Renunciation has ceased to
command the respect it once had. Spirituality is on the rise, but many
convents and monasteries stand empty. What people want now is a path
where Spirit and Nature work in harmony, not in opposition to one another.
Timeless principles, however,
are not created by popular vote. Truth simply Is.
Renunciation remains the
heart and soul of the spiritual life. The problem is not with the principle
itself, but the way it has been misunderstood and wrongly practiced.
Renunciation has become defined by what you give up, or, even worse,
by what God takes away.
True renunciation is not
a loss, it is an expansion to Infinity. Joy and renunciation are two
sides of the same coin. To suppress the ego is not the same as transcending
The origin of this book is
auspicious. A miracle healing was needed before it could be written.
There has always been something
mysterious about Nayaswami Kriyananda’s health. His body seems to be a
battleground where the forces of Light and Dark meet. The battle is
not about him personally, but for the work his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda,
has commissioned him to do. The only way to describe it is “Satan
tries to stop him.” Often his most creative periods are paired with
enormous physical challenges.
Swamiji cheerfully dismisses
the trials of his body as merely the tapasya needed to establish
his guru’s work in this world. (Swamiji means respected
teacher; tapasya is a Sanskrit word meaning both austerity and devotion.)
Still, the effort has taken
its toll. No physical body lasts forever. It is of no consequence to
Swamiji whether he lives or dies; long ago he surrendered his life to
Especially since he moved
to India in 2003, Swamiji has had one health crisis after another. Often
he has told his Indian audiences, “I’m not going to live much longer,”
hoping to inspire them to act quickly to build the work while he was
still there to help them. Certain “readings,” including the ancient Book of Bhrigu, implied that his eighty-third birthday, May 19,
2009, might be his last.
Two days after that birthday,
he was scheduled to fly from India to Europe. That morning he had some
symptoms of a stroke: difficulty breathing, speaking, and so weak he
had to be fed like a baby.
Ordinarily, no one would
travel in such a condition. But persevering against obstacles has always
strengthened Swamiji rather than weakened him. Once a project or transition
is completed, usually health returns.
But this time it didn’t
happen. Even weeks later, at home now in Ananda Assisi, the crisis continued.
Rarely had he been so weak for so long. Someone had to be with him twenty-four
hours a day.
It was June 6; I was on the
afternoon shift. A few friends were coming over in the late afternoon,
so when Swamiji went to take a nap, he asked me to wake him in time
for their coming.
At 3:00 he was still sound
asleep. Reluctantly I woke him and helped him sit up on the side of
the bed. Traditionally, swamis wear orange, but I chose for him a blue
shirt instead, thinking the color would lift his spirits. As I was doing
up the buttons I said casually, “This blue is so exquisite. You should
change the swami color from orange to blue.”
With great seriousness, he
replied, “I am thinking of doing that.”
I helped him into the living
room, then went back to get something from the closet. When I returned
a moment later, he was stretched out on the couch, hands folded across
his heart, looking up at the ceiling. I thought he might be dead. In
fact, that may be when the miracle happened.
To my great relief, he began
to speak, introducing the ideas that are now this book: A Renunciate
Order for the New Age. After a few moments, he paused, then quietly,
with great force, declared, “This is what Satan was trying
From that moment he began
to get well.
In the evening he called
a group together to talk about the new order. Already he had written
most of the first chapter of this book. Just hours before he couldn’t
button his own shirt. Now he was launching a revolution in renunciation
for the New Age.
“I entered a state of intense
bliss,” Swamiji said later, about this sudden change. “I told Divine
Mother, ‘I’m ready to go and I am happy to stay, if You have more
work for me to do here.’ It didn’t matter at all to me. When I came
out of that state, I began to get well.” When he left Italy a few
weeks later, he didn’t even bring his cane.
“I feel ageless,” Swamiji
says. “I don’t identify with myself in any way now. It seems God
has extended my life in order to do this work. It was a miracle healing.”
In the forty years that I
have known Swamiji, his prodigious creativity has been nothing less
than awe-inspiring. Books, music, communities, schools, retreats — a
spiritual network that spans the globe. Often in my enthusiasm for some
particular expression I have been tempted to declare: “This is it!
This is his spiritual legacy.”
Of course, to say that is
like defining the ocean by what you can see from the beach.
Still, folly though it may
be, I dare to say that, in its cumulative effect, A Renunciate Order
for the New Age may be one of Swamiji’s most important contributions
to the bringing in of a New Age. For it gives to truth seekers everywhere
the courage, the clarity, and the way to open their hearts to God.
Nayaswami Asha Praver
Chapter 1: My Intention