From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Karmasanyāsa literally means ‘renunciation of all actions’.

As per the smrtis and dharmaśāstras,[1] a gṛhastha or a householder has to perform a number of rites and rituals. Vedic sacrifices are the part and parcel of a person's life. He has to perform his daily duties from which some of them are:

  • Nitya
  • Naimittika karmas - obligatory and occasional duties
  • Ṣoḍaśa sanskāras - sacraments

He also has to perform the duties connected with personal and social life. It keeps him so busy that he does not get sufficient time for spiritual pursuits. Hence he is advised to hand over the responsibility of running the family to the eldest son and retire to the forest and lead the life of a vānaprastha (forest-recluse). Then he is expected to maintain only one vedic fire named gārhapatya. He also performs only one daily agnihotra apart from the sandhyā ritual. He then sends his wife back if she has accompanied him to the forest. He then embraces monastic life which necessarily involves wandering from place to place and depending entirely on God.

This type of lifestyle, though being conducive to spiritual aspirations, did not allow him to continue the karmas or rituals. Hence, he took the vows of karmasanyāsa or renunciation of all he rites and actions except those needed for maintaining body and doing sādhanās.


  1. They are the secondary scriptures dealing with personal and social conduct.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore