Swami Kriyananda has recently completed a new book, A Renunciate Order for the New Age, in which he presents a new, universal model of renunciation.
The order is based on renouncing the ego rather than renouncing the world, and is intended for people everywhere, including married couples, who are committed to finding God. It is not tied to Ananda, nor will it be centralized or even administered by Ananda. Kriyananda describes it as a “non-institutional” approach to renunciation.
In the book, Kriyananda invites all those who are already living by these principles, whatever their religious affiliation, to become part of the order. He gives vows for single renunciates (brahmacharis), married renunciates (tyagis), and for final renunciation or sannyas (swamis), to which he adds the term “naya,” or new. Thus, a number of us have already become nayaswami.
With Kriyananda redefining renunciation in ways appropriate for this new age, Dwapara Yuga, one can easily see monks from Christian and Buddhist traditions deciding they would like to live according to these liberating principles. He ends the book with an invitation to swamis everywhere, who feel in tune with these new concepts, to join the order.
God and Guru are directing the show
Central to this order is the concept that all true renunciation involves dissolving the ego. In past ages one approached dissolving the ego indirectly by controlling outer behavior. While it is important to renounce attachment to possessions, sexual indulgence, and self-will (the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience), it is even more beneficial to renounce the ego, where all desires and behaviors originate.
Renunciation also means developing the faith to live entirely in tune with the will of God. For “control freaks,” this may be a scary thought, because you must renounce not only self-interest, but also the thought that you are in control of your own life.
Even sincere seekers find old karmic patterns of desire and attachment blocking their attunement efforts. So we need to keep reminding ourselves to make attunement with God and Guru uppermost. We always need to remember that God and Guru are directing the show.
Why take an outward formal step?
Some may think, “I’ve already committed myself to the spiritual quest as deeply as I can. Is it necessary to take an outward formal step to make that statement of commitment?”
No, of course not. Our relationship with God is sacred and private. And yet, those of us who have taken formal vows, or are even considering taking them, have found the process to be an enormous aid to our inner life.
Furthermore, the world needs clear examples of renunciation. In one sense, we’re taking this step to show that offering one’s life to God leads to the very happiness that so many are seeking through materialism.
The world seems to promise fulfillment — through fame, wealth, sexuality, power— but every one of these turns out to be a dead end. People find that even if they achieve every goal, happiness still eludes them.
Those who are deeply committed to the search for God have a responsibility to demonstrate that living for God-realization does lead to both spiritual and worldly fulfillment. In the words of Christ: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
A road map to Self-realization
Swami Kriyananda lists fourteen qualities of a “true renunciate” which apply to the three forms of renunciation he presents in the book. (See list at end of article)
One might say that these qualities, as presented in the book, describe a person who has achieved Self-realization, or is close to achieving it. Obviously these states are not easily attainable and are probably beyond most who will be joining the new order. But, those of us who take this step of formal renunciation should assume that these fourteen qualities describe our code of behavior and consciousness. In fact, these are wonderful directional pointers for anyone seeking freedom from ego.
Someone remarked, “Even though Swamiji has been urging us to become jivan muktas (freed while living), it always seemed beyond my capacity. Seeing these fourteen points makes me think, ‘I can do that!’”
Samadhi affirming vs. world renouncing
Kriyananda describes this order as “samadhi-affirming,” rather than “world-renouncing.” In the past, during Kali Yuga, people attempted to spiritualize life by suppressing worldly attractions. Releasing these attachments is still a very important part of the spiritual life. We can’t simply ignore the fact that maya (delusion) exerts a tremendous pull on the consciousness.
But more effective than pushing away or denying desires is to affirm the freedom that comes with getting rid of ego. True renunciation is overcoming the ego from which all worldly pulls arise. To push away desires doesn’t overcome ego. At best it overcomes some of the impediments to getting out of ego-consciousness.
What gets us out of ego is an expansion of soul consciousness beyond the egoic “I” — the soul identified with the body and the personality. By expanding our consciousness, we begin to break that identification. The ultimate expansion of consciousness is the state of samadhi, or complete oneness with God.
So, the new approach to renunciation is to concentrate not so much on what we want to overcome, but rather on what we want to become.
What expands our consciousness?
What are the things that expand our consciousness? Take a concept like non-attachment to possessions. The old method was not to have possessions because of the danger of becoming ensnared in delusion. This approach was negative: “I can’t have this. I can’t have that. All possessions are perilous.”
The new approach is to emphasize the self-expansion and freedom that non-attachment brings. Thus Paramhansa Yogananda suggested that we embrace simplicity rather than poverty. Simplicity is the voluntary release of “unnecessary necessities.” It leads to inner freedom and the realization that we own nothing and belong to no one. This approach is positive, expansive, and samadhi-affirming.
If someone insults you – laugh!
Now, in Dwapara Yuga, we know that energy is the basic substance of the universe and we can understand subtler approaches to renunciation. We understand that it is not outward form, but inner self-offering, that helps us transcend the ego. Swami Kriyananda says that often in his book: “Ego transcendence is renunciation!”
In the chapter in the book called “Ego Transcendence,” Kriyananda gives 27 techniques for transcending the ego. People have a tendency to think that renunciation means never to smile or laugh or enjoy anything. All these old Kali Yuga images come to mind.
But renunciation in Dwapara Yuga is not joyless. Kriyananda’s suggestions are absolutely charming. He says, for instance, “If someone tells a good joke, don’t think you have to tell a better one; let them have the final word. If someone insults you—laugh.
Here are a few other examples from the book:
If someone makes an incorrect statement, don’t bother to correct him—unless you consider it important to do so. Then, instead of flatly contradicting him, make it clear first that you know he is interested only, as are you, in the truth.
Don’t be self-effacing. Simply show calm respect to everyone. Show respect even to foolish people—and more so, if anything, to children, because of the common tendency to speak to them condescendingly.
In conversation, don’t wait impatiently for your “chance to speak your piece.” Listen respectfully, and, if possible, listen with interest.
In group conversations, be neither a groundhog (diving into your hole in fear of your own shadow) nor a lion (beating everyone into submission with the loudness of your roar), but think rather in terms simply of sharing with others.
Be sincere. Don’t “back bashfully into the limelight”—as someone once described Albert Einstein doing. Let your modesty express your true feeling, and not be a show you put on to impress others.
If someone challenges your point of view, never let the discussion sink to a level of personal animosity.
Little points like these are the building blocks to ego transcendence, and make the process so real and doable. And as we read that chapter we realize that renunciation isn’t about what God takes away from us—it’s about finding the freedom of no longer having all those pesky thoughts of “I,” me” and “mine” revolving around ourself.
New ego-transcending colors
Kriyananda selected a “royal blue” color for the nayaswami robes because it supports ego-transcendence better than the traditional orange. In explaining he says:
Orange goes with declamation, blue with sharing and with an invitation to share with others. Orange goes with imposition, blue with sympathetic self-offering. Orange when outwardly directed can induce egotism, blue can inspire self-expansion to infinity.
The old orange color was an image of authority, but if we take that image too far it becomes just another bundle of self-definitions: “I am a swami. I am a renunciate. I’m better than others.” Soon we find ourselves encased in yet another veil of ego.
In A Renunciate Order for the New Age, Swami Kriyananda is creating a new way of life that addresses the needs of spiritual seekers today. It is a crowning achievement of a life of making Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings accessible to people everywhere. Its impact on society will be far-reaching, perhaps beyond anything that we can now envision.
The Marks of a True Renunciate
by Swami Kriyananda
What are the marks of those whom I’d consider worthy of being accepted true renunciates? They would be those who have achieved noteworthy progress toward the attainment of the following virtues:
1. They have no, or very few, attachments or desires.
2. They are without anger. (Anger appears in the heart when one’s desires are thwarted.)
3. They accept without prejudice whatever life gives them, and live by the principle, “What comes of itself, let it come.”
4. They never seek to justify or defend themselves, but accept all judgment by others dispassionately, as experiences given them by God for their higher good.
5. They keep in their hearts primarily the company of God.
6. They are indifferent to others’ opinions of them.
7. They work without personal motive, to please God alone.
8. They are impersonal in the sense of wanting nothing for themselves, but never in the sense of being indifferent to the needs of others.
9. They see all beings as striving toward the attainment of Satchidananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss, no matter how presently misguided the efforts of some people may be. Thus, they feel kinship with everyone, and with all life.
10. They accept nothing as their own, but only as being “on loan” to them, for the benefit of others.
11. They view pleasure and pain equally, as opposite (or dual) expressions of eternal, divine bliss.
12. They have meditated daily for years.
13. Because they are always happy in themselves, they are impervious to insults, outer suffering, failure, defeat, or disaster. They strive to live the ideal that Paramhansa Yogananda voiced when he said, “You should be able to stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds!”
14. They strive to love God unceasingly, and ever more deeply, in a spirit of utter openness to be guided by His will.
This article first appeared in print in Winter 2009: “For Devotees Everywhere: An Invitation,” Swami Kriyananda, Clarity Magazine.
Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi are Acharyas (spiritual directors) for Ananda Sangha Worldwide. Jyotish is also Acharya for the Ananda Sevaka Order, worldwide.
Other Clarity articles by Nayaswami Jyotish and Nayaswami Devi are listed under “Jyotish and Devi Novak.”