Saṁnyāsa

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Saṃnyāsa (Skt., ‘putting or throwing down’, ‘renunciation’). In Hinduism, the formal and final renunciation of all ties to family, caste, and property. It is a way of life outside the normal duties and rewards of society, dedicated solely to the goal of liberation (mokṣa). According to the Hindu law books, saṃnyāsa is the fourth and last stage in life (āśrama) of twice-born Hindus, and may be entered upon when one has seen the birth ‘of the eldest son's son’.

The full ritual process by which one formally renounces may extend over two or more days. Following these rites it is customary for the newly initiated saṃnyasin to make his first round of begging alms (bikṣā).

Besides the normative description of the life of renunciation found in the Dharmaśāstras and their later commentaries, there exists a whole class of minor Upaniṣads, the Saṃnyāsa Upaniṣads, which extol the ideals of renunciation. Saṃnyāsins are often associated with the doctrines and practices relating to Śiva, and many saṃnyasins are members of the Daśanāmī order. See also ASCETICISM.