Dasanami Order

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Fri Sep 26 20:53:26 UTC 1997

On Fri, 26 Sep 1997, Chris Austin wrote:

> Would anyone know of any works published on the asramas of the Dasanami
> Order? I was surprised to find no substantial material on this matter in
> the Indoogy Archives. Thanks once again for replying either to the list or
> myself or to Dr. T.S. Rukmani (rukmani at alcor.concordia.ca).

Yes, there is not much published literature on the dasanami orders. In his
English translation of the Madhaviya Sankaravijaya, Swami Tapasyananda (of
Ramakrishna Mission, Madras) draws attention to the unwarranted neglect of
the dasanami traditions in evaluating the legends associated with
Sankaracarya. There is a short account titled "The living advaita
tradition" at the URL <http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~vidya/advaita>, which
you can link to from the Indology homepage itself.

I suppose the following is a comprehensive list of publications.

  1. Sir Jadunath Sarkar, A history of Dasnami Naga Sanyasis, Mahanirvani,
     Allahabad, 1946
     LC Call No.: not available

  2. G. S. Ghurye (with L. N. Chapekar), Indian Sadhus, Popular Prakashan,
     Bombay, 1st ed., 1953, 2nd ed., 1964.
     LC Call No.: Microfilm BUL-ENG-111 (B)

  3. Haripada Chakraborti, Asceticism in ancient India in Brahmanical,
     Buddhist, Jaina, and Ajivika societies, from the earliest times to
     the period of Sankaracharya, Punthi Pustak, Calcutta, 1973.
     LC Call No.: BL2015.A8 C47

  4. Swami Sadananda Giri, Society and sannyasin : a history of the
     Dasnami sannyasins, Kriyayoga Asrama, Rishikesh, 1976.
     LC Call No.: BL1245.D27 S2

  5. Yoshitsugu Sawai, The faith of ascetics and lay smartas: a study of
     the Sankaran tradition of Srngeri, Sammlung de Nobili, Instituet fuer
     Indologie der Universitaet Wien (Institute of Indology, University of
     Vienna), 1992.
     LC Call No.: acquisition in progress (as of September 9, 1997)

  6. William Cenkner, A tradition of teachers: Sankara and The Jagadgurus
     Today, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1983.
     LC Call No.: B133.S5 C44 1983

  7. A Sacred Thread, edited by Raymond B. Williams, Anima Publications,
     Chambersburg, PA, 1992.
     LC Call No.: BL1151.5 .S33 1992

Items no 1 and 4 are about the dasanamis in general, while 2 and 3 are not
restricted to dasanamis. Sawai (no. 5) concentrates only on the Sringeri
matha, and item 7 has two articles by Glenn Yocum and William Cenkner, on
the Sringeri and Kanchi mathas.

For whatever it is worth, I have many reservations about Cenkner's work in
item no. 6. For example, he attempts to present a unified picture of the
currently famous monasteries, without paying any attention to their
internal controversies. Even Sadananda Giri (no. 4), an insider in the
dasanami order, does not gloss over them, and explicitly concedes that
some things are controversial. Cenkner is also sloppy in his historical
research, even with respect to contemporary issues. Thus, he says that the
succession to the Sringeri title was legally challenged in this century. I
am completely unaware of any such dispute. The successors to the Sringeri
matha have typically been named years in advance. On the other hand, where
there is a well-known legal dispute, Cenkner is completely silent about
it. He only mentions Santananda Sarasvati as the head of the Joshimatha,
and says nothing about the dispute between him and Svarupananda Sarasvati.
The latter is currently the head of both Dvaraka matha and Joshimatha,
both legally and in terms of acceptance by the other mathas. Moreover, by
the time Cenkner's book was published, Santananda had formally stepped
down, and handed over charge of his institution to one Vishnudevananda
Sarasvati. Rumor has it that both Santananda and Vishnudevananda have the
support of Mahesh Yogi of TM fame.


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