The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, whence and how happiness and misery come to those that are rich, as also those that are poor, but who live in the observance of different practices and rites.' 2
"Bhishma continued, 'In this connection is cited the old narrative of what was sung by Sampaka who had obtained tranquillity and achieved emancipation for himself. In former times a certain Brahmana, rendered miserable by a bad wife, bad dress, and hunger, and living in the observance of the vow of renunciation, told me these verses, 3 'Diverse kinds of sorrow and happiness overtake, from the day of birth the person that is born on the earth. If he could ascribe either of them to the action of Destiny, he would not then feel glad when happiness came or miserable when sorrow overtook
him. Though thy mind is divested of desire, thou bearest yet a heavy load. Thou dost not seek to achieve thy good (i.e., emancipation). Art thou not successful in controlling thy mind? If thou goest about, having renounced home and desirable possessions, thou shalt taste real happiness. A person divested of everything sleepeth in happiness, and awaketh in happiness. Complete poverty, in this world, is happiness. It is a good regimen, it is the source of 'blessings, it is freedom from danger. This foeless path is unattainable (by persons cherishing desire) and is easily attainable (by those that are freed from desire). Casting my eyes on every part of the three worlds, I do not behold the person who is equal to a poor man of pure conduct and without attachment (to worldly things). I weighed poverty and sovereignty in a balance. Poverty weighed heavier than sovereignty and seemed to possess greater merits. Between poverty and sovereignty there is this great distinction, viz., that the sovereign, possessed of affluence, is always agitated by anxiety and seems to be within the very jaws of death. As regards, however, the poor man, who in consequence of the divestment of all wealth has freed himself from hopes and emancipated himself, neither fire, nor foe, nor death, nor robbers, can get the better of him. The very gods applaud such a man who wanders about according to his sweet will, who lies down on the bare ground with his arm for a pillow, and who is possessed of tranquillity. Affected by wrath and cupidity, the man of affluence is stained by a wicked heart. He casts oblique glances and makes dry speeches.--He becomes sinful, and his face is always darkened with frowns. Biting his lips, and excited with wrath, he utters harsh and cruel words. If such a man desires to even make a gift of the whole world, who is there that would like even to look at him? Constant companionship with Prosperity stupefies a person of weak judgment. It drives off his judgment like the wind driving off the autumnal clouds. Companionship with Prosperity induces him to think,--I am possessed of beauty! I am possessed of wealth! I am high-born! I meet with success in whatever I undertake! I am not an ordinary human being!--His heart becomes intoxicated in consequence of these three reasons. With heart deeply attached to worldly possessions, he wastes the wealth hoarded by his sires. Reduced to want, he then regards the appropriation of other people's wealth as blameless. At this stage, when he transgresses all barriers and beings to appropriate the possessions of others from every side, the rulers of men obstruct and afflict him like sportsmen afflicting with keen shafts a deer that is espied in the woods. Such a man is then overwhelmed with many other afflictions of a similar kind that originate in fire and weapons. Therefore, disregarding all worldly propensities (such as desire for children and wives) together with all fleeting unrealities (such as the body, etc.,) one should, aided by one's intelligence, apply proper medicine for the cure of those painful afflictions. Without Renunciation one can never attain to happiness. Without Renunciation one can never obtain what is for one's highest good. Without Renunciation one can never sleep at case. Therefore, renouncing everything, make happiness thy own. All this was said to me in past times at Hastinapur by a Brahmana about what Sampaka had
sung. For this reason, I regard Renunciation to be the foremost of things.'"
8:2 The commentator explains that the object of Yudhishthira's question is this: in the preceding section or lesson it has been inculcated that one may seek the acquisition of the religion of moksha or emancipation even when he is young. Yudhishthira enquires whether wealth (so necessary for the performance of sacrifices) is needed for the acquisition of that religion. If wealth be necessary, the poor then would not be able to acquire that religion. Hence the enquiry about the way in which joy and sorrow come to the wealthy and to the poor.
8:3 The verses are said to be old. Nilakantha accordingly supposes that it was not Sampaka who recited them to Bhishma, but some one else. I follow the commentator; but the grammar of the concluding verse of this section must have to be twisted for supporting him.
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