Sadhus & Yogis of India
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Sadhus of India.

Tripathi, B.D.

Bombay, 1978.

[TB 7-8] On the first day, the investigator had to go through the Krichchan ceremony to attain bodily purification. On the following day, he had to perform shraddha and tarpan (offering of oblation to forefathers) at the Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi. After the shraddha and tarpan ceremonies, the investigator had to go through the most painful ceremony of Panch Bhadra. In the Panch Bhadra process the Sikha (scalp lock) was spared.
At the next step of the initiation, the sacred thread and the scalp lock of the investigator were removed by the preceptor. The scalp lock was thrown away in the river Ganga and the [TB 8] sacred thread was tied on top of the Danda (ascetic staff) under cover of an ochre-coloured cloth. After this, the investigator was given a Kopin (loin-coth), a Danda (ascetic staff) and a Kamandalu (water pot made of dried gourd) with the chanting of Vedic hymns. Hawan was performed to solemnise these offerings. This Hawan is called Prajapati Ahuti. After this Hawan, Virja Homa (purificatory sacrifices) was performed with the appropriate Mantras (hymns) from Purush Sukta.
After Virja Homa, the investigator was again taken to Tulsi Ghat where in knee-deep water in the river Ganga, he performed Sandhya reciting the Gayatri Mantra in the presence of his preceptor.
In the end, the preceptor Swami Swarupanand Saraswati whispered into the right ear of the researcher the mysterious Mantra called Praisha or Shiva Mantra. This is the climax of the initiation-ceremony.
The investigator came out of the river after the ceremony was over and was asked to put on clothes for the sake of decency. Then he advised the investigator to move about the length and breadth of the country to spread the message of the Vedic culture among the masses. The investigator decided not to carry the staff with him, so he ceremonially left it and moved about as a Paramhansa that is, a Shaiva Sadhu without the sacred staff. Towards the end, the denominational attributes were vouchsafed to the investigator.
[These are, in footnote:]
Name Swami Vidyanand Saraswati
Order Saraswati
Akhara Niranjani
Math Shringeri
Deity Narayan
Gotra Bhu Bhuwah
Ved Atharva Ved
Mahavakya Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman)
Brahmachari Chaitanya
Kshetra Rameshwaram

[TB 8-9] After wandering through Kashi, Ayodhya and Prayag as a Shaiva Sanyasi, the researcher reached Vrindaban. There he happened to meet a Mahant, Baba Madhusudan Das, a Nimbarki Naga Sadhu. The investigator told the Mahant that he wanted to be initiated as a Vaishnava ascetic. The Mahant was pleased to recruit him as his disciple. Thereafter, the Mahant took the investigator to his temple in Gyan Gudari, Vrindaban. He consulted the Pattra (Hindu calendar book) and chose an auspicious day for the initiation-ceremony. First [TB 9] of all, the investigator had to undergo the Panch Bhadra (shaving) ceremony.
Thereafter the investigator was taken to a sacred place where a group of ascetics had gathered to participate in the initiation-ceremony. The investigator had to take his bath and wear a new Achla and Langoti. After the preliminary formalities, the investigator was asked to sit facing the east. His preceptor sat facing him. A piece of white cloth was thrown as a canopy to cover the heads of both the preceptor and the novitiate. This is done to maintain the secrecy and insulate the potency of the Mantra known as Ashtadasakshara (containing eighteen letters) communicated to the novice at the time of initiation. The Mantra was repeated to the investigator five times.
The initiation-ceremony over, sweets were distributed among the participants of the ceremony. At the end, the investigator was taught by his preceptor the manner of applying the sectarian mark of the Nimbark Sampradaya. In all the Vaishnava denominations and sects, Dwadas Tilak (Twelve sectarian marks) are commonly applied on the body. During the course of the initiation ceremony, the investigator was given a new name, Vraja Gopal Das.
[TB 10] It is imperative for every member of a sect to know the ramifications [i.e. denominational attributes] of his sect. This enables him to get food in Vaishnava monasteries anywhere.
[The denominational attributes are mentioned in footnote:]
Sampradaya Nimbark
Dwara Sri
Swami Shambhu Ramji
Sukh Vilas Vrindaban
Dharmashala Mathura
Parikrama Govardan
Dham Dwarika
Ganga Gomti
1st Deo Rukmini
Upasana Gopal
Mantra Ashta Dasakshara
Guru Swami Madhusudan Das
Name Vraja Gopal Das
Rishi Durwasa
Muni Narad
Ved Sam Ved
Acharya Sankadik
[TB 10] Sadhus have their own vocabulary. [Mentioned in footnote:]
Ram Taraka = Chilli; Panhati = Lunch; Rang Badal = Asafoetida; Narsinghi = Pickles; Murli = Salt; Galka = Onion; Ram Ladoo = Turmeric; Bhadra Hona = Person; Sita Phal = To Shave; Ram Ras = Pumpkin; Tikkar = Bread; Shak = Vegetable; Baikunthi = Pulse; Pana = To eat; Vyalu = Evening meal; Maha Prasad = Boiled Rice; Pavitri = Ghee, To go out; Doldal = to answer the call of nature; Prabhati = Tooth Stick.
[Strange that most of them are food or about food! What need for a secret vocabulary here? And too bad that he doesn’t give the real meaning of these words.]
[TB 12] The word ‘Sadhu’ is as old as the Sanskrit language itself. Sadhu in Hindu religious terminology, is used to describe a man endowed with high spiritual learnings and holding high religious values. He is more than average: one who is virtuous in thought, word and deed.
[TB 12] In common philosophical parlance the word Sadhu is also used to denote the fundamental value of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. According to Monier-Williams, this word has been used in the Rig Veda, in the sense of anything reaching the goal unerringly, like an arrow or thunderbolt.
[TB 12] Shabada Kalpadruma defines Sadhu as one who accomplishes dharma or virtuous acts...[and] ‘a man born in a respectable family.’
[TB 13] According to Amarkosha, Sadhu means civilized, cultured and good man.
[TB 13] The word Sadhu is formed by combining the Dhatu SADH with U. Here Sadh means to perform and U means the doer. The whole word thus means doer or performer, inferentially of good acts.
[TB 13] For our purposes a Sadhu may be defined as a person who adopts ascetic ways of life as prescribed by his ordaining sects and sub-sects and who is pledged at leat in principle, to the performance of acts of individual and social good as part of his obligation.

[TB 15] Growing Panch Kesha or remaining Panch Bhadra [in footnote: head, upper jaw, chin, arm-pit and pubic region.]

[TB 28] Sri Sampradaya. Historically this is the oldest Vaishnava sect. [TB 29] ...its birth was initiated by Mahalakshmi, the goddess wife of Vishnu ... so Lakshmi or Sri was its chief initiator.
[TB 29] ...Ramanuja, the historical founder of this sect. Ramanuja was born in the eleventh century A.D. in the South. He is famous as the exponent of the Vishishtadwaita system of philosophy.
[TB 29] Sri Vaishnavas fall broadly into two groups namely, Badgal and Tengal. This division was the sequel to some reformation introduced into this sect by Vedanta Desikacharya, a follower of Ramanuja. Badgals are usually Northerners and Tengals Southerners.
[TB 30] ...the Badgals insist on the concomitancy of the human will in the wake of salvation and represent the soul that lays hold on God as a young monkey which grips its mother in order to be conveyed to a place of safety. This is called Markat Nyaya (Monkey theory). The Tengals on the contrary maintain the irresistibility of the Divine Grace and utter helplessness of the soul till it is seized and carried off like a kitten by its mother to a place of safety. This doctrine is called Marjara Nyaya (Kitten theory). The followers of Kitten theory or Tengals are also know as Prapatti Margi (believers in complete self-surrender).
[TB 30] Nimbarki or Namawat Sampradaya. Namawat Sadhus of Vaishnava Sampradaya are of considerable importance. This sect was founded by Nimbarkacharya. The philosophy of this sect is called Dwaitadwaita (dualistic monism). Nimbarkacharya is regarded as the incarnation of sun-god. He was greatly influenced by Bhaskar [Dict. bhåskar. gold, sun, fire, a warrior, Shiva.] who flourished in the ninth century A.D. Nimbarka holds that the relation of God to the soul is one of identity in difference. The soul and the world are different from God because they are endowed with qualities different from those found in God. At the same time, they are not different from God because He is omnipresent and they depend entirely on Him.
Namawat sect is also called Sanak Sampradaya. Sanak is regarded as the predecessor of Nimbarka. Nimbarkis bear two vertical lines of white clay on the forehead with a central black spot as their sectarian mark. They carry rosary of sacred Tulsi wood. Most of them keep on roaming all through the year and carry a Tridand (three staff) with them; that is why they are also called Tridandis.
[TB 31] Madhwagauriya Sampradaya. Madhwagauriya Sampradaya is regarded as one of the greatest Vaishnava Sampradayas of Northern India. The founder saint of this sect was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was born in A.D. 1486 in Bengal. Like Ramanand he recruited his disciples from all castes and creeds.
[TB 31] Gradually Chaitanya Sampradaya came to be affiliated with Madhwa Sampradaya though apparently there does not seem to be any ground for such an affiliation. Madhwacharya clearly stood for dualism whereas Chaitanya stood for Achintya Bhedabhed (inconceivable unity in diversity). After the affiliation Chaitanya Sampradaya came to be known as Madhwagauriya Sampradaya.
In Madhwagauriya Sampradaya, Vishnu is regarded as the ultimate Reality. He is the God of love and grace. He is Nirgun (without qualities) in the sense that he is free from Maya (illusion). He is also Sagun (with qualities) as he is endowed with the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience. He is the material as well as the efficient cause of the Universe. He is the singular support and the end of this Universe.
Madhwagauriyas worship all the incarnations of Vishnu but they regard Lord Krishna as the most complete incarnation of God. They believe that Sankirtan (recitation of god’s name in chorus) is the panacea in this age.
[TB 31] Madhwagauriyas are generally found in eastern India. Nowadays, they are divided into two sects. One sub-sect upholds caste system and the other deprecates it. The latter is known as Bairagi sect.
The members of Madhwagauriya Sampradaya wear two white vertical stripes of sandal paste or Gopi Chandan on the forehead uniting at the lower middle part of the nose. The lower part of this mark looks like a beak, that is why they are [TB 32] nicknamed Chonch Wale Baba (saints with beak). They wear three strings of rosary of Tulsi beads round the neck.

[TB 83] In the traditional Hindu social organization only Dwijas (twice born) were permitted to embrace the life of ascetics.
[TB 84] Before Ramanand the doors of Sadhuism were virtually closed to Shudras. It was Ramanand who inaugurated a new era in the history of Hindu asceticism by initiating several Shudras as his ascetic disciples.
[TB 85] Shudras are not accorded a status equal to Dwijas [‘twice-born’], even in the community of reformist Sadhus. This is why some Sadhus coming from Shudra families, hide their low castes and pretend to belong to the higher castes.

For comments: Dolf Hartsuiker