Click here to listen to Reflection on Monastic Life, Part 1 if you do not see the player above. The podcast length is 16:46 minutes.
Who should lead a monastic life and who shouldn’t, and what motivates a monk.
I would like to share with you my reflections on monastic life as I approach the fifty-second anniversary of my taking sannyas.
How does one know if he should lead the monastic life? The great twentieth-century Indian sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi, had left home at the age of seventeen. After years of solitary life, he became the most renowned spiritual figure of India, his fame spreading widely into Europe and America, as well. One day a young man came to speak with him. “Should I leave home and become a monk?” the young man asked. “No!” was the Mararshi’s immediate answer. “Why not?…You did!” demanded the youth with more than a tinge of indignation. “Yes,” agreed the Maharshi quietly, “but I did not have to ask anyone if I should.”
Sri Sarada Devi, the virgin wife of Sri Ramakrishna, who is worshipped as an incarnation of the Divine Mother, said the following:
“Whether one calls on God or not, one is already half free if one does not marry. And one will rush ahead with great speed once one’s mind turns to God.”
There is a qualification here, though, a very important element that can be found in the Bhagavad Gita That element is swadharma, which means someone’s own inherent disposition, fundamental nature, or potentiality; inherent state of mind; state of inner being.
The Gita says:
Better one’s own swadharma though deficient than the dharma of another well performed. Better is death in one’s own swadharma; the dharma of another invites danger. (Bhagavad Gita 3:35)
Better one’s own swadharma, though imperfect, than the dharma of another well performed; performing the duty prescribed by one’s own swadharma, one does not incur evil. (Bhagavad Gita 18:47)
There are people who are miserable because they are not monastics and there are monastics who are miserable because they are. Why is this? Unfulfilment of swadharma. Just being able to fit in and endure either secular or monastic life means nothing. More than once I have had to point out to people that they did not have the swadharma of a monk and should not live the monastic life. Otherwise they would end up old and embittered, feeling life had passed them by. And it would have, though it would be more correct to say that they had turned away from the life they should have led. It is also a fact that I have seen people who were miserable and struggling in frustration because they had the swadharma of a monastic but were leading another kind of life.
The purpose of this podcast
How does a person determine their swadharma? I would like to tell you about how I knew my swadharma and began to follow it. I have two motives in doing this: helping those who should lead the monastic life and those who should not, but who might want to know what motivates a monk.
Click here and listen to Reflection on Monastic Life, Part 1 to hear Abbot George’s personal journey to monastic life and how one can know the life one should lead. The podcast length is 16:46 minutes.
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