Preparation For Initiation

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Many people ask for initiation into jigyasu sannyasa without knowing what it is. You have to be sincere in answering this question. If you went to a Christian monastery would you want to adopt their robes without knowing about the tradition or the discipline? Many people who ask for initiation have never been to an ashram before. They do not know about the sannyasa tradition or discipline. Just because something is freely available, they want it. I am not willing to give any form of sannyasa to such people. You may be prepared but the decision to give is mine, not yours. You have to be sure because there is also a negative aspect. If you do not adhere to the disciplines of this tradition of sannyasa, then you will suffer a lot psychically. I will not be responsible for your suffering.

Establish a solid base of yogic sadhana

There are two experiences of sannyasa. One is positive which you can attain after you have practised your mantra for a long time. For example, some people who were given a mantra yesterday have asked for jigyasu today. That is not permitted. You should practise your mantra for a minimum period of one year and only then apply for jigyasu. Not mantra today, jigyasu tomorrow, karma sannyasa the day after and poorna sannyasa the day after that, and then go back to your old way of life with all your hangups, fears and insecurities. If you cannot do this then sannyasa is definitely not going to make any difference to you.

Practising your mantra for a minimum of one year will help you to settle your nature and mind. Then you can ask me, “Am I ready for jigyasu?” If I feel that you are ready then I will give it to you. If I feel that you are not ready for jigyasu, then you will need to continue with the mantra practice for another year. This is the method you need to follow to receive the maximum benefit. Only then will your energies be released in a positive and harmonious way.

There is a negative aspect of sannyasa. Without a base of sadhana, a base of personal mind discipline, a feeling of commitment for the tradition, for the truth which you perceive to be dear to yourself, psychically there is going to be a lot of suffering. Maybe your whole world will fall apart. Maybe you will go into a depression and go crazy. Your whole life will shatter because you are not ready. You are trying to bring a current of 11,000 volts into a wire which can only conduct 220 volts. What happens? The wire will fuse, it will burn, and once the wire of life is burnt and fused there is no way it can be replaced. You will have to take another birth and just pray to be saved, otherwise eternal damnation. It is not a joke. I am telling you bluntly what can happen, and I trust in your good judgement to accept what is right for you.

If you wish to adopt sannyasa lifestyle, then it should be an experience of happiness and joy, not one of suffering, depression and anxiety. Therefore, before asking for jigyasu you should practise your mantra for a minimum period of one year, combined with a proper yogic sadhana, consisting of asanas to harmonize the flow of energies in the body, pranayama to change and awaken the pranas, relaxation to release nervous, emotional and mental states of tension, and meditation and concentration to come closer to your inner being. You must study the yogic tradition. You must also study the tradition of sannyasa, what the aims are, and whether you will be able to fulfil the basic requirements of sannyasa or not. Only when you have understood and developed a respect for the tradition can you come and ask me for initiation. Then it will be my pleasure and honour to initiate you into the lifestyle of a sannyasin, but not before that.

Establish a link with the guru

Another important point if you want to adopt sannyasa in any form is the link, the connection which must be established between the disciple and the guru. Without that link one cannot progress. It is not a rational or intellectual link, it is psychic. And once that link is created you are always guided by the wisdom, by the power, by the force, by the inspiration that a guru can provide you with. So, firstly, develop a solid base in your own spiritual and yoga practices. Secondly, try to develop a connection, a link with the guru, preferably the unmanifest guru, unmanifest meaning God, because in reality the guru is within. The external person simply acts as a catalyst.

During the Sat Chandi Maha Yajna we lit the ceremonial fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together. Fire is inherent in wood, but it can't be seen. The rubbing causes friction, the friction causes heat and the heat generates smoke and fire. In the same way, the real guru is inside, but at present all of you are damp, wet wood. No matter how much you rub two pieces together, no spark, no smoke is going to come out. So dry yourself and develop that connection.

So, initiation will only be given after you have practised your mantra regularly for a minimum period of one year, until you have a base of yoga sadhana which you have become adept at and can do without too much effort. When you feel stable internally, when you feel that inspiration you can ask for jigyasu, not because your friend is taking it or because you have not been in India for a long time and do not know when you will return. That should not be the attitude or approach. Otherwise people can be affected emotionally or in their social lives. They can't adjust; the husband and wife begin fighting, the children are neglected and the family breaks up.

These things have happened because, externally, initiation may look very simple and you might feel happy wearing a flashy robe and identifying with somebody or some tradition. But if you are not ready then the psychic transformation can be negative. This can happen in every process of yoga. For example, Gopi Krishna practised yoga to awaken his kundalini, but the kundalini ascended on the wrong path and he nearly died. Luckily, he was able to control it, but are you of the same calibre? We can't control our fears, our anxieties, our agitations of emotion and mind, not to speak of psychic events. That is way beyond our capacity.

Examination of truth, conviction and faith

So please think about it very carefully. You are all welcome to take initiation but at the right time. Don't rush. Prepare yourselves first. It doesn't even matter if you don't take it. I have seen many people who have taken initiation who are not ready; for example, not adjusting with their own guru brothers and sisters, not supporting or assisting each other, going off in different directions without a conscious aim, feeling jealousy and anger towards each other. While you are trying to show people a balanced and harmonious path to walk, you can't even adjust with other initiates, you can't give each other moral support. What is the use of that form of sannyasa? It doesn't do anything for anyone.

In sannyasa one should be able to commit oneself wholeheartedly to whatever one does. Wholeheartedly does not mean twenty-four hours a day, it means that whenever you do your yoga or spiritual practice, even if it is for half an hour or an hour, do it wholeheartedly.

There is a trend that people want to become prophets overnight for profit. If God comes down during the day of judgement, he will label us all as false sadhakas. Would you want to be labelled as a false sadhaka? I would not. At least I can try to be true to my God, if not true to others. And if I try to be true to my God then I should also be true to myself. So it is an examination of truth, conviction and faith that you have to face during sannyasa. If you fail, don't worry, more opportunities will come. If you pass, well and good.

Ganga Darshan, December 1995