Traditional Indian "shramana" (ascetic, yogi, "saddhu") in search of enlightenment
IS SHAMANISM A PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT? "The shamanic path is not a path traditionally intended to achieve enlightenment," explains Dr. Michael Harner of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
But it is certainly compatible with the quest. The word "shaman" is thought to derive from the Buddhist-Sanskrit term shramana", "a recluse, ascetic, or wandering monk. This path of anti-establishment practices continues to be prevalent in modern India. There as elsewhere they are healers and communicators between worlds. The idea applies to mystics in search of truth and enlightenment often on their own terms -- utilizing yogic asceticism, entheogens, and a stringent moral code that promotes a free, independent, reclusive lifestyle.
These practices were around long before Buddhism as part of India's longstanding sannyasin tradition. Buddhists and Jains (and other lesser known movements that did not survive like the followers of Makkhali Gosala) prominently rejected the infallible authority of the Vedas.
Modern shamans, while less formal than Buddhist "shramanas" or Hindu "sannyasins", are not a reaction to brahmin temple priests as Buddhism was. Nevertheless, even urban shamans are trying to directly connect with the Earth, nature spirits, and a direct experience of oneness. Shamans have existed in every traditional society from the Pagans of Europe (such as the Sami of Sweden) to the pygmies of Papua New Guinea.
by Seven Jaini
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