[Advaita-l] Knowledge, renunciation and varNASrama rules -who can become a sanyasi

Varadaraja Sharma rishyasrunga at rediffmail.com
Thu Aug 26 07:48:42 CDT 2010

Radhe Krishna

The message got terribly truncated when it reached archives. I retried. here i retry again.

the second issue

Who can become a sanyasi :-

Shriman Vidyasankar, by interpreting shankara bhashya and practice prevalent as per traditions that any body irrespective of varna or gender can be initiated to sanyasa provided one is ripe enough for that ashrama.

Shriman, I recollect some of the observations in this regard :-

1. Sankara bhagavatpAda separates out the situation very nicely and says that so long as the conditions for renunciation are met, anyone can renounce.
2. In the case of vidvat saMnyAsa, the renunciation of everything by the brahmajnAnI, no rules really apply. The man of society who thinks with respect to vidvat saMnyAsin-s, "this saMnyAsin was born a SUdra, that one is a woman," etc. is merely being a fool and exhibiting his ignorance of the true tradition of saMnyAsa.

>From the perspective of purva mimamsakal that of “Yavajjivam agnihotram kuryat” renunciation by a person able to do karma is a sin.

The opinion of smruthikaras as to whether at all one can renounce, who can renounce, at what stage to renounce differs from each other. I referred them from wikipedia and the excerpts are given below :-

1. Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra, for example, is critical of renunciation because ascetics do not reproduce. The birth of a son was necessary for a twice-born man to repay his spiritual debt to his ancestors. Because a Vedic student (snātaka), having completed his education, is required to start a family as a householder, Baudāyana states that only the householder's āśrama exists for him

2. Manu and Yājñavalkya after him are able to stipulate that a renouncer must have paid his triple-debt as a householder before renouncing the world.[11] However, Yājñavalkya differs from Manu and Viṣṇu over whether passing through the āśrama of the vanaprastha is necessary. Manu 6.33 and Viṣṇu 96.1 state that one should renounce from the forest-dwelling hermit's āśrama, while Yājñavalkya 3.56 states that one may renounce from the householder's āśrama, provided he has paid the triple debt (to his ancestors, the Vedic sages, and the gods).

3. when Manu speaks of the qualities of a renouncer or the conditions under which he renounces, the person being spoken of is outrightly specified a "a Brahmin" or "that twice-born man".

One can further refer the relevant excerpts from kamakotimandali. The relevant shloka of manu is given below. Dvijah has been interpretted in wikipedia as that of a brahmin.

dakshalakShaNakaM dharmamanutiShThan samAhitaH |
vedAntAn vidhivat shrutvA sannyasedanR^iNo dvijaH || [manuH]
referred from kamakotimandali.com

3. back to wikipedia :- “One must ask why Yājñavalkya 5.115 and Viṣṇu 2.235 would place a fine on feeding a Śūdra ascetic at a festival, or why Manu 8.363 would place a fine on conversing with a female renouncer, if such individuals did not exist in the first place”. 

The fact that penalties have been imposed on people in contact with shudra and woman ascetic indirectly confirms that against the prescriptions of these smruthikaras, there had been in fact shudra and woman ascetics.

>From the above, is it that during different periods of time, the position evolved gradually?

1. That at one point of time, ( or as ever but considered by some people )renunciation was considered as sin
2. At one point of time, (or as ever but considered by some people) renunciation was progressive, i.e one can not renounce from the stage of brahmacharya. Only after embracing gruhastashrama and vanaprastha can one renounce
3. Currently, mathadipathis in smartha and paramavaishnava (madhva) traditions mostly renounce from brahmacharya.

Having recorded all the above, it would be incomplete, if I don’t record the views of Bhagawan Ramana in this regard :-

I give hereunder Visalakshmamma’s question and the explanation contained in the Ramana Gita, XIII Chapter:

as referred from arunachala-ramana.org

If obstacles confront women that abide in the Self, does the sastras sanction their renouncing the home and becoming ascetics? -- Sloka 5

If a woman, liberated while alive, happens to shed her body, what is the proper thing to do, cremation or burial? -- Sloka 6

Bhagavan, the great Sage, Knower of the import of all the Scriptures, listened to the two questions and gave his decision: -- Sloka 7

Since there is no such prohibition in the sastras, there is nothing wrong in women abiding in the Self and fully ripe becoming ascetics. -- Sloka 8

As in mukti and jnana there is no difference between man and woman, the body of a woman liberated during life is not to be cremated, for it is a temple. -- Sloka 9

Whatever evils are said to follow the cremation of the body of a man liberated during life will follow even when the body of a woman liberated during life is cremated. -- Sloka 10

Source: Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam Book

I hereby recollect the observations of Shriman Venkatesh Murthy :-

Smruti is more powerful than Sistachara. If Sistachara is against Smruti it is wrong to follow it.

Shriman, I too had the same opinion as that of you.  But, from whatever I have referred above, I feel like Sishtachara places an important role in reconciling contradictory opinions of smruthikaras by evolving samanvayam. Pardon me, this is my understanding, correct me if I am wrong.

Radhe Krishna

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