The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'He cannot be said to know Brahma who does not know the four topics (viz., dreams, dreamless slumber, Brahma as indicated by attributes, and Brahma as transcending all attributes), as also what is Manifest (viz., the body), and what is Unmanifest (the chit-soul), which the great Rishi
[paragraph continues] (Narayana) has described as Tattwam. 1 That which is manifest should be known as liable to death. That which is unmanifest (viz., the chit-soul), should be known as transcending death. The Rishi Narayana has described the religion of Pravritti. Upon that rests the whole universe with its mobile and immobile creatures. The religion of Nivritti again leads to the unmanifest and eternal Brahma. 2 The Creator (Brahma) has described the religion of Pravritti. Pravritti implies rebirth or return. Nivritti, on the other hand, implies the highest end. The ascetic who desires to discriminate with exactitude between good and evil, who is always bent on understanding the nature of the Soul, and who devotes himself to the religion of Nivritti, attains to that high end. 3 One desirous of accomplishing this, should know both the Unmanifest and Purusha of which I shall speak presently. That, again, which is different from both the Unmanifest and Purusha, and which transcends them both, and which is distinguished from all beings, should be particularly viewed by one possessed of intelligence. 4 Both Prakriti and Purusha are without beginning and without end. Both are incapable of being known by their like. Both are eternal and indestructible. Both are greater than the greatest (of being). In these they are similar. They are points of dissimilarity again between them. (Of these I shall speak presently). Prakriti is fraught with the three attributes (of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness). It is also engaged in creation. The true attributes of Kshetrajna (Purusha or the Soul) should be known to be different. 5 Purusha is the apprehender of all the transformations of Prakriti (but cannot be apprehended himself). He transcends (in respect of his original nature) all attributes. As regards Purusha and the Supreme Soul again, both of them are in-comprehensible. In consequence again of both of them being without attributes by which they can be distinguished, both are highly distinguished from all else. 6 A turbaned person has his head circled with three folds of a piece of cloth. (The person, however, is not identical with the turban he wears). After the same manner the embodied Soul is invested with the three attributes of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness. But though thus invested, the Soul is not
identical with those attributes. Hence these four topics, which are covered by these fourfold considerations, should be understood. 1 One who understands all this is never stupefied when one has to draw conclusions (in respect of all subjects of enquiry). He that is desirous of attaining to high prosperity should become pure in mind, and betaking himself to austere practices in respect of the body and the senses, should devote himself to yoga without desire of fruits. The universe is pervaded by yoga power secretly circulating through every part of it and illumining it brightly. The sun and the moon shine with effulgence in the firmament of the heart in consequence of yoga power. The result of yoga is Knowledge. Yoga is talked of very highly in the world. 2 Whatever acts are destructive of Passion and Darkness constitute yoga in respect of its real character. Brahmacharya and abstention from injury are said to constitute yoga of the body; while restraining mind and speech properly are said to constitute yoga of the mind. The food that is obtained in alms from regenerate persons conversant with the ritual is distinguished from all other food. By taking that food abstemiously, one's sins born of Passion begin to fade. A yogin subsisting upon such food finds his senses gradually withdrawn from their objects. Hence, he should take only that measure of food which is strictly necessary for the support of his body. (Another advice that may be offered is that) that knowledge which one obtains gradually by mind devoted to yoga should cheerfully be made one's own during one's last moments by a forcible stretch of power. 3 The embodied Soul, when divested of Rajas (does not immediately attain to Emancipation but) assumes a subtile form with all the senses of perception and moves about in space. When his mind becomes unaffected by acts, he, in consequence of such renunciation (loses that subtile form and) becomes merged in Prakriti (without however, yet attaining to Brahma or Emancipation which transcends Prakriti). 4 After the destruction of this gross body, one who through absence of heedlessness escapes from all the three bodies (viz., the gross, the subtile and the karana) succeeds in attaining to Emancipation. 5 The birth and death of creatures always depend upon the cause constituted by original Ignorance
[paragraph continues] (or Avidya). When knowledge of Brahma arises, necessity no longer pursues the person. Those, however, that accept what is the reverse of truth (by believing that to be Self which is really not-Self) are men whose understandings are always taken up with the birth and death of all existent things. (Such people never dream even of Emancipation). 1 Supporting their bodies by aid of patience, withdrawing their hearts from all external objects by the aid of their understanding, and withdrawing themselves from the world of senses, some yogins adore the senses in consequence of their subtility. 2 Some amongst them, with mind cleansed by yoga, proceeding according to (the stages indicated in) the scriptures and reaching the highest, succeed in knowing it by the aid of the understanding and dwell in that which is the highest and which without resting on any other thing rests on itself. 3 Some worship Brahma in images. Some worship Him as existing with attributes. Some repeatedly realise the highest Divinity which has been described to be like a flash of lightning and which is again indestructible. 4 Others who have burnt their sins by penances, attain to Brahma in the end. All those high-souled persons attain to the highest end. With the eye of scripture one should observe the subtile attributes of these several forms, as distinguished by attributes, of Brahma that are (thus) worshipped by men. The yogin who has transcended the necessity of depending on the body, who has cast off all attachments, and whose mind is devoted to yoga abstraction, should be known as another instance of Infinity, as the Supreme Divinity, or as that which it Unmanifest. 5 They whose hearts are devoted to the acquisition of knowledge succeed first in freeing themselves from the world of mortals. Subsequently, by casting off attachments they partake of the nature of Brahma and at last attain to the highest end.
"Thus have persons conversant with the Vedas spoken of the religion that leads to the attainment of Brahma. They who follow that religion according to the measure of their knowledge all succeed in obtaining the highest end. Even those persons who succeed in acquiring knowledge that is incapable of being shaken (by the assaults of scepticism) and that makes its possessors free from attachments of every kind, attain to various high regions after death and become emancipated according to the measure of their knowledge. Those persons of pure hearts who have imbibed contentment from knowledge, and who have cast off all desires and attachments, gradually approach in respect of their nature, nearer and nearer to Brahma which has the unmanifest for his attribute, which is divine, and without birth and death. Realising that Brahma dwells in their Souls, they become themselves immutable and have never to return (to the earth). Attaining to that supreme state which is indestructible and eternal, they exist in felicity. The knowledge with respect to this world is even this: it exists (in the case of erring persons). It does not exist (in the case of those who have not been stupefied by error). The whole universe, bound up in desire, is revolving like a wheel. As the fibres of a lotus-stalk overspread themselves into every part of the stalk, after the same manner the fibres of desire, which have neither beginning nor end, spread themselves over every part of the body. As a weaver drives his threads into a cloth by means of his shuttle, after the same manner the threads that constitute the fabric of the universe are woven by the shuttle of Desire. He who properly knows transformations of Prakriti, Prakriti herself and Purusha, becomes freed from Desire and attains to Emancipation. 1 The divine Rishi Narayana, that refuge of the universe, for the sake of compassion towards all creatures, clearly promulgated these means for the acquisition of immortality.'"
108:1 The commentator thinks that the Rishi alluded to in this verse is Narayana, the companion and friend of Nara, both of whom had their retreat on the heights of Vadari where Vyasa afterwards settled himself. Tattwa here does not, the commentator thinks, mean a topic of discourse but that which exists in original purity and does not take its colour or form from the mind. Anaropitam rupam yasya tat.
108:2 The religion of Pravritti consists of acts. It cannot liberate one from rebirth. The whole chain of existences, being the result of acts, rests upon the religion of Pravritti. The religion of Nivritti, on the other hand, or abstention from acts, leads to Emancipation or Brahma.
108:3 Nidarsarkah is explained by the commentator as equivalent to drashtum ichcchan.
108:4 Avyakta or Unmanifest is Prakriti or primordial matter both gross and subtile. That which transcends both Prakriti and Purusha is, of course the Supreme Soul or Brahma. Visesham, is explained by the commentator as 'distinguished from everything else by its attributes.'
108:5 i.e., as the commentator explains, Purusha is non-creating and transcends the three attributes.
108:6 Asamhatau is explained by the commentator as atyantaviviktau. Purushau implies the two Purushas, i.e., the 'Chit-Soul' and the Supreme Soul.
109:1 The four topics are these: the points of resemblance between Prakriti and Purusha, the points of difference between them: the points of resemblance between Purusha and Iswara; and the points of difference between them. The four considerations that cover these topics are absence of beginning and end, existence as chit and in animation, distinction from all other things, and the notion of activity.
109:2 Yoginastam prapasyanti bhagavantam santanam--even this is what people always say to yoga and yogins.
109:3 The commentator in a long note explains that what is really implied by this verse is that one should betake oneself to some sacred spot such as Kasi for casting off one's life there. Death at Kasi is sure to lead to Emancipation, for the theory is that Siva himself becomes the instructor and leads one to that high end.
109:4 When divested of Rajas', i.e., freed from the senses and the propensities derived from their indulgence.
109:5 Adehat is explained by the commentator as Dehapatat. Dehantat applies to the destruction of all the three bodies. By the destruction (after death) of the gross body is meant escape from the obligation of rebirth. The karana body is a subtiler form of existence than the Linga-sarira: it is, of course, existence it; Prakriti as mentioned in verso 21.
110:1 Paropratyasarge means on the rise of a knowledge of Brahma. Niyati is Necessity, in consequence of which jiva goes through an endless wheel of existences; Bhavantaprabhavaprajna is bhavanamanta-prabhavayorevaprajna yesham. The object of the verse is to show that such mistaken persons as take the body, the senses, etc., and all which are not-Self, to be Self, are always taken up with the idea that things die and are born, but that there is nothing like emancipation or a complete escape from rebirth.
110:2 'By the aid of patience' is explained by the commentator as without leaving their seats and changing the yoga attitude, etc. 'Withdrawing themselves from the world of senses' means attaining to a state that is perfectly independent of the senses and, therefore, of all external objects. 'Adore the senses in consequence of their subtility,' as explained by the commentator, is thinking of Prana and the Indriyas as Self or Soul. I do not understand how this amounts to the statement that such yogins attain to Brahma.
110:3 'Proceeding according to (the stages indicated in) the scriptures'. alludes to the well-known verses in the Gita, beginning with Indriyebhyah parahyartha, etc. The several stages, as mentioned in those verses, are as follows: Superior to the senses are their objects. Superior to the objects is the mind. Superior to the mind is the understanding. Superior to the understanding is the Soul. Superior to the Soul is the Unmanifest. Superior to the Unmanifest is Purusha (Brahma). There is nothing above Purusha. Dehantam is explained as that which is superior to Avyakta or Unmanifest, hence Brahma or Purusha.
110:4 A flash of lightning repeatedly realised becomes a mass of blazing light. Perhaps this is intended by the speaker.
110:5 In the Bengal texts, verse 28 is a triplet. In the second line the correct reading is Dehantam.
Next: Section CCXVIII