posted on Nov, 6 2011 @ 09:37 PM
Vedic education - and collecting food by alms ('bhiksha')
'brahmchari' - student, 'vanprasthi' - ascetic, 'sanyaasi' - preacher are allowed to ask for alms ('bhiksha') as per 'dharm'.
'grihasthi' or householder is not allowed to beg.
A student should not need to beg. It is actually king's responsibility to provide for teachers and students. However reality is not as rosy, as kings
do not always provide enough. The State support to Gurukul varies from king to king. Brahmchari works in fields, rears cows etc. to raise food, but
the amount of food grown is dependent on land availability etc. in the Gurukul, and number of students. So it is allowed as per 'dharm', that a
student can ask a householder for 'alms'. A householder can give foodgrains, ghee/oil, money etc. as per his desire. Any such donation is considered
good karma for the householder, and it is said that a householder will get much more foodgrains that he donated.
Vanprasthi (ascetic) try to be self-sufficient by living in the forest. Once forests were abundant in south Asia, and these forests were source of
almost anything an ascetic would need. There was enough food - fruits and roots etc. and firewood, broad leaf trees to build huts etc. As forests
declined, in tune with growth of population, the ascetic became more dependent on householders. Hardly any forests are left nowadays, and whatever
remains are 'reserve' forests, means human settlement is not allowed. It has become virtually impossible for an ascetic to survive off forest
resources. Vanprasthi are allowed to ask a householder for 'alms' just like a student. (Spiritually a student and an ascetic are similar - the only
difference being that student is under the command of a teacher).
A 'Sanyaasi' is same as a teacher in Vedic system. Sanyaasi does a service to the society by giving knowledge of 'dharm', even knowledge of
sciences. I have already explained that most people in Vedic society, specially people in rural areas had only Sanyaasi as their guide. Sanyaasi can
perform 'sanskar' or 16 major rituals associated with vedic life. Sanyaasi were held in high esteem and people were very keen to serve them. All our
traditions are almost destroyed in modern world, so it is very hard to be a 'sanyaasi'. 'Arya Samaj' has done very good work by re-establishing
the prestige of Sanyaasi. It is very hard to become a 'sanyaasi'. Knowledge of Veda is a pre-requisite. Ability to conduct 'sanskar' is another.
There are a lot of 'self-declared' sanyaasi who do not meet the criteria, and only mislead people. Arya Samaj has a system of recognition for
sanyaasi, which I believe is appropriate for the times.