Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 

Samnyâsins or Saints.

Similar ideas existed already among the Brahmans, and we meet among them, even before the rise of Buddhism,

p. 7

with men who had shaken off all social fetters who had left their home and family, lived by themselves in forests or in caves, abstained from all material enjoyment, restricted their food and drink to a startling minimum, and often underwent tortures which make us creep when we read of them or see them as represented in pictures and, in modern times, in faithful photographs. Such men were naturally surrounded by a halo of holiness, and they received the little they wanted from those who visited them and who profited by their teaching. Some of these saints, but not many, were scholars, and became teachers of ancient lore. Some, however, and we need not be surprised at it, turned out to be impostors and hypocrites, and brought disgrace on the whole profession. We must not forget that formerly the status of a Samnyâsin presupposed a very serious discipline during the many years of the student and the domestic life. Such discipline might generally be accepted as a warrant for a well-controlled mind and as security against the propensity to self-indulgence, not quite uncommon even in the lives of so-called Saints. When this security is removed, and when anybody at any time of life may proclaim himself a Samnyâsin, the temptations even of a Saint are very much increased. But that there were real Samnyâsins, and that there are even now men who have completely shaken off the fetters of passion, who have disciplined their body and subdued the imaginations of their mind to a perfectly marvellous extent, cannot be doubted. They are often called Yogins, as having exercised Yoga.

Next: Ascetic Exercises or Yoga