The Mahabharata Home
"'Vasishtha said, 'Thus in consequence of his forgetfulness the Soul follows ignorance and obtains thousands of bodies one after another. He attains to thousands of births among the intermediate orders and sometimes among the very gods in consequence of his union with (particular) attributes and the puissance of attributes. 1 From the status of humanity, he goes to heaven and from heaven he comes back to humanity, and from humanity he sinks into hell for many long years. As the worm that fabricates the cocoon shuts itself, completely on every side by means of the threads it weaves itself, even so the Soul, though in reality transcending all attributes, invests himself on every side with attributes (and deprives himself of liberty). 2 Though transcending (in
his real nature) both happiness and misery, it is thus that he subjects himself to happiness and misery. It is thus also that, though transcending all diseases, the Soul regards himself to be afflicted by headache and opthalmia and toothache and affections of the throat and abdominal dropsy, and burning thirst, and enlargement of glands, and cholera, and vitiligo, and leprosy, and burns, and asthma and phthisis, and epilepsy, and whatever other diseases of diverse kinds are seen in the bodies of embodied creatures. Regarding himself, through error, as born among thousands of creatures in the intermediate orders of being, and sometimes among the gods, he endures misery and enjoys the fruits of his good deeds. Invested with Ignorance he regards himself as robed sometimes in white cloth and sometimes in full dress consisting of four pieces or as lying on floors (instead of on beds or bedsteads) or with hands and feet contracted like those of frogs or as seated upright in the attitude of ascetic contemplation, or as' clad in rags or as lying or sitting under the canopy of heaven or within mansions built of bricks and stone or on rugged stones or on ashes or bare stones or on the bare earth or on beds or on battlefields or in water or in mire or on wooden planks or on diverse kinds of beds; or impelled by desire of fruits, he regards himself as clad in a scant piece of cloth made of grass or as totally nude or as robed in silk or in skin of the black antelope or in cloth made of flax or in sheep-skin or in tiger-skin or in lion-skin or in fabric of hemp, or in barks of birch or in cloths made of the produce of prickly plants, or in vestures made of threads woven by worms or of torn rags or in diverse other kinds of cloth too numerous to mention. The soul regards himself also as wearing diverse kinds of ornaments and gems, or as eating diverse kinds of food. He regards himself as sometimes eating at intervals of one night, or once at the same hour every day, or as at the fourth, the sixth, and the eighth hour every day, or as once in six or seven or eight nights, or as once in ten or twelve day, or as once in a month, of as eating only roots, or fruits, or as subsisting upon air or water alone, or on cakes of sesame husk, or curds or cowdung, or the urine of the cow or potherbs or flowers or moss or raw food, or as subsisting on fallen leaves of trees or fruits that have fallen down and lay scattered on the ground, or diverse other kinds of food, impelled by the desire of winning (ascetic) success. The Soul regards himself as adopting the observance of Chandrayana according to the rites ordained in the scriptures, or diverse other vows and observance, and the courses of duty prescribed for the four modes of life, and even derelictions of duty, and the duties of other subsidiary modes of life included in the four principal ones, and even diverse kinds of practices that distinguish the wicked and sinful. The Soul regards himself as enjoying retired spots and delightful shades of mountains and the cool vicinity of spring and fountain and solitary river banks and secluded forests, and sacred spots dedicated to the deities, and lakes and waters withdrawn from the busy hunts of men, and lone mountain caves affording the
[paragraph continues] accommodation that houses and mansions afford. The Soul regards himself as employed in the recitation of different kinds of hidden Mantras or as observing different vows and rules and diverse kinds of penances, and sacrifices of many kinds, and rites of diverse sorts. The Soul regards himself as adopting sometimes the way of traders and merchants and the practices of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras, and gifts of diverse kinds unto those that are destitute or blind or help-less. In consequence of his being invested with Ignorance, the Soul adopts different attributes of Sattwa and Rajas and Tamas, and Righteousness and Wealth and pleasure. Under the influence of Prakriti the Soul, undergoing modification himself, observes and adopts and practices all these and regards himself as such. Indeed, the Soul regards himself as employed in the utterance of the sacred mantras Swaha and Swadha and Vashat, and in bowing unto those he regards as his Superiors; in officiating in the sacrifices of others, in teaching pupils, making gifts and accepting them; in performing sacrifices and studying, the scriptures, and doing all other acts and rites of this kind. The Soul regards himself as concerned with birth and death and disputes and slaughter. All these, the learned say, constitute the path of acts good and bad. It is the goddess Prakriti who causes birth and death. When the time approaches for universal Destruction, all existent objects and attributes are withdrawn by the Supreme Soul which then exists alone like the Sun withdrawing at evening all his rays; and when the time comes for Creation He once more creates and spreads them out like the Sun shedding and spreading out his rays when morning comes. Even thus the Soul, for the sake of sport, repeatedly regards himself invested with all these conditions, which are his own forms and attributes, infinite in number, and agreeable to himself. It is this way that the Soul, though really transcending the three attributes, becomes attached to the path of acts and creates by modification Prakriti invested with the attributes of birth and death and identical with all acts and conditions which are characterised by the three attributes of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. Arrived at the path of action, the Soul regards particular acts to be endued with particular characteristics and productive of particular ends. O monarch, the whole of this universe has been blinded by Prakriti and all things have been diversely overwhelmed (through Prakriti) by the attributes of Rajas and Tamas. It is in consequence of the Soul being invested by Prakriti that these pairs of opposites productive of happiness and woe, repeatedly come. It is in consequence of this Ignorance that Jiva regards these sorrows to be his and imagines them as pursuing him. Indeed, O monarch, through that Ignorance it is that Jiva imagines he should anyhow cross those sorrows, and that he should, going into the regions of the gods, enjoy the felicity that awaits all his good acts. It is through Ignorance that he thinks he should enjoy and endure these delights and these woes here in this world Through Ignorance Jiva thinks,--I should secure my happiness. By
continually doing good acts, I may have happiness in this life till its close and I shall be happy in all my future lives. Though, again the (evil) acts I do in this life unending sorrow may become mine. The status of humanity is fraught with great misery, for from it one sinks into hell. From hell, it will take many long years before I can come back to the status of humanity. From humanity I shall attain to the status of the gods. From that superior status I shall have to come back again to humanity and thence to sink into hell once more!--One who always regards this combination of the primal elements and the senses, with the Chit's reflection in it, to be thus invested with the characteristics of the Soul, has repeatedly to wander among gods and human beings and to sink into hell. Being always invested with the idea of meum, Jiva has to make a round of such births. Millions upon millions of birth have to be gone through by Jiva in the successive forms he assumes, all of which are liable to death. He who does acts in this way, which are all fraught with good and bad fruits, has in the three worlds to assume successive form and to enjoy and endure fruits corresponding therewith. It is Prakriti that cause acts fraught with good and bad acts; and it is Prakriti that enjoys and endures the fruits thereof in the three worlds. Indeed, Prakriti follows the course of acts. The status of the intermediate beings, of humanity, and of the gods as well,--these three fields,--should be known as originating in Prakriti and has been said to be destitute of all attributes. Her existence is affirmed only in consequence of her acts (beginning with Mahat). After the same manner, Purusha (or Soul), though without attributes himself, has his existence affirmed in consequence of the acts which the body does when it receives his reflection. Although the Soul is not subject to modifications of any kind and is the active principle that sets Prakriti in motion, yet entering a body that is united with the senses of knowledge and action, he regards all the acts of those senses as his own. The five senses of knowledge beginning with the ear, and those of action beginning with speech, uniting with the attributes of Sattwa and Rajas and Tamas, become engaged in numerous object. Jiva imagines that it is he who does the acts of his life and that the senses of knowledge and acts belong to him, although in reality he has no senses. Indeed, though unequipt with body, he imagines that he has a body. Though destitute of attributes, he regards himself as endued therewith, and though transcending Time, imagines himself to be under Time's control. Though destitute of understanding, he still regards himself as endued therewith, and though transcending the (four and twenty) topics, regards himself as one included among them. Though deathless, he still regards himself as liable to death, and though motionless regards himself to be endued with motion. Though not possessed of a material case, he still regards himself as possessed of one; and though unborn, he still regards himself as in-vested with birth. Though transcending penances, he still regards as engaged in penances, and though he has no end (after which to strive),
he still regards himself as liable to attain to ends (of diverse kinds). Though not endued with motion and birth, he still regards himself as endued with both, and though transcending fear, still regards himself as liable to fear. Though Indestructible, he still regards himself Destructible. Invested with Ignorance, the Soul thus thinks of himself."
13:1 In the previous section it has been said that through Tamas he takes birth among the intermediate orders, through Rajas among human beings, and through Sattwa among gods. The root kshi in Gunakshayat means aisarvya or puissance.
13:2 The soul weaves a cocoon with attributes (or, acts which result from attributes), and though free deprives himself of freedom.
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