Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana Book 7 Chapter 13:1-16

Book 7: Chapter 13

Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 7: Chapter 13: Verses 1-16
The course of conduct prescribed for a Samnyasi and a dialogue between an Avadhuta and Prahrada

Narada began again : He, however, who is (intellectually and mentally) fit should enter the life of a recluse (by renouncing everything) in the aforesaid manner; and, with the body alone left to him (as his possession), and free from all desires, he should roam about on the globe, (strictly) observing the rule of staying only one night in a (particular) village. If (at all) he should put on any covering, he should wear only a strip of cloth to cover the privy parts and should not except in times of distress, carry (about him) anything (already) renounced by him, other than the distinguishing marks of a Samnyasi, viz., a staff and a Kamandalu. Living on alms, delighting in his own Self (indulging in no other delights), shelterless, friendly to all living beings, tranquil and devoted to Lord Narayana, he should go about all alone (without any companion). He should view this (objective) universe (as dwelling) in his immutable Self transcending (both) cause and effect, and himself as the transcendent Brahma, interpenetrating the whole universe,consisting of (both) cause and effect. With his eyes turned towards the Self, he should discover the true nature of the Self at the point of contact between deep sleep and waking life and look upon (both bondage and release as a mere illusion and not real. He should neither welcome death which is inevitable, nor life which is uncertain. He should only await (the course of) Time, which is responsible for the birth and death of created beings. He should never indulge in profane literature (books not treating of spiritual subjects), nor should he make his living by any profession (such as medicine, astronomy and so on).

He should avoid (all) controversial reasoning and should never espouse any (particular) cause (in a partisan spirit). He should not attach (a number of) disciples to himself nor should he study many a book (that may divert his mind from the object of his pursuit, viz., spiritual enlightenment). He should neither take to discoursing nor should he engage in undertakings (such as the construction of a monastery and so on) on any account. In the case of a high-souled recluse, tranquil (by nature) and equable of mind, (observance of the rules of conduct prescribed for) the (particular) Asrama (stage in life) is not generally intended to secure (any) religious merit. (When spiritual enlightenment is attained,) he may continue to observe such conduct (and retain the emblems of his Asrama) or may give it up. Though no (outward) sign (of his greatness or of his being a Samnyasi) may be visible (to others), his object (in life) should be (quite) evident. Though intelligent, he should show himself (behave) as though he were a madman or a fool and, though wise (eloquent), he should show himself as dumb in the eyes of the people.

On this very point (the conduct of a recluse as recommended in the above verses) the wise narrate (by way of an illustration) the following old legend (mainly) consisting of a dialogue between Prahrada (the demon king) and the ascetic (Lord Dattatreya[1]) who was (then) following the mode of life of a python[2]. Going about the (various) worlds with intent to ascertain the truth concerning the people and accompanied by a few ministers (alone), Prahrada, the beloved of the Lord, saw him lying on the (bare) ground on the sloping side of the Sahyadri hills (now known as the Western Ghats), along the bank of the Kaveri, his spotless (spiritual) glory concealed by his limbs covered (all over) with dust. By his conduct, appearance (gestures), speech and marks indicative of grade in society and stage in life etc., people could not be sure about him that he was so and so, nor that he was not so and so. Having greeted and duly worshiped him and touching his feet with his head, Prahrada (the demon king), the eminent devotee of the Lord, who was eager to know the truth (about him), asked the following question:- "You carry a robust body like one given to exertion and enjoying the comforts of life. Wealth is the lot of only those who exert themselves; while enjoyment in this world falls to the lot of the moneyed (alone). (And) indeed the corporeal frame of (only) those who are given to luxuries grows fat, not otherwise.



  1. We have been told in I. iii. 11 that the Lord appeared in the form of Dattatreya (son of Atri through Anasuya) and taught the science of the Spirit to king Alarka, Prahrada and others. From this it may be safely concluded that the ascetic referred to here was no other than Dattatreya.
  2. A python is represented to be an unwieldy creature capable of little or no Iocmotion and catching its prey with its jaws and devouring only when it falls within its easy reach. Anyone following its mode of life Is, therefore, expected to remain lying down on the bare ground in an open space all the time, stirring on no account and making no effort even to pick up food if offered. He is supposed to answer the calls of nature in that very posture and would accept food only when it is thrown into his mouth. He is practically dead to the world and drags his existence only to work out the Prarabdha or destiny responsible for his birth. Only a Jnani of the highest order, who has lost all consciousness of the body and to whom life and death are alike, can think of following this mode of life.

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