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Sanyaas is a compound word - Sa + Nyaas. Sa means "with" or "Saath" or "Sang" and Nyaas means "to place". One might have heard of Kar Nyaas and Hridyaadi Nyaas. The etheric (or praan-maya Kosh) body of the deity one is doing Saadhanaa for is systematically established in the body of the Saadhak only. For this the Saadhak undergoes a process of cleansing based on Yaugik principles of Ashtaang Yog. Then the process of Nyaas starts. "Sang" means "accompanied by". An authentic Sanyaasee cannot be even touched, even by other Saadhak, what to say of normal human beings. The vibratory rate of such a "transformed human" is far above the vibratory rate of other humans. The touch of a Sanyaasee can turn another human to dust. This is one reason that a Sanyaasee cannot cohabit with another since he is already so closely associated with the deity - "Sang-nyaas". Normally such people stay away from inhabited areas. In today's world, we use these terms very loosely. We are talking about transforming into a superhuman for whom the sway of Maayaa or astrology weakens considerably. This is why Sanyaas Aashram comes last, when all illusions of Maayaa have been shed by the person wanting to enter Sanyaas. It is a voluntary process.

So whoever has taken Sanyaas is called Sanyaasee. According to Agni Puraan, p 335, Sanyaasee are of 4 kinds - (1) Kuteechakra, (2) Bahoodak, (3) Hans and (4) Param Hans - the last one being the highest.

Types of Sanyaasee

According to Padm Puraan, 3/6  - "Sanyaasee are said to be of three types - Gyaan Sanyaasee, Ved Sanyaasee and Karm Sanyaasee. Who establishes himself in his soul only he is called Gyaan Sanyaasee. Who practices Ved with the desire of Mukti, he is called Ved Sanyaasee, and who offers himself to Brahm after absorbing Agni in himself, he is called Karm Sanyaasee.

Among them Gyaan Sanyaasee is regarded as the highest. There is no duty or marks of Aashram required for him. He should neither have attachment to anything nor jealousy with anything. He may eat only leaves and wear only necessary clothes (just to cover the necessary parts of the body). As the servant waits upon his master, in the same he should also wait upon his Kaal (Death).

Ved Sanyaasee should wear only one cloth of saffron color; shave his head or grow hair; should not collect anything; always feed on Bhikshaa, that also not from one house only. Whoever Sanyaasee feeds on the food of one house only because of attachment, there is no means of upliftment for him in Shaastra. He should walk seeing a yard further, drink water sieved in cloth, speak truth and polite with everybody. He should not stay at one place except in rainy season. He should always live in forest and study Shaastra. If a Sanyaasee is without pride, jealousy, talking bad about others, he attains Moksh. He can be busy in doing Jaap of Pranav Mantra and Gaayatree Mantra. He should wear saffron color clothes only."

Sanyaasee has no caste ultimately. There are 4/5 kinds of Sanyaasee. They have no caste, no Varn etc. Smaart Sanyaasee will have no tuft and no Yagopaveet. In South India Iyengar Sanyaasee will have tuft and Yagyopaveet. Smaart Sanyaasee are of 4 kinds -
(1) one with a bamboo stick with a small Dharm flag in Kaavee cloth as Kaamakoti Peeth Sanyaasee;
(2) another is Tri-dandee Sanyaasee, they will be having 3 sticks tied together;
(3) the third one has no Dand just as Shivaanand Sarswatee; and
(4) the last one is Avadhoot Sanyaasee.

Sanyaasee are there in non-Braahman caste also. Just as Thiruvaduthurai Mathaadhi-Pati (Chief of the Math), having no Dand. Another Sanyaasee is having Kaavee cloth but without head cap by cloth. they look like Braahman Sanyaasee of 3rd type. Almost all Sanyaasee of Braahman will have shaved head and others will have tuft and cloth cap. Tuft is not a symbol of a Sanyaasee. In older days all Hindu had tuft, but later only Braahman had tuft, and then some very sincere Grihasth used to keep it, and then only to Ved Paathee Pandit / Purohit/ Gurukul. Now that is also vanishing.

Rules For Sanyaasee

The one who is fit to take Sanyaas , the fourth Aashrama of the life, has to have developed an intense Vairaagya (detachment) for the worldly life and should be eager to attain Moksh. Liberation from trans-migratory existence (or Moksh/ Mukti/ Kaivalya/ Nirvaan) is discussed in all systems of Hindu philosophy. This is posited as the final Purushaarth or the ultimate goal of life. Though in olden days, Sanyaas was restricted to Braahman, now a days we see Sanyaasee belonging to all communities including the so called low castes.

Each caste has its own "Jagad-Guru" (One may observe more than 200 Math in Karnaatak only belonging to different communities). All of them retain their caste connections.

There are four types of Sanyaasee as per tradition - (1) Kuteechaka, (2) Bahoodaka,3. Hans and 4. Paramahans.
They are also classified as Vairaagya Sanyaasee and Gyaan Sanyaasee.
Then there is Aatur Sanyaas and Sanyaas at the time of death.
Though Smriti did not permit Sanyaas to non-Braahman, there were Shoodra Sanyaasee among Shaiv and Shaakt cults.
There were women Sanyaasee also as per Paatanjali Mahaabhaashya.

Sanyaasopanishat provides details of who can take Sanyaas and how; as well as their expected conduct. A Sanyaasee has many Karmaanushthan when compared to a Grihasth. Before taking the Sanyaas, he has to perform Gayatri Purascharan. He has to perform the Viraj Hom.  During the Nadee Snaan (bathing in a river), he has to perform Mantra Snaan with Mrittikaa (soil), Agha Marshan Sookt, Mrittikaa Sookt. Has to remove Kati Sootra, Yayoopaveet, Shikhaa etc and stand naked before the Guru. Guru asks him to come forward from the river in front of all (he has to forget his Dehaabhimaan), gives the Shaati (Kashaaya Vastra) and performs the Mahaa Vaakyopadesh. Then gives him Dand and Kamandal.

A Yatee has to do the Jap of Pranav (Omkaar) 12,000 times daily without fail. Do the Jap of Naaraayan Ashtaaksharee (Om Namo Naaraayanaaya), Vishnu Sahastra Naam, Shata Rudreeya, Bhagavad Geetaa, Brahm Sootra along with Shankar Bhaashya, Mandookya Upanishad along with Gaudaapaad Karikas. Study the portions of Prasthaan Traya Bhaashya daily without fail. He has to contemplate on the Hans Tattwa everyday.

As regards the Tarpan to his Dand, 12 Sootra are entwined and tied to the Dand. There is a special Dand Poojaa, Tarpan and Anushthaan to the Agra, Madhya and Adho Bhaag of the Dand with the Bhaavanaa of Brahmaa, Vishnu and Rudra. This Dand is the Upaveet to the Yatee and if lost, they should keep fast, do Praayashchit Jaap, Tarpan till they get the new Dand.

Soot Sanhitaa describes four types of Moksh - Saalokya, Saaroopya, Saameepya, and Saayujya.
Taittireeya Sanhitaa, Aitareya Braahman, Brihadaaranyak Upanishad, and Chhaandogya Upanishad mention these in detail.

But Shankar did what was right and was also according to what Lord Krishn said in the Bhagavad Gita. As regards the Sanyaasee not performing Agni Kaarya, the reason is that they burn themselves in fire when they perform the Aatm Shraaddh, in order to enter the Sanyaas Aashram. They being already within fire need not perform any external fire ritual, but that does not absolve them from doing their mother's last rites, particularly when the mother so desires.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 05/24/13