I decided during Spiritual Renewal Week in August to join Ananda’s monastery for one year at the Ananda Meditation Retreat. In celebration of Swami Kriyananda’s discipleship anniversary, the vows of monasticism were taken last Sunday. The idea of monasticism had often inspired me, but in the past I had never quite felt like I would be able “cut the mustard” so to speak, as a monk. This summer I had several realizations that made think that being a monk would not only be possible, but would be the best possible thing for me at this point in my life.

The first was that nothing outside myself would ever give me happiness and fulfillment (with the exception of Hagan Daz ice cream, right?). The lines from one of Swami Kriyananda’s songs called “One Day When I was Roaming” caught my attention. The song isn’t sung very often, I think because it seems like a sad song, but Swami can be heard singing it on the CD, I’ve passed my life as a Stranger. The ending lines were particularly meaningful to me:

For life he thought these meadows,
would give to be his own;
But life he gave not first to them,
and life he’s never known

(These lines repeat twice, and “life” is replaced first with “peace,” and then with “joy.”)

What we are looking for is inside ourselves! As long as we think that it lies in things, we will be sorely disappointed. From one point of view this seems like a grim statement: Nothing in this world can bring you lasting fulfillment and happiness. But on the other hand, the keys to happiness are within us and not dependent on anything external. We can choose to be happy anytime and all the time! Anytime we think something outside ourselves will give us joy, that joy is within us already. In other words joy is within you (where have I heard that before?).

The second realization came while watching the rehearsals for Swami Kriyananda’s play, The Peace Treaty. In watching the characters Gazella and Ponder (who in the end, become monastics), I saw that renunciation is not a denial of life and love, but a joyful celebration of the soul’s freedom and devotion in God. Instead of being cold and dry, it is an affirmation to seek love in God alone. It is, after all, from God that all love originates. Any love that we feel can be offered upward and shared with God. In this it is impersonalized and in fact made greater.

Nabha, Anuj, myself, Nitai and Jagrav
The monks at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat

As I join my fellow monks and look at this year ahead, I hope and pray that this year will help me deepen my realization of the Divine within me, and help me to share that love, light and joy more fully and freely with others. In making this decision, it has been beautiful to see how the community has supported and encouraged me. It is truly a blessing to live in a place that so wholeheartedly supports the inward search for God, no matter what form it takes.