Author Topic: Is external sanyaasa necessary for self-realization? Acharya Sadanandaji  (Read 1774 times)


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By Acharya Sadanandaji

Jnaana yoga and self-realization - I

There have been lot of discussions on bhoutika or external sanyaasa that too parivraajaka sanyaasa (one who does not stay at any place, lest he gets attached to the environment) as essential requirement for self-realization. Here I am presenting my perspective for whatever it is worth. I am presenting what is essential and what is helpful environment for a saadhak, who wants to know. Scripture, yukti and anubhava form the basis for Vedantic analysis.

gRihastha and sanyaasa:  I am going to give a broader definition for the purpose of the analysis. We normally relate gRihastha as an ashrama, who is a house-holder or married person with associated attachments and obligations - obligations set by society and obligations set by Vedas like nityaagni or daily fire-ritual, etc. Thus gruhastha is one who holds on to the house.  In truth, the gruhastha is one whom house has hold, a bahuvRiihi samaasa- the attachments that bind one down to the phenomenal world. We want wealth for our security but now we are worried about security of the wealth. This is true for all things that we depend on. Having a house or wealth etc is not a problem but if they have hold on us we become in stead of masters of the house, slaves of the house. Hence Manu says

sarvam paravasham duHkham sarvam aatmavasham sukham|
etat vidhyaat samaasena lakshaNam sukhaduHkayoH|

Dependence anything outside for our happiness ultimately result in suffering or samsaara while dependence on himself for ones happiness is the true independence and happiness. This in short is the definition of happiness and unhappiness. Hence any dependence other than oneself is samsaara and he is gRihastha. Sanyaasa is then, renounciation of any dependence other than oneself. From this aspect it is not a particular ashram but a particular frame of mind, which may or may not come with change in aashrama and it may be easier to attain in one ashrama than the other.

Whether one agrees or not, many of the traditional Vedic obligations have become moot, due to high population, two-income families, apartment living, extensive travelling for studies and employment, settling in places beyond the seas, and many other constraints. For whatever reason, traditional obligatory duties prescribed by Vedas are rarely followed. I am not a sentimentalist nor I am not interested in why people do not do or cannot do the Veda vihita karmaas, but only interested in how to gain self-realization with all the constraints of the times and place.   Some feel that there will be pratyavaaya paapam (sin due to omission while no merits for commission), if these obligatory duties are not done. From my understanding, these karmas are all helpful in chitta suddhi or purification of the mind. Before putting cart in front of horse, the essential requirement for jnaana as emphasized by Shankara is chitta suddhi or purity of the mind measured by the four-fold qualifications. All aashrams or change of aashram is ultimately to attain this. Chitta suddhi or purification of the mind makes one qualified for jnaana yoga.  That a particular karma or particular renunciation of karma are pre-requisites for chitta suddhi is against the fundamental teaching of advaita as Shankara exhaustively analyzed in his bhaasya of B. Sutra I.  What are actions, inactions in actions, and unactions are explained by Krishna in Ch. 4, as introduction to jnaana yoga. The renunciation based on this chapter is what is needed and it involves change in the attitude in saadhak towards any action. One who does not act while dynamic action is going on and not the one who renounces the action or who understands that he is the witnessing consciousness witnessing the dynamic activities at the level of BMI is a true sanyaasi, since he has renounced the notion that I am a doer.

Sanyaasin is a renounciate and traditionally it involves renouncing from other the three aashramas to become a parivraajaka. There are different sanyaasas discussed but in essence all involves renunciation. With the renunciation from other ashramas, a sanyaasin is also relieved from the obligatory duties of the previous ashrama and embarks the duties of the sanyaasa ashrama. Traditionally gRihasthas as well as kings use to support the sanyaasa aashrama, now along with the changes in the other ashrams, the parivraajaka aspect of the sanyaasa ashrama is mostly gone, and sanyaasins also need support to maintain them selves. Each sanyaasin has to built up his own infrastructure or belong to some organization that has infra structure for his own maintenance that is for food-shelter-clothing etc. With the required infrastructure they essentially are gRihasthas in expanded version of the meaning of the word, with belongingness to the mission or ashrama with disciples or a member-roaster for support.  We can see these in all maThaas or any missions, with organizational structure. It is not a criticism but recognition of fact. This is unavoidable.  There is inclusivity and exclusivity that can arise with the infra structure build-up with energy dissipation in terms of attachments.  It is not that a sanyaasin gets attached to his infrastructure nor a gRihasthi cannot get detached from his infrastructure while living in their environment.   We cannot make any sweeping statements that it is not possible for gRihastas to realize and we do not have janakaas in today's world.  It depends on the individual's desire or goal in life and commitment to it. Since his obligations are less, it is easier for a sanyaasin to develop a mind free from psychological attachments, compared to a gRihastha. A sanyaasin can get attached to his own koupiinam or loin cloth; as someone jokingly said, there is no problem if koupiinam is attached to him but problem comes if he is attached to his koupiinam.  In essence, attachments and aversions or raaga and dvesha can arise in any aashrama. What is to be strived for is chitta suddhi - or purity of the mind free from these attachments and aversions.

In essence, the traditional meanings, situations and obligations of both gRihasthaas and sanyaasins have changed with desha and kaala - with times and place.

Scripture says only by tyaaga or sanyaasa or by renunciation one can gain immortality - tyaagenaike amRitatvamaanasuH. amRitatvam or immortality is the same as self-realization, according to advaita, since self is immortal. Truly, I cannot renounce what I do not own. However, ownership of anything is only a notion; since in reality, I do not even own the body, mind and intellect (BMI) as they belong to prakRiti. Body is 'this', an object, and 'I am' is the subject. Therefore 'I am this' is a notion but taken as real due to lack of discrimination of what is subject and what is an object.  'I am this' is the essence of ego. This is mine follows after I am this. Hence ownership itself is a notion, if one understand correctly.  If I understand that the ownership is only notional, I have already given up my attachments to the BMI. Truly, that understanding comes only when I realize that I am 'pure self' that is of the nature of sat-chit-ananda. This happens only by dropping intellectually the 'this' part in 'I am this', with recognizing, 'I am not this, I am not this', neti neti.  It is not giving the body or pancha koshaas but giving up the notion that I am this. That sanyaasa is essential for self-realization not the external giving up the panchakoshaas where I reside or the external environments where I reside. Hence giving up the ownership involves understanding that the ownership itself is only notional and not real, and that comes with jnaanam.

Thus we have a catch 22 situation - scripture says unless I give up my ownership to everything I cannot become immortal. However the very giving up the ownership involves understanding that I am pure self and everything else is non-self. Non-self (anaatma) is not real, since scriptures say that the self that I am is anantam or infinite, and hence there is nothing real other than the self. Hence everything else is only anaatma or it is mithyaa only. Hence renunciation involves understanding that I am pure self, and that itself is self-realization. It is the renunciation of the notion 'I am this'. If this is not done, any other renunciation is only notional, since in the process of giving up, I am giving up things that do not belong to me. I am not this - neti neti is the renunciation that is involved in the statement tyaagenaike amRitatvamaanasuH - where I am giving up the notion that I am 'this', where this involves objectification - that includes the whole universe that comes under this - not just some ashrama or adopting one way of life by giving up some other way of life. However, giving up attachments is not easy. Hence as preparatory for the mind, it should start physically and mentally give up the notion of ownership. The best way to give up is to offering to God - iswaraarpita buddhi - or nivedana buddhi. What is offered is naivedyam and with His blessings it becomes prasaadam that need to be shared with everyone. tvadiiyam vastu Govinda tubhyameva samarpaye - Oh Lord this is yours only, but I am offering it to you since I have a notion that this is mine. Naivedyam includes not just some food that is offered but everything else- Hence Krishna says "yat karoshi yat ashnaasi yajjuhoshi dadaasi yat| yat tapasyasi kounteya tatkurushva madarpaNam|| Whatever you do, eat, sacrifice, offer as gift, perform as austerity, Oh Arjuna", do this as dedication to Me. This is required to change the attitude of the mind in terms of ownership. True renunciation comes when one recognizes that everything is nothing but LORD only - there is nothing to give or nothing to own - but something to understand.

Then how do I give up notional ownership? Any notion can only be given up by clear understanding the problem in perspective. That requires jnaana as saadhana until jnaanam takes place. That is the essence of jnaana yoga. It has nothing to do with a particular ashrama but it has everything to do with giving up the attachments and aversions or raaga dveshas recognizing that they are the cause of human suffering or samsaara. Hence Krishna mentions several values in Ch. 13 that mind needs in order to overcome these attachments and aversions. Krishna provides a long list of values starting from amaanitvam (humility), adambitvam (without haughtiness), ahimsa (non-violence) , shanti (peacefulness), arjavam (straightforwardness), aachaaryopaasanam (devotion to the teacher), soucham (purity), sthairyam (persistence), aatma vinigraham (self-control - shama etc), indriyaartheshu vairaagyam (dispassion towards sense-objects), anahankaaram (ego-less-ness), janma mrityu jaraa vyaadhi duHkha dosha anudarshanam (recognition of sufferings in birth, death, old age, disease), asakti (detachment) and anabhiswangaH putra-daara gruhaadhishu (unattachments to son, wife, house, etc), nityam ca samachittatvam ishTa-anishTa upapattiShu (equanimity all the time for pleasant and unpleasant), mayi ca ananyayogena avyabhichaariNii bhakti (single pointed devotion towards Me without any other diversion), vivikta desha sevitvam (seeing solitariness) , aratiH janasamsadi (aversion to crowds), adhyaatma jnaana nityatvam (always after spiritual knowledge), tatva jnaanaartha darshanam (clear understanding of the truth), etc. Having these values is the mark of chitta suddhi and itself is the jnaana saadhana, says Krishna. It is not the aashrama but it is these values required for chitta suddhi (purified mind) that gives chitta ekaagrata (single pointedness) and chitta vishaalata (expansion of the mind to include the whole universe).

In this list we have also putra daara gruha aadishu anabhishwangam (lack of intense longingness for one's son, wife and house) that is indicating all those who depend on him and in those that he depends on - not just son, wife or house per se. That is the lack of the notion of any ownership or dependency. Hence, in principle, a gruhastha is one who has that attachment that this is mine or mamakaraa which goes with ahankaara as I am this. Thus essential two aspects are I am this and this is mine 'ahankaara and mamakaara' all the rest follows from these two. We can now define who is a gRihastha - One who has these two, ahankaara and mamakaara - I am this and this is mine - the contents of 'this' include whatever one feels as his. A sanyaasin, therefore, is one who drops those attachments of I and mine. This can be done only by attaching oneself to something higher. Hence here Krishna says that higher is Him - hence mayi ananya yogena avyabhicaara bhakti - that is single pointed unwavering devotion towards Me, the self in all. That can happen only if one has intense desire for aadyaatma jnaanam which involves shravana, manana, and nidhidyaasana to gain the clear vision of the reality - tattvajnaartha darshanam - which can be gained only by the study of the Vedanta under a competent teacher with devotion or what Krishna calls as aacharya upaasanam, that involves discipleship to gain the knowledge. That knowledge will not take place unless the mind is purified with other qualities that were listed - amaanityam etc where the mind is humble enough to learn when the teaching is given.

One can follow the tradition and take up sanyaasa aashram, in order to minimize possessions, obligations, relations and transactions (what Swami Paramarthanadaji calls as PORT), remembering that there is an unavoidable infrastructure there too and to insure one does not get attached to that by giving up one set of attachments to another. Parivraajaka, one who does not stay in one place to avoid attachments, is mentioned but that is not possible in the current environmental set-up. In all these, ultimately what is to be given up is not the ashrama per se but notions of I am this and this is mine. Hence Krishna's emphasizes as anahankaaram - egotistical notion that involves I am this or I have this-  In the above sloka it is dhaarmic ego that is given up while Vedantic 'I am this' is given up or can be given up only with the clear understanding of I am 'sat chit ananda swaruupam'.

Hari Om!

« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 09:17:52 AM by Dr. Sadananda »