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Dictionary Definition

sannyasi n : a Hindu religious mendicant [syn: sannyasin, sanyasi]

Extensive Definition

"Sanyasi" redirects here. For the motion picture, see Sanyasi (1975 film)
Sannyasa, (Devanagari: संन्यास) is the renounced order of life within Hinduism. It is considered the topmost and final stage of the varna and ashram systems and is traditionally taken by men at or beyond the age of fifty years old or by young monks who wish to dedicate their entire life towards spiritual pursuits. One within the sanyass order is known as a sannyasi or sannyasin.


in Sanskrit means "renunciation", "abandonment". It is a tripartite compound of has "collective" meaning, ni- means "down" and is from the root , meaning "to throw" or "to put", so a literal translation would be "laying it all down".


There a number of types of sannyasi in accordance with socio-religious context. Traditionally four types of forest hermits with different stages of dedication. In the recent history two distinct orders are observed 'ekadanda' (lit. single stick) and 'tridanda' (lit. tripple rod) safron dressed monks, first being part of Sankaracarya tradition second is sannyasa followed by various vaishnava traditions and introduced to the west by followers of the reformer Siddhanta Sarasvati. Austerities and attributes associated with the order as well as expectations will differ to both.

Lifestyle and goals

The sannyasi lives without possessions, practises yoga meditation — or in other traditions, bhakti, or devotional meditation, with prayers to their chosen deity or God. The goal of the Hindu Sannsyasin is moksha (liberation), the conception of which also varies. For the devotion oriented traditions, liberation consists of union with the Divine, while for Yoga oriented traditions, liberation is the experience of the highest samadhi (enlightenment). For the Advaita tradition, liberation is the removal of all ignorance and realising oneself as one with the Supreme Brahman.
Within the Bhagavad Gita, sannyasa is described by Krishna as follows:
"The giving up of activities that are based on material desire is what great learned men call the renounced order of life [sannyasa]. And giving up the results of all activities is what the wise call renunciation [tyaga]." (18.2)


The term is generally used to denote a particular phase of life. In this phase of life, the person develops vairāgya, or a state of determination and detachment from material life. He renounces all worldly thoughts and desires, and spends the rest of his life in spiritual contemplation. It is the last in the four phases of a man, namely, brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and finally sannyasa, as prescribed by Manusmriti for the Dwija castes, in the Hindu system of life. However, these four stages are not necessarily sequential, but on the other hand can not be reversed, in other sense they are progressive phases, one can skip one, two or three ashrams, but can never revert back to an earlier ashrama or phase. Various Hindu traditions allow for a man to renounce the material world from any of the first three stages of life.


Unlike monks in the Western world, whose lives are regulated by a monastery or an abbey and its rules, some Hindu sannyasin is a loner and a wanderer (parivrājaka). Hindu monasteries (mathas) never have a huge number of monks living under one roof. The monasteries exist primarily for educational purposes and have become centers of pilgrimage for the lay population. Ordination into any Hindu monastic order is purely at the discretion of the individual guru, who should himself be an ordained sannyasi within that order. Most traditional Hindu orders do not have women sannyasis, but this situation is undergoing changes in recent times.

Danda as spiritual attribute

In the Varnashrama System or Dharma of Sanatana Dharma, the 'danda' (Sanskrit; Devanagari: दंड, lit. stick) is a spiritual attribute and axis mundi of certain deities such as Bṛhaspati, and holy people such as sadhu carry the danda as an austerity and marker of their station as a mendicant renunciate or sannyasin.

Sannyasa Upanishads

Of the 108 Upanishads of the Muktika, 23 are considered Sannyasa Upanishads. They are listed with their associated Veda ():
  1. (KYV)
  2. (ŚYV)
  3. (KYV) "The Faces of God"
  4. (SV)
  5. (KYV)
  6. (ŚYV)
  7. (SV)
  8. (SV)
  9. (KYV)
  10. () (AV)
  11. ()
  12. (ŚYV)
  13. (SYV)
  14. (SYV)
  15. (SV)
  16. (AV)
  17. (SV)
  18. (AV)
  19. (KYV)
  20. (KYV)
  21. (SYV)
  22. (KYV)
  23. (SYV)

Noted sanyasis

sannyasi in German: Sannyasin
sannyasi in Spanish: Sannyasin
sannyasi in French: Sannyâsa
sannyasi in Italian: Sannyāsa
sannyasi in Polish: Sannjasa
sannyasi in Russian: Санньяса
sannyasi in Swedish: Sannyasin

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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