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Sannyasa is BELIEVED to be the so called "fourth stage" of life, i.e after brahmacharya, grihastha, and vAnaprastha. However, when one has ALREADY moved to the forest in seclusion after retiring from household duties with wife. What is there to be renounced and for what?

Sannyasa (most popular is dashanaami tradition of sankara), for many of those who do not know, involves renunciation of or giving up

  • sacred fire worship (agnihotra, yajnas and any fire rituals)

  • wife or patni

  • children and family

  • yajnopavita or sacred thread

  • shikhaa or tuft of hair on head

  • burying the dead body and not cremating

some other sanyasa sects have a little different requirements from above but many of the core processes are same.

kAlidAsa when talking abt various stages in life of the raghu clan says,

शैशवेभ्यस्त विद्यानां यौवने विषयैषिणां वार्धके मुनिवृत्तीनां योगेनान्ते तनुं त्यजाम्

Learn all vidyAs in childhood, indulge in youthful pleasures in youth "involve in munivRtti" in old age & at last quit the mortal coil by way of yoga. This is what ordained for everyone

munivRtti is asceticism & involves talking less and doing tapas. That's why in oldage people went to vAnaprastha.

‘In the world, one should desire to live a hundred years, but only by performing karma. Thus, and in no other way, can man be free from the taint of karma.’ (Isha upanisad 2)

The Taittiriya Brahmana has it that to extinguish the agnihotra fire is to earn the demerit of killing a hero.

While vedas preach self realization in tune with the nature and prescribe brahmacaryaM, grihastham, shikhaa, sacred thread, progeny, etc , if a an individual or a system , renounces all these , do we call it vedic or avedic, so is the answer..

Vedas start with "Agni meele purohitham" and glorifies Agni and

Sannyasins after death are buried under the ground rather than offering the body to the agni.

"UTTISHTATA MAA SVAPTA, AGNIMICHCHADVAM BHAARATAA:” Yajurveda

Meaning: “O people of Bharat! awake, don’t be asleep, yearn for Agni”.

1) can the same vedas suggest a life that sheds this very agni?

All the RShi-s including the saptaRShi-s were establishers of their respective gotra-s which means they led a family life. If indeed there existed something called renunciation of shikhA, kaccha, yajJopavIta, agnyupAsanA and one's own wife,

2) someone kindly provide proof that these great mahariShi-s did that?

When asked about reference of sannyasa or renunciation from the vedas, the vedantins usually cite the verse from munDaka upanishad to support their claim,

vedāntavijñānasuniścitārthāḥ saṁnyāsayogādyatayaḥ śuddhasattvāḥ | te brahmalokeṣu parāntakāle parāmṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve || 3.2.6 ||

However, if we see the meaning of above verse, it says that the fruits of vedAnta and sannyasa is attainment of brahmaloka after death on this planet. But we know that so called vedanta and sannyasa is not for attainment of brahmaloka but moksha.

Then a question arises so as to what is the exact meaning of sannyasa? From Vedic point of view,

"nyAsa iti brahma" nyAsa ityAhur manIShiNo brahmANaM".. so say the shrutis..

nyAsa is brahmaa (hiraNyagarbha).

3) Then how can saMnyAsa be derived as "renunciation" ?

it can only mean the upAsanA of hiraNyagarbha

Then there is also a conception that "yati" also necessarily means sannyasin or renunciates. However,

A sanyAsi can be a yati but a yati need not be a sanyAsi. People believe that yati = sanyaasi. yati is one who has restrained his mind and body. Even a gRhastha for that matter is restrained in his mind and body if he sticks to his dharma. Moreover, the word yati is actually derived as "yatate iti yatiH". i.e. one who puts effort. in that case, the word yati would aptly fit only a karmayogi and not a sanyAsi who says he has renounced karma.

Another such word is parivraja which is usually considered synonymous with sannyasa. However it only means a wanderer and not someone who has renounced everything. A wanderer may or may not be a sanyasin.

I am also aware that there are texts which are called sannyasa upanishads which are followed by them for their sannyasa and code of conduct. However, they are not authentic in the sense that they are not the part of vedas. I have also posted a question about these here. This includes like of jabaala upanishad, kaivalyopanishad and so on.

If someone likes to provide any authentic reference then I would like to ask,

4) Is there any reference of sannyasa ashrama as a life style in vedas? (the word sannyasa in mundaka upanishad does not speak about ashrama but sanyasa as an upasana of lord brahmaa to attain brahmaloka)

Note: By Vedas I am expecting direct reference from vedas i.e samhitas. And also from aranyaka, brahmana, and ten authentic upanishads. Also grhya and shrauta sutras.

P.S: Please provide the references in moola shlokas with translation and not commentaries by mutt people like gambhirananda, nikhilananda etc.

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  • We get it that 'bhashya/commentary' would not be accepted as answer. There is no need to mention name of people. Jan 21 '19 at 2:38
  • @Vishalprabhulawande its just an example because some people regularly quote only commentaries Jan 21 '19 at 2:41
  • Agni have different meaning Aga - inside.. ni- you one which is inside you that makes you move, sleep,eat, drink and always with you so you should have focus inside you to self realize, the keep yea people bharat, please awake be self realized on focusing inside you. that is the correct meaning.. similarly for agni shuktha.. then you will understand the whole Vedanta.. my pranams to all acharyas of madhva prampara for throwing this enlightenment of the scriptures
    – Prasanna R
    Jan 21 '19 at 6:56
  • @PrasannaR that would mean that all maharshis like Vashistha and Bharadvaja atri were ignorant that they kept on worshiping the external agni till the last breath and offered their body to the very agni. Worshiping internal agni dont mean that one should not worship external. Jan 21 '19 at 11:41
  • 2
    @RakeshJoshi That lazy lubber user you were talking to is currently known as zero on the site (who has posted an answer too - hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/48624/4732). So you can continue with zero the discussion.
    – Rickross
    Aug 14 at 9:24
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I am referring to Rig Vedic mantras alone, which are the oldest and considered to be apaurushEya.

The definition of Sannyasa was already elaborated by the OP. Hence, I am not reproducing similar content here.


The Rig Vedic mantras were composed by the Sages. They prayed, apart from wealth, for children also.

Let us examine a few of them.


Rig Veda II.2.12 - Rishi - Gristamada

उभयासो जातवेदः सयाम ते सतोतारो अग्ने सूरयश्च शर्मणि | वस्वो रायः पुरुश्चन्द्रस्य भूयसः परजावतः सवपत्यस्य शग्धि नः ||

Knower of all that lives, O Agni may we both, singers of praise and chiefs, be in thy keeping still. Help us to wealth exceeding good and glorious, abundant, rich in children and their progeny.

  1. Rig Veda III.8.6 - Rishi - Viswamitra , says

Ye whom religious men have firmly planted; thou Forest Sovran whom the axe hath fashioned,— Let those the Stakes divine which here are standing be fain to grant us wealth with store of children


So the sages of Rig Vedic period did not think that for attaining SPIRITUALITY, marriage and children are hindrance.

Sanyasa might be later day development.

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    By birth I am a smArtha. However, now I'm in search of Truth and hence don't have any affiliation. @Rakes Joshi Dec 15 '19 at 4:03
  • 1
    sanyasa and gruhasthashrama are not mutually exclusive. in fact, all 4 ashrams of life are recommended to be experienced, in that order. gruhasthashram is 2nd. sanyasa is 4th. @RakeshJoshi
    – mar
    Nov 5 '20 at 23:29
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    @ram first read my question. The quotes clearly say how sannyasa contradicts vedic rules. Which grihya sutra s talks about four ashramas Nov 6 '20 at 0:13
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    @RakeshJoshi - it only recommends againt those who want to go DIRECTLY to sanyasa bypassing gruhastha. but after gruhastha & vanaprastha, sanyasa is the last. Are you saying that you are against even the concept of the 4th ashrama, that there should only be 3 ashrams ?
    – mar
    Nov 6 '20 at 3:33
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    @RakeshJoshi - and brahma loka doesn't mean brahma's satya loka. it means brahmam's loka i.e. moksha. there are many other places where the word brahm - comes. it doesn't mean 4-faced Brahma.
    – mar
    Nov 6 '20 at 3:41
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Is sannyasa a Vedic way of life? Is it recommended by the Vedas?

I am answering only this question.

Since it is not possible to answer the question without going through all the 4 Vedas, and since I have not done so either, I am quoting the opinion of a scholar who has done so.

Let me first introduce the author from whose book I'll be quoting.

He is Dr. R.L.Kashyap (his Wiki page here).

Currently, he is also the director of the "Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture".

Is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Emeritus at Purdue University, USA and also director of the Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture

He has translated all the 4 Vedas (into English and other Indian languages), besides writing various books on Vedas, Upanishads, Brahmanas etc.

I will be quoting from one of his books called "Essentials of Atharva Veda".

12th Chapter of this book is titled "Family Life". Quoting from a sub-section of this Chapter:

Role of Married Life:

Marriage was not regarded as an impediment to spiritual progress. Most of the great teachers of the Vedic age, the rishis, were all married. The theory of three-fold debt (rna) is indicated in TS 6.3.10 namely the debt to the Gods, rishis and ancestors.

......

AV 6.118 and 6.119 stress the importance of clearing all debts (rna) or promises made to human beings or to the deities. There were some ascetics or wondering monks called vrAtya in the Vedic age; but the ideal of external renunciation i.e giving up the home and leading a wandering life is not mentioned. The close connection between developing spiritual powers and leading the life of external renunciation is a buddhist and post-Buddhist development.

enter image description here

So, a full-fledged external Sannyas, where Viraja Homa and other rituals are performed, where the sacred thread, and the ShikhA are cut, is not found in the Vedas proper.

Not only that, external Sannyasa is not found in the 12/13 major Upanishads either (although the word Sannyasa is found). The concept is only found in some minor Upanishads --- the so-called "Sannyasa Upanishads".

So, if you agree to consider those minor Upanishads as Veda too only then the concept is Vedic otherwise not.

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  • I think one should accept Sanyasa after realization, and there is no Vedas needed after realization. May be that is the reason why it is not discussed in scriptures Jan 25 '19 at 0:54
  • So you mean rishis were not realized and hence they did not accept it after realization ? Jan 25 '19 at 0:59
  • You shd hv used "at" the user .. I thought u are asking me but u are asking Naveen @RakeshJoshi
    – Rickross
    Jan 25 '19 at 6:42
  • I think u were asking Naveen Kick something? @RakeshJoshi
    – Rickross
    Jan 25 '19 at 15:16
  • Please check Adi Shankaracharyya's comment on "tapaso vapyalingat"
    – user17294
    Feb 3 '19 at 14:00
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Is sannyasa a Vedic way of life? Is it recommended by the Vedas, the ten authentic Upanishads or Grhyasutras?

The idea that sannyasashrama is not sanctioned by the Vedas is an old idea held even by famous Rishis like Gautama and Bodhayana:

Gautama dharma sutras 3.36:

There is, however, only one order of life [Ashrama] according to the venerable teacher, because the householder's life is expressly prescribed.

Bodhayana dharma sutras:

Some maintain that there is a fourfold division [four Ashramas] of this very law

Because he says some people, he shows he doesn't agree with this.

Even during the time of Ramanujacharya, there were some people who did not believe that sannyAsAshrama is enjoined by the Vedas. The scholar Yadavaprakasha, who was originally a teacher of Ramanujacharya but later became his student and converted to Sri Vaishnavism, wrote a treatise called the Yatidharma Samuccaya, which is a manual for sannyasis, and is even followed today by sri vaishnava sannyasis. In the first chapter, he establishes the Vedic support for sannyasa ashrama. He presents the opponent's position, and rebuts it by citing from the authoritative Mahanarayana upanishad:

There is an exclusive observance known as the yoga of knowledge. The following vedic text, accordingly, notes at the outset the rites beginning with "truth" and ending with "mental", and goes on to prescribe renunciation: "They say that renunciation [nyAsa], therefore, surpasses these austerities" [nyAsa iti brahmA...], and finally enjoins the yoga of knowledge as what is expressed by the term renunciation [nyAsa]: "One should attach oneself to the self".

However, other sri vaishnava acharyas interpret this entire passage, which they call the "Nyasa vidya", as referring to Sharanagati/Prapatti, or surrender to Lord Vishnu for moksha.

For example, the 17th or 18th century Sri Vaishnava scholar Ranga Ramanuja has commented on this passage in the Upanishad and said:

Nyasa signifies self-surrender or prapatti.

So there is a conflict in interpretation of this same passage among members of the same sect. Some say it enjoins sannyasa ashrama, and others say it enjoins sharanagati. In my opinion this enjoins sharanagati and not sannyasa.

Then, in chapter two, Yadavaprakasha cites a bunch of various smriti verses and verses from minor upanishads like the Jabali upanishad that mention various rules and pre-requisites for sannyasa. In short, they call contradict each other and even oppose each other.

In any case, even though sannyasashrama is not mentioned by any currently available vedic text, there are dozens of dharma shastras and puranas that mention this ashrama, and dharma shastras and puranas are directly based on the Vedas since their authors based their contents on the Vedas, so from this we can infer that the authors of these smritis were aware of Vedic texts during their time that mentioned sannyasashrama.

So although sannyasashrama may be enjoined by the Vedas, Grihasthashrama is more emphasized.

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  • +1 for "sannyasashrama may be enjoined by the Vedas, Grihasthashrama is more emphasized." Nov 6 '20 at 6:52
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    As stated by ikshvau In mahabharata there were many reference sannyasashrama, well known example is Arujun disguise TriDhandi Sanyasi which Balaram failed to recognize and worships him asks him to stay in subhadras palace.. This means Sanyasi ashrama was respected even during Krishnas period.. i believe @Rakeshjoshi could accept Krishnas period as vedic
    – Prasanna R
    Nov 6 '20 at 11:25
  • aykashramyam Tvacarya: Pratyakshavidhanat Garhasthasya||” -(Apasthamba Sutram) Meaning: There is only one Ashramam which is the Grahasthashrama. Brahmacharya is preparatory to garhastha and vanaprastha is extension. Nov 6 '20 at 12:49
  • @PrasannaR in MBH if you see pandu went to vanaprastha along with maadari. Dhritarastra went to vanaprastha along with gandhari. Pandavas went to swarga aarohana along with draupadi. I would like to know examples both from mbh and ramayana if you have a list with references Nov 6 '20 at 12:51
  • @SwiftPushkar vedas say nyAsa iti brahmA brahmA hi paraH paro hi brahmA tAni vA. And result of san nyasa is brahma loka as per mundaka. How did nyasa become sharanagati god only knows. For sharanagati you don't need sannyasa. Anyone in ashrama can surrender to God. Example tukaram eknath naamdev and so on. Nov 6 '20 at 12:55
1

Here is a partial answer from one of the 10 upanishads. I am using (being forced to use, actually) the translations of Max Muller and other Western Indologists because the question asks to avoid works of Swamijis.

The following instances may be used in support of sannyasa ashrama, or some sort of renunciation at the very least -

Brihadaranyaka upanishad 2.4.1

Now when Yâgñavalkya was going to enter upon another state, he said: 'Maitreyî, verily I am going away from this my house (into the forest). Forsooth, let me make a settlement between thee and that Kâtyâyanî (my other wife).'

The above shows that Yagnavalkya is renouncing his householder life. He is giving up his two wives, strongly suggesting sannyasa rather than mere vanaprastha.

Brihadaranyaka upanishad 3.5.1

etaṃ vai tamātmānaṃ viditvā brāhmaṇāḥ putraiṣaṇāyāśca vittaiṣaṇāyāśca lokaiṣaṇāyāśca vyutthāyātha bhikśācaryaṃ caranti; yā hyeva putraiṣaṇā sā vittaiṣaṇā, yā vittaiṣaṇā sā lokaiṣaṇā, ubhe hyete eṣaṇe eva bhavataḥ |....

When Brâhmanas know that Self, and have risen above the desire for sons, wealth, and (new) worlds, they wander about as mendicants. For a desire for sons is desire for wealth, a desire for wealth is desire for worlds. Both these are indeed desires. Therefore let a Brâhmana, after he has done with learning, wish to stand by real strength; after he has done with that strength and learning, he becomes a Muni (a Yogin); and after he has done with what is not the knowledge of a Muni, and with what is the knowledge of a Muni, he is a Brâhmana.

Brihadaranyaka upanishad 4.4.22

tametaṃ vedānuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti yajñena dānena tapasā'nāśakena; etameva viditvā munirbhavati | etameva pravrājino lokamicchantaḥ pravrajanti | etaddha sma vai tat pūrve vidvāṃsaḥ prajāṃ na kāmayante, kiṃ prajayā kariṣyāmo yeṣāṃ no'yamātmāyaṃ loka iti; te ha sma putraiṣaṇāyāśca vittaiṣaṇāyāśca lokaiṣaṇāyāśca vyutthāyātha bhikśācaryaṃ caranti; yā hyeva putraiṣaṇā sā vittaiṣaṇā, yā vittaiṣaṇā sā lokaiṣaṇā, ubhe hyete eṣaṇe eva bhavataḥ |

Brâhmanas seek to know him by the study of the Veda, by sacrifice, by gifts, by penance, by fasting, and he who knows him, becomes a Muni. Wishing for that world (for Brahman) only, mendicants leave their homes. Knowing this, the people of old did not wish for offspring. What shall we do with offspring, they said, we who have this Self and this world (of Brahman)? And they, having risen above the desire for sons, wealth, and new worlds, wander about as mendicants. For desire for sons is desire for wealth, and desire for wealth is desire for worlds. Both these are indeed desires only.

Above instance is strongly suggesting that since some people of ancient times did not wish for offspring, they would have directly taken sannyasa without going through the life of a householder.

For Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.22, I am in addition, quoting the translation of Patrick Oliville -

It is he that Brahmins seek to know by means of vedic recitation, sacrifice, gift-giving, austerity, and fasting. It is he, on knowing whom a man becomes a sage. It is when they desire him as their world that wandering ascetics undertake the ascetic life of wandering. "It was when they knew this that men of old did not desire offspring, reasoning: 'Ours is this self, and it is our world. What then is the use of offspring for us?' So they gave up the desire for sons, the desire for wealth, and the desire for worlds, and undertook the mendicant life. The desire for sons, after all, is the same as the desire for wealth, and the desire for wealth is the same as the desire for worlds—both are simply desires.

The same Brihadaranyaka upanishad 4.4.22 as translated by Robert Hume-

Such a one the Brahmans desire to know by repetition of the Vedas, by sacrifices, by offerings, by penance, by fasting. On knowing him, in truth, one becomes an ascetic (muni). Desiring him only as their home, mendicants wander forth. Verily, because they know this, the ancients desired not off- spring, saying : What shall we do with offspring, we whose is this Soul, this home ? " They, verily, rising above the desire for sons and the desire for wealth and the desire for worlds, lived the life of a mendicant. For the desire for sons is the desire for wealth, and the desire for wealth is the desire for worlds ; for both these are desires.

Summary

There are three different translations of the upanishad, not from Swamijis of mutts, and all 3 translations agree on the following -

  1. Some people desiring to know brahman, left their homes and lived as wandering ascetics/mendicants.
  2. They had given up desire for wealth
  3. They had given up desire for offspring (and most likely given up desire for spouse)
  4. They had given up desire for worlds (and all desires)

Normally, one would consider the above 4 lakshanas as belonging to sannyasins rather than just vanaprasthas. (Sure, it is acknowlwdged that the upanishad does not mention one thing or the other about sacred fire or sacred thread or burial.)

Appendix: Do Upanishads prescribe karma?

In the world, one should desire to live a hundred years, but only by performing karma. Thus, and in no other way, can man be free from the taint of karma.’ (Isha upanisad 2)

I would disagree with the above interpretation of Isa Upanishad, and I would think the above quote is very selective. For in the very next verse, the Isa Upanishad says -

There are the worlds of the Asuras 1 covered with blind darkness. Those who have destroyed their self (who perform works, without having arrived at a knowledge of the true Self ), go after death to those worlds.

Admittedly, the content in the brackets is supplied by the translator. Even if you leave it out, the upanishad stresses the importance of the Self (and not karma).

Katha upanishad says

mrutyOH sa mrutyuM Apnoti ya iha nAneva pashyati.

He goes from death to death who sees any difference here.'

Performance of karma (rites) implies seeing differences, and by itself is not going to lead to liberation.

Upanishads are stressing on jnAna, not karma.

Taittiriya upanishad 2.1.1 brahmavid Apnoti param (Knower of brahman attains the highest) and Mundaka upanishad 3.2.9 brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati (Knower of brahman becomes brahman). Brihadaranyaka upanishad 1.4.10 tadātmānamevāvet, aham brahmāsmīti (It knew itself as - I am brahman) and then the upanishad goes on to say that anyone who knows brahman becomes brahman.

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