Householder (and related topics)

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Sun Aug 17 19:14:23 CDT 1997

On Fri, 15 Aug 1997, Giri wrote:

> On Fri, 15 Aug 1997, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
> > Shri Giri states emphatically that sannyasi ashrama (an actual taking
> > up of the vows of sannyasa) is necessary for realizing (attaining)
> > Brahman.
>         That's exactly what I am NOT saying. I never said, nor will say,
>         -----------------------------------
> that an actual taking up of the vows of sannyasa is necessary for
> realization. One of my very first sentences in the post was
>         'External sannyas is very useful but not required.'
> I must be a fool (and I am already ignorant !) to say that external
> sannyas is absolutely required since Shankara Himself says otherwise.
> But, quoting Shankara, I went to say that attainment of jnana
> without external sannyas is very rare. And this is the considered view of
> all authorities on advaita vedanta.

I went through Shri Giri's posting again to make sure that I have not
mis-read any part and that I have not wrongly attributed any view to him,
not expressed by him. I also went through Shri Vidyasankar's,
Ramakrishnan's, Jaladhar Vyas', Sadananda's, and Nandakumar's postings
on this topic. I trust that my conclusion of their views (to follow)is
not wrong. Shri Vyas advocates that without external sannyasa, there is
no salvation. Shri Ramakrishnan, Giri and Vidyasankar (with only slight
variations) say that while being a grihastha, one may be a jnani, but that
is highly improbable. Shri Sadananda and I feel that there is no a-priori
reason or advantage to take external sannyasa and that only maanasika-
sannyasa (mental renunciation) in either a grihastha garb or a sannyasi
garb is the way to go. I did not get a definite read on Shri Nandakumar's
view on this topic. My reading of the archives shows that these are the
only participants in this go-around of the debate on the topic.

In answer to my question asking for upanishhadic statement in support of
a view, Shri Ramakrishnan commented that people will not change their
views in spite of scriptural evidence presented. That may indeed be so.
However, keeping in mind that (i) the debate is taking place not only for
clarification of our own views, and that there are another 70-odd List
members who are reading it, and may have some valuable views to express at
a later stage in the debate; and secondly (ii) we can express our views in
a dispassionate way without any particular attachment and fondness to the
view expressed; I like to prolong the discussion a bit.

> > 3. In my view, sannyasa ashrama is a more recent social phenomenon
> > in Indian society (compared to the more antiquity of Indian thought).
> > I suspect sannyasa ashrama is not prevalent (may be not even existent)
> > in the Vedic times.
>         This is incorrect. In fact, after a certain stage in one's life,
> one naturally took up the life of vanaprastha and then sannyas. This
> includes the Rishis you mention. Nowadays, hardly anyone does so.

Why would the R^shis, who are already jnanis, go through sannyasa
**after** vanaprastha. If they do it, it is not for becoming jnanis
(or for the removal of avidya). They are already jnanis. There is nothing
that drives them to take up sannyasa at that stage. A person takes
sannyasa if he/she considers the worldly matters as obstacles to his/her
attaining jnana. The only obstacle is the mind, in whichever ashrama
(grihastha or sannyasa) the person is in. I think the grihastha/sanyasi
question is essentially a red herring, with unnecessary importance being
given to it. But, if a person is a jnani, the world or worldly matters are
not obstacles to him/her. He/she lives in perfect peace with
himself/herself. Such is the state of the R^shhis. There is no need for
them to covet sannyasa ashrama. People can quote example of Yagnavalkya.
Yajnavalkya is a jnani with two wives. Janaka is a jnani as a king. There
is nothing that drives them to sannyasa ashrama. I would agree if it is
viewed as an evolving stage, but I would not see that as either a
grihastha or a sannyasi question.

As far as I know, there is no mention of sannyasa *ashrama* as such in
upanishhads, either as a requirement for a jnani or as a way of life
at a young age. Even in Bhagavadgita, there is no mention of sannyasa
*ashrama* as a superior way of life (for attaining jnanam). In fact,
Krishna chides Arjuna when Arjuna says he wants to take sannyasa and,
Krishna is the All-knower.

My view is sannyasi *at a young age* is not there during Vedic times
(sannyasa after vanaprastha may be there but that is at an old age).
Although I do not have a valid reference, Shri Shankara may be the
initiator of sannyasa at a young age (to hold off the influence of
young Bouddha ascetics ?).

Gummuluru Murthy
Yadaa sarve pramucyante kaamaa ye'sya hr^di shritaah
atha martyo'mr^to bhavatyatra brahma samashnute   Katha Upanishhad II.3.14

When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and attains Brahman even here.

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