I found many anti-women verses in "so called" Sanyasa-upanishads. I am disappointed to see such hatred and prejudice towards women. Women are compared with objects, animals and what not ! This is also evident from the lifestyle of many of these Sanyasins. They even forbid them to talk to a Woman ! This is nothing but suppressed desires making one's mind psychologically abnormal and insecure. It also shows insecurity in their minds with regard to the sexuality.

Let us see some of the references below:

Firstly, they are denied this so called Sanyasa. Why is this so called Vedanta is only for males? Dont women need advaita for their spiritual pursuit ? What Vedanta has to do with Gender ? When it focuses on Soul ?

‘These (the following persons) do not deserve to renounce worldly life. A eunuch, one fallen (from right conduct), deformed person, women, the deaf, a child, the dumb, the heretic, an emperor, a religious student, a Vaikhanasa anchorite and a Haradvija (Kapalika?), a hired teacher, a man without prepuce and one who does not maintain the sacred fire, even though all these are possessed of dispassion. Even if they adopt (the life of) renunciation they have no right to receive (instruction in) the great Vedic texts ('Thou art That' etc.,). Narada-Parivrajaka Upanishad 3.1

Yagnyavalkya Upanishad (is it the same yagnyavalkya of the yajur veda?)

  1. What possibly is charming in a woman who is a doll made of flesh, in a cage of limbs which is moved by machinery and who is a conglomerate of tendons bones and joints ?

  2. In cemeteries (situated) in remote places the same breast of a woman is eaten in due course by dogs as if it were a small morsel of food.

  3. Having (attractive) tresses and putting on collyrium, women, difficult to touch but pleasing to the eyes are (verily) the flames of the fire of sin and they burn men as though they were straw. (any hidden meaning in these upanishadic sayings? I hope its quite explicit)

  4. Women pleasing and cruel, are the fuel for the hell-fires, that inflame even at a distance and though juicy (loveable) are devoid of moisture (flavour).

  5. Silly women are the nets spread by the hunter called Cupid to entangle the bodies of men in the form of birds.

  6. Woman is the bait stuck in the fish-hook at the string of evil propensity to catch men in the form of fish that are in the pond of worldly life and that are active in the mud of the mind.

  7. Enough of women to me, forever, who are the strong caskets (to preserve) all gems of evil and are the chains of misery.


  1. (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’.

  2. 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).( what is the purport of this upanishadic wisdom ?)

Naradaparivrajaka Upanishad

The ignorant man that is fond of this body, which is but a compound of flesh, blood, the ill-smelling urine and offal, nerve, fat and bone, i will be fond of hell too. Though there is no difference between the women s secret parts that cannot be described by words and an (ever) oozing tubular wound, yet through the difference of the mind, (men are deluded). 4.29

IV-28. Though there is no difference between the unmentionable region of women and a purified ulcer, people are generally deceived by the difference in outlook.

III-71. A bedstead, white clothes, talk on women, unsteadiness, daytime sleep and a carriage – these six cause the fall of ascetics.

IV-3. He shall neither converse with any woman nor remember one seen before; he shall avoid all talks on them and never look at one even in a picture.

VI-36. Conversing with women, as well as chatting with and sending them on errands, their dance, music and laughter and scandals about them – these (the ascetic) shall avoid.

Mandalabrahmana Upanishad

  1. The body has five stains (viz.,) passion, anger, out-breathing, fear and sleep. The removal of these can be affected respectively by absence of Sankalpa, forgiveness, moderate food, carefulness and a spiritual sight of Tattvas. In order to cross the ocean of Samsara where sleep and fear are the serpents, injury, etc., are the waves, Trishna (thirst) is the whirlpool and wife is the mire, one should adhere to the subtle path and overstepping Tattva and other Gunas should look out for Taraka.


  1. With his self thus deluded by Maya or ignorance, it is he who identifies himself with the body and does all sorts of things. In the waking state it is he (the Jiva) who attains satisfaction through the varied objects of enjoyment, such as women, food, drink, etc.

4 Answers 4


None of the so-called "sanyasa Upanishads" are part of the traditional orthodox Vedic canon.

Yajnavalkya Upanishad, Sanyasa Upanishad, Naradaparivrajaka Upanishad, etc. are very late medieval productions. That is abundantly evident from their late medieval language style as well as their utter emphasis on renunciation and sanyasa and as the quotes show, the bizarrely contemptuous words used for women.

The only Upanishads that are trustworthy are the classical Vedic Upanishads which all the major Vedantacharyas (Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, etc) have considered authoritative and referenced in their commentaries. These Upanishads are actually part of a Vedic Samhita, Brahmana or Aranyaka.

These are enumerated in a shloka:

ईश केन कठा प्रश्न मुण्ड माण्डूक्य तैत्तिरी ।
ऐतरेयं च छान्दोग्यं बृहदारण्यकं दशम् ॥

Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brhadaranyaka are the ten.

In addition to the above ten, three more ancient Upanishads that occur in Vedic texts are Kaushitaki, Shvetashvatara and Mahanarayana.

For anyone who studies the classical Upanishads deeply, the striking feature they will note is that none of those Upanishads talk about renunciation and sanyasa. Every teacher in the Upanishads is either a Grhastha or a king. Every student in the Upanishads is either a young Brahmachari, a Grhastha or a king, including both men and women.

Even Yajnavalkya himself had two wives and he only says to Maitreyi (Brh. Up. 2.4.1):

मैत्रेयीति होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यः उद्यास्यन्वा अरेऽहमस्मात्स्थानादस्मि । हन्त तेऽनया कात्यायन्यान्तं करवाणीति ।

"Maitreyi!" said Yajnavalkya, "My dear, I am about to get up and leave this place. Well, let me end your relationship with Katyayani."

Points to note:

  1. Yajnavalkya's entry in the Upanishad begins with the name of his favourite wife.
  2. He constantly addresses her as "my dear"
  3. He only says that he is leaving the joint family house. There is no hint of sanyasa or the notion that being married with two wives hindered his path to knowledge.

Then, further in the same section, when Maitreyi asks to be instructed in Brahman, he says to her (2.4.4):

स होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यः प्रिया बतारे नः सती प्रियं भाषस एह्यास्सव व्याख्यास्यामि ते व्याचक्षाणस्य तु मे निदिध्यासस्वेति ।

He said, "My dear, you have always been dear to me, and now you also speak what is dear to me. Come, sit down. I will explain (the philosophy). While I explain, please concentrate."

So, here again, the treatment of women is so elevated and refined. And Yajnavalkya is not denigrating or insulting his wife for asking questions. He is even more pleased and enthusiastically and respectfully teaches her everything that he knows. It is an equal reciprocal relationship.

In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Brahman from its original state becomes both male and female. This also shows that enlightenment cannot be obtained by denigrating or degrading women. In 1.4.3:

स हैतावानास यथा स्त्रीपुमांसौ संपरिष्वक्तौ स इममेवात्मानं द्वेधापातयत्ततः पतिश्व पत्नी चाभवतां तस्मादिदमर्धबृगलमिव स्व इति ह स्माह याज्ञवल्क्यस्तस्मादयमाकाशः स्त्रिया पूर्यत एव ।

He (Brahman) was originally of the shape and size as like a woman and a man in tight embrace. He then split his own form in two, from that the husband and wife were originated. Hence, Yajnavalkya said, this body is like one half of a split pea. This space is to be filled by a woman only.

Taittiriya Upanishad has a meditation aid as follows (1.3.3):

माता पूर्वरूपम् । पितोत्तररूपम् । प्रजा सन्धिः । प्रजननं सन्धानम् ।

The mother is the prior form, the father is the posterior form, the progeny is the union, the act of progeny is the connection.

So the meditation itself involves placing woman in a key position.

In Chandogya Upanishad chapter 4, the young boy Satyakama has only his mother as his role model for building his character with honesty and integrity. When he achieves enlightenment through the various benefactors, his Acharya tells him he shines like a Brahmajnani (4.9.2):

ब्रह्मविदिव सोम्य भासि

You shine like a knower of Brahman

And after Satyakama thus became a Brahmajnani, he gets married and establishes his own Acharyakula. In the matter of one of his students, Upakosala who has served him well for 12 years but has not been graduated, his wife actually reprimands him (4.10.2):

तं जायोवाच तप्तो ब्रह्मचारी कुशलमग्नीन्परिचचारीन्मा त्वाग्नयः परिप्रवोचन् प्रब्रूह्यस्मा इति ।

The wife told him, "The Brahmachari has suffered enough, he has served the sacred Agnis very well. Do not let the Agnis blame you, please do graduate him."

This episode shows how the wife was a revered respected spiritually equal partner in ancient times. Even though Satyakama is already a Brahmajnani, his wife is equally brilliant in spiritual splendor, and is not intimidated into subservience. She is bold enough and strong enough to advise even her husband.

All the above examples show the authentic Upanishadic viewpoint of the position of women in spiritual life. The integral worldview of Vedic philosophy does not belittle or denigrate any aspect of life because that is an unbalanced and lopsided perspective.

Genuine sanyasa as demonstrated by great acharyas such as Svami Vidyaranya in medieval times does not denigrate women.

  • Thrre is controversy on svetasvatara .. mahanarayana etc also. Moreover there is nothing left after vanaprastha to renounce Oct 18, 2020 at 13:43
  • @RakeshJoshi I agree. The ancient system only had 3 stages. Vanaprastha was the renouncing of family and worldly life. I think Sanyasa is not a 4th stage, but a state of mind that one can have at any stage of life. "Sam+nyasa" = "well placed".
    – RamAbloh
    Oct 18, 2020 at 16:26
  • @RakeshJoshi well, Kaushitaki is definitely genuine ancient, it occurs in Kaushitaki Brahmanam. Mahanarayana, although the name may be later, it is the 10th kanda of Taittiriya Aranyakam, so it is also genuine ancient. Shvetashvatara belongs to Krishna Yajur Veda.
    – RamAbloh
    Oct 18, 2020 at 16:34
  • nyasa iti brahmaa.. so it has to do with hiranyagarbha Oct 18, 2020 at 20:43
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    The questioner has a misconception. These verses do not degrade women at all, nor are they meant to degrade. These verses are arthavAda for male sannyasis so that they can lose interest in women.
    – Ikshvaku
    Nov 3, 2020 at 21:23

Sanyas Upanishads were written for male spiritual aspirants and thus talk of women being dangerous to males. Women are allowed to be monks. Just as women are dangerous for men who are spiritual aspirants similarly men are dangerous for women. I am astonished that some people believe that Hindu women are not allowed to be monks when there are women monk organizations http://www.srisaradamath.org/.

Man dangerous to woman in the spiritual path

Just as a woman is a danger to a man desiring progress on the spiritual path, so is a man to woman. It is the man who is uxorious, and engrossed too much with women, that gets a woman’s body in the next birth. Having become a woman, and being unaware that it is My binding power of Maya, as dictated by her Karma, that approached her as husband offering her wealth, children and home, she succumbs to these attractions to Maya without knowing that they mark her spiritual doom, even as a male deer meets with its death at the hands of a hunter who attracts it by his musical call imitating the mating cry of the female.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana III.31.41-42

Women as monks

There are examples of women Sannyasis who have attained Moksha in Mahabharata. I will give here 2 such examples:

(1) Pingala said, ‘…What women is there that regards that Supreme Soul as her dear Lord, even when he comes near? I am now awake. I have been roused from the sleep of ignorance. I am no longer influenced by desire. Human lovers, who are really the embodied forms of hell, shall no longer deceive me by approaching me lustfully. Evil produces good through the destiny or the acts of a former life. Roused (from the sleep of ignorance), I have cast off all desires for worldly objects. I have acquired a complete mastery over my senses. One freed from desire and hope sleeps in felicity.Freedom from every hope and desire is felicity. Having driven off desire and hope, Pingala sleeps in felicity.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CLXXV

(2) In the same Satya Yuga, a woman of the name Sulabha, belonging to the mendicant order, practised the duties of Yoga and wondered over the whole Earth. In course of her wanderings over the Earth, Sulabha heard from many Dandis of different places that the ruler of Mithila was devoted to the religion of emancipation. ....Sulabha became desirous of a personal interview with Janaka. [ The story is very long. So I will shorten it by saying that Sulabha went to Janaka and entered his mind through her Yoga Power to check if Raja Janaka was truly emancipated. Janaka protested saying that as a mendicant and a woman she should not have entered his body to check whether he has really attained Emancipation. Sulabha gave Raja Janaka a good dressing down. I will quote only a few lines of her retort.]

Sulabha said, 'The contact of one that is emancipated with another that has been so, or Purusha with Prakriti, can not lead to intermingling of the kind thou dreadest. Only those that regard the soul to be identical with the body, and that think the several orders and modes of life to be really different from one another, are open to the error of supposing an intermingling to be possible. My body is different from thine. But my soul is not different from thine. When I am able to realise this, I have not the slightest doubt that my understanding is really not staying in thine though I have entered into thee by Yoga.'

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section CCCXXI

Equal rights enjoyed by women

I am posting a passage from a famous 14th century text which shows the equal rights enjoyed by women in Hinduism.

Renunciation is mentioned in the Taittiriya and other Upanishads: 'Some have attained immortality, not by acts, nor by offspring, nor by wealth, but by renunciation alone' (Kaivalya Upanishad., 3). Females also are entitled to this kind of renunciation. The Caturdharike of the Mokshadharma, by using the word bhikshuki (female mendicant) with reference to the lady in question, when dealing with the controversy between Sulabha and janaka, indicated that females may renounce before marriage, or after the death of their husband and may go about as religious mendicants, may learn and hear the sastras dealing with moksha (namely the Upanishad and cognate literature), may meditate upon the atman in seclusion and assume the emblems of tri-danda, etc. In the wake of the argument in the Devatadhikarana (the section about devata) in the fourth chapter of the third book of the Sarirakabhasya, wherein a discussion has been started relating to the rights of a widower (to such renunciation), the name of the lady Vacaknavi has also been mentioned. These references go to strengthen the right claimed by Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalkya, of whom she inquires in the words: 'Of what use would such (wealth) be to me, if the possession of such would not render me immortal? Tell me whatever your worship knows,as to what I should do, in order to be free from mortality' (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.4).

Jivanmuktiviveka of Vidyaranya translated by S. Subrahmanya Sastri and T.R. Srinivasa Ayangar, Chapter 1, Vividisa-samnyasa: The Renunciation of the Seeker

  • Kindly post original verses with translation of Taitariya upanishad. I am sure that it is not allowed in Sankara sampradaya at least. I have cited the references also. Your post is not clearly answering my question on sanyasa upanishads. Apr 2, 2017 at 13:53
  • The Ramakrishna Order of which the Sarada Math is a part belongs to the Dasnami order. My source Guru is a woman. So the current reality is that there are women monks. You are free to think that my answer is not answering your question. Apr 2, 2017 at 14:21
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    RK Mutt sanyasins like vivekananda also had fish, meat etc which is not allowed in sankara mutt sanyasins. How to prove if RK mutt is in accordance with actual sankara lineage? I gone through the history of kanchi and other mutts they dont have any women monk. nor did sankara initiate any women. and some of the upanishad i posted here are from advaita website. Apr 2, 2017 at 14:26
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    Thanks Pradip Ji for pointing out to such a beautiful source.
    – SMJoe
    Apr 23, 2017 at 20:04
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    @PradipGangopadhyay great references.. highly useful! Aug 14, 2017 at 7:47

Disclaimer: My answer is based on my understanding after having closely observed multiple Vaishnava sannyasis and heard from them and their followers on this topic (and some simple logic); I am not including many references at the moment but could look for them if really required.

I'll divide my answer in 3 sections to address the 3 main points I see here.

Attachment to opposite sex difficult to overcome

The sannyasa scriptures are specifically meant for people who have retired from and renounced the social orders of life (ashram) - brahmacari, grihastha and vanaprastha - and are expected to not have social interaction with people of the opposite sex. Therefore, many times such scriptures may be excessive in their admonishing of women, only to make a very strong case against any possibility of intimate contact with women. This is done because for many men, interaction or relationships with women may be among the greatest hurdles in the renounced life.

Instruction for novice or inexperienced sannyasi

I will also add that this is primarily for novitiate sannyasi, as one who is realized or has greater spiritual insight is expected to be able to differentiate between matter and spirit, and see everyone with equal vision (Gita 5.18 and probably other references). So you can compare this to parents protecting (or wanting to protect) their very young children by telling them things that are not factual, but which may help them stay safe. E.g., making up stories like the multiple variants of Boogieman, or saying something drastic to encourage them to take a medicine, etc. (you get the idea). These stories are not real, or may be very exaggerated, but serve a very clear purpose of creating a mental 'fence', until intelligence is sufficiently trained/developed.

Women denied sannyas

I find these points very clearly explaining the denouncement of women in sannyasa literature (however you identify/classify those). As for the very first point of them being denied sannyas, that is a very generic statement, and you can find many exceptions to almost every category mentioned there who did take up the sannyas way of life (you don't have to wear the same clothes or look the same to be a sannyasi(n)). It's just that based on the psychophysical nature of 'most' men compared to 'most' women, women tend to be more emotional while men tend to be more rational, thus making different directions of spiritual pursuit more or less suitable for the two. But this is only a very general directive, it is always the guru who decides based on the nature of his/her disciple what would work best in their case.

  • 1
    Good attempt. Adding some references would help. Aug 14, 2017 at 7:47

The points that you make are not at all true only for the Sanyasa Upanishadas(I'm really not aware of any such Upanishadic classification), but see the other texts you mention in comments:

"Those who are not married — sannyāsīs, vānaprasthas and brahmacārīs — should never associate with women by glancing, touching, conversing, joking or sporting. Neither should they ever associate with any living entity engaged in sexual activities." - SB 11.17.33

"A man understanding what's best for him, should never run after women or associate with men thus engaged, for the sole reason that the mind united with the senses reaches for sense objects and thus gets agitated " - SB 11.26.22

"One gets attached to this unholy matter and praises it, in case of a woman, for having such a cute nose, beautiful smile and face, but one heads with it for the lowest destination [of decay]." - SB 11.26.20

"A saintly person should never touch a young girl. In fact, he should not even let his foot touch a wooden doll in the shape of a woman. By bodily contact with a woman he will surely be captured by illusion, just as the elephant is captured by the she-elephant due to his desire to touch her body." - SB 11.8.13

"“And whilst not coming into contact with Sûdras and remains of food; for this Gharma is he that shines yonder, and he is excellence, truth, and light; but woman, the Sûdra, the dog, and the black bird (the crow), are untruth: he should not look at these, lest he should mingle excellence and sin, light and darkness, truth and untruth.” - Satapatha Brahmana 14:1:1:31

“Indra himself hath said, The mind of woman brooks not discipline, her intellect hath little weight.” - Rig Veda 8:33:17

“they could not discern the world of heaven, they saw this (cup) for the wives, they drew it; then indeed did they discern the world of heaven; in that (the cup) for the wives is drawn, (it serves) to reveal the world of heaven. Soma could not bear being drawn for women; making the ghee a bolt they beat it, they drew it when it had lost its power; therefore women are powerless, have no inheritance, and speak more humbly than even a bad man” - Yajur Veda – Taittiriya Samhita 6:5:8:2

One more point to be mentioned here is that the study of Vedas, as you show that some women earlier had access to, is different from initiation as a sanyasin, and in Hindu scriptures only male Brahmins are allowed it. I would like to see any references that contradict this statement.

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    I cannot help it if you are not aware about it. I have already quoted the texts with the links, you can go through them. Further, SB is not a Sanyasa scripture. Regarding your last point about Male Brahmins, kindly see my other answers for references. hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/17134/7853 & hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/17141/7853 & hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/17113/7853 Apr 2, 2017 at 13:58
  • @Rakesh Joshi You can help me by pointing me to a reference for division between Sanyasa and non-Sanyasa scriptures. The point I'm trying to make is that the same abhorence for women is required of sanyasis in other non-Sanyasa scriptures(SB) as well. Also, your answers rather show that you agree with me in the point that the women did have access to the right of Vedic education. But the "institution" of sanyas was reserved only for Brahmin men.
    – SMJoe
    Apr 2, 2017 at 14:19
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    it was sanyasins who started interpolating scriptures against women and snatched the vedic learning and religious equality. My questions are limited only to the so called sanyasa scriptures which mock women. SB is more of a bhakti oriented purana. Apr 2, 2017 at 14:25
  • @RakeshJoshi the last two hymns are from samhitas. Feb 22, 2018 at 18:25
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    @AnubhavJha translation issue Feb 22, 2018 at 18:29

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