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Chapter Twelve
The Stages to Sannyas

Sannyas, or complete renunciation, is not a step to be taken lightly. One must not only be ready for it: he must also convince others of his readiness. To minimize the danger of bias — personal friendship, for example, or predilection — a person should, after successful application to a nayaswami for whom he feels reverence and respect, be ordained as a nayaswami by three unrelated persons who are themselves Nayaswamis.

First, however, one should go through the stage of brahmacharya or tyaga: preliminary renunciation. This period should ordinarily last six years, so that one becomes quite sure inwardly that he is ready for full sannyas. At this point he should have demonstrated to others also that he truly places God first in his life, and accepts God as his only reality.

How long should a couple wait before they commit themselves to a life of tyaga? I think it should not depend only on age. Young persons, too, may be ready. But all must prove themselves — to others as well as to themselves — before taking this step. The age and time, I think, should vary with the persons concerned.

Men who practice tyaga are known as tyagis; women, as tyaginis. They should do their best to adhere to all the principles in this book. But remember, it is less a matter of specific acts than of the general direction of one’s energy. Usually, I would say that several years should pass before a person goes on from tyaga to become a full swami.

Single men may be called brahmacharis; women, similarly, may be called brahmacharinis.

Those wishing to become tyagis or brahmacharis (or their feminine counterparts) must first apply to, and be accepted by, a nayaswami for whom they feel reverence and respect. There is no need for a special ceremony, nor for more than one nayaswami to ordain them. They should, however, repeat the vows listed in Chapter Seventeen that are appropriate for the stage they embrace.

Married people may often do better to wait until they are past the child-rearing years before embracing the stage of tyaga. For one never knows, if children come, what karma they will bring with them. A parent is obligated to respect his child’s nature and destiny: his karma, in short. If the child’s karma is not consciously to follow the spiritual path — I say “consciously” because all beings, whether they know it or not, are on the path to God — it would do him an injustice to try to force him to embrace a way of life for which he is not ready, and might delay his spiritual progress toward God by creating suppression and frustration, and, then, a spirit of rebellion.

Once a couple have passed beyond the likelihood of having children, or have raised their children to the age of (let us say) eighteen, they are free to devote themselves completely, if such be their desire, to the spiritual search. It might be added, moreover, that in cases where a couple cannot have children anyway, or if they are already committed to freedom from sex, they should be allowed to become tyagis. In any case, a tyagi couple should make an extra effort to give their lives wholly to God, to give up sex, and to seek to express God above all in their lives.

They should work hard to rise above anger, desire, and attachment (both to possessions and to one another). They should support one another emotionally, act together cooperatively, and never allow competitiveness to pollute the river of their friendship.

They should seek the guidance of a true guru, or at least of a sincere and wise spiritual teacher. They should strive always to obey him, or at least to follow sincerely the voice of their own higher conscience.

They should learn to look upon every setback in life as a blessing.

When the time comes that they feel ready to proclaim outwardly their complete commitment to the spiritual path, they may — with permission from their teacher or from others more advanced, whom they respect — embrace formal sannyas and become swamis. Because they ought, at this stage, to have reached the point where they no longer see themselves as men or women, renunciates of both sexes should be given the same title: swami. It is no longer fitting for women renunciates to receive the feminine version of this title, swamini.

Because this is a new renunciate order, I recommend that all swamis in it receive, in addition to the title, the designation naya — that is to say, “new.” Thus, my own name would be Nayaswami Kriyananda.

Names may include the customary “ananda,” meaning (as I’ve said already) “bliss.” They may also, however, simply indicate some spiritual quality, thus: Nayaswami Seva (meaning, service). There will be no indication in the name as to whether the person is male or female. As to the choice of name, this can be left to the discretion of the individual, and of those who initiate him or her.

Regardless of any future slip in one’s dedication to one’s ideals, so long as the direction of his aspiration is upward, there should be no outward punishment or “demotion” from whatever status he has attained.

Because many of the virtues mentioned here are questions of attitude — and even sexual self-control is too personal to be ascertained objectively — one’s worthiness to continue to keep the title tyagi or nayaswami must be left up to the individual’s conscience. There comes a point where only God is qualified to judge.

I have tried to make it clear, and want to emphasize again, that this new renunciate order is not limited to the members of Ananda, which is the community I myself founded in 1969. The order should, however, be given a clear form, and cannot be encouraged to flourish unchecked like the growth of mushrooms in the forest.

This order has no clear link to the Ananda system of sadhakas, sevakas, and life members. It is intended to stand alone. Nor is it by any means inevitable that people will become Nayaswamis simply by virtue of their being leaders at Ananda. I think the new order must flower from those people who are swamis already.

New systems inevitably meet opposition. I can imagine people scoffing at our Nayaswamis as mayaswamis! Let it be. A certain amount of ridicule is good for the soul, and for the freedom-seeking ego!


Chapter 13: The Habit

Autobiography of a Yogi

A Renunciate Order for the New Age

Nayaswami Kriyananda

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