From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sanyāsopaniṣad is a minor Upaniṣad belonging to the Atharvaveda. There are two chapters in which the first chapter consists of only one prose passage and the second is a long one comprising 123 sections, mostly in anuṣṭubh verses, interspersed with passages in prose also.

First Chapter[edit]

This describes how a householder who has successfully completed all his duties should proceed to take sanyāsa.

  • The various steps are:
  1. Taking the approval of wife and children for his sanyāsa
  2. Performing Vaiśvānara sacrifice and gifting away his possessions
  3. Withdrawing the Agnidevatā from the Vedic fires
  4. Giving up the śikhā[1]
  5. Yajñopavita[2]
  6. Going away either towards the east or towards the north
  • He can accept bhikṣā[3] from all castes, using the cupped hands as the bowl.
  • He should not hanker for tasty food nor live in any place for more than one to five days.
  • During the rainy season, however, he can stay in one place for two to four months.
  • He should manage with minimum possessions like a bowl for alms, kaupīna,[4] kanthā,[5] kamaṇḍalu,[6] pavitra,[7] daṇḍa[8] and pādukā.[9]

Acquiring spiritual wisdom and meditation on the ātman or God should be his only concern.

Second Chapter[edit]

This is a very long section. The subjects dealt with are:

  • Persons who are fit and unfit for sanyāsa
  • Method of accepting sanyāsa by giving up the śikhā and the yajñopavita and taking the accessories like the daṇḍa and kamaṇḍalu
  • Categories of sanyāsins like vairāgya sanyāsins and jñāna sanyāsins as also kuṭīcaka and bahudaka
  • Method of meditating on the unity of one’s ātman with Brahman
  • Praise of citiśakti or pure consciousness
  • Experience of the abheda-anubhava or the non-dual state
  • Method of taking ātura-sanyāsa or sanyāsa by a dying person
  • Meditation on one’s own true nature as the only duty of a sanyāsin
  • Code of conduct including the methods of bhikṣā[10]
  • Prohibited things, behavior and actions
  • Six kinds of sins like sleeping by day and acquiring disciples
  • Expiations like prānāyāma for transgressions
  • Continuous japa of Om leading to illumination

Commentary on Sanyāsopaniṣad[edit]

The only commentary available now is that by Upaniṣad-brahmendra-yogin. There is another Sanyāsopaniṣad which is much smaller comprising five sections in prose.


  1. Śikhā means tuft of hair.
  2. Yajñopavita means sacred thread.
  3. Bhikṣā means alms of cooked food.
  4. Kaupīna means loin cloth.
  5. Kanthā means wrapper.
  6. Kamaṇḍalu means water pot.
  7. Pavitra means straining cloth.
  8. Daṇḍa means staff.
  9. Pādukā means sandals.
  10. Bhikṣā means begging for food.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore