[Advaita-l] Samnyasa and Sankara's position?

Akilesh Ayyar ayyar at akilesh.com
Mon Apr 8 08:54:43 EDT 2019

Surely someone on this list has an opinion? :-)

On Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 8:30 AM Akilesh Ayyar <ayyar at akilesh.com> wrote:

> Namaste,
> I am wondering what Sankara's position on the necessity of samnyasa for
> seekers and/or jnanis.
> My impression is that the traditional understanding is that he does
> require it at least of seekers.
> However, I have read that he suggests that grihasthas and other
> non-samnyasins can achieve moksha, which contradicts that idea.
> And apparently there is a scholarly book, "Freedom through Inner
> Renunciation," that I have not read, that specifically argues that the
> traditional understanding is incorrect and that a close reading of the
> texts suggests that the only kind of renunciation Sankara requires is inner
> renunciation, a psychological renunciation.
> Now I am unfortunately far from well-versed enough in the bhashya to have
> a strong opinion on this.
> I just read some of Sankara's introduction to the Aitareya Upanishad. In
> it, he seems to require samnyasa both for the seeker and to suggest that
> for the jnani it happens automatically. The below quotes are from the
> GambhIrAnanda translation of Ai. Up.
> "Objection: Therefore, if the supreme knowledge of Brahman dawns in
> domestic life, the inactive [footnote: one who does not engage anymore in
> scriptural rituals] man may continue in that state, and there need be no
> moving away from it.
> Answer: No, since domestic life is induced by desire... Renunciation is
> defined as the mere absence of well-established relationship with sons
> etc., arising from desire, and not as the mere moving away form that
> domestic life. And so the inactive man of realization cannot continue in
> that domestic life itself.
> Objection: Inasmuch as a mendicant, desirous merely of maintaining his
> body, is seen to subject himself to regulations about begging, there can be
> continuance in the domestic life even for that householder who has become
> freed from both kinds of desires...
> Answer: Not so... the constant habit of resorting to any particular house
> of one's own is prompted by desire. When there is no clinging to any
> particular house of one's own, there follows begging alone, as a matter of
> course...
> ....
> Answer: From the fact that a fresh injunction of renunciation, despite its
> emergence as a matter of course (as in the case of a man of illumination),
> is met with [footnote: In Br. Up. III v. I. etc. -- 'Knowing this very
> Self, the Brahmanas renounce...and lead a mendicant life."] ,it becomes
> evident that it is obligatory for the man of illumination. And monasticism
> is obligatory even for the unillumined soul that hankers after
> emancipation. ... Besides, such means for the realization of the Self as
> physical and mental control etc. are incompatible with other stages of
> life."
> It goes on, but I think this is enough to illustrate the point.

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