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According to Ashrama System, there are four stages of life:

  1. Brahmacharya
  2. Grihashtha
  3. Vanaprashtha
  4. Sannyasa

So, Can one only take Sannyasa after Vanaprashtha or even before Vanaprastha? More precisely I want to know when can one take Sannyasa?

Is there any scriptural guidance about when to take Sannyasa?

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The Ashrama system is designed according to the stages of life viz. student, householder, retired and renounced life according to age and are related to the proper combination of four Purushartha viz. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

Though there is no strict rule that one can take Sannyasa only after Vanaprasthashrama. One can take Sannyasa from any Ashrama and at the instantaneous moment which distaste for it dawns on him according to spiritual level.

From Jabala Shruti/Upanishad (verse 4):

Sanskrit verse quoted from Sanskrit Documents

अथ हैनं जनको वैदेहो याज्ञवल्क्यमुपसमेत्योवाच भगवन्संन्यासं ब्रूहीति । स होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यः । ब्रह्मचर्यं परिसमाप्य गृही भवेत् । गृही भूत्वा वनी भवेत् । वनी भूत्वा प्रव्रजेत् । यदि वेतरथा ब्रह्मचर्यादेव प्रव्रजेद्गृहाद्वा वनाद्वा ॥

अथ पुनरव्रती वा व्रती वा स्नातको वाऽस्नातको वोत्सन्नग्निको वा यदहरेव विरजेत्तदहरेव प्रव्रजेत् । तद्धैके प्राजापत्यामेवेष्टि,न् कुर्वन्ति । तदु तथा न कुर्यादाग्नेयीमेव कुर्यात् ॥

English translation quoted from Vedanta Spiritual Library:

Then Janaka, the king of the Videhas (respectfully) approached Yajnavalkya and requested him: 'Revered Sir, expound (to me) the (tenets of) renunciation (Sannyasa)'. He (Yajnavalkya) then replied: 'After completing the period of disciplined studentship (brahmacharya) one may become a householder. After being a householder he may become a forest-dweller (i.e., become a Vanaprastha). Having become a Vanaprastha he may renounce the world (and thus become a mendicant monk). Or, alternately, he may embrace renunciation from brahmacharya itself, or from the (stage of a) householder, or from the forest(-life of a Vanaprastha). (It can also be that) a person may renounce worldly life that very day on which distaste for it dawns on him, whether he is one not observing the vows (before the stage of renunciation) or observe them, whether he has undergone the prescribed ablution on completing the disciplined studentship or not, whether he is one who has discontinued maintaining the sacred fire at the death of his wife (utsannagni) or is one who does not maintain (for other causes) the sacred fire (anagnika).

So, when one take Sannyasa from Brahmacharya, Grihashtha or Vanaprashtha. More precisely, one can take Sannyasa on very that day/moment when absolute Vairagya is obtained!

This is also supported in Adhyaya-3, Pada-4 of Brahma Sutra.

Note: There are also other Upanishads with similar names like Jabali Upanishad or Bhasma Jabal Upanishad. This is Jabal Upanishad quoted as mentioned and used by Acharyas in their Bhashya of Prashthanatrayi.

  • Can you please tell me how come yajnavalkaya meet Janaka ? Did Janaka live until end of Dwapara ?? – Rakesh Joshi Jan 21 at 19:08
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When one can take Sanyasa?

The answer is also provided in Shreemad Bhagvat Purana by Lord Shree Krishna himself (Skanda 11 Chapter 18 verse 12) The name of the chapter is" Dharma of Vaanprastha & Sansyasis"

Here is the sanskrit shloka-:

यदा कर्मविपाकेषु लोकेषु निरयात्मसु।
  विरागो जायते सम्यङ्ग न्यस्तग्नि: प्रव्रजेत्तत:॥12॥

yadā karma-vipākeṣu lokeṣu nirayātmasu virāgo jāyate samyaṅ nyastāgniḥ pravrajet tataḥ

Meaning of Vedbase site - If the vānaprastha, understanding that even promotion to Brahmaloka is a miserable situation, develops complete detachment from all possible results of fruitive activities, then he may take the sannyāsa order of life.

SB 11.18.12


Meaning in Gita Press Gorakhapur version -: When Vaanprastha feels that the lokas which one acquire by fruits of Karma are miserable as Hell . And when realizing this when he develops complete detachment from life .He may take the sanyasa.

  • whats the difference between the two ?? – Rakesh Joshi Jan 21 at 19:07
  • @RakeshJoshi One translation is specially mentioning name Brahma-loka ,and other is talking about all lokas.:-) – SwiftPushkar Jan 22 at 5:10
  • no about vanaprastha and so called sanyasa. Only wife and agni are left to be renounced after vanaprastha – Rakesh Joshi Jan 22 at 10:59

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