[Advaita-l] Women and Paramahamsa sannyasa

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 16 19:32:33 CDT 2012

Tridandi is more like a Vanaprasthi rather than a Sanyashi? Probably the Tridandi may not have to  give up the Yajnapavita and the Agni and that is very much unlike  the Sanyashis do. In case of a woman devotee of the Lord  with  a Tulashi-mala on her neck  a woman seeker may have the right to be calleda Tridandi. Vaishnavas have the Tridandi sanyashis, who carry three stuffs representing devotion to the lord through the body, the mind and the speech. This the Tridandis are different from the Eka-dandi Advaita sanyashis.. Paramhansa is the one who is like a avadhuta, who is so absorbed in the Lord that he is without body-consciousness.  Kindly correct me if I am wrong


Sunil KB

 From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
To: Advaita List <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> 
Sent: Friday, March 16, 2012 8:55 AM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Women and Paramahamsa sannyasa

> > छत्रादिषु विमुक्तस्य *मुक्तायाश्च त्रिदण्डके*॥ 12-320-19
> >
> > Though the practice of women taking up the paramahamsa sannyasa (with
> > tridanDa) is not encountered today,
> A wrong conception. That type of saMnyAsa which is marked by tridaNDa is
> not called paramahaMsa-saMnyAsa at all. paramahaMsa saMnyAsa is marked by
> either eka-daNDa or lack of daNDa.

Not to nitpick, but note that there is a lot of variability in what different sources
mean by the term paramahaMsa saMnyAsa. 

> > there is evidence in the smRti for such
> > a practice having been in vogue.
> Without having vidhi-vAkyA-s to support saMnyAsa of women, it is not
> correct to say that they are allowed by veda-s to do so. Any story which
> has no base in vaidika-dharma-shAstra-s
 or is opposed to nyAya-s of
> pUrva-mImAMsA is not acceptable.

The correct pUrva mImAMsA approach to this is to ask if there is a specific
vaidika nishedha that prohibits women from taking saMnyAsa. This is very
different from looking for a vidhi supporting saMnyAsa for women. If there
is something found in the smRti that is followed by SishTa-s, which is not
directly prohibited by Sruti, then it does not violate Srauta rules and dharma.
And of course, mahAbhArata is smRti-par-excellence for vaidika SishTAcAra.

> Q: Is there any basis for saying that women can't take this saMnyAsa, which
> is marked by tridaNDa and bhixA, etc. ?
> A: Yes. saMnyAsa is meant mainly to shun karma-s and their tools, i.e.
> shikhA, yaGYopavIta, etc. When there is no adhikAra of women in
> karma(according to pUrva-mImAMsA and the popular belief), there can be no
> talk of shunning karma.
 प्रसक्त एव निषिध्यते ।

saMnyAsa pertains to sarva-karma-tat-sAdhana. Within the category of 
sarva-karman, there is vaidika karmA and laukika karmA. Every human 
being, regardless of gender, varNa and ASrama, is engaged in laukika
karmA. SikhA-yajnopavItAdi are symbols, instrumental for vaidika karmA
only, not for laukika karmA. As far as I am aware, there is nothing to
prohibit the giving up of laukika karmA by someone who is desirous of
jnAna but may not have had adhikAra for specific kinds of vaidika karmA.

It would not be correct to say that only a rich man can renounce wealth
and that a poor man should first gain wealth and become rich before he
can think of renouncing it. Yes, in the vast majority of cases, a poor man
is probably more worried about gaining wealth, rather than renouncing 
what little he has. On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent a
man from developing vairAgya of a high order and renouncing whatever
little he can claim as his wealth. The same holds true for a woman also. 

> Q: Do you mean that sulabhA was not a bhikshukI ?
> A: No. I'm just saying that if she really did it, she was definitely not
> doing it according to veda-s. She may be following any other path.

Please note that in the brahmasUtra bhAshya, citing the mahAbhArata
reference, Sankara bhagavatpAda calls sulabhA a brahmavAdinI. This
is certainly an indication that he did not categorize her as being outside
of a vaidika path. 

> Q: How could you say that ? She is mentioned in an itihAsa, so she was
> definitely a vaidika-saMnyAsinI.
> A: No. As there is no rule that only people following veda-s are mentioned
> in itihAsa, etc. If this is so, buddha, chArvAka, tAntrika, etc. will
> become vaidika.

It is not just a mention of a
 person. There are almost 200 verses describing
the janaka-sulabhA saMvAda and the episode itself is recounted by bhIshma
to yudhishThira in response to a question about gRhasthASrama, saMnyAsa,
jnAna and moksha. If you read through the chapter in SAntiparvaN, it will be
clear that sulabhA holds great honor in the context of vaidika moksha SAstra.

In practical contemporary terms, there are quite a few examples of women
who have been invested with the external symbols of saMnyAsa by some of 
the most orthodox and learned leaders of the vedAnta traditions. There is no
hard and fast rule that can be cited in opposition to this.

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