Nityananda Sampradaya/Rudrananda Pantha Commitment Ceremony

By Swami Khecaranatha

“There are Thousands of Paths to God, Choose One and Become a Master of it.” — The Dalai Lama

Why Take Vows of Commitment?

The Sanskrit word for vow is vrata, derived from the verbal root vrn, “to choose.” The purpose of taking vows is to express conscious choice. It is your declaration of intention, the commitment that opens you so that you can receive Divine Grace. Taking vows is about openly declaring what you hold as sacred. By taking vows you commit to freedom, and while there is often fear associated with making a commitment, it is, in fact, commitment that frees you.

GuruyogaThere is a tendency to be involved in all kinds of activities in life, and the effect is that not much ever takes root in one's core being. Our lives consist of multiple problems—of pain, pleasure, points of view, having too many options—and they all complicate our existence. Everything in our life experience, concerning spirituality or anything else, is usually a matter of “shopping around for the best deal.”

We all make hundreds of choices in our lives, particularly in regard to our sense of discipline, ethics, and our spiritual path. There are numerous disciplines available, taken from many types of traditions and philosophies. You may try to combine all of them, and find that some might conflict while others work together harmoniously. But in doing so, you are constantly “shopping,” and that is really the basic problem. By taking vows of commitment, you end your shopping spree in the spiritual supermarket. You decide to stick to a particular brand because it has worked for you. When you take vows in a practice you are committing yourself to that path. You are affirming, “I know there are thousands of paths to God. I choose this one and will become a master of it.”

Our Practice Comes From an Ancient Tantric Tradition

By taking formal initiation through the Nityananda Sampradaya/Rudrananda Pantha Commitment Ceremony you are committing to a path that emerged from the inner practices of the ancient Tantric adepts over two thousand years ago. There is a tremendous power inherent in our practice and lineage. That power resides in an unfolding, living spiritual force passed from heart to heart, generation after generation.

Mark Dyczkowski, a preeminent Tantric scholar/practitioner, recently stated emphatically that our practice embodies the ancient teachings of Tantric Shaivism. In fact, he said it demonstrates the highest of those teachings identified by Abhinavagupta, the most renowned of all the Shaivite masters. Abhinavagupta called the highest practice Anuttara Trika Kaula (Anuttara means “none higher,” and Kaula means “energy,” or “force”).

Mark declared that the Trika (Tantric) practice that focuses on the use of energy (particularly through śakti transmission) to uncover the Supreme Consciousness within is the highest practice discussed in the ancient scriptures of Tantric Shaivism. He stated that our practice is the practice of Anuttara Trika Kaula. It is by Rudi’s grace that this practice is available to each of you. Although he did not study scripture, Rudi’s practice and teachings, uncovered from within himself through commitment, are a perfect expression of the most sacred of the Tantric Shaivite practices.

The Value of Making a Choice

Once you take vows you have said, “I seek no alternative.” You vow to enter a discipline of choicelessness—because you have made your choice. Perhaps, at first glance, this approach may seem repressive but it is only possible to find freedom when there are no side tracks or exits. Usually you tend to look for solutions through something new, something outside yourself. Commitment to your spiritual growth through a particular path is working ever more deeply within, without escape routes.

Taking vows is an expression of freedom because you are no longer bound by uncertainty. The commitment ceremony represents a decision to focus. Acknowledging that the only real means to unconditional joy and fulfillment is  through transforming yourself, you take vows to affirm your spiritual aim and the path you have chosen. Ultimately, taking vows is a total commitment to the God who dwells within you as your Self. The commitment ceremony marks the beginning of an odyssey of dedication.

You have to recognize the sacredness of your experience. It has to be found on the intimate level of your everyday existence. There are no scapegoats. When you take vows you become responsible to yourself, for your own liberation.

The purpose of taking vows is to make the unwavering declaration that you are going to do something. You commit yourself to yourself, no longer thinking that some divine principle that exists in holy scriptures is going to save you. It is very personal. But at the same time there is a sense of belonging: You belong to a tradition and practice in which people work together toward the same goal of liberation. Participating in a ceremony like this expresses your sense of coming home to your own awakening, through this practice. It is a reflection of the aspiration to turn your individual life toward freedom.

Taking vows is a deeply personal matter. It’s not required, so it’s a request that rises from your own heart—to acknowledge the sense of coming home and the desire to live a life of greater consciousness. In taking vows you profess your own longing and expose your vulnerability. Taking on the precepts of the practice is a beautifully reckless act, in which you make nearly impossible promises and express your willingness to have life act upon you in ways you won’t be able to control.

You offer yourself, asking nothing in return, but trusting that if you make this gesture of intention towards Life, God will respond by lifting and carrying you along. To make this gesture is to declare your love of Life and to move from the prison of your own small story into the effulgence of a Divine Life.

The Nature of This Ceremony

The vows taken during this initiation focus primarily on your personal commitment to living a spiritual life, but do include commitment to this practice. As you go through the ceremony, learning the vows and discovering your own understanding of them, you may react with a certain panic. This arises because you do have a powerful impulse to commit to the vows, but don’t entirely know what they signify or what it means to take them on. Then you realize that you’re embarking on a process of deepening and learning to love the vows themselves. For the rest of your life these vows will be questions, and for the rest of your life you will be maturing into the full understanding of them. And so you invoke the spirit of inquiry, exploring deeply what each vow might mean rather than signing on to a predetermined set of rules for living.

Taking the precepts is meant to enrich and enlarge our lives, not to narrow them. The vows aren’t meant to serve a habit of feeling inadequate or of monitoring every thought and intention. This is a practice of generosity for  you and for others. The meaning of your vows arises from an exploration of  your own sense of integrity—and you understand that this is a lifetime practice.

It’s a process that’s paradoxical, frustrating, magical, and sometimes messy. Just like life. You accept that you’ll make mistakes along the way, but that doesn’t stop you from trying. This is the lotus in the fire, and it’s a process full of transformation, tears, doubts, sacrifice, service, and surrender—as well as joy, freedom, gratitude, and devotion.

Fortunately you have help, because you also take refuge in your practice, your teacher, and the lineage. For some people, this happens the first time they walk into the meditation hall, when they feel they’ve come home. For others, the sense of homecoming grows slowly over time with deepening practice, as they become more and more intimate with their own true nature. This is the ultimate homecoming—immersion into the heart of God.

The intent of spiritual vows is to develop the discipline to follow the teachings all the time. It is so easy during a weekend retreat to follow the practices, open your heart, and make commitments. However, to really have a conscious life of freedom you must be able to continue this even when you are in difficult situations, faced with the grip of your own ego and the prison of the veils of duality.

In that regard, making vows, especially when witnessed in public by your teacher, can be invaluable because it engulfs you in your own commitment—allowing you to recognize when you are able to follow through with your intentions and when you slip into old patterns and tensions which are not conducive to a life of freedom. By strengthening your resolve and awareness, vows can help you maintain your practice and develop discipline.

Vows of commitment to a particular practice and teaching deeply connect you to the energy and the inspiration of the teacher. I am unconditionally devoted to those who are dedicated to their spiritual freedom and I have designed this ceremony for students who want to declare that intention. However, since there have been a number of cases in which people have taken the initiation and soon thereafter stopped doing our practice, I only want those who demonstrate a serious commitment (time involved here isn't the only measure) to participate in this ceremony. Please understand that your decision whether or not to participate does not change what I give, only what you receive.

Why Wouldn’t You Take Vows of Commitment?

 

God’s Heart is Revealed in Stillness

By Swami Khecaranatha

Learning to live in the stillness of the heart is vital to spiritual growth. An authentic spiritual practice provides us with the tools to contact this deepest resonance of our heart—both during our meditation and as we extend ourselves out in to the world. We anchor ourselves in our center, in the stillness of our heart, and this is what creates a profound, permanent immersion into the heart of God.

blue moon moonlight beautiful beauty nature ocean SmallWhen we find ourselves caught in turmoil, it is a strong clue that we need to get still. Instead of immediately reacting to the incessant need to do something, find something, or get rid of something, we must learn to rest in stillness. If we do that, whatever we are attached to will lose its grip. It is vital to recognize that our personal willfulness emerges from and perpetuates our patterns of desire and attachment. That need to control life comes from the mind, which is able to create an extraordinary amount of delusion in us.

Desirelessness is freedom from the incessant thought and feeling that life has to be a certain way. It is the recognition of the perfection of our life at every moment. In this acceptance, what can we desire, except to allow Grace to unfold? This is not a concept. It is not theory. It should be and can be our experience that perfection is unfolding in our life at every moment. When we still our desires and awareness we cut the cords of attachment, which frees us to be immersed in our highest Self. We discover unconditional joy within ourselves not by manipulating, pushing, and shoving, not by trying to make life different, but by simply diving into the state of consciousness where perfection is crystal clear.

The Stillness of Will

Ultimately, desirelessness shows itself as stillness of will—which is beyond the mere acceptance of God’s will. It is the celebration of God’s will as it expresses itself through us. The capacity to live in simplicity is fundamental to being able to free ourselves and to allow Divine Presence to reveal Itself. When we find the stillness of breath, awareness, desire, and will, we gain the ability to truly open our heart and feel the incredible Presence that lies within—always there, just waiting for us to tune in to It.

When we align our will with God’s, devotion arises and sets us free. As Nityananda said, “As is your devotion, so is your liberation.” He also said, “Devotion is not intended to eliminate difficulty.” What an amazing statement. It means we are not living in God’s will if we can only be devoted when life is the way we think it ought to be. Nityananda’s words are so powerful because they cut through any illusion we may have that if we open our heart, every aspect of life will henceforth be perfect.

Until we open deep enough to feel the emergent quality of devotion to the God within, we remain devoted to ourselves. We bow at the altar of ego, selfishness, and desire. The real opportunity to know a profoundly different place in ourselves can only arise from an open heart. Our relationship to the Divine rests in the commitment we make—which is an expression of our love, gratitude, devotion, and surrender—no matter what surfaces in our lives. We trust the God within when He presents us with the perfect situation that requires us to get bigger inside and find our freedom.

We cannot want freedom one day and not want it the next. We cannot appreciate it when we have it but be unwilling to work to find it again when we have lost it. Devotion is an act of service to the God within who is trying to express His own freedom through us. If that is not yet your experience, start at the bottom of the ladder and learn to serve, to give, and to extend yourself. This is how we sacrifice our selfishness, laziness, and self-centeredness. It’s how we really get in touch with what life is asking of us and move beyond any resistance to offering what is needed.

Rising to Meet God’s Grace

Liberation emerges from the descent of God’s Grace and the ascension of the seeker’s devotion. These two forces converge in stillness, allowing God in and allowing us out. In stillness we make contact with profound Grace and can live in God’s heart, every moment of our lives. Every moment of our lives—not just some moments. God gave us the experience of life so we can find our Divinity. Being human should not negate our Divinity, just as being Divine does not negate our humanity. Of course, the problem is that we consistently get caught in the duality of human existence and think we are separate from God. We lose contact with Unity as we identify with the dynamics of daily life, with being happy or sad. These fluctuations are natural, but we mistakenly believe that there is duality in those seeming opposites. When we enter into the sky of the heart, individuated consciousness merges with the Divine, allowing for the dissolution of all dualistic misunderstanding.

It is purely our misperception that there is a mountain of obstacles between us and God. The choice to live in the utter simplicity of God’s love is the first thing we must bring to our spiritual endeavor. Then our practice is to get more deeply in contact with that love and less with the mountain of obstacles we have built in front of ourselves, which we perceive as a barrier to living in Divinity.

We must become a master at meditation in order to find that sweet essence, and this requires becoming a master of our consciousness instead of continuing to be a slave to our unconsciousness. When we focus our awareness back into its own Source, we are merging into that which we always were. We are dissolving the veils of duality. The glimpses we have of pure being, of stillness, accompanied by feelings of love or joy, are God’s Grace showing us “This is what it is like.” Grace is giving us the experience of who we really are so that we will know our way home, even if we get lost. Then it’s up to us to do the inner work to actually get there.

 

What It Means To Be A Student

By Swami Khecaranatha

If you ask me to be your teacher, it’s a declaration of your intention to formalize a relationship that has been developing over time. You may have begun the practice with a casual level of involvement, but have become more actively engaged and consciously committed.

The Dalai Lama has said, “There are thousands of paths to God, choose one and become a master of it.”

GuruyogaThe Value of Commitment

When you become my student you are affirming that our practice is the path you are choosing on the journey to God. I believe this is the commitment that opens you so that you can more deeply receive Divine Grace. You may experience a more palpable connection to our lineage of teachers. And certainly, you’ve openly declared what you hold as sacred and have committed to freedom.

While there is sometimes fear associated with making a commitment, it is, in fact, commitment that frees you. There is a tendency to be involved in all kinds of activities in life, and the effect is that often not much ever takes root in one’s core being. Our lives consist of multiple problems—of pain, pleasure, points of view, having too many options—and they all complicate our existence.

Everything in our life experience, concerning spirituality or anything else, is usually a matter of “shopping around for the best deal.” We all make hundreds of choices in our lives, particularly in regard to our sense of discipline, ethics, and our spiritual path. There are numerous disciplines available, taken from many types of traditions and philosophies. You may try to combine all of them, and find that some might conflict while others work together harmoniously. But in doing so, you are constantly “shopping,” and that is really the basic problem.

By formally becoming a student in this practice, you end your shopping spree in the spiritual supermarket. You decide to stick to a particular brand because it has worked for you and are affirming, “I know there are thousands of paths to God. I choose this one.”

An Ancient Path

This is a path that emerged from the inner practices of the ancient nondual adepts over two thousand years ago. There is a tremendous power inherent in our practice and lineage, embodied by Bhavagan Nityananda (the wellspring of our practice) and Swami Rudrananda (my guru, the powerful conduit of that energy). This power resides in an unfolding, living spiritual force passed from heart to heart, generation after generation.

Scholar Mark Dyczkowski said that our practice, with its focus on the use of energy (particularly through shakti transmission), embodies the highest teachings of the ancient nondual traditions, and specifically those elucidated by the 11th century master, Abhinavagupta. It is by Rudi’s grace that this practice is available to each of you. Although he did not study scripture, Rudi’s practice and teachings, uncovered from within himself through commitment, are a perfect expression of the most sacred of the ancient practices.

Once you have said, “I seek no alternative,” you enter a discipline of choicelessness—because you have made your choice. Perhaps, at first glance, this approach may seem repressive, but it is only possible to find freedom when there are no side tracks or exits. Usually you tend to look for solutions through something new, something outside yourself. Commitment to your spiritual growth through a particular path is working ever more deeply within, without escape routes.

Your Journey to Freedom

Commitment is an expression of freedom because you are no longer bound by uncertainty. It represents a decision to focus. Acknowledging that the only real means to unconditional joy and fulfillment is through transforming yourself, you affirm your spiritual aim and the path you have chosen.

Becoming a student is a deeply personal matter. It’s not required, so it’s a request that rises from your own heart—to acknowledge the sense of coming home and the desire to live a life of greater consciousness. You are taking on the precepts of the practice, professing your own longing, and exposing your vulnerability. Ultimately, asking to be a student in this practice (or any other authentic practice) is a total commitment to the God who dwells within you as your Self.

My role as a teacher is to support you in your sādhana. I am unconditionally devoted to those who are dedicated to their spiritual freedom. But I understand that there are many bumps on the road to freedom, and therefore my commitment is to help you progress along that journey. This includes being available for guidance, which is a form of śakti transmission that can often be more difficult to assimilate than the pure energy that is offered in class, yet can be invaluable if offered in love and accepted in the same spirit.

Please understand that whether or not you formally become a student does not change what I give, only what you receive. I am a gateway to the energy of our lineage, and that connection is always available, because the essence of that energy—Consciousness—is already within you, as your Self. I’m here to serve you, in whatever way I can.

 

What Do You REALLY Want?

By Swami Khecaranatha

There’s one single purpose in our sādhana—and that’s to know God. My experience is that although it’s also the very purpose of life, it requires tremendous inner clarity to be certain that knowing God is what we really want. As students, we must be honest and ask ourselves: do I really want to know the highest in me?

khecara right The real challenge for all of us in our spiritual life is to come to true insight about that, because it requires an unwavering focus and decisive fierceness to hold on to what we say we want. There are millions of reasons to lose sight of our purpose—both within ourselves and while living in the world. The essential problem is that the ego doesn’t want to surrender itself; we as individuals don’t want to surrender our identity. We therefore have to find the part of us that does want to know God, and then make everything else in our life be in support of our wish.

The Power of Our Longing

I’ll never forget being in a room with Rudi when he said, “Nobody wants.” This was shortly after I began my spiritual practice and it pierced me like a dagger. His words reinforced what an extraordinary opportunity was being made available to me, but also how much work is required to create and to one-pointedly hold on to that wanting throughout the course of our lives.

Rudi’s own life was one of profound spiritual longing. He sat eight hours a night for eight years, asking one thing: “I wish to grow.” Rudi also lived under extraordinary suffering, which led him to recognize that without his unwavering, decisive fierceness about what he really wanted, he could not be certain which aspect of his life was going to win. This is what brought him his freedom. That absolute clarity attracted to him everything he needed, including the energy that was required to hold on to and feed his wish, to guard against anything that tried to steal it from him. The same principal applies to each of us.

If we know what we want, and if we’re willing everyday to sit down and cultivate that longing, we come to realize that the longing is a beacon from God, calling us home. Then, all of our decisions, all the use of our life force, become centered around that. Nothing becomes more important than our spiritual growth, and, in light of that, we perceive that everything is sacred because it’s part of the dynamic that God has offered to us.

When is the moment that we lose track of our longing? To be perfectly clear, it happens to almost everyone. The question you must ask yourself is this: Will I be one of them? If we want to know God, then what is it we’re unprepared to surrender to find that knowing? Our ego is usually the first thing we’re unwilling to surrender and that ripples out into the ego’s effect on our life. Are we prepared to surrender what we perceive to be our life, our career, our relationships? We must be prepared to surrender ourselves to that longing, because it’s only the highest place in us that can live in that longing, no matter what.

Engagement With A Teacher

When the wish to know God begins to emerge in us, it leads us to a teacher. The single purpose of having a relationship with a teacher is to provide the energy, nourishment, and support to enable us to establish ourselves in a permanent connection to God.

It’s not really about how often we come to class. What’s critical is how clear we are about what we want and how honest we are with ourselves about whether we are achieving that single thing we say we want. The ego has the same power to obscure our longing as grace has to reveal it, so a major aspect of our sadhana is to be free from ego. It’s important to understand that being free from ego is twofold: our wish for it to happen, and somebody to help us make it happen. This primarily means being in contact with an energy field that moves us through our uncertainty and limited egoic perspective.

Never let go of that connection to your teacher and the teacher’s lineage. Imagine that you fell into a turbulent river and are heading toward Victoria Falls. Somebody throws you a lifeline. At what point do you let go? If you really don’t want to go over the falls you never let go. You hold on until that lifeline frees you from the possibility of something else.

The essential question is whether or not we have the capacity to stay connected to the teacher’s energy on our own. I see people who show up once a month and they’re absolute wrecks. A little work in class, and the light is shining. A month later they appear. . . and they’re wrecks again. The energetic support from our relationship to a teacher in a lineage is available to us at all times, but for most people, maintaining that connection requires the contact we receive in person, in class.

I’ve made myself available in support of what people sitting in front of me seem to be saying: “I want to know God.” I’d teach five nights a week if necessary, because I understand what an extraordinary challenge it is to truly achieve spiritual freedom. I understand the amount of energy it takes for the rocket to get off the planet.

The bottom line is that you have to be really clear in yourself: do you have the capacity to close your eyes and connect to God? If you do, you don’t need me or anybody else. If you don’t, perhaps you need me or somebody else. It’s never about the teacher; it’s about us—about the clarity and the strength of our longing and what we’re prepared to do to hold on to it. I want each of you to know that I’m here to serve you. Decide if you want to be served. But ask yourself what part of you is making that decision. Teaching and serving is my duty and my honor, and I will be in your heart as long as you want me to be there.