CONCEPT

 

ASHRAMA SANYASA SANYASIN

 

 

ASHRAMA

The word Ashrama comes from the Sanskrit root srama which means "to toil". The "a" prefix to srama indicates the negative. Therefore, Ashrama means "not to toil".

According to Hinduism, Ashrama has a two-fold meaning. First, it refers to the doctrine of the "four stages of life" viz., Brahacharya (student), Grihasthashrama (householder), Vanaprastha (retirement); and finally, Sanyasa (ascetic). Secondly it refers to a religious hermitage where sages seek to live in peace and tranquility amidst nature.

The word Ashrama is used as a synonym of a Monastery, Math or Mutt, and Mission. Ashramas are monastic institutions. Buddhisam may be considered as the first missionary religion. The Buddhist monks wandered about, preaching and teaching the Dharma. When the monks became aged and ailing, they had to be looked after. Some arrangements should have been made for this. This must have led to the establishment of Ashrams or Monastery.

Traditionally, Ashramas were located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. Spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of Yoga, were regularly performed by the residents of an Ashram. Other sacrifices and penances were also performed. Many Ashrams also served as residential schools for children known as Gurukuls. Today, Ashrams are not necessarily located in remote places. Also it refers to an institution formed primarily for the spiritual uplift of its members, headed by a religious leader.


SANYASA

Sanyasa is philosophy in practice. Philosophy deals with God, man and nature. Who am I? Whence is this? This enquiry leads one to the spiritual substratum called soul or Brahman. What is the relation between Brahman and man, Brahman and nature and man and nature. The search starts with the questions about the phenomenal world. Whence is this? From Brahman, the ultimate cause. Then what is this? Verily all this is Brahman. Then who am I? This soul is Brahman. Then what is the relation between the Brahman behind the universe and the Brahman behind the individual soul? “That tvam asi” (That thou art). Now what is Brahman? Knowledge is Brahman. Now the crowning glory of philosophy, the spiritual illumination comes. Therein the soul experiences its identity with the Over-Soul and exclaims “Aham Brahma asmi” (I am Brahman). Once this experience is gained, one is free from all sorrow and is ever free and that is end aim of Sanyasa.

Ordinarily after renouncing all domestic duties, one performs one’s own funeral rites, does the Vedic sacrifice called the viraj homa and discards the tuft, the sacred thread and the cloth in water or earth. He then uttering the sacred syllable Om, fixing the mind on the inner Self, repeats thrice mentally and vocally; I have renounced, I have renounced, I have renounced. Promising protection to all living being with upraised hands, identifying himself with the Supreme Soul, he should then proceed to north. This is Sanyasa. In olden days men took Sanyasa at the last stage of life. Such monks would naturally be mainly concerned with their own liberation. They might lead solitary lives and pass off.

Sanyasa is of two kinds. Vidwat Sanyasa and Vividisha Sanyasa. Vidwat Sanyasa is a stage of spiritual enlightenment and requires no formality. A man becomes aware of his true Self and becomes indifferent to everything else. He goes out of home, lives on aims and is a beacon light to others. This may happen at any stage of life and no formal preparation is possible for the attainment of such a stage. The Vanaprasta stage, the third stage of the Varna Dharma, may be considered the Vividisha stage. One may out of conviction of the ultimate futility of all worldly pursuits; devote one’s life for spiritual enlightenment. In order to pursue the goal unencumbered, one may take to Sanyasa. This is a sort of apprentice course. This training stage is the Vividisha Sanyasa.

SANYASIN

A Sanyasin is a religious ascetic who has renounced the world by abandoning all claims to social or family standing.  How a man becomes Sanyasin?  Man is spirit embodied.  The body perishes but the spirit persists. Ordinarily, the body dominates the spirit and life is lived mostly on the physical level. Sensual pleasures are the ends that a man on the physical and pleasant sensations enslaves such a man’s life. Man finally finds that they are transient and lead him to destruction. This awareness makes a man to think about the meaning of life. This is a turning point. Once he realizes the vanity of the world, he turns inward into the soul within. This turning back on the world and turning to spirit makes a man Sanyasin.

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