What is the difference between Rishi Muni, Sadhu, Sannyasi, Tapasvi, Yogi, Sant and Mahatma? | Great Sanatana Dharma

What is the difference between Rishi Muni, Sadhu, Sannyasi, Tapasvi, Yogi, Sant and Mahatma?

There is no need to tell the importance of sages in Hinduism. In the scriptures, they are said to be the guides of society. He has always done the welfare of the society with his knowledge and sadhana. We generally think of them as synonymous with each other, but they also differ. Let us learn about them.

The Sage (Rishi)

Western scientists have said about this word that a sage is one who does research. The word “research” itself is derived from the Sanskrit word “Rishi”. The word “Rish”—which means to see—is derived from this root. He is known for studying the Sruti texts and composing and researching the Smriti texts. In simple terms, those persons who, by virtue of their distinctive and extraordinary concentration, studied the Vedic tradition, saw the extraordinary words, understood their mysterious meanings and gave that knowledge in written form for the welfare of the creatures, were called Rishis.

For the sages it is said – “Rishi: tu mantra drashtara : na tu kartar:”, meaning that the sages are the ones who see the mantra and not the ones who compose it. But the sages who composed the Richas themselves were called Maharshis, that is, great sages. They are also known as inventors.

The belief regarding the sages was that they became available to God by their yoga and were able to see the root as well as the consciousness. They were able to see physical matter as well as the energy hidden behind it. There are also many types of sages like Maharshi, Devarshi, Rajarshi, Brahmarshi, Paramarshi, Kandarshi, Shrutarshi, Saptarshi and so on. We will go into details about these in another article.

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The word Muni is derived from Sanskrit “silence”. Such seekers who remain calm or not or speak very little are called sages. They lacked passion and hatred. According to Srimad Bhagavad Gita, a person of sincere intelligence whose mind is not disturbed by suffering, who does not desire happiness and who is devoid of passion, fear and anger is called a sage. Such sages who took an oath to remain silent or speak very little for a particular period were called munis.

In ancient times, silence has been considered as a cultivation or penance. Many sages did this sadhana and remained silent. The word sage is used only for such sages. The word Muni has also been used for some sages who always chanted God and meditated on Narayana, such as Narada Muni.

“Muni” The word has a deep connection with the picture, mind and body. All three of these words are related to mantra and tantra. In the Rig Veda, the word picture is used to describe looking in wonder. All those things that are bright, attractive and amazing are pictures. That is, almost everything in the world falls under the word picture. The mind is related to many meanings as well as intellectual thought and contemplation. That is, those who meditate are the sages.

The word mantra is believed to have originated from the mind and therefore the composer and meditator of mantras are called manishis or sages. Likewise, the word “tantra” has a connection to the body. Yogis who kept the body kosakriya or awake were called munis. In Jainism, especially the sages are of great importance. Even today you can see them covering their faces with their clothes. According to Jainism, a person with 28 qualities is called a sage.

  They are the qualities – whose soul is steady in restraint, devoid of worldly desires, have a sense of protection towards living beings, non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and aparigraha, envya (caution in travel), language, desire (food purity) , observing Adaniksepa (purification in religious utensils), Pratishthapana (care in disposing of feces and urine), Samayika, Chaturvinshatistava, Vandana, Pratikrama, Pratyakhyana and Kayatsarga, doing Keshaloch, staying naked, not bathing and doing Datun , sleeping on the earth, eating a triple diet and eating only once a day.


A person who performs sadhana is called a sadhu. They withdrew from society and lived in solitude, or sometimes in society, to practice a subject and acquire specific knowledge in that subject. He was called a saint because he cultivated or cultivated the subject. In modern times, “saint” is also a symbolic word used to distinguish between a good and a bad person. In common parlance, “Sadh” means upright and devoid of evil. In Sanskrit, the word sadhu means a gentleman.

It is written in the Laghusiddhanta Kaumudi – “Sadhnoti parakaryamiti sadhu:”, meaning that he who does the work of another is a saint. For a saint, it is also said “atmadasha sadhe”, that is, one who is free from the worldly state and attains atmadasha is called a saint. Sadhu also has a meaning of excellent. A person who has renounced his six disorders – lust, anger, greed, intoxication, delusion and envy is called a saint.

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What is the difference between Rishi, Muni?
What is the difference between Rishi, Muni, Sadhu, Sannyasi, Tapasvi, Yogi, Sant and Mahatma


This word is not as ancient as the others. There is no mention of a sanyasi in the Vedic period. The term probably came into use after the existence of Jainism and Buddhism in which renunciation is of great importance. In Hinduism, Adi Shankaracharya is considered to be a great sanyasi. The word Sannyasi is derived from “sannyasa” which means to renounce. That is, one who has renounced worldly Maya is called a Sannyasi. The last of the four Ashrams mentioned in Hinduism is the Sannyas Ashram. So accordingly, any person who passes through the first three Ashrams – Brahmacharya, Grihastha and Vanprastha and enters the final Sannyasa Ashram is called a Sannyasi.

Hinduism describes three types of sannyasis – parivrajaks (wanderers), yatis (those who strive for the purpose with ease) and paramahansas (the highest category of sannyasis). Similarly, a person whose inner state is stable, who is not affected by any situation or person and remains stable in all circumstances can also be called a sannyasi. He gets neither joy from happiness nor depression from sorrow. Thus the absolute person who is detached from worldly delusions and seeks the supernatural and enlightenment is called a sanyasi.

Ascetic (Tapasvi)

He who performs penance is an ascetic. Tapa means heat. Those who engage in the practice of God by suffering their own body for the attainment of a single goal are called ascetics. Physical suffering can mean anything like reducing, or eliminating, food and water intake, practicing sadhana in any weather or conditions, and so on.

The oldest references to this word are found in Rigveda 8.82.7, Baudhayana’s Dharma Shastra, Katyayana’s Shrota-sutra, Panini’s 4.4.128, etc., where it means pain or suffering. Tapasya is one of the rules described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Asceticism means voluntarily restraining physical intense desire through self-discipline and actively pursuing a higher purpose in life. A goal is of great importance in penance, just as the goal of Bhagiratha’s penance was to bring Ganga to earth.

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He who does yoga is a yogi. Shiva-Samhita Reading A yogi is one who has the knowledge that the entire universe is situated within his body. The Yoga Shikha Upanishad describes two types of yogis – first those who enter the sun through various yoga techniques and second those who reach the Sushumna Nadi through yoga and consume nectar. In the context of yoga, the pulse is the pathway through which the energy of the body flows. In yoga, it is believed that the nadis connect the nadi chakras in the body. The term yogi is also used for those who practice yoga.


He who is calm is a saint. Here calm is not only by speech but also to be calm in every situation. That is, a person who has control over his speech, who has no anxiety in his mind, who is free from craving, who has control over his hunger and thirst and who is devoid of desires is a saint. One of the meanings of saint is to balance.

We ordinary human beings are always connected to the world which is the excess of Maya. Similarly, sages, ascetics, etc. are completely detached from the world, and that too is excessive. A person who maintains balance in both these situations is a saint. That is, he is neither completely connected to the world nor completely detached from it. The identity of a saint is to be separate from the world while living in it.


These are not a special category. Any person who rises above ordinary human beings by his knowledge and actions is called a Mahatma, that is, a great soul. They do not have to be a sanyasi or a saint. A person who displays high ideals even in household life is also a Mahatma. It is difficult for a man to become a sage, etc., but he can become a Mahatma by his restraint, ideals and conduct.

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