Ancient Vedic rishis (seers, sages) seem to be married householders e.g. Agastya was married to Lopamudra, Atri was married to Anasuya, Vasishtha was married to Arundhati, Jamadagni was married to Renuka. Children of rishis became rishis too e.g. Durvasa was son of Atri, Vyasa was son of Parashara.

Was sanyasa (renunciation of worldly life, monasticism) then a concept invented by the shramana movement including Buddhists and Jains, and later imported into Hinduism?

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    The minor Upanishads only talk about Sannyas and the rituals associated with it .. Vedas or the major Upanishads do not talk about it .. So, there is debate whether Sannyas is Vedic or non Vedic
    – Rickross
    Feb 10, 2019 at 6:38
  • See this question: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/32052/…
    – Rickross
    Feb 10, 2019 at 6:39
  • Internal Sannyas is a vague thing ..external sannyas is ritualistic and we can talk about it .. Whether someone has renounced internally can not be visible to us .. but we can easily identify a Sannyasi by his external signs (like shaven head etc) .. Vedic religion is for the Grihastas not for the Sannyasis afaik @ChinmaySarupria
    – Rickross
    Feb 10, 2019 at 6:45
  • Yes that's because they never took Sannyas in the scriptural way .. they were great Saints but not a Sannyasi as the scriptures describe one .. For e.g scriptures say they can not cook and must beg food but those Saints never followed this and several other rules .. So they were never traditional or orthodox Sannyasis .. they were just highly evolved souls and grt Saints @Partha
    – Rickross
    Feb 10, 2019 at 6:52
  • 1
    Internal Sannyas is vague I already told u .. Here we are talking about FORMAL Sannyas which involves lots of things and rituals .. whether someone has renounced internally we can not know .. no one can know only he will know .. so such a thing can not be a part of general disscusion @ChinmaySarupria
    – Rickross
    Feb 10, 2019 at 6:56

4 Answers 4


Was sanyasa (renunciation of worldly life, monasticism) then a concept invented by the shramana movement including Buddhists and Jains, and later imported into Hinduism?

No, it has its origins in the Upanishads.

The view that Sannyasa and other celibate orders are non-Vedic has been held by ancient followers of the Vedas.

Maharishi Gautama says:

Gautama (3.35)—‘There is only one life-stage, say the revered Teachers; since the householder’s life is the only one that is directly enjoined [in the Vedas].’

Patrick Olivelle, an Indologist, says:

Since the celibate orders of life contradicts the Vedic injunction to marry and to procreate, Gautama and Bodhayana argue that scriptural passages authorizing such states are without authority.

This viewpoint is mentioned by the ancient Sri Vaishnava Acharya Yadava Prakasha, in his work called Yatidharma Samuccaya, or "Collection of the rules for Sannyasis," in which he says:

Some [the opponent of celibate orders] claim that there is indeed no such rule [of celibacy], because one is not found in the Veda, and because scriptures that contradict the Veda are without authority. That is the view of Gautama.

The opponents of the orders of celibacy say that the injunctions in the Vedas about meditation, knowledge, taking up the vow of asceticism, etc do not constitute a separate ashrama (order), but are done within the householder order itself. This is because they think that the Vedas only establish a single order, the householder, and any Smriti injunction that establishes celibate orders is non-Vedic. So, if there are Vedic injunctions that seem to suggest sannyasa, those injunctions are to be done within the householder order.

Yadava Prakasha then answers this objection:

To all this we reply. 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," (Mahanarayana Upanishad) goes on to prescribe renunciation: "They say that renunciation, therefore, surpasses these austerities," (Mahanarayana Upanishad) and finally enjoins the yoga of knowledge as what is expressed by the term renunciation: "One should attach oneself to the self." Now, the yoga of knowledge consists in the sole pursuit of knowledge. Such a pursuit, evidently, is not possible for householders, because they are required to perform in addition rites such as the daily fire sacrifice. Only the yoga of rites, consequently, is applicable to them. Now, the yoga of rites consists in the simultaneous pursuit of both knowledge and rites, from which pursuit its practitioners obtain liberation. Wandering ascetics, on the other hand, attain liberation solely through the yoga of knowledge. Because they do not perform rites, therefore, the same text in a subsequent passage shows how they accomplish the ritual and prescribes that a wandering ascetic should carry it out every day without fail: "In the case of a man who knows the sacrifice in this manner, [his self is the sacrificer, faith is his wife, his body is the fire wood...]." (Mahanarayana Upanishad) This is not merely a laudatory statement but a true injunction, because it has no precedent.


It is thus established that the yoga of knowledge pertains to wandering ascetics, while the yoga of rites pertains to householders. The Veda accordingly declares that a person can attain immortality only by abandoning rites: "Not by rites, not by offspring, and not by wealth - but by renunciation did some people attain immortality." (Mahanarayana Upanishad).

So no, sannyasa was not invented by the Buddhists and Jains.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Pandya
    Mar 25, 2019 at 6:36

Ancient Rishis were married but practiced very strict continence/Brahmcharya, procreation was allowed but only for continuing generation, not for enjoying flesh(trait of animals/reptiles), unlike modern so-called modernized and Americanized Bharatvasis who think just by being born Brahmin one can realize Brahman(God). Jains and Buddhist re-established the very old practice of Continence, as with Kaliyuga, people dont practice Dharma nor continence.

Swami Vivekananda on Practice of Brahmacharya for 12 Years (Brahman is more than Celibacy)

Swamiji: What do you say? Ask me anything you like from these ten volumes, and I will answer you all.

The disciple asked in wonder, "Have you read all these books?" Swamiji: Why should I ask you to question me otherwise?

Being examined, Swamiji not only reproduced the sense, but at places the very language of the difficult topics selected from each volume. The disciple, astonished, put aside the books, saying, "This is not within human power!"

Swamiji: Do you see, simply by the observance of strict Brahmacharya (continence) all learning can be mastered in a very short time -- one has an unfailing memory of what one hears or knows but once. It is owing to this want of continence that everything is on the brink of ruin in our country.

Disciple: Whatever you may say,sir, the manifestation of such superhuman power cannot be the result of mere Brahmacharya, something else there must be.

Swamiji did not say anything in reply.

Ramkrishna Paramhans on Brahmcharya/celibacy

Sri Ramakrishna was uncompromising on the need for celibacy for God-realization. He used to tell devotees, “To be able to realize God, one must practise absolute continence. Sages like Sukadeva are examples of an ‘urdhvareta’ (a person of unbroken and complete continence). Their chastity was absolutely unbroken.A man practising unbroken brahmacharya for twelve years develops a special power. He grows a new inner nerve called the nerve of memory. Through that nerve he remembers all, he understands all.When a man succeeds in the conservation of his sexual energy, his intellect reflects the image of Brahman. The man who carries this image of Brahman in his heart is able to accomplish everything – he will succeed wonderfully in whatever action he engages himself.

God(Brahman) is Omniscient(knower of everything, wisest of all) and a perfect Brahmchari is the one who never forgets, highly wise and is like an Omniscient God in flesh and is worshipped by people as avatar like many ancient sages.(like Hanuman)

Knower of Brahman alone is the true Brahmin, and only a true Brahmchari can know Brahman and is eligible to be called Brahmin, not by mere birth.

Jesus Christ, Ramkrishna Paramhans, Ramana Maharshi, Trailanga swami, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda were all perfect Brahmcharis and knower of Brahman in real sense.


Knower of Brahman can be a Grahastrama person. Sanniyasa is not a requirement for knowing Brahman and Moksha. Yagnyavalkya had two wives. Maitreyi and Katyayini. He is a true Brahman realized Rishi. The conversation between him and his wife on Brahman forms one chunk of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. He went to the forests in his golden years and the wives question him as to why and then he says about Brahman. Aranyaka means forest. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is typically understood during the evening years of your life. At that time you must have fulfilled the duties as a person. Brahmacharya, grahastasrama etc. and and finally go to forest to renounce all. Since, that is a better sacrifice and sacrifice is a requirement for Brahman realization, people tend to do that during that time. Gargi, also featured in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is a renowned Vedic celibate female sage and is considered very knowledgeable. Some people consider her conversation with Yagnyavalkya on the nature of Brahman very profound. There were kings who were Brahman realized souls and they lived a Lavish life. That said, there is a hint I will give you on why Brahman realization is tied to being a brahmacharin. It has to do with this Sandhyavandana, Mantra “Ritam Sathyam Parabrahmam Purusham Krishna Pingalam urdhwaretam Virupaksham Vishwaroopaya vai namo Namaha” and Tantric / Kundalini yoga path to Self-realization.Do your due diligence and learn and when you have Observe Silence so other can find the path on their own...:-)


In our country of sages with such an ancient rich spiritual heritage where Moksha/Iswaraprema is the ultimate Purusartha, what is the document that ensures that all rishis were married? Did not we have sages like Narada, Suka, Dattattreya?

As I pointed to in replying to another question, the concept of renouncing the world which is the essence of sannyasa, has been mentioned in the Main Upanishads. I am providing these documents here:

Yes, there are many slokas in the Upanishads that imply a sannyasin way of life:

  1. "Yadichchhanto brahmacharyam charanti"

in the Kathopanishad I think refers to Unbroken brahmacharyya which is possible only for the sannyasins. Yes, whose mind is in Brahma can not have a married life with sensual pleasures as pointed out by many saints like Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. To me, what the realised souls who practised these and realised the Truth are authentic, not the book-worms or scholars.

  1. The same also holds for "Tamevaikam janatha aatmanam anyaa vacho vimunchatha"(Mudankopanishad (2/2/5).

Concentrating on God alone leaving all oher talks is not possible for a normal married householder**.Excepting the Prema-unmadas, it is possible for the sannyasin way of life alone.

  1. Kathopanishad says:"Kaschiddhirah pratyagatmaanam aikshad aavrittachakshur amritattvamichchhan"

dhirah and avavrittachaksur mean one who has totally withdrawn himself from external pleasures, so it does mean the sanyyasin way of life.

4.Mudakopanishad says: parikshya lokaan karmachitaam brahmano nirvedam aayannaasyakritah kritena

Nirveda of the sloka definitely means a sannyasin way of life.

  1. Mundakaponishad also says: satyena labhyastapasaa jyesha aatmaa samyagjnaanena brahmacharyen nityam. antahsarire jyotirmayo hi subhro yam pashanti yatao kshinadoshaah

The nitya brahmacharyya or unbroken celibacy points to a sannyasin way of life. Someone having nirveda and brahmacharyya and seeing divine light inside is not expected to enjoy filthy sensual pleasures.So such persons are mentioned as yatao(sannyasins) in the above mantra.

  1. The same Upanishad says: Nayamaatma valahinena labhyo na cha pramadat tapaso vapyalingat

Alingat means he can not know Atmaa without external sannyasa.

The Kaivalyopanishad clearly says : na karmanaa na prajayaa tyaagenaike amritatwamanasuh: giving tyaaga or sannyasin way of life as the only prescription. "yad ahareva virajet tad ahareva pravyajet"

I have also not read the Vedas.But quoting from Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath(Srimadbhagavadgita, vol 2, page 182-184)

Sannyasa means renunciation and does not necessarily mean formal sannyasa: http://sanskritdictionary.com/?iencoding=iast&q=संन्यास&lang=sans&action=Search

Varnashrama is the Vedic dharma of the aryans.At the age of fifty, husband and wife should leave the house and go to the forest.At 75 years of age, sannyasa should be taken. Sannasi should remain alone under the sky or in temples, shaving head, wearing a piece of cloth and deer skin and should live on begging (madhukari).A sannyasi should not stay at any place for more than three nights. Sages like Manu and Daksha have prescribed this.

He has then given various quotations from and mentioned the names of Narada-Parivrajaka-Upanishad, Paramahamsa-Upanishad, Jabala-Upanishad, Turiyatittabadhut Upanishad, Sannyas Upanishad etc.

He has then discussed the Tantrik ways of sannyasa and ultimately Mahasannyasa.

Swami Vivekananda has also repeatedly said that without braahmacharya (celibacy is necessary for brahmacharya, but notvsufficient) renunciation, no spiritual realisation is possible as has Sri Ramakrishna and so there has been a continuity in this regard from the days of yore. If someone is addictedcan iota of sensual pleaure, he or she must be millions of mile away from illumination.

  • I say that all rishis were married or having a partner. Do you want to challenge it ? Mar 22, 2019 at 17:10
  • Brahmacharya is NOT celibacy. Mar 22, 2019 at 17:11
  • @RakeshJoshi celibacy is necessary but not sufficient for vrahmacharya
    – user17294
    Mar 22, 2019 at 17:24
  • i have quoted in my answers that even married men.can be brahmachari. I have references even Krishna referred to as brahamchari. Worship of garhapatyagni main. Most of the avatara also accompanied by Shakti Mar 22, 2019 at 17:26

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