I've heard that the Vedas only talk about three of the four Purusharthas, viz. Dharmam, Arth, and Kam. The fourth Purushartha, Moksha, is said to be added or is made popular or is accepted after the rise of Buddhism. Even the fourth stage of 'Sanyasa' is added after Buddhist way of life.

Are there any specific verses in Vedas which talk about these specific ideas? What is the ultimate goal of a human being as per Vedas? Which is the the oldest Upanisad which talk about Moksha?

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    The Upanishads are part of the Vedas and speak of Moksha - in detail. Sannyas is also spoken of. These are many specific verses that talk about both throughout the Upanishads. You might try reading for yourself. Dec 15, 2015 at 3:52

6 Answers 6


Where do these rumors come from? How could sannyas be post Buddhist when Buddha himself was a sannyasin??

First, sannyas is spoken of in the Vedas. See the Brahma Sutras verses 3.4.17-20 and 3.4.49 which has many vedic references to Sannyas.

Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.1-2 (this and subsequent verses are translated by Swami Nikhilananda:

There are three branches of duty; sacrifice, study, and charity are the first...All these attain to the worlds of the virtuous; but only one who is firmly established in Brahman attains immortality.

And the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.22:

Desiring this world (the Self) alone monks renounce their homes.

See also Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.11 and Chandogya 5.10.1

Second Moksha. The whole point of the Upanishads is to teach moksha. Saying there is no moksha in the Upanishads is like the man who gets up after hearing a recitation of the Ramayana and asks "Excuse me, what was the name of Rama's wife?"

Kena Upanishad II. 5:

If a man knows Atman here, he then attains the true goal of life. If he does not know It here, a great destruction awaits him.

See also Brhadaranyaka Upanishad I. iv. 10

And Mundaka Upanishad III. ii. 9:

He who knows the Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman.

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad IV. iv. 6-7:

But the man who does not desire is not reborn. Of him who is without desires, who is free from desires, the objects of whose desire have been attained, and to whom all objects of desire are but the Self--the pranas do not depart. Being but Brahman, he is merged in Brahman, Regarding this there is this verse: 'When all the desires that dwell in his heart are gone, then he, having been mortal, becomes immortal and attains Brahman in this very body.' Just as the lifeless slough of a snake is cast off and lies on an ant-hill, so does this body lie. Then the self becomes disembodied and immortal; it becomes the Supreme Brahman, the Light.

and Mundaka Upanishad III. ii. 8:

As flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their names and forms, so a wise man, freed from name and form, attains the Purusha, who is greater than great.

Finally kaivalya. There is a Upanishad called the Kaivalya Upanishad which is part of the Atharva Veda. It is a short Upanishad of only 24 verses. It speaks of sannyas, kavilya, and moksha. Verses 2 and 3 say (Swami Madhavananda translator):

And to him, the Grandsire (Brahma) said: "Know (this) by means of faith, devotion, and meditation. Not by work, nor by progeny, nor by wealth, but by renunciation, some attain immortality.

Higher than heaven, seated in the cave (Buddhi) that shines, (which) the self-controlled attain--the self-controlled, who being of pure minds have well ascertained the Reality, by the knowledge of Vedanta, and through Sannyasa or renunciation. In the sphere of Brahma, at the time of cosmic dissolution, they get all liberated from the highest (apparent) immortality of the manifested universe.


I've heard that the Vedas only talk about three of the four Purusharthas, viz. Dharmam, Arth, and Kam. The fourth Purushartha, Moksha, is said to be added or is made popular or is accepted after the rise of Buddhism

That is not true.The Purusha Suktam(Rig Veda)itself talks about moksha(liberation).Refer to verse no 20 which is given below.

vedā̱ham e̱taṁ puru̍ṣaṁ ma̱hāntam̎ | ā̱di̱tya va̍rṇa̱ṁ tama̍sa̱ḥ para̍stāt | I know this mighty Supreme Being whose splendour is like the sun, beyond the reach of darkness. tam e̱vaṁ vi̱dvān a̱mṛta̍ i̱ha bha̍vati | nānyaḥ panthā̍ vidya̱te’ya̍nāya || He alone
who knows Him becomes immortal here, there is no other path to liberation.

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The purport of this verse is that without knowing the Supreme Purusha mukti or liberation is not possible.


You are absolutely right. Vedas only talk about three of the four Purusharthas, viz. Dharmam, Arth, and Kam. Because Vedas teach and reveal the absolute Brahman, Eeshwara state of the ultimate cosmic intelligence (Vingnana)which is the cause of the whole of creation, sustenance and distruction of every thing. With the rise of Budhism as a branch of hinduism it was revealed about the true state of "Nirguna Brahman" - the absolute void -the non existance or Nirvana the true liberation even from Thri-moorthi. Eeshathwa which is all encompassing cosmic intelligence is subject to Thri-Moorthi, the creation, sustenance and distruction. It is subject to time ( Kal- Change). As a result the state of experiencing exists. When experiencing with change (Anithya) exists, state of suffering (Dukka) co-exists like the shadow. But Buddha who sought a Dharma (Science) to end suffering (But did not seek union with god-head as the final goal), revealed the way to attain the state of Nirvana - non-existence or Nir-guna-brahman (The absolue void) which is without the state of suffering. This state is described as " Arahan" - meaning beyond the concept of time and existence which is non suffering.


There are many shlokas in the Upanishads that clearly indicate the concept of Moksha. I am posting such shlokas.

When one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, that is the infinite. But when one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else, that is the small (the finite). Verily, the infinite is the same as immortal, the finite is the same as the mortal. 'Venerable Sir, on what is the infinite established?' 'On its own greatness or not even on greatness.'

Chandogya Upanishad VII.24.1

I know the Supreme Person of sunlike colour (lustre) beyond the darkness. Only by knowing Him does one pass over death. There is no other path for going there. Than whom there is naught else higher, than whom there is naught smaller, naught greater, (the) one stands like a tree established in heaven, by Him, the Person, is this whole universe filled. That which is beyond this world is without form and without suffering. Those who know that become immortal, but others go only to sorrow.

Svetasvatara Upanishad III.8-10


I want to give two evidences that prove that moksha is very much available in the vedas.

  1. please refer to srimad bhagavatam 2.10.6. muktir hitva anyatha rupam svarupena avastiti

this shows that mukti is discussed in vedas and NOT added later

  1. in ramayana, when hanuman sees Rama and lakshmana in the forest for the first time, he meets them as a sannyasi.

so sannyasa is there from ramayana times.

hope this clarifies

  • Ramayana and Bhagvatam both have many versions and have many accretions from time to time. So, in my opinion, the quotes from these and from any other Puranas or Mythologies can not be taken as authentically ancient.
    – gaj
    Dec 16, 2015 at 7:55

Here is what I got from the article on 'Chandogya Upanishad'. It is one of the oldest Upanisads.

Scholars have offered different estimates ranging from 800 BCE to 600 BCE, all preceding Buddhism.

About Ashramas and Purusharthas, it says,

त्रयो धर्मस्कन्धा यज्ञोऽध्ययनं दानमिति प्रथम स्तप एव द्वितीयो ब्रह्मचार्याचार्यकुलवासी तृतीयो ऽत्यन्तमात्मानमाचार्यकुलेऽवसादयन्सर्व एते पुण्यलोका भवन्ति ब्रह्मसँस्थोऽमृतत्वमेति ॥ १ ॥[52]

There are three branches of Dharma (religious life, duty): Yajna (sacrifice), Svādhyāya (self study) and Dāna (charity) are the first, Tapas (austerity, meditation) is the second, while dwelling as a Brahmacharya for education in the house of a teacher is third, All three achieve the blessed worlds. But the Brahmasamstha – one who is firmly grounded in Brahman – alone achieves immortality.

— Chandogya Upanishad 2.23.1

Paul Deussen notes that the Chandogya Upanishad, in the above verse, is not presenting these stages as sequential, but rather as equal.[54] Only three stages are explicitly described, Grihastha first, Vanaprastha second and then Brahmacharya third.[55] Yet the verse also mentions the person in Brahmasamstha – a mention that has been a major topic of debate in the Vedanta sub-schools of Hinduism.[53][58] The Advaita Vedanta scholars state that this implicitly mentions the Sannyasa, whose goal is to get "knowledge, realization and thus firmly grounded in Brahman". Other scholars point to the structure of the verse and its explicit "three branches" declaration.[54] In other words, the fourth state of Brahmasamstha among men must have been known by the time this Chandogya verse was composed, but it is not certain whether a formal stage of Sannyasa life existed as a dharmic asrama at that time. Beyond chronological concerns, the verse has provided a foundation for Vedanta school's emphasis on ethics, education, simple living, social responsibility, and the ultimate goal of life as moksha through Brahman-knowledge.

Here is the link to Wiki article

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