From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sanatsujatiya literally means ‘that which is related to the sage Sanatsujāta’.

The Mahābhārata has given us the great jewel scripture, the Bhagavadgitā. It has also presented us with several other treatises of deep philosophical content. One such significant work next to the Bhagavadgitā is the Sanatsujatiya which also forms a part of the Udyogaparva.[1] The total number of verses is 145 in four chapters according to one version and 192 in five chapters according to another.

First Chapter

It has 43 verses. It is pramāda that is the real mṛtyu or death. Pramāda means ajñāna, ignorance of the real nature of the ātman, the Self. This ajñāna leads to:

  1. Ahañkāra - egoism
  2. Kāma - desire
  3. Krodha - anger
  4. Amārga - the wrong path
  5. Janma - birth and rebirth
  6. Duhkha - suffering

This is how pramāda can be equated with death. The only way to destroy this mṛtyu is by apramāda or jñāna (knowledge). It is māyā which is anādi or beginningless that is responsible for pramāda. Niṣkāmakarma[2] gradually leads to jñāna by purifying the mind. The last part of this chapter is devoted to a description of the jñāni or a man of realization. His life is so pure that it is beyond all pairs of opposites like fame or blame.

Second Chapter

It has 50 Verses. Nature of jñāna is discussed in this chapter. It is certainly not intellectual scholarship of the Vedas or other scriptures, but tapas or austerity that leads to the purification of the mind in which jñāna as realization of the ātman.[3] arises. Pure tapas has to be free from twelve doṣas[4] and seven nṛśamsas.[5] It has to be endowed with twelve guṇas.[6] Some of the doṣas are:

  1. Krodha - anger
  2. Kāma - lust
  3. Lobha - greed
  4. Moha - delusion
  5. Asuyā - jealousy

The nṛśaiñsas include harming others, putting up with great disgrace for small gains, lack of wisdom and hatred of women. The guṇas comprise the following:

  1. Satya - truth
  2. Dama - self-control
  3. Adhyātmaśāstraśravaṇa - listening to the sacred scriptures
  4. Titikṣā - forbearance
  5. Dāna - giving gifts
  6. Dhṛti - fortitude
  7. Śama - internal peace

Commentators who Apprehended the Work

Being an important composition it has drawn the attention of many commentators like:

  • Śaṅkara - He lived in A. D. 788-820.
  • Nīlakaṇṭha - He lived in A. D. 1400.
  • Sarvajña Nārāyaṇa - He lived in A. D. 1480.
  • Vādirāja - He lived in A. D. 1600.

When Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the blind king wants to listen to higher philosophical truths from Vidura, the latter excuses himself as unfit to impart the same. He then mentally prays to the great sage Sanatsujāta who appears instantly before him. At his request, the sage gives a spiritual discourse to Dhṛtarāṣṭra. This discourse has been named Sanatsujātīya.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra questions Sanatsujāta thus:
“I understand that you declare that there is no death at all. On the other hand, I have heard that the devas[7] and the asuras[8] had approached Prajāpati to know how to overcome death.[9] What then, is the truth?”
Sanatsujāta’s reply is spread over four chapters.


  1. Udyogaparva chapters 42 to 46
  2. Niṣkāmakarma are the desireless actions.
  3. Ātman means the true self.
  4. Doṣas means defects.
  5. Nṛśamsas means cruel deeds.
  6. Guṇas means virtues.
  7. Devas means gods.
  8. Asuras means demons.
  9. Chāndogya Upaniṣad Chapter 8.7- 12
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore