Translation by Dr. RADHAKRISHNAN


The Jābāla Upaniad belongs to the Atharva Veda and discusses a few important questions regarding renunciation.

1. Bṛhaspati said to Yāj˝avalkya. Kurukṣetra is for the gods, the resort of the gods and for all creatures it is the abode of Brahmā, Avimukta áis the kurukṣetra which is for the gods the resort of the gods and for all creatures the abode of Brahma. Therefore, wherever one may go, one should think of it as such. It is only avimukta. It is Kurukṣetra which is for the gods, the resort of the gods, and for all creatures the abode of Brahmā. There when the lives of living creatures go upwards, Rudra teaches the tāraka mantra. By it they become immortal and are liberated. Therefore meditate on avimukta. Do not give up avimukta, j˝avalkya.


2. Thereafter Atri inquired of Yāavalkya, 'How can I know that self which is infinite and unmanifested?' Yāj˝avalkya said (in reply), meditate on avimukta (for) the self which is infinite and unmanifested is established in avimukta. (Atri then inquired) In what is avimukta established? (Yāj˝avalkya answered) It is established in the middle of Varaṇā and Nāśī. (Atri inquired) What is Varaṇā and what is Nāśī? (Yāj˝avalkya answered). As it overcomes all the faults done by the sense organs it is called Varaṇā as it destroys all the evils done by the sense organs it is called Nāśī. (Atri asked) What is their abode? [Yāavalkya answered) It is the meeting-place of the eyebrows and the nose. It is the meeting-place of the world of gods and (the world) beyond. The same meeting-place, the knowers of Brahman worship as sandhyā. áSo avimukta is to be meditated on. He who knows it gains the knowledge which makes for liberation.


3. Once students of sacred knowledge asked (Yāavalkya): áCan we gain life eternal by the repetition of formulas (mantras)?

Yāavalkya said (in reply) By (meditation on) satarudrīya which are the names of eternal life, one becomes immortal.


4. Once Janaka (King) of Videha approached Yāavalkya and said, 'Venerable Sir, teach me about renunciation.' Yāj˝avalkya said: After completing the life of a student, let one become a householder; after completing the life of a houseş holder let one become a forest dweller; after completing the life of a forest dweller, let one renounce, otherwise (if a suitable occasion arises) let one renounce even from the state of a student or from the state of a householder or from that of a forest dweller. Whether one has not completed the injunctions or completed the injunctions, whether he is a student or not, even if he has not completed the sacrificial rites, on whatever day he has the spirit of renunciation, that very day let him renounce (and become a recluse). Some, indeed, perform the prājāpatya sacrifice. One need not do this but should only perform the fire sacrifice. Fire is life and one performs the life sacrifice thus: (He makes the fire take the form of life, or merge into its original source, life). Then he should also perform the traidhātavīyā sacrifice. The three elements represent the three qualities sattva, rajas and tamas (which are to be burnt). He should inhale the fire (smoke) by uttering the following mantra (verse), 'O Fire, this life who is the source of your birth and from whom, having sprung forth you shone. Knowing this you climb up to life and then make my wealth (spiritual wealth) increase.' He who is life is the source (material cause) of fire. O Fire, you assume the form of life, your source. (As for one who has not performed the fire sacrifice: having taken the fire from the village (i.e, any house in the village), he should inhale the fire as mentioned before. If he is not able to get the fire, he should perform the sacrifice in the water. For water represents all the gods. So uttering this mantra: I offer unto all the gods; he should perform the sacrifice, he should take the sacrificial remnant with ghee, which cures all diseases. He should utter the praṇava (which leads to release), which represents (the substance of the three Vedas). This is Brahman. It should be meditated upon. 'Even so is it, Revered Yāavalkya ,' said Janaka.


avratīn = one who has not performed the prescribed rites even as vratīn is one who has performed the rites.

snātaka: one who has completed the ceremonies relating to Vedic studies even as asnātaka is one who has not completed the ceremonies.

that very day he may renounce: Mahā-nirvāṇa Tantra says: One should not enter the stage of a recluse giving up an old father and mother or a devoted wife or an infant son.

lHe who becomes a monk, giving up father, mother, child, wife, kinsmen and relatives becomes a great sinner.

l 'Having studied the Vedas according to rule, having produced sons, in conformity with dharma, having performed sacrifices to

the best of one's ability, let one set one's mind on release.'

l Any twice-born individual who desires release without having studied the Vedas, without having produced sons and without having

offered sacrifices, goes down below.'

l These verses are quoted in Vācaspati's Bhāmatī, I. 1. 1.

l prāṇa: life. Here it is not individual breath. It is the sūtrātman, the soul or the material cause of the world.

l tridhātavīya: in this sacrifice three sacrificial cakes puroḍāśa, are used; representing the three guṇas.


5. Then Atri enquired of Yāavalkya. On being asked how one who does not wear the sacred thread can be (treated as)

a Brāhmaa, Yāavalkya answered, this alone is the sacred thread of him that purifies himself by the offering and sipping

water. This is the procedure for becoming a recluse. (For one who is weary of the world but not yet fit to become a recluse the following are prescribed), he may choose a hero's death (by following the path of the warrior in the battlefield), he may fast unto death, throw himself into water or enter fire (burn himself to death) or perform the last journey (walk on unto death). Then the wandering ascetic who (puts on) orange robes, who is shaven, who has non-possession, purity, nonş enmity, lives on alms, obtains the state of Brahman. If he is diseased he can renounce by mind and speech. This is not to be done by one who is healthy. Such a renouncer becomes the knower of Brahman, so said the venerable Yāavalkya.


upavīta: the sacred thread is a cotton thread of three strands running from the left shoulder across the body to the right hip.

It is first placed on the youth by the teacher at the ceremony of initiation. It is the outward and visible symbol of the sūtrātman,

the thread-spirit on which all the individual existences are strung like beads and by which all are inseparably linked to their source.

Among the ancient Iranians as amongĚ the Parsees to this day, at the age of 15, a boy or a girl is admitted to the community of

the Zoroastrians by being girt with the sacred thread.

ātura: diseased. When one is about to die be may renounce by mind or speech. It is unnecessary to go through the ceremonies. This passage seems to justify suicide, in certain conditions.


6. Saṁvartaka, Ᾱruṇi, Śvetaketu, Durvāsa, bhu. Nidāgha, Jada-bharata, Dattātreya, Raivataka and other rare paraş

mahaṁsas. They are of unmanifested natures, of unmanifested ways of life, seen (to others) to behave like mad men though

they are in no way mad. They renounce tridaṇḍa, kamaṇḍalu, tuft of hair and sacred thread and all that in water with the

words bhū, svāhā and seek to know the Self. Assuming the form they had at birth, without any bonds, without any possessions,

they must tread well the path of Brahman. With a clean mind (or a pure heart), for the sake of maintaining life, they must fill

at fixed times the vessel of their stomach with the alms obtained, treating gain and loss as equal. They must live in places like

a deserted house or a temple or a shrub or an anthill, the root of a tree, a potter's house, fireplace, a sandbank in a river,

hill, cave, hollow of a tree, stream in a deserted place. Without effort, without self-sense, intent on meditation established in

the higher self, keen on removing the (effects of) evil deeds, they give up their bodies by the method of renunciation. Such is a paramahaṁsa. Such is a paramahaṁsa.

Tri-daṇḍa: monks carry three staves tied together. It is the sign of triple control of thoughts, words and deeds.

kamandalu: a water-jar used by ascetics.

The knower of dharma who wears no signs should practice its principles. M.B. ,XlV. 46. 51.

Vasiṣṭha Smti says, 'His signs are not manifest nor his behavior.'

End Jābāla Upaniṣad