The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Do thou, O son, O sinless one, listen once more, with feelings of great pride, to the words that fell from the lips of the Island-born Rishi on the subject of the enumeration of the entities. Like unto a blazing fire (for having transcended all ignorance), the great Rishi said these words unto his son who resembled a fire wrapped in smoke. 3 Instructed by what he said, I also, O son, shall again expound to thee that certain knowledge (which dispels ignorance). The properties possessed by earth are immobility, weight, hardness, productiveness, scent, density, capacity to absorb scents of all kinds, cohesion, habitableness (in respect of vegetables and animals), and that attribute of the mind which is called patience of the capacity to bear. The properties of water are coolness, taste, moisture, liquidity, softness, agreeableness, tongue, fluidity, capacity to be congealed, and power to melt many earthly products. 4 The properties of fire are irresistible energy, inflammability, heat, capacity t o soften, light, sorrow, disease, speed, fury, and invariably upward motion. The properties of the wind are touch that is neither hot nor cool, capacity to assist the organ of speech, independence
[paragraph continues] (in respect of motion), strength, celerity, power to assist all kinds of emission or discharge, power to raise other objects, breaths inhaled and exhaled, life (as the attribute of Chit) and birth (including death). The properties of space are sound, extension, capacity of being enclosed, absence of refuge for resting upon absence of all necessity for such refuge, status of being unmanifest, capacity for modification, incapacity for producing resistance, material cause for producing the sense of hearing, and the unoccupied portions of the human body. These are the fifty properties, as declared, that constitute, the essence of the five elementary entities. 1 Patience, reasoning or disputation, remembrance, forgetfulness or error, imagination, endurance, propensity towards good, propensity towards evil, and restlessness,--these are the properties of the mind. Destruction of both good and evil thoughts (i.e., dreamless slumber), perseverance, concentration, decision, and ascertainment of all things resting upon direct evidence, constitute the five properties of the understanding.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'How can the understanding be said to have five properties? How again, can the five senses be spoken of as properties (of the five elementary entities)? Expound to me, O grandsire, all this that seems to be very abstruse.'
"Bhishma said, 'The understanding is said to possess altogether sixty properties, for the understanding includes the five elements. 2 All those properties exist in a state of union with the Soul. The Vedas declare, O son, that the elements, their (fifty) properties (together with the mind and the understanding and their nine and five properties) are all created by Him who is above all deterioration. These (one and seventy) entities, therefore, are not eternal (like the Soul). The theories contradicting the Revelation that have in the previous Vedas, O son, been placed before thee (about the origin of the Universe and its other incidents) are all defective in the eye of reason. Carefully attending, however, in this world to all that I have said unto thee about the Supreme Brahma, do thou, after attaining to the puissance that the knowledge of Brahma offers, seek to win tranquillity of heart.'" 3
218:3 Because the son had not yet obtained the light of full knowledge.
218:4 It is curious to note how carelessly this verse is rendered in the Burdwan version. In the Bengal texts there is a misprint, viz., tatha for rasah. The Burdwan translator does not notice it, but gives just eight qualities instead of ten. Capacity to be congealed is to be inferred from cha. K.P. Singha is correct.
219:1 The Rishis, it is evident, regarded an entity not as an unknown substance in which certain known properties inhered, but as the sum total of those properties themselves. So far as the human mind is concerned, there is no warrant for the proposition that matter is an unknown substance in which extension, and divisibility etc., inhere; on the other hand, matter, as it appears to us, is only extension, divisibility, etc., existing in a combined state.
219:2 The elements are five in number. Their properties number fifty. The five especial properties of the understanding should be added to those five and fifty. The total, therefore, of the properties of the understanding comes up to sixty.
219:3 This is a difficult verse. Anagatam is agama-viruddham. The grammatical construction, as explained by the commentator, is this: tat (tasmin or purvaslokokokte vishaya yat) anagatam tava uktam tat chintakalilam. (Twam tu) samprati iha (loke) tat (maduktam) bhutarthatattwamsarvam avapya bhuta-prabhavat santabuddhi bhava. Bhutarthah is Brahma, and bhutaprabhavat is Brahmaiswaryat. (This is an instance of the ablative with 'lyap' understood). What Bhishma wishes Yudhishthira to do is not so much to attend to the various theories about the origin of the universe but to carefully attend to the method of attaining to Brahma. To be of tranquil heart, of course, implies the possession of a nirvrittika buddhi.
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