Monastic Life - Sannyāsa Dharma
Having transcended the desire for sons, the desire for wealth, the desire for worlds, they go about as mendicants. For the desire for sons is the desire for wealth, and the desire for wealth is the desire for worlds. All these are nothing but desires. He, the ātman, is not this, not this.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 4.4.22. ve, 717
What Is the Hindu Monastic Tradition?
In the Hindu tradition there have always existed among men a few for whom the world held no attraction and karmas were on the wane. Some are solitary mendicants. Others reside with their brothers in monasteries. Aum.
Certain men are by nature inclined toward realization of the Self, and disinclined toward desires of family, wealth and property. Some among them are sādhus dressed in white.
They are anchorites living in the seclusion of distant caves and remote forests or wandering as homeless mendicants, itinerant pilgrims to the holy sanctuaries of Hinduism.
Others dwell as cenobites assembled with fellow monastics, often in the āśrama, aadheenam or maṭha of their satguru.
These monks, both anchorite and cenobite, may live with no formal vows or take certain simple vows.
When initiated into the order of sannyāsa, they don the saffron robes and bind themselves to a universal body of Hindu renunciates whose existence has never ceased.
Scriptural doctrine states that the two paths, householder and renunciate, are distinct in their dharmas and attainments, affirming that true renunciation may not be achieved by those in the world even by virtue of a genuine attitude of detachment.
The holy Vedas declare:
“The man who has found Him becomes a silent monk. Desiring Him alone as their world, ascetics leave their homes and wander about.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Are the Goals of Renunciate Life?
The two fundamental objectives of sannyāsa are to promote the spiritual progress of the individual, bringing him into God Realization, and to protect and perpetuate the religion through his illumined leadership. Aum.
Renunciation and asceticism have been an integral component of Vedic culture from the earliest days, the most highly esteemed path of the Hindu Dharma.
Monastic life has both an individual and a universal objective:
At the individual level, it is a life of selflessness in which the monastic has made the supreme sacrifice of renouncing all personal ambition, all involvement in worldly matters, that he might direct his consciousness and energies fully toward God Śiva.
Guided by the satguru along the sādhana mārga, the initiated sannyāsin unfolds through the years into deeper and deeper realizations. Ultimately, if he persists, he comes into direct knowing of Paraśiva, Transcendent Reality.
At the universal level, Hindu monasticism fosters the religion by preserving the truths of the Sanātana Dharma. Competent swamīs are the teachers, the theologians, the exemplars of their faith, the torchbearers lighting the way for all.
The ancient Vedas elucidate:
“The ascetic who wears discolored robes, whose head is shaved, who does not possess anything, who is pure and free from hatred, who lives on alms, he becomes absorbed in Brahman.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
This sannyasin has renounced personal ambition, symbolized by the bow and quiver, and turned his back on women and the world, represented by the couple. His goal is Self Realization, guided by the sage and the devotion of Nandi, Lord Śiva’s bull.
What Is the Sannyāsins Kundalini Path?
The sannyāsin balances within himself both the male and female energies. Complete unto himself, he is whole and independent. Having attained an equilibrium of Iḍā and pingala, he becomes a knower of the known. Aum.
There arises within the sannyāsin a pure energy, neither masculine nor feminine.
This is the sushumṇā current coming into power through which he gains control of the kundalini force and eventually, after years of careful guidance, attains nirvikalpa samādhi.
Eventually, in one life or another, all will turn to the renunciate path. However, it would be equally improper for a renunciate-minded soul to enter family life as for a householder to seek to be a sannyāsin.
A word of warning. Be cautious of those who promise great kundalini awakenings and spiritual rewards from severe practices without preparation, initiation and renunciation.
Those entering the serious life of sannyāsa must be prepared to follow the traditional path of unrewarded sādhana through the years, apart from dear family and friends.
Such is the way to reach the truth of yoga. It takes many, many years for the soul to thus ripen and mature.
The Tirumantiram affirms:
“Many are the births and deaths forgotten by souls shrouded in ignorance, enveloped in mala’s darkness. At the moment Great Śiva’s grace is gained, the renunciate attains the splendorous light.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Sannyāsin’s Initiation Rite?
Young, unmarried men of the Hindu religion may qualify for renunciation, called sannyāsa dīkṣā, which may be conferred by any legitimate sannyāsin. But the most spiritually potent initiation comes from a satguru. Aum.
Traditionally, sannyāsa dīkṣā is restricted to unmarried men, though some modern orders have accepted qualified women.
As a rule in most orders, if a candidate enters monastic training before age twenty-five and meets other qualifications, he may, generally after a minimum of twelve years of preparation and training, take the Sannyāsin’s lifetime vows, called holy orders of sannyāsa.
Only a sannyāsin can bring another into the ancient order of sannyāsa. However, since the purpose is God Realization, most candidates seek initiation from a spiritually advanced knower of God who can bring them into Paraśiva.
Sannyāsa dīkṣā is given in simple or most formal ways. The formal rites include the shaving of the head, conveyance of certain esoteric teachings, abjuration of the worldly life and dharma, administration of monastic vows, conducting of the novitiate’s funeral rites and the giving of the kavi vestments.
The Vedas proclaim:
“The Self within the body, pure and resplendent, is attained through the cultivation of truth, austerity, right knowledge and chastity. When their impurities dwindle, the ascetics behold Him.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Are the Holy Orders of Sannyāsa?
The holy orders of sannyāsa are lifetime vows of poverty, obedience and chastity, never to be relinquished or rescinded. The sannyāsins are the religious leaders, the bedrock of the Sanātana Dharma. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
The sannyāsins first sacred vow is renunciation, the surrendering of the limited identity of the ego that the soul may soar to the depths of impersonal Being.
It is a repudiation of worldly dharma and involvement, and thus includes poverty and simplicity. The sannyāsin owns nothing, not even the robes he is given to wear.
The second vow is obedience—a pledge to follow the traditional ways of the sannyāsa dharma and the specific directions of his satguru. It embraces obedience to his own conscience, to scripture, to God and the Gods and to his illustrious guru paramparā.
The third vow is purity—a pledge to remain pure in thought, word and deed, to be continent throughout life, to protect the mind from all lower instincts: deceit, hatred, fear, jealousy, anger, pride, lust, covetousness and so forth.
It includes the observance of ahimsa, non-injuriousness, and adherence to a vegetarian diet. Some orders also give vows of humility and confidentiality.
The Vedas elucidate:
“Henceforth being pure, clean, void, tranquil, breathless, selfless, endless, undecaying, steadfast, eternal, unborn, independent, he abides in his own greatness.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
On the banks of the Ganga, a Śivaguru places his hands on the head of a swami candidate. A homa fire burns where the initiation rites will occur, after which the youth will don the orange cloth and holy beads being held by his spiritual brothers.
Within him is fire, within him is drink, within him both Earth and Heaven. He is the sun which views the whole world, he is indeed light itself—the long-haired ascetic.
Girded by the wind, they have donned ocher mud for a garment. So soon as the Gods have entered within them, they follow the wings of the wind, these silent ascetics.
“Intoxicated,” they say, “by our austerities, we have taken the winds for our steeds. You ordinary mortals here below see nothing except our bodies.”
He flies through midair, the silent ascetic, beholding the forms of all things. To every God he has made himself a friend and collaborator.
Ridden by the wind, companion of its blowing, pushed along by the Gods, he is at home in both seas, the East and the West—this silent ascetic.
Rig Veda 10.136.1-5. ve, 436
A mighty weapon, the Upanishad. Take it as a bow. Affix an arrow sharpened by devotion. Bend the bow by a thought concentrated on That. Hit the target, my dear—the Imperishable.
Aum is the bow, the ātman is the arrow; Brahman, they say, is the target to be pierced by concentration. Thus one become, united with Brahman as an arrow with the target.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad 540-541. ve, 774
Having realized with mind and heart, having become wise, you will no longer move on the path of death. Therefore, they call renunciation the ardor surpassing all others.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad 537-8. ve, 439
What people call salvation is really continence. For through continence man is freed from ignorance. And what is known as the vow of silence, that too is really continence. For a man through continence realizes the Self and lives in quiet contemplation.
Sama Veda, Chāndogya Upanishad 8.5.1. upp, 123
Know, Arjuṇa, that what men call renunciation is the authentic yoga, for without renouncing all desire no man becomes a yogin. The silent sage climbing toward yoga uses work as a means. Quiescence and serenity are the proper course for one who has attained.
Bhagavad Gītā 6.2-3. ve, 445
In the one who has conquered his self and is peaceful, the Supreme Self, in heat or cold, joy or pain, honor or disgrace, abides in serenity.
He who is full of wisdom and understanding, calm and controlled, to whom a clod, a stone and gold are the same, is in truth a yogin.
Bhagavad Gītā 6.7-8. ve, 445
Beyond birth and death, reached by renunciate tapas is He, my Lord of resplendent glory! Sing His praise! Incessantly pray! Heaven’s Lord shall show you the land of dharma.
Tirumantiram 1614. tm
A myriad times are they born and die. In a million follies they forget this; and in the darkness of mala are enveloped. When at last the hidden Grace of Śiva bursts forth and chases the night away, then is the moment for the soul to renounce. When it does, a radiant light it becomes.
Tirumantiram 1615. tm
The tapasvins many that live by alms have no life hereafter. On them shall be showered all blessings of spiritual wealth. They that perform tapas incessant attain the power to end all births to be.
Tirumantiram 1803. tm
The scriptures exalt above every other good the greatness of virtuous renunciates. Those who perfectly renounce attain the highest peak; the rest remain ensnared in delusion’s net.
Thirukural 21; 348. ww
Hail, O sannyāsin, you who knows no guile! Establish in your heart and worship there that Taintless One—Pañchākshara’s inmost core, whom neither Vishnu nor Brahma had power to comprehend. You who regards all others as yourself—who in this world can be compared with you? The powerful karma your past deeds have wrought will vanish without trace. Daily, on the thought “Is not this Jīva Śiva?” you must meditate.
Natchintanai, “O Sannyāsin!” NT, 146
On those who wholeheartedly surrender their possessions, souls and bodies, Naṭarāja, the Gracious Giver, will at once bestow His golden lotus feet. That is the truth!
Natchintanai, “Body Is a Temple.” NT, 99