White, Yellow, Orange?
Globally, there are hundreds of Chinmaya Mission Acharyas (spiritual teachers) spreading and sharing the wisdom of Vedanta at centres around the world. They are typically Brahmacharis and Swamis trained in gurukulas to spread the message of the scriptures in a spirit of service. The Chinmaya Mission's monastic order, its customs and traditions were established by Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda, based on scriptural Vedantic thinking.
Swami Chinmayananda referred to his Sandeepany students as rishi-putras, or “sons of the rishis.” Self realisation is the constant, immediate and ultimate goal. To attain this, each seeker sets his or her personal spiritual practices (sadhana) and serves the world dedicatedly and tirelessly, always keeping in line with Pujya Gurudev’s Vision and Mission.
The White Cloth: Purity
During their two-year Vedanta course, these rishi-putras wear white clothes only and live an austere life of purity in thought, word, and deed. The white colour symbolizes purity, and therefore the white cloth acts as a reminder as well as facilitates their studies. Upon completion of the course, each student is given the option to dedicate his or her life to the Chinmaya Mission-the vision and work of their Gurudev, Swami Chinmayananda-or to choose their own lifestyles, regardless of whether it includes serving the Mission periodically or not. Those students who are unsure after the course, or have familial obligations or limitations, often choose to stay in white for one or two years before deciding whether they would like to accept the yellow cloth.
The Yellow Cloth: The Effulgent Flame Of Knowledge
Those students who choose to formally dedicate their life in service of the Chinmaya Mission are initiated into the yellow cloth of brahmacharya (one who practises self-control or one who revels in Brahman). These new brahmacharins are celibate acharyas (teachers) of Chinmaya Mission’s monastic order, and are posted to serve at any one of the Mission centres. The living expenses of all the brahmacharins are borne by the Mission. For the brahmacharis (male only), their head is clean-shaven except for a tuft, symbolising renunciation of worldly attachments and single-pointed spiritual living. All brahmacharins are initiated into the Gayatri Mantra and the sacred thread (janeyu). To formalise their first step into a new walk of life, the initiated acharyas are given a new first name and their last name is Chaitanya.
The Ochre Cloth: Renunciation
The ochre robe is bestowed upon the initiates of sannyasa, who are either brahmacharins in yellow cloth or senior devotees who have served the Mission throughout their lives. Initiates into the holy order of sannyasa are selected by the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, whose decision is based on numerous factors. To enter this last stage of human life according to the Vedas, the initiates perform vraja homa, and therein renounce their tuft (brahmacharis only) and sacred thread. This ceremonial and symbolic end of all worldly attachments and duties, is a far-reaching inner transformation. Upon receiving their personal sannyasa mantra, the spiritual seekers are blessed with the ochre robe, the title of Swami or Swamini, a new first name (ending in “ananda”), and the last name of “Saraswati.”