Monday, 2 January 2012

Sannyäsis, Sädhus, Sants, Gurus, Rishis, Äcäryas

Sannyäsis, Sädhus, Sants, Gurus, Rishis, Äcäryas

People have no clarity about sannyäsis, sädhus and gurus. They have their own ideas how a spiritual person should be. And we have many contemporary spiritual gurus, who run their empire like a corporate office.

Sannyäsi/s – Sannyäsa is a scripturally designated äsrama (a slot in everybody’s lifetime). Hindu scripture/s divides a person’s life into four distinct stages – brahmacarya, grhasta, vänaprastha, and sannyäsa. In old times, everyone eventually graduated to sannyäsa-ashram. Now days, very few, the ones who have the purpose of life (purushärtha-niscaya) clear to them take to Sannyäsa.

Sädhus – The best definition of a Sädhu is one that I heard in one of those channels. One Kathäkar (I recognized him as a Sädhu immediately) said, ‘Sädhu woh häi, jise dekhne se khud sädhu ban jane kä man kare.’ There cannot be a better definition. Nevertheless, sädhus do not ill-will anyone, and live by causing least disturbance to others. Negative examples perhaps will provide some clarity. As a contemporary example, I would consider Anna a sädhu every inch. Description of a few prototypes should clarify:

Yajnavalkya – a Srotriya Brahmanishtha, Caturvedi Äcärya
Sankara Bhagavdpäda – a great philosopher and Äcärya  (Advaita-Äcärya), and of course a Sannyäsi
Meera – a great consummate devotee, a Poet-Saint
Tulsidas – a great devotee, and Poet/Translator/Historian-Saint
Surdas – great devotee and Poet-Saint

Sant/s – ‘Sant’ is a designation given to many devotees, Poet-Saints in the 14th century, during the Bhakti movement that swept India. ‘Sant’ is an honorific title spontaneously given by the people; there is no official cannonization. (Even in Christianity, for centuries, saints were chosen through public opinion. In 10th century, Pope John XV developed an official canonization process. All this btw.). In India, some of the Poet-Saints recognized even by the Government of India are – Surdas, Narasimh Mehta, Mira, Tulsidas, Tukaram, Kabir, Haridas, Tukaram, Samarth Ramdas, Bhadrachal Ramdas, Jnaneswar, Vidyapati and more.

And from the south all the Alwars (including Andal) and Nyanmars. And of course Tyägaraja, Dikshitar,  and Syäma Sästri.

Godman – The scripture/s has/have no definition for this term. So, one who coined the word to describe the self has the responsibility to explain.

Rishis/Seers – are visionaries. There are around 600 Rishis in the Rgveda, (around 27 of them are females). ‘rshati jananti iti rsi’. A Rishi may not be spiritual or an intellectual. He/she visioned some mantras/some thing. A Seer is being able to see something that other people cannot see. Seers did not cease to be after Rgveda compilation was finalized. Pujya Swamiji considers Einstein, Carl Jung (however, not Sigmund Freud) as modern Rshis. All scientific inventors can be termed as Rshis, even if they arrived many discoveries by serendipity. Everybody has this power to see to some extent, and I feel it can be developed to some extent.

Guru – Means a Spiritual Guru, one who shows the path to moksha – freedom. Guru is a co-relative to the term Sishya. Like husband-wife, father-child, mother-child. Therefore, a person is a Guru to his/her disciples only. When a jnäni (wise person) is approached by a jijnäsu (seeker of knowledge) a Guru-Sishya relationship is established. There is no universal Guru, although many carry such a title in their sleeve.

‘gu-käro andhakära vai ru-kära tan-nivartakah’
‘andhakära nirodhitvät gurur-ityabhidhiyate.’

Thus the definition of Guru is ‘gu = darkness’, ‘ru = remover of darkness’. One who removes the darkness (of ignorance) and shows the vastu (the Absolute) alone is a Guru.

Guru title has been adapted by many teachers in dance, music, yoga, marketing, various crafts; and they do not even use the adjective nrtyaguru, sangitaguru, yogaguru, silpaguru. They celebrate ‘Guru Purnimä’ which is in fact ‘Vyäsa Purnimä’ who authored the ‘Brahmasutra’ and is our connection to ‘Brahmajnäna’ sourced to Lord Dakshinämurti. Management people use the adjective. How much of this definition, can be applied to the other fields, one does not know. And to use the sloka  

‘gurur-brahmä  gurur-vishnu gururdevo maheswarah’
‘gurureva parambrahma tasmai srigurave namah’

for all, let the readers decide.

Äcäryas are great scholars in the paramparä, who have commented on the Sruti. Some of the great äcäryas area – Sankara Bhagavadpäda, Sureswara Äcärya, Rämänuja Äcärya, Vedänta Desika.

Sankara Bhagavadpada
Advaita Acarya

(Image - Wiki)

Madhvacarya alias Ananda Tirtha
Dvaita Acarya
(Image - Wiki)

Sri Chaitanya
Acintya Bhed-Abheda Acarya

Scripture/s has categorized three types of Gurus/Äcäryas. In brief they are,

i) Srotriya and Brahmanishtha – One who has listened (not independently studied. ‘ätmaväre srotavyah, not pathitavyah) the Sruti/revealed scripture/s from a Guru/ Äcärya, and who has no doubts about the vastu, and can make another person see/know the vastu. Usually he/she is a Sannyäsi. Sästra directs a seeker to go to a Srotriya-Brahmanishtha. (Mundaka).

ii) Srotriya – One who has listened to the Sruti thoroughly, has much clarity about what Sruti means, and what it does not mean. However, he/she has not been able to own it up. Usually a great non-Sannyasi-scholar, a householder. Sastra recommends going to him/her, in the absence of a Srotriya-Brahmanishtha, since he/she will never misguide the student.

iii) Brahmanishtha – He/she knows the oneness, however does not posses the technical methodology (prakriyä/s) to pass it on to another person. Sästra instructs to revere such a person, get inspired, nevertheless going to a Srotriya-Brahmanishtha, or at least a Srotriya to know the vastu.

I don’t have to tell you who gets the maximum number of following.

 Post Script
--- Some of the crafts taught and still being taught, by a teacher to his disciples, for the learning of a craft requires watching the teacher at work, starting by doing odd, little jobs assigned by the teacher, and then the long practice, abhyäsa, on one’s own. Only after considerable experience, the learner refines his/her art, and then may set up his/her own. We can see this even today in Indian dance, music, and even automobile repair, which must be counted among crafts. The traditional lists, as the Sribasavaräjendra’s list enumerate, history, poetry, calligraphy, metrical compositions, dancing, evaluating precious stones, wrestling, cooking, magic, shoe-making, thieving, iron smithery, painting, gardening, carpentry, hair-dressing, hunting, trading, agriculture, animal husbandry, making medicines, leather work, driving, fishing, speech-making among the crafts.

Other lists add singing, playing musical instruments, preparing manuscripts, garland-making, dyeing, body-care, use of weapons, making moulds, performing pujä (daily worship), inlay work, arranging flowers, preparing scents, bangle-making, stitching, making ornaments, making sweets, home-planning, training animals, training birds, coding, making instruments/machines, training memory, physical exercise and yogic practices. It is easy to see their close relationship with ordinary life. C.f. Indian Knowledge Systems Vol. 1, pg -19, article Indian Knowledge Systems – Nature, Philosophy and Character, Kapil Kapoor, D K Printworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi, 2005


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