Some Sanyas (Renunciation) Upanishads
Renunciants are found in every religion. We hear about Devarshi, Brahmarshi, Rajarshi, Prophets, Saints, Muni etc. in the religious scriptures of various religions. They are considered the custodians of religion and the sources of religious inspiration. For Vedic religion Atri, Vishvamitra, Gautam, Jamdagni Bhardwaj, Vashishtha etc. are held in very high esteem. Similar is the case with Rishi Agastya.
However, renunciation may have different objectives for different categories of renunciants. They may belong to the following three types.
- The 1st category may include those for whom life’s main purpose may be discovering true knowledge about the supreme self, the Pramatma or Brahma. Renowned Maharishis and Vedantins belonged to this category.
- The second category may include those attracted to it for obtaining supernatural powers. They chose the path of hard penance. One example may be Vishvamitra himself who competed with Vashishtha to acquire the status of Brahmarshi (as described in Bhagavat Puran).
- The third category may include pseudo-renunciants who adopt Sanyas simply to run away from societal and familial obligations. They act contrary to Swadharma. Renunciation attracted thousands of such persons in the first millennium BCE during the spread of Buddhism and Other religions. The growth of Tantrism might have been related to the control of such tendencies.
Adi Shankaracharya divided the renunciants (Sanyasi) into ten sects (Sampradaya) and codes of conduct for them were formulated. He chose ten Upanishads for commentaries and directed all the ten sects to choose one Upanishad for their particular sect. The study of all Upanishads was, however, mandatory for all the groups. In addition to internal separation, the renunciants are divided into Vaishnav Shaiva, Shakta, Ganpatya, Sikh, Bauddh, Jain, Nimbark, Ramanuj, Madhva, Ramanand etc.
The Sanyas Upanishads deal with the rules and codes of conduct for renunciants. Doors are closed for many belonging to specified categories. In the Mahanirvan Tantra, it has been clearly stated (in 7/7 and 8/18) that.
- One should not enter the stage of a recluse giving up an old father, and mother or a devoted wife or an infant son.
- He who becomes a monk giving up his father, mother, child, wife, kinsmen and relatives becomes a great sinner.
Important Sanyas Upanishads are described below.
This Upanishad belongs to the Atharva Veda. It is a small Upanishad of one chapter but discusses some important questions relating to renunciation. It begins with an instruction by Brihaspati to Yagyavalkya to meditate upon Avimukta. The same teaching is provided by Yagyavalkya to Atri who is also advised to meditate upon Avimukta which is established in the middle of Varana and Nasi (i.e., the meeting place of the eyebrows and the nose). Perhaps, this is the method Sanyasi should also adopt for meditation.
Once Janak, King of Videha made enquiries about renunciation. To this question Yagyavalkya replied.
- After completing the life of a student, let one become a householder, then become a forest dweller and after that, he may become a recluse. This emphasizes that Sanyas is the fourth consecutive step after passing through Brahmacharya, Garhastya and Vanaprastha stages.
- Yagyavalkya also says that Sanyas can be adopted even from the life of a student when the renouncer has not completed his studies. The methods have been described.
The character of a Sanyasi particularly Paramhans has been described in the Upanishad. Such Sanyasi should be of clean mind, and pure heart, should live in deserted houses, a temple, a shrub, at the root of a tree or a potter house or near a fireplace or river bank. He should live without self-sense, remain on meditation established in the higher self and give up his body by the method of renunciation. Sanyasi carries Tridanda (three staves tied together) which is a sign of triple control of thoughts, words and deeds. However, a Paramhans may throw his Tridanda, Kamandalu etc. because he remains established in Turiya state.
Narad Paribrajak Upanishad:
This Upanishad belongs to the Atharva Veda and is a somewhat larger Upanishad with nine sermons (chapters). The sermons provided in all the chapters are in detail on Sanyas.
The first chapter begins with the wandering Devarshi Narad who arrives at Naimi-Sharanya and is greeted and welcomed by Rishis present there. One of them, Rishi Shaunak asks from Narad ways for salvation from the bondage of the world. Rishi Narad briefly explains the path of renunciation.
The second chapter begins with the sermons of Bramha on Sanyas to whom all the Rishis went along with Narad for further enlightenment. Bramhaji says that the Sanyas should be the last step after Brahmacharya, Garhastya and Vanaprastha.
The third chapter narrates about persons who are qualified to become Sanyasi and who are not. It is not open to all.
It has been mentioned that impotent, deaf, dumb, persons fallen from grace, conspirators etc. are not qualified to become Sanyasi. The method of initiation rules and codes of conduct have been described in detail.
The fourth chapter highlights the significance of the path of renunciation. The characteristics of Ekdandi and Tridandi Sanyasin have been explained. The prescribed method of adopting Sanyas Ashram has been explained. The rituals included in it remain associated with it.
Aum Bhuh Sanyastam Maya
Aum Bhuvah Sanyastam Maya
Aum Svah Sanyastam Maya
Aum Bhur Bhuvah Svah Sanyastam Maya
There are other rituals detailed in this chapter.
The fifth chapter deals with the types of Sanyas and the types of Sanyasis. Six types of Sanyasis have been mentioned. They are Kutichak, Bahudak, Hans, Paramhans, Turiyatit and Avadhut. Their characteristics have been explained. There are differences between Karma Sanyasi and Vairagya Sanyasi. Codes of conduct for all the six groups have been explained.
The sixth chapter is related to the attainment of the Turiyatit status in renunciation. It explains the routine of the Sanyasi who wishes to reach this exalted status.
The seventh chapter deals with the rules and conducts of all types of renunciants and explains the special qualities of the Kutichak types of Sanyasis.
The eighth chapter deals with the details of Omkar which remains associated with a Sanyasi. The secrets of AUM and its many interpretations have been explained in this Upanishad. The relationship of AUM with the four stages of consciousness has also been described.
The last and ninth sermons explain the nature of Brahma, the super soul or Parmatma. A Sanyasi is required to internally make himself pure to reach the Absolute Brahma.
This is a Samvediya Upanishad with only one chapter explaining the methods of initiation into Sanyas and its principal rules in brief. A declaration from Sanyasi at the time of initiation should remain associated with 3 times the chant of “Maya Sanyastam, Maya Sanyastam, Maya Sanyastam”.
A Sanyasi has been advised to remain in one place during the rainy season for four months only and keep wandering for the remaining eight months. He should try to reach the Turiyatit stage to be able to declare “Soham Brahma”. His character has been described.
This Upanishad belongs to Krishna Yajurveda and has only one chapter. It describes the method of becoming a Sanyasi and describes the steps to be taken for this. The ritualistic steps are in detail for those who get initiated into Sanyas and leave their houses and relatives. They have to renounce everything and go to live either with an old Sanyasi or march away alone. They must remain established in their goal. The goal for them always remains the same – the search for the universal soul – the Brahma.
I am a Vedic astrologer by profession. I have done Jyotish Acharya from Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. I am devoted to my Sadguru Shri Sai Nath of Shirdi. I am also interested in spirituality. I love to guide people.