[Bhikshuka]1

Among bhikshus (religious mendicants) who long for moksha (salvation), there are four2 kinds, viz., Kutīchaka, Bahūdaka, Hamsa, and Paramahamsa. Gautama, Bhāradvāja, Yājñavalkya, Vasishtha and others belong to the first kind. They take eight mouthfuls (of food daily) and strive after moksha alone through the path of yoga. The second kind carry three (bamboo) staves (tied together) and a waterpot, and wear tuft of hair (śikhā), sacred thread (yajñopavīta) and red-coloured cloth. They take eight mouthfuls of food in the house of Brahmaṛshis, abstain from flesh and alcohol and strive after emancipation alone through the path of yoga. Then the Hamsas should live not more than a night in a village, five nights in a town, and seven nights in a sacred place, partaking daily of cow’s urine and cow’s dung, observing Chāndrāyana3 and striving after moksha alone through the path of yoga. Paramahamsas like Samvartaka, Ārunī, Śwetaketu, Jadabharata, Dattātreya, Śuka, Vāmadeva, Hārītaka and others take eight mouthfuls and strive after moksha alone through the path of yoga. They live clothed or naked at the foot of trees, in ruined houses, or in burning grounds. With them, there are no dualities as dharma and adharma, gain and loss, and purity and impurity. They look upon gold and stone and clod of earth with the same eye (of indifference), live on alms, begging from all without any distinction of caste and look upon everything as Ātmā alone. Being (naked) as nature made them, being free from the sense of duality and from covetousness, being engaged in pure contemplation (śukladhyāna), meditating on Ātmā, and begging at stated times, simply to keep the body and soul together, they reside in ruined houses, temples, straw-huts, ant-hills, the foot of trees, potteries, the places of agnihotra, the sand in the bed of rivers, mountain-caves, cavities, the hollows of trees, waterfalls, and sthandila (the level square piece of ground prepared for sacrifice). Having advanced far in the path of Brahman, and being pure in mind, they quit this body through the methods prescribed for Paramahamsa Sannyāsins. These are the Paramahamsas. Such is the Upanishad.


1. One who lives on bhikshā or alms. Hence a religious mendicant.

2. In Nāradaparivrājaka Upanishad there are stated to be six kinds.

3. A religious expiatory ceremony regulated by the moon’s age diminishing the daily consumption of food daily by one mouthful for the dark half of the month beginning with fifteen at the full moon until it is reduced to one at the new moon and then increasing it in like manner during the fortnight of the moon’s increase.—Wilson.