World Renunciation and Yoga


World Renunciation: Sanyasa

1.      General features

a.       Action leads to rebirth and suffering

b.      Detachment from action, or even non-action, leads to spiritual emancipation

c.       Complete detachment, and therefore spiritual emancipation can be achieved through asceticism and methods of making consciousness focused and concentrated

2.      Orthodox renunciation

a.       Alone or in small itinerant groups

b.      Homeless except during the monsoon, dress in ochre robe or go naked

3.      Ritual of renunciation: from ritual to non-ritual state, action to non-action.  Takes fire into himself, gives up old clothes, offers sacred thread into the fire.

a.       Waistband, loincloth and ochre robe, staff, water pot and begging bowl.  Some remain naked

b.      In some rituals: symbolic performance of own funeral.  Burning ritual implements.  At death not cremated but body placed in sacred river or buried upright in special tomb.

4.      Later orders:

a.       Sadhus (good men) and sadhvis (good women): live life alone on edges of society, by sacred rivers, wild places such as mountainous areas or cremation grounds

b.      Ochre robes, naked, covered with ash, shaven heads, matted hair

c.       Some joint communities of renouncers in hermitages (ashrams) or monasteries

d.      Some focused on particular deities like Siva or Vishnu

5.      Asceticism performed to cultivate inner heat (tapas) in order to attain liberation.  Severe penances.  Practice of yoga



1.      The Upanishads develop notion of discriminative knowledge (jnana). Yoga is a means to this.

2.      Yoga: from yuj ‘to control’, ‘to yoke’ or ‘unite’.  Unite the self with the Supreme

a.       Technologies or disciplines of asceticism and meditation which are thought to lead to spiritual experience and profound understanding or insight into the nature of existence.

b.      The means whereby the mind and senses can be restrained, limited and empirical self or ego (ahamkara) can be transcended and the self’s true identity eventually experienced.

3.      Three features:

a.       Consciousness can be transformed through focusing attention on a single point

b.      The transformation of consciousness eradicates limiting, mental constraints or impurities such as greed and hate

c.       Yoga is a discipline, or range of disciplines, constructed to facilitate the transformation of consciousness


4.      An Esoteric Anatomy

a.       A subtle body with centers or ‘wheels’ (cakra) along which flows the energy, or life-force (shakti), which animates the body

b.      Kundalini (esp. later Tantrism): shakti present in the person, coiled and dormant snake at base of trunk.  Uncoils through cakras to crown of the head.

c.       Three channels of energy: central channel, trunk to head = vertical axis; two channels on left and right, from nostrils to base.  Kundalini awakened rises up central channel, piercing the centers


  1. Sanyasa
  2. Sanyasi
  3. Sadhu/Sadhvi
  4. Yoga
  5. Samadhi
  6. Kundalini



1.      Describe the general features of sanyasa

2.      How does yoga serve the ultimate aims of the sanyasi?

3.      How are consciousness and shakti (life force) manipulated in yogic practice?