On Becoming a Sannyasin: An open letter to my friends

you are a soul

you are a soul


Dear Mum,

for you are all my mother, including you, Dad, we are all Mother Earth,

i have a minor public announcement to make about irony, because nothing ever means what we think it means, or what we intend it to mean. If we have intention behind some thing we are trying to convey, then the meaning is already skewed and we are lost, screwed.

It sounds esoteric, but it’s not, because something esoteric can be understood only by an enlightened few, and we are many, the enlightened.

We are all enlightened—we just don’t know it yet, because we have not yet realised.

But we will realise, and that’s what this announcement is about, this open letter to Mum and Dad and all my other friends, all of you.

Some time ago i realised my old understanding of myself was no longer relevant: i was becoming something new, and i didn’t know what; i had an intellectual understanding of who i was, but this did not match with the understanding of myself that was growing in my heart. There was a great disparity, a most painful disparity.

Somewhere in me i knew i was no longer the identity i had been conditioned to believe i was, but if i was not that, then what was i? Who was i? Who am i?

I am nothing—i am no one, but in this world i have to be someone, or else how will i be able to refer to myself without confusing myself with everyone else? I cannot call myself Us, although you are me and i am you and we are all stardust screaming for ice cream.

So i have taken a sannyasin name, which for a moment felt like a new name, but which increasingly feels like an old name, a name that points at something closer to my original self.

For the sake of conversation, that name is Abhijan: Swami Bodhi Abhijan, which means through rebirth my consciousness is expanding and i am becoming a master of myself, steering myself toward bodhi, toward full awakening.

But Abhijan does not mean me either, which is why this announcement is ironic. My old name pointed at a concept of myself that grew old, and this name points at a concept of myself that is not just new, but forever renewing, rebirthing.

It is ironic because Abhijan does not mean me. It means something else, but i am using it to point at a new understanding of me for now, to point at the me i am becoming.

Okay, now it feels esoteric again, but really it’s not. I was going to try explaining why it’s not esoteric by sharing with you my reasons for taking this new name, but i realised it’s pointless. I don’t feel like i need to explain, to justify myself to you—i want to share this with you, but that’s about all.

The reasons are too amorphous and inexplicable anyway, and i tried getting them down into words, but it got messy and long, which i’m normally okay with, but not this time.

One thing i can say is that Swami Bodhi Abhijan feels to me like the title of a new chapter in my life. The story of the Ryan Paine chapter is too long and convoluted to go into here, and too much in the past anyway.

Another thing i can say is that becoming a sannyasin means adopting Osho as a spiritual teacher, although i don’t think of him as my guru, the master, or anything as final as these labels can be. He is a channel through which i receive information i had forgotten i already knew, so i am willing to consider Osho to be my teacher for sometime, which feels like a quantum leap, because i can still recall the time when Lucy gave me one of his books on fear and i dismissed the guy as a content-free charlatan. More about that another time.

But now, much of what he says resonates with me in a way that refreshes me. I have become a disciple of Osho because he reminds me of who i am. He reminds me that i am a soul rebel who is inherently capable of understanding the real nature of truth,

and that’s what i’m here for, on Earth: that’s what we’re all here for, and i can’t speak for anyone else, but i feel ready for it—i feel capable of it, and Osho reminds me of that.

If i am to realise this capacity it can happen only through meditation, through practices that raise inner awareness and expand consciousness, which is why i have chosen a label that points at the prospect of expanding my consciousness to understanding all that is.

And this is what it means to be a disciple of Osho—that you are committed to meditation, awareness, consciousness and celebration. These are the only conditions of being a sannyasin: meditation; celebration; and being a disciple of Osho, which can mean practising his meditations or following his discourses, and any combination of these we see fit.

When i first began in earnest on this journey of self-exploration, one of the things that most appealed to me was the idea of exploring consciousness, which seems about as abstract as it gets, but which is absolutely not esoteric. We seem to conflate those two things: abstraction and esotericism. But consciousness is neither abstract nor esoteric. Actually, un-consciousness is an abstraction from the real, and as i said above, consciousness is not something that can be understood by only a select few—on the contrary, it is the only thing that connects us all in immediate understanding, if only we knew how to access that through ourselves,

which is what i am pursuing through meditation: right understanding.

I am happier now with my new name than i ever was before with my given name, and that doesn’t have to disparage all that my parents gave me—it just means that i have chosen this identity, this path, for myself … it was not given to me.

When i was given my birth name it did not come with a background in spiritual practice, and that is a characteristic of my entire culture, not just my family culture, that has long been driving me to find something more fulfilling than the material culture i was raised in.

From the moment i found Abhijan i felt it was my true name, a name that affirms the rebirth i have been experiencing my whole life and not been able to identify—Abhijan means ‘to be reborn’. Bodhi means ‘understanding the true nature of things’ and is often translated into ‘enlightenment’ or ‘awakened’ or ‘pure consciousness’. Swami means ‘master of oneself’. Together, i feel that Swami Bodhi Abhijan affirms that through rebirth my consciousness is expanding and i am becoming a master of myself, steering myself toward bodhi, toward full awakening.

It sounds romantic, but it’s hard work, facilitated by Osho’s meditations, complemented by the discourses that remind me of what i have always known, and supported by membership of the global sannyasin diaspora.

Wherever i go now, i know that i am part of a movement of people who support each other through this challenging and liberating work, and for that reason i am going into this totally, discarding anything that doesn’t support me in the process of becoming that which my name affirms.

I spoke with Mum, and of course she understands—as i wrote on here, the more time i spend in conversation with my mother as a friend, the more i understand how much of an enlightened being she is. I am truly blessed to have this relationship with Mum.

I haven’t had a chance to speak with Dad about it yet, but lately we have been getting along a lot better as his curiosity grows to include me and as my desire for understanding expands to include him.

I am happy that Mum approves and supports me, and i know Dad will be as supportive as possible, but actually i don’t need their approval. I want to share this journey with them, as with you, but as i rebirth i see that yes they are my body-parents, but as a sannyasin i have no parents—we are borne out of existence, and our parents are channels, as were their parents.

I don’t need anyone’s approval, but as i do this, which seems like such a departure from so-called normal behaviour, i feel a slight pressure to explain myself, but only slight. I want to share this name with you, and i want you to use it when referring to me, but i don’t feel like explaining myself. I am just telling you i have taken a sannyasin name, and asking you to use it. But you can do what you want, and think what you want. It doesn’t really bother me, because this feels good and right and true. If you have any questions i will try to answer them, but i cannot anticipate those questions, and actually i would prefer that you find your own reasons and answers. Ask me, sure, but what can i say that will help you understand?

So i‘m sharing the name, but not the detailed, amorphous and inexplicable reasons for taking it. But i want to provide some links to some basic information about Osho and what it means to be a sannyasin.

Here is the first website i was directed to when considering taking a name: http://www.neosannyas.org. It explains a few things about the history of Osho’s neo-sannyasins, and there are tonnes of quotes from Osho about what it means to be a sannyasin.

I will include here some quotes that my friend Abheeru included on the beautiful rebirth certificate he gave me to celebrate taking a sannyasin name, a quote i read on the very same day he gave me the certificate:

Looking at life from the standpoint of self-ignorance is samsara, the world. Looking at life from the standpoint of self-knowing is sannyas. Therefore, whenever someone says to me that he has taken sannyas, the whole thing seems very false to me. This ‘taking’ of sannyas creates the impression that it is an antagonistic act against the world. Can sannyas be taken? Can anyone say he has ‘taken’ knowing? And will any knowing that is taken like that be true knowing? A sannyas that is taken is not sannyas.

You cannot put a cloak of truth around you. Truth has to be awakened within you. Sannyas is born. It comes through understanding, and in that understanding we go on being transformed. As our understanding changes, our outlook changes and our behaviour is transformed without any effort. The world stays where it is, but sannyas is gradually born within us. Sannyas is the awareness that ‘I am not only the body, I am also the soul.’ With this knowing, the ignorance and attachment inside us drops away. The world was outside and it will still continue to be there, but inside us there will be the absence of attachment to it. In other words, there will be no world, no samsara inside us.


Sannyas is an initiation into freedom.

Here is the official Osho website: http://www.osho.com.

The word ‘sannyasin’ comes from Hindi, and here is a link to the Wikipedia entry, but it should be understood that Osho’s use of ‘neo-sannyasin’ doesn’t imply any of the renunciation mentioned in this article.

In fact Osho is against renunciation, believing that we need to pursue enlightenment in the ‘marketplace’, among the world. So i’m still coming back to Australia soon, and i will still cycle my way around the world as far as i can to find a place where i can do some more intensive practice. And someday when the time is right i will rejoin the working world of people who are doing good social work for the betterment of humankind.

But first i have to finish this letter, so i’m signing off for now,

your soul brother,

Abhijan xo

I love you all more than i ever knew i could.





3 thoughts on “On Becoming a Sannyasin: An open letter to my friends

  1. Thanks Bec—thank you from that very same centre, for you have played a super-important role in facilitating this growth for me. This is probably an appropriate time to finish the email i drafted for you.

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