The word Sanyasa comes from two Sanskrit words Samyak Nyasam – Sanyasam. Samyak means Balanced. Nyasam has several meanings according to the context it is used. It can mean – Putting down, taking off, entrusting, laying aside, drawing, resigning, final tone etc. In this context it means a total calming down or stabilizing of the body, mind complex. When the breath has stabilized, the body also aligns to that balanced stability. Balance in Prana brings balance in the vital life force.
In India Sanyasa is given to a disciple when the teacher feels that he/she is ready to find that balance. Some take up sanyasa after age 60 when they feel ready to lead a life of renunciation.
In the Indian Tradition, there are the four stages of human life. It is called – Varnashrama Dharma. Varna literally means color, ashrama means hermitage and Dharma means inherent nature of things. Life is an evolving and learning process. Life is divided into four stages. The first stage is Brahmacharya or student life. At age 11 – 24 the student life begins after a ceremony. The student is sent to live in the house of a Teacher, which is called Gurukula. This stage focused on education. Acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures, logic, self discipline, ethics and morals. Preparations to live and face life.
Age 24 – 48 the shrama (duty) changes. This stage is called Grihasta Ashrama. The student returns back to his home, having developed body and mind and is then entitled to get married and live the life of a householder. Raising a family, educating children and living a dharmic social life. Here one acquires worldly knowledge and practices a virtuous life. Social responsibilities, caring for parents, act of giving, caring for the poor and needy, honoring guests, and sense of sharing. The physical and emotional aspect of life is experienced finding meaning through expressing and building ones own creativity and innate potential and sense of value.
The next stage is Vanaprastha Ashrama. Age 48 – 72 one moves out of worldly life entrusting responsibilities to children. Life of retirement begins. Focus is on spiritual studies and moksha (liberation). Education continues in the forest or solitary space. Restraining speech, living a simple life, controlling mind, overcoming passions and detachment from sense objects.
This final stage is called Sanyasa – Renunciation. Kashaya Vastra (saffron) is given in a ceremony after shaving the hair. Ideally un-stitched cloth is worn. Hair is kept shaved or allowed to grow into dread locks. Kashaya is the color of dawn and dusk. It is the color of fire. Fire is a symbol of sacrifice and renouncing. Worldly life is renounced completely and spiritual life is pursued.
In this process the development of body and mind helps to bring balance at the subtle and causal level. Brahmacharya supports mind and senses through knowledge and study. Garhasthya supports intelligence through sacrifice, handling wealth and family. Vanaprastha supports breath through contemplation and wisdom. Sanyasa supports Self through liberation and renunciation.
This was prescribed in the book of law – Manu Smrithi. Such was the guideline that held the culture and tradition of India. Many people like Siddhartha Gautama for example felt ready to leave at an earlier stage of life.
Every cell in the body is programmed to function according to the inherent innate nature and external causes and conditions that come upon it. The sthula shareera or the wakeful body is governed by constant thirst and need – Vaishvanara. The sukshma shareera or the dream state is governed by concepts and percepts – Taijasa and the deep sleep state or the causal body is governed by wisdom – Prajnya. Turiya the fourth state of consciousness is the undisturbed yogic state.
In the underuse, misuse and over use of time, sense objects and activity lie the roots of ill health; appropriate use there of safe guards good health says Vagbhata one of the classical writers of the ancient Ayurvedic texts.
Ayurveda defines good health like this:-
Sama dosa, sama dhatu, sama agnischa, mala kriyaha, Prasanna indriya, atma, manas swasthiya iti abidhiyatte.
Balance of 3 bioelements, balance of 7 body tissues, balance of body fires, excretions, actions, calmed senses, spirit and healthy mind, this is the definition of good health.
Sanyasa is given to one who is willing to devote his/her entire life and time into such a living practice. Samyak Nyasam – balance of prana or body breath comes from dedicated effort, controlled life style and wisdom of higher knowledge.
Surrender does not mean to be inactive and stagnate. Surrender is a shift in the mind from conditioned existence.