The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'What are the fruits of the yoga represented by Knowledge, of all the Vedas, and of the (various) observances and vows? How also may the creature-soul be known? Tell us, this, O grandsire!'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the old narrative of the discourse between that lord of creatures, viz., Manu, and the great Rishi, Vrihaspati. In days of old, the foremost of celestial Rishis, viz., Vrihaspati, who was a disciple of Manu, bowed to his preceptor and addressing that lord and first of all creatures, said, 'What is the cause (of the universe)? Whence have the ordinances (about sacrifices and other pious observances) flowed? What are those fruits which the learned say are attached to Knowledge? Tell me also truly, O illustrious one, what is that which the very, Vedas have not been able to reveal? What are those fruits which are adored by eminent personages conversant with the science of Artha, with the Vedas, and with the Mantras, through sacrifices and plentiful gifts of kine? Whence do those fruits arise? Where are they to be found? Tell me also this old history, viz., whence have the earth, all earthly objects, wind, sky, aquatic creatures, water, heaven, and the denizens of heaven, all sprung? Man's inclinations tend towards that object about which he seeks knowledge. I have no knowledge of that Ancient and Supreme one. How shall I rescue myself from a false display of inclinations towards Him? 1 The Riks, all the Samanas, all the Yajuses, the Chhandas, Astronomy, Nirukta, Grammar, Sankalpa, and Siksha, I have studied. But I pave no knowledge of the nature of the great creatures (the five primal elements) that enter into the composition of everything. 2 Tell me all I have asked thee, by using only simple assertions and distinguishing
adjectives or attributes. Tell me what the fruits are of Knowledge and what those fruits that are attached to sacrifices and other religious rites. Explain to me how also an embodied being departs from his body and how he attains to another body.'
"Manu said, 'That which is agreeable to one is said to constitute one's happiness. Similarly, that which is disagreeable to one is said to constitute one's misery.--By this I shall obtain happiness and keep off misery--from a sentiment like this flow all religious acts. The efforts for the acquisition of Knowledge, however, arise from a sentiment for avoiding both happiness and misery. 1 The ordinances about sacrifices and other observances, that occur in the Vedas, are all connected with desire. He, however, who liberates himself from desire, succeeds in attaining to Brahma. That man who, from desire of winning happiness, walks in the path of acts which are of diverse kinds, has to go to hell.' 2
"Vrihaspati said, 'Men's aspirations are concerned with the acquisition of the agreeable which ends in happiness, and the avoidance of the disagreeable which brings misery. Such acquisition and such avoidance again are accomplished by acts.' 3
"Manu said, 'It is by liberating oneself from acts that one succeeds in entering into Brahma. The ordinances about acts have flowed for that very end. 4 The ordinances about acts tempts only those whose hearts are not free from desire. By liberating oneself from acts (as already said) one acquires the highest state. One desirous of felicity (Emancipation), betaking oneself to religious rites, becomes purified (from attachments) by acts having for their object the purification of the soul, and at last wins great splendour. By liberating oneself from acts, one acquires the highest end, viz., Brahma, which is very much above the reward that acts give. Creatures have all been created by Mind and Act. These again are the two best paths adored by all. Outward acts produce fruits that are transitory as also eternal. For acquiring the latter there is no other means than abandonment of fruits by the mind. 5 As the eye, when night passes away and the veil of darkness is removed from it, leads its possessor by its own power, so the Understanding, when it
becomes endued with Knowledge, succeeds in beholding all evils that are worthy of avoidance. 1 Snakes, sharp-pointed kusa blades, and pits, men avoid when they perceive them lie on their way. If some tread upon or fall into them, they do so through ignorance. Behold the superiority of the fruits of knowledge (over those of ignorance). Mantras applied duly, sacrifices, the presents called Dakshina, gift of food, and concentration of the mind (for divine contemplation),--these are the five acts that are said to be productive of fruits, there being none else. Acts have (the three) attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas) for their soul. The Vedas say this. (The Vedas consist of Mantras). The Mantras, therefore, have the same three attributes, since it is with Mantras that acts are to be accomplished. The ritual also must be liable to the same three attributes. The fruits of action depend upon the mind. It is the embodied creature that enjoys those fruits. 2 All excellent kinds of sound, form, taste, touch, and scent, are the fruits of acts, being attainable in the region of acts (i.e., heaven). As regards, however, the fruits of knowledge, man acquires them even here before death. 3 Whatever acts are accomplished by means of the body, one enjoys the fruits thereof in a state of physical existence. The body is, indeed, the framework to which happiness inheres, as also the framework to which misery inheres. 4 Whatever acts are accomplished by means of words, their fruits are to be enjoyed in a state in which words can be spoken. Similarly, whatever acts are accomplished by the mind, their fruits are enjoyed in a state in which one is not freed from the mind. 5 Devoted to the fruits of acts, whatever kind of acts (Sattwika or
[paragraph continues] Rajasika or Tamasika) a person covetous of fruits accomplishes, the fruits, good or bad, that he actually enjoys partake of their character. Like fishes going against a current of water, the acts of a past life come to the actor. The embodied creature experiences happiness for his good acts, and misery for his evil ones. Him from whom this universe hath sprung. Him by knowing whom persons of cleansed souls transgress this world, Him who has not been expressed by Vedic mantras and words. I will now indicate. Listen to me as I speak of that highest of the high. Himself liberated from the several kinds of taste and scent, and sound and touch and form. He is incapable of being grasped by the senses, unmanifest, without colour, the One, and He has created the five kinds of objects 1 for His creatures. He is neither female, nor male, nor of the neuter sex. He is neither existent, nor non-existent, nor existent-nonexistent. 2 Only those that are acquainted with Brahma behold Him. He knoweth no direction."'
66:1 The fact is, I do not know anything of Him, but still I profess to worship him. This is false behaviour. How shall I be rescued from such falsehood? This is what Vrihaspati says.
66:2 The Chhandas are the rules of Prosody as applicable to the Vedic hymns. Jyotish is astronomy. It forms an Anga of the Vedas. Nirukta furnishes rules for interpreting obscure passages of the Vedas, and also gives the meanings of technical or obscure words used therein. Kalpa is the description of religious rites. Siksha is the science of Pronunciation as applied to Vedic hymns and mantras.
67:1 They who believe that happiness is not eternal and that, therefore, they should not Pursue it, withdraw themselves from pious acts which lead to that happiness. They seek Knowledge as the best means for avoiding all that is transitory and changeful. They seek moksha or complete Emancipation which has been described in the previous sections.
67:2 The meaning of 'hell' as applied in such passages has been explained before.
67:3 This is a highly aphoristic line. I give the sense by expanding the words. By 'acts' here is meant 'sacrifices and other religious observances.' The intention of Vrihaspati is to enforce the Propriety of acts, for without acts, the ends of life cannot, he maintains, be secured.
67:4 The sense is that one should devote oneself to acts as a sort of preparation. Afterwards one should abandon them for obtaining the higher end. Acts, therefore, have their use, and help one, though mediately, in the acquisition of Brahma.
67:5 The mind and acts have created all things. This has been explained in the last verse of section 190 ante. Both are good paths, for by both, good end maybe attained, viz., the highest, by drilling the mind, as also (mediately) by acts (as explained in verse 14 above). The fruits of actions must be mentally abandoned if the highest end is to be attained; i.e., acts may be gone through, but their fruits should never be coveted.
68:1 Nilakantha explains the grammar of the first line differently. His view is yatha chakshurupah praneta nayako, etc. A better construction would be yatha chaksha pranetah (bhavati) etc.
68:2 This verse may be said to furnish the key of the doctrine of karma or acts and why acts are to be avoided by persons desirous of Moksha or Emancipation. Acts have three attributes: for some are Sattwika (good), as sacrifices undertaken for heaven, etc., some are Rajasika (of the quality of Passion), as penances and rites accomplished from desire of superiority and victory; and some are Tamasika (of the quality of Darkness), as those undertaken for injuring others, notably the Atharvan rites of Marana, Uchatana, etc.: this being the case, the Mantras, without acts, cannot be accomplished, are necessarily subject to the same three attributes. The same is the case with rituals prescribed. It follows, therefore, that the mind is the chief cause of the kind of fruits won, i.e., it is the motive that determines the fruits, viz., of what kind it is to be. The enjoyer of the fruit, of course, is the embodied creature.
68:3 There can be no doubt that Nilakantha explains this verse correctly. It is really a cruce. The words Naro na samsthanagatah prabhuh syat must be taken as unconnected and independent. Na samsthana gatah is before death. Prabhuh is adhikari (jnanphale being understood). K.P. Singha gives the sense correctly, but the Burdwan translator makes nonsense of the words.
68:4 The subject of this verse as explained by the commentator, is to inculcate the truth that the result of all acts accomplished by the body is heaven where one in a physical state (however subtile) enjoys those fruits. If Emancipation is to be sought, it must be attained through the mind.
68:5 The sense depends upon the word acts. If acts are accomplished by the mind, their fruits must be enjoyed by the person in a state in which he will have a mind. Emancipation cannot be achieved by either recitation (japa) or Dhyana (meditation), for both these are acts. Perfect liberation from acts is necessary for that great end.
69:1 viz., Taste. etc.
69:2 Existent, line atom; non-existent, line space; existent-nonexistent, line Maya or illusion.
Next: Section CCII