Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad of Atharvaveda

by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1914 | 14,587 words

This is the English translation of the Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad (belonging to the Atharvaveda): a minor Sanskrit treatise selected amongst a collection 108 extant upanishads, dating to at least the 1st millennium BC. The Narada-parivrajaka-upanishad describes the lifestyle of a sannyasi, a Hindu monk who renounced life according to the Ashrama...

Chapter III (third upadeśa)

Then Nārada addressed the grandfather thus:

"O Lord, by whom, after attaining the qualifications of sannyāsa, is it fit to be taken?" To which Brahma, replied: "After first expounding the qualifications of sannyāsa, the rules of sannyāsa will then be stated. Hearken carefully. A eunuch, the outcaste, the maimed, the lewd, the deaf, the youth, the dumb, the heretic, the discus-bearer, the Liṅga-wearer, the vaikhānasa (forester), the Haradhvaja (carrier of Śiva's flag), the reciter of Vedas for hire, the bald-headed, one without (sacrificial) fire—all these, even though they have attained vairāgya are unfit for sannyāsa. Even though they have become sannyāsins, they are unfit to be initiated into the mahāvākyas (sacred vedic sentences). The Paramahaṃsa sannyāsin stated before (as fit to take sannyāsa) is the one qualified. It is stated in the smṛtis that he is a parivrāt who is not afraid of others, as others are not afraid of him. The eunuch, the limbless, the blind, the youth, the sinful, the outcaste, the door-keeper, the vaikhānasa, the Haradhvaja, the cakrī (discus-bearer), the Liṅgī (Liṅga-wearer), the heretic, the bald-headed, one without fire (sacrifice), one that had undergone sannyāsa twice or thrice, the reciter of Vedas for hire—all these are not fit for regular sannyāsa but only for ātura-sannyāsa (viz., sannyāsa taken while a person is afflicted, etc.). What is the opinion of āryas (Hindūs) on the (fit) time for ātura-sannyāsa (being taken)? The time when prāṇa (life) is about to rise (out of the body) is called ātura. The time other than it is incapable of conferring (upon one) the path of salvation and is not ātura. Even in ātura-sannyāsa, the wise should according to rules, initiate themselves into sannyāsa after reciting the mantras again and again in the course of respective mantras. There is no difference between regular and ātura-sannyāsa in the mantras to be uttered at the time of taking sannyāsa. There is no karma without mantras; (hence) karma needs mantras. Anything done without mantra cannot be termed karma. Hence mantras should not be given up. Any karma done without mantra is like an offering made in ashes. Through the conciseness (of the performance) of the karmas, it is stated to be ātura-sannyāsa.

"Therefore, O Muni, the recitation of mantras is stated to be in ātura-sannyāsa. One who is always duly doing agnihotra (fire-sacrifice) should, when he quits (the house) for foreign places through indifference, perform the prājāpatya sacrifice in water and then take up sannyāsa. After completing in water the observances of karma through the mind, or the recitation of mantras, the wise man should attain sannyāsa. Else he becomes a fallen man. When, in the mind, indifference to all objects arises, then men should long after sannyāsa, (that being the best time for it); otherwise they are fallen. One who attains vairāgya should take sannyāsa. One who does not, should remain at home. That vile twice-born with desire, should he take sannyāsa, reaches hell. That Brāhmaṇa who is a celibate, who has under control his tongue, sexual organ, stomach, and hand may become a sannyāsin without undergoing the ceremony of marriage. Having known saṃsāra as one without sāra (or essence) and not having undergone any marriage on account of the desire to know the sāra (or essence of God), they become sannyāsins on account of the practice of the supreme vairāgya. The characteristic of pravṛtti (path) is the performance of karma; that of nivṛtti is jñāna. Therefore placing jñāna in the forefront, the wise man should take up sannyāsa. When the reality of the eternal Parabrahman is understood, then he should take up one daṇḍa (staff) and abandon the holy thread and tuft of hair. Then he becomes fit to eat the alms-food (of sannyāsa), having become devoted to Paramātmā, indifferent to those that are not-Paramātmā and freed from all desires. He becomes fit to be the eater of alms-food who preserves the same countenance when he is beaten, as when he is worshipped or prostrated to. He becomes fit to be the eater of alms-food who is of the firm certitude that he is no other than the non-dual and indestructible Brahman, otherwise named Vāsudeva. He in whom are existent śānti (control of the organs), śama (control of mind), purity (of mind and body), satya (truth), santoṣa (contentment), ārjava (straightforwardness), poverty, and non-ostentatiousness should be in the order of life of kaivalya (sannyāsa). When one does not, through actions, mind, or speech, commit any sinful action to any being, then he becomes fit for eating alms-food. Having become quiescent (through the control of the mind), having practised the ten kinds of dharmas, having, according to rules, studied vedānta, and having paid the three debts (to devas, ṛṣis, and pitṛs), one should take up sannyāsa. Courage, fortitude, the control of the body, honesty, purity of (mind and body), control of the (inner) organs, shame, knowledge, truth, and absence of anger—these ten are the characteristics of dharma. One who does not look back (with pleasure) upon past enjoyments, nor forward into the future, and one who does not rejoice in the present, is fit to become a sannyāsin. One who is able to control within, the inner organs and without, the external organs, may be in the order of life of kaivalya. One who while in life is not affected by pleasures and pains, as the body is unaffected by them after death, may be in the order of life of kaivalya.

"An ascetic of the Paramahaṃsa (order) shall wear two loin-cloths, one ragged cloth, and one staff. Nothing more is ordained (in his case). Should he through desire wear more than these, he will fall into the hell of raurava and be born into the womb of an animal. Having stitched together old and clean cloths into one and having coloured it with red (ochre), he should wear it as his upper cloth. He may be with one cloth or even without it. He should roam about alone with the sole vision (of Brahman), devoid of desires; but he may be in one place alone in the rainy season. Having quite abandoned his family, including son and wife, vedānta, sacrifice, and the sacred thread, the ascetic should wander incognito. Having given up all faults, such as passion, anger, pride, desire, and delusion, the parivrāt (ascetic) should become one that owns nothing. He is a muni who is devoid of love and hate, who regards equally a clod of earth, stone, or gold, who does no injury to any living creature, and is freed from all. That ascetic reaches salvation who is associated with Ātmajñāna, who is freed from ostentation and egoism, from doing injury and tale-bearing. Through attraction to the senses, he becomes subject to fault, there is no doubt: through their control, he gains perfection. Lust when enjoyed is never gratified. Just as fire increases with the oblation (of ghee, etc., poured into it) so also lust waxes strong (with enjoyment). It should be known that that man who does not rejoice or grieve through hearing, touching, eating, seeing, or smelling is a jitendriya (conqueror of the organs). He whose speech and mind are well brought under control attains, completely and always, all the fruits of vedānta.

"That Brāhmaṇa who is always afraid of respect as poison and always longs after disrespect as nectar, sleeps soundly and rises happily even though he is treated with disrespect. He moves about happily in this world. The one who treats him with disrespect perishes. All cruel words should be endured. None should be treated with disrespect. On account of bodily relationship, none should be made inimical. No anger should be directed in turn towards one who is angry. Soft words (only) should be spoken, even when (violently) pulled by another. No untrue words should be uttered, even should afflictions arise to the seven gates (of the body). One desirous of bliss should dwell in this universe through the aid of Ātmā alone, intent upon Ātmā, free from desires, and without the desire of blessing (others). He becomes fit for salvation through the control of the organs, the destruction of love and hate and non-injury to beings. He should abandon (all identification with) this feeble, perishable, and impure body of five elements whereof the bones are the pillars, which is strung by the nerves, coated over with flesh and blood, covered up by the skin, is of bad odour, full of urine and feces is ever haunted by dotage and miseries and is the seat of all ills. If an ignorant man be fond of this body firmly knit together with flesh, blood, pus, feces, and urine, nerves, fat, and bones, he would, a fortiori, be fond of hell. That (identification of the body with the Self) is alone the seat of the Kālasūtra hell. That is alone the Mahā-Vīci-Vāgura (hell). That is alone the Asipatravanaśreṇi (hell). Such an idea of the body being the Self should be strenuously abandoned, though all should perish. That love of the body is not fit to be felt by one intent upon his welfare, just as a low-caste woman eating dog's flesh is unfit to be touched.

"One (fit to reach salvation), after leaving all meritorious actions to those dear to him and all sins to those not dear, attains the eternal Brahman through dhyāna-yoga. Such a man, through the ordinances, gives up little by little all associations, and being freed from all pairs of opposites, remains in Brahman alone. On account of the accomplishment (of salvation), he should be moving about alone and without any help. He who having understood the effect of being alone never derogates from it, is never left in want. The bowl, the foot of the tree, the tattered robe,. the state of being without help, the equality of vision in all these are the characteristics of the emancipated one. One intent upon the welfare of all beings, with a quiescent mind, having the three-knotted staff and bowl, and ever devoted to the One (Brahman), after taking up sannyāsa, may enter a village. Such one is a bhikṣu (alms-taker). Should two unite, it is called mithuna (a pair or union); with three, it becomes a grāma (or village); with more, it is a nagara (or city). No city or village, or, mithuna should be made, and an ascetic who commits these three (offences) falls from his duty. Through such intercourse (of ascetics), all kinds of talks connected with the king and alms, friendship, tale-bearing, and malice occur between them. There is no doubt of it.

"He (the ascetic) should be alone and desireless. He should not converse with anybody. The ascetic should ever be uttering the word Nārāyaṇa in each sentence. Being alone, he should be meditating upon Brahman in all mental, spoken, and bodily actions. He should neither rejoice at dying or living. He should be anticipating the time when life will close. He should not be glad of dying; nor should he be glad of living. He should be biding his time like a hireling (for his pay). An ascetic who plays the part of the dumb, the eunuch, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and the idiot is emancipated through the (above six) means. There is no doubt of this. He who has not fondness for eating, saying that this is good and that is bad, who speaks only words that are beneficial, true, and moderate is said to be the dumb. He is a eunuch who is no more affected by the sight of a sixteen years old girl than of a new-born female baby or a hundred-years old woman. He who does not move about for more than the distance of a yojana for alms or for the calls of nature is a lame man. That parivrāt (ascetic) is said to be a blind man, who whether sitting or walking, has his vision extended to no more than four yokes’ distance on the ground. He is said to be deaf who, though hearing words, beneficial or non-beneficial, pleasant or painful to the mind, is as if he does not hear them. That clever ascetic is said to be an idiot who is ever in a state of sleep, as it were, having his organs non-agitated by objects, even though near. He should never observe the following six—the scenes of dancing, etc., gambling, lovely women, eatables, enjoyables, and women in their monthly course.

"The ascetic should never in thought even think of others with the six (viz.,) love, hate, pride, deceit, treachery, and the illusion (of confounding them). To the ascetics, the following six are sinful: cot, white cloth, the stories of women, love towards women, sleep during the day, and vehicles. He who is engaged in Ātmic contemplation should carefully avoid a long journey. He should ever practise the upaniṣadic vidyā tending to salvation. The ascetic need not bathe daily. He need not observe upavāsa (fast). He need not be one that had studied Vedas. He need not be one that is able to produce a commentary (lecture). He should daily observe acts without sin, deceit, or falsehood. He who, having withdrawn the organs within, like a turtle its limbs (within its shell), is with the actions of the organs and the mind annihilated, without desires, without possessing any object as his own, without dualities, without prostrations, without the oblations to pity devatās (they being with desires), without mine or I, without awaiting anything, without the desire to be happy, and living in places where men do not live—he alone is emancipated. There is no doubt of this.

"A celibate, or householder, or forester, who is (ever) vigilant, has karma, devotion, and knowledge and is independent, after understanding his peculiar tendency and having become indifferent (to his order of life), may become an householder after ending the celibate life, or may from the householder's life enter the life of a foresters and then the life of an ascetic; or from the life of a celibate, or householder, or forester may (directly) enter that of an ascetic. The moment vairāgya arises in him, he may become an ascetic that moment, whether he is with vrata (religious observance) or not, is snātaka[1] or not, or with a discontinued fire-sacrifice or not. On account of that, some perform Prājāpatya-sacrifice alone; or Āgneya-sacrifice may be performed. Is not agni, prāṇa? Through this alone, one should perform that sacrifice only which is connected with the three dhātus. The three dhātus are sattva, rajas, and tamas alone.

With the mantra,

ayaṃ te yonirṛtvijo yato jāto arocathāḥ |
taṃ jānannagna ārohāthā no vardhaya rayim ||

agni (fire) should be taken in.

Thus it is said (in the Śrutis):

eṣa ca agneryoniryaḥ prāṇaḥ, prāṇaṃ gaccha svāṃ yoniṃ gaccha svāhā ||

The agni from āhavanīya should be brought and taken in as before (with the mantras above mentioned).

Should such an agni be not obtainable, the homa (oblation) should be done in water with the mantra,

āpo cai sarvā devatāssarvābhyodevatābhyo juhomi svāhā |

After performing homa, the water should be taken in and sipped.

After uttering the mantra,

sājyaṃ haviranāmayaṃmokṣadaṃ,

he abandons the tuft of hair in the head, the holy thread, father, son, wife, karma, vedic study and mantra and becomes an ascetic. The Śrutis say that a knower of Ātmā should be engaged in meditation upon Brahman, through the three mantras tending to salvation."

Then Nārada asked Brahma thus: "How can one, without the holy thread, be a Brāhmaṇa?" To which Brahma replied: "The wise should, after shaving (the head) together with the tuft of hair, cast off the holy thread. He should wear, as his sūtra (thread), the indestructible and supreme Brahman. On account of (sūcanāt) its being an indication, it (thread) is called sūtra. Sūtra is the Paramapada (supreme seat). He by whom that sūtra is known is Brāhman. That sūtra (thread of Brahman) in which is strung the whole universe like beads on a sūtra (string), should be worn by the yogin that has known yoga and tattva. The wise man that is in supreme yoga should abandon the outer sūtra (thread). He who wears (in his heart) this sūtra of Brāhmic Reality is alone Brāhmaṇa. Through wearing this higher sūtra, it becomes not a rejected one, not an impure one. Those only whose sūtra is internal, having the holy thread as jñāna are the real knowers of the sūtra; they are said to possess the yajnopavīta (holy thread). To those whose śikhā (tuft of hair) is jñāna, whose holy thread is jñāna, and whose meditation is upon jñāna, jñāna alone is supreme. It is said that jñāna alone is able to purify. That wise man alone who possesses the jñāna-śikhā like the śikhā (flame) of agni (fire) is said to possess śikhā (tuft of hair). Those that have mere śikhā are no śikhīs. The Brāhmaṇas and others that are entitled to perform the vedic karmas are allowed to wear the (external) thread, only as an auxiliary to the karmas. It is only vedic. The knowers of Brahman know that all Brāhmaṇya (the state of Brahman) accrues to him only that has the jñānamaya śikhā (knowledge-tuft of hair) and the tanmaya (That or Brahman-ful) upavīta (holy thread).

"Having known it, a Brāhmaṇa should take up sannyāsa. Such a sannyāsin, should be, in order to bear the bodily afflictions, with one cloth, bald-headed and without having anything as being required (for his use); or according to rules, he may be (naked) as nature made his body, and should abandon his son, friend, wife, trustworthy relatives, etc., as well as all karmas and love for the universe, the loin-cloth, staff, and covering. Enduring all pairs of opposites without cold or heat, happiness or grief, fame or disgrace, without the six changes, I-ness, malice, pride, ostentation, jealousy, slander of others, love and hate, pleasure and pain, passion, anger, greed and delusion and regarding his body as a mere carcase, without thinking of all the things, internal and external, that are other than Self. Without prostrations, without the worship of devas and pitṛs and without praise or condemnation, he should wander about of his own accord. He should not receive gold and others. For him, there is no invocation or dismissal (of deities), mantra or non-mantra, meditation or worship, aim or non-aim, others or not-others; without having another's or (his own) settled place of residence, and having a firm conviction, he should be in a desolate house or at the foot of trees, or in a temple, a plenteous turfed spot, a potter's place or that of agnihotra or sacrifice, river, tank, sand-heap, subterranean vault, cave, mountain-rill, the place prepared for sacrifice or forest; or like the naked personages, Śvetaketu, Ṛbhu, Nidāgha, Jadabharata, Ṛṣabha, Durvāsas, Samvartaka, Sanatsujāta, Vaideha (Janaka), Vatasiddha, Śuka, Vāmadeva, Dattātreya, Raivataka, and Gorakṣa, he should roam about as nature made him, without being recognised and without any means of discovery of his course of life, like a lad, or an insane man, or a ghost, with the actions of a madman though not mad, after discarding in water the three-knotted staff, the stringed sling (bag), vessel, bowl, waist-string, loin-cloth, stick, and cloth. He should ever be engaged in Ātmic deliberation. Being in his natural state without being affected by the pairs, without receiving anything, being ever settled firmly in the Brāhmic path, having a pure mind, eating the food that is obtained without asking, in the palm as vessel, or in another's vessel in order to merely protect the body at the time required, being of equal mind whether the object is gained or not, without having aught of his own, always meditating upon Brahman, being with Ātma-niṣṭhā, having eradicated all actions, virtuous and sinful, and having given up all—that one who ever utters Brahma-Praṇava, that "I am Brahman" alone, with the blissful and non-dual jñāna, and after rising above the three bodies (to Brahman), like the analogy of the wasp and the worm,[2] gives up the body as a sannyāsin, is said to have done all his work (in this world). Such is the Upaniṣad."

Footnotes and references:


A celibate who has completed his first Āśrama.


Referring to the idea of the worm becoming the wasp, with the latter's frequent stinging.

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