Today was the auspicious beginning of the Nartana Ritau at Kauai Aadheenam. It was a doubly auspicious day as we were witness to the passage of one of our dedicated monks to a new phase in his monastic unfoldement. Sadhaka Nilakanthanatha received his Nirvana Sadhaka Diksha today, marking his successful completion of twelve years of service including three sojourns in the world. We share with you here the description of this stage of monasticism, the vows and sadhana prescribed to the postulant. These are inspiring moments, not only for the initiate, but for all of us to be reminded of the spiritual path we are on.
For those Saivite Hindu lay brothers who have proven their dedication, completed twelve years as a postulant and attained a sufficient level of maturity, Saiva Siddhanta Church offers the role of the old sadhaka with additional opportunities for mature service and responsibility. The old sadhaka, also known as nirvana sadhaka, is a senior monastic living under the Sacred Vows of the postulant, which continue to be renewable every two years.
On the path to the Self, the nirvana sadhaka has proven himself through the years as "Saiva saint material," shedding all remnants of worldliness so that his soul shines forth. Only after this level of maturity has been attained may nirvana diksha and the duties of the nirvana sadhaka be given. The Saivite Shastras describe this maturing process as follows: "They are an eager group and must be tested strong, and prove through year one, year two, year three, in the outside world that they are Saiva saint material, for us to clearly see they are sincere. And then, after fourteen circles have been past, upholding to the shining slippery mast, a mid-way base they have created. This is their only task."
He must have completed a minimum of fourteen years of brahmacharya from the date set by his guru, and twelve years as a postulant, unless through the grace of the guru his nirvana sadhaka initiation occurs at an earlier time. He must reside in the rehmtyanale kamshumalinga, or the chakras above it, as determined by his guru. He must have successfully completed three sojourns in the world. The postulant must be naturally inclined toward a life of renunciation, devotion, yoga and meditation. He must have completed four six-month retreats from family and friends. He must possess mental and physical strength and vigor sufficient to sustain the challenges of the added responsibilities he will face. He must demonstrate a contentment with life in our monastery and a willingness to work well and happily with his spiritual brothers. He should exemplify the qualities of the true disciple as found in the sacred scripture Guru Gita. He must possess intellectual acumen, demonstrate a good understanding of the teachings of Saiva Siddhanta, especially as articulated in Gurudeva's Master Course. The postulant must pass an oral examination, given by a senior swami, testing his knowledge of Saiva Siddhanta and his personal commitment to Saivism and his relationship with his guru.
The postulant who qualifies enters onto the path of the nirvana sadhaka through the ceremonial samskara of nirvana diksha given by his guru, which coincides with the rehmtyanale mookamba. During this diksha, he receives from Bodhinatha a single strand of rudraksha beads and special instructions regarding his missions and personal sadhanas.
Each nirvana sadhaka is guided and trained in his advanced mission work by a Saiva swami, serving wherever needed. He may now teach The Master Course and related books, but in a cloistered situation in a monastery only. This teaching is confined to active Church members and to resident guests of the monastery, pre-monastics, sadhakas and yogis. This includes training teachers how to teach. He may also be called upon to provide monastic training to task force devotees, pre-monastics, sadhakas and yogis, basing his teaching on our monastic vow books and The Lord Subramaniam Shastras and supplementary texts. Nirvana sadhakas follow the pattern of teaching set out by our Markandu?swami, deferring all knowledge to guru, sangam or scripture, using phrases like, "Gurudeva teaches! Bodhinatha says! The swamis told me! Dancing with Siva tells us! Satguru Siva Yogaswami proclaims!"
As a nirvana sadhaka, the monastic, through humility gained, is afforded an honored place within the monastic community. Yet, he never loses sight of his pledge as a postulant to remain a humble servant to devotees and a perpetual student, and should take every opportunity to spend his time in study and simple service.
The postulant should regard his nirvana diksha as an opportunity to deepen his practice of meditation and worship of Lord Murugan. Gurudeva says of Lord Murugan and the depths of raja yoga, "To attain even the permission to perform yoga one must have the grace of Lord Ganesha and the grace of Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan is the God of the kundalini, of the advanced yogic practices. Unfoldment all happens within the kundalini and the chakras within our subtle bodies. Once a profound relationship is developed with Lord Murugan, then with the guru's permission and guidance, true yoga may commence. Otherwise, no matter how long one sits in meditation, no matter how hard one tries, it is just sitting, it is just trying. There is no fire there, no shakti, no power, no change. It is the Gods who control the fire and at this stage help the devotee immensely, bringing him closer and closer to the supreme God, Siva. Quite often the yogi in his deep internalized state may see in vision the feet or form of God Siva before he begins to blend into the mind of God Siva, called Satchidananda. It is God and Gods in form that help us to find the formless God."
Additional specific disciplines are outlined as follows: 1. to practice ashtanga yoga daily (including hatha yoga) as prescribed for him by his guru, striving to know and love God Siva--spending his free time in the temple and other holy spots, alone and unto himself in his yoga, to derive the strength needed to fulfill his duties; 2. to be a model monastic, turned inward, performing japa, singing bha?jans and Devarams, reading and memorizing the scriptures, studying Shum and practicing mauna from time to time when appropriate; 3. to assist the Saiva swamis and other nirvana sadhakas in every possible way to implement the mission of the Church.
The daily disciplines of the postulant, slightly revised for the nirvana sadhaka, are added here as a reminder to the monastic to continue to follow his Sacred Vows as his guide for monastic living. 1. Chant the 108 names of Lord Siva upon awakening. 2. Use the gestures of humility. 3. Protect and preserve Saivism. 4. Remain ever a Sivanadiyar, serving others selflessly. 5. Remember God and obey guru. 6. Read each night from The Master Course.
As a nirvana sadhaka, the monastic steps firmly onto the platform of mature service. Though not expected to be perfect, he has solved his inner battles for the most part and is now able to turn his attention to the welfare of others. His duties are weighty. Many devotees will rely on his strength, looking to him as a saintly person who has conquered the challenges they still face. Bodhinatha works closely, inwardly and outwardly, with each nirvana sadhaka, whom he looks to for the growth of his Order and the proliferation of his monasteries. In describing the nirvana sadhaka, Gurudeva has said, "Nirvana sadhakas are the stalwart mettle of the Church and Academy and are responsible for their growth and fulfillment. They stabilize not only the monastic communities, but the grihastha communities as well. Being people-people by their nature, theirs is a mission of overt service, giving stability and confidence to one and all. Their mission is well defined as being, along with the swamis, the catalysts of the catalysts, the exemplary model, trainer and confidant to the task force devotee, aspirant, supplicant and postulant sadhaka and yogi. Theirs is a mission of labor and reward simultaneously embodied. Nirvana sadhakas of Saiva Siddhanta Church reap the benefits of their selflessness in the attainment of mukti during transition from the physical coils. They are headed for double sannyas, the ashrama and the self-imposed antyeshti of the homa fire. They create their own good fortune of merit through their everyday actions and performance of their duties. Each could qualify for sannyas diksha at the age of 72. Should transition occur before the age of 72, upon death's imminence, the nirvana sadhaka would receive the orange kavi or be dressed in it upon the funeral pyre."
Postulant's Pledge of Acceptance of the Duties of the Nirvana Sadhaka:
"I have studied and meditated deeply on the foregoing duties, attitudes and disciplines of the nirvana sadhaka, and hereby accept these as a means to further my humble service and enhance my personal unfoldment. I affirm that I have qualified myself in all ways stated herein, and as outlined in the Saivite Shastras, to enter into the old sadhaka pattern of Saiva Siddhanta Church. I humbly request that I may receive nirvana diksha and be given the responsibility of serving as a senior lay brother, especially helping younger monastics to become well adjusted in monastic life. I understand that this holy covenant is an addendum to my two-year postulant vows and is automatically renewed when I renew my vows. I understand that I am expected to follow the highest standards of spiritual discipline and service, as outlined in this covenant, working in harmony and one-mindedness with all other monastics, constantly striving to love and realize God Siva."