Sannyasa is a universal tradition representing the original thoughts of humanity. Sannyasa Darshancovers the ancient and modern sannyasa tradition of renunciation and dedication to spiritual life.
This book discusses the sannyasa lineage, including the origins of sannyasa the ashrama system, stages of sannyasa traditional rules and requirements as well modern concept of sannyasa as it has evolved and is being lived today. Detailed accounts of the life work and teachings of four major pathfinders in the sannyasa lineage: Sage Dattatreya, Adi Shankaracharya, Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda Saraswati are also presented.
Translations of five Sannyasa Upanishads: Kundikopanishad, Bhikshukopanishad, Avadhootopanishad Paramahamsa Parivrajakopanishad and Nirvanopanishad (with commentary by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati) comprise the final section of the book.
The sannyasa tradition should not be confused with any from of organized religion. The concept and aim of sannyasa predates every kind of religion in existence in the world today. Sannyasa is not just an Indian tradition but a universal tradition which represents the original spiritual thoughts of humanity. Prior to the advent and organization of religions such as Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, people had their views about spiritual life. In every culture there have been people who had spiritual experiences and who have thought about spiritual life and values, and along with these thoughts different systems of understanding spirituality arose.
From the beginning man has believed in the existence of the soul and so the question has arisen as to what happens after death. This question has led people to investigate many areas of thought and belief and thus the different cultures have devised their own ways for the attainment of realization. Despite the diversities in each culture, certain common ideas about spirituality are found which have linked the spiritual thoughts together. The common ideas are contemplation, introspection, faith, prayer, devotion and self-study. These concepts and ideas gave birth to different meditative techniques, which suites the people of each culture.
In order to follow a life of contemplation meditation self-study and analysis people had to disassociate themselves from external distractions and go and live in the seclusion of forests of jungles, where they were free to follow their own pursuits. In the course of time, groups of such people became known by many different names. One common name was 'mystic'. We find the same link in the Essene, Celtic, Taoist and other traditions of the past. So the pursuit of spiritual experience is the basic desire of humanity. The discovery of the self the experience of the divine power and the awakening of the dormant potential of the personality are ideas which have always attracted people.
Powerful people like Christ, Mohammed and Buddha were able to translate the age-old tradition into the current languages of those days, with the idea of increasing spiritual awareness within the social framework. Their thoughts and interpretation of spiritual experience according to the social context gave birth to many new philosophies. Later on their ideas were given the structure of a religion by heir followers. In order not to deviate from the spiritual tradition religion was further divided into two groups one which could be followed by ordinary people and another which could be followed preserved and propagated by a select group of monks. That is the from of religion which we find today.
The sannyasa tradition however has always remained very aloof from and opposed to such kinds of religions influence. There have been many saints and sages who with their experience understanding and exposition could have created new philosophies and religions but did not wish to alienate themselves from the mainstream of spiritual thought. Such examples are found in the Indian tradition of spirituality. The Vedas Upanishads and other systems of Indian thoughts such as Samkhya, Nyaya, Mimamsa and Tantra, reflect the depth of understanding of such seers and saints. At the end of their spiritual quest they have all voiced the same opinion and have insisted, "Let our ideas not become a religion rather let them be incorporated in the spiritual thought of humanity." Therefore, when we speak of the sannyasa tradition we are not talking about an order which adheres tone particular system of thought but which has maintained and transmitted a collection of many experiences and teachings which has come down known as Hinduism but in actual truth there is no such thing as Hinduism.
Previously sannyasins were known as mystics or hermits those who led secluded lives in order to delve into the higher dimensions of consciousness. The whole concept of sannyasa is represented in the word swami which means 'master of the self'. Asannyasin must attain that mastery. For those who sincerely follow the sannyasa system, it is a very tough life. There is a saying from the Katha Upanishad that the life of a sannyasin is like walking on a razor's edge one false step and you fall and cut yourself. This Upanishadic idea points out the necessity of a very disciplined harmonious and integrated lifestyle within the framework of sannyasa.
The later religions have a connection with the sannyasa tradition and this is reflected in their teachings on continence prayer compassion and leading a secluded reflective life. Of course the actual system according to each line basic principles of sannyasa in every religion and culture.
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