Sannyasa Upanishads

Sannyasa Upanishads are a group of minor Upanishads of Hinduism related to the renunciation, monastic practice and asceticism. There are 19 Sannyasa Upanishads in the Muktika anthology of 108 Upanishads. They, along with other minor Upanishads, are generally classified separately from the thirteen major Principal Upanishads considered to be from the ancient Vedic tradition.

The Sannyasa group of minor Upanishads differ from other groupings, broadly based on their overall focus, even though there are overlaps. They contrast with the Samanya Upanishads which are of a generic nature, the Yoga Upanishads related to Yoga, the Shaiva Upanishads which highlight aspects of Shaivism, the Shakta Upanishads which focus on Shaktism, and the Vaishnava Upanishads which highlight Vaishnavism.

Six of the nineteen Sannyasa Upanishads were composed in ancient India, in the first centuries CE. Others are dated to be from the medieval era. All except one has a strong Advaita Vedanta focus, which according to Patrick Olivelle may be explained by the fact that the major monasteries of the early medieval period belonged to the Advaita Vedanta, which selected or recast those texts which fitted into their teachings.

The Sannyasa Upanishads are notable for their descriptions of the Hindu sannyasi (renouncer), his character and his state of existence as he leads the monastic life in the Ashrama) tradition. They generally assert that the life of the sannyasi is one of carefree simplicity of compassion for all living beings, of reflection, not rituals, dedicated to Jnana-kanda (knowledge section of the Vedas), finding home when he is in union with truth and perfection. Self-knowledge is his journey and destination, a solitary place his monastery of bliss. They also offer contrasting views on who, how and at what age one may renounce the world for spiritual pursuits.


According to Sprockhoff, six of the Sannyasa Upanishads – Aruni, Kundika, Kathashruti, Paramahamsa, Jabala and Brahma – were composed before the 3rd-century CE, likely in the centuries before or after the start of the common era, states Sprockhoff. According to Olivelle, they must be younger, dating them to the first centuries CE.

The Asrama Upanishad is dated to the 3rd century CE, the Naradaparivrajaka and Satyayaniya Upanishads to around the 12th century, and about ten of the remaining Sannyasa Upanishads are dated to have been composed in the 14th to 15th century CE, well after the start of Islamic Sultanates period of South Asia in the late 12th century.


!Sunrise, Dinajpur, Bangladesh Some of the oldest Sannyasa Upanishads have a strong Advaita Vedanta outlook, and these pre-date Adi Shankara. Most of the Sannyasa Upanishads present a Yoga and nondualism (Advaita) Vedanta philosophy. This may be, states Patrick Olivelle, because major Hindu monasteries of early medieval period (1st millennium CE) belonged to the Advaita Vedanta tradition.

The 12th-century Shatyayaniya Upanishad is a significant exception, which presents qualified dualistic and Vaishnavism (Vishishtadvaita Vedanta) philosophy. These texts were influential and often discussed by medieval era Indian scholars. For example, states Olivelle, the Jabala Upanishad was mentioned by Adi Shankara in his bhasya on Brahma Sutras, and he did so several times, at 1.2.32, 2.1.3, 3.3.37–41, 3.4.17–18 and others.

List of 19 Sannyasa Upanishads

TitleMuktika serial #Attached VedaPeriod of creation
Nirvana Upanishad47Rig Veda~14th–15th century CE
Aruneya Upanishad16Sama Veda~1st-3rd century CE, (may be oldest)
Maitreya Upanishad29Sama Veda~14th–15th century CE
Brihat-Sannyasa Upanishad65Sama Veda~14th–15th century CE
Kundika Upanishad75Sama Veda~1st-3rd century CE,
Brahma Upanishad11Black Yajurveda~1st-3rd century CE,
Avadhutaka Upanishad79Black Yajurveda~14th–15th century CE
Kathashruti Upanishad83Black Yajurveda~1st-3rd century CE,
Jabala Upanishad13White Yajurveda~1st-3rd century CE,
Paramahamsa Upanishad19White Yajurveda~1st-3rd century CE,
Advayataraka Upanishad53White Yajurveda~14th–15th century CE
Bhikshuka Upanishad60White Yajurveda~14th–15th century CE
Turiyatitavadhuta Upanishad64White Yajurveda~14th–15th century CE
Yajnavalkya Upanishad97White Yajurveda~14th–15th century CE
Shatyayaniya Upanishad99White Yajurveda~12th century CE
Ashrama UpanishadAtharva Veda3rd century CE
Naradaparivrajaka Upanishad43Atharva Veda~12th century CE
Paramahamsa Parivrajaka Upanishad66Atharva Veda~14th–15th century CE
Parabrahma Upanishad78Atharva Veda~14th–15th century CE

Sannyasa in other Upanishads

Among the thirteen major or Principal Upanishads, all from the ancient era, many include sections related to Sannyasa. For example, the motivations and state of a Sannyasi are mentioned in Maitrāyaṇi Upanishad, a classical major Upanishad. Maitrāyaṇi starts with the question, “given the nature of life, how is joy possible?” and “how can one achieve moksha (liberation)?”; in later sections it offers a debate on possible answers and its views on Sannyasa.

See also

  • Hindu texts
  • Puranas