The Mahabharata Home
(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Ashtaka said, 'Those cognisant of the Vedas differ in opinion as to how the followers of each of the four modes of life, viz., Grihasthas, Bhikshus, Brahmacharins, and Vanaprashthas, should conduct themselves in order to acquire religious merit."
"Yayati answered, 'These are what a Brahmacharin must do. While dwelling in the abode of his preceptor, he must receive lessons only when his preceptor summons him to do so; he must attend to the service of his preceptor without waiting for the latter's command; he must rise from his bed before his preceptor riseth, and go to bed after his preceptor hath gone to bed. He must be humble, must have his passions under complete control, must be patient, vigilant, and devoted to studies. It is then only that he can achieve success. It hath been said in the oldest Upanishad that a grihastha, acquiring wealth by honest means, should perform sacrifices; he should always give something in charity, should perform the rites of hospitality unto all arriving at his abode, and should never use anything without giving a portion thereof to others. A Muni, without search for woods, depending on his own vigour, should abstain from all vicious acts, should give away something in charity, should never inflict pain on any creature. It is then only that he can achieve success. He, indeed, is a true Bhikshu who doth not support himself by any manual arts, who possesseth numerous accomplishments, who hath his passions under complete control, who is unconnected with worldly concerns, who sleepeth not under the shelter of a householder's roof, who is without wife, and who going a little way every day, travelleth over a large extent of the country. A learned man should adopt the Vanaprastha mode of life after performance of the necessary rites, when he hath been able to control his appetites for enjoyment and desire of acquiring valuable possessions. When one dieth in the woods while leading the Vanaprastha mode of life, he maketh his ancestors and the successors, numbering ten generations including himself, mix with the Divine essence.'
"Ashtaka asked, 'How many kinds of Munis are there (observers of the vow of the silence)?'
"Yayati answered, 'He is, indeed, a Muni who, though dwelling in the woods, hath an inhabited place near, or who, though dwelling in an inhabited place, hath the woods near.'
"Ashtaka enquired what is meant by Muni.' Yayati replied, 'A Muni withdrawing himself from all worldly objects liveth in the woods. And though he might never seek to surround himself with those objects that are procurable in an inhabited place, he might yet obtain them all by virtue of his ascetic power. He may truly be said to dwell in the woods having
an inhabited place near to himself. Again a wise man withdrawn from all earthly objects, might live in a hamlet leading the life of a hermit. He may never exhibit the pride of family, birth or learning. Clad in the scantiest robes, he may yet regard himself as attired in the richest vestments. He may rest content with food just enough for the support of life. Such a person, though dwelling in an inhabited place, liveth yet in the woods.
"The person again, who, with passions under complete control, adopteth the vow of silence, refraining from action and entertaining no desire, achieveth success. Why shouldst thou not, indeed, reverence the man who liveth on clean food, who refraineth from ever injuring others, whose heart is ever pure, who stands in the splendour of ascetic attributes, who is free from the leaden weight of desire, who abstaineth from injury even when sanctioned by religion? Emaciated by austerities and reduced in flesh, marrow and blood, such a one conquereth not only this but the highest world. And when the Muni sits in yoga meditation, becoming indifferent to happiness and misery, honour and insult, he then leaveth the world and enjoyeth communion with Brahma. When the Muni taketh food like wine and other animals, i. e., without providing for it beforehand and without any relish (like a sleeping infant feeding on the mother's lap), then like the all-pervading spirit he becometh identified with the whole universe and attaineth to salvation.'"
Next: Section XCII