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Living the holy life

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

There are these phrases you come across in the sutra’s, “the holy life has been lived” for example. If you read more widely you will see that in ancient India around the time of the Buddha it was a thing, that certain people would renounce, and would become wandering sannyasi. Mention of this goes back in the Veda’s to the second millennium BCE.

Saṃnyāsa in Sanskrit nyasa means purification, sannyasa means "Purification of Everything". It is a composite word of saṃ- which means "together, all", ni- which means "down" and āsa from the root as, meaning "to throw" or "to put". A literal translation of Sannyāsa is thus "to put down everything, all of it".

It is something that has somewhat gone out of fashion, in todays materialistic society very few people choose to give up work, to lay down all burdens. But those people who study the Buddha’s words and would learn from him do follow in the footsteps of those ancient renunciates.

So maybe it is a good idea to see what we can lay down today? Living a life of voluntary simplicity is perhaps as close as we can come to living the holy life as they did in the time of the Buddha.



  • Ah yes, letting go. But what exactly is everything? Ah, so this is why Buddha is so thorough in suttas...because just saying things like "everything" will have deluded people go "Well...what exactly is included in everything?" as if there is some stuff they like that is not included in everything.

    Then is there any hope of living the holy life while still maintaining a job, participating in family and relationships, and attempting to conform to the societal mold?

    What is the difference between doing those worldly things and doing say...practicing, wandering, and begging for alms? Are those not jobs and relationships too?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited January 2023

    In terms of the renunciates, they let go of physical possessions as well as family, work and community — they wandered around owning nothing but their clothes and begging bowl, having left home, family and so on behind.

    Whether there is any hope of “living the holy life while attempting to conform to the societal mold”, I think we have to see for ourselves. It’s a question of what we can let go of.

    You can choose not to buy a sailing boat, not to have a second home, not to go on holiday even. Those luxuries are the easiest targets for simplifying one’s life. Then there are more difficult ones, such as not having a family, a car, or your own home, but instead living as a caretaker or a hermit. These big things do tend to let you focus more and more on the inner world.

    I think every person’s life offers its own possibilities for voluntary simplicity, and its best to start small.

  • Isn't a holy life one lived without excess, caring for others, helping others without seeking reward or fame or recognition?
    It is not necessary to renounce society or possessions, rap oneself in a robe and carry a begging bowl. To live life with gratitude, without greed, without hate, caring for others, sharing even in little ways, encouraging other through your everyday words or deeds. That is all, in my opinion, needed to live a holy life.

    Peaceto all

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @lionduck, if all that is necessary is a change in attitude, why did they in ancient times make such drastic changes to their lifestyle? It seems to me that a real change to the way one lives is important, in that it reminds you of your new life.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited January 2023

    For me, this question of the holy life is particular and personal. When I was young, just seven years old, i took initiation from Osho as a sannyasin. So you could say, I have been living the holy life for quite a while, although Osho’s interpretation of it was more to live a meditative life with joy, love and celebration.

    For me, it always translated to a kind of voluntary simplicity. I’m fifty years old and have never owned a car or had children, have always lived simply and frugally. My few excesses were a substantial DVD collection and books.

    Osho died thirty years ago, but his words still resonate with me. That he says that a real religion would be life affirmative, not life negative. That nearly all of the world’s religions are life negative, that they make you live in a more and more narrow fashion. That to live in a retreat in a Himalayan cave is to live at the minimum, to live for only one percent.

  • @Jeroen
    To live the holy life is indeed a life style
    To live simply but not isolated
    To live with gratitude, compassion and empathy
    Something quite simple yet often quite hard.
    To be immersed in society, enveloped in the every day of humanity, living as an ordinary person while still maintaining the aspects of a holy life.
    To know that you will feel anger, but to not be consumed by it.
    To know you will have desires, some very strong yet not be led by them
    Osho was correct. A religious life that is restrictive, one which is negative, is not a holy life. It is worse than a bad life for it misdirects and restricts, shutting out the light which is a life fulfilling, holy.

    Peace to you

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited January 2023

    What good is the holy life if it means shirking our responsibility to one another?

    I bring it up often but the Buddha could have walked in any number of directions after Sidhartha woke up. However, he went back to see his family first. Not only that but some joined him in the Sangha. He didn't let go of the Sangha so he never really let go of his family. What he did was make the Sangha his family.

    Things and views are good to let go of and it is good to remember we will eventually have to go it alone but viewing our compassion for sentient beings (especially those with a familial relation to us) as things to let go of seems contrary to anything resembling a holy life.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I think the ancients saw it so that by the time one had reached the age where one could in good grace withdraw from the life of a householder, there were not many responsibilities left.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited January 2023

    It was said by an acquaintance that “Osho meant for his sannyasins to live a meditative life but with joy, creativity and celebration.” It’s an interesting contrast with the life of an old-style renunciate, the ascetics who were buddha’s companions before he became enlightened.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that Osho was right, and that living a holy life means that one should live with awareness, removing those things which are life negative, restrictive and unwholesome, and increasing those aspects of life which are joyful, life positive and beneficial.

    The old style of a renunciate was fine when you lived in a country where there were abundant forests with fruit trees where you could live and be remote from communities. But in a modern life one has to pay attention to money, and some aspects of the old holy life were less than ideal. It is well known that man is a social animal, and to live together with others makes sense.

    To be able to live creatively and joyfully, with meditation and other people in a spiritual community makes sense to me.

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Sentient Being Oceania Veteran
    edited January 2023

    One could look at renunciation this way...

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