[Advaita-l] RE: Advaita-l Digest, Vol 45, Issue 23

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 31 19:53:21 CST 2007

>Adopting any particular ashrama is by one's own choice.  The choice is
>within the confines of entitlement.  I do not disagree that there are
>traditions that allow sanyasa irrespective of varna and sex.  Such options
>are more political rather than religious.  The orthodox religious practices
>had their own reason.

This is not the case. The jAbAla Sruti, which Sankara invariably quotes in 
support of entering sannyAsa ASrama directly from brahmacarya, says, "yad 
ahar eva virajet tad ahar eva pravrajet" - one should set forth 
(pra-vrajet), i.e. renounce the world, the same day as one attains 
dispassion (vi-rajet). The same text goes on to add, "snAtako vA asnAtako 
vA" - whether one has gone through vedic study or not. It doesn't get much 
more orthodox or religious than that.

There is a variety of opinion in the dharmaSAstra texts, ranging from the 
arch conservative, restricting access only to brAhmaNa males who have 
undergone the various saMskAra-s (rites of passage, such as upanayana), to 
the very open, explicitly saying there are no restrictions. It is a myth 
that orthodoxy demands sannyAsa to be restricted to brAhmaNa men.

Within the constraints of the orthodoxy of the various SAnkara maTha-s, the 
AcAryas have approved of very traditional sannyAsa initiation for 
non-Brahmin men, women and even non-Indians. It has always been a question 
of adhikAra. Where the vairAgya is intense and unsullied, what does it 
matter what the physical bodily constraints are? That has always been the 
guiding principle.

Two fairly old institutions from southern India may be mentioned in this 
respect - the Koviloor Mathalayam, where the head is from the Tamil Chettiar 
community, and the Haldipur Math, associated with the Arya Vaishya-s in 
Karnataka. Both institutions have longstanding relationships with Sringeri, 
a center that has been a bastion of orthodoxy throughout history.


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