On February 8th, 2010, Shiva Ratri, at Sadhana Mandir Ashram on the banks of the Ganges, the vows of a Swami were taken by Swami Uttamanand Bharati (formerly Brahmachari Uttamani) and Ma Richa Bharati (formerly Rinnia Pinto).
Nandi Shraddha (offerings that bring happiness) is performed in preparation for the actual renunciation ceremony. First, the blessings and the presence of all the great sages of the past from whom the true spiritual tradition proceeds are invoked. Then, as in all the cultures of Asia, honor of one’s ancestors is performed by placing little ritual offerings in their names.
For the sanyasa ceremony, Nandi Shraddha is unique because it is performed for one’s own self. Atmane namah; one’s own self has died and one commemorates that death of one’s own. The ceremony one would perform for one's father after he dies, is performed for oneself. One’s own self has died.
First thing in the morning, one gets up and takes a bath. Then the head is shaved and Nandi Shraddha is performed. During the ceremony there are a number of fire offerings into which are offered the body, bones, skin, all the seven constituents of the physical; svaha, it is no more mine. Jyotiham viraja vipatmam bhusam, may I become a being of light, free of dust, free of stain. I have made this offering of myself. My prana, apana, vyana, samana, udhana, all my pranas and so each one of these 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.
Then one merges with the Gayatri, the mantra.
Jyotiraham viraja vipapma bhuyasam.
Om bhuvah savitrim pravishami.
Om bhuh sanyastam maya.
Om bhuvah sanyastam maya.
Om svah sanyastam maya.
Om abhayam sarvabhutesha mattah.
Om bhuvah savitrim pravishami, previously one was separate from the mantra. Now the renunciate enters the mantra, becomes one with the mantra, becomes the walking mantra. Then he stands and he mutters first to himself Om bhuh sanyastam maya, Om bhuvah sanyastam maya, Om svah sanyastam maya. Then he says it a little bit out loud, then he loudly and boldly announces to the world. “I’ve renounced the lower the world. I’ve renounced the middle world. I've renounced the celestial world. Abhayam sarvabhutesha mattaha, I grant reassurance to all living beings. May they not fear me. I am no more a danger to any living being.” This is a vital part of renunciation.
Then the renunciate, guru, priests and witnesses contemplatively walk to the Ganga for the essential part of the ceremony - the submersion or baptism by taking a dip. As the renunciates are taking the dip, the priests are standing nearby and are reciting what is known as aprati rata sputa, from the Veda. It is the hymn of an invincible chariot; the invincible warrior. After one has given reassurance to all living beings one is taking the vows, the hymn of the invincible warrior is recited because now ones entire battle is inside. One announces to oneself that he/she will be invincible and victorious. It is the hymn of inner strength. The same hymn that was recited when the armies were sent to march against an enemy, that hymn is recited at the same time one has given reassurance to all the living beings that one has become a non-violent being. Now, all of one’s war, if any at all, is against one’s own stains.
On the banks of the holy Ganga, the guru gives to the disciple a new name. He teaches the new swami one or more of the Great Sentences (Maha vakyas) of Vedanta; this for contemplation on. Monastic robes are given; robes the color of the rising sun. The guru says, “Wherever you walk, you bring peace of the morning, of the light of dawn, the light of the rising sun.”
The ceremony concludes with the offering to the Vishnu or all-pervading one, which the renunciate has now become one with. One is the all pervading one; one is no longer separate. The state of trance at that moment is truly unique. It is a certain force that carries one’s consciousness to a different state. One is hardly aware of anything outside the body because this body is no longer “you." It’s not oneself being worshiped; it is the deity one has now become one with which is being worshiped on the altar of your skull. The ceremony ends with the receiving of the alms, the biksha. Because the sanyasi owns nothing, he owns everything.