[Advaita-l] Knowledge, renunciation and varNASrama rules

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 12 16:01:39 CDT 2010

> I've been meaning to ask since a long time if there were any commentaries on
> saMnyAsa upanishat or references made to it in commentaries on other works
> in the tradition? This seemed like an appropriate thread to raise this
> question and also if there are traditional opinions about restrictions or
> eligibility for saMnyAsa given in this upanishat, how to follow saMnyAsa
> dharma itself, etc. Is this upanishat considered while initiating someone
> into the traditional dashanAmi order of saMnyAsa? I hope you find time to
> comment and throw some light on it. I request others to share their
> knowledge on the topic too.

Dear Praveen,
There is a laghu-saMnyAsa upanishat and a bRhat-saMnyAsa upanishat, as also
quite a few other texts bearing upon saMnyAsa, such as nArada-parivrAjaka,
paramahaMsa-parivrAjaka etc. When it comes to restrictions and eligibility for
saMnyAsa and other related issues, I see Sankara bhagavatpAda repeatedly
turning only to the jAbAla upanishat, as already quoted in this thread earlier.
He cites the same text in the gItAbhAshya also. However, when one reads the
Anandagiri TIkA or govindAnanda's bhAshyaratnaprabhA, sub-commentaries on
the sUtrabhAshya, they seem to have some of these other texts in mind.

For example, many of these texts prescribe that saMnyAsa initiation should not
be given to blind, dumb, deaf and lame men, even if born in a dvija family. This,
I believe, is a reaction to an ultra-karmA oriented position of pUrvamImAMsA,
that the renunciation of action is meant only for those who have a physical
impediment that prevents them from doing their prescribed karmA. "A deaf
boy cannot hear the veda, and a dumb boy cannot recite it, so they can renounce
action" - this is one of the positions taken by those who say that karmA can never
be renounced by anybody. Both Anandagiri and govindAnanda take this as a
pUrvapaksha and refute it in their explanations of sUtrabhAshya 3.4.20, although
Sankara bhagavatpAda does not say anything about physical disabilities when he
talks of "anadhikRta" people.
As far as procedures followed during traditional daSanAmI saMnyAsa initiation,
the yatidharmaprakASa of vAsudevASrama and the yatidharmasangraha of
viSveSvara sarasvatI give the guidelines. These saMnyAsa manuals (as they
are described in the catalogs) cite various upanishat texts, including some of
the saMnyAsa upanishat-s, and also the yogavAsishTha and jIvanmuktiviveka.


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