The Vishnu Purana

by Horace Hayman Wilson | 1840 | 287,946 words | ISBN-10: 8171102127

The English translation of the Vishnu Purana. This is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. It is one of the eighteen greater Puranas, a branch of sacred Vedic literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the cr...

Chapter IX - Duties of the religious student, householder, hermit, and mendicant

Aurva continued:—

"When the youth has been invested with the thread of his caste, let him diligently prosecute the study of the Vedas, in the house of his preceptor, with an attentive spirit, and leading a life of continence. He is to wait upon his Guru, assiduously observant of purificatory practices, and the Veda is to be acquired by him, whilst he is regular in the performance of religious rites. In the morning Sandhya he is first to salute the sun; in the evening, fire; and then to address his preceptor with respect. He must stand when his master is standing; move when he is walking; and sit beneath him when he is seated: he must never sit, nor walk, nor stand when his teacher does the reverse. When desired by him, let him read the Veda attentively, placed before his preceptor; and let him eat the food he has collected as alms, when permitted by his teacher[1]. Let him bathe in water which has first been used for his preceptor's ablutions; and every morning bring fuel and water, and whatsoever else may be required.

“When the scriptural studies appropriate to the student have been completed, and he has received dismissal from his Guru, let the regenerate man enter into the order of the householder; and taking unto himself, with lawful ceremonies, house, wife, and wealth, discharge to the best of his ability the duties of his station[2]; satisfying the manes with funeral cakes; the gods with oblations; guests with hospitality; the sages with holy study; the progenitors of mankind with progeny; the spirits with the residue of oblations; and all the world with words of truth[3]. A householder secures heaven by the faithful discharge of these obligations. There are those who subsist upon alms, and lead an erratic life of self-denial, at the end of the term during which they have kept house. They wander over the world to see the earth, and perform their ablutions, with rites enjoined by the Vedas, at sacred shrines: houseless, and without food, and resting for the night at the dwelling at which they arrive in the evening. The householder is to them a constant refuge and parent: it is his duty to give them a welcome, and to address them with kindness; and to provide them, whenever they come to his house, with a bed, a seat, and food. A guest disappointed by a householder, who turns away from his door, transfers to the latter all his own misdeeds, and bears away his religious merit[4]. In the house of a good man, contumely, arrogance, hypocrisy, repining, contradiction, and violence are annihilated: and the householder who fully performs this his chief duty of hospitality is released from every kind of bondage, and obtains the highest of stations after death.

”When the householder, after performing the acts iñcumbent on his condition, arrives at the decline of life, let him consign his wife to the care of his sons, and go himself to the forests[5]. Let him there subsist upon leaves, roots, and fruit; and suffer his hair and beard to grow, and braid the former upon his brows; and sleep upon the ground: his dress must be made of skin or of Kāśa or Kuśa grasses; and he must bathe thrice a day; and he must offer oblations to the gods and to fire, and treat all that come to him with hospitality: he must beg alms, and present food to all creatures: he must anoint himself with such unguents as the woods afford; and in his devotional exercises he must be endurant of heat and cold. The sage who diligently follows these rules, and leads the life of the hermit (or Vānaprastha), consumes, like fire, all imperfections, and conquers for himself the mansions of eternity.

“The fourth order of men is called that of the mendicant; the circumstances of which it is fit, oh king, that you should hear from me. Let the unimpassioned man, relinquishing all affection for wife, children, and possessions, enter the fourth order[6]. Let him forego the three objects of human existence (pleasure, wealth, and virtue), whether secular or religious, and, indifferent to friends, be the friend of all living beings. Let him, occupied with devotion, abstain from wrong, in act, word, or thought, to all creatures, human or brute; and equally avoid attachment to any. Let him reside but for one night in a village, and not more than five nights at a time in a city; and let him so abide, that good-will, and not animosity, may be engendered. Let him, for the support of existence, apply for alms at the houses of the three first castes, at the time when the fires have been extinguished, and people have eaten. Let the wandering mendicant call nothing his own, and suppress desire, anger, covetousness, pride, and folly. The sage who gives no cause for alarm to living beings need never apprehend any danger from them. Having deposited the sacrificial fire in his own person, the Brahman feeds the vital flame, with the butter that is collected as alms, through the altar of his mouth; and by means of his spiritual fire he proceeds to his own proper abode. But the twice-born man[7], who seeks for liberation, and is pure of heart, and whose mind is perfected by self-investigation, secures the sphere of Brahmā, which is tranquil, and is as a bright flame that emits not smoke.”

Footnotes and references:


These directions are the same as those prescribed by Manu, though not precisely in the same words. II. 175, et seq.


So Manu, III. 4, &c.


The great obligations, or, as Sir Wm. Jones terms them, sacraments, the Mahāyajñas, or great sacrifices, are, according to Manu, but five; Brahmayajña, sacred study; Pitriyajña, libations to the manes; Devayajña, burnt-offerings to the gods; Baliyajña, offerings to all creatures; and Nriyajña, hospitality. III. 70, 71. The Prajāpatiyajña, or propagation of offspring, and Satyayajña, observance of truth, are apparently later additions.


This is also the doctrine of Manu, III. 100.


Manu, VI. 3, &c.


Manu, VI. 33, &c.


The text uses the term Dwijāti, which designates a man of the three first castes. The commentator cites various authorities to prove that its sense should be Brahman only, who alone is permitted to enter the fourth order.—'Entrance into the fourth order is never for the Kṣatriya and Vaiśya. Entrance into the fourth order is for Brahmans, according to Swayambhu. So says Dattātreya: “Let the Brahman proceed from his dwelling is also the expression of Yama, Samvartta, and Baudhāyana.”' But this is not the general understanding of the law, nor was it originally so restricted apparently. Manu does not so limit it.