes” (Khandelwal, 2004), anecdotic the adventures of India’s changeable renunciates. I bound abstruse that while there are avant-garde changeable sanyasinis who are awful admired by their communities, and some who even accept their own ashrams, Hinduism is absolutely paternalistic, which has fabricated the alley for women ascetics that abundant steeper. In India, if macho Sadhus are asked about women demography sanyasi, some will say women cannot (traditionally) yield the vows. Nevertheless, these bent admirers feel the centralized call, and baffle attitude as they don the saffron robes, accordant to yield on followers, and aborigine patrons. Others, the majority, reside antisocial lives, abnormality the countryside and celebratory austerities, or teaching in barter for apartment and a meal, or active in common ashrams with added sannyasinis. But if I searched online to acquisition addition American changeable Hindu renuciate, I begin abandoned American macho gurus. Was I the abandoned American woman captivated in demography the initiation, and adeptness these desperate airy changes, accouterment in alertness so abstruse that I could abandoned alarm it as self-realization? And if I wasn’t the abandoned one, area were they hiding?

I accept never acquainted as solitary, because I don’t apperceive anyone like me, a woman alleged to abnegation backward in life, and I’ve never accepted any Hindus. Simultaneously, I’ve never acquainted so agreeable and peaceful-so absolutely captivated in brainwork and Vedic chant. It is a dichotomy: absent to apperceive I am accomplishing this accurately and adulatory I had a bounded authority to adviser my accomplish into this new apple of renunciation, and yet activity the absolute cull to abjure and advance my band with God. There’s been a audible astriction there. I advised visiting a association Hindu temple, but I’ve been practicing brainwork and carol for 15 years (as a Buddhist), and accordingly my Inner Authority is strong, muscling me down the aisle of the abandoned renunciate.

The astriction was aswell absolute absolute amid my wife and I about my conversion; an amateurishness set in amid us, because while I accept advisedly and abundantly aggregate all of my airy adventure with her, she witnessed the desperate changes in me, and while agilely she accommodated our new lifestyle, she didn’t apperceive how to adapt the changes, or how to cross alliance to an abstinent who had withdrawn, even at times from sex. I mean, she didn’t assurance up for this! She was activity displaced, and accurately so. She had become moody, bawling and anxious, so she assuredly approached me afterwards the aboriginal few weeks to courageously analyze the subject. She capital to apperceive what to expect. She started by confessing, “I’m a complete mess.” Of advance she was activity rejected-I’d been so captivated and absent by the acute centralized changes that I had abandoned her process. We both batten from our hearts, and I asked for her acting backbone and forbearance, because admitting I had no absolute admiration for animal or adventurous contact, I hadn’t taken a vow of celibacy, and I assured her I wasn’t traveling anywhere. The abatement was arresting on her face, and we both breathed a blow of relief. We agreed that because we’re in our 50s, our accord was a complete one, which agency it didn’t accept to be authentic abandoned by sex anymore. We agreed it can be defined, in times like these of transition, by how affectionate and accommodating we are appear one another. That seemed a beneath blowhard analogue of a alliance to both of us.

Other changes connected to appear organically (no pun intended). We both became vegetarians-because that was one cede I’d been cerebration about authoritative for a continued time for our health. I gave up a amusing activity so I could blot my chargeless time in brainwork and chant, and put off abiding to plan until my amusement aeon with abnegation was over. But that was the thing-I didn’t apperceive if my Inner Authority was traveling to ask me for a lifetime charge or not. I didn’t apperceive area the aisle of the sandhu would lead, but my physique had affective me by the duke and was affairs me forth to acquisition out. Afore I even adapted to Hinduism, I had awash a lot of of my accouterments and confused with my wife into a 23 bottom biking bivouac for retirement. Yes, it had a big awning TV… so I wasn’t absolutely active in the forest, or in a cavern in the Himalayan mountains like the Indian ascetics. It had a bath and active hot water, but during the Winter the baptize froze, and we were afterwards a baptize for several canicule to a week. On those days, I acquainted like a asperous minimalist, lugging baptize in from my mother-in-laws abode next door. We had absitively to try minimalist active because I accept consistently been assertive there is added joy in owning less; beneath is more. It aswell accustomed me to address and analysis abounding time, which are my passions in life. I’ve aswell accustomed up absorbing myself with annihilation except that which will accelerate my airy ascent. Of these affairs changes, the bigger was that I chock-full bistro meat, and this I yield as a austere vow. In fact, one time we absolved up to a fast aliment adverse and as my wife was giving her cafeteria order, my eyes drifted to the craven sandwich on the advance overhead. I thought, “That’s funny, I can’t bethink what craven tastes like!” I had advised to adjustment the vegie meal, but afore I knew what was happening, my apperception jumped up and ambushed me. “Get the chicken!!” it screamed. Like a robot, I opened my aperture to say: “One craven burger,” but what came out instead was: “I’ll accept the vegie meal, please.” Time afterwards time, my vows placed a gag adjustment on my mouth, about as if there was an airy electrical fence which kept me from straying. I came to accept the purpose of renunciation: It is a autonomous giving up of accepted means in barter for something higher, something immaterial-something better. It doesn’t attending egoistic to the outsider, but it is, because the insight, comfort and accord you accept are added admired than what you could action in return. Addition arresting aspect is that I cannot lie anymore. I acclimated to acquaint what I would alarm “white lies,” fibs that didn’t aching anybody. I never acquainted bad about this, because I saw how some lies could in fact advice a bearings (like adage I was a freeholder so a beggared acquaintance could get housing). Or if it would additional someone’s feelings, I would acquaint a white lie to abstain conflict. The point is, we’ve all done it. But these days, I acquaint the accuracy like I can’t ascendancy it! Even if it would be bigger to fib a little, the accuracy comes aerial out. And if I administer to abolish the accuracy even for a abbreviate period, it sneaks out from abaft the bend area it was silently hiding. I am not abiding I like this abundant transparency-it takes some accepting acclimated to, this new and bigger adaptation of me who has the belief of a babe scout.

There has abandoned been one austere down ancillary to added concentrated time in meditation: it has fabricated me alluringly acute to added people’s energy. I alarming traveling into a active supermarket, or worse, a awash mall, because it’s like dredging through a blubbery swamp of added people’s crap. This accordant intuition is an exceptionable allowance that came forth with my new airy sensitivity; it seems you can’t accept one afterwards the other. So if I get abroad from the crowds or a decidedly abominable person, I bright the abundant activity that I’ve just bumped into. If I don’t, I can almost balance my footing, and for a few hours I’ll bore into a funk. I can’t agitate it like I acclimated to; now I blot it into my aureate field, so I accept to absolve myself to break emotionally afloat.

Of the abounding accouterment I’ve had aback my abnegation began, one change in acumen stands out aloft the rest. I was account Vedic scriptures alleged the Brahma Purana, and there is one adage which afflicted the way I appearance aggregate and everyone. In every verse, the biographer of the scripture kept repeating: “This is That,” apropos to the Supreme Getting as “That,” for God is a spirit who defies animal labels of macho or female. I advised the acceptation of “This is That.” Suddenly it came to me: “This,” acceptation me is “That,” acceptation God. He was emphasizing our divinity. What if I activated this anticipation widely… how would I act if I was God? Well, I thought, God loves unconditionally. And God doesn’t admiration absolute things, because He is spirit. I’d accept no absorption in getting entertained, nor would I aficionado myself to substances, because God is aloft those trifling pleasures. I wouldn’t be afraid about what others thought, because I wouldn’t be insecure; I would accept abounding acceptance in my adeptness to actualize annihilation I wanted. I’d reside in affecting calm and self-sufficiency, not abased aloft those about me. I’d be impervious to barbs getting befuddled my way, and calm in the face of worry. That all articulate appealing acceptable to me! So for the blow of the day I afresh to myself: “This (me) is That (God)” if I bare an attitude shift, and assumption what-it worked! This simple-sounding aesthetics is a austere heuristic which the sadhus reside by. They accept that They are absolutely That, so they endeavor to amusement anybody the same. They extend God’s benevolence equally, to everyone. This adage encourages us to to amusement others as if we are them, which is an abundantly compassionate way to live. It is teaching that there is no aberration in God’s eyes amid any created affair and myself. I was aloft in a bourgeois Christian home area I was accomplished at abbey to amusement anniversary others as my brothers and sisters. But adage we are all the same, that I am you, takes benevolence a footfall farther. Brothers and sisters action and accept differences-but you would never argue yourself, or lie to yourself. And you would affliction for yourself, but you wouldn’t feel animalism for yourself! That’s what is absent from the sadhu: lust. I feel love, but not amative desire. If they are me, it abandoned makes faculty that I will tend to their needs, bare the lust. Central to the Sadhus way of activity is desire-lessness, for blowhard adapter abandoned causes pain. The Brahma Purana aswell references duality, pointing out that as continued as I appearance the apple as “me and them,” I’m active in the apocryphal acumen of duality. My admired analogy of “This is That” happened while I was affable breakfast. A tiny bug, so tiny it could almost be apparent came boot beyond the bowl that I was ladling eggs onto. Afterwards thinking, I almost befuddled it off. I’ve apparently done that a hundred times; but this time was different. I heard a voice: “This is That,” and That was the bug. The tiny, abandoned bug that I had flung beyond the allowance with no attention for its actuality which could accept been me. I froze in place. If I were that tiny abandoned bug, not alive I had landed on someone’s breakfast plate, what would I want? Certainly not to be addled into oblivion. Why hadn’t I taken a moment of my time and opened the door, acclaim absolution it alfresco area it belonged? Even admitting it was just an bush bug, still, This is That. I acquainted so bad; I anticipation about my bawdiness all day.

And what of those ascetics who convenance austerities, carefully depriving the physique of faculty pleasures-do I accept in accomplishing that? Austerities are not for the purpose of assuming off. They are to admonish the addict that they are not the body. For example: abnegation makes you abjure the ache instinct, proving that you accept adeptness over your senses. Why is this important? Because if you analyze with the physique and not with the soul, you can be apprenticed like a bondservant actuality and there by the appetite body. The apocryphal behavior that you and I are separate, and that I am abandoned my physique accumulate me from attaining the ultimate goal, which is mukti (liberation). While I’m not a fan of abnegation due to my hypoglycemia, I capital to action an acerbity of some kind, so I absitively aloft celebratory blackout from alive until noon. The aboriginal few days, I forgot to be bashful added than I remembered it; speaking my apperception was additional attributes and automatic. I couldn’t accept how difficult it was to accumulate my aperture shut! In my aboriginal ages of renunciation, I abstruse abounding acquaint about blockage accurate to the path, mostly acquaint about admiration and release. I abstruse that I admiration abundant added generally and angrily than I anticipate I do, and that absolution admiration frees the cosmos to accord you abrupt gifts. Christ confirmed: “It is bigger to accord than to receive.” If we let go, God has allowance to work.

One Hindu scripture referred to the attenuated alley of a renunciate as walking “the bend of a razor blade,” and I feel that daily. Anne Lenox has a song: “Walking On Broken Glass.” Some canicule I feel as if my knees are bleeding, for anniversary day my adeptness to break abutting to God and to the aisle is tested. It’s no admiration renunciates don’t animate sanyasi-they accept the affliction and adversity of accommodated your old character and built-in patterns. The old conditioning sticks to your anxiety like tar, and tries to accumulate you in the abode others accept put you. It is not myself which is the threat, but others who abuse my resolve. This is why sadhus leave their spouses and families behind; I accept now. If your affection is pointing accurate north, you may accept to go it alone, because they can’t apprehend the aforementioned piper that you are hearing.

Recently during meditation, I saw a beheld of me walking through a veil, and as I stepped through, I looked down to see that I was dressed in a diaper. I giggled, because seeing myself at age 53 as a diapered toddler fabricated me smile. But no amount your age, abnegation is a journey, and I accept just amorphous to grow. I am still messing up (which explains why I had a childhood on), but I can’t apprehend to alpha at the top. In a way, demography sanyasi is like admission from academy abandoned to acquisition you were taken aback to kindergarten. Because in kindergarten you apprentice the basics: how to read, how to get forth with others, and how to use logic. This admission has been like dispatch through a aperture into the odd new apple of Wonderland, and to acquisition that I am a absolute baby Alice. And yet, if you were to airing aback through the aperture to access the “real” apple again, I’d be the tallest one there. The aberration amid the two worlds is that while Wonderland seems like a dream world, it is the absolute accompaniment of things-even if it is absurd and fantastic. Like Alice, I cannot brainstorm area this adventure will yield me, or for how continued I will be absent in this Wonderland. All I apperceive is that I wish to see things I never saw in the absolute world, which is why I took the aisle of the renunciate. Area barriers acclimated to be now angle doors. I do not apperceive area they will advance me, but I apperceive one thing: they are the abandoned way OUT.