[Advaita-l] saMnyAsa and brAhmaNas (was RE: Fw: Re: waking, dreaming, sleeping as mutually supportive)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Oct 26 11:45:18 CDT 2009

More than two years ago, we had a discussion thread on this list titled

"sannyAsa and jnAna," covering much of the same ground about what

the authorities say about traditional saMnyAsa and who is eligible for it.

At the time, another member of this list, Siva Senani, referred to the

extensive study published in Sri P. V. Kane's encyclopedic volumes

titled "History of Dharmasastra" and gave a number of citations from it.

I would suggest, if anyone wants to get a fully rounded picture of this,

please go back to the archives (Feb 2007) or please read Kane directly.


For our purposes here, here is what sureSvara says on bRhadAraNyaka

3. 5. 1:


trayANAm api varNAnAM Srutau saMnyAsa-darSanAt |

brAhmaNasyaiva saMnyAsa iti bhAshyaM virudhyate ||


trayANAm aviSesheNa saMnyAsaS SrUyate Srutau |

yadopalakshaNArthaM syAt brAhmaNa-grahaNaM tadA ||


karmAdhikaravicchedi jnAnaM ced abhyupeyate |

kuto'dhikAra-niyamo vyutthAne kriyate balAt ||


pratyag-yAthAtmya-vijnAna-svabhAvaS cet samarthyate |

vyutthAnaM yasya yasya syAt sa sa vyutthAtum arhati ||


sureSvarAcArya does not give specific citations here, but his reference

has to be to the same sources that the mitAkshara (commentary by

vijnAneSvara on yAjnavalkya smRti) cites -


trayANAM varNAnAM vedam adhItya catvAra ASramA iti sUtrakAra-

vacanAc ca dvijAti-mAtrasya adhikAram AhuH - this is apparently a

reference to kAtyAyana (sUtrakAra) and I presume kAtyAyana has

specific Sruti/sMrti statements in mind.


In any case, sureSvara's view is crystal clear - the traditionally approved

type of saMnyAsa is allowed to all dvija-s in the Sruti. His position is also

totally consistent with the advaita view of jnAna itself. If nothing else, it

beautifully illustrates the close interweaving of renunciation and Self-

knowledge in the advaita tradition.


The traditional adoption of saMnyAsa, at least in the advaita tradition,

involves giving up the sacred thread that was invested at the beginning

of the student period. Only one who has already had the upanayana

saMskAra can formally give up the sacred thread. Hence the word dvija

in the above references, but note that there is no strict restriction to

brAhmaNa-s only.


I would also urge a study of sUtrabhAshya 3.4.41 and 3.4.42, where

SankarAcArya quotes verses that refer to dvija (not just brAhmaNa) in

the context of those who fall away from the stringent rules of saMnyAsa

(ArUDhaM naishThikaM dharmaM yastu pracyavate dvijaH ...). If

SankarAcArya was strictly of the opinion that the fourth ASrama is

allowed only for brAhmaNas, he could have quoted other verses here,

or he could have taken the opportunity to state his own view here.

That he does not do so is indicative that sureSvara is not necessarily

going diametrically against Sankara in this regard. The disciple is only

performing his duty as an author of a vArttika and explaining the sUkta,

anukta and durukta parts of the bhAshya.


I rest my case. If somebody today wants to pit himself or herself against

such time honored authorities as authors of various dharmaSAstras and

sureSvarAcArya, it is their prerogative. I can only say, the traditional and

historical record is different, so at least acknowledge that this is what the

record is. To repeat, saMnyAsins who happen to have been born in other

varNa-s can be fully within the ambit of the vedAnta tradition and indeed

have been fully approved by the traditional authorities of advaita vedAnta.


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