Sannyasa vs Tyaga

A frequently asked question on sannyasa and tyaga is answered.

What is the difference between sannyasa and tyaga?

Of the two terms tyaga is easier to understand. Tyaga is external renunciation or giving up external objects. Tyaga means you could have decided not to enjoy a particular worldly object, e.g. chocolate, but you may still have the desire for it. Tyaga may be practiced by anyone, anytime. It may be the renunciation of one or many external objects. It may be a renunciation of an object or many objects for a predetermined period of time or for a lifetime. 

Sanyasa is a broader term

  1. It means you have taken a solemn oath abstaining from certain worldly objects. The objects are specifically: a. sexual pleasure, spouse and children (putra eshana) b. wealth, possessions and comfort (vitta eshana) c. name and fame (loka eshana). This would be an external form of renunciation whereupon you have ceremonial rites known as Bibidisa initiation and become a member of an institution called akhara. Such a renunciate is called a swami and he is now part of an hierarchical institution with many rules and observations.  
  2. You can take sanyasa by simply walking off. You need not inform anyone about it. There is no announcement, no ceremony and no specific vows, rules or observations. The renunciate is simply known as a sannyasi and is self motivated. He may or may not have a teacher and he may or may not follow the 3 eshanas. This non-ceremonial version is known as Bidwat. 
  3. The most important aspect of sannyasa or renunciation however is not the external form but the internal process. This internal Sannyasa is renunciation of the desire for worldly objects. For instance, in tyaga you give up chocolate but may have the desire for it. In internal sannyasa or renunciation you even give up the desire for it. This means that even the desire for chocolate has disappeared and you are now like someone from the jungles in Asia who does not even know what a chocolate is and therefore has no desire for it!

The terms are often used as though they would be interchangeable. in meaning.