Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sannyasa and Tyaga


The following is a mananam exercise on tyaga and sannyasa.

In the Kaivalya Upanishad we find these words:
tyaagena eke - only by renunciation amrtatvam anashuhu - immortality is attained
parena naakam - higher than heaven nihitam guhayam - in the cavity of the heart
vibhraajate - shines brightly yat yatayaha - ascetics vishanti - enter

And in the Mundaka Upanishad as well we find:
Vedaantavijnaana sunishchitaarthaaH sanyaasayogaat yatayaH shuddhasattvaaH
te brahmalokeshu paraantakaale paraamRitaath parimuchyanti sarve

Sunishchitaarthaah: Those who have come to learn Vedanta Vijnana: this direct knowledge of Vedanta
Sanyasa yogaat: through renunciation Yatayah: those ascetics shudha sattva: pure in mind
Te: They; Paramruthaath: gain the highest immortality and Parimuchyanti sarve: get freed from all bondage

Later the Mundaka Upanishad cautions that this brahmavidya should only be imparted to ascetics.

tesham evaitam brahma-vidyam vadeta shiro-vratam

The Brihad Up also contains this idea
Br Up 3.5.1 Knowing this very Self the Brahmanas renounce the desire for sons wealth and for the worlds and lead a mendicants life.bhikshacharyam charanti ...he becomes meditative.. having known all aboput meditativeness and its opposite..he becomes a knower of Brahman.

Thus we find the Shruti clearly affirming that the proximate cause to Moksha is JnAnA ALONGWITH tyaga and sannyasa. And these terms tyaga and sannyasa here IS meant in the most literal sense of the term - a complete and total renunciation of worldly life.

Is there some laxity or relaxation of rules in this? Is it possible to maintain some degree of mundane wordly existence , with a spirit of detachment or karmayoga, as even one contemplates on the mahavakyas? According to Shankara the answer is a resounding NO.

Some of his bhashyas where he addresses this -

Chandogya 2,23,1
There are 3 kinds of virtue. First is sacrifice,study and charity, Second is austerity itself. THird is a brahmacharin living in the house of his teacher - wholly dedicating himself there for life. All these become attainers of the virtuous worlds. The man established in Brahman attaines immortality. (Brahmasamsathoa mrtatvameti)

Opponent: Can it not be said that whoever among the persons following the virtues prescribed for their own stae of life remains established in Brahman he attains immortality? [in other words, as a grhastha or a householder, by practicing a life of virtue and right conduct and at the same time established in the idea of Brahman-oneness, can one not attain immortality? ]

Shankara: NO, because knowledge required for performance of rites and duties and the knowledge needed for the realization of Brahman are opposed to each other....... ..because the conviction arising from Knowledge and ignorance are opposed to each other. This being so, whoever has got rid of the conviction about differences based on which the injunction about rites and duties come into effect, he desists from all kinds of rites and duties becasue all causes for this cease to exist as a result of the conviction of the Oneness arising from the vedic texts....and he who has ceased from all rites and duties is spoken of as one established in Brahman and HE MUST BE A MONK because it is impossible for ANYONE ELSE to be so. For the other has not got his conviction about differences removed. because of his seeing hearing thinking and knowing differences he believes I shall get this by doing this. In the case of such a man who is engaged thus there cannot be any establishment in Brahman for he is possessed of the ideas arising from his attachment to false transformations whihc have speech alone as their basis.
....Because remaining established in Brahman is possible for the monk alone. And we said he alone remained unmentioned. Therefore the man of Realization alone who has ceased from rites and duties is meant by the word parivrajakah( monk) .... And the term parivrajakah is not used conventionally for the phrase one remaining established in Brahman like the words barley and pig - this has been rebutted since remaining established in Brahman is possible for him(the monk) ALONE and NOT FOR ANYONE ELSE.

Also in Br.Up 4.4.22 "Desiring this Self alone monks renounce their homes"...... etameva viditva munir bhavanti...Shankara says - therfore desiring the world of the Self monks renounce their home i.e. SHOULD RENOUNCE. Thus it is an injunction and harmonieses with the eulogy that follows. Because ancient Sages desisting from rites did renounce their homes therefor people today also renounce them i.e. SHOULD RENOUNCE them.

A sannyasin sam-ni-asa casts off everything from himself - he is an out-"cast" - he wanders around homeless - parivrajaka and he lives only on alms bhikshu

When should a person take sannyasa?

...... he shall renounce THAT VERY DAY on which he has become disillusioned with the world.....(Parivraj aka Up)
a person may renounce worldly life that very day on which distaste for it dawns on him, (Jabala Up)

How - what is the process?

...pull out the tuft muttering the Pranava; snap the sacred thread; discard the garment too on the ground or in the waters; become unclad reciting the mantra `Om Bhuh Svaha, Om Bhuvah Svaha and Om Suvah Svaha'; meditate on his own form; again recite mentally or in speech the Pranava and the vyahritis separately and utter three times three the farewell words, `I have renounced, I have renounced, I have renounced' in gentle, middling and sharp tones; deeply engage in meditation on the Pranava and raise his hand saying `Freedom from fear to all from me, Svaha'. He shall then start for the north thinking over the meaning of great scriptural texts such as `The Brahman I Am', `That Thou Art' and proceed in the unclad state. This is renunciation. .......(Par Up)

Conduct - what is prescribed and proscribed?

He shall ..practise the Pranava; be well established in the path of (realizing) Brahman; merge his favourite desire in the Atman; become free of `mine-ness' and get established in the Self; give up passion, anger, greed, delusion, intoxication, rivalry, false pride, pride, egotism, intolerance, arrogance, desires, hatred, gloating, impetuosity, `mine-ness', etc.; possessed of wisdom and dispassion he shall turn away from wealth and women and possessing a pure mind he shall ponder over the truths of all the Upanishads; guard bestowing particular care his celibacy, non-possession, universe-injuring attitude and truthfulness; conquer his senses and be free from affection externally and internally; secure alms for sustaining the body, like a harmless cow.. (Par Up) afraid of respect as poison and always longs for disrespect as nectar...... considering as worthless like vomit all worldly actions..(San Up)...(The ascetic) shall discard clarified butter like blood, taking food in one house like flesh, using cosmetics like smearing himself with unclean things, salt and molasses like an outcaste, garment like dirty dishes, oil bath like courting women, pleasant company of friends like urine, desire like beef, familiar places like the hut of an outcaste, women like snakes, gold like deadly poison, an assembly hall like a cemetery...( Sanny Up)

Food? food (secured as alms from many places) like a bee, using the hand as a vessel; not increase fat (but) become lean; feel that he is Brahman; (Pari Up)

He shall consider food as medicine. He should take food as medicine... He should eat as and when he gets food, without discontent.. for bare sustenance and in such a way that there is no increase of fat.

.. go about alone for eight months and shall not journey as two (i.e. with a companion).. .... be without a (fixed) abode..not resort to a fire-place (for warmth), (Par Up)

....sheltering himself, without an abode (of his own), in an unoccupied house, a temple, a clump of (tall) grass (or a heap of straw), an anthill, the shade of a tree, a potter's hut, a cottage where sacred fire is kept, sandy bank of a river, a mountain thicket or cave, a hollow in a tree, the vicinity of a water fall or a piece of clean ground; (Jab Up)

And for such a ascetic is said - ".....he who has knowledge of the non-dual Atman has the real sacred thread (i.e. that knowledge itself is the sacred thread). His deep absorption in meditation is itself the tuft. This activity is (itself) the possession of the sanctifying ring of holy grass (pavitra). He does all actions, he is the Brahmana, he is deeply absorbed in Brahman, he is the illumined being (deva), he is the sage, ..he is devoid of the six human infirmities (hunger and thirst, sorrow and delusion, old age and death), and is free from the six properties (of the body, birth, existence, change, growth, decay and death)..Excepting the Self he sees nothing else..firmly established in Consciousness consisting of Existence, Knowledge and Bliss...."(Par Up)

The Tirukural also states-
The scriptures exalt above every other good the greatness of virtuous renunciates. Those who perfectly renounce attain the highest peak; the rest remain ensnared in delusion's net. Tirukural 21; 348.

Why then does everyone not embrace ascetism? There is an element of fate...

In the case of Shankara and Ramana the strength of prior samskaras drags them into sannyasa at a very early age - 7 yrs of age is when Shankara took sannyasa!!.. one reason may be the sheer strength of prior karmas and negative tendencies make it difficult for the individual to see the wisdom in embracing sannyasa...

But in terms of free will - i think it boils down to this - I think if one examines in the above the spirit of what is entailed in the pregnant expression "tyaga" one can well come to understand how extraordinarily difficult is this path.... it makes the physical act of climbing a Mount Everest seem as demanding as taking a sip of water!....morover mukti is seen to be extraordinarily rare....there is a disbelief in one's own capacity to achieve this in this lifetime...or a belief that if "fated" it will somehow spontaneously happen on its own..or a lack of courage and conviction in "aham brahmasmi" as well as in one's own strengths and fortitude... or perhaps encosnement in a relative peace...and in the meantime samsara - though seen to be illusory - is too comfortable to discard....

And so we Eschew the Elusive for the Ephemereal.. .the Elusive while Real is not in hand..yet.. - and the Ephemereal though fleeting - soon to be gone...seemingly seems to be...for now.


Sitharam JK said...

Very good and discerning 'post'.

Sitharam JK said...

very good and discerning article esp last few paras are simple blatant truth. in fact Bhagavtpada in His Vivek Chudamani wonders how one could not take up atmavichara - the activity of a Sanyasa. While many say tht we need to live in the present & worry abt the future, tht is wt majority of us do. we live in the present world and fail to worry abt the future (after death) which is actually the truth. this is a sheep herd attitude amongst the [nil or moderately blessed] souls