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Adi Shankaracharya got digvijaya over anti-Vedic followers and is entitled to respect. However I found one thing objectionable in his conduct after reading a post on this site.

Adi Shankaracharya is said to have organised the Dashanami Sannyasis, who are single staffed (ekadandi), having a Veda and place (hill, hermitage etc) (Purvamnaya Rigveda) of their own. A valid argument is raised in a question on the site, that Shankara’s Sannyasa tradition may not be in accordance with the Vedas, because as per it, those who take sannyasa, give up worship of Agni, their shikha and also their Yajnopavita (the very thing without which cannot read the Veda and get Brahma Gyaana). E.g. if one takes Sannyasa immediately after Brahmacharya (young age), one would have to still do Vedic Adhyayana which is not possible without the thread. This has led many to refer to him as a disguised shunyavadi.

However as per scriptures, just like Tridandi sannyasis, the ekadandi sannyasis are supposed to wear both a Yajnopavita and Shikha. This creates a contradiction since the current practice of the Ekadandi Advaiti sannyasis requires shikha and yajnopavita removal.

I happened to chance upon information about the Kanchi mutt which was established during Adi Shankaracharya’s last years in Kanchipuram. As per a post, this Kanchi mutt has the oldest portrait of Adi Shankara wearing a yajnopavita (much in accordance with the prescription for an ekadandi sannyasi)

Questions:

  1. I would like to know whether Adi Shankaracharya wore the yajnopavita throughout his life or gave it up?

    If he did give it up please explain the scriptural backing and rationale, from other than the sannyasa Upanishads (though this prescribes janeu for Ekadandis). Also please explain whether the relevant quote has Vedic backing.
  2. If he didn’t give it up and the portrait of Kanchi mutt is correct, did he ordain the same for the Dashanami Sampradaya and how did the practice of abandoning the yajnopavita then creep it’s way into the Sampradaya?
  3. If he happened to remove it (in effect killing his dvijatva or second birth), it would mean he has become an ekajati. How can an ekajati have authority to study the Vedas and write bhashyas? It is very necessary not to forego rituals like pindadana etc.

    Also how can he know that’s he’s free from the 3 rinas and avoid ritual performance? Is removing the yajnopavita and stopping fire worship anti-Vedic (not validity of Sannyasa as a path but removal of janeu and stoppage of rituals).

Please note: I respect shankara and I’m not doubting the Sannyasa tradition because the Vaishnava Tridandi sannyasi have both, the Yajnopavita and Shikha. The sutras refer to Sannyasa as a valid path. It’s talking of Dashanami Sampradaya.

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    – TheLittleNaruto
    Aug 13 at 10:04
  • you have many questions in one question. Forum rules say to limit each posting to one specific question. You can break up your question and do them as separate questions. Aug 13 at 10:56
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Short answer:

  1. There is NO old portrait in Kanchi math depicting Adi Shankara wearing a yajnopavita. Where is a link to that portrait? There are some portraits of Shankara wearing yajnopavita and no danda and wearing white dhoti. These are his pre-sannyas days.

  2. Show the portrait in Kanchi math. This should include danda, wearing ochre robes but having yajnopavita. Nothing like that exists. Please note this should actually link to the kamakoti site and not some twitter account.

  3. You should read the Chapter 5 of the book A History of the Dasnami Naga Sannyasis available in google books. It clearly describes the rituals involved that includes pinda dana to ancestors. This is given below. Please see my main point taken from Jivan mukti viveka to answer some questions raised by you in the comments. If you want a youtube version of the rituals they are followed, please see the initiation of sri vidhusekhara bharati, the junior pontiff of the Sringeri math.

Long answer:

The Dashnami Sampradaya and the sri vaishnava sampradhaya follow entirely different texts on the sannyasa dharma.

The Yatilingasamarthana of Vatsya Varadacharya describes in detail the characteristics, qualifications and duties of Srivaishnava ascetics.

Tridandam vainavam soumyam satvacham samaparvakam | Veshtitham krishnagovaaLarajjvaa tu chaturanguhm ||

‘An ascetic should take three staves of bamboo and tie them together with a rope made of the hair of the cow’s tail, four angulas in length.’

Vaag dando atha manodandah kaayadandas tathaiva cha | Yasyaithe nihitaa buddhau tridanditi cha uchyate ||

‘A Sannyasi should always possess the following five things; yajnopavita (sacred thread), tridanda (holy staff), jalapavitra kaupina and kati vastra (the covering cloth)’.

According to srivaishnava tradition of Ramanuja, a brAhmaNa, even after becoming a sannyAsi, retains many of the duties that are incumbent on his being a brAhmaNa. This is why sannyasis of this order retain their sacred thread (yajnOpavIta) and tuft of hair (SikhA). They must continue to do their sandhyAvandana and gAyatrI japa at the appointed times. Whatever rituals were practiced in the purva ashrama should be continued. Even looking at a sannyasi who has removed the yagnopavita and shikha results in impurity and one should take bath after this. This includes looking at jivan muktas such as Kanchi periya or Sringeri mathadipadis.

Rules and Regulations of Brahmanical Asceticism: Yatidharmasamuccaya of Yadava Prakasa gives the details of various sannyasa as existed in the 13th century and what is followed currently by Sri Vaishnavas.

However, there are lots of texts that indicate the removal of tuft of hair and yagnopita is required for sannyas ashram. The concept of removing the tuft and sacred thread is given in many upanishads and puranas.

The seeker, holding one staff, gives up along with the sacred thread the topknot; but when the supreme Brahman is realized directly and immediately, giving up everything the ascetic, going out, becomes a mendicant’ (Narada P. Up. 3.17).

The Parabrahma Upanishad primarily describes why the sacred thread and topknot hair tuft are abandoned by Sannyasi as that knowledge is the inner sacrificial string of the renouncers, and knowledge is their topknot. See the book.

Please check out the book, A History of the Dasnami Naga Sannyasis edited by Ananda Bhattacharyya. The Chapter 5 of the book titled rules and practices of Dasnami monks clearly entails the procedure for becoming a monk and also the practices to be followed. There are many scriptures that are followed as the basis for this practice. The primary is the yagnavalkya smriti. The compilation of these rules and regulations and their basis can be found in the sannyas-grahan paddhati. Yati dharma Sangrah of Visweshwara Saraswati gives further details of the sannyas tradition.

He goes through many ceremonies which are described fully below, on the authority of the 'Sannyas-Grahan Paudhati' of Paramhansa Gopalanand (Benares, 1998) and the Yatidharma Sangraha of Visheshwar Saraswati (Anand Ashram Press, 1909).

On the following day, he should bathe, offer his Sandhya prayers and the day’s worship of Vishnu, and then go to some river or other sheet of water and perform the Sradha ( funeral obsequies) of all his ancestors. He should methodically offer oblations ( Tarpan ) to the eight gods connected with the funeral ceremony, chant the necessary vedic hymns and perform the gift ( dana ) and other duties of the occasion.

These funeral rites may extend over seven or eight days, after which he must have his beard, moustaches and head shaved off, keeping only the scalp lock (Shikha ).

Next he must give away all his earthly possesions except a lion-cloth (Kopin), a staff (danda) and a waterpot (Kamandal) with ceremonies and Mantras appropriate to such an occasion. The sacrifice (Yajna) performed at this time is called the Praja-pati-ahuti. Then he performs the Viraja-homa by chanting the sixteen verses of the Purush Sukta (Rigved, X. 90 ), and pouring out libation of ghee at the end of every verse.

After performing these Yajnas, he renounces his children and friends, saying ‘Listen, all ye : By the grace of my teacher I am eager to go beyond worldly life. I have given up my attachment to all. I have renounced my love for son, wealth and followers. You too should give up your attachment to me, and not obstruct my
embracing of Sannyas.

Standing thus in the tank or river, he should take some water out of it in the palm of his hand, and recite the Mantra, "Ö Earth, I have become a Sannyasi. Om : Heaven I have become a Sannyasi. Om : Hell, I have become a Sannyasi. “This is to be repeated thrice, with voice modulated to three pitches. After throwing into the water a full oblation of water taken into both his hands joined together, while facing the east and saving, “May all creatures be free from fear from me”

The next ceremony is that of discarding his sacred thread, and cutting off the tuft of hair on the crown of his head (Shikha).

The last stage of the initiation: After the new Sannyasi has come out of the water, cast of his clothes and taken five or seven steps with uplifted face, as naked as at his birth, his preceptor (Acharya), after prostrating himself before him, would induce him to wear a loin-cloth (Kaupina) for decency before ordinary men, and give him a staff (danda) to guard against horned cattle, snakes &c. and a waterpot (Kamandalu ).

From Jivanmuktiviveka (p.15)

‘O Lord! How can I renounce all the actions ? ’ The disciple Aruni asks his teacher Prajapati about the renunciation of all actions, i.e., the seeker’s renunciation marked by the giving up of the tuft of hair on the head, the sacred thread, the study of the Vedas, the muttering of the Gayatri hymn etc. The teacher Prajapati gives him instructions on renouncing all actions by saying ‘the tuft of hair’ etc. and enjoins to accept a staff, mantle, and loincloth, by saying ‘You should accept the staff etc’. And then he goes on to prescribe, ‘You should take bath at the three sandhyas, during meditation concentrate on the Self, study the Aranyaka part of the Vedas, and the Upanisads’. Thus the special duties of the sannyasa period of life— which lead to knowledge—are prescribed for practice.

On being asked, ‘what is the course for the yogis, who are paramahamsas ?’ by Narada, the teacher, Lord Prajapati advises as before, the total renunciation of everything saying: ‘own sons, friends, etc.’ and then says: ‘the loin- cloth, the mantle and the staff should be accepted for one’s i own use and for the benefit of the people at large.’ Thus indicating that the acceptance of the staff etc. is only customary and by saying: ‘they are not the main thing’ (not the essential condition of Self-realization)…

‘Then what is the chief condition ?’ ‘This is the chief— neither the staff, nor the topknot, nor the sacred-thread, nor the cloak, without all these moves the paramahamsa. Thus the absence of the staff etc., the symbols of this sannyasa, is the textual commandment; saying this: ‘neither cold nor heat (affects the paramahamsa; and with these words: ‘wearing the sky’s regions as his garment (i.e. naked) and for him no convention of salutation etc.’, it is thus shown that the paramahamsa is absolutely free from all social norms and conventions.

Just because the sampradhyas differ, this does not mean one is vedic and the other in anti vedic. All sampradhayas believe in Vedas and it is only intepretations. The six darshanas of sanatana dharma differ in so many ways: eternal hell, concept of mukti, jivanmuka, importance of bhakti/jnana, role of karma, author of vedas etc. but none of these darshanas are called anti-vedic. Other than the philosophical differences, even the conduct of samskaras such as upanayana, vivaha (marriage) and shraddha are very different in different sampradayas.

Vedas and smritis have different interpretations by different sampradayas. That does not mean the other is anti Vedic. I have clearly pointed out the various smriti and Shruti followed by dasanami sampradaya and I have also shown the texts followed by srivaishnavites. One follows the sampradaya one is born in usually. Unlike abrahamic religions, each sampradaya can follow its own rules and regulations based on their interpretations of the Vedas. Does not mean the other is anti Vedic.

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    @GIRIBLR read Rakesh Joshi’s linked Q and Rickross’ answer from one of the Sannyasa Upanishads. The very fact that the Vaishnavas don’t adhere to the Sannyasa Upanishads show they’re not something of a core Vedic text like the principal Upanishads (as per Joshi interpolation). And the very fact that they have to wash themselves on seeing such a sannyasi shows that it’s not a universal thing, & restricted. Also this is the same Yadava Prakasha who later became a disciple of Ramanujacharya himself so if his book were correct he wouldn’t have become Ramanujacharya’s disciple.
    – Adiyarkku
    Aug 13 at 15:51
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    It diesmt answer whether it’s Vedic or not. If it was, they wouldn’t have to wash themselves after seeing those with janeu.
    – Adiyarkku
    Aug 13 at 15:52
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    @zero there are 3 advaitic philosophies that rely on the same Vedic texts. It’s universal. It’s not a case like sannyas- Some can’t accept one part of the Vedas (Sannyasa Upanishad) and the others reject it. Shukla Yajurvedis don’t see Krishna Yajurvedis and say bro because your samhita is different we’ll bathe after seeing you. Those who collect ashes 3 days later don’t call 9 day People anti Vedic. Vedas have the same dharma with minor variations. Yajnopavita is a major major variation. Please understand the point and logic that I’m saying since yesterday. I’m not going to comment further
    – Adiyarkku
    Aug 13 at 16:11
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    @Archit Probaby you meant to say 3 vedantic philosophies, rather than 3 advaitic philosophies? In any case sir, there are many specific vaishnava and shaiva texts, which are not accepted universally and still we dont call either vaishnavas or shaivas as non-vedic or anti-vedic.
    – user23407
    Aug 13 at 16:17
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    @zero well said. Vedas and smritis have different interpretations by different sampradayas. That does not mean the other is anti Vedic. I have clearly pointed out the various smriti and Shruti followed by dasanami sampradaya and I have also shown the texts followed by srivaishnavites. One follows the sampradaya one is born in usually. Unlike abrahamic religions, each sampradaya can follow its own rules and regulations based on their interpretations of the Vedas. Does not mean the other is anti Vedic.
    – GIRIBLR
    Aug 13 at 16:19

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