संन्यासिन् - saṃnyāsa

A vow of complete renunciation. When renunciates take a vow of sannyas (called sannyasis), they withdraw from external involvement in worldly life. Sannyasis focuses their sights on the passage of their soul from this world into the next world, and thereby transcend earthly existence. (1) Offering their ego into the fire of self-transcendence, sannyasis completely let go of their earthly identities. (2)

It is also the fourth and final of the four ashrams or stages of life in yoga philosophy. (3) The stage lasts for twenty-four years from around the age of seventy-two to the age of ninety-six. It is a time of life that should be devoted to meditation on God and eternal truths. (4) The other three ashrams of life are brahmacharya (student), grihastha (householder), and vanaprastha (partially retired from worldly life). (3)

Closely related to the first ashram of life brahmacharya, sannyas involves the offering of one’s life completely to God. (3)

In Orthodox Hinduism

Although in Hindu tradition, sannyasis (traditionally male) were revered for their selfless renunciation, in the modern world, they often behave quite differently. Instead of devoting themselves to God, the people who have reached this age usually lose their aspirations and consign themselves to physical debility and simple hobbies or idleness. (5)

The system of four ashrams was founded in India during a higher spiritual age, during which the purpose of life was widely understood and manifested into the system of education. (3) Nowadays, the ideal system of life is not widely observed in modern India, but it has many devout follows. Special schools and communities may uphold the system under the direction of a guru. (6)

At Ananda

At Ananda communities, sannyasi or swami refers to a person who has committed himself or herself to the principles of brahmacharya for a sufficient amount of time. At this stage, they are centered in the divine and primarily guided by that center.(7) The person may be young or old, male or female. They may have practiced brahmacharya for months or years. But it is clear to them and others that they are prepared for full renunciation (8) A sannyasi views all human beings as members of their own immediate family, without accepting personal ties. (7)

  1. Sadhu, Beware!, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter VIII, “The Tally.”
  2. Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 7, “His Work with Education.”
  3. a b c d A Renunciate Order for the New Age, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 15, “A Need for Proper Education.”
  4. The Hindu Way of Awakening, by Swami Kriyananda. Part II, “The Symbols,” Chapter 11, “Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva: The Trinity of AUM.”
  5. Sadhu, Beware!, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter IX, “Two Stages of Brahmacharya.”
  6. Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. Chapter 27, “Founding a Yoga School at Ranchi.”
  7. a b “The Way of Ananda Sanghis (2011),” by Swami Kriyananda.
  8. A Renunciate Order for the New Age, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 12, “The Stages of Sannyas.”