The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, what and of what nature is that which is called by the name of Adhyatma and which is laid down for every person. 4 O thou that art acquainted with Brahma, whence has this universe consisting of mobile and immobile things, been created? When universal destruction sets in, to whom does it go? It behoveth thee to discourse to me upon this topic.' 5
"Bhishma said 'This, Adhyatma, O son of Pritha, that thou askest me about, I will presently discourse upon. It is highly agreeable and productive of great felicity. Great teachers have (before this) show the truths about Creation and the Destruction (of the universe). Knowing those truths, a person may
obtain, even in this world, great satisfaction and felicity. Such knowledge may lead also to the acquisition of great fruits, and it is highly beneficial to all creatures. Earth, air, space, water, and light numbered as the fifth, are regarded as Great Creatures. These constitute both the origin and the destruction of all created objects. Unto him from whom these great primal elements take their origin, they return repeatedly, severing themselves from all creatures (into whose compositions they enter), even like the waves of the ocean (subsiding into that from which they seem to take their rise). As the tortoise stretches its limbs and withdraws them again, even so the Supreme Soul creates all objects and again withdraws into Himself. The Creator places the five primal elements in all created objects in different proportions. The living creature, however, does not see it (through ignorance). Sound, the organs of hearing, and all holes,--these three,--spring from Space as their progenitor. Touch, action, and skin are the triple attributes of the Wind. Form, eye, and digestion are the triple attributes of Fire or Energy. Taste, all liquid secretions, and the tongue represent the three attributes of Water. Scents, the nose, and the body are the triple properties of Earth. The great (primal) elements are five. The mind is the sixth. The senses and the mind, O Bharata, are (the sources of all) the perceptions of a living creature. 1 The seventh is called the understanding; and the eighth is the soul. 2 The senses are for perceiving; the mind (unable to deal with those perceptions) produces uncertainty. The understanding reduces all perceptions to certainty. The Soul exists as a witness (without acting). All that is above the two feet, all that is behind, and all that is above, are seen by the Soul. Know that the Soul pervades the entire being without any space being left unoccupied. All men should know the senses, the mind, and the understanding fully. The three states or qualities called Darkness, Passion, and Goodness, exist, dependent on the senses, the mind, and the understanding. 3 Man, by apprehending with the aid of his intelligence, the manner in which creatures come and leave the world, is sure to gradually attain to steadfast tranquillity. The three qualities (already mentioned, viz., Darkness, Passion, and Goodness), lead the understanding (to worldly attachments). In this respect, the Understanding (or Intelligence) is identical with the Senses and the Mind. The Understanding, therefore, is identical with the six (the five senses and the mind), and also with the objects comprehended by it. When, however, the Understanding is destroyed, the three
qualities (of Darkness, Passion, and Goodness) are incapable of leading to action. 1 This universe of immobile and mobile things consists of that intelligence. It is from that Intelligence that everything arises and it is into it that everything subsides. For this reason, the scriptures indicate that everything is a manifestation of Intelligence. That by which one hears is the ear. That by which one smells is called the organ of smell, and that by which one distinguishes the tastes is called the tongue. By the coat that covers the body one acquires perception of touch. That which is called the Intelligence undergoes modifications. 2 When the Intelligence desires anything it comes to be called Mind. The foundations upon which the Intelligence rests are five in number, each serving a different purpose. They are called the senses. The invisible principle, viz., Intelligence rests on them. The Intelligence that exists in a living creature concerns itself with the three states (called Passion, Darkness, and Goodness). Sometimes it obtains joy and sometimes misery. Sometimes it becomes divested of both joy and misery. Even thus the Intelligence exists in the minds of all men. Sometimes the Intelligence which is made up of the triple states (already mentioned), transcends those three states (by yoga), like the lord of rivers, viz., the Ocean, with his surges, transgressing his high continents. 3 That Intelligence which transcends the three qualities exist in the mind in a pure state of (unmodified) existence: alone. The quality of Darkness, however, that impels to action, soon pursues it. At that time, the Intelligence sets all the senses to action. The properties of the three are even thus: joy dwells in Goodness; sorrow in Passion; delusion in Darkness. All the states that exist (of the mind) are included in the three (that have been named). I have now, O Bharata, told thee about the course of the Understanding. An intelligent man should subdue all his senses.. The three qualities of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness, are always attached to living creatures. Three kinds of intelligence also are noticeable in every creature, viz., that which depends upon Goodness, that upon Passion, and that upon Darkness, O Bharata. The quality of Goodness brings happiness; the quality of Passion produces sorrow; and if these two combine with the quality of
[paragraph continues] Darkness, then neither happiness nor sorrow is produced (but, instead, only delusion or error). Every state of happiness that appears in the body or the mind is said to be due to the quality of Goodness. A state of sorrow, disagreeable to oneself', that comes, is due to nothing but the quality of Passion. One should never think of it with fear. 1 That state, again, which is allied with delusion and error, and in consequence of which one knows not what to do, which is unascertainable and unknown, should be regarded as belonging to the quality of Darkness. 2 Gladness, satisfaction, delight, happiness, tranquillity of heart, these are the properties of the state of Goodness. Man sometimes obtains a measure of them. Discontent, heart-burning, grief, cupidity, vindictiveness are all indications of the state of Passion. They are seen with or without adequate causes for producing them. Disgrace, delusion, error, sleep and stupefaction, that overtake one through excess of ill-luck, are the various properties of the state of Darkness. 3 That person whose mind is far-reaching, capable of extending in all directions, mistrustful in respect of winning the objects it desires, and well-restrained, is happy both here and hereafter. 4 Mark the distinction between these two subtile things, viz., Intelligence and Soul. One of these (viz., intelligence), puts forth the qualities. The other (viz., the Soul), does nothing of the kind. A gnat and a fig may be seen to be united with each other. Though united, each however is distinct from the other. Similarly, Intelligence and Soul, though distinguished from each other, by their respective natures, yet they may always be seen to exist in a state of union. A fish and water exist in a state of union, Each, however, is different from the other. The same is the case with Intelligence and Soul. The qualities do not know the Soul, but the Soul knows them all. The Soul is the spectator of the qualities and regards them all as proceeding from itself. The soul, acting through the senses, the mind, and the understanding numbering as the seventh, all of which are inactive and have no self-consciousness, discovers the objects (amid which it exists) like a (covered) lamp showing all objects around it by shedding its rays through an aperture in the covering. The understanding or Intelligence creates all the qualities. The Soul only beholds them (as a witness). Even such is certainly the connection between the intelligence and the Soul. 5 There is no refuge on which either Intelligence or Soul depends.
[paragraph continues] The Understanding creates the mind, but never the qualities. When the soul, by means of the mind, sufficiently restrains the rays that emanate from the senses, it is then that it becomes manifest (to the Understanding) like a lamp burning within a vessel that covers it. That person who renounces all ordinary acts, practises penances, devotes himself to study the Soul, taking a delight therein, and regards himself as the Soul of all creatures, acquires a high end. As an aquatic fowl, while moving over the waters, is never drenched in that element, even thus does a person of wisdom move (in the world) among creatures. By the aid of one's intelligence one should act in the world after this fashion, without grief, without joy, with an equal eye for all, and destitute of malice and envy. One living in this way succeeds in creating the qualities (instead of being oneself affected by them), like a spider creating threads. 1 The qualities should, indeed, be regarded as the threads of the spider. Some say that the qualities in respect of such men are not lost. Some say that they are all lost. Those who say that they are not lost rely upon the revealed scriptures (viz., the Srutis), which do not contain any declaration to the contrary. They, on the other hand, who say that the qualities are all lost rely on the Smritis. Reflecting upon both these opinions, one should judge oneself as to which of them is right. One should thus get over this hard and knotty question which is capable c f disturbing the understanding by doubt, and thereby win happiness. When that doubt will be removed, one will no longer have to indulge in sorrow of any kind. Men of filthy hearts may by knowledge obtain success like persons plunging in a well-filled stream purifying themselves of all filth. One who has to cross a broad river does not feel happy at only seeing the other shore. If the case were otherwise (i.e., if by only beholding the other shore one could reach it by a boat), then might one become happy. The matter is otherwise with one acquainted with the Truth. The mere knowledge of Truth will bring him happiness. As soon as such knowledge begins to bear fruits, the person may be regarded to have reached the other shore. They who thus know the Soul as freed from all worldly objects and is but the One, are said to obtain high and excellent knowledge. 2 A person by knowing the origin and the end of all creatures, which is even such, and by reflecting upon the matter, gradually obtains infinite happiness. He that has understood the triple aggregate (viz., that it is liable to destruction instead of being eternal), and reflecting upon it, casts it away, succeeds by yoga to behold the Truth and obtain perfect felicity. The Soul is incapable of being seen unless the senses, which are employed on diverse objects and are difficult of being controlled, be all duly restrained. He that knows this is really wise. What other indication is there of a wise man? Acquiring this knowledge, men possessed of intelligence regard themselves to be crowned with success. That which inspires the ignorant with fear can never inspire fear in persons of Knowledge. There is no
higher end for anybody (than Emancipation). In consequence, however, of the excess or otherwise of good qualities, the sages say that differences are observable in respect of the degree of Emancipation. A person by acting without expectation of fruits succeeds (by those acts) in annihilating his sinful acts of a former period. To one possessed of wisdom, the acts of a former period (thus washed off) and those of this life also (which are accomplished without expectation of fruit), do not become productive of any disagreeable consequence (such as immurement in hell). But how can acts, if he continues to be engaged in accomplishing acts, bring about what is agreeable (viz., Emancipation)? 1 People censure a person that is afflicted (with lust, envy, and other evil passions). Those vices hurl the person in his next life into diverse kinds of inferior orders. 2 Mark with close attention the vicious in this world who grieve exceedingly for the loss of their possessions (such as sons and wives, etc.). Behold also those that are gifted with judgment and who never grieve when thrown into similar circumstances. Those that are conversant with both (i.e., with gradual Emancipation and immediate Emancipation), deserve to be called truly wise.'" 3
45:4 Adhyatma is anything that depends on the mind. Here it is, as explained by the commentator, used for yoga-dharma as depending upon or as an attribute of the mind. Generally speaking, all speculations on the character of the mind and its relations with external objects are included in the word Adhyatma.
45:5 After Bhrigu's discourse to Bharadwaja this question may seem to be a repetition. The commentator explains that it arises from the declaration of Bhishma that Righteousness is a property of the mind, and is, besides, the root of everything. (V 31, sec. 193, ante). Hence the enquiry about Adhyatma as also about the origin of all things.
46:1 The word rendering 'perceptions' is Vijnanani. 'Cognitions' would perhaps, be better.
46:2 Generally, in Hindu philosophy, particularly of the Vedanta school, a distinction is conceived between the mind, the understanding, and the soul. The mind is the seat or source of all feelings and emotions as also all our perceptions, or those which are called cognitions in the Kantian school, including Comparison which (in the Kantian school) is called the Vernuft or Reason. This last is called the Understanding or buddhi. The soul is regarded as something distinct from both the body and the mind. It is the Being to whom the body and the mind belong. It is represented as inactive, and as the all-seeing witness within the physical frame. It is a portion of the Supreme Soul.
46:3 Goodness includes all the higher moral qualities of man. Passion means love, affection, and other emotions that appertain to worldly objects. Darkness means anger, lust, and such other mischievous propensities.
47:1 I follow Nilakantha in his grammatical exposition of this verse. The meaning, however, is scarcely clear. The identity of the Understanding or intelligence with the senses and the mind may be allowed so far as the action of the three qualities in leading all of them to worldly attachments is concerned. But what is meant by the identity of the Understanding with all the objects it comprehends? Does Bhishma preach Idealism here? If nothing exists except as it exists in the Understanding, then, of course, with the extinction of the Understanding, all things would come to an end.
47:2 Brown and other followers of Reid, whether they understood Reid or not, regarded all the perceptions as only particular modifications of the mind. They denied the objective existence of the world.
47:3 The commentator explains this verse thus, although as regards the second line he stretches it a little. If Nilakantha be right, K.P. Singha must be wrong. Generally, however, it is the known incapacity of the ocean to transgress its continents that supplies poets with illustrations. Here, however, possibly, the rarity of the phenomenon, viz., the ocean's transgressing its continents, is used to illustrate the rare fact of the intelligence, succeeding by yoga power, in transcending the attributes of Rajas, Tamas and Sattwa.
48:1 on the other hand, directing one's thoughts boldly to it, one should ascertain its cause and dispel that cause, which, as stated here, is Passion.
48:2 The first two words of the second line are those of verse 5 of See, I, Manu.
48:3 Kathanchit is explained by Nilakantha as 'due to great ill-luck.'
48:4 I do not follow Nilakantha in rendering this verse.
48:5 The soul is said to be only a witness or spectator and not an actor. The Rishis understood by the soul the being to whom the mind, the senses, etc., all belong. Could the idea of the inactive and unsinning Soul have arisen from observation of the moral principle of Conscience which discriminates between right and wrong, and acts, therefore, as an impartial judge, or watches everything like an uninterested spectator? European moralists generally attribute two other functions to the Conscience, viz., impelling us to do the right and avoid the wrong, and approving when right is done and wrong avoided. But these functions may easily be attributed to some other principle. At any rate, when the question is one of nomenclature only, the last two functions may be taken away and the word Soul applied to indicate the Conscience as the faculty of discrimination only.
49:1 The qualities here referred to are those of Sattwa (goodness), Rajas (passion), and Tamas (darkness). What is meant by this verse is that such a person transcends the qualities instead of the qualities transcending him and his acts.
49:2 Nilakantha takes the third line as elliptical and is for supplying te labhante.
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