Guru / Acharya / Sanyasi / Upadhyaya

Author: Shivashankar Rao
Date: 7/16/2019
Bangalore, India.

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A teacher of the scriptures is called an Adhyapaka or an Acharya. Upadhyaya or Adhyapaka teach chanting of the vedas whereas an Acharya teaches their meaning and significance. Guru is the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance. He should be an expert in the knowledge of scriptures and also well established in Brahman (or God). He should be a man of sinless life with great self control. Acharya is one with deep erudition leading a pure and sinless life with serenity and and composure. The term is applied to initiators of new schools of thought like Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva etc., The preceptor guiding sacrificial rites is also called an Acharya.

The one who is fit to take samnyasa , the fourth Aashrama of life has to have developed an intense vairagya for the worldly life and should be eager to attain Moksha. Liberation from trans migratory existence (or Moksha/ mukti/ kaivalya/ nirvana) is discussed in all systems of Hindu philosophy. This is posited as the final purushartha or the ultimate goal of life.

Though in olden days, sanyasa was restricted to Brahmins, now a days we see sanyasis belonging to all communities. Each caste/varna has its own “Jagadguru”. ( One may observe more than 200 mutts in Karnataka only belonging to different communities). All of them retain their caste/varna connections.


There are four types of Sanyasis as per tradition.

1. Kuteechaka,

2. Bahoodaka,

3. Hamsa and

4. Parmahamsa.

They are also classified as Vairaagya sanyasis and Jnana sanyasis. Then there is Aatura sanyasa and sanyasa at the time of death.