On the term śikharin

Rasa Ravi, 2020

Introduction to the topic

What to call one who practices regularly and is deeply immersed in our Teaching?

In a non-specific way for a wider readership, we commonly use the word ‘adept’ or phrases like ‘a follower of our Teaching,’ but a narrower approach is needed to fully describe our vision.

First, we substantiate why we reject common words from the following list, and then we implement and elucidate, in this context, an entirely new word called ‘śikharin.’

A similar approach is given to the corresponding word ‘śikhara’ in a separate article On the term śikhara.

List of rejected terms

Yogin (yogī): The meaning of this word is already ambiguous and complicated in India itself. In different parts of the subcontinent, and at different historical times, besides a follower of some serious ascetic group, it has meant or still means a spiritual vagrant or even a wanderer displaying magical tricks. Please note, the romantic view of the Western mind about the embodiment of this word is untenable, lacking knowledge of Indian traditions and history.

On the other hand, in modern times in the West, speaking in a simplified way, we almost exclusively associate a yogin with āsana-exercise on a mat in a gym. It is one of those Indian words which in our societies has been systematically misrepresented to such an extent that it has lost its original meaning almost completely.

Because ‘yogin’ can mean different things in different parts and times of the world, we cannot use it as a specific term.

Sādhaka: It is relatively a good term, however it is used largely in vedānta. With this comes the notion that a sādhaka follows an orthodox school and is associated with its institution. In this light we reject its use for our purpose.

Sādhu: In theory an adequate word, but in reality, as is well-known by anybody who has visited India, many sādhus are rather wanderers and devout (or less devout) mendicants. Because of this connotation, we don’t want to use this term.

Tantrik: In its original and undefiled meaning it is an appropriate word, meaning a follower of a tantric lineage. These schools predominantly taught worship of goddesses, inner-space rituals, magical rites, soteriology, mystical diagrams, mantras, nyāsa, esoteric insight techniques, etc. Sexual practices could be involved, but as part of ritual worship and mystical practice. Its meaning in the mainstream is absolutely lost in the West, only scholars and educated insiders know the truth. This and related words like ‘tantra, tantric’ are the most distorted Indian words in the West. Unfortunately, they cannot be restored to their true meaning, and in our school we are forced to reject using them in any context.

It should be noted that in modern-day India this word is also enigmatic. For the common folk, a tantrik is an astrologer, a healer, an exorcist, or a sorcerer from whom it is better to be distanced and who should be feared.

Muni, ṛṣi, śramaṇa, saṃnyāsin, etc.: In India, in various religious groups as well as in different historical times, in the sense of our topic, a wide range of terms has been used. For example, muni or ṛṣi (‘rishi’) is a sage mainly in the old Vedic times, a śramaṇa is rather an unorthodox (Buddhist, Jain) ascetic and saṃnyāsin an orthodox one. Although these, including some others, may have started as broad terms, step by step have become narrow designations for the followers of this or that religious group, often promoted in some particular area and time.

Monk, nun: Beside their Christian heritage, or at least such a picture is immediately brought to life in the Western mind by uttering these words, they presuppose celibacy. This is not the way we wish to proceed, although celibacy can be a free individual choice.

Ascetic: Our Doctrine deems ascetic practices as an individual choice, not a necessity. We do not share the unilateral viewpoint of Indian ascetic groups. We are looking for a term which can be used for all of our followers, regardless their ascetic practices.

Śikharin (he) and śikhariṇī (she)

For simplicity, we use only the term for men, i.e. śikharin, although we consider it also to include śikhariṇī, its female counterpart. We follow this approach throughout the entire website.

To become a śikharin one must be initiated into the ‘class of the newborn child’ described in the article Pre-classes and classes. For a śikharin, regular sādhanā is the very core of his or her being.

All śikharins represent our school inwardly as well as outwardly by their lifestyle. Therefore, voluntary restraints in one’s own private life are necessary for the sake of the community. A śikharin’s bad reputation may cast a shadow on our school, too. He or she is thus following some sort of regulations which are outlined in the corpus Rules.