One’s habit, in Western
monastic terminology, signifies the garb of a monk or nun. A habit is
a protection and a constant self-reminder of the way of life one has
embraced. Paramhansa Yogananda, during his lifetime, was somewhat averse
to the wearing of a monastic garb by his disciples. His message was
for the world. He didn’t want to convey the message, therefore, that
what he taught was only for the few. He did say, however, that it would
become suitable in the future for his monastic disciples to indicate
the special dedication of their spiritual calling by wearing suitable
I think it is time, now that
his message has become widely known in the world, for monks and nuns — though
perhaps cautiously at first — to wear that suitable habit.
Brahmacharis and brahmacharinis
should dress in a golden yellow. I suggest that tyagis and tyaginis
wear turquoise, and pilgrims, white.
Since, however, those working in the world may find any habit inconvenient, I will leave to
them the question of when, where, how, etc. Let them decide individually,
or as a group.
Nayaswamis, as I said earlier,
should wear a bright royal blue.
Pyjamas (the uncreased
cotton slacks worn in India), and a kind of Indian kurta (Indian-style
shirt) without buttons in the front, but buttoned or zipped up less
visibly elsewhere, would be ideal. I personally am not in favor of the
sari for women. Saris are too elegant, too feminine, and far removed
from any true appearance of renunciation.
I am in the process of consulting
people who are more expert in such matters than I. I therefore hesitate
to say more on the subject until I have their input on this important
As to when this garb should
be worn, I would say that it depends on general custom and acceptability.
Changes occur more naturally when they are introduced gradually. Ideally,
however, the monastic garb should be worn wherever convenient, as a
sign of a person’s sincere commitment, and as a personal protection
from worldly influences.
More on this important subject,
however, in the next chapter.
Chapter 14: The Widespread Need for Renunciation