The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Hearing these words of Arjuna, O chastiser of foes, Nakula of mighty arms and a broad chest, temperate in speech and possessed of great wisdom, with face whose colour then resembled that of copper, looked at the king, that foremost of all righteous persons, and spoke these words, besieging his brother's heart (with reason).'
"Nakula said, 'The very gods had established their fires in the region called Visakha-yupa. Know, therefore, O king, that the gods themselves depend upon the fruits of action. 1 The Pitris, that support (by rain) the lives of even all disbelievers, observing the ordinances (of the Creator as declared in the Vedas), are, O king, engaged in action. 2 Know them for downright atheists that reject the declaration of the Vedas (which inculcate action). The person that is learned in the Vedas, by following their declarations in all his acts, attains, O Bharata, to the highest region of heaven by the way of the deities. 3
This (domestic mode of life again) has been said by all persons acquainted with Vedic truths to be superior to all the (other) modes of life. Knowing this, O king, that the person who in sacrifices gives away his righteously acquired wealth unto those Brahmanas that are well conversant with the Vedas, and restrains his soul, is, O monarch, regarded as the true renouncer. He, however, who, disregarding (a life of domesticity, that is) the source of much happiness, jumps to the next mode of life,--that renouncer of his own self, 1 O monarch, is a renouncer labouring under the quality of darkness. That man who is homeless, who roves over the world (in his mendicant rounds), who has the foot of a tree for his shelter, who observes the vow of taciturnity, never cooks for himself, and seeks to restrain all the functions of his senses, is, O Partha, a renouncer in the observance of the vow of mendicancy. 2 That Brahmana who, disregarding wrath and joy, and especially deceitfulness, always employs his time in the study of the Vedas, is a renouncer in the observance of the vow of mendicancy. 3 The four different modes of life were at one time weighed in the balance. The wise have said, O king, that when domesticity was placed on one scale, it required the three others to be placed on the other for balancing it. Beholding the result of this examination by scales, O Partha, and seeing further, O Bharata, that domesticity alone contained both heaven and pleasure, that became the way of the great Rishis and the refuge of all persons conversant with the ways of the world. He, therefore, O bull of Bharata's race, who betakes himself to this mode of life, thinking it to be his duty and abandoning all desire for fruit, is a real renouncer, and not that man of clouded understanding who goes to the woods, abandoning home and its surroundings. A person, again, who under the hypocritical garb of righteousness, fails to forget his desires (even while living in the woods), is bound by the grim King of death with his deadly fetters round the neck. Those acts that are done from vanity, are said to be unproductive of fruit. Those acts, on the other hand, O monarch I that are done from a spirit of renunciation, always bear abundant fruits. 4 Tranquillity, self-restraint, fortitude, truth, purity, simplicity, sacrifices, perseverance, and righteousness,--these are always regarded as virtues recommended by the Rishis. In domesticity, it is said, are acts intended for Pitris, gods, guests. In this mode of life alone, O monarch, are the threefold aims to be attained. 5 The renouncer that rigidly adheres to this mode of life, in which one is free to do all acts, has not to encounter ruin either here or hereafter. The sinless Lord of all creatures, of righteous soul, created creatures,
with the intention that they would adore him by sacrifices with profuse presents. Creepers and trees and deciduous herbs, and animals that are clean, and clarified butter, were created as ingredients of sacrifice. For one in the observance of domesticity the performance of sacrifice is fraught with impediments. For this, that mode of life has been said to be exceedingly difficult and unattainable. Those persons, therefore, in the observance of the domestic mode of life, who, possessed of wealth and corn and animals, do not perform sacrifices, earn, O monarch, eternal sin. Amongst Rishis, there are some that regard the study of the Vedas to be a sacrifice: and some that regard contemplation to be a great sacrifice which they perform in their minds. The very gods, O monarch, covet the companionship of a regenerate person like this, who in consequence of his treading along such a way which consists in the concentration of the mind, has become equal to Brahma. By refusing to spend in sacrifice the diverse kinds of wealth that thou hast taken from thy foes, thou art only displaying thy want of faith. I have never seen, O monarch, a king in the observance of a life of domesticity renouncing his wealth in any other way except in the Rajasuya, the Astwamedha, and other kinds of sacrifice. Like Sakra, the chief of the celestial, O sire, perform those other sacrifices that are praised by the Brahmanas. That king, through whose heedlessness the subjects are plunged by robbers, and who does not offer protection to those whom he is called upon to govern, is said to be the very embodiment of Kati. If, without giving away steeds, and kine, and female slaves, and elephants adorned with trappings, and villages, and populous regions, and fields, and houses, unto Brahmanas, we retire into the woods with hearts not harbouring friendly feeling towards kinsmen, even we shall be, O monarch, such Kalis of the kingly order. Those members of the kingly order that do not practise charity and give protection (to others), incur sin. Woe is their portion hereafter and not bliss. If, O lord, without performing great sacrifices and the rites in honour of thy deceased ancestors, and it, without bathing in sacred waters, thou betakest thyself to a wandering life, thou shalt then meet with destruction like a small cloud separated from a mass and dashed by the winds. Thou shalt then fall off from both worlds and have to take thy birth in the Pisacha order. 1 A person becomes a true renouncer by casting off every internal and external attachment, and not simply by abandoning home for dwelling in the woods. A Brahmana that lives in the observance of these ordinances in which there are no impediments, does not fall off from this or the other world. Observant of the duties of one's own order,--duties respected by the ancients and practised by the best of men, who is there, O Partha, that would grieve, O king, for having in a trice stain in battle his foes that swelled with prosperity, like Sakra slaying the forces of the Daityas? Having in the observance of Kshatriya duties subjugated the world by the aid of thy prowess, and having made presents unto persons conversant with the Vedas, thou canst, O monarch, go to regions higher than heaven. It behoves thee not, O Partha, to indulge in grief."
19:1 The sense is that the gods themselves have become so by action.
19:2 The first word is compounded of an and astika.
19:3 Deva-yana is the Yana or way along which the deities have gone, the strict observance of the Vedic rites.
20:1 Renouncer of his own self, because he dries up his very body by denying himself food.
20:2 Such a person also is not a true renouncer. For a Kshatriya, again, such a mode of life would be sinful.
20:3 Nilakantha thinks that the object of this verse is to show that even such a life properly appertains to a Brahmana and not to a Kshatriya. Therefore, if Yudhishthira would, without reigning, live quietly in the kingdom governed by some brother of his, he would then be equally sinning.
20:4 Acts done from vanity, i.e., with the bragging consciousness of one being himself the actor and the arranger of everything, Acts done from a spirit of renunciation, i.e., without hope of reaping their fruits.
20:5 The threefold aims, i.e., Religion, Pleasure and Profit.
21:1 Antarala is thus explained by Nilakantha.
Next: Section XIII