The term Avadhuta
Excerpt from the book Sannyasa Darshan by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, disciple of Paramahamsa Swami Satyananda
Stages of Sannyasa – Avadhuta
“The avadhoota represents the pinnacle of spiritual evolution; none is superior to him. Avadhoota means “one who is immortal” (akshara), and who has totally discarded worldly ties. He is verily Brahman himself. He realizes himself to be pure intelligence. He is unmindful of the six infirmities of human birth, namely: sorrow, delusion, old age, death, hunger and thirst. He has shaken off all bondage of the experimental world, and moves about freely like a child, a madman or one possessed by spirits.
He may be with or without clothes. He does not wear any distinct emblem of any order. He has no desire to sleep, beg or bathe. He views his body as a corpse and subsists on food which comes to him from all classes. He does not interpret the shastras or the Vedas. For him nothing is righteous or unrighteous, holy or unholy.
He is free of karma. The karmas of this life and past lives are all burnt away, and due to the absence of kartritva (doership) and bhoktritva (desire for enjoyment), no future karmas are created. Only the prarabdha (unalterable) karmas which have already begun to operate will affect his body, helping to sustain it, but his mind will remain unaffected. He will live in this world until the prarabdha karmas are worked out, after which his body will fall off. Then he is said to attain videhamukti (state beyond body consciousness).
Such a liberated soul never returns to the embodied state. He is not born again; he is immortal. He has achieved the final aim of taking birth in this world.”
Brihad-avadhuta Upanisad, thus: “The Avadhuta is so called because he is immortal ; he is the greatest ; he has discarded worldly ties ; and he is indicated in the meaning of the sentence “Thou art That,”
His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja in his article entitled “Parishads: Srila Vamshi das Babaji” wrote:
“He was a paramahamsa Vaishnava who acted in the manner of an avadhuta.
The word avadhuta refers to one who has shaken off from himself all worldly feeling and obligation. He does not care for social conventions, particularly the varnashrama-dharma, i.e., he is quite eccentric in his behavior.
Nityananda Prabhu is often characterized as an avadhuta”
From the Foreword of the Avadhuta Gita of Dattatreya, translated and annotated by Swami Ashokananda:
“The Avadhuta Gita is a text of Vedanta representing extreme Advaita or Nondualism. It is ascribed to Dattatreya, who is looked upon as an Incarnation of God. Unfortunately we possess no historical data concerning when or where he was born, how long he lived, or how he arrived at the knowledge disclosed in the text.
Avadhuta means a liberated soul, one who has “passed away from” or “shaken off” all worldly attachments and cares and has attained a spiritual state equivalent to the existence of God. Though avadhuta naturally implies renunciation, it includes an additional and yet higher state which is neither attachment nor detachment but beyond both. An avadhuta feels no need of observing any rules, either secular or religious. He seeks nothing, avoids nothing. He has neither knowledge nor ignorance. Having realized that he is the infinite Self, he lives in that vivid realization.”
The Avadhuta Upanishad is number 79 of the Muktika canon of Upanishads. It is a Sanyasa Upanishad associated with the Black Yajurveda.
“One who had crossed the varanashrama system and who is always established in himself, that yogi, who is above the varanashrama divisions, is called Avadhuta.” Avadhutopanisad (2)
The book of Brahmanirvantantra describes how to identify the avadhuts of the following types:
Bramhavadhuta : An avadhut from birth, who appears in any class of society. Completely indifferent to the world or worldly matters
Shaivavadhuta : Avadhuts who have taken to the renounced order of life or sanyas, often with umkempt long hair (jata), or who dress in the manner of Shaivites and spend almost all of their time in trance samadhi, or meditation.
Viravadhuta : This person looks like a sadhu who has put red colored sandal paste on his body and wears saffron clothes. His hair are very well grown and are normally furling in the wind. They wear in their neck a Rudraksha mala or a string with bones. They hold a wooden stick or danda in their hand and additionally they always have an axe (parashu) or a damaru (small drum) with them.
Kulavadhuta : These people are supposed to have taken initiation from the Kaul sampradaya. It is very difficult to recognize these people as they do not wear any signs outside which can identify them from others. The speciality of these people is that they remain and live like usual people do. They can show themselves in the form of Kings or a family men.
The Nath Sampradaya is a form of Avadhuta-pantha (sect). In this sampradaya, Guru-importance and yoga are of extreme importance. Therefore the most important book in this sampradaya is Avadhut Gita. Shri Gorakshanath is considered the topmost form of Avadhut-state.
The nature of the avadhuta is the subject of the Avadhuta Gita, the authorship of which is traditionally ascribed to Dattatreya.
According to Bipin Joshi the main characteristic of an Avadhoota are:
“He who is a sinless philosopher and has cast off the shackles of ignorance (ajnana).
He who lives in the stateless state and enjoys its experience all the time. He revels in this blissful state, unperturbed by the material world.
In this unique state, the Avadhoota is neither waking nor in deep sleep, there is neither any sign of life nor any death, It is a state defying all description. It is the state of infinite bliss, which the finite language is incapable of describing. It can only be intuited purely by our intellect.
A state which is neither truth or non-truth, neither existence nor non-existence. He who has realized his identity with the imperishable, who possesses incomparable excellence; who has shaken off the bonds of Samsara and never swerves from His goal. That thou Art (TATVAMASI), and other Upanishadic declarations, are ever present in the mind of such an enlightened soul. That sage who is rooted in the plenary experience of “Verily, I am Brahman (Aham Brahmaasmi)”, “All this is Brahman (Sarvam Chilvidam Brahman)”, and that “…there is no plurality, Me and God are one and the same…”etc. Supported by personal experience of such Vedic statements, He moves freely in a state of total bliss. Such a person is a renunciate, liberated, Avadhoota, Yogi, Praramhamsa, Brahmana.”
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Avadhuta is a Sanskrit term used in indian religions to refer to an antinomian mystics or saints who is beyond ego-consciousness, duality and common worldly concerns and acts without consideration for standard social etiquette. Such personalities “roam free like a child upon the face of the Earth”. An avadhūta does not identify with his mind or body or ‘names and forms’ (Sanskrit: namarupa). Such a person is held to be pure consciousness (Sanskrit: caitanya) in human form.
Avadhūtas play a significant role in the history, origins and rejuvenations of a number of traditions such as yoga, Advaita Vedanta, Buddhist and Bhakti paramparas even as they are released from standard observances. Avadhūtas are the voice of the avadhuti, the channel that resolves the dichotomy of the Vamachara and Dakshinachara or “Right and Left-Handed” traditions. An avadhūta may or may not continue to practice religious rites as they are free from sectarian ritual observance and affiliation.
The Monier Williams Sanskrit Dictionary defines the term avadhuta in the fllowing way:
अवधूत / अव-धूत – one who has shaken , off from himself worldly feeling and obligation.
From: Hinduism, an alphabetical guide. By Roshen Dalal
1) A term for a liberated soul, one who has renounced the world. Totally beyond all that is, an avadhuta follows no rules, no fixed practices, and has no need to follow conventional norms. There are several texts dealing with the life and nature of an avadhuta. In the Avadhuta Upanishad, the rishi DATTATREYA describes the nature of the avadhuta. Such a person is immortal, has discarded all worldly ties, and is always full of bliss. One of its verses states: ‘let thought contemplate Vishnu, or let it be dissolved in the bliss of Brahman. I, the witness, neither do anything, not cause anything to be done.’ (v.28) The Turiyatita Avadhuta Upanishad contains a description of the avadhuta who has reached the state of consciousness beyond TURIA. In this state, a person is pure, the embodiment of dispassion, and totally free. An avadhuta who has reached this level, does not chant mantras or practice rituals, wears no caste marks, and has terminated all religious and secular duties. He wears no clothes, and eats anything that comes his way. He wanders alone, observing silence, and is totally absorbed in non-duality. The AVADHUTA GITA has similar descriptions.
The UDDHAVA GITA, forming part of the BHAGAVATA PURANA, describes an avadhuta who learnt from all aspects of life and who was at home anywhere in the world.
The term avadhuta can apply to any liberated person, but also specifically refers to a sannyasi sect.
Avadhoota Upanishad is a small Upanishad consisting of around 32 mantras. It falls under the category of Sanyasa Upanishads and is a part of Krishna Yajurveda. Avadhoota Upanishad takes the form of a dialog between Dattatreya and Rishi Samkriti.
One day Rishi Samkriti asks Dattatreya the following questions:
Who is an Avadhoota?
What is his state?
What are the signs of Avadhoota?
How does he lives?
The part that follows is the answers given by compassionate Dattatreya.
Who is an Avadhoota?
Avadhoota is called so because he is beyond any decay, he lives freely as per his will, he destroys the bondage of worldly desires and his only goal is Tat Twam Asi i.e. you are that.
Avadhoota goes far beyond all the casts (such as bramhin, vaishya, kshtriya and sudra) and ashramas (such as bramhacharya, grihastha, vanaprasta and sanyasa). He is the higest Yogi who establishes himself in the constant state of self-realization.
What is his state?
An Avadhoota always enjoys the supreme bliss. The divine joy represents his head, happiness is his right wing, ecstasy represents his left wing and bliss is his very nature. A life of an Avadhoota shows extreme detachment.
What are the signs of Avadhoota? How does he lives?
An Avadhoota lives as per his own will. He may wear cloths or he may live naked. There is no difference between Dharma or Adharma, sacrifice or non sacrifice for him because he is beyond these aspects. He performs inner sacrifice and that forms their Ashvamedha Yagna. He is a great Yogi who remains unaffected even when he engages in worldly objects. He remains pure.
Ocean accepts water from all the rivers but still remains unchanged. Similarly, an Avadhoota is unaffected by worldly objects. He is always at peace and (like the ocean) all the desires are absorbed in this supreme peace.
For an Avadhoota there is no birth or death, bondage or liberation. He might have performed various actions for the sake of liberation but they become history once he becomes an Avadhoota. He is ever satisfied. Others wander with the intention of fulfilling their desires. But an Avadhoota being already satisfied doesn’t run after any desire. Others do various rituals for the sake of heaven but an Avadhoota is already established in the omnipresent state and hence needs no rituals.
Other qualified teachers spend time in teaching scriptures (Vedas) but Avadhoota goes beyond any such activities for he is actionless. He doesn’t have any desire for sleep, begging (bhiksha), bathing or cleaning.
An Avadhoota is ever free from doubts and since he is always in union with the supreme reality he need not even meditate. Meditation is for the people who are not yet one with God but an Avadhoota is always in the state of union and hence needs no meditation.
Those who are behind Karmas (actions) get plastered with Vasanas. These Vasanas haunt them even when they finish their Prarabdha Karma. Ordinary men meditate because they wish to fulfill their desires. However, an Avadhoota always stays away from such trap. His mind is beyond mental destructions and Samadhi. Mental destructions as well as Samadhi are possibly modifications of the mind. Avadhoota is already eternal and hence there is nothing to be achieved for him.
Following worldly duties is like an arrow released from a bow i.e. they can not be stopped from giving good or bad fruits causing a cycle of action-reaction. However, an Avadhoota is non doer at all levels and is not involved in any action.
Having attained such a stage of detachment an Avadhoota remains unaffected even if he follows a way of life as prescribed by scriptures. Even if he engages in actions such as worshipping God, bathing, begging etc. he remains unattached from them. He lives like a witness and hence doesn’t perform any action.
An Avadhoota can clearly see Brahman in front of his eyes. He is free from ignorance or Maya. He has no actions left to be performed and nothing to be achieved further. He is totally contented and there is no one else with whom he can be compared.
Shrimad Bhagavatam with purport by H.D.G. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:
Śrimad Bhagavatam 4.29.11
नलिनी नालिनी नासे गन्ध: सौरभ उच्यते ।
घ्राणोऽवधूतो मुख्यास्यं विपणो वाग्रसविद्रस: ॥ ११ ॥
nalinī nālinī nāse
gandhaḥ saurabha ucyate
ghrāṇo ’vadhūto mukhyāsyaṁ
vipaṇo vāg rasavid rasaḥ
nalinī — named Nalinī; nālinī — named Nālinī; nāse — the two nostrils; gandhaḥ — aroma; saurabhaḥ — Saurabha (fragrance); ucyate — is called; ghrāṇaḥ — the sense of smell; avadhūtaḥ — called Avadhūta; mukhyā — called Mukhyā (principal); āsyam — the mouth; vipaṇaḥ — named Vipaṇa; vāk — the faculty of speech; rasa-vit — named Rasajña (expert in tasting); rasaḥ — the sense of taste.
The two doors named Nalinī and Nālinī should be known as the two nostrils, and the city named Saurabha represents aroma. The companion spoken of as Avadhūta is the sense of smell. The door called Mukhyā is the mouth, and Vipaṇa is the faculty of speech. Rasajña is the sense of taste.
The word avadhūta means “most free.” A person is not under the rules and regulations of any injunction when he has attained the stage of avadhūta. In other words, he can act as he likes. This avadhūta stage is exactly like air, which does not care for any obstruction. In Bhagavad-gītā (6.34) it is said:
cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa
pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye
vāyor iva suduṣkaram
“The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Kṛṣṇa, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.”
Just as the air or wind cannot be checked by anyone, the two nostrils, situated in one place, enjoy the sense of smell without impediment. When the tongue is present, the mouth continually tastes all kinds of relishable foodstuffs.