[Advaita-l] The jnanis sannyasa

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Sep 28 01:54:04 CDT 2010

Recently we had some lengthy discussion in the thread "Knowledge, 
renunciation and varNASrama rules" and today I came across the following 
passage in Shankaracharyas brhadaranyakopanishadbhashya.  In 3.5.1 one 
kahola kauShItakeya asks maharShi yAGYavAlkya to explain the sAkSAt 
aparokSha brahman.  During his reply  maharShi yAGYavAlkya says, etaM vai 
tamAtmAnaM viditvA brAhmaNA.h putraiShaNAyAshcha vitaiShaNAyAshcha 
lokaiShaNAyAshcha vyutthAyAtha bhikShAcharyaM charanti "Knowing this very 
Self, the Brahmanas renounce the desire for sons, the desire for wealth, 
and the desire for worlds and take to begging alms as a way of life."  In 
other words, the necessity of sannyasa for the jnani is being described. 
This prompts a lengthy discussion in the bhashya as to the propriety of 
taking sannyasa and if it should be resorted to, what form it should take.
(The english translation is mainly based on Swami Madhavananda with some 
small amendations and comments by myself. It is abridged not literal so I 
have included the sanskrit text too.)

One opponent argues thus,

vyuthAya bhikShAcharyaM charanti ityanena pArivrAjyaM vidhIyate | 
pArivrAjyAshrame cha yajnopavItAdisAdhanAni vihitAni li~nga.m cha 
shrutibhi.h smR^itibhishcha | atastadvarjayitvA anyasmAt vyutthAnaM 
eShaNAtve.apIti chenna 
pArivrAjyAntaropapatte.h | yaddhi tadeShNAbhyo vyutthAnalakShaNaM 
pArivrAjyaM tadAtmaGYAnA~ngam | AtmaGYAnavirodhyeShaNAparityAgarUpatvAt | 
avidyAviShayatvAchaiShaNAyA.h | tadvyatirekeNa chAstyAshramarupaM 
pArivrAjyaM brahmalokAdiphalaprAptisAdhanaM yadviShayaM 
yaGYOpavItAdisAdhanavidhAnaM li~ngavidhAnaM cha |

"It is admitted that the passage 'renounce the desire ... take to begging 
alms as a way of life' refers to 'wandering'[1] But in the sannyasa 
ashrama such sadhanas as wearing yagnopavita[2] and special insignia[3] are 
ordained by Shruti and Smrti. Therefore this passage means that everything 
other than those should be renounced even though they too are based on 

[1] pArivrAjyaM is a synonym for sannyasa.

[2] Yajnopavita is called a sadhana because of all the duties that 
accompany wearing it such as performing sandhyavandana etc.

[3] For instance danda, kamandalu, kesari robes and other parts of a monks 

[4] They are based on saMkalpa or purposeful intention.  "aham amukakarma 
kariShye" I will do some action.

na cha eShAnArUpasAdhanopAdAnasya AshramadharmamAtreNa pArivrAjyAntare 
viShaye sambhavati iti sarvopaniShadvihitasya AtmaGYAnasya bAdhanaM 
yuktam | yaGYOpavItAdyAviShayaiShaNArUpasAdhanopAditsyAyAM chAvashyaM 
asAdhanaphalarUpasya ashanAyAdisaMsAradharmavarjitasya ahaM brahmAsmIti 
viGYAnaM bAdhyate | na cha tadbAdhanaM yuktam | sarvopaniShadAM 
tadarthaparatvAt |

"No for it is known that there is _another_kind_of_sannyasa_, different 
from merely the sannyasa ashram[1], which is prescribed in all the 
upanishads and characterized by renunciation of all desires[2], the 
impediments to Self-realization.  The kind characterized by sadhanas such 
as wearing yajnopavita etc. of the form of desire is an impediment to 
understanding 'I myself am Brahman'[3].  And that impediment should not be 
adopted[4]. All the upanishads aim to teach this.[5]

[1] The intent is to separate those who are renouncing as a matter of duty 
which though noble still implies a sense of ego from those who renounce 
because it is the result of desirelessness, the natural consequence of 
their superior understanding of reality.

[2] "All" for Shankaracharya means absolutely all even if taught by 
the Vedas.

[3] and other mahavakyas of Vedanta.

[4] This is not to say a jnani cannot also be a dandin etc. Just that he 
should not feel an obligation to do so because obligations boil down to "I 
want".  The insignia are meant for people of lower understanding not for 

[5] Yes the karmakanda and upanishads do mention selfish or 
altruistic karma for those who are at intermediate stages of knowledge but 
the final goal is to cease karma altogether.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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