The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'All men speak of ourselves as highly fortunate. In truth, however, there is no person more wretched than ourselves. Though honoured by all the world, O best of the Kurus, and though we have been born among men, O grandsire, having been begotten by the very gods, yet when so much sorrow has been our lot, it seems, O reverend chief, that birth alone in an embodied form is the cause of all sorrow. Alas, when shall we adopt a life of Renunciation that is destructive of sorrow? 1 Sages of rigid vows freed from the seven and ten (i.e., the five breaths, mind, understanding, and the ten organs of knowledge and action), from the five faults of Yoga (viz., desire, wrath, covetousness, fear, and sleep) that constitute the chief causes (for binding man to repeated rounds of earthly life), and from the other eight, viz., the five objects of the senses and the three attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas), have never to incur rebirth. When, O scorcher of foes, shall we succeed in abandoning sovereignty for adopting a life of renunciation?'
"Bhishma said, 'Everything, O great monarch, hath an end. Everything hath bounds assigned to it. Even rebirth, it is well-known, hath an end. In this world there is nothing that is, immutable. Thou thinkest, O king, that this (viz., the affluence with which thou art invested is a fault). That it is not so is not true, in regard to our present topic of disquisition. Ye, however, are conversant with virtue, and have readiness. It is certain, therefore, that ye shall attain to the end of your sorrow, (viz., Emancipation) in time. 2 Jiva equipped with body, O king, is not the author of his merits and demerits (or their fruits as represented by happiness and misery). On the other hand, he becomes enveloped by the Darkness (of Ignorance having attachment and
aversion for its essence) that is born of his merits and demerits. 1 As the wind impregnated with dust of antimony once again seizes the efflorescence of realgar and (though itself destitute of colour) assumes the hues of the substances which it has seized and tinges the different points of the compass (which represent its own hueless progenitor, viz., space), after the same manner, Jiva, though himself colourless, assumes a hue in consequence of being enveloped by Darkness and variegated by the fruits of action, and travels from body to body (making his own stainless and immutable progenitor appear as stained and changeful). 2 When Jiva succeeds in dispelling by means of Knowledge, the Darkness that invests him in consequence of Ignorance, then Immutable Brahma becomes displayed (in all His glory). The Sages say that reversion to Immutable Brahma is incapable of being achieved by Acts. Thyself, others in the world, and the deities too, should reverence them that have achieved Emancipation. All the great Rishis never desist from culture of Brahma. 3 In this connection is cited that discourse which was sung (by the preceptor of the Daityas) in days of old. Listen, O monarch, with undivided attention to the course of conduct that was followed by the Daitya Vritra after he became divested of all his prosperity. Depending only upon his intelligence, he did not indulge in sorrow, in the midst of his enemies, although he was deprived of sovereignty, O Bharata! Unto Vritra, when in days of old he was reft of sovereignty, (his preceptor) Usanas said, 'I hope, O Danava, that in consequence of thy defeat thou dost not cherish any grief?'
"Vritra said, 'Without doubt, having understood, by the aid of truth and penances, the advent and departure of all living creatures, I have ceased to indulge in either grief or joy. Urged by Time creatures sink helplessly in hell. Some again, the sages say, go to heaven. All these pass their time in contentment. Passing their allotted periods in heaven and hell, and with some portion
of their merits and demerits unexhausted (by enjoyment and suffering), they repeatedly take birth, impelled by Time. Chained by the bonds of Desire, creatures pass through myriads of intermediate life and fall helplessly into hell. 1 I have seen that creatures come and go even thus. The lesson inculcated in the Scriptures is that one's acquisitions correspond with one's acts. 2 Creatures take birth as men or as intermediate animals or as gods and go to hell. Having acted in lives, that are past in such a way as to deserve them, all creatures, subject to the ordinances of the Destroyer, meet with happiness and misery, the agreeable and the disagreeable. Having enjoyed the measure of weal or woe that corresponds with their acts, creatures always come back by the old path, 3 which is measured by the measure of acts.' Then the illustrious Usanas addressed the Asura Vritra who was thus talking of the highest refuge of the creation, saying, 'O intelligent Daitya, why, O child, dost thou utter such foolish rhapsodies?'
"Vritra said, 'The severe penances which I underwent from greed of victory are well-known to thee as also to other sages. Appropriating diverse scents and diverse kinds of tastes that other creatures had for enjoying, I swelled up with my own energy, afflicting the three worlds. Decked with myriads of effulgent rays I used to rove through the skies (on my celestial car), incapable of being defeated by any creature and fearing none. I achieved great prosperity through my penances and lost it again through my own acts. Relying on my fortitude, however, I do not grieve for this change. Desirous (in days of yore) of fighting the great Indra, the high-souled ruler of the heavens, I beheld in that battle the illustrious Hari, the puissant Narayana. 4 He who is called Vaikuntha, Purusha, Ananta, Sukla, Vishnu, Sanatana, Munjakesa, Harismasru, and the Grandsire of all creatures. 5 Without doubt, there is still a remnant (to be enjoyed by me) of the rewards attaching to that penance represented by a sight of the great Hari. It is in consequence of that unexhausted remnant that I have become desirous of asking thee, O illustrious one, about the fruits of action! 6 Upon which order (of men) hath
been established high Brahma prosperity? In what mariner, again, doth high prosperity fall off? From whom do creatures spring and live? Through whom again do they act? What is that high Fruit by attaining to which a creature succeeds in living eternally as Brahma? By what Act or by what Knowledge can that fruit be achieved? It behoveth thee, O learned Brahmana, to expound these to me.'
"Recapitulated by me, O lion among kings, listen with undivided attention, O bull of men, with all thy brothers, to what the sage Usanas then said after he had been thus addressed by that prince of Danavas.'"
292:1 Sanjnakam from the root jna meaning marana or killing.
292:2 The two negatives in the first line are equivalent to an affirmative. Prasangatah is explained by the commentator in a slightly different way. Affluence, in consequence of the attachment it generates, stands in the way of Emancipation. Hence, i.e., in consequence of this consideration, the king's opinion regarding affluence, is correct. With respect to the certainty of attaining to Emancipation, compare Gita, Vahunam janmanamante jnanavan mam prapadyate, etc.
293:1 The object of this verse, as explained by the commentator, is to exhort Yudhishthira to strive after Emancipation without being at all moved by his happiness or misery which (as stated here) come to Jiva as accidents.
293:2 The wind has space for its progenitor. Jiva has the stainless and immutable Chit for his progenitor. Like the wind, which is hueless, catching hues from surrounding objects and making its own hueless progenitor look as if it has hues, Jiva also, though in reality stainless, catches stains from Ignorance and Acts and makes his own progenitor, the stainless and immutable Chit, display stains of every kind. This is how the commentator puts the simile, supplying the points that have been omitted in the text.
293:3 These aphorisms are very abstruse. What is meant by saying that the attainment of Brahma does not depend upon Acts is this: Acts are terminable. Their consequences also are terminable. Acts, therefore, can never be the means by which Brahma can be attained, for Brahma is interminable and eternal, not like the felicity of heaven which is changeful. The only means by which Jiva may revert to Brahma is by dispelling Ignorance through Knowledge; or, as the Upanishads declare, one attains to it as one gets one's forgotten necklace of gold, which all the while is on the neck though sought for with assiduity everywhere. K.P. Singha misunderstands it completely. What is meant by the direction about reverencing persons who have attained to Brahma is this: the existence of Brahma and the possibility of Jiva's reverting to that Immutable status are matters that depend upon the conception of such men. Brahma, again, is so difficult to keep, that the great sages never desist for a moment from the culture that is necessary for its retention.
294:1 Intermediate i.e., as animals and birds and reptiles and worms, etc.
294:2 i.e., if righteous, one attains to happiness; if otherwise, to the reverse.
294:3 Verse 21 and the first line of 22 are grammatically connected.
294:4 Me in the second line is equivalent to Maya. Tatah is tatra yuddhakale. Hari had come to aid Indra, and hence Vritra had beheld him. He is called Hari because he takes away one's sins. Besides the well-known derivation of the word Narayana, the commentator here offers another, viz., the ayanam or layasthanam of Nara or Jivasangha.
294:5 Vaikuntha has various etymologies. The commentator inclines to explain it as 'one who brings together all creatures.' Purusha is full; as applied to Narayana, it, of course, means one who has no defect but who is the sole representative of fullness. Sukla or Suddha or pure. Vishnu is all-pervading. Sanatan is kutastha or uniform or immutable. Munjakesa, is possessed of yellow hair, or hair of the hue of Munja grass. Harismasru is having a tawny beard.
294:6 Penances are meritorious. The very sight of Hari that I obtain was as efficacious as a course of the austerest penances. Of course, in consequence of that and my other penances great have been the rewards that I have enjoyed. It seems, however, that the full measure of rewards has not been reaped; the remnant is to be enjoyed by me now, for I am about to p. 295 ask thee about the fruits of acts. Sacred and highly auspicious is my enquiry. To make it is, in itself, a reward.
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