[Advaita-l] Mundaka Upanishad

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat Aug 20 13:32:32 CDT 2005

On Sat, 20 Aug 2005, Aditya Varun Chadha wrote:

> Greetings,
> In "vedic times" students had the duty of collecting firewood for the
> Ashrams and for the guru's home, part of the largely self-sufficient
> economic structure of these pyres of learning. firewood was used in
> yagya as well as for cooking. A prospective student would thus carry
> firewood as "arpaN" and as a first sign that he is ready for life
> under the guru's care.

Actually this is still true today.  Though I doubt there has been any 
tangible economic benefit to collecting sticks for a long time.

> Sometimes the guru might deem a prospective shishya unfit or unready,
> in which case I am not sure whether the usual was to leave the
> firewood at the guru's feet or take it back. Maybe someone can provide
> some sources to clarify this. I would suppose that the firewood was
> still left at the guru's feet as a sign of respect.

Dana means gift.  It is not a financial transaction.

> basically firewood was used to signify sincerity and respect. another
> question is whether this first-given firewood was used in some
> "special" yagya for the new student, something like symbolic
> initiation. to my understanding this was not so.

As explained in the dharmashastras, A brahmachari has to daily perform the 
rite of samidhadanam where he contributes some firewood into the fire 
kept by his Guru.

However Brahmacharya in the sense of the first ashram is not necessarily 
connected to enquiry into Brahman so perhaps it is better explained in 
this way:  upon "graduation" as it were from Vedic study, a man has the 
option of getting married, taking sannyasa or a third option, naishtika 
(lifelong) brahmacharya in which he continues to remain with his guru.

According to the amnayastotra, Advaitin naishtika brahmacharis have 
special names depending on which mula matha they belong to:

Puri       - prakAsha

Sringeri   - chaitanya

Dwarka     - svarUpa

Jyotirmath - Ananda

But I don't think this is really followed in practice.  Most people who do 
not want to become grhasthas go straight into sannyasa. Some of the modern 
outfits such as Ramakrishna Mission have a preparatory Brahmachari stage 
before taking sannyasa but it is obvious they are just aping the Christian 
idea of "novices" which is not the traditional concept of brahmacharya.

On the other hand, I have heard of some people who call themselves 
brahmachari instead of swami and whose names end in chaitanya or swarupa.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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