Training Shishyas

I received this email from one of my shishyas:

I have been thinking about you training some of your shishyas in this path of sannyasin. So when you wrote about your experiences as a single person I thought I should email you. In the Swaminarayan sect they train their acharyas. It’s a systematic approach but it’s also based on the shishyas willingness and to an extent his aptitude. Even though they don’t call it a “calling” as people do in Christianity, the principle is the same.

In the early days I had the same desire and I tried my best to encourage a few youths to think about this. But soon I realized that unless a bachelor is already interested in becoming a sannyasi, no persuasion from my side will work. One cannot become a sannyasi just to escape from responsibilities.

In the early 1990s I wanted to do my seva among the sannyasis by starting a small ashram somewhere in Himalayas and therefore, I went for all the four dhams in 1991 (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Gomuk, Kedar and Badri). Several times I went to other parts of Himalayas hunting a place for my own need too.

But God had a different purpose and He pushed me more and more among family people. They all received me with much reverence, and I realized that the best way to serve the Kingdom of God is to allow the gospel to incarnate in Hindu communities. Soon this made me to focus on one thing: Muktinath-centred families within Hindu communities. Although others coming forward to serve the Lord as sannyasis is good, I have never insisted any one follow my foot steps.

I once came across one or two young bhaktas trying to follow the path of sannyasis, but they were not interested to keep in touch with me. I was ready to serve them, but they preferred to choose their own sadhanas, which I have to respect.

I personally never encourage anyone to remain single. But if any one feels he has the call to become a sannyasi, I am willing to serve him at my best. The problem with such people is that they don’t want to accept others’ guidance much in this path and prefer to walk alone, gathering their own shishyas. Maybe their temperament won’t allow them to ‘learn’ from other seniors and they want to learn from their own experience.

The general joke among the sannyasis is: yek me niranjan; do me sukhi; theen me jatpat; char me dukhi (alone is joyful; with two get some comforts; with three always quarrel and in four always in sorrow). I also read somewhere that if two sannyasis stay together it becomes a home, three a family and more than that a village. So the ideal for a sannyasi is to live ‘alone’. He can gather all kinds of shishyas (including some sannyasis) but the ideal is that he should live ‘in solitude’.

A long time ago, my friend said that following the pattern set by Sevanand, I too should appoint some elders to the mandalis in the North. But I pointed out to him that Muktiveda gives principles for us to adapt to our situation. We need not imitate the pattern in it. Similarly several other sects have their own way of carrying out their view through several means. Though many methods adopted by them look attractive, we have to think and work locally that best suits our purpose. This does not mean we shouldn’t learn from good examples from others. But if we try it and it is not successful, then we have to re-think and change our approach as per the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In my life too, I was interested in establishing my own ashram community with a few sannyasis. But as that effort didn’t materialize the way I wanted, I accepted God’s plan for my life.

Above all, the community life of sannyasis will work when other shishyas completely surrender to their guru. This is possible in the Hindu world. But in our bhakti that kind of total surrender without asking questions or challenging his authority is not possible. That is why in Catholic Orders they take a vow of obedience to their authority and I heard that the Jesuits take three important vows: chastity, simplicity, and obedience to the order. Forming such community in our movement is impossible for known reasons.