The following material is to help you in deciding if monastic life is for you, and whether it should be in our monastery.
Authentic monastic life (sannyasa) is the dedication of the monk’s life to the attainment of Self-realization. The heart of this life is the practice of Yoga Meditation according to the principles of the Masters of India. (See Soham Yoga on this website.)
The Seven Pillars of the Monastic Life
- The desire to dedicate one’s life to the pursuit of God Realization (Ishwarapranidhana)
- The willingness to lead a pure and moral life (Yama and Niyama)
- The willingness to grow and change
- The willingness to learn and study
- The willingness to work
- The willingness to lead a communal life
- An understanding of the fundamentals of spiritual life: karma, reincarnation, evolution of the soul and the union of the soul with God
Yama and Niyama–The Foundations of Yoga
No one can succeed in Yoga without being established in the observance of the principles known as Yama and Niyama. Although often called the Ten Commandments of Yoga, they have nothing to do with the ideas of sin and virtue or good and evil as dictated by some cosmic potentate. Rather they are determined by a thoroughly practical, pragmatic basis: that which strengthens and facilitates our yoga practice should be observed and that which weakens or hinders it should be avoided. It is not a matter of being good or bad, but of being wise or foolish. Each one of these Five Don’ts (Yama) and Five Do’s (Niyama) is a supporting, liberating foundation of Yoga practice.
Yama means self-restraint in the sense of self-mastery, or abstention, and consists of five elements. Niyama means observances, of which there are also five. Here is the complete list of them as found in Yoga Sutras 2:30 & 32:
- Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
- Satya: truthfulness, honesty
- Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
- Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
- Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
- Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
- Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
- Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
- Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God
All of these deal with the innate powers of the human being–or rather with the abstinence and observance that will develop and release those powers to be used toward our spiritual perfection, to our Self-realization and liberation. Shankara further says: “The qualification is not simply that one wants to practice yoga. So yama and niyama are methods of yoga” in themselves and are not mere adjuncts or aids that can be optional.
But at the same time, the practice of yoga helps the aspiring yogi to follow the necessary ways of yama and niyama, so he should not be discouraged from taking up yoga right now. He should determinedly embark on yama, niyama, and yoga simultaneously. Success will be his.
For a detailed analysis of Yama and Niyama, see The Foundations of Yoga on this website.
Our daily schedule is very simple with little variation. We arise at four in the morning and meditate for three hours. Then we celebrate the Holy Eucharist according to the Wedgwood-Leadbeater form.
Since we are completely self-supporting, after the Liturgy we engage in various forms of work until 3:00 p.m.
After a rest break we have Vespers (also according to the Wedgwood-Leadbeater form).
Then we have our one meal of the day. (In the morning and early aftenoon we have some blended or juice drinks–vegetable or fruit.)
After cleanup from our meal we have a satsang consisting of reading and discussion of spiritual texts, followed by personal reading.
We end the day at eight in the evening.
The monastery life is totally communal, including a common dormitory according to the Rule of Saint Benedict.
We are vegetarian, never eating meat, fish or eggs or anything derived from them to any degree. We also abstain absolutely from nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and mind-altering drugs. There are no exceptions. We cannot accommodate special diets.
Before even considering membership in our ashram, an aspirant should have carefully read (not skimmed) the following:
- The Christ of India
- Robe of Light
- Soham Yoga
- Foundations of Yoga
- Yoga of the Sacraments
- Bhagavad Gita
- Bhagavad Gita For Awakening
- Material on monastic life
Yoga sadhana is the heart and aim of a monk’s life. All else is secondary. Yoga is the monk’s religion, for it is his life, literally/spiritually. Therefore an aspirant should have practiced Soham Yoga for a reasonable time to determine if he wishes to make that his lifetime practice. For that is the only meditation we do here.
Those with debts or legal obligations must have them settled completely before becoming a member of our monastery.
An aspirant must bring with him enough money to cover any personal expenses, such as medical, and travel money if he decides not to stay here.
How it works
An aspirant stays in the monastery for one month. If he feels that he wishes to seriously try the monastic life and we agree, then he is a postulant for six months. At the end of that time, all being in agreement, he can become a novice. After three years he will be fully professed as a monk and remain in the monastic life for the rest of his life.
It is not good to rush into monastic life. Actually, it is disastrous. Very, very few people should be monks. It is a matter of personality (swabhava) and karma (swadharma). India is filled with unhappy, frustrated and embittered men who entered something they little understood and now feel trapped in it. (That is why drug addiction is so common among them.) And in the rest of the world in other religions that have monastics, the same is often true, though the numbers are less.
But if this is your true swabhava, then you will find the monastic life to be the best life in the world.
In light of the above, if you are still interested, please fill out the following questionnaire and send it to us.
Questions For Monastic Aspirants
Please give the following information:
1) Full Name.
Date of birth.
3) Telephone number.
4) Marital status (if married: children?).
5) What is your general state of health?
6) Do you have any dietary restrictions or requirements? If so, what?
7) Are you a vegetarian (no meat, fish, or eggs)? If so, for how long?
8) Do you drink alcohol?
9) Do you use tobacco in any form?
10) Have you taken any mind-altering drugs, legal or illegal? If so, which ones, and for how long? When was the last time you took any?
11) Write a reasonably brief secular autobiography of yourself, including where you have lived and what you have done.
12) What is your financial status? Do you have any savings? Any debts?
13) What is your work history?
14) What professional skills do you have?
15) Have you ever been arrested? Convicted?
16) What is your educational history?
17) What is your personal religious identity (Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, etc.)?
18) What religious/spiritual study have you done?
19) What material have your read from our website?
20) What religious/spiritual groups have you belonged to, both past and present affiliation?
21) Do you practice meditation? If so, what type is it, and how much do you meditate each day?
22) Write a reasonably brief spiritual autobiography outlining your spiritual journey, including how you came to know of this monastery, and stating your personal spiritual goals and aspirations.
23) What is your personal conception of the nature and purpose of monastic life, and why do you desire to live it?