Sw: What do you do at Sagara?
me: I'm on a break for adhyAtmika chintana.
Sw: There has to be some earnings while you do that, right?
me: Yes, but its unfair to earn if one can't deliver work to meet at least the earnings. I was unable to work with my bent of mind towards advaita vedanta.
Sw: If you're not taking sannyAsa, then there has to be some earning to support you.
me: I plan to earn on need basis. Its a middle path to develop chitta shuddhi. Without that, our maThas disapprove taking to sannyAsa.
Sw: Chitta shuddhi will increase as you continue on the path.
me: Hmm, yes. I don't even dare to touch Shankara bhashya without chitta shuddhi. In fact, Sringeri's maThAdipati had said that studying Vedanta without initiation into sannyAsa is disapproved.
Sw: Its not that sannyAsa is necessary for moksha. One can get moksha even if one doesn't take sannyAsa. Its just that sannyAsa speeds up the process. Moha kshaya is moksha. That can be done in any of the four ashrams/ stages in life.
me: Sringeri maTha doesn't even initiate anyone other than the successor to the peeTha and that person has to be necessarily a brahmachAri.
me: From your side of maThas, there's one Swamiji... I forget his name now; he's not a sannyAsi, but he's taught many sannyAsis.
Sw: Siddheshwar Swamiji?
me: Yes! I've heard his recorded lectures. I've been wanting to meet Siddheshwar Swamiji, but have never been able to. Where is he these days?
Sw: Its very difficult to say about his whereabouts, he's always on the move with programmes fixed well in advance.
me: I met one young sannyAsi who was at Rishikesh to learn Hindi. He was one of Siddheshwar Swamiji's favorites in the former's childhood. He'd even given me a phone no to call up and enquire anytime of Swamiji's whereabouts. Unfortunately, I've not been able to do so.
Sw: He's a rare person who goes around delivering discourses, but doesn't ever take a penny for them. Except for his stay in the premises where he resides, he accepts nothing else. When people send money to him, he sends them back. There are others who ask him why he sends the money back, its useful for ashram.
me: Even our Sridhara Swamiji did not join any ashram; he was offered the Sringeri peeTha by Sw. Abhinava Vidya Tirtha, but he refused it.
Sw: In fact, maThAdipatis of places like Sringeri have restricted movement. They have to think of so many things before they can act. Siddheshwar Swamiji is totally free. Even we here are a little free, but not Sringeri peethAdipati. They have to follow ashram rules as made socially too.
me: Ramana Maharshi used to sit in the hall meeting people throughout the day or night. Except when he was using the bathroom, he would be available for darshan. Ashramites fixed darshan timings fearing his health, but Maharshi would sit outside locked hall's doorsteps and say something like: “its your ashram, you can lock doors, but I will not deny darshan to anyone who wants to meet me at any hour.”
Sw: At different times, various rules have been formed for various reasons. For example, even women study not only Vedanta, but they perform Veda yaj~nas now, don't they? Its only during the few days of the month that they do not perform rituals.
me: Even so, they are disapproved in our maThas. Moreover, just as Vedanta chintana has to be continuous, so too, Vedas are to be memorized with continuous effort; and such continuous effort is not possible during those few days of the month. Also, if I'd a sister or daughter to take to get Vedic education, none of our maThas will entertain her.
Sw: Shruti has nothing about such disapprovals, only Smritis do. Smritis were formed much later. They were perhaps done to protect Vedas from invaders and things like that.
me: The tradition may have changed to best fit times, but we need to follow whatever tradition exists at the time. Dharmo rakshati rakshitaH. The tradition is meant to be followed.
Sw: In Shrutis, we find examples of Yaj~navalka, Gargi...
me: ...er, Maitreyi... Gargi
Sw: Yes, Maitreyi, Gargi. Even a grihasta couple is to perform the yaj~nas together, half the resultant fruit goes to the wife.
Sw: Not only that, if the husband has gone out, the agnihotra fire has to be kept alive by the wife all by herself.
Sw: Even in Ramayana... Tulsi Ramayana, its said that when Rama had sent Sita to the forest and had to perform a yAga, he had to build an idol of Sita to sit beside him in the ritual.
me: Pardon me, Swamiji, but in all the examples you've given, its always “the wife being with the husband” or “in the absence of husband”. There is no example in the Shruti of a lady performing the yaj~na alone, right?
Sw: True, but look at Vedanta: Maitreyi.
me: Again, there too, Yaj~navalkya teaches Maitreyi, its not she alone. (There may be rare exceptions, of course). Taking to vAnaprastha with the wife is approved.
Sw: I just brought it up since you linked sannyAsa and study of Vedanta.
Sw: In Shankara Bhashyas, its said about a shudra and Vedas that molten lead should be poured in his ears...
me: I don't think its in Shankara Bhashyas...
Sw: Its in the bhashyas...
me: May be Acharya quotes Manu, its in Manu Smriti...
Sw: ... anyway, by shudra it is meant, someone who is not qualified, who has no capability to understand Veda/ Vedanta, such a person is a shudra.
me: yes, yes.
(We took his leave, step outside...)
JM: He's a PhD, right?
me: I don't know!
JM: All of the people from this maTha are qualified, PhDs mostly. Come, lets ask.
(... and we reenter)
JM: Sw, I wanted to ask something.
Sw: Come in.
JM: Is it that your maTha initiates only PhDs for the peeTha?
JM: All of the ones I know were highly qualified. Is it a must?
Sw: No, its true that earlier Sw. was a PhD.
JM: (Quoting another)
Sw: Yes, he too. I've a B.Ed... it has just so happened, but such qualification is not important. Only adhyAtmika study and anubhava is seen.
me: In our maThas, people are initiated into sannyAsa in childhood straight from brahmacharya or much later in old age. For the middle age, if people want to take to sannyAsa, they are to join the ashram as a brahmachAri and then after many years, they are initiated into sannyAsa. Is it the same in your ashrams?
Sw: Yes, that is mostly so for a reason. There has to be some adhyAtmika study and understanding before taking to sannyAsa. It can't just be that one fine day someone quits from worldly life and comes straight to sannyAsa. There have been examples such as Vidyabhushana or even one last year: a kid was forcibly initiated into sannyAsa by a Raghavendra maTha Swamiji; that didn't work well.
me: Yes, true.
Sw: There are places that initiate people from any age group into sannyAsa, but it may not be from same lineage.