By Swami Harshananda
Daśanāmī literally means ‘those belonging to the order of ten names’.
Monasteries of Śaṅkara
Saṁnyāsa or monasticism is a very ancient institution. The dharmaśāstras list it as the fourth and the last stage in a man’s life. Śaṅkara (CE 788-820) established four centers of his monastic order at:
- Badarī (in Uttar Pradesh) - Jyotir Maṭha (or Jośi Maṭha) - The chief discipline of this Matha was Toṭaka.
- Dvārakā (in Gujarat) - Kālikā Maṭha - The chief discipline of this Matha was Padmapāda.
- Purī (in Orissa) - Govardhana Maṭha - The chief discipline of this Matha was Hastāmalaka.
- Śṛṅgerī (in Karnataka) - Sāradā Maṭha - The chief discipline of this Matha was Sureśvara.
Daśanāmī-Sampradāya and Meaning Of its terms
Śaṅkara also organized his saṁnyāsin disciples and tradition of ascetics through them into ten orders known as ‘daśanāmī-sampradāya’,. It is difficult to derive any definite conclusions to the meanings of these ten terms. It cannot be related to their normal meanings, traditional interpretations and explanations. The terms and their literal explanations are:
- Araṇya indicates a monk living in araṇya or a forest, completely detached from mundane affairs.
- Āśrama indicates a monk living in an aśrama or a hermitage thus freed from the botheration of wandering.
- Bhāratī indicates one laden with learning, who has thrown away all burdens.
- Giri indicates one who is steady like a mountain (= giri) or the one who lives at the foot of a mountain.
- Parvata indicates one who lives at the foot of hills and has steadfast knowledge regarding the transient nature of the world.
- Purī indicates one who is full of the knowledge of Brahman.
- Sarasvati indicates one who is greatly learned and also an adept in yoga.
- Sāgara indicates the one who has dives in the depths of the ocean, knowledge and collects the gems of truth.
- Tīrtha indicates one who bathes in the confluence of the three rivers, knowledge and realisation of the truth. Tat tvam asi (That thou art’).
- Vana indicates one who has transcended all the snares of desire and lives quietly in a forest.
Titles Given to Saṁnyāsin
Every saṁnyāsin of these order adds to his adopted name one of these ten titles are applied as a suffix. For instance:
Four Mathas Of the Śaṅkara and their Importance
These ten orders have been specifically aligned with the four mathas as follows:
- Jyotirmatha-Giri Parvata and Sagara
- Saradamatha-Aśrama and Tirtha
- Govardhanamatha-Aranya and Vana
- Śṛngerimatha-Bharati, Puri and Sarasvati.
Each of these four monastic centers has its own: Devata , Devi (tutelary deities), Kṣetra (place of pilgrimage), Tirtha(holy river), Gotra(spiritual lineage),Veda,Svadhyaya (study of particular Upaniṣads), Mahavakya(sentence for contemplation chosen from the Upaniṣads).
In establishing the Daśanāmī order of monks attached to the four maṭhas, Śankara showed remarkable social awareness which was badly needed during his times. These maṭhas were charged with the task of caring for the welfare of the people of the regions assigned to them through tours and discourses.
Classification of Daśanāmī Monks
The Daśanāmī monks are further classified into four sampradāyas or traditional sects without reference to their orders. They are assigned to the four monastic centers(mathas) which are:
- Anandavara attached to the Jyotirmatha - This term indicates the freedom from the desire of sense-pleasures.
- Bhogavara attached to the Govardhanamatha - This term indicates the freedom from the desire of all the enjoyments.
- Bhurivara attached to the Srigerimath - This term indicates the freedom from the worldly possessions.
- Kitavara attached to the Saradamatha - This term indicates the freedom from the tendencies hurtful to creatures.
- daśa=ten,nāmī=with name; hence daśanāmī
- Puri ascetics seem to have been considered as the highest rank among the monks.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore