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Sannyasa is BELIEVED to be the so called "fourth stage" of life, i.e after brahmacharya, grihastha, and vAnaprastha. However, when one has ALREADY moved to the forest in seclusion after retiring from household duties with wife. What is there to be renounced and for what?

Sannyasa (most popular is dashanaami tradition of sankara), for many of those who do not know, involves renunciation of or giving up

  • sacred fire worship (agnihotra, yajnas and any fire rituals)

  • wife or patni

  • children and family

  • yajnopavita or sacred thread

  • shikhaa or tuft of hair on head

  • burying the dead body and not cremating

some other sanyasa sects have a little different requirements from above but many of the core processes are same.

kAlidAsa when talking abt various stages in life of the raghu clan says,

शैशवेभ्यस्त विद्यानां यौवने विषयैषिणां वार्धके मुनिवृत्तीनां योगेनान्ते तनुं त्यजाम्

Learn all vidyAs in childhood, indulge in youthful pleasures in youth "involve in munivRtti" in old age & at last quit the mortal coil by way of yoga. This is what ordained for everyone

munivRtti is asceticism & involves talking less and doing tapas. That's why in oldage people went to vAnaprastha.

‘In the world, one should desire to live a hundred years, but only by performing karma. Thus, and in no other way, can man be free from the taint of karma.’ (Isha upanisad 2)

The Taittiriya Brahmana has it that to extinguish the agnihotra fire is to earn the demerit of killing a hero.

While vedas preach self realization in tune with the nature and prescribe brahmacaryaM, grihastham, shikhaa, sacred thread, progeny, etc , if a an individual or a system , renounces all these , do we call it vedic or avedic, so is the answer..

Vedas start with "Agni meele purohitham" and glorifies Agni and

Sannyasins after death are buried under the ground rather than offering the body to the agni.

"UTTISHTATA MAA SVAPTA, AGNIMICHCHADVAM BHAARATAA:” Yajurveda

Meaning: “O people of Bharat! awake, don’t be asleep, yearn for Agni”.

1) can the same vedas suggest a life that sheds this very agni?

All the RShi-s including the saptaRShi-s were establishers of their respective gotra-s which means they led a family life. If indeed there existed something called renunciation of shikhA, kaccha, yajJopavIta, agnyupAsanA and one's own wife,

2) someone kindly provide proof that these great mahariShi-s did that?

When asked about reference of sannyasa or renunciation from the vedas, the vedantins usually cite the verse from munDaka upanishad to support their claim,

vedāntavijñānasuniścitārthāḥ saṁnyāsayogādyatayaḥ śuddhasattvāḥ | te brahmalokeṣu parāntakāle parāmṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve || 3.2.6 ||

However, if we see the meaning of above verse, it says that the fruits of vedAnta and sannyasa is attainment of brahmaloka after death on this planet. But we know that so called vedanta and sannyasa is not for attainment of brahmaloka but moksha.

Then a question arises so as to what is the exact meaning of sannyasa? From Vedic point of view,

"nyAsa iti brahma" nyAsa ityAhur manIShiNo brahmANaM".. so say the shrutis..

nyAsa is brahmaa (hiraNyagarbha).

3) Then how can saMnyAsa be derived as "renunciation" ?

it can only mean the upAsanA of hiraNyagarbha

Then there is also a conception that "yati" also necessarily means sannyasin or renunciates. However,

A sanyAsi can be a yati but a yati need not be a sanyAsi. People believe that yati = sanyaasi. yati is one who has restrained his mind and body. Even a gRhastha for that matter is restrained in his mind and body if he sticks to his dharma. Moreover, the word yati is actually derived as "yatate iti yatiH". i.e. one who puts effort. in that case, the word yati would aptly fit only a karmayogi and not a sanyAsi who says he has renounced karma.

Another such word is parivraja which is usually considered synonymous with sannyasa. However it only means a wanderer and not someone who has renounced everything. A wanderer may or may not be a sanyasin.

I am also aware that there are texts which are called sannyasa upanishads which are followed by them for their sannyasa and code of conduct. However, they are not authentic in the sense that they are not the part of vedas. I have also posted a question about these here. This includes like of jabaala upanishad, kaivalyopanishad and so on.

If someone likes to provide any authentic reference then I would like to ask,

4) Is there any reference of sannyasa ashrama as a life style in vedas? (the word sannyasa in mundaka upanishad does not speak about ashrama but sanyasa as an upasana of lord brahmaa to attain brahmaloka)

Note: By Vedas I am expecting direct reference from vedas i.e samhitas. And also from aranyaka, brahmana, and ten authentic upanishads. Also grhya and shrauta sutras.

P.S: Please provide the references in moola shlokas with translation and not commentaries by mutt people like gambhirananda, nikhilananda etc.

  • We get it that 'bhashya/commentary' would not be accepted as answer. There is no need to mention name of people. – Vishal prabhu lawande Jan 21 at 2:38
  • @Vishalprabhulawande its just an example because some people regularly quote only commentaries – Rakesh Joshi Jan 21 at 2:41
  • Agni have different meaning Aga - inside.. ni- you one which is inside you that makes you move, sleep,eat, drink and always with you so you should have focus inside you to self realize, the keep yea people bharat, please awake be self realized on focusing inside you. that is the correct meaning.. similarly for agni shuktha.. then you will understand the whole Vedanta.. my pranams to all acharyas of madhva prampara for throwing this enlightenment of the scriptures – Prasanna R Jan 21 at 6:56
  • @PrasannaR that would mean that all maharshis like Vashistha and Bharadvaja atri were ignorant that they kept on worshiping the external agni till the last breath and offered their body to the very agni. Worshiping internal agni dont mean that one should not worship external. – Rakesh Joshi Jan 21 at 11:41
  • @RakeshJoshi First these are self realized masters they offered prayers to fulfuil there duties towards devatha after self realization In case of yagnya valkya he took sanyasashrama, they don't have agni karya.. they did upasena for agni within themselves.. Madhvacharya is the only guru who removed the conflict of these terms like one part of Geeta says if you do Agni karya you get moksha and another part says sanyasa ashrma is the way to get moksha how can both be true.. if you fit the above meaning then it is – Prasanna R Jan 21 at 11:52
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Is sannyasa a Vedic way of life? Is it recommended by the Vedas?

I am answering only this question.

Since it is not possible to answer the question without going through all the 4 Vedas, and since I have not done so either, I am quoting the opinion of a scholar who has done so.

Let me first introduce the author from whose book I'll be quoting.

He is Dr. R.L.Kashyap (his Wiki page here).

Currently, he is also the director of the "Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture".

Is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Emeritus at Purdue University, USA and also director of the Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture

He has translated all the 4 Vedas (into English and other Indian languages), besides writing various books on Vedas, Upanishads, Brahmanas etc.

I will be quoting from one of his books called "Essentials of Atharva Veda".

12th Chapter of this book is titled "Family Life". Quoting from a sub-section of this Chapter:

Role of Married Life:

Marriage was not regarded as an impediment to spiritual progress. Most of the great teachers of the Vedic age, the rishis, were all married. The theory of three-fold debt (rna) is indicated in TS 6.3.10 namely the debt to the Gods, rishis and ancestors.

......

AV 6.118 and 6.119 stress the importance of clearing all debts (rna) or promises made to human beings or to the deities. There were some ascetics or wondering monks called vrAtya in the Vedic age; but the ideal of external renunciation i.e giving up the home and leading a wandering life is not mentioned. The close connection between developing spiritual powers and leading the life of external renunciation is a buddhist and post-Buddhist development.

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So, a full-fledged external Sannyas, where Viraja Homa and other rituals are performed, where the sacred thread, and the ShikhA are cut, is not found in the Vedas proper.

Not only that, external Sannyasa is not found in the 12/13 major Upanishads either (although the word Sannyasa is found). The concept is only found in some minor Upanishads --- the so-called "Sannyasa Upanishads".

So, if you agree to consider those minor Upanishads as Veda too only then the concept is Vedic otherwise not.

  • I think one should accept Sanyasa after realization, and there is no Vedas needed after realization. May be that is the reason why it is not discussed in scriptures – Spark Sunshine Jan 25 at 0:54
  • So you mean rishis were not realized and hence they did not accept it after realization ? – Rakesh Joshi Jan 25 at 0:59
  • You shd hv used "at" the user .. I thought u are asking me but u are asking Naveen @RakeshJoshi – Rickross Jan 25 at 6:42
  • I think u were asking Naveen Kick something? @RakeshJoshi – Rickross Jan 25 at 15:16
  • Please check Adi Shankaracharyya's comment on "tapaso vapyalingat" – user17294 Feb 3 at 14:00
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Yes, Sannyasa is a Vedic way of life.

I am removing the muni quote from the Rig Veda since it seems to be preventing many readers from understanding the gist of my argument.

It is a popular idea that sannyasis are post Buddhistic. Moreover Buddha himself according to the Pali canon learnt meditation disciplines from non-Buddhist Gurus.

In questions like this there is bound to be disagreement. I can only give the arguments why I do not accept the claim that Sannyasa is not a Vedic way of life and that it is post Buddhistic.

The idea behind Sannyasa is renunuciation.

Abandonment of all desire-prompted action is Samnyasa(renunciation) according to the wise. Men of discernment speak of the abandonment of the fruits of all actions as Tyaga (relinquishment.

Gita 18.2

The very fact that Buddha renounced his kingdom and family and meditated suggests that this was alreay a well known idea around Buddha's time. After all no one claims that Buddha is the first man to renounce.

The second argument is that the Pali canon records that people were trying to unite with Brahman during Buddha's age. Unity with Brahman is not possible for a householder and is only possible for a Sannyasi.I am posting the relevant Tevijja Sutta below.

Tevijja Sutta (Digha Nikaya)

On Knowledge Of The Vedas[4]

  1. When he had thus spoken, VaseÂÂha, the young Brahmana, said to the Blessed One:

'Just so has it been told me, Gotama, even that the Gotama knows the way to a STATE OF UNION WITH BRAHMAN. It is well! Let the venerable Gotama be pleased to show us the way to a STATE OF UNION WITH BRAHMAN, let the venerable Gotama save the Brahmana race'[26]!

'Listen then, VaseÂÂha, and give ear attentively, and I will speak!' 'So be it, Lord!' said the young Brahmana VaseÂÂha, in assent, to the Blessed One.

  1. Then the Blessed One spake, and said:

Know, VaseÂÂha, that (from time to time) a Tathagata is born into the world, an Arahat, a fully awakened one, abounding, in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to mortals willing to be led, a teacher of gods and men, a Blessed One, a Buddha. He, by himself, thoroughly understands, and sees, as it were, face to face this universe --

including the worlds above with the gods, the Maras, and the Brahmas; and the world below with its Samatas and Brahmanas, its princes and peoples; -- and he then makes his knowledge known to others. The truth doth he proclaim both in the letter and in the spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation: the higher life doth he make known, in all its purity and in all its perfectness.

76.[28]'And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of Love, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure.

  1. 'Just, VaseÂÂha, as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard-and that without difficulty-in all the four directions; even so of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt love.

'Verily this, VaseÂÂha, is the way to a STATE OF UNION WITH BRAHMAN.

  1. 'And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of pity[29], ... sympathy[30], equanimity[31 ], and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of pity. . . . sympathy , . . . equanimity, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure.

  2. 'Just, VaseÂÂha, as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard -- and that without difficulty -- in all the four directions ; even so of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt pity, ... sympathy, ... equanimity.

'Verily this, V¤seÂÂha, is the way to a STATE OF UNION WITH BRAHMAN.'

  1. 'Now what think you, VaseÂÂha, will the Bhikkhu who lives thus be in possession of women and of wealth, or will he not?'

'He will not, Gotama!'

'Will he be full of anger, or free from anger?'

'He will be free from anger, Gotama!'

'Will his mind be full of malice, or free from malice?'

'Free from malice, Gotama!'

'Will his mind be tarnished, or pure?'

'It will be pure, Gotama!'

'Will he have self-mastery, or will he not?'

'Surely he will, Gotama!'

81 'Then you say, VaseÂÂha, that the Bhikkhu is free from household and worldly cares, and that Brahman is free from household and worldly cares. Is there then agreement and likeness between the Bhikkhu and Brahman?'

'There is, Gotama!

Very good, VaseÂÂha. Then in sooth, VaseÂÂha, that the Bhikkhu who is free from household cares should after death, when the body is dissolved, become UNITED WITH BRAHMAN, who is the same -- such a condition of things is every way possible!

'And so you say, VaseÂÂha, that the Bhikkhu is free from anger, and free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself; and that Brahman is free from anger, and free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself. Then in sooth, VaseÂÂha, that the Bhikkhu who is free from anger, free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself should after death, when the body is dissolved, become UNITED WITH BRAHMAN, who is the same-such a condition of things is every way possible!'

Tevijja Sutta (Digha Nikaya) translated by T. W. Rhys Davis

Buddha claimed that he has experienced the unity with Brahman which is only possibe for a Sannyasi. The fact that people were searching for Gurus to have this experience suggests that Sannyasa existed before Buddha. This pretty much rules out scholarly claims that Sannyasa did not exist during Vedic times and is post- Buddhistic. The evidence from the Pali canon pretty much clinches the idea that Sannyasa is pre-Buddhistic.

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    Muni is not a sannyasi. Check updated question – Rakesh Joshi Jan 23 at 16:58
  • Narada. Durvasa , Agastya etc were also referred as muni in many places. How did they become sanyasins ? Muni means who speaks less eats in moderation and does TAPAS. Same misinformation you are spreading in quora too – Rakesh Joshi Jan 23 at 17:31
  • A person who speaks less, eats in moderation and does tapas seems suspiciously like a sannyasi. A Muni according to the passage cited has long locks, wear a saffron cloth, go where gods have gone before, i.e., is not reborn. This again is a characteristic of a sannyasi. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Jan 23 at 17:41
  • sannyasi dony have long hairs but bald shaven head. Dont compare based on neo vedantins. So this description dont apply to sanyasins – Rakesh Joshi Jan 23 at 17:53
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    Q is not whether Sri Ramakrishna was a Sannyasi or not but is whether Sannyas is Vedic in nature or not (Btw not downvoted) @PradipGangopadhyay – Rickross Jan 24 at 13:48

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