Anchorites: Sanyasim, Monks, Digambaras, Swetambaras, Fakirs, Tzadiks, Saints

In every religion there are two forms of renunciation, primary and secondary. The majority of us fall in the secondary category, the in-betweeners, grihasthas, unable to renounce our mothers and fathers, our bank accounts, our social ties, our jobs, our identities but nevertheless are humbly called to revere and attempt to find and walk the middle way, continuously performing good works and engaging attitudinal renunciation of expectations, likes and dislikes that impede Self knowledge, knowledge of Love, knowledge of Truth. If one “tries to be” a primary renunciate, one is engaging escapism.

“A sanyasin is not a parasite as some people think. [S]He is a king of the world, the emperor of the three worlds. Even the very sight of him[her] will destroy one’s sins. Every religion has got this band of anchorites. Buddhism has got Buddhist monks. Jainism has got digambaras and swetambaras. Islam and Sufism have got fakirs. [Judaism has Tzadiks. Christianity has Disciples of Christ or Saints.] These anchorites are the glory of every religion. They have disciplined themselves. If you remove these people, there is no essence in religion. These people glorify the religions.

Some people bring the charge that a sadhu or sanyasin is unproductive, is a parasite, is a burden on this earth. They say that there are sixty lakhs of sadhus. This is a false census report. There may be one thousand or two thousand good sanyasins. People lying on the roadside in Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi have been considered as sanyasins by the census reporters, and thus they have given their report to the Government.

The sanyasins write articles. They give lectures. They hold classes. They impart instructions to the men of the world. They do work. They are not parasites. The whole world is maintained by the glory of the sanyasins. They serve them in a variety of ways. Their very existence is a glory, and splendour on the earth. When people are in distress, and when they do not know what to do, these sanyasins speak one word. This one word elevates them, removes their sufferings. The very sight of sanyasins destroys one’s sufferings. Such is the glory of sanyasins.”

from Satsang Bhavan Lectures of Swami Sivananda

In the Sanyasim vows “… subtler and yet subtler constituents of one’s own being are offered as though they are burnt like a cremation.  In the physical cremation, only the physical body is burned. Here, symbolically, one burns all psycho-emotional and psycho-spiritual identities.”

Swami Ritavan Bharati

Self Portrait

I wish I was twenty and in love with life

and still full of beans.

Onward old legs!

There are the  long, pale dunes, on the other side

the roses are blooming and finding their labor

no adversity to the spirit.

Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea

shining like a song, like a body

I want to touch.

though Im not twenty

and won’t be again but ah! seventy. And still

in love with life. And still

full of beans. –

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Grandmother Speaks

“Grandma, I’m afraid I can’t make it… “

“My child, your fear is not to fail, but the fear of seeing your dreams come true. We were taught to question our abilities, to not want too much, to settle. And that’s why we fear we’ll actually succeed. Finally letting our inner light shine! Kick your fear, my daughter, and run carefree in the grass of a thousand possibilities! “

“Why would I ever be afraid to see my plans realized?” “

“We do everything not to achieve them, to stay low in our dreams, to put out our inner fire. We constantly fight to keep our will to live at bay. Otherwise everything would explode, inside and outside of us. Relationships, thoughts and gazes would ignite with true passion. And passion scares, my dear, because it is the most powerful tool of love: it accepts no compromises, pushes away any falsehood, seeks only the truth! Are you ready to die so you can fully come to life? “

“The choice is a difficult one… “

“It’s harder to hold back all that life force that’s about to explode inside of you. Do you feel, my child, that arrogant attraction towards your realization? Liberal! It needs to flow, to penetrate every cell of the body, to flow through your blood. Don’t waste your time and energy blocking the flow of your destiny! Breathe deeply, relax your body and listen to the only voice that makes sense to hear, that of your beautiful heart! “

Elena Bernabeu

The Mystery Of The Path

So you want to get on the right path

And not just the path that others,

Almost without thought, take;

You want a path

In tune with the universe,

In tune with the depths of your being,

Something authentic.

Well, many people,

Philosophers, preachers, social scientists,

All those New Age pundits,

Will give you advice,

But watch out,

Tomorrow they will probably tell

You something different –

Philosophies and theories and fads keep changing –

And you may discover that the

So-called reveleations

From the holy books

Are also pretty suspect after all.

The truth is: the Path is




Yes, that’s where you must begin.

Not with answers

But with the


The Path and ITs Power, Lao Zi’s Thoughts for the 21st Century by Jay G. Williams.

Mystic Heart Series

I am excited to announce that the next book in the Mystic Heart Series will be Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s latest book, Moses: A Human Life. She is a scholar and prolific writer who compassionately and directly sets before us the hidden knowledge of biblical text where lost desire, lost language and lost prayer await our arrival. With the intimacy of an objective heart of deep knowing, understanding and tenderness, she gently whispers an invitation. Avivah invites us to be provoked by Moses – to be called and challenged to know and remember as she moves us from birth to death, following the life of a soul journeying home to the divine feminine, awakening desire, language, and prayer.

Maron L. Waxman – September 8, 2016 writes: Moses: A Human Life chal­lenges read­ers to see Moses in an orig­i­nal and thought-pro­vok­ing way — not as a leader or a prophet, but as a man whose dis­abil­i­ties and con­flicts make him unique­ly qual­i­fied to speak for God and to achieve God’s pur­pose. Only when his nation’s long jour­ney is almost fin­ished does Moses speak to them in his own voice, recall­ing his mem­o­ry of the Exo­dus and jour­ney through the desert. Zorn­berg illus­trates a touch­ing pic­ture of a man whose speech is lim­it­ed but reach­es not only his peo­ple — God’s cho­sen peo­ple — but the hopes and future of all human­i­ty. Index, notes.

We will Zoom on December 10, 8-10:30 am (ET). Register now.

Book is available at, Amazon, and online at;_A_Human_Life?tab=contents

Into the Murmuring Deep

Susan Fantl Spivack, Storyteller/Writer/Teaching Artist brings us into the “murmuring deep” with her poetry, to the Real Presence that contains us all. You can read more at

Secret Life of Words by Susan Fantl Spivack

More than half-way through the movie
the woman—survivor of atrocities
during the Balkan wars—breaks
her silence to tell the burn
patient she bathes
her story.

Unable to close our ears or eyes,
so joined are we to their fortunes,
we take in her wounded words, his
tears—staring and clutching each
other—your arm, my knee….

It’s a suffering that keeps throbbing
at midnight as we lie down
wrapped in questions,
and wake at dawn seeking
each other’s soothing

hands across our backs
and breasts, our faces….
What goodness can possibly
equal the cruelty she suffered?
What gentleness can surpass

the raw horrific warp of it? 
Your sudden weeping? 
My whispered comfort words?  
Do I have the right to say
this?   Only kindness

will save us.

Light of Understanding and Fire

What I suddenly saw then was this…that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most unshatterable association …. with the light of the understanding and the fire.

Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape
Patrick Stewart (left) and Ian McKellen in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at New York City’s Cort Theatre, 2013.

The Holy Maybe

The hint half guessed,

the gift half understood,

is Incarnation.

Here the impossible union

Of spheres of existence is actual,

Here the past and future

Are conquered, and reconciled….

But to apprehend

The point of intersection of the timeless

With time, is an occupation for the saint –

No occupation either, but something given

And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love,

Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender

“The Dry Salvages” by T.S. Eliot

What Is The Way of the Image?

A reading from a chapter in Ann & Barry Ulanov’s book, Primary Speech. Ann Belford Ulanov is an American academic and psychotherapist. She is the Christiane Brooks Johnson Memorial Professor of Psychiatry and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and a Jungian analyst in private practice. Baruch “Barry” Ulanov (April 10, 1918 – April 30, 2000) was an American writer, perhaps best known as a jazz critic.

“A major step …. is learning how to have our fantasies and stand aside from them simultaneously.

Fantasy fully accepted in prayer becomes a rhythmic movement in one’s life that may lead to a meeting with Being. Here music can offer guidance and direction to the praying person. The alterations of sound and silence that we meet in music, of dynamic variations ranging from fortissimo to pianissimo, of every kind of beat and pulse, can evoke and support the rhythms of primary speech. We burst full of images and desires, crowded with rich fragments of ourselves. We fall utterly silent, lost in the timeless moment, still as an emptied pot is still. We are seized by a fantasy, and then stripped of it. But the images return, sometimes new ones, sometimes the old ones in changed form. The spirit works us like bread dough, leavening the lump of our inertia with images that make us rise, expand, and grow light in weight. Then it punches us down and the fantasies escape from us like so much hot air.

What the Difference Between Bread Flour and All Purpose Flour? | MyRecipes

We are pummeled and molded to fit a shape that takes its origin outside ourselves – the image of the being in which we were created. We are made to conform to its dimensions, firmer and larger than any we could fashion by ourselves. Then we can rise again to our full height. Prayer is a growing process.

A major step in the world of primary speech is learning how to have our fantasies and stand aside from them simultaneously. This apparently contradictory stance is intrinsic in all subsequent movements of the spiritual life. In its simultaneous gathering in and giving up, it rehearses us for the paradoxes and antimonies of the life of the spirit, where affirmation comes in denial and withdrawal may be the only way to move ahead.

We are like a dancer who learns certain basic movements, repeats them, depends on them, builds on them in the most complicated and advanced executions of the body, and then can forget all about them, not losing them but dropping them from full consciousness when a new world of movement must be entered. In the same way, we receive and hold in awareness the most full bodied fantasies for the longest time, building on them, never pushing them away. And yet we are able, when the time comes1, to relinquish them, to let them disappear from consciousness altogether. The spirit finds us this way and firms us. We grow into a capacity for grateful flexibility and for the endless ups and downs of prayer, not only pliable in this life that bounds between extremes but also durable.

What does this mean in practice? It means we take our fantasies seriously. It means we offer them to God. We have them and we don’t have them. We are rich and poor, hungry and satisfied, full and empty simultaneously. Our most fearsome fantasies remain with us – we are murderer and victim, sick unto death and healer of the dying, victor and defeated. We extend across worlds into every condition of men and women and are connected with them, as ourselves, in our living persons. We become bigger, more stretched out, more transparent, less densely compacted around our tight little identity. Our fantasies become lenses through which we see God’s spirit working at us, on us, and in us. We see through our fantasies and are less apt now to be duped by them.

we become more vivid and secure….

An element of play enters….

a sense of humor….

We laugh.

God must long for a funny story, we think, instead of still another lugubrious hymn or turgid meditation, still another solemn promise, still another tortured, pompous confession in which even our sins are matters of pride.”

-Ann & Barry Ulanov

  1. I apprehend the appointed time Ps 75

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