Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana Book 7 Chapter 12:16-31

Book 7: Chapter 12

Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 7: Chapter 12: Verses 16-31
An inquiry into right conduct (continued)

Following the rules of conduct laid down for his Asrama, and having (thereby) come to know that which ought to be known, a Brahmacari (religious student), anchorite, recluse or householder of this type (visualizing the Lord as present in all) realizes the transcendent Absolute. I shall (now) tell (you) the rules of conduct prescribed for a Vanaprastha (anchorite) and approved of by sages, by following which in this life an ascetic bids fair to ascend easily (after death) to Maharloka (the realm of the Rsis and then attain Mukti in due course). An anchorite must not eat anything which ripens on cultivated soil (viz., the products of agriculture) and not even the products of uncultivated land before time. He should neither eat food cooked on fire nor anything raw, but only that which has ripened under (the rays of) the sun (in season). He should prepare Caru (an oblation of rice, barley and pulse boiled with butter and milk) and Purodasa (a mass of ground rice rounded into a kind of cake and usually divided into pieces placed on separate receptacles), enjoined at different times (for being offered to the gods through the sacred fire), with wild corns. Each time a fresh (natural) supply of cereals and other eatables is obtained, he should, however, reject the old stock Himself enduring (remaining exposed to) snow, winds, fire, rain and the heat of the sun, he should betake himself to a shelter in the form of a hut of leaves or a mountain-cave only for the sake of (preserving) the sacred fire. Wearing matted locks (on his head), preserving the (other) hair (such as those in the arm-pits and other private parts), as well as the hair on his body, nails, moustaches and beard, and the dirt[1] (on his skin) and keeping (with him) a Kamandalu (a water-pot made of cocoanut-shell or gourd etc.), deerskin (to be wrapped about his loins), a staff, the bark of (the birth and other) trees (as a covering for his body) and the accessories of fire-worship (alone), a hermit should practise austerities in the woods for (a period of) twelve, eight, four or two years or (only) one year (as the case may be) lest his reason should get perverted through hardship.

When incapable through ailments or old age of performing his (religious) duties and even of pursuing the knowledge of the Spirit, he should resort to fasting etc.[2] Withdrawing the sacred fires into himself and giving up the feeling of identification with the body as well as the feeling that the body etc., are 'mine', he should (mentally) merge his psychopnysical organism in its causes, assigning each constituent to its proper place (as explained in the following verses).

A wise man should merge the apertures of his body (viz., the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils, the mouth and the organs of urination and defecation) in ether, the (five) vital airs in the (cosmic) air, the heat (of his body) in (the element of) fire; the blood, phlegm. and pus (etc.) into water and the rest (viz., solid matter such as bones, flesh and so on) in earth, everything being consigned to its origin. (Again,) he should merge his (organ of) speech along with the function of speaking in Agni (the god of fire), the two hands as well as the function of grasping and releasing things in Indra, the feet along with (the function of) locomotion in Lord Visnu (conceived in the form of the Time-Spirit), the faculty of procreation along with sexual enjoyment in Prajapati (the god presiding over procreation) and the organ of defecation as well as the act of voiding excrements in Mrtyu (the god of death), directing each organ and its function to its proper place (the deity presiding over it). (Likewise) he should merge the sense of hearing along with sound (the object of hearing) in the (deities presiding over) the quarters, the tactile sense as well as touch in the wind-god and the (various) colours along with the faculty of vision in the sun-god (the source of light), O Yudhisthira. He should (further) merge the palate along with (the different) tastes (towards which the mind feels excessively drawn) in (the deity presiding over) water, the olfactory sense along with the various smells (the objects of the olfactory sense) into (the goddess presiding over) the earth, Manas (the mind) along with the (various) projects (indulged in by the mind) in the moon-god, Buddhi (understanding) along with the objects capable of being understood in Brahma (the highest and the earliest seer,) (his) actions along with self-consciousness in Rudra, from whom proceeds (all) action prompted by egotism and self-interest, Citta (reason) along with Sattva (consciousness) in Lord Vasudeva (the deity presiding over Citta) and the Jiva (who is tainted with the morbid feeling that I am the enjoyer and so on) along with the three Gunas (modes of Prakrti, which are responsible for the aforesaid morbid feeling) in the transcendent Brahma (the Absolute). (Then) he [3]should merge earth in water, water in fire, the latter in the air, that (again) in ether, the last-named in Ahankara (the principle of self-consciousness), the latter in Mahattattva (the principle of cosmic intelligence), that in the Unmanifest (Prakrti or primordial Matter) and the last-named in the Indestructible (Brahma). (And) recognizing the Self-left (as a residue) in the form of absolute Consciousness by this process (of eliminating all its vestures)-as (no other than) the indestructible (Brahma) and thus remaining without a second, he should cease functioning even like fire that has consumed its own support (in the shape of wood).

Thus ends the twelfth discourse, entitled "An inquiry into right conduct (continued)' forming part of the dialogue between Emperor Yudhisthira and the sage Narada in Book Seven of the great and glorious Bhagavata-Purana, otherwise known as the Paramahamsa-Samhita.


  1. This should not be taken to mean that an anchorite is forbidden to take his bath or that he is asked to remain positively unclean or allow dirt to accumulate on his body. What is sought to be conveyed by all these restrictions is simply this that he should be unmindful of his exterior,that he should not devote particular attention to cleanliness etc., that his bodily needs should be reduced to the minimum and that he should completely subordinate his physical self to the higher self.
  2. It is laid down in Discourse XIII that even after completing the maximum period of twelve years an anchorite should continue to practise austerities in the woods it he is still able-bodied and fit to perform his religious duties, or that he should enter the fourth stage and lead the life of a recluse (Samnyasi) if he is no longer fit for austerities but is intellectually fit and mentally alert enough to pursue the knowledge of the Spirit. When, however, he finds himself both physically and mentally unfit, he is advised to adopt the course suggested in this and the following verses.
  3. [564] B. M. 26-