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Four Kinds Of Monks or Sadhus In Hinduism

There are four different types of Sadhus or monks in Hinduism as per Bhikshuka Upanishad of Shukla Yajur Veda.

Mendicant monks desiring liberation are of four kinds in Hindu religion
  • Kutichaka,
  • Bahudaka,
  • Hamsa
  • Paramahamsa.

The Kutichakas are hut-dwelling ascetics. They write, study and discourse on all  matters of universe and Brahman. They subsist on eight mouthfuls of food and seek liberation alone by the path of yoga. Sage Gautama, Bharadvaja, Yajnavalkya and Vasistha etc are example of Kutichakas.

Bahudaka ascetics remain near tirthas on river banks or other sacred waters. They carry three-fold emblematic staff (tridanda) and water vessel and wear tuft, sacred thread and ochre colored garment. They too subsist on eight mouthfuls of food secured as alms and seek liberation alone in the path of Yoga.

Hamsa ascetics do not stay in a particular place for too long. They take shelter for one night in a village, five nights in a town and seven nights or more in a holy place. The mostly subsist of milk of cow and other milk products of cow. They are committed to the chandrayana vow and  they seek liberation alone in the path of Yoga.

Paramahamsa ascetics live on eight mouthfuls of food and seek liberation alone in the path of Yoga. They take shelter under the shade of trees, in deserted houses or in a cemetery. They may wear a dress or be unclad. They observe neither Dharma nor Adharma (i.e. they are above the laws of the land). They are not conscious of profit and loss of anything. They do not follow any doctrines. They are constantly merged in Brahman.

Considering equally a pebble, stone and gold they receive alms from (person of) all castes and see the Atman alone everywhere. Unclad, unaffected by pairs (of opposites, heat and cold, etc.,) receiving no gifts, solely adhering to pure meditation, established in the Atman alone, receiving alms at the prescribed time for sustaining life, (taking shelter during nights) in a deserted house, temple, hay stack, ant-hill, shade of a tree, potter’s hut, a place where ritual fire is kept, sandy bank of a river, a mountain thicket or cavity, a hollow in a tree, the vicinity of a waterfall, or a piece of clean ground, they are well on the way to realize Brahman; with pure mind, they give up their bodies in the state of renunciation as a Paramahamsa. They are indeed the Paramahamsas (as they become absorbed in Brahman).

Samvartaka, Aruni, Svetaketu, Jadabharata, Dattatreya, Suka, Vamadeva and Harita are some of the famous Paramahamsas.