The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Then the illustrious and wise king Dhritarashtra, having applauded the words spoken by Vidura, questioned Sanat-sujata in secret, desirous of obtaining the highest of all knowledge. And the king questioned the Rishi saying, 'O Sanat-sujata, I hear that thou art of the opinion that there is no Death. Again it is said that the gods and the Asuras, practise ascetic austerities in order to avoid death. Of these two opinions, then, which is true?'
"Sanat-sujata said, 'Some say, death is avertable by particular acts; others' opinion there is no death; thou hast asked me which of these is true. Listen to me, O king, as I discourse to thee on this, so that thy doubts may be removed. Know, O Kshatriya, that both of these are true. The learned are of opinion that death results from ignorance. I say that ignorance is Death, and so the absence of ignorance (Knowledge) is immortality. It is from ignorance that the Asuras became subject to defeat and death, and it is from the absence of ignorance that the gods have attained the nature of Brahman. Death doth not devour creatures like a tiger; its form itself is unascertainable. Besides this, some imagine Yama to be Death. This, however, is due to the weakness of the mind. The pursuit of Brahman or self-knowledge is immortality. That (imaginary) god (Yama) holdeth his sway in the region of the Pitris, being the source of bliss to the virtuous and of woe to the sinful. It is at his command that death in the form of wrath, ignorance, and covetousness, occurreth among men. Swayed by pride, men always walk in unrighteous path. None amongst them succeeds in attaining to his real nature. With their understanding clouded, and themselves swayed by there passions, they cast off their bodies and repeatedly fall into hell. They are always followed by their senses. It is for this that ignorance receives the name of death. Those men that desire the fruits of action when the time cometh for enjoying those fruits, proceed to heaven, casting off their bodies. Hence they cannot avoid death. Embodied creatures, from inability to attain the knowledge of Brahman and from their connection with earthly enjoyments, are obliged to sojourn in a cycle of re-births, up and down and around, The natural inclination of man towards pursuits that are unreal is alone the cause of the senses being led to error. The soul that is constantly affected by the pursuit of objects that are unreal, remembering only that with which it is always engaged, adoreth only earthly enjoyments that surround it. The desire of enjoyments first killeth men. Lust and wrath soon follow behind it. These three, viz., the desire of enjoyments, lust, and wrath, lead foolish men to death. They, however, that have conquered their souls, succeed by self-restraint, to escape death. He that hath conquered his soul without suffering himself to be excited by his ambitious desire, conquereth these, regarding them as of no value, by the aid of self-knowledge. Ignorance,
assuming the form of Yama, cannot devour that learned man who controlled his desires in this manner. That man who followeth his desires is destroyed along with his desires. He, however, that can renounce desire, can certainly drive away all kinds of woe. Desire is, indeed, ignorance and darkness and hell in respect of all creatures, for swayed by it they lose their senses. As intoxicated persons in walking along a street reel towards ruts and holes, so men under the influence of desire, misled by deluding joys, run towards destruction. What can death do to a person whose soul hath not been confounded or misled by desire? To him, death hath no terrors, like a tiger made of straw. Therefore, O Kshatriya, if the existence of desire, which is ignorance, is to be destroyed, no wish, not even the slightest one, is either to be thought of or pursued. That soul, which is in thy body, associated as it is with wrath and covetousness and filled with ignorance, that is death. Knowing that death arises in this way, he that relies on knowledge, entertaineth no fear of death. Indeed, as the body is destroyed when brought under the influence of death, so death itself is destroyed when it comes under the influence of knowledge.'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'The Vedas declare the emancipating capacity of those highly sacred and eternal regions, that are said to be obtainable by the regenerate classes by prayers and sacrifices. Knowing this, why should not a learned person have recourse to (religious) acts?' 1
"Sanat-sujata said, 'Indeed, he that is without knowledge proceedeth thither by the path indicated by thee, and the Vedas also declare that thither are both bliss and emancipation. But he that regardeth the material body to be self, if he succeeds in renouncing desire, at once attaineth emancipation (or Brahman). If, however, one seeketh emancipation without renouncing desire, one must have to proceed along the (prescribed) route of action, taking care to destroy the chances of his retracing the routes that he hath once passed over.' 2
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Who is it that urgeth that Unborn and Ancient One? If, again, it is He that is all this Universe in consequence of His having entered everything (without desire as He is) what can be His action, or his happiness? O learned sage, tell me all this truly.' 1
"Sanat-sujata said, 'There is great objection in completely identifying (as here) the two that are different Creatures always spring from the union of Conditions (with what in its essence is without Conditions). This view doth not detract from the supremacy of the Unborn and the Ancient One. As for men, they also originate in the union of Conditions. All this that appears is nothing but that everlasting Supreme Soul. Indeed, the universe is created by the Supreme Soul itself undergoing transformations. The Vedas to attribute this power (of self-transformation) to the Supreme Soul. For the identity, again, of the power and its possessor, both the Vedas and others are the authority.' 2
"Dhritarashtra said, 'In this world, some practise virtue, and some renounce action or Karma (adopting what is called Sannyasa Yoga). (Respecting those that practise virtue) I ask, is virtue competent to destroy vice, or is it itself destroyed by vice?'
"Sanat-sujata said, 'The fruits of virtue and of (perfect) inaction are both serviceable in that respect (i.e., for procuring emancipation). Indeed, both are sure means for the attainment of emancipation. The man, however, that is wise, achieveth success by knowledge (inaction). On the other hand, the materialist acquireth merit (by action) and (as the consequence thereof) emancipation. He hath also (in course of his pursuit) to incur sin. Having obtained again fruits of both virtue and vice which are transitory, (heaven having its end as also hell in respect of the virtuous and the sinful), the man of action becometh once more addicted to action as the consequence of his own previous virtues and vices. The man of action, however, who possesseth intelligence, destroyeth his sins by his virtuous acts. Virtue, therefore, is strong, and hence the success of the man of action.'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Tell me, according to their gradation, of those eternal regions that are said to be attainable, as the fruits of their own virtuous acts, by regenerate persons, engaged in the practice of virtue. Speak unto me of others' regions also of a similar kind. O learned sire, I do not wish to hear of actions (towards which man's heart naturally inclineth, however interdicted or sinful they may be).'
"Sanat-sujata said, 'Those regenerate persons that take pride in their Yoga practices, like strong men in their own strength, departing hence, shine in the region of Brahman. Those regenerate persons that proudly exert in performing sacrifices and other Vedic rites, as the fruit of that knowledge which is theirs, in consequence of those acts, freed from this world, proceed to that region which is the abode of the deities. There are others, again, conversant with the Vedas, who are of opinion that the performance of the sacrifices and rites (ordained by the Vedas) is obligatory (their non-performance being sinful). Wedded to external forms, though seeking the development of the inner self (for they practise these rites for only virtue's sake and not for the accomplishment of particular aims), these persons should not be regarded very highly (although some
respect should be theirs). Wherever, again, food and drink worthy of a Brahmana are abundant, like grass and reeds in a spot during the rainy season, there should the Yogin seek for his livelihood (without afflicting the householder of scanty means); by no means should he afflict his own self by hunger and thirst. In a place, where there may be both inconvenience and danger to one, for one's aversion, to disclose one's superiority, he that doth not proclaim his superiority is better than he that doth. The food offered by that person who is not pained at the sight of another disclosing his superiority, and who never eateth without offering the prescribed share to Brahmanas and guests, is approved by the righteous. As a dog oftentimes devoureth its own evacuations to its injury, so those Yogins devour their own vomit who procure their livelihood by disclosing their pre-eminence. The wise know him for a Brahmana, who, living in the midst of kindred, wishes his religious practices to remain always unknown to them. What other Brahmana deserveth to know the Supreme Soul, that is unconditioned, without attributes, unchangeable, one and alone, and without duality of any kind? In consequence of such practices, a Kshatriya can know the Supreme Soul and behold it in his own soul. He that regardeth the Soul to be the acting and feeling Self,--what sins are not committed by that thief who robbeth the soul of its attributes? A Brahmana should be without exertion, should never accept gifts, should win the respect of the righteous, should be quiet, and though conversant with the Vedas should seem to be otherwise, for then only may he attain to knowledge and know Brahman. They that are poor in earthly but rich in heavenly wealth and sacrifices, become unconquerable and fearless, and they should be regarded as embodiments of Brahman. That person even, in this world, who (by performing sacrifices) succeedeth in meeting with the gods that bestow all kinds of desirable objects (on performers of sacrifices), is not equal to him that knoweth Brahman for the performer of sacrifices hath to undergo exertions (while he that knoweth Brahman attaineth to Him without such exertions). He was said to be really honoured, who, destitute of actions, is honoured by the deities. He should never regard himself as honoured who is honoured by others. One should not, therefore, grieveth when one is not honoured by others. People act according to their nature just as they open and shut their eyelids; and it is only the learned that pay respect to others. The man that is respected should think so. They again, in this world, that are foolish, apt to sin, and adepts in deceit, never pay respect to those that are worthy of respect; on the other hand, they always show disrespect to such persons. The world's esteem and asceticism (practices of Mauna), can never exist together. Know that this world is for those that are candidates for esteem, while the other world is for those that are devoted to asceticism. Here, in this world, O Kshatriya, happiness (the world's esteem) resides in worldly prosperity. The latter, however, is an impediment (to heavenly bliss). Heavenly prosperity, on the other hand, is unattainable by
one that is without true wisdom. The righteous say that there are various kinds of gates, all difficult of being guarded, for giving access to the last kind of prosperity. These are truth, uprightness, modesty, self-control, purity of mind and conduct and knowledge (of the Vedas). These six are destructive of vanity and ignorance.'"
93:1 The question that Dhritarashtra asks is easy enough. The Rishi having applauded knowledge and its efficacy in procuring emancipation, the king asks, if knowledge is of such efficacy, what then is the value of Karma or acts, i.e. prayers and sacrifices as ordained in the Vedas? Ijyaya is the instrumental form of Ijya, meaning sacrifices, religious rites, and ceremonies. Parartham is explained by Nilakantha to mean Mokshaprapakatwam, i.e., capacity to lead to emancipation. It should be noted here that the Hindu idea of emancipation is not bliss enjoyed by a conscious Self, but freedom from the obligation of re-birth and Karma. Mere Karma, as such, implies pain and misery and the Supreme Soul (Para-Brahman) is without action and attributes. Although other kinds of salvation are spoken of in other systems of philosophy, the emancipation that forms the subject of these queries and answers, is freedom from this Karma.
93:2 The Rishi answers,--Yes, Karma or action does, indeed, lead to the emancipate state. In the regions, of which thou speakest, there are both bliss and emancipation (Arthajata) is explained by Nilakantha to mean Bhoja-mokshakhya-prayojana samanyam. The second line is elliptical, the construction being Paratma aniha (san) param ayati; (anyatha-tu) margena margan nihatya param (prayati). Paratma is explained by Nilakantha, to mean one who regards the material body to be Self. In p. 94 the succeeding Slokas the Rishi uses the word dehin which, in this connection, is the same as dehabhimanin. The Rishi's answer is,--The materialist, by renouncing desire, attaineth to the state of the Supreme Soul, i.e., emancipation. The sense seems to be that by renouncing desire, both actions and attributes are lost. The state, therefore, of such a soul is one of inaction, or perfect quietude and the absence of attributes, which is exactly the nature of the Supreme Soul. If, again, emancipation be sought without extinguishing desire, i.e., by the aid of work (prayers and sacrifices), it is to be attained "by extinguishing path by a path," i.e., the seeker is to proceed along a definite or prescribed or ordained route, taking care that the portions of the route he once passes over may not have to be re-trodden by him. Action, as explained in a subsequent Sloka, leadeth, it is true to regions of bliss and emancipation, but that state is transitory, for when the merit is extinguished, the state that was attained in consequence of it, is extinguished, and the person falling off, has to recommence action. If, therefore, permanent emancipation is to be attained, the obligation of re-commencing action must be got rid of, i.e., care must be taken that the portions of the route once passed over may not have to be re-trodden.
94:1 Apparently this question of Dhritarashtra is not connected with what precedes. The connection however, is intimate, and the question follows as a corollary from the Rishi's last answer. The Rishi having said that the ordinary soul, by a certain process (i.e., renunciation of desire) attains to the state of the Supreme Soul, Dhritarashtra infers that vice versa, it is the Supreme Soul that becomes the ordinary soul, for (as Nilakantha puts it in the phraseology of the Nyaya school) things different cannot become what they are not and unless things are similar, they cannot become of the same nature. Applying this maxim of the Nyaya it is seen that when the ordinary soul becomes the Supreme Soul, these are not different, and, therefore, it is the Supreme Soul that becomes the ordinary soul. Under this impression Dhritarashtra asks,--Well, if it is the Supreme Soul that becomes the ordinary soul, who is it that urgeth the Supreme Soul to become so? And if all this (universe) be indeed, that Soul, in consequence of the latter pervading and entering into everything, then divested of desire as the Supreme Soul is, where is the possibility of its action (action or work being the direct consequence of desire)? If it is answered that the universe is the Deity's lila (mere sport, as some schools of philosophy assert), then, as every sport is ascribable to some motive of happiness, what can be the happiness of the Deity, who, as presupposed, is without desire?
94:2 The Rishi answers--There is a great objection in admitting the complete or essential identity of things different, i.e., the ordinary soul and Supreme Soul being different, their identity cannot be admitted. As regards creatures, they flow p. 95 continually from Anadi-yoga, i.e., the union of the Supreme Soul (which in itself is Unconditioned) with the conditions of space, time etc.; i.e., there is this much of identity, therefore between the ordinary and the Supreme Soul, but not a complete or essential identity. It is also in consequence of this that the superiority of the Supreme Soul is not lost (the opposite theory would be destructive of that superiority). The favourite analogy of the thinkers of this school for explaining the connection of the Supreme Soul with the universe is derived from the connection of Akasa with Ghatakasa, i.e., space absolute and unconditioned and space as confined by the limits of a vessel. The latter has a name, is moved when the vessel is moved, and is limited in space; while space itself, of which the vessel's space forms a part, is absolute and unconditioned, immovable, and unlimited.
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