Dashanamis

Doctrines Dashanamis, the Order of Ten Names, is a monastic order of ascetics reputedly founded by the Advaita philosopher Shankara (788-820 CE). The name Dashanamis comes from dasa, ten, and from the fact that the members of each order take a distinct final name, nama. They are thus collectively called Dashanamis. Each of the ten orders of sannyasins, renunciants, is affiliated with one of the four principal maths, ascetic monasteries, traditionally founded by Shankara.
Shankara's views on caste are not now fully followed. At first traditional orthodox views were adhered to. Shankara stated that sudras, the lowest caste, are not entitled to hear the Veda and cannot become sannyasins and seek knowledge of Brahman. They must strive for moksha, liberation, by listening to the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Four of the ten orders were restricted to brahmans. Only long after Shankara's death were any sudras accepted.
The doctrine of the Dashanamis is based on Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, which is a nondualist philosophy (see Shankara and Vedanta).
Tradition says that Shankara was a follower of Shiva. He is believed to have composed hymns to Shiva, but this has been disputed. Some scholars find it implausible that Shankara was a Shaivite because of his low estimate of Isvara, and believe the alleged Shaivism is applied to contrast the devout Vaishnavism of his rival Ramanuja. However, the Dashanamis maintain this Shaiva influence, and today they play a dominant role in the interpretation of Shaivite theological orthodoxy and socio-religious tradition.

History Scholars do not agree about the origin of world renunciation in India. Evidence is fragmentary and the problem will most likely not be resolved. What is certain, however, is that by the sixth century BCE renunciation of the world was an important part of all religions in northern India.
Renunciation was radically affected by early Budddhism, which established permanent monastic communities. It was centuries later that monastic orders were set up within Brahmanism, and the best known of these were the Dashanamis traditionally founded by Shankara. The Sanskrit term sannyasa dates from the second century BCE, and is only used in Brahmanic tradition and Hindu sectarian traditions. A sannyasin is a renouncer who breaks with society at his initiation and leads a life of sannyasa. The Dashanamis are sannyasins.
Shankara worked to unite Hinduism and stop its divisions and reduce the influence of Buddhism and Jainism. Shaiva monasticism started probably about a century before Shankara, though Shankara was to be an important influence on this development. In the eighth century he journeyed around India on a dig-vijaya, a conquest of the quarters, and established maths at each of the four compass directions near famous temples or holy places. These were north at Badari in the Himalayas, east at Puri in Orissa, south at Srngeri in Karnataka, and west at Dvaraka in Gujarat. A fifth math was established at the holy city of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, though this is considered by some to be of lesser status to the other four. These maths developed as centres of an extensive network of Advaita maths and teachers that did a great deal to make the Advaita philosophy dominate other rival sects and schools. The ascetics who ran this network were the ten monastic orders of the Dashanamis. The effect of this was highly influential on some post-Shankara sects, who set up their own institutionalised forms of monastic renunciation. The Shri Vaishnavas, Dvaita Vedantins, and Shaiva Siddhantins established maths alongside temples as Shankara did while other sects such as the Virashaivas started their maths away from the temples.
This is the traditional view but scholars question whether Shankara established these four or five maths himself as an all-India institution. It is also uncertain whether this institution of maths across India existed before the fourteenth century. However, it is certain that there were monks studying Shankara's Advaita Vedanta. It is again uncertain whether Shankara himself divided these monks into ten orders or whether they were divided later. It seems that some maths of Shankarite monks existed in South India by the eleventh century. Srngeri is known historically to have been an important centre in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and it is believed by some scholars that the early pontiffs of Srngeri must take the credit for organising the Shankarite monastic system in the form it was known during later centuries. From the fourteenth century Srngeri received the royal patronage of the Vijayanagar empire and thus had the power to expand the monastic system. From the sixteenth century the Dashanamis acquired a militant organisation and corresponding influence.
The history of the Dashanamis as a monastic tradition of Shankara is thus more likely to have been a medieval social creation grafted on to Shankara's ancient spiritual lineage.

Symbols The initiation rite of sannyasa by a guru takes two days, with the main ceremonies on the second day. On the first day the initiate performs Sraddha, nine oblations to the dead, offering himself for the last one. On the second day he performs his last sacrifice and gives away all his possessions.
Renunciation means giving up fire, symbolising the rejection of the Vedic sacrifice and separating himself from Vedic society and religion. At the initiation rite the renouncer symbolically deposits his sacred fires within himself by inhaling their smoke, putting out his sacred fire and burning his sacrificial implements. After this the sannyasin has the fires inside himself as prana, vital breath, and he offers a sacrifice to the fires within every time he eats.
Finally, the Praisa, renunciatory formula, of Samnyastam maya, "I have renounced," is uttered three times. He gives the abhayadana, gift of safety, to all living creatures and takes the symbols of being a sannyasin. The Dashanami has three horizontal white lines on the forehead, wears an ochre loincloth and a necklace of fifty-four rudraksa beads - sacred to Shiva, and carries an alms-bowl and a single-pronged staff.

Adherents The Dashanami orders are:
  1. Sarasvati ('pool')
  2. Puri ('citadel')
  3. Vana ('tree')
  4. Tirtha ('ford')
  5. Giri ('hill')
  6. Parvata ('mountain')
  7. Bharati ('country')
  8. Aranya ('forest')
  9. Asrama ('hermitage')
  10. Sagara ('sea')
. Little research has been done on the distribution and actual organisation of these branches. Today three of the ten orders are reserved for brahmans, and the other seven are open to all the castes. Dashanami ascetics after becoming sannyasins break their family ties and live in a math. Maths are often built in association with the temple of a major Shaivite deity and are usually in a town or city. A pontiff is in charge of a math and has the final say in theological matters. He is helped by a management committee. The line of succession is hereditary through the nephew of the pontiff. Some maths have schools and ayurvedic, traditional medicine, dispensaries. There are thousands of Dashanami ascetics at maths, especially located at or near the four or five traditional centres.

Headquarters/
Main Centre
 There are maths at each of the four or five centres traditionally founded by Shankara, at Badari in the Himalayas, Puri in Orissa, Srngeri in Karnataka, Dvaraka in Gujarat, and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. Near Puri at Bhubaneswar there are many Dashanami maths.