Last week I had the honour of witnessing Sannyas. This is where a person renounces their worldly and material pursuits to instead dedicate their lives to spiritual pursuits.
Sheryl spent years as a yoga teacher and around two years ago entered the stage known as Brahmacharya. This comes before taking Sannyas whereby Sheryl indicates to the world that she is leaving her previous life and beginning her studies and spiritual journey. Sheryl became known as Darshani, the name given to her by her teacher Swami Shantananda (Mataji), and dressed only in white as a sign to others that she was beginning her spiritual journey.
Over the next two years, Darshani with the help of her teacher Mataji, underwent significant internal growth, meditations and studying of ancient Vedic and Upanishad scriptures. When Mataji believed her ready, Darshani was invited to take Sannyas.
The process occurs over two to three days and I went along to the first stage of the ceremony last Thursday. When I arrived at my yoga school, Australia College of Classical Yoga and where Mataji lives, the back garden had been transformed into a beautiful and colourful space. The fence had been covered with various fabrics, there were candles and cushions and blankets scattered around the centre fire pit which had been dug into the ground.
On one end of the fire pit (havan) sat Mataji on a chair in her orange robes and on the other sat Darshani, cross legged and meditating, dressed in her white robes.
At three o’clock we began chanting in Sanskrit to ‘open’ the ceremony as well as honouring our yoga lineage; Bhagavan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri. After half an hour, Darshani left us to have her head shaved and bathe before putting on fresh white robes and coming back to us to continue her meditation.
About an hour later, a Brahman priest arrived – Pandit Akash Deep, who performs Puja and Yagna for Darshani. This involves Pandit chanting whilst preparing various items. He handed them one by one to Darshani including flowers, herbs, and food such as milk, ghee, yoghurt and honey which Darshani would scoop or pour over a statue representing Shiva. After this the fire was lit and Darshani began her task of meditating in front of the fire making sure it didn’t go out. She had to do this all night long.
Soon after the fire was lit, I unfortunately had to leave the ceremony to go and teach my next yoga class. However, throughout the evening and particularly before going to bed, I thought of Darshani sitting outside all night stoking the fire.
At 5.30am the next morning, Darshani would have made her final vows and discarded her worldly links including her clothing and identity. At 6am Mataji would have given her a secret instruction, after which she no longer has a name, but maybe addressed as Swamiji. Sometime after this, Darshani received her new name – Swami Karunananda and her new orange clothes.
Swami Karunananda will spend her life in spiritual contemplation with a detachment from her previous materialistic life. She’ll teach others the philosophy of yoga and maybe become a guru herself.
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