Understanding terms used when we talk about Satsang
The interpretation of seemingly common ancient terms (like karma, dharma, samsara, deva, satsang, etc) is different from one school of thought to another. It is a widespread mistake of casual readers to assume that they know how each particular tradition defines its terms. For clarification, we offer the following definitions of Wayists terms relevant to this article.
· Vinaya – Monastic rules, originally from a Pali source several ages BCE. However, these rules were adapted over the years. Wayist rules differ from those of Theravada, Mahayana and Saivist rules in that it does not require hair removal or begging, and obligates interaction with the community at large. Unlike Buddhism where there is no soul, Wayism values soul as it differentiates between the temporal, loaned, physical vehicle and the real self, soul. It keeps an eye on the prize, the purpose of life; being spiritual development.
· Satsang – The word "sang" denotes community or company and is the foundation of the Buddhist usage sangha (monastery). The prefix sat (high, pure, truth) is added to qualify that we are specifically speaking of our bhakti enclave where true teaching and lifestyle is imparted, meaning truth-community. Therefore Satsang is the preferred usage for a Wayist monastic enclave. In Wayism the term is reserved for the larger monastic order when written with the capital Satsang, and for a local monastic commune the word is without the capital as in satsang. It is not wrong to use the word sangha but it may cause confusion when in a predominantly Theravada Buddhist society where their male-only sangha for monks is a central aspect of society. Such confusion may also spill over to misidentification of Wayist monks/nuns in those communities where Bhuddists kneel in front of monks and give their alms in exchange for good merit and blessings--something that Wayists neither encourage nor teach.
· Master – Serves a similar purpose as the academic designation MA or MSc. The designation is conferred on qualifying individuals typically after 10-years of full time study in the monastic setting. Masters are qualified to operate independently, ordain others, start and manage satsang, publish under their own name and teach independently.
· Yogi – Another word for devotee or Wayist. Some Wayist writers use the word to denote devotees attending satsanga while another writer in a predominantly Bhuddist context will use the words bhikkhuni (nun), bhikkhu (monk), or even samaneri (f) samaneris (m) for beginners in satsangha. The word Yogi is used for male and female devotees today and even in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit the word yogini, a feminine word, was more often used for apsara and other female celestial beings. Yogi comes from the root yug (yoke), like yoga, and speaks of someone yoked to the Lord, as if pulling the ox-cart of life yoked to the Lord as one’s team member.
· Observer – the 1st stage of monastic life. A devotee who is aware of the Sangha, learns from it, and occasionally visits it for short periods of time (ranging from hours to months). For the privilege to live in the satsang a devotee shares in the community’s daily chores and routines, and observes the vinaya. Devotees who make use of this privilege are often young people on break from or mature devotees who need to attend a spiritual retreat and prefer to spend their time as working members of a satsang. Some centers offer training facilities specifically tailored for devotees on retreat.
· Neophyte or novice yogi, the 2nd stage of monastic life. This stage may last more or less two years, depending on the individual and his/her teacher.
· Srotāpanna – In Wayism this Sanskrit term describes those individuals who have acquired the skills required to apply for full initiation to the mysteries of the monastic order. The word describes a devotee who has ‘stepped into the flow of the Way, and is flowing well’. Some regard this phase, which may last anywhere from a few weeks to a lifetime, as the 3rd phase of monastic life. One starts out on the road to becoming Srotāpanna first as an Observer, then Samaneri(as) until one is deemed qualified for full ordination as a Nun or Monk. Full ordination is not for everyone, an individual may choose to remain in the Srotāpanna for a long time, or forever, depending on one’s satsang and teacher.
· Nun or Monk. In Bhuddist oriented societies, bhikkhuni (nun) or bhikkhu (monk). In Hindu oriented societies, sannyasin (male) or sannyasini (female). The 4th and final stage of monastic life. These individuals have been in the monastic system for at least two years, often longer, before they are ordained. They are charged with responsibilities to manage sanga and its affairs, and to counsel lay people and represent the satsang in the community at large. Fully ordained monks/nuns take vows of Devadasi as being betrothed/married to Avalokitesvara/Tara. They may leave the satsang but never their office. Some nuns and monks choose a path to become Masters in order to fulfill duties and responsibilities of monastic management, ambassadors, or teaching esoteric doctrines.