The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “the yogi’s religious course” which forms the 41st chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 41 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XLI - The Yogi’s religious course

Dattātreya expounds to Alarka how a yogi should live;from whom he should gather his alms;—what his alms should he;—how he should eat after worshipping the five vital airs;—what his religious obligations are;—and how he attains to final emancipation from existence.

Alarka spoke:

Adorable Sir! I desire to hear thoroughly about a yogi’s religious course, since the yogi while pursuing the way to Brahma does not sink into despondency.

Dattātreya spoke:

Respect and disrespect, which two things cause men pleasure and distress, these are opposites and effect the yogi’s final bliss. Respect and disrespect, these two things men indeed describe as poison and ambrosia; of them disrespect is ambrosia, but respect is a dire poison.

He should plant his foot after it is purified by his eye; he should drink water that has been purified through cloth; he should use speech that is purified with truth; and he should meditate on what is purified by the intellect. The yogi should nowhere become a guest, nor attend śrāddhas, or sacrifices, pilgrimages to the gods, or festivals, nor visit the banker for the sake of any advantage. The yogi should roam about for alms among what is flung away, among what is smokeless, where the charcoal is extinguished, among all people who have eaten, but not constantly among all the three. The yogi should not move about occupied in religious meditation and spoiling the path of the good, so as that folk should despise him or treat him with disrespect. He should seek his alms among house-holders, and at the houses of vagrant mendicants:[1] his livelihood is declared to be the best and first one. Also the ascetic should ever resort to modest, faithful, tranquil and high-souled brahman householders who are learned in the Vedas; above and after them, to uncorrupt and non-outcasted men. The practice of seeking alms among men of no caste is the last livelihood he should wish for.

Alms consists of rice-gruel,[2] or dilute butter-milk,[3] milk or barley-gruel,[4] fruit, roots, or panic seed,[5] grain, oil-cake, and meal. And these are fine articles of food, and cause a yogi to obtain felicity. A muni should employ them with faith and with the most perfect meditation.

Having first taken one sip of water, let him remain silent with mind composed; and then is prescribed the first oblation to the vital air called Prāṇa,[6] and the second should be to the vital air Apāna;[7] and the next to that called Sam-āna;[8] the fourth to that called Udāna;[9] and the fifth to that called Vy-āna.[10] Having performed these oblations separately, while restraining his breath, he should at length eat according to his inclination. He should drink water once again, and after rinsing out his mouth, he should touch his heart.

Honesty and sanctity, self-sacrifice, and uncovetousness, and harmlessness are the five principal religious obligations of mendicants. Freedom from anger, reverence towards gurus, purity, abstemiousness in food, and constant study of the Vedas—these are the five well-known observances. He should devote himself to essential knowledge, which can effect his objects; for the multiplicity of knowledge that exists here is a hindrance to religious meditation. He who acts with the thirst, that he ought to know this and he ought to know that, may perhaps never gain that knowledge in thousands of ages. Discarding associations, subduing anger, eating sparingly, and controlling his organs, he should regulate the gates of his body by the intellect, and apply the understanding to profound contemplation. The yogi who is constantly occupied with religious meditation should always have due recourse to profound contemplation, in empty places and in caves and in forests. Control over the speech, control over the actions, and control over the mind, are the three controls: he who invariably possesses these controls is a great ‘three-control’ ascetic. Who, O king, is agreeable, and who is disagreeable to him to whom all this universe, both real and unreal, and composed of good qualities and had qualities, is composed of the Supreme Soul ?

When he whose intellect is purified, to whom clods and gold are alike, and whose mind is thus composed towards all created things, comprehends the supreme eternal and immutable to he the supreme condition he ceases to be horn again. The Vedas and all sacrifices and ceremonies are very good; prayer is better than sacrifice; and the path of knowledge than prayer; and profound contemplation cut off from associations and feelings is better than knowledge; when that is attained, the eternal is gained. He who is composed in mind, who is intent on Brahma, who is attentive, and pure, whose delight is concentrated on one object, and who controls his organs—that high-souled man may compass this yoga or religious meditation; thereupon he gains final emancipation from existence through his own religious meditation.

Footnotes and references:




For yavāgūm read yavāgūs? The dictionary gives this word as fem., and yavāgūm seems an impossible neuter.






Priyaṅgu, Panicum italicum, (Roxb. p. 101.)


Prāna; this has its seat in the lungs, and expresses pre-eminently life and vitality.


Apāna; the vital air that goes downwards, and out at the anas.


Sam-āna; the vital air that circulates about the navel, and is essential to digestion.


Udāna; the vital air that rises up the throat and passes into the head.


Vyāna; the vital air that circulates or is diffused throgh the body.

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