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Om! Let my limbs and speech, Prana, eyes, ears, vitality
1. Now we shall expound the Upanishad on renunciation. He who in due order (of the stages of life) gives up (the primary inclinations such as the desire for wealth, etc.,) becomes one who has renounced (worldly life). What is this called renunciation ? How does one renounce ? One who guards himself by the (following) activities, who has (for his renunciation) the approval of mother, father, wife, sons and kinsmen should assemble all the officiating priests known to him and as before (with their approval) perform the Vaishvanara sacrifice (for the welfare of all people). He shall (after partition) give away all his wealth to the officiating priests. For the priests are the singers (of the Vedic hymns, deserving the gift). The (five) vital airs, Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana, shall be (symbolically) placed in all the sacrificial vessels over the (five) sacred fires, the ahavaniya, garhapatya, anvaharyapachana, sabhya and avasathya. Shaving off his hair along with the tuft, snapping the sacred thread and seeing his son, he shall consecrate (himself) with the mantras 'You are the god Brahma, you are the sacrifice, you are everything'. If he has no son he should consecrate himself thus and not minding (anything) proceed as a mendicant monk eastward or northward.
He may receive alms from (people of the) four castes. He should eat from the vessel of his hands. He shall consider food as medicine. He should take food as medicine (i.e. in great moderation). He should eat as and when he gets (food, without discontent and not asking for more, like Oliver Twist) for bare sustenance and in such a way that there is no increase of fat. Having grown lean he may shelter one night in a village, five nights in a town; he may reside during the four rainy months in a village or town. (Interpreting) fortnights as months, he may reside (in a fixed abode) for two months. If he is unable to endure (heat or cold) he may accept as gift a tattered garment or bark dress.
He shall not accept any other. For penance is to suffer pain (with equanimity). What then is the sacred thread, the tuft and the ceremonial sipping of water to one who thus renounces in the prescribed manner and who thus views it (in the correct perspective) ? To him (the questioner) is this reply. This is his sacred thread (namely) that he meditates on the Atman; the (practice of) Brahma-vidya is the tuft; that he quenches his thirst with the vessel of his belly accomplishes (the ceremonial) duty with water that is present everywhere. His residence is at the bank of (a reservoir of) water. When the sun has set, how can he (ceremoniously) sip water ? As (he touches water) during day, so at night; (for) he has neither night nor day. (The enlightened ascetic is above the restrictions of time). This has been said by the Vedic sage (in a mantra): 'To him there is (only) one (time), the day.' He who knows thus realizes the Atman through this (renunciation).
1. That person alone is entitled to renunciation who has undergone the forty purificatory rites (samskaras), has detachment from all (worldly) things, has acquired purity of mind, has burnt out desires, envy, intolerance and egotism, and is equipped with the four disciplines of spiritual life (sadhanas).
2. Having resolved on renunciation he who does not embrace it shall perform the penance (Prajapatya) alone (as an atonement); thereafter he is entitled to renounce (the world).
3. One who (having resolved on renunciation, later) denounces it, one who supports a fallen ascetic (as if he were genuine), and one who throws obstacles (in the path of those desiring renunciation) - these three (classes of people) are to be known as fallen.
4. Now these (persons, though possessing dispassion, are not entitled to renunciation - a eunuch, a fallen man, a maimed person, women, a deaf person, a child, a dumb person, a heretic, an informer, a student (who has not completed his study), a Vaikhanasa anchorite (belonging to a Vaishnava sect), an ardent Saivite (Haradvija), a salaried teacher, a man without prepuce and one without ritual fire. Even if they renounce the world they are not entitled to instruction in the great scriptural texts (such as 'That Thou Art').
5. The son of one who has fallen from ascetic grace, one having disease of the nails, one who is brown toothed, a consumptive, as well as a deformed person - these are never entitled to renounce.
6. One should never allow renunciation to those who have just settled as house-holders, those who have committed great sins, those who have lost caste due to non-performance of the principal purificatory rites (vratyas) and the accursed.
7. (Again) one should never allow renunciation to one who is devoid of religious observances, religious acts (yajnas), penance, charity, offering, oblations in ritual fire and study of scripture; and those fallen from truth and purity. These do not deserve to renounce; (and no one) can dispense with the due order except one sorely afflicted.
8. The person (entitled to renounce) should discard his tuft reciting 'Om Bhuh Svaha'. Saying the mantra 'The sacred thread shall not remain externally. Grant me fame, strength, spiritual wisdom, dispassion and intelligence', he shall snap the sacred thread and leave it in the waters along with his garment and waist-band muttering 'Om Svaha'; then he should repeat thrice, 'I have renounced'.
9. Seeing a Brahmana who has renounced the world the sun moves from his place (thinking), 'This person will reach Brahman breaking through my disc'.
10. That wise man who says 'I have renounced' raises to glory sixty generations of his family before him and sixty generations after him.
11. All the defects born of bad sons and all defects born of bodily weakness, the Praisa fire (at the time of renouncing) shall burn out, just as the fire of chaff does to gold.
12. (Reciting the mantra) 'Friend, guard me', he (the renouncer) shall accept the (emblematic) staff.
13. The ascetic should bear a staff which shall be of bamboo, smooth, whole (with the bark), of even joints, grown in holy ground and cleaned of all defects;
14. It shall be unscarred (by forest fire), uninjured by worms, shining with its joints, (of length) reaching upto the nose, head or the eyebrows.
15. Close association is always enjoined between the staff and the person; a wise man shall not move without the staff a distance three times that of an arrow-throw.
16. Reciting the mantra 'You are the receptacle of water which sustains the world; never say nay to me, you who are always agreeable to all', he should receive the water vessel; and invested with the yogic garment (as aid to meditation) he shall go about in an agreeable frame of mind.
17. Give up (concepts of) righteousness and unrighteousness (dharma and adharma), give up both truth and untruth; having given up both truth and untruth discard that by which you abandon (all these) (i.e. duality).
18. Ascetic due to dispassion, ascetic due to spiritual wisdom, ascetic due to wisdom and dispassion and ascetic due to renunciation of action; these are the four kinds (of ascetics) obtained.
19. This is how it is. He is the ascetic due to dispassion who has become indifferent to sensory objects that are seen or heard of and who has renounced (the world) due to the influence of good actions done previously.
20. He alone is the ascetic due to Jnana, who, being dead to worldly life due to the (true) knowledge of the scripture and listening to the experiences of the people in sin and goodness and who, having discarded lingering attachment to the body, scripture and the world and considering as worthless like vomit all worldly actions, possesses the fourfold discipline in spiritual life and then renounces the world.
21. Having studied in the prescribed manner all (scripture) and experienced all (vicissitudes of) life he is the ascetic due to Jnana and dispassion who has his body alone left to him by meditation on the nature of the Self due to Jnana and dispassion and then renounces and becomes unclad (as he was when born).
22. Having completed the period of celibate studentship, becoming a house-holder and then embracing the stage of forest life (Vanaprastha), he, who renounces (the world) only in order to observe the order of the stages of life even though without dispassion, is the ascetic who renounces action.
23. Renunciation is of six kinds: (and the ascetics are called) Kutichaka, Bahudaka, Hamsa, Paramahamsa, Turiyatita and Avadhuta.
24. The Kutichaka ascetic has tuft and sacred thread, bears a staff and water vessel, wears a loin-cloth and patched garment, is devoted to the service of father, mother and preceptor, is equipped with a vessel, spade, sling, etc., alone, is addicted to eating food in one place, wears on the forehead a perpendicular mark of white sandal and holds a threefold (emblematic) staff.
25. The Bahudaka ascetic wears tuft, etc., patched garment and three (horizontal) lines of holy ash on his forehead and is similar in all respects to the Kutichaka ascetic (except) that he subsists on eight mouthfuls of food gathered (as alms from eight houses), as a bee (does honey).
26. The Hamsa ascetic wears matter hair, puts on the forehead the mark of either the horizontal lines of holy ash or the perpendicular one of sandal, subsists on food gathered as alms without restriction and wears a piece of loin-cloth.
27. The Paramahamsa ascetic is devoid of tuft and sacred thread, receives alms in the vessel of his hands, wears a single loin-cloth, has a single (patched) garment, one bamboo staff, either wears a single garment or is smeared with holy ashes and has discarded all (possessions and attachments).
28. The Turiyatita ascetic subsists of fruits receiving them in his mouth like a cow; if he eats cooked rice (he receives them as alms) from three houses. He has his body alone left to him (without any possessions and attachment), is unclad (dressed by the points of the compass) and treats his body as if it were a corpse.
29. The Avadhuta ascetic has no fixed rules. He eats food like a python as and when he gets it, from persons of all castes except those who are fallen or accursed and is ever intent on meditation on the nature of the Self.
30. I am not surely of this world consisting of trees, grass and mountains. How can I, the supreme Being, be this external (phenomenon) which is intensely inert ? I am not the body which is non-sentient and perishable in a short time.
31. I am not the sound which is non-sentient, coming from void and of the form of void and which remains for a short period grasped by the inert cavity of the ear.
32. I am not the touch which is non-sentient but which has life granted to it by the favour of consciousness and which can be experienced by skin of momentary existence and in no other way.
33. I am not the taste which is non-sentient, dependent on matter and of short duration, insignificant and brought into existence by the fickle tongue aided by the fickle mind.
34. I am not the form (rupa) which is non-sentient, non-existent in the sole Witness (Brahman), perishable and which rests on sight and the object of sight which have but momentary existence.
35. I am not the smell which is non-sentient, subtle and of indefinable form and brought into existence by the perishable nose which is dead to smell.
36. I am pure consciousness alone which is devoid of parts, 'mine-ness' and thought and which is quiescent and beyond the delusions of the five senses.
37. I am consciousness alone, devoid of a place of worship, and am illuminator, omnipresent (externally and internally), devoid of parts and stain, the light of distinctionless consciousness, all-pervading and one alone.
38. It is only by me, the consciousness, that all things such as pots and garments up to the sun are illumined by self-effulgence as by a lamp.
39. It is only by me, with my inwardly shining effulgence, that the various senses are active just as the mass of sparks shine due to fire which is blazing within.
40. This pure eye of consciousness, which enjoys endless bliss and which shines even when all others are extinct, is victoriously present in all eyes.
41. Salutation, salutation to myself alone who am present in all other beings and consist of consciousness free from (the restriction of) an object to be known and am of the form of the individual Self (consciousness).
42. The various clearly seen powers (such as those of earth, etc.,) are (really) rendered variegated by consciousness which is free of change, one whole and free from the limitation of time and parts (kala).
43. Of consciousness which is beyond the three durations (of past, present and future), is devoid of the restriction of perceivability of objects and which discards individuality of the soul, there remains the oneness alone (of the Self and Brahman).
44. Indeed the same (consciousness), being beyond the reach of words, seems to remain as having reached the state of the conclusion of Selfishness, (i.e. the state of non-duality), as if it were eternal non-existence.
45. The same consciousness, slightly encompassed by impurities of desires and non-desires, is unable to rise high like a female bird bound by a string.
46. People (overcome) by the delusion (caused by) the pairs (of opposites), which is born of desire and hatred, become similar to worms which are sunk in the cavities of the earth.
47. Salutation to the Atman, to you, who are non-different from consciousness. I am now seized (of the truth), I am awakened, I have risen (above delusion).
48. I am lifted up from doubts; I am what I am; salutation to you, to your and to me, the eternal; to you and to me consisting of consciousness.
49. Salutation to you, the supreme God and salutation to me, the Shiva. Though seated (the Atman) is not seated, though going he does not go. Though quiescent he is engaged in activities, though performing action he is not tainted.
50. He is eminently accessible, he is easily known like a close kinsman; he is the bee in the interior of the lotus of the body of all.
51. I have no desire for the state of enjoyment nor for abandoning enjoyment. Let come what may, let go what may.
52. When the mind is quelled in itself and has become free of egotism and when ideation is dissolved in itself I remain, alone, happy.
53. My enemy (duality) remains (i.e. is absorbed) in the pure Atman of vibration alone, without ideation, egotism, mind and desire.
54. Breaking the bonds of intense desires from the cage of my body I know not where the female bird of non-ego has flown up and gone.
55. He who has no egotism, whose intellect is not tainted, and who is equanimous to all beings - his life shines bright.
56. He who looks at this (phenomenal world) like (an impartial) witness with his mind, being cool within, is freed of love and hatred, has his life blessed.
57. He who, understanding correctly, abandons both the undesirables and the desirables and places his mind in its quiescence, has his life blessed.
58. When the connecting link between the object and the person (who grasps it) has vanished peace comes well into being. When peace has established itself, it is called liberation.
59. Like parched seeds there is no more sprouting of worldly birth; the latent desires become pure in the heart of those who are liberated while living.
60. (Latent desire of a realized soul) is purifying, highly proper, falls within the scope of pure nature, consists of meditation on the Atman and is eternal; it remains as if in deep sleep.
61. Understanding without the mind is indeed said to be the individual consciousness. As it is of the nature of the quiescent mind there is not the impurity of comprehension (of distinctions).
62. Where the mind is rendered quiescent, there is truth and auspiciousness; its is the true state; it is omniscience and it is indeed complete satisfaction.
63. When speaking, giving, taking, opening and closing the eyes, I am purely consciousness, the bliss (that comes of) discarded thinking process.
64. Having discarded the impurity of things to be known, rendering the mind thoroughly quiescent and cutting off the fire of the bond of desire, I am pure consciousness alone.
65. I have set at rest thoughts good and bad, am without worry, rid of ideation of the pleasant and the unpleasant; I am pure consciousness alone.
66. Discarding the idea of oneself and another, taking no sides in worldly happenings and clinging to the Atman, as an adamantine pillar I am steady.
67. I remain in my consciousness which is pure and without hopes, freed from desires and non-desires and devoid of both the undesirable and the desirables.
68. When shall I get the inward joy while remaining in the state of self-luminosity ? When shall I be in a mountain cave with my mind quiescent ?
69. When shall I attain similarity to a stone by (practising) distinctionless deep meditation (Nirvikalpa-Samadhi) when, while remaining dumb by the peace of partless meditation, birds of the forest will build their leafy nests on my head ?
70. Having cut the trees of ideation and the creepers of intense desire of the forest of the mind and having reached the broad plains (of spiritual wisdom), I enjoy life happily.
71. I follow that path (of wisdom), I am alone (unencumbered with attachments), I am successful (in realizing the truth); I am liberated, I am without desire, I am partless and I desire nothing.
72-73. The states of purity, strength, reality, heartiness, truth, true, knowledge, bliss, tranquillity, the rise of constant joy, fullness, true richness, the possession of effulgence and true oneness - the mendicant monk thus thinking on the true nature of his Self and realizing his true nature freedom doubts, indeed became the one without an alternative (i.e. became one with Brahman).
74. If one sorely afflicted recovers, renunciation in the prescribed order should be embraced. (An ascetic) shall not converse with a low caste woman, one fallen from virtue, and a woman in he courses. The ascetic has no worship of gods, nor witnessing (temple) festivals. The goal of asceticism is not one (and the same) heaven. The sorely afflicted and the Kutichaka ascetics gain the worlds Bhur and the Bhuvas respectively. The Bahudaka ascetic (gains) heaven (Svarga). The Hamsa ascetic, the world of truth (Satya-loka). The Turiyatita and the Avadhuta ascetics attain supreme bliss in themselves by deeply meditating on the true nature of the Self according to the maxim of the wasp.
75. The practice of Scripture-study, which is distinct from meditation on the nature of the Self, is useless like (carrying( saffron flowers which are but a burden to a camel. The ascetic has not to practise the science of Yoga or the Sankhya; he has no rituals with mantras and tantras nor the study of any other religious treatise (Shastra); if there is, it is like adorning a corpse. (Such an ascetic) is far away from spiritual lore like a cobbler. A mendicant monk shall not mention his name (in the previous stage of life). One reaps the fruit of whatever action one does. (Hence the ascetic) shall give up all, as one would (discard) the foam on castor oil. There is no receiving of the offerings made to a deity. He shall not worship gods externally.
76. Discarding everything apart from the Self, subsisting on food secured as alms from a number of houses (as a bee gathers honey), being lean and avoiding increase of fat (in his body) he shall move about. He should spend the time, (eating food) secured as alms from a number of houses using his hand or mouth as a vessel.
77. The sage established in the Self should take food which is conducive to (the realization of) the Self. Two quarters (of the belly shall be filled) with food and one quarter with water; the fourth quarter shall be left for the movement of air.
78. He shall always live on alms; he shall never eat food secured as alms from one house alone; he should go particularly to those houses where the people are seen to be easy in mind (i.e. those who dine only after giving alms).
79. He may expect alms from four or seven houses (where the house-holder) perform religious rites; he may expect (alms) up to the period of milking cows (in the afternoon); when he has come out (of a house without alms) he shall not go in again.
80. Fasting is preferable to (getting food from) devotees; unsolicited food is better than fasting; begging alms is preferable to unsolicited food; hence he shall subsist on alms.
81. He shall never enter a house by a side entrance at the time of begging alms; he shall not out of delusion go across a house where no harm is seen in so doing.
82. He shall not beg alms from a Vedic scholar if it is (given) without faith and devotion; he may beg alms from the house of a twice-born who has lost caste when offered with faith and devotion.
83. Alms from a number of houses without planning, that which is planned, the one unbegged, the timely one and the one offered (at the monastery) are declared to be the five kinds of alms.
84. (The first kind), alms from a number of houses, is declared to be that which is obtained from there, five or seven houses without pre-meditation as in the case of a honeybee (from flowers).
85. (The second kind), alms previously arranged, is that which is accepted after repeated requests made by devotees in that morning and the previous day; none the less he may subsist on that.
86. (The third kind), alms unbegged is that which is received when invited to dine by some one or other as he is ready to go abegging; this should be eaten by ascetics (desiring salvation).
87. (The fourth kind) timely alms is known as that (meal) which is offered by a Brahmana when he has approached (a house) for alms; this (food) should be eaten by ascetics.
88. Sages desiring liberation say that the (fifth kind of) alms, the food offered (to the ascetic at the monastery) is the ready meal which is brought by a Brahmana to the monastery.
89. The ascetic shall subsist on alms by begging from door to door even though it may be from the houses of outcastes. He shall not dine in one house even if (the host) is equal to the preceptor of the gods (in learning). He shall subsist on alms, solicited or unsolicited.
90. Air is not spoiled by touching (any object); fire by the activity of burning; waters, by urine and faeces (getting into them); and a mendicant monk by short-comings in food.
91. When (in houses) smoke has subsided, the pestle (for pounding rice) is at rest, the fire (in the oven) has gone out and the people have dined, (the ascetic) shall go for alms in the late afternoon.
92. He shall receive alms except from the accursed, the fallen, heretics and the class of people exclusively engaged in temple worship; from all the castes, in difficult times.
93-94. (He shall consider) clarified butter as dog's urine, honey as spirituous liquor, oil as hog's urine, condiment as garlic, cakes made of black gram as beef, and milk as urine. Therefore the ascetic shall avoid, by putting forth all effort, clarified butter, etc.
95. The Yogin shall never eat food mixed with clarified butter, condiments, etc.; using his hand as a vessel he shall not go about for alms more than once (a day).
96. When the ascetic seeks food with his mouth (alone) like a cow, he becomes equanimous to all; (hence) he becomes fit for immortality.
97. (The ascetic) shall discard clarified butter like blood, taking food in one house like flesh, using cosmetics like smearing himself with unclean things, salt and molasses like an outcaste, garment like dirty dishes, oil bath like courting women, pleasant company of friends like urine, desire like beef, familiar places like the hut of an outcaste, women like snakes, gold like deadly poison, an assembly hall like a cemetery, the capital (city) like hell and food in one house like the balls of rice at a funeral. There is no worship of gods (by him). Discarding the way of the world he shall become one 'liberated while living'.
98. Stay (continuously in one place), acquisition of (begging) bowl, collecting (of staff, etc.,), gathering disciples, sleep by day time (divasvapnah) and useless talk - these are the six sins of ascetics.
99-103. Remaining (continuously in one place) except during the rains is said to be a stay (asana). Acquisition of even a single vessel like the afore-said vessel of gourd, etc., for daily use by an ascetic is said to be 'acquiring vessels' (patralopa). Collecting (samchaya) is declared to be the acceptance of a second staff, etc., for future use by one who has one already. The acceptance of disciples for personal service, profit, dignity or fame and not out of compassion (to help them) is said to be gathering disciples (sishyasamgraha). (Vedantic) learning is (called) day as it is illuminating; ignorance (avidya) is said to be night. Negligence in learning is said to be 'sleep during day' divasvapnah). Excepting talk pertaining to the Self and at the time of receiving alms, (bestowal of) blessings and inquiries (concerning the Self), any other talk is said to be useless talk (vrithajalpah).
104. Food from one house, pride, envy, adorning with cosmetics and flowers, chewing betel roll, oil bath, sport, desire for enjoyment, medicine to prolong life and retard old age (rashayana);
105. Boasting, abusive language, pronouncement of benediction, astrological prediction, buying and selling, ritual, debate on ritual, transgression of the Guru and scripture;
106-107. Conciliating, fighting, vehicle, cot, white garment, release of semen, sleep by day time, vessel for alms (alms-bowl), gold, gum-myrrh, weapon, seed (for cultivation or mystical letter forming the essential part of the mantra of a deity), injuring, severity, copulation, what is discarded by the yoga of renunciation, vows such as the duties of house-holder;
108. Family, etc., branch of the Veda (of his early days), all families of the father and mother, and wealth - all these are prohibited to the ascetic. If he resorts to them he falls (from the state of renunciation).
109. A wise man, though very old, shall not trust in women though very old. Even in very old patched garments old cloth will stick (when stitched).
110. Immovable property, mobile things (servants), seed (for cultivation), gold, gum-myrrh and weapon these six an ascetic shall not take up as (though they were) urine and faeces.
111. An ascetic shall not take with him even a little provision for a journey except when in danger; in hard times he may receive ripe corn when cooked food is not available.
112. A mendicant monk who is not sick and a young monk shall not stay in any house (of a house-holder); he shall neither accept nor give anything to another at any time.
113. With a sense of humility the ascetic shall strive for the welfare of beings; begging cooked or uncooked food (for another), he falls (from asceticism).
114-115. An ascetic keen on feeding others, who accepts clothes, etc., and woollen garments or others as well as good clothes undoubtedly falls (from virtue). Resorting to the ship of non-duality he will gain liberation while living.
116. For restraint in speech, he shall observe silence; for control over the body, he shall fast; for control over the mind, breath control (pranayama) is prescribed.
117. A being is bound by (worldly) action; he gets liberated by spiritual knowledge. Hence far-seeing ascetics do not perform (worldly) action.
118. Scattered are (torn) garments on roads; alms can be had everywhere; the earth is a wide bed; how (then) are ascetics put to grief ?
119. The ascetic who offers the whole world as oblation in the fire of spiritual wisdom, having (symbolically) transferred the ritual fires to his Self - that great ascetic is the (true) Agnihotrin (the consecrator and maintainer of sacred fire).
120. Advancement in the spiritual path is twofold - that of the she-cat and the she-monkey. Those who practise spiritual wisdom (Jnana) are (like) she-cats; the secondary way of (Apara-Brahman) is (like that of) a she-monkey.
121. The ascetic shall not speak to any one unless he is spoken to; nor to one who asks improperly. An intelligent man though knowing, should behave in the world as if he were dull-witted.
122. When confronted with a mass of sins (i.e. when the flesh becomes weak, over-ruling the dictates of wisdom) he shall practise the (meaningful) repetition of the Taraka (Om) twelve thousand times (a day); for it cuts (sins).
123. The supreme Brahman shines to him in twelve months who gently repeats the Pranava twelve thousand times every day. Thus (ends) the Upanishad.
Om! Let my limbs and speech, Prana, eyes, ears, vitality
ReferenceProf. A. A. Ramanathan. The Theosophical Publishing House, Chennai. "Sannyasa Upanishad."
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YouSigma. "Sannyasa Upanishad." 2008.
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