Sri Kamakoti Mandali  
shrImAtre namaH  
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Yati Dharma and Tantra

 

[Query] Why do sannyasis need these tantreeka procedures?

shrImAtre namaH

In this question, I see an assumption that the sannyAsins are infallible and perfect and require nothing. This seems to work very differently in practice. From the view of a person belonging to the first three Ashramas, the yati is always of the svarUpa of nArAyaNa and commands a respect befitting the Lord.

dve rUpe vAsudevaysa charaM chAcharameva cha |
charaM sannyAsinAM rUpamacharaM pratimAdikam || [vyAsaH]

However, would it be realistic to expect the yati to actually lift govardhana like our bAla gopAla? Yatis practice shrIchakrArchana, various japas etc. But what really is yati dharma?

The definition of a parivrAjaka is as below:

paribhogAt paricChedAt paripUrNAvalokanAt |
paripUrNaphalatvAccha parivrAjaka uchyate || [parAsharaH]

Now, who can take sannyAsa?

dakshalakShaNakaM dharmamanutiShThan samAhitaH |
vedAntAn vidhivat shrutvA sannyasedanR^iNo dvijaH || [manuH]

And what is this dharma with dasha lakShaNas?

dhR^itiH kShamA damo.asteyaM shauchamindriyanigrahaH |
hrIrvidyA satyamakrodho dashakaM dharmalakShaNam || [dakShaH ]

The scripture defines elsewhere, when really one can be called a sannyAsin:

ahamevAkSharaM brahma vAsudevAkhyamavyayam |
iti bhAvo bhavedyasya tadA bhavati bhaikShabhuk || [kratuH]

The various phalas ascribed to sannyAsa are attained only when these criteria are truly met. Though most of us are not really eligible to question the yatis, how many yatis today really satisfy these criteria and hence are eligible for the various sanctions allotted to true yatis? As stated earlier, other Ashramas are not eligible to do such enquires and we shall leave this Atmachintana to the Yatis.

Sannyasins are of four types:

1. kuTIchaka
2. bahUdaka
3. hamsa
4. paramahamsa

Based on the intensity of vairAgya, a yati can adopt one of the four, paramahamsa being the highest:

viraktishcha dvidhA proktA tIvrA tIvratareti cha |
satyAmeva tu tIvrAyAm nyasedyogI kuTIchake ||
shakto bahUdake tIvratarAyAm haMsasaMj~nite |
mumukShuH parame haMse sAkShAdvij~nAnasAdhane ||

A kuTIchaka resides in his own house, under the care of his eldest son or bandhus, seeking alms from relatives or from his own house. A bahUdaka is similar to a kuTIchaka but does not live with his family or relatives or in his own house. He is more of a wandering monk.

bahUdakaH sa vij~neyaH sarvasa~NgavivarjitaH |
bandhuvarge na bhikSheta svabhUmau naiva saMvishet ||

Sannyasins belonging to both these categories keep shikhA, yaj~nopavIta and recite Savitri:

shikhA-yaj~nopavItI syAt tridaNDI sakamaNDaluH |

These two perform Savitri japa during sandhyA:

svAdhyAyaM chAnvahaM kuryAt sAvitrIM sandhyayorjapet |

devatArAdhanA is also prescribed for these two categories:

shikhAyaj~nopavItI syAt devatArAdhanam charet |

dhyAyIta devamekAnte satataM parameshvaram | [ityanyatra]

Realization of the resplendent self is not the chief objective of these two, but this stage of sannyAsa is more of a purificatory stage or rather an obligatory progression from the previous three Ashramas. This is noted not only by bhagavAn vyAsa but also by shrI vidyAraNya in his precious work, jIvanmuktiviveka. Hence, virakti is only tIvra here. It is for these two categories that devatArAdhanA and japa are prescribed primarily. This becomes clear by understanding the definition of the three danDas borne by these sannyAsins:

vAgdaNDashcha mano daNDo karmadaNDastathaiva cha |
yasyaite niyatA buddhau sa tridaNDIti chochyate ||

The chief objective of these two stages of sannyAsa is the three-fold mastery over speech, mind and actions/body. The procedure to control these faculties is also specifically described:

vAgdaNDo maunameva syAt karmadaNDastvanIhatA |
manasasya tu daNDasya svarUpaM prANasaMyamaH ||

Silence, dispassion or indifference to the external world and prANasaMyama are the prescribed ways. As kamalAkara notes, japa and devatArAdhana also facilitate one or all of these. Japa again, is of sAvitri and not of any other mantra.

The lakShaNa for hamsa sannyAsa is described below:

haMsastR^itIyo vij~enyo bhikShurmokShaparAyaNaH |
vR^ikShamUle vasennityaM guhAyAM va sarittaTe ||

He cannot reside anywhere continuously for more than a given period:

grAmatIrthaikarAtrashcha nagare pa~ncharAtrakAH |

Regarding his possessions, it is said:

kaupInayugalaM vAsaH kanthAm shItanivAraNam |
pAduke cha pragR^ihNIyAt vaiNavaM daNDamavraNam ||

Regarding a paramahamsa, atri says:

kaupInayugalam kanthA daNDa eka parigrahaH |
yateH paramahamsasya nAdhikam tu vidhIyate ||

The difference between the two, apart from the intensity of virakti, is also the motivation or attitudes, which are differently described as vividisha and vidvat sannyasas. Krama mukti is the fruit of hamsa sannyAsa whereas jIvanmukti is the fruit for paramahamsa sannyAsa. The observance for both these are however clear:

shravaNAdirataH shuddho nidhidhyAsanatatparaH |
brahmabhAvena saMpUjya brahmANdamakhilaM sthitaH ||
AtmatR^iptashchAtmaratiH samaloShThAshmakA~nchanaH |
tattvaMpadArthabodhAccha viShNurUpaH svayaM sadA ||

There is no other practice prescribed for these Yatis.

The same is reiterated by parAshara as well:

tatra paramahaMsA ekadaNDadharA muNDAH amamA aparigrahA apayaj~nopavItino j~nAnayaj~nopavItinaH brahmaniShThA AtmaratA AtmatR^iptA AtmAnaM sarvaM pashaynta etc.

The reason these pramANas were quoted was to point that there is no "prescribed" need for upAsanA of shrIvidyA etc., or even for elaborate pUjas and homas by the sannyasins. When performed, it may be generally for the well-being of shiShyas etc., though there is no real shAstra pramANa for these. But shAstras are many, and so are the interpretations. When the four AmnAya pIThas, which are generally known for strict adherence to shAstras, practice and preach something, it may be understood as having a scriptural sanction and incorporation of such elements would only be beneficial for spiritual progress. The AmnAya maThas also are bounded by maThAmnaya shAsanas which allocate visheSha dharmas to these yatis, apart from the sAmAnya dharma discussed in the Smrtis. Most upAsanA Kramas like shrIvidyA etc., as practiced in Sringeri or Kanchi Mutts, are not really shAkta upAsana to be technically correct but rather a part of worship of pancha devatas, one of who is paradevatA. The techniques employed may be from varied sources but the approach is in line with Shankara's philosophy. There is absolutely no concept of 36 Tattvas, pariNAma, bhedAbheda etc. However, it has been a trend where the shiShya varga of these monasteries adopt shrIvidyAdi shAkta matas primarily, with its scope blown much out of proportion than what was originally taught by the AchAryas. Then there is confusion trying to reconcile the differences between these two significantly different schools of thought, as tantra, for some unknown reason, always needs to be packaged differently for mainstream consumption. The AchAryas are very clear about the shAkta practices and their scope as aligned to AchArya bhagavatpAda's philosophy, but the confusion is only among those who fail to see this clearly. shrIvidyA is no different or of greater importance to the Acharyas than panchAkSharI japa or rudra japa.

The actual practice of shAkta samayAchAra is seen among smArtas like lakShmIdhara, vedAraNya, bhArgava sharman etc., who have commented on the shubhAgama panchaka and preserved this tradition. As samayAchAra is described as avadhUtendra charyA etc. by Vasistha, the practice of some of the great avadhUtas of shAnkara sampradAya may be called samayAchAra logically. From what I know of various AchAryas of Sringeri Sharada Peetham, though great jIvanmuktas, not all or most of them actually adopted the path of samayAchAra [involving specific techniques such as aikya vimarsha, mahAshAmbhava vedha, rashmi sankalana in maNipUraka etc.] which are more characteristic of the actual shAkta samayAchArins like lakShmIdhara etc. The path of the AchAryas has always been Atma vichAra and the upadeshAdikas of shrIvidyA etc., are for chitta shuddhi alone.

That said, the association of AchArya bhagavatpAda with shAkta shrIvidyA sampradAya does not seem to be a recent phenomenon. Doubts regarding this association, from the insiders who like to avoid tantra and the outsiders who want to keep the “purists” at bay, often surface. But, for an actual upAsaka, these doubts do not matter, as the association of the great Acharya with tantra in general and shrIvidyA in particular, is not an alien concept, as also for most of the ordinary devout crowd. Also, various elements of tantra are adopted in worship not only by the shankaraite monasteries but also by smArtas who know nothing of tantra. For example, the pUjA krama followed in Sringeri is based on kalpa sUtra, which prescribes the use of left hand for tarpaNa. This practice has been modified lately based on the pramANa in dakShiNAmUrti samhitA which recommends the use of dakSha hasta for both. When my Guru sought advice in this regard, H H Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati said: "When you are following the pramANa of kalpasUtra, how can you selectively not choose this particular aspect? When following something, follow it completely without mix and match". Our Guru taught us the same procedure, which is not considered appropriate by many dAkshiNAtya upAsakas. When there are different pramANas which seem contradictory, sampradAya is the guideline which helps one choose the right pramANa. After all, ekaM sadviprA bahudhA vadanti!

The association of other shAnkaraite monasteries with shrIvidyA and shAkta practices are much stronger than in Sringeri or Kanchi. One lineage quotes the following pramANa, which is followed earnestly to the current day, by the Yatis:

mUrdhAbhiShiktAstrividhAH tathA siMhAsanaM tridhA |
rAjyasiMhAsanaM chaiva bhAShyasiMhAsanaM tathA ||
mantrasiMhAsanaM cheti trividhaM nirmitaM purA |
kR^itarAjyAbhiShekashcha kR^itasUtrAbhiShechanam ||
pAdukAntabhishekashcha tridhA te kathitA bhuvi |
bAlAdi pAdukAntAnAm mantrANAM japamuttamam || etc.

One of my teachers, before entering avadhUtAshrama, adopted sannyAsa from dvArakA maTha lineage of shrI padmapAdAcharya, where the practice is to give not only pAdukAnta dIkshA before sannyAsa but the entire set of shrIkula Krama dIkshA ending with mahAsAmrAjya medhA. The highly guarded text of yati daNDaishvarya vidhAna, believed in this lineage to be a work of bhagavatpAda [at least in parts] is considered as mukhya pramANa by Yatis of the lineage and the same is taught to householder disciples with the exception of pAramahamsya dharma. Some Sannyasis in Nepal also belong to this tradition. Now, having seen the level of realization of the saints in this lineage, their remarkable Siddhis and unmistakable divinity, as also the tremendous benefit and bliss obtained by this practice, there remains no further doubt or the need to convince oneself if this indeed is the original teaching of Shankara, if it is in line with Advaita or if it is mishrAchara. Experience is the final pramANa and till that is attained, everything else is just hearsay. It is however of practical value to firmly adhere to the teachings of Guru, whose varaNa is done strictly based on the characteristics listed in the shAstras. Now, a Sadguru can never state something contradictory to the shastra, period! The only thing to note here is that different lineages may adopt different shAstras as pramANa. Someone else may regard kalpasUtra as pramANa and I may accept brahmANDa purANA or paramAnanda tantra. When speaking of two different lineages, two different approaches, it may be rather difficult to have a completely common ground. But as long as both have valid pramANas, not necessarily acceptable to each other, but valid when seen impartially and without too much of analysis on 'evolution' of these pramANas, there should be no further need for bickering. Of course, the case is totally different when there is absolutely no shAstra pramANa whatsoever and New Age concoction is forced down the throat with no associated logic. It is such activity that is deplorable and deserving of greater criticism.

Coming back to your question, after a considerably long association with four important monasteries in the South, and two in the North/West, my observation is that various tAntrika homas are a norm in these institutions. Probably, Sringeri is the place where the practice is least observed. Also, as stated before, all Yatis are not Super-men who are beyond everything. They may be better than us ignorant men, but they have their own shortcomings. Those, whose vairAgya is not udaranimitta, take up various practices for spiritual progress and there seems to be absolutely no harm in it, when seen practically. A certain head of a Mutt named Y, a scholar par excellence and also high on vairAgya, developed a sudden fear. This was the result of the death of his close confidant, also an acquaintance of mine, who, the seer thought, was the victim of a prayoga. The great difficulty in this case was that the person who was supposedly performing the prayoga against the seer and the monastery was from my own lineage. The case reached mahAsannidhAnam of Sringeri, who, in his characteristic style, quoted a verse from atmavidyAvilAsa and said, rAmam bhaja [the deity of this mutt is shrIrAma]. But can fear be subdued so easily before complete indriya nigraha is attained? We had to perform various counter prayogas, like aShtamukha nR^ihari, sashaktika vAmana and of course, the sweet idiot, ucChiShTa gaNapati. Heaven knows whether there really was a prayoga, but these rituals brought peace to the seer and his disciples and restored balance.

kulaM kechitprAhurvapurakulamanye tava budhAH
pare tatsambhedaM samabhidadhate kaulamapare |
chaturNApayeShAmupari kimapi prAhurapare
mahAmAye tattvaM tava kathamamI nishchinumahe ||