[Advaita-l] Re: Question: Swadharma

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Feb 15 13:29:21 CST 2006

On Mon, 13 Feb 2006, Ram Garib wrote:

> Thanks Jaldhar for your encouragement. You have
> however raised another thorny issue with sannyasa. I
> understand that as per shankara his teachings are only
> for renunciates.

Well, it would be more accurate to say that his teachings can only be 
expressed to their full potential by renunciates.  Karmayoga is 
recommended for householders.  Studying Vedanta is also not off-limits for 
them.  But it is mostly theoretical until one takes sannyasa.

> Qualify it further, and renunciation
> is available only to a brahmin male. It seems later
> acharyas made some concessions for kshatriya and
> vaishya also. And yet some included women too. I am
> however not aware if any of them allowed renunciation
> for those born as shudra.

My source on the life of Swami Madhusudana Saraswati suggests that he 
recruited Shudras also when he set up the Naga sannyasis.  In Gujarat 
there are non-Brahmana dashanamis today.  Bear in mind, as we discussed 
earlier" Shudra as a term is rather meaningless in practical terms as it 
covers a wide range from the top of the social order to the bottom.  We 
would have to look further to see exactly who became a sannyasi and 
whether this was a matter of policy or circumstance.

But to really get to the bottom of a question like this first we must 
ensure we are on the same page as far as definitions.  Renouncing worldly 
life is hardly an invention of Advaita Vedanta, it has been an ideal of 
Indian culture since day one.  Shankaracharya extolled this virtue and 
founded a practical expression of it, the Dashanami order.  This however 
wasn't the only expression of sannyasa even just counting Advaita circles. 
(Ramana is an example of an "eccentric" renouncer who nevertheless was 
greatly respected even by the most orthodox.)

So if one wanted to leave all ones posessions and repair to the Himalayas 
one could do that right now without anyones permission.  If one wanted to 
wear particular colored robes, carry a danda etc., the only honest answer 
is: it depends.  Then as now, there have been some orders that restrict 
membership in particular ways, some that are open to all and personally I 
am fine with there not being a definitive position as long as everyone is 
accomodated somewhere.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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