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 V (fifth upadeśa)

Then Nārada said to the Grandfather thus:—

"You said that sannyāsa was the liberator of all karmas. Now you say again that the sannyāsin is one that should be in the observance of his āśrama (order of life). (How to reconcile the two?)" To which the Grandfather replied thus: "To the jīva possessing the body, there are three avasthās—the waking, the dreaming, and the dreamless sleeping with turya (the fourth). Those beings of Puruṣas that are subject to these avasthās follow the observances, incidental to them, of karma, jñāna and vairāgya." Nārada said: "O Lord, if so, what are the differences of different orders of sannyāsa? And what are the differences of their observances? Please tell us truly."

Therefore the differences of sannyāsas, and the differences of observances were related for the sake of Nārada by Brahmā, after assenting to his (Nārada's) question thus:—

"Truly sannyāsa is of one kind only. On account of ajñāna, inability and non-performance of karmas (of persons), it is divided into three and then into four, thus: vairāgya-sannyāsa, jñāna-sannyāsa, jñānavairāgya-sannyāsa and karma-sannyāsa. The vairāgya-sannyāsin is one who becomes an ascetic after being in a vicious condition of lust, etc., and then, becomes disgusted with the objects through his former good karmas. A jñāna-sannyāsin is one who becomes an ascetic with the four means of salvation, after controlling the organs through book-wisdom, and becoming familiar with the experiences of the world of virtue and vice, after abandoning anger, jealousy, envy, ahaṅkāra and all sannyāsa productive of identification, after giving up the three vāsanās of the body, books and world, which are of the form of desires for women, wealth and earth, and after thinking that the whole of the universe should be given up, like vomited food. A jñānavairāgya-sannyāsin is one who becomes an ascetic as nature made him, after practising and enjoying all, and having the body alone remaining, through jñāna and vairāgya, in the realisation of the Reality. A karma-sannyāsin is one who, though he has no vairāgya, becomes an ascetic by regularly passing from one āśrama to another, from the celibate, to the householder and then to the forester. A vairāgya-sannyāsin is one who becomes an ascetic from the celibate order (directly), being as nature made him.

"(There is another fourfold classification.) The four kinds are: vidvat-sannyāsa, jñāna-sannyāsa, vividiṣā-sannyāsa and karma-sannyāsa. In karma-sannyāsa, there are two (sub-) divisions, nimitta (causal) and animitta (non-causal). Ātura-sannyāsa (on account of the cause of approaching death, disease, etc.), is nimitta-sannyāsa. The krama (regular) sannyāsa is animitta. Ātura-sannyāsa is on account of defective karmas. When sannyāsa is taken at the time of death, it is called nimitta. Animitta is that when one becomes duly a sannyāsin when the body is strong, (after being convinced) that all created things are subject to destruction, that body and others should be given up, that all Ātmās (souls)—each one shining in the pure Akās, dwelling in all, moving in the antarikṣa (middle world) as of the form of vāyu, in the sacrificial pit as of the form of fire, in the moon, in all men, in the supreme angels, in the form of truth, in ākāś, in the form of the conch, pearl, fish, etc., in water, in the form of grain, etc., on earth, in the form of the limbs of Vedas, in the form of the rivers from the mountains, in the form of truth and the great one—are no other than Brahman and that others are but perishable.

"There are six classes of sannyāsins—kutīcaka, bahūdaka, haṃsa, paramahaṃsa, turīyātīta and avadhūta. Kutīcaka is one who wears the tuft of hair, holy thread, staff, bowl, loin-cloth and tattered cloth, who worships mother, father, and teacher, who has potsherd and sling, who is uttering mantras, who takes food in one and the same place, who wears, vertically, the white earth (on the forehead as sect-mark) and who has a staff. Bahūdaka is one who, like kutīcaka, wears the tuft of hair, tattered cloth, etc., as well as the three (sect-) marks, but who eats eight morsels of food through getting alms. The haṃsa is one who wears matted hair and the three vertical sect-marks and eats the alms-food without any limit (as to the morsel) and wears the bare loin-cloth only. The paramahaṃsa is he who is without tuft of hair and holy thread, begs food in one day from five houses, has one loin-cloth, wears one red cloth alone and sacred ashes and has given up all. The turīyatīta is one who either may take fruits, eating them with his mouth like cows, or if he is an eater of food, may beg food from three houses. The naked man having the body alone has the bodily actions (quiescent), like the dead body. Such an one is the turīyātita. The avadhūta is he who is without any rules, gets his food (in his mouth), following the course of the boa constrictor,[1] from all persons except persons of ill-repute and outcastes, and is ever engaged in the realisation of the Real. Should the ātura-sannyāsin be alive (after taking sannyāsa), he should take up regular sannyāsa. The rules to be observed in the case of the (three), kutīcaka, bahūdaka and haṃsa are the same as for the orders of life from the celibate to the sannyāsin. For the three, paramahaṃsa upwards, they have no waist-cord, loin-cloth, cloth, bowl and staff. They may get food from all castes and should be as nature made them. Such are the rules.

"At the time of the sannyāsa, the recitation of the Vedas should be made till the mind is cleared; and after casting aside in water the waist-cord, loin-cloth, staff, cloth, bowl, etc., he should roam about. He should be without even the slightest tattered cloth. He should neither utter anything other than Praṇava, nor talk nor hear. He should not study logic or grammar. He should not talk many words; they will but pain his vocal organ. He should not converse with people through the vocal organ. He should not talk in other language (than Saṃskṛt). He has no worship of God and no witnessing of festivals; he should be free from pilgrimage. The other rules of ascetics are: The kutīcaka should beg alms in one house only; for the bahūdaka, eight morsels in eight houses; for the haṃsa, there is no limit; for paramahaṃsa, he should beg with his hand as the vessel in five houses; for the turīyātita, he should eat fruits with his mouth like cows; (for avadhūta), he should take food like a boa constrictor in all castes. The ascetic should not dwell in one place for many days. He should not make prostrations to any one. Among the turīyātita and avadhūta (ascetics), even though one is junior, he should not make prostrations to another, a senior who has known the Reality. He should not swim with his hands and cross the river. He should not climb up a tree, nor get into a carriage. Nothing should be purchased or sold (by him). No exchange should be made, no ostentation for him. There is nothing for the ascetic to do. If there is anything for him to do, he will perish. Therefore the only thing he is qualified to do is reflection, etc.

"To the āturas and kutīcakas, the world they attain is bhūrloka and bhuvarloka; to the bāhūdakas, swargaloka; to the haṃsas, tapoloka; to the paramahaṃsas, satyaloka. To the turīyātīta and avadhūta, Kaivalya in Ātmā according to the analogy of the wasp and the worm through the realisation of Reality. It is the command of the Vedas that whatever form one thinks of at the last (death) moment and before leaving the body is attained by him and no other. Knowing it thus, he should not be a practiser of anything but the realisation of Reality. Through the observance of any other, he goes to the world of that other. To one that has attained jñāna-vairāgya, his salvation is in the Self, as there is no other observance for him. The same one (Ātmā) alone is styled Viśva in the waking state, Taijasa in the dreaming state and Prājña in the dreamless sleeping state. Through the difference of states, there is the difference of the agent presiding over them. To the fourteen organs (the ten organs of sense and actions and the four organs of the mind in these states,) the outer and inner vṛttis (modifications) are the material cause. There are four vṛttis, viz., manas, buddhi, ahaṅkāra and citta. Through the differences of actions of the vṛttis, there arise the differences of separate functions. When (the presiding agent is) in the eyes, there is the waking state; in the throat, the dreaming state; in the heart, the dreamless sleeping state; and in the head, the turya (or fourth) state. Knowing these and that the turya is the indestructible, one should not hear or see anything in the waking state, as if he were in dreamless sleeping state, To such a one who does not apparently know them, even the dreaming state forms the same (dreamless sleeping) state. Such a one is termed Jīvanmukta. All the Vedas say that there is salvation to such a one.

"To the ascetic, there should be no desire of this world or the higher. Then he will be one that will practise accordingly. Through the practices of (the study of) books foreign to the realisation of Reality, he becomes a useless person like a camel bearing saffron paint. To him, there is no entry into yoga books, no study of sāṅkhya books, no practise of mantra or tantra. Should there be any entry into other books (than the one treating of Reality), then it will be like an ornament to a dead body. Like a cobbler, he should be beyond karma and knowledge and unfit for salutation and repeating the names of the Lord. He will duly get the benefit of the karmas (of his order of life). Having given up all like the foam (separating itself) from the castor oil, having the mental staff which controls the mind clinging to objects, having the hand as the vessel (for eating) and having the quarters alone as the cloth, the ascetic should go about like a lad, idiot, or ghost. He should neither desire to live nor die. Like a coolie abiding his appointed time (of pay), the ascetic should bide his time (of death). One who lives by taking alms without (the qualifications of) patience, wisdom, vairāgya and the qualifications beginning with śama (control of mind) is the spoiler of the order of life of an ascetic. There is no salvation obtained through the mere assumption of the staff or making the head bald or other disguise or through ostentatious observances. That man who has jñāna as his staff is said to be the ēkadaṇḍī (one having Brahman alone as the staff). An ascetic who, having merely a wooden staff without jñāna, eats all (indiscriminately) in all places, goes to the terrible hells called Mahāraurava. (The sense of) greatness in his case is likened by the ṛṣis to the pig's dung. Having given it up, he should move about like a worm. Food and cloth without being begged for by him should be obtained involuntarily through the will of others. A naked (ascetic) may bathe at the wish of another. A man who practises the meditation upon Self in the dreaming state as in the waking is said to be the foremost and first of Brahmavādins. He should neither grieve for things not obtained, nor rejoice at things obtained. With the organs not attached to objects, he should be engaged in the sole protection of life. He should always look down upon the gains obtained with much respect (shown to him). Through the gains obtained with much respect, the ascetic though released becomes bound. What is meant by the protection of life, is this: When the fire (of the hearth in a house) had been extinguished and all have taken food, he may go to the houses of caste people that are fit for taking alms from. The yogin who has his hand only as his alms-bowl should not often take alms. He may take (food) standing or sitting; so in the middle (of taking food), he may sip water. Those who have pure mind should not over-step the limits like the ocean. The great ones do not give up their self-restraint like the sun. When the muni takes, like a cow, the food with the mouth only (without the use of the hand), he becomes of equal vision to all beings. Then he becomes fit for salvation. He may, for alms, go from a forbidden house to a non-forbidden one. He should go (for alms) to a house where the door is ajar, but not to a house where it is closed. The muni who has a dusty body, an uninhabited house or the foot of a tree as his abode, without anything dear or not dear to him, sleeping where the sun sets, without any fire-warship, without any settled place and with patience and the organs under control, should live without any desire in any place obtained. He who after going to the forest dwells with jñāna as the sacrifice and the organs under his mastery and awaits his time (of death), is fit to be of the nature of Brahman. A muni who goes about with no cause for instilling fear into all beings need never have any fear from them. One without any abhimāna (identification with body) or egoism or dualities or doubt, never is angry, never hates, never lies through the vocal organ. That person who, having visited all sacred places, does not do any injury to any living creature and gets alms at the proper time, is fit to be of the nature of Brahman. He should not associate with a forester or householder. He should conduct himself in such manner as not to be known to others. He should not be glad of anything. He should roam about on earth like a worm, according to the direction pointed out by the sun. He should not do or cause to do works tending to (his) fame or pains or people's benefit. He should not be inclined towards vicious books. He should not live dependent upon any. He should give up all over-disputatious reasoning. He should not join any party (fighting with another). He should not take any disciples. He should not study many books. He should not discourse. Neither should he commence any works. Without any distinguishing characteristics and without letting others know his opinions, that wise man, or muni, ever intent upon the Brāhmic vision, should exhibit himself to people like an idiot, or a lad, or a mute person. He should neither do nor talk anything. He should not think of a good or bad thing. Rejoicing in That within himself, the muni should go about like an idiot. He should roam about alone without associating with any, and with the senses under control. The clever jñānī sporting in Ātmā, ever delighting in Ātmā, looking upon all with equal vision like an Ātma-jñānī, and playing like a child, should wander about like an idiot. That learned man versed in Brahma-vidyā should talk like a madman. He should follow the observances of cows (by eating with the mouth, causing no trouble to anybody). A good jñānī whether pushed, disregarded, slighted, beaten, or hindered by the vicious, or burnt by their acts, or having urine and fæces thrown upon him by them, or afflicted in various other ways, should always think well of them though pained, and thus make them lift themselves through their own Selves. A yogin whether praised or afflicted by others, never thinks of it in order to reach a superior state in yoga. A yogin who is slighted by people, attains a higher state in yoga. A yogin never goes against the actions of the virtuous. He is the same whether people slight him or do not desire his association. He should do all that is right through the actions of mind, speech and body to all beings born out of the embryo or the egg, etc. He should harbour no malice against any and give up all clinging to things. The ascetic after giving up passion, anger, pride, desire, delusion and other faults should be without fear. Eating alms-food, preserving silence, tapas, special meditation, a good jñāna, and vairāgya—these are said, in the opinion (of the great), to be the dharma of the ascetic. Wearing the red cloth, and being ever in dhyāna-yoga, he should live either at the foot of a tree, outside the village, or in the temple. Daily he should live upon begging. He should not eat one food alone (from one only). Till the mind becomes pure, the learned man should thus be moving about. Then when the mind is purified, he may be anywhere as a parivrājaka. Seeing Janārdaṇa in and out everywhere, preserving silence, being without stain like vāyu, roaming everywhere, being equal in happiness and pains, and with patience, eating whatever comes to hand, equally regarding without any hate brāhmaṇa, cow, horse, beasts and others, meditating through the mind upon Viṣṇu that is Paramātmā and Īśvara, thinking ever of Brāhmic bliss and thinking himself to be Brahman alone—such a one having known thus, regarding the staff to be no other than the certitude of the mind as above, having no desire, being naked and having abandoned all saṃsāra through the actions ever done through the mind, speech, and body, attains salvation, according to the analogy of the wasp and the worm, through the practice of the realisation of Reality without ever seeing the universe. Such is the Upaniṣad."

Footnotes and references:


The snake, or boa constrictor, is said to remain in one place only on account of its huge body, taking any food that may come to its mouth as it is lying there.

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