Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Sanyasa included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Sanyāsa

(SANNYĀSA) One of the four stages of Brahminical life. The four stages are Brahmacarya (Religious student), Gārhasthya (householder), Vānaprastha (Forest-dweller) and Sannyāsa (hermit or sage). (For further details see under Āśrama).

Duties of a hermit.

Manu has ordained that one should perform sannyāsa (renunciation) at the fourth stage of life renouncing every tie with the world. After becoming a hermit he should travel daily alone. He should enter villages only for food. He should have renounced wealth. He should not acquire any wealth. He should be a sage filled with knowledge. He should have a skull as the pot for taking alms. He should sleep under trees. He should wear poor cloth and should be solitary. He should consider everybody as equal. Having become a hermit he should not delight in death or life.

A hermit should put every step looking straight down to the earth. He should drink water filtered by cloth. Words and deeds should be pure and true. The shells of water-gourd (pumpkin), wooden pots and earthen pots are the Vaiṣṇava sign of hermits. A hermit should beg for food daily from houses where no smoke comes out, where pestle is placed and where there is no charcoal, and after all have taken food and the pot for preparing food is placed upside down.

It is said that the food got by hermits by begging is of five types. They are Mādhūkara (collected alms), asaṃkḷpta (unlimited), Prākpraṇīta (prepared much earlier), Ayācitam (got by not begging) and tātkālika (for the time being). In whichever stage of life he may be, he should be staunch in that stage and should perform the duties with honesty.

If by ignorance a hermit engaged himself in killing animals by day or night, to remove the impurity and get purity, he should bathe and perform six prāṇāyāmas (restraints of the breath) daily. The hermit should discard his body made of five elements.

The signs of duty are, resolution, forbearance, selfrestraint, not robbing, cleansing, control of sense-organs, modesty, knowledge, truth, not resorting to anger, and so on. Hermits are of four grades, such as Kuṭīcaka, Bahūdaka, Haṃsa and Paramahaṃsa, the last-mentioned being the noblest grade. The hermit who wears one or three daṇḍas (rod) will be freed from ties of birth and death.

The five Yamas or restraints are not killing (Ahiṃsā), truth, not stealing, celibacy and not receiving. The five Niyamas or religious duties are cleansing, joy or contentedness, penance, self-study and meditation on God. The sitting postures suitable for hermits are Padmāsana etc. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 161).

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