Definition - What does Sadhvi mean?

Sadhvi is a Sanskrit term that literally means “virtuous woman” and refers to women who have renounced their possessions and chosen to live apart from society to focus on a spiritual life. The name for a man who has chosen this life is called a sadhu. Both names come from the root word, sadh, which means “gain power over” or “reach one's goal.” The Sanskrit word for a spiritual practice, sadhana, comes from the same root.

Traditionally, women choose this lifestyle after being widowed, although some start following the path in their teens and 20s. Women are said to make up about 10 percent of those on the sadhu/sadhvi path.

Yogapedia explains Sadhvi

Sadhvis, like their male counterparts, devote their lives to deep meditation, a particular god, yoga and spiritual discussion and other related practices. Some live in isolation, while others follow the sadhana through organized groups that are separate from or on the fringes of society.

The ultimate goal of the sadhvi lifestyle is achieving spiritual liberation, or moksha. Sadhvis may be yoginis (and often are), but yoginis are not necessarily sadhvis.

The practices and sadhvi lifestyle vary among the Hindu sects. Of those that live the monastic life as organized groups in compounds, some are members of sub-sects that consist only of sadhvis, but other sects permit sadhvis and sadhus with separate living quarters. A few Hindu sects do not permit sadhvis for fear the celibate sadhus would be corrupted.

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