The Integral Yoga Ministry was inspired by Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda’s example and motto: “The dedicated enjoy supreme peace, therefore live only to serve.” Some of his students have chosen the path of sannyas or monasticism. The first of his American students ordained into the Holy Order of Sannyas (organized into ten orders with four branches by Adi Shankaracharya, approximately 8th century) took vows during Guru Purnima in July 1975. They have the title of “Swami” and are similar to monastics of other traditions. Sannaysis observe vows of renunciation and dedicated service to all.
Fully-ordained monks wear orange robes, a symbol of this renunciation. Pre-sannyasis have the title, “Brother” or “Sister,” similar to novices in other traditions. They wear white clothes as a symbol of purity, with an orange scarf indicating they are training in renunciation. Swami Sarvaananda, a senior disciple of Swami Satchidananda, is the first sannyasi to have become a Board-certified Hindu Chaplain.
In 1980, Reverend Jaganath Carrera, one of Swami Satchidananda’s senior students asked him if there could be a way for Integral Yoga householders to formalize their devotion and dedication. Thus, the Integral Yoga Ministry was founded, inspired by the selfless example of the Integral Yoga sannyasis. The first group of 23 householder students were ordained as Integral Yoga Ministers during Guru Purnima in July 1980. These ministers, given the title “Reverend,” may marry and have families if they wish. When performing formal ministry functions, they wear white robes with a gold sash. An Integral Yoga minister vows to grow and serve through living a yogic lifestyle under the spiritual guidance and teachings of Swami Satchidananda. The Integral Yoga Ministry is an interfaith ministry. All faiths are respected and celebrated.
When asked the difference between these two forms of ministry, Swami Satchidananda replied, “There is a little difference between the ministers and the sannyasis. The sannyasis have dedicated their entire lives 100 percent in order to serve the humanity. In the case of the ministers, they are dividing their service: part to their families, part to the public. So, it’s a personal life and public life. So, they have to have a proper ratio of service to their families and to the public. That’s the only difference between ministers and sannyasis. Other than that the lifestyle is the same, the dedication is the same. There’s no difference at all. In a way I can say they are sannyasis in their families, but they have a family of their own.”
The mission of the Integral Yoga Ministry is for swamis and ministers to lead lives of dedicated service to Sri Swami Satchidananda, God, and the entire creation and to impart the teachings of Integral Yoga. They do this joyfully by observing purity of body and mind, living in the spirit of non-attachment, and by celebrating our unity and diversity with love and compassion.
The Sannyas Board oversees applications for entry into pre-Sannyas and guides their spiritual development. The Ministry Board oversees the Integral Yoga Seminary and the process of ordination for qualified candidates. The Integral Yoga Ministry continues to be a growing spiritual branch of Integral Yoga with an international reach. With increasing numbers of dedicated ministers and seminarians in both the United States and abroad, the impact of the Integral Yoga Ministry can be felt around the globe.
Swamis and ministers seek to follow in the footsteps of Sri Swami Satchidananda by rendering loving service to people of all faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds, through the teachings of Integral Yoga and by making a positive difference in the world through realizing and serving the True Self in all creation. They perform acts of service by teaching and conducting classes, workshops, retreats, and programs, as well as mantra initiations and pujas (worship services). Additionally, Integral Yoga Ministers can offer the following:
- Interfaith services
- Memorial services
- Baby Blessings
- House Blessings
- Spiritual Mentoring
- Vows of Intent
In 2020, when many people were seeking solace during the pandemic, the Ministry began a Spiritual Support Service through phone and through email. The Integral Yoga Ministry is dedicated to the inclusiveness that can be found by becoming people of peace, who constantly work to improve their understanding of the beauty of diversity and to celebrate that diversity as well as the unity behind all the diversity.
Read Reverend Jaganath Carrera’s remembrances about establishing Yoga’s first interfaith ministry.
Email ministry[a]integralyoga.org for more information.