The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Addressed by Narayana, that foremost of beings, in these words, Narada, the foremost of men, then said these words unto Narayana for the good of the world.
"Narada said, Let that object be accomplished for which thou, O self-born Being, hast taken birth in four forms in the house of Dharma! I shall now repair (to the White Island) for beholding thy original nature. I always worship my seniors. I have never divulged the secrets of others. O lord of the universe, I have studied the Vedas with care. I have undergone austere penances. I have never spoken an untruth. As ordained in the scriptures, I have always protected the four that should be protected. 1
[paragraph continues] I have always behaved equally towards friends and foes. Wholly and conclusively devoted to Him, that first of deities, viz., the Supreme Soul, I incessantly adore Him. Having cleansed my soul by these acts of special merit, why shall I not succeed in obtaining a sight of that Infinite Lord of the universe?--Hearing these words of Parameshthi's son, Narayana, that protector of the scriptures, dismissed him, saying,--Go, O Narada!--Before dismissing him, however, the great deity worshipped the celestial Rishi with those rites and ceremonies which have been laid down in the scriptures by himself. Narada also gave due honours to the ancient Rishi Narayana. After such honours had been mutually given and received, the son of Parameshthi departed from that spot. Endued with high Yoga-puissance, Narada suddenly soared into the firmament and reached the summit of the mountains of Meru. Proceeding to a retired spot on that summit, the great ascetic took rest for a short while. He than cast his eyes towards the north western direction and beheld an exceedingly wonderful sight. Towards the north, in the ocean of milk, there is a large island named the White Island. The learned say that its distance from the mountains of Meru is greater than two and thirty thousand Yojanas. The denizens of that realm have no senses. They live without taking food of any kind. Their eyes are winkless. They always emit excellent perfumes. Their complexions are white. They are cleansed from every sin. They blast the eyes of those sinners that look at them. Their bones and bodies are as hard as thunder. They regard honour and dishonour in the same light. They all look as if they are of celestial origin. Besides, all of them are endued, with auspicious marks and great strength. Their heads seem to be like umbrellas. Their voices are deep like that of the clouds. Each of them has four Mushkas. 1 The soles of their feet are marked by hundreds of lines. They have sixty teeth all of which are white (and large), and eight smaller ones. They have many tongues. With those tongues they seem to lick the very Sun whose face is turned towards every direction. Indeed, they seem to be capable of devouring that deity from whom hath sprung the entire universe, the Vedas, the deities, and the Munis wedded to the attribute of tranquillity.
"Yudhishthira said,--'O grandsire, thou hast said that those beings have no senses, that they do not eat anything for supporting their lives; that their eyes are winkless; and that they always emit excellent perfumes. I ask, how were they born? What also is the superior end to which they attain? O chief of Bharata's race, are the indications of those men that become emancipate the same as those by which the denizens of the White Island are distinguished? Do thou dispel my doubts? The curiosity I feel is very great. Thou art the repository of all histories and discourses. As regards ourselves, we entirely depend on thee for knowledge and
"Bhishma continued,--'This narrative, O monarch, which I have heard from my sire, is extensive. I shall now recite it to thee. Indeed, it is regarded as the essence of all narratives. There was, in times past, a king on Earth of the name of Uparichara. He was known to be the friend of Indra, the chief of the celestials. He was devoted to Narayana known also by the name of Hari. He was observant of all the duties laid down in the scriptures. Ever devoted to his sire, he was always heedful and ready for action. He won the sovereignty of the world in consequence of a boon he had obtained from Narayana. Following the Sattwata ritual that had been declared in days of yore by Surya himself, king Uparichara used to worship the God of gods (Narayana), and when his worship was over, he used to adore (with what remained) the grandsire of the universe. 1 After worshipping the Grandsires (Pitris), he worshipped the Brahmanas. He then divided the offerings among those that were dependent on him. With what remained after serving those, the king satisfied his own hunger. Devoted to truth, the monarch abstained from doing any injury to any creature. With his whole soul, the king was devoted to that God of gods, viz., Janarddana, who is without beginning and middle and end, who is the Creator of the universe, and who is without deterioration of any kind. Beholding the devotion to Narayana of that slayer of foes, the divine chief of the celestials himself shared with him his own seat and bed. His kingdom and wealth and spouses and animals were all regarded by him as obtained from Narayana. He, therefore, offered all his possessions to that great deity. 2 Adopting the Sattwata ritual, king Uparichara, with concentrated soul, used to discharge all his sacrificial acts and observances, both optional and obligatory. In the place of that illustrious king, many foremost Brahmanas, well conversant with the Pancharatra ritual, used to eat before all others the food offered to the god Narayana. As long as that slayer of foes continued to rule his kingdom righteously, no untruth ever escaped his lips and no evil thought ever entered his mind. With his limbs he never committed even the slightest sin. The seven celebrated Rishis, viz., Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasishta of great energy, who came to be known by the name of Chitra-sikhandins, uniting together on the breast of that foremost of mountains, viz., Meru, promulgated an excellent treatise on duties and observances that was consistent with the four Vedas. The contents of that treatise were uttered by seven mouths, and constituted the best compendium of human duties and observances. Known, as already stated, by the name of Chitra-sikhandins, those seven
[paragraph continues] Rishis constitute the seven (Pravriti) elements (of Mahat, Ahankara, etc.) and the Selfborn Manu, who is the eighth in the enumeration, constituted original Prakriti. These eight uphold the universe, and it was these eight that promulgated the treatise adverted to. With their senses and minds under complete control, and ever devoted to Yoga, these eight ascetics, with concentrated souls, are fully conversant with the Past, the Present and the Future, and are devoted to the religion of Truth.--This is good this is Brahma,--this is highly beneficial,--reflecting in their minds in this way, those Rishis created the worlds, and the science of morality and duty that governs those worlds. In that treatise the authors discoursed on Religion and Wealth and Pleasure, and subsequently on Emancipation also. They also laid down in it the various restrictions and limitations intended for the Earth as also for Heaven. They composed that treatise after having worshipped with penances the puissant and illustrious Narayana called also Hari, for a thousand celestial years, in company with many other Rishis. Gratified with their penances and worship, Narayana commanded the goddess of speech, viz. Saraswati, to enter into the person of those Rishis. The goddess, for the good of the worlds did what she was ordered. In consequence of the entrance of the goddess of speech into their persons, those Rishis, well conversant with penances, succeeded in composing that foremost of treatises in respect of vocables, import, and reason. 1 Having composed that treatise sanctified with the syllable Om, the Rishis first of all read it to Narayana who became highly pleased with what he heard. The foremost of all Beings then addressed those Rishis in an incorporeal voice and said,--Excellent is this treatise that ye have composed consisting of a hundred thousand verses. The duties and observances of all the worlds will flow from this your work! In complete accordance with the four Vedas, viz., the Yajushes, the Samans, and the Atharvans of Angiras, the treatise of yours will be an authority in all the worlds in respect of both Pravritti and Nivritti. 2 Agreeably to the authority of the scriptures I have created Brahman from the attribute of Grace, Rudra from my Wrath, and yourselves, Ye Brahmanas, as representing the Pravriti-elements (of Mahat, Ahankara, etc.), Surya, and Chandramas, Wind, and Earth, and Water and Fire, all the stars and planets and constellations, all else that is called by the name of creatures, and utterers of Brahma (or the Vedas), they all live and act in their respective spheres and are all respected as authorities. Even this treatise that ye have composed shall be regarded by all persons in the same light, viz., as a work of the highest authority. This is my command. Guided by this treatise, the
[paragraph continues] Self-born Manu himself will declare to the world its course of duties and observances. When Usanas and Vrihaspati will arise, they also will promulgate their respective treatises on morality and religion, guided by and quoting from this your treatise. 1 After the publication of his treatise by the Self-born Manu and of that by Usanas, and after the publication of the treatise also by Vrihaspati, this science composed by you will be acquired by king Vasu (otherwise known by the name of Uparichara). Indeed ye foremost of regenerate ones, that king will acquire this knowledge of this work from Vrihaspati. That King, filled with all good thoughts, will become deeply devoted to me. Guided by this treatise, he will accomplish all his religious acts and observances. Verily, this treatise composed by you will be the foremost of all treatise on morality and religion. Possessed of the excellence, this treatise is fraught with instructions for acquiring both Wealth and Religious merit, and is full of mysteries. In consequence of the promulgation of this treatise of yours, ye will be progenitors of an extensive race. King Uparichara also will become endued with greatness and prosperity. Upon the death, however, of that king, this eternal treatise will disappear from the world. I tell you all this.--Having said these words unto all those Rishis, the invisible Narayana left them and proceeded to some place that was not known to them. Then those sires of the world, those Rishis that bestowed their thoughts on the ends pursued by the world, duly promulgated that treatise which is the eternal origin of all duties and observances. Subsequently, when Vrihaspati was born in Angiras's race in the first or the Krita age, those seven Rishis charged him with the task of promulgating their treatise which was consistent with the Upanishads and the several branches of the Vedas. They themselves who were upholders of the universe and the first promulgators of duties and religious observances, then proceeded to the place they chose, resolved to devote themselves to penances.'"
117:1 i.e., the hands, the feet, the stomach, and the organ of pleasure. The hands are said to be protected when they are restrained from the commission of all improper acts; the feet are said to be duly protected when they are restrained from touching all improper places. The stomach is said to be protected when one never takes any kind of improper food, and when one abstains from all evil acts for appeasing one's hunger. And lastly, one is said to restrain the organ of pleasure when one abstains from all acts of improper congress.
118:1 The word Mushka as ordinarily understood, implies the scrotum or testes. The commentator Nilakantha supposes that it may stand for the shoulder-knot. He believes that the phrase implies that the people of this island had each four arms.
119:1 The Sattwata ritual is explained by the Commentator to mean the Pancharatra ritual. Tachecheshena implies with what remained after Vishnu's worship was over.
119:2 i.e., dedicated his possessions to the service of Narayana, and held them as the great God's custodian. In other words, he never regarded his wealth as his own, but was always ready to devote it to all good and pious purposes.
120:1 i.e., the treatise those Rishis composed was the foremost of its kind in respect of choice and harmony of vocables, of import or sense and of reasons with which every assertion was fortified.
120:2 There are two religions, viz., that of Pravritti, implying act and observances, and that of Nivritti, implying a complete abstention from all acts and observances. The last is also called the religion of Emancipation.
121:1 Whether any work on morality and religion was over actually composed by the seven Rishis or not, no such work, it is certain, is in existence now. Besides this mention of the work in the Mahabharata, no reference to it has been made anywhere else. As to Sukra-niti it is extant, Vrihaspati's niti-sastram is defunct. It is probable, however, that before Saba-niti there was an anterior work, brief if not exhaustive on the same subjects.
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