The Mahabharata Home
"Markandeya continued, 'O Bharata, the Brahmana, thus interrogated by the virtuous fowler, resumed again this discourse so pleasing to the mind. The Brahmana said, 'O best of the cherishers of religion, it is said that there are five great elements; do thou describe to me in full the properties of any one of the five.' The fowler replied, 'The earth, water, fire, air and sky all have properties interlapping each other. I shall describe them to thee. The earth, O Brahmana, has five qualities, water four, fire three and the air and sky together three also. Sound, touch, form, odour and taste--these five qualities belong to earth, and sound, touch, form and taste, O austere Brahmana, have been described to thee as the properties of water, and sound, touch and form are the three properties of fire and air has two properties sound and touch, and sound is the property of sky. And, O Brahmana, these fifteen properties inherent in five elements, exist in all substances of which this universe is composed. And they are not opposed to one another; they exist, O Brahmana, in proper combination. When this whole universe is thrown into a state of confusion, then every corporeal being in the fulness of time, assumes another corpus. It arises and perishes in due order. And there are present the five elementary substances of which all the mobile and immobile world is composed. Whatever is perceptible by the senses, is called vyakta (knowable or comprehensible) and whatever is beyond the reach of the senses and can only be perceived by guesses, is known to be avyakta (not vyakta). When a per on engages in the discipline of self-examination, after having subdued the senses which have of their own proper objective play in the external conditions of sound, form, &c, then he beholds his own spirit pervading the universe, and the universe reflected in itself. He who is wedded to his previous karma, although skilled in the highest spiritual wisdom, is cognisant only of his soul's objective existence, but the person whose soul is never affected by the objective conditions around, is never subject to ills, owing to its absorption in the elementary spirit of Brahma. When a person
has overcome the domination of illusion, his manly virtues consisting of the essence of spiritual wisdom, turn to the spiritual enlightenment which illumines the intelligence of sentient beings. Such a person is styled by the omnipotent, intelligent Spirit as one who is without beginning and without end, self-existent, immutable, incorporeal and incomparable. This, O Brahmana, that thou hast enquired of me is only the result of self discipline. And this self-discipline can only be acquired by subduing the senses. It cannot be otherwise, heaven and hell are both dependent on our senses. When subdued, they lead to heaven; when indulged in, they lead to perdition. This subjugation of the senses is the highest means of attaining spiritual light. Our senses are at the (cause) root of our spiritual advancement as also at the root of our spiritual degradation. By indulging in them, a person undoubtedly contracts vices, and by subduing these, he attains salvation. The self-restrained person who acquires mastery over the six senses inherent in our nature, is never tainted with sin, and consequently evil has no power over him. Man's corporeal self has been compared to a chariot, his soul to a charioteer and his senses to horses. A dexterous man drives about without confusion, like a quiet charioteer with well-broken horses. That man is an excellent driver who knows how to patiently wield the reins of those wild horses,--the six senses inherent in our nature. When our senses become ungovernable like horses on the high road, we must patiently rein them in; for with patience, we are sure to get the better of them. When a man's mind is overpowered by any one of these senses running wild, he loses his reason, and becomes like a ship tossed by storms upon the high ocean. Men are deceived by illusion in hoping to reap the fruits of those six things, whose effects are studied by persons of spiritual insight, who thereby reap the fruits of their clear perception."
Next: Section CCXI