Are you an antevasin?
Have you ever had one of those moments when you are reading something and quite unexpectedly you find a word or a sentence, which makes you have one of those “oh my gosh yes moments.” This is what happened to me recently while reading Elizabeth Gilberts book Eat, Pray, Love. Ironically, I had my aha moment in a similar way to her, except mine was in my bedroom curled up under the covers and hers was during her time in India. It was in these respective moments, when we both came to understand we were antevasins. So my question to ponder this week is this. Are you an antevasin?
When I told my spiritual director I had finally found the word to describe where I am in life and what I currently am, she said great and that is. And I said I am an antevasin. Not having read the book yet or heard of the concept, she asked me to explain and then agreed it did fit me like a glove and was a great conversation starter.
So are you an antevasin? Gilbert describes an antevasin as follows:
“So I saw it during my last week at the Ashram, I was reading through an old text about Yoga, when I found a description of ancient spiritual seekers. A Sanskrit word appeared in the paragraph: ANTEVASIN. It means, ‘one who lives at the border.’ In ancient times, this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not of the villager’s anymore-not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he yet a transcendent-not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized. The antevasin was an in-betweener. He was a border-dweller. He lived in sight of both worlds, but he looked toward the unknown. And he was a scholar.”
Since reading this, I have been trying to find more about antevasins, but have not found any reference to it yet. However, thinking about being an in-betweener, an antevasin is an interesting place to be. What does it mean to be an antevasin in contemporary life? It is far more difficult for people to leave the “bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters” dwell. However, we can still be border dwellers.
What would it take to live in sight of both worlds? The other day I heard someone refer to himself as a drealist. He said he lived in reality and was fully present in his interactions with others, however, at the same time he dreamed, envisioned, and pursued understanding of the unknown. As I listened to this man, I began to wonder if he was an antevasin.
Being an antevasin is more then just being a drealist, it is also being a scholar. The word scholar can seem overwhelming to some. I remember a student telling me once that only professors can be scholars, but we all have the potential to be scholars. If you can read, think, and study then you can be a scholar. Through expanding our understanding of the unknown, we become scholars of the spiritual path on which we are journeying.
Some choose not to be scholars, not to learn, not to expand, and to stay in the bustling center of worldly life. Others choose to leave in our own way, find our own space on the borders, and become scholars of the unknown while living fully in the present and looking forward to what we do not yet fully realize.
So where are you living and are you an antevasin?