My dear 93 year-old father passed away on February 11, 2015, two sad weeks ago. His final crisis came and went much faster than I was prepared for, and was a surprise. Not only did my father disappear from this life, in addition, this was the sudden and unexpected completion of my practice to serve my parents in their last years, as previously described in an article titled Service To Our Elders As A Path Of Love And Service.
When I began that practice, I had no idea how long it would be in duration or what doing so would involve. Now, ten years later, so much has happened, and I’m a different person than the one who began the practice. If asked how I’ve changed from this practice, my answer would be, “I’ve grown up.” Rather than always thinking of “what’s in it for me,” and whether I am enjoying something, caring for my parents required me to consider their welfare in everything I did, before considering my own preferences.
Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studied Theology. Her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
As you all know a Swami is a servant, a servant to people, and if I understand Swami Rama’s teaching correctly, he/she is a servant to all humanity, including all, excluding none.
In the past the Swamis in India did that, by walking from place to place, as is said in the scriptures. My preceptor summed it up something like:’ staying one night in a house, three nights in a village, may be a week in a town… then move on.’
The exception is Chaturmas, the rainy season, which is also called holy season, a time reserved for penance, austerities, fasting, silence practice, going on a pilgrimage, etc. Traditionally during this time, Swamis stayed three or four months in an ashram, and often taught there.
So Swami’s don’t have holidays, but every now and then they go and withdraw to do their own practices, work on their own spiritual progress.
In modern times, with all the flying and travelling “we” do, there is one thing that needs to be added, that is “to rest,” to rebalance, to look after the tool…i.e. the body.
Now the word Sabbatical is kind of a modern expression for something like that. However, the concept/word itself is already used in the Bible. Now the word sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek σαββατικός sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally refers to a "ceasing") means rest from work, or a break. I like the translation of “ceasing”… ceasing to “run around…” What the teenagers might call: to chill!
Moreover, in recent times, "sabbatical" has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. In the modern sense, one takes sabbatical typically to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or travelling extensively for research. So here we have another component of that “break where one ceases to work in the normal way”. I.e. to accomplish some goal. Take time out… in order..... to finish a project, a thesis, a research. In Academia people take out a year for “self- study or a project.”
So what does it mean for a Swami in modern times to take a Sabbatical: well, to stay on one place…to have time for one’s own spiritual practices and look after the body… are certainly important aspects; hopefully finishing a project is yet another. Going on a pilgrimage might well be another.
Now for me personally, it’s all of that. My intention is to finish a book on “the Divine Feminine”. Something that has been “brewing” for a long time and it seems that now the time is ripe …
But, of course, I am also a servant to people…and my raison d’etre is to guide and share what I know with people….and to do that globally. Keeping that in mind, staying too long in one place seems very difficult… so there are a few events/workshops, commitments that I will honor. However, my aim is to stay most of each month “at one place”.
I cannot see how I can do this for one year…. but my hope is to take a Sabbatical in this modified way… for 9 months. Hmm, nine months… the gestation time for a Human Being. I wonder what the child will be like that will be born from this!
Original article: http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1501Jan/09.html