Everyone knows there are 16 Sanskar in Hinduism. In this 16 Sanskar, Antyesthi (Cremation) is the final Sanskar performed after death (of a person) by his or her descendents.But I came to know that the person (who wants to take Sanyasa from Vanaprastha) before taking Sanyasa have to perform his own Antyesthi (Cremation). If it is true,then

  • What is the Purpose of Own Antyesthi (Cremation) before taking Sanyasa?

And I came across that respective Guru gives a different(new) name to Sanyasi or Shishya (Disciple). Like: Swami Vivekananda (Narendra Nath Datta) name has given by his Guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

  • On which Basis(Spiritual Qualities) does Guru gives a new name to Sanyasi or Shishya(Disciple)?

  • Is there any Co-relation of above two questions?(Own Cremation and a New name)


What is the Purpose of Own Antyesthi (Cremation) before taking Sanyasa?

It is because the rites are performed when the body dies. Similarly when one takes up Sannyasa, it is symbolic that His body attachment is now dead. That is one has cut off all ties with His physical body. Therefore the cremation rites are performed.

Paramahansa Yogananda describes this in Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 24:

The bibidisa or elaborate initiation into swamiship includes a fire ceremony, during which symbolical funeral rites are performed. The physical body of the disciple is represented as dead, cremated in the flame of wisdom. The newly-made swami is then given a chant, such as: "This atma is Brahma" or "Thou art That" or "I am He."

However some saints do not perform such initiation. For example, Paramahansa Yogananda did not do this ceremony, because Sri Yukteshwarji (His Guru) decided that is was not needed.

Paramahansa Yogananda describes this in Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 24:

Sri Yukteswar, however, with his love of simplicity, dispensed with all formal rites and merely asked me to select a new name.

Note: This DOES NOT implies that these rituals are NOT NECESSARY AT ALL. This is just example to show that not all saints need to follow these rituals. User moonstar2001 brought the issue in comments below, thus I am clarifying it here.

I think that also would answer your other question:

On which Basis(Spiritual Qualities) does Guru gives a new name to Sanyasi or Shishya(Disciple)?

There is a general guideline for this based on Dashanami tradition for monks of Shankara's order of swami's. Paramhansa Yogananda describes this in Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 24:

In addition to his new name, usually ending in ananda, the swami takes a title which indicates his formal connection with one of the ten subdivisions of the Swami Order. These dasanamis or ten agnomens include the Giri (mountain), to which Sri Yukteswar, and hence myself, belong. Among the other branches are the Sagar (sea), Bharati (land), Aranya (forest), Puri (tract), Tirtha (place of pilgrimage), and Saraswati (wisdom of nature).

But I think you mean to ask for: based on these guidelines, how exactly the name is chosen? For example, how did Sri Yuktheswarji choose 'Yogananda' as the title? How did Sri Ramakrishna choose 'Vivekananda' as the title? How did 'Chandrasekharendra Saraswati' get his title?

There is no rule for this. The Guru simply follows His Intuition or inner Guidance or Dharma. Whatever you call it. Usually Guru gives the name to His disciples, but sometimes the Guru also asks the disciple to choose it Himself! For example, Paramhansa Yogananda was asked to choose His own spiritual Title:

Paramahansa Yogananda describes this in Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 24:

"I will give you the privilege of choosing it yourself," he said, smiling. "Yogananda," I replied, after a moment's thought. The name literally means "Bliss (ananda) through divine union (yoga)." "Be it so. Forsaking your family name of Mukunda Lal Ghosh, henceforth you shall be called Yogananda of the Giri branch of the Swami Order."

Is there any Co-relation of above two:

The only correlation is that only the One who has give up all ties to body and physical differences can take up the name of Swami. Thus the two are actually correlated in the sense one is a pre-requisite for the other.

Paramhansa Yogananda describes the qualities of Sannyasis in Autobiography of a Yogi Chapter 24:

The ideal of selfless service to all mankind, and of renunciation of personal ties and ambitions, leads the majority of swamis to engage actively in humanitarian and educational work in India, or occasionally in foreign lands.

Imbuing his waking and sleeping consciousness with the thought, "I am He," he roams contentedly, in the world but not of it. Thus only may he justify his title of swami one who seeks to achieve union with the Swa or Self.

It is needless to add that not all formally titled swamis are equally successful in reaching their high goal.

How about Swami Vivekananda?

Swami Vivekananda, after Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's Mahasamadhi, took up Sannyaas with eight other disciples, and thus took the title of Sri Swami Vivekananda which means the Bliss of Viveka (or Discrimination).[ Reference: Wikipedia (Not sure how accurate this is though)]

  • It is incorrect that there is no method to giving the yoga patta (monastic name) to the aspiring sanyasi. In the Sankaracharya tradition, there is the dasanami sampradaya which states that all sanyasis are named in the format : <"first name"> <1 of 10 designated "second names"> the second names are one of Bharati, Saraswati, Tirtha, Aranya, Giri, Puri, Asrama, Sagara, Vana, Parvata. Similarly, Vaishnava sanyasis are called jeeyars. Several Madhva saints are also Tirthas (Madhva himself was Ananda Tirtha). There are similar rules for Naga Sadhus. Paramahamsa Yogananda is not the measuring rod. – user1195 Jan 29 '15 at 16:38
  • Oh and the monastic name is most certainly given by the guru, at least in the Sankara sampradAya. – user1195 Jan 29 '15 at 16:39
  • Antyeshti is necessary for someone who is taking up sanyasa in the traditional way. Even if a person taken Aatura sanyasa, they usually are initiated formally into sanyasa upon meeting their guru. Again, Paramahamsa Yogananda is not the benchmark. – user1195 Jan 29 '15 at 16:41
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    @moonstar2001 Yes you are right about all that. But what I meant is the actual "first name" "designated second name" is chosen based on the Guru's intuition. Ofcourse I am aware of those traditions. I will add clarification in my answer. Thanks! As for 'monastic name given by Guru' in Sankara SampradAya part, well I am not saying that I am saying that. I am saying that the general rule is Guru gives it. But there are exceptions. I will add that clarification as well. – Sai Jan 29 '15 at 16:41
  • @moonstar2001 and also if you feel Yogananda is not the benchmark, please add your own answer below with whom you think as your benchmark sir! IMHO you can use whom you want as your benchmark, nobody's stopping you! – Sai Jan 29 '15 at 16:43

Having received sannyas and being of Vivekananda's lineage, let me clarify a few points. Sai's answer is good and mostly true. Vivekananda and the direct disciples of Ramakrishna received their sannyas robes from Ramakrishna, they did not receive their names from him. Vivekananda actually used several names before deciding himself to take the name of Vivekananda. While wandering through India he used several names including Sachchidananda and Vividishananda (source: Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda). The direct disciples of Ramakrishna choose their own names. Ramakrishna received his sannyas from Tota Puri, so all sannyas descendants of Ramakrishna are Govardhana math lineage (one of the 4 established by Shankaracharya). There are several sannyas lineages from different direct disciples of Ramakrishna.

Traditionally, the sannyas name is supposed to start with the same vowel as one's birth name, but this practice is not followed much of the time anymore. Most of the time the name is given by the sadhu initiating one into sannyas (one's sannyas guru), but it is not a hard and fast rule. It is not uncommon for some to receive their sannyas from one guru and their name from another. I have also heard of others that have picked their names also.

Names are supposed to represent a special aspect of the individual receiving it. As you may be aware, however, a Sanskrit word can have multiple meanings (depending on the context) or sound similar to another word with a not so good meaning. So names can sometimes point out both a divine or sattvic element as well as a worldly or tamasic element of the individual receiving it. This is often a source of laughter and jokes between sadhus.

When one receives sannyas, one becomes dead to the world (hence the wearing of orange robes). As you are becoming dead to the world, you do your own death rites, relieving others from having to do yours later. At the same time, you do the death rites for your parents if they are still living, relieving you of having to do the rites later as you are becoming dead to the world and are not supposed to do any more obligatory rites. These are done by a brahmin priest with your participation.

After the rites are completed, one then does the rites of sannyas (again by a brahmin priest). After that one puts on the robes and receives the sannyas mantras from the sannyas guru. There are small unimportant variations depending upon whether you are alone or together with others receiving sannyas. There are a few mantras that are given at that time. There is some variation depending on which math your lineage belongs to (giri, puri, etc.)

Swami Sivananda of Divine Life also had a 'multi-step' sannyas. I don't remember the details, but I think they are on the Divine Life website.

I have met sadhus that went through no ceremonies, only walked away from the world and put the gerua cloth on themselves and gave themselves their own name. Others that received their robes from a sadhu but never did the ceremonies. Others who had no name until they were given it by followers.

The circumstances and events surrounding each person's sannyas are very personal and different. When looking back, everyone feels they have been personally touched by the Divine Mother Herself in a different and personal way.

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