By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 8 August, 2015
Dear Spiritual Explorer: When I was visiting Kashi Ashram last year, I noticed a number of people wearing orange clothing. Somebody told me they were called sannyasins. Can you tell me what is a sannyasin? Thank you. Greta S., New York City, NY
Dear Greta: Asking what is a sannyasin is a very profound question. Our sannyasins have been ordained by Ma Jaya for a number of years. She chose these sannyasins based on a number of considerations. If you were to ask a swami or sannyasin what those characteristics were that enabled them to be chosen to wear orange, I think you would find them to be quite modest in their answers. In fact, I think the reason is that they have lived amongst many similar to them who are monks also and they probably don’t think that they carry any more unique or favorable qualities. However, all that being said, they were still chosen by Ma Jaya to assume these roles and to wear the color orange.
What is a sannyasin … The tradition of wearing orange
Simply stated, the question of what is a sannyasin usually comes up a great deal when people notice these monks wearing certain hues of orange. A wide variety of colors, ranging from slightly orange yellow to a deep orange red, are closely associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, and are commonly worn by monks and holy men across Asia.
In Hinduism, the divinity Krishna is commonly portrayed dressed in yellow or yellow orange.They are the colors worn by sannyasins or wandering holy men in India.
The color orange is a sign of renunciation of the outside world and commitment to the order. A renunciate takes his vows, puts on the orange clothing and with his begging bowl, goes out to the world.
What is a sannyasin … at Kashi Ashram?
Wearing the color orange and becoming a swami or sannyasin, there is no doubt that these monks have made a strong commitment both to their guru and to the service of humanity.
What I had always been impressed about our swamis is that they actually are the ones who are asked to work the hardest, thus obviating any kind of egoic or hierarchical accoutrements that might come with the title of Swami. In fact, our swamis are very approachable, willing to sit down with any number of people and console, counsel and even congratulate those who come to consult with them. I would say that my own experience with them is that they are quite genuine in their caring for others and can be counted upon to carry out the values laid down by Ma Jaya during her time.
What is a sannyasin … the authenticity of Ma Jaya
Ma Jaya was a very authentic teacher, and what that meant to me, is that she walked and lived the path she trod. Ma led not only from her heart but from a very compassionate space which is referred to as the Chidakash, the heart space in the head. The Chidakash appears to combine, yet also transcend, the sentimental heart with the seat of detachment residing in the seventh chakra above the head. No foolish sentimentality or attachment governed Ma’s actions, and yet she was available to serve others in a way most people would think of as both strenuous and formidable.
We called Ma a 24 hour guru whose mission was to be of service to anyone who asked, night or day. If you were lucky enough to sit in front of Ma and have her darshan, you would experience a rare form of unconditional love and acceptance. In many cases, the problem you came to lay at her feel seemed to disappear miraculously. She called that the gift of Kali that enabled her to take karma.
Interestingly enough, Ma never attempted to answer the question of what is a sannyasin since she was desiring that each sannyasin find that out for themselves through their experiences after being anointed.
What is a sannyasin … an attempt at answering
While Ma Jaya did not say that she chose these people because of their service or unique qualities, it has been my humble opinion that they were lucky to be chosen for esoteric and karmic reasons. The ceremony of becoming a Swami was quite beautiful and evoked a deep emotion amongst those who witnessed it. If I were to say what it was, it was as if the Swamis were given an opportunity to exceed themselves in terms of their devotion and love.
For those of us who saw them after the ceremony, they seemed to appear lighter in their presence. And if I were to be spiritually presumptive, it felt to me that on an esoteric level, something very deep and karmic had been taken. I would also say that having seen them afterwards and in the continuing years, it appeared that they touched upon a devotion and commitment that has continued to steadily deepen within them. So I would say from a personal perspective that I have indeed answered the question of what is a sannyasin.
So blessings to our sannyasins and to you for asking such a great question. Spiritual Explorer
If you have a question about “What is a Sannyasin,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.
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