There is widespread misconception that sanyasa is a state of physical existence characterised by a spurning of all worldly and material associations and surviving with bare minimum. This practice has resulted in a social category of professional sanyasins, wearing ochre robes, with kamandal and with no fixed abode. In Hindu tradition, sanyas is understood as a state of a person’s consciousness, irrespective of his social status or lifestyle. A person pursuing grahastha dharma or raj dharma could also be a sanyasin, as long he can remain detached from the humdrum of material existence and focus his attention on spiritual attainment. The best example is Mithila’s king, Raja Janaka, Sita’s father. He was a true rajrishi, completely detached from all things material and worldly, thereby earning the title of Vaidehi. A visiting sanyasin, it is said, was berating him for surrounding himself with palace comforts, while calling himself a sanyasin. Raja Janaka offered to give up all possessions at once and proceeded to order the burning down of his most opulent palace, which was also used as guests’ lodgings. Suddenly, on remembering that he had left behind his kamandal in the palace, the sannyasin asked Janaka to rescind his orders. The latter simply smiled. Not only Janaka, both Rama and Krishna followed the innate dharma of the householder. Were they not true sanyasins? Krishna is known as Yogeshwar, master of Yoga, despite being much married. Moses was married to Zipporah. Issac’s mother was Sarah, married to Abraham who also had his son Ishmael from Hagar. Confucius was married to Qiguan and had a son named Kong Li and two daughters. Jesus boldly challenged the crowd, that was ready to stone Mary Magdalene. Prophet Muhammad’s first wife was Khadijah, 15 years his senior; Guru Nanak’s wife Mata Sulkkhani is recognised for her own spiritual status. According to the Shewtambar tradition, Vardhman Mahavir Jain was married to Yashoda. Even Siddartha Gautam Buddha remained a householder from the age of 16 to 29 and was married to Yashodhara before he set out on his search for enlightenment.
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