How Does One Become a Swami?

The word Swami can mean a few things. In spiritual circles it generally refers to “master” or “learned”. These two definitions may in turn refer to two levels of Swamis. Both may teach and both are still students themselves, just as school-teachers continually undergo further education and even correction. The distinction between them is subtle, but important. Also, it’s not that these Swamis are necessarily either or, but there’s a continuum.

The learned Swami has trained their intellect to consistently remain absorbed in their spiritual practice, and engage their mind and senses likewise. Their impeccable understanding of their respective tradition’s teachings has allowed them to internally let go of other goals than the goal of full realization of themselves in relation to God. They naturally lack the need to be praised as they feel honored simply to get to be a part of this. Their ego is grounded in service rather than a need for entertainment.

The master Swami has had their very being touched for the first time by God’s internal energy (shakti). In Vedanta-philosophy, God possesses three main energies (shaktis): His internal energy that he experiences himself within; We, the units of consciousness inhabiting different life-forms in this world, are the intermediate energy; And the world of matter that we live in is God’s external energy. The master Swami has been touched by the internal energy in his very being, which lies deeper than ego, intellect, mind, and senses. This happens in the context of the type of lifestyle that the learned Swami is fully dedicated to.

But what is this goal that the Swamis have and continually learn more about? It’s to become absorbed in that internal energy of God that has been trickling into this world since a time without beginning, inviting us there. The path that leads there goes through compassion for all that lives, and those who tread it are helping their fellow sentient beings to do the same.

If you have met a Swami and become influenced to a point that you can’t deny it, and would like to gradually become one yourself, then I would encourage you to study with them. Nothing would make them more happy, and nothing would make you more happy.

Syamananda dasa

Lay practitioner at Madhuvan Ashram

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