My inspiration in writing this was Swami Kriyananda’s new book on renunciation, A Renunciate Order for the New Age. Also my own desire to be a monk… but also to be married.
The old cloistered form of monasticism says you need to renounce and “get away from the world” to find God. One might say that monastics living a reclusive life are selfish in the sense they are not being a service to society. Others might say they are doing more for society since they are trying to live in accordance with the Divine, and that their prayers are doing more than social works could ever do.
On the opposite side of the spectrum you have the worldly person trying to live his life, primarily driven by what he or she can do to find happiness: good job, family, career, etc. But as we see, most worldly people aren’t truly happy in comparison to the saints who are immersed in the consciousness of God.
Now let’s say you have a non-monastic person who is religious in the sense that they attend Mass every Sunday, pray ever day, and do their best to live a God-Centered life. While this way of life is indeed admirable, unfortunately the “idols” of the world are able to pull us into delusion much too easily.
As Yogananda said, “environment is stronger than will power.” Thus, wouldn’t the practical solution be to bring both environments together, the monastic and non-monastic lives? At Ananda, instead of trying to run away from the delusions of the world to find God, we try to see God in every life experience.
And most importantly, as Yogananda advised, we try to make our hearts our “hermitage,” so that wherever we go, there is our church, there is our God. At Ananda we have cloistered our hearts and have tried to bring that light into our service to society. As St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel, use words only if you must.”
From my own experience I have found it truly is much easier to live in the presence of God where everyone is trying to do the same.
I came to Ananda with a deep desire for God and to share his joy with everyone, a desire that “typical” life did not fulfill for me. Being here a year and a half I am able to see how Ananda’s model of living can’t help but spread in time throughout society.
While things here aren’t perfect, there is an underlying spirit in the people, an underlying attitude of cooperation, harmony and peace, that is saturated all over the land. It is born not of pretense, but rather of the deeper inner joy found in the stillness of meditation, and in serving everyone as images of the Divine.
As I walk the forests and meadows, and see the houses and people that live here, I can’t help but imagining God speaking through every part of this community, every person, tree and building, this holy phrase: “Be still and know that I am God.”