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Re: Order of sanyasis

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2000 - 11:29:58 PDT

Bala Sundaram writes:
> Respected Swamis:
> 
> A distinquisedspeaker recently gave a lecture in which he said that all 
> sanyasis are grouped in 10 groups. The higest group is called parama hamsa 
> and sanyasis of all other groups have to pay obeisance to the sanyasis in 
> the parama hamsa group. Is this correct?

Dear Sri Balasundaram,

There are two different issues here.  One is the 10-fold grouping, to
which the Sri Vaishnava sannyAsis do not belong, and the 'grading' of
sannyAsis, which is universally accepted, with 'paramahamsa' being the
highest.  The speaker you mention must have only the Advaita tradition
and its rules in mind.

The sannyAsis of the Advaita tradition are classified into 10 groups.
This is known as the dASanAmi tradition, said to be organized by
Sri Sankaracharya himself. You may wish to see the following Web page
for more info:

   http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/ad-today.html

The 10 groups are bhAratI, sarasvatI, sAgara, tIrtha, purI, ASrama, giri, 
parvata, araNya and vana, generally referring to a spot conducive to meditation,
such as a river, mountain, forest, etc. Traditional Advaita sannyasis as 
a rule belong to one of these 10 groups and bear the group's name at the
end of their own.  For example, the the previous maThAdhipati of the Sringeri 
maTha bore the title SrI abhinava vidyA tIrtha.  

Interestingly, for historical reasons, mAdhva sannyAsis nominally belong to 
this classification as well. Sri Madhvacharya's actual name as a sannyAsi was 
SrI Ananda tIrtha.

Neo-Advaita Vedantins such as the Ramakrishna Order, Chinmaya
Mission, etc., have their own initiation procedures and do not
belong to these groups, though they are influenced by them.

All of these sannyAsis abandon the sacred thread, topknot, and
consequently the gAyatrI mantra as part of their initiation rite.

Sri Vaishnava sannyAsis do not belong to the dASanAmi tradition 
and in many cases have different rules.  For example, our sannyAsis
do not abandon the sacred thread or topknot and continue to perform
trikAla-sandhyAvandanam and gAyatrI japa.  There are a wide variety
of texts which govern the life of a sannyAsi, ranging from ancient
Upanishads, more recent Upanishads, dharma-sUtras, smRtis, and Puranas.  
Each tradition of sannyAsis accepts a different subset of these texts as
being authoritative and interprets certain passages differently. Some
of the key ritual differences are outlined by Sri Yadava Prakasa, a 
contemporary of Sri Ramanuja, in the 'yati-dharma-samuccaya', said to be 
written at the acharya's command, and in two vAdas of Sri Desika's 'SatadUSaNi'. 

(The yati-dharma-samuccaya has been translated into English, and is 
 easily available. Please see 
 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0791422844/srivaishnahomepa/102-9296102-2948920
 for more info).

For all practical purposes, all Sri Vaishnava sannyAsis bear the title
'paramahamsa', and most senior, traditional Advaita sannyAsis also do so. 
The rule regarding other groups paying obeisance to the paramahamsas applies 
more to the Advaita tradition.

Mani

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