By Swami Harshananda
Ātura-saṅyāsa literally means ‘saṅmyāsa taken by one who is afflicted’.
Saṅyāsa or monastic life is the last of the four āśramas or stages of life through which every dvija (‘the twice- born’) has to pass. Generally every pious dvija entertains the desire of dying as a saṅyāsin, since that enhances his chance of mokṣa or liberation which is the ultimate goal of human life.
Due to the uncertainty of life, situations may also arise that a man may die without taking saṅyāsa. For such persons afflicted with mortal diseases or facing grave dangers, the dharmaśāstras have provided an emergency ritual by which they can take saṅyāsa and hence die as saṅyāsins. This is called ‘ātura-saṅyāsa'
The essentials of this ritual are :
- Saṅkalpa - Resolve to take saṅyāsa
- Kṣaura - Tonsure of the head
- Sāvitrī - praveśa - Merging the Gāyatrī mantra into praṇava or Om
- Praiṣoccāra - Uttering the praiṣamantra signifying renunciation
Even among these, the first and the last are enough if there is no scope for performing the other aspects of the ritual. If by chance, a person who has taken āturasaṅyāsa survives the ordeal, he is expected to take regular saṅyāsa with all the formalities. He cannot go back to the old way of life.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore