Monasticism is a distinct calling that takes one from the world to the woods. As such, it can find monastic candidates wondering from time to time what relevance their lives have to the world around them. In time, this musingif it does not take them back to the worldturns full circle. Commitment fosters inner life and another related question: What relevance does the world have to my life?
While the world of names and formsmental judgments that produce a false reading of realitymean little to one who has experienced the inner life of the authentic self, one who is awake within realizes that monastic life is at the same time entirely relevant to the world around one. Indeed, it seeks to turn the world outside into provide an oasis in the desert fire of material desire. There is much to be gained personally from monastic life, and the world stands to gain considerably from those committed to this calling. The monasteries of Sri Caitanya Sanga aspire to facilitate personal growth, which fosters the farthest reach of altruism.
The Sanga's monasticism is gender neutral, and both candidates in training and residents are expected to maintain vows of celibacy. While meals are communal, residence is individual. Each monastic has his or her own dwelling yet joins with other monastics in temple functions and day-to-day service.
Monastic training consists of a seven-year curriculum prior to ordination. The initial training period is a six-month residence, in which the candidate's aptitude for monastic life is mutually evaluated by student and preceptor. Should the candidate prove to be psychologically suited for monastic life, he or she enters a two-year residence. This two-year period ends with necessary pause and reflection as one is faced with various options. One may choose to continue, leave monastic training, or pursue a life of lay monasticism. Those seeking to continue monastic training will adopt the saffron cloth and continue their monastic training for five years. Having completed this training and provided that they have reached the age of thirty, they can at the discretion of the preceptor accept ordination and appropriate vows. Those who choose to pursue lay monasticism will work in the world with a view to serve the mission of Sri Caitanya, forgoing married life.
Ordination involves lifetime vows, change of dress, and mantra transmission. At the discretion of the preceptor, ordained monastics adopt one of two designations and corresponding lifestyles: vanacari (forest dweller) or sannyasa (itinerant preacher). The vanacarin serves selflessly in the monastery, while the sannayasin leads the effort to disseminate the precepts of Sri Caitanya, often traveling widely.