Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana Book 11 Chapter 18:1-12

Book 11: Chapter 18

Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 11: Chapter 18: Verses 1-12

The glorious Lord began again : Committing his wife to the care of his sons, the householder who is keen to retire into the woods (enter the life of an anchorite) should spend the third part of his life in the forest alone or even with his wife with his senses fully controlled. He should subsist on wild bulbs, roots and fruits which are fit for being offered into the sacrificial fire and should wear as his apparel the bark of trees or matting etc., made of grass or leaves or deerskin. He should allow the hair of his head as well as on his body, nails, moustaches and beard as well as the dirt on his body to grow and should not (even) scrub his teeth (with a brush etc.), should take a plunge bath (after the manner of a pestle without rubbing his body) three times (daily, viz., in the morning and evening as well as at midday) and should sleep on the ground (covered with grass etc.). In summer he should allow himself to be heated by five fires (one placed in each quarter about himself and the fifth in the form of the sun blazing overhead); during the rains he should expose* himself to showers while in the closing months (Magha and Phalguna) of winter (comprising what is known as the Sisira Rtu and roughly corresponding to January and February of the English calender) he should remain immersed up to the neck in water. He should practise austerities, following this mode of life. He is permitted to eat (only) what is roasted in fire or gets ripened by (process of) time. He can thrash (wild corn) in a mortar (with a pestle) and pound hard substances with a stone or may use the teeth alone for a mortar (and pestle). Fully aware of the place and time where and when a certain thing could be had as well as of his own (digestive) power he should personally get together (all) the means of his subsistence and should never use what was got at another time # (and laid by for future use). An ascetic should perform rites (such as the Agrayana) enjoined at particular periods of time with oblations prepared out of wild products; but he should on no account propitiate Me through (the sacrifice of) an animal as enjoined by the Vedas. Agnihotra (offering to the sacred fire an oblation consisting chiefly of milk, oil and sour gruel), Data (half-monthly sacrifice performed on every Amavasya or the new moon) Purnamasa (the half-monthly sacrifice performed on every full moon) and the (three) sacrifices performed at the beginning of the three seasons of four months each (under the names of Vaiswadeva, Varunapraghasa [1] and Sakamedha) have been enjoined on an anchorite as in the case of a householder by the - exponents of the Vedas. Having propitiated Me, the embodiment of wisdom, through!' austerities undergone by him thus, a hermit reduced to a (mere) skeleton (lit., spread all over with protruding veins for want of flesh) comes to Me (through successive stages) from Maharloka* (the realm of the Rsis, to which he ascends in the ordinary course after death). Who could be more stupid than him who would divert such great Tapas, performed with (great) hardship and calculated to secure the highest good, to the fulfilment of a paltry desire (viz., the desire for any material or ethereal fruit up to the attainment of Brahmaloka) ? When the ascetic, shaking with old age, is incapable of observing any longer the sacred vow (to which he has pledged himself), he may withdraw the (three) sacred fires (known by the names of Ahavaniya, Garhapatya and Daksina, that he has been maintaining and worshipping) into himself and, with his mind fixed on Me, enter t the fire (burn himself to death). When (however) he develops a thorough distaste for the higher worlds (upto the realm of Brahma, the creator) as a reward of pious acts (done from an interested motive), though (as a matter of fact) no better than hell (abounding as they do in sorrows), he may, on the sacred fires having been withdrawn (into himself), renounce the world and go about as a mendicant recluse from the very Asrama in which he may be stationed. #



  1. * This is technically known by the name of Abhravakasa-Vrata.t This has been mentioned in the Smrti-texts under the name of Udaka-vasa-Vrata.Cf. VI I. )(HA 9, where an anchorite has been called upon to reject the old stock each time a fresh (natural) supply of cereaisand other eatables is obtained.

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