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The Mahabharata
of Krishna - Dwaipayana Vyasa
translated by
Kisari Mohan Ganguli

[pub. between 1883 and 1896]

01 - Adi Parva
02 - Sabha Parva
03 - Vana Parva
04 - Virata Parva

05 - Udyoga Parva
06 - Bhishma Parva
07 - Drona Parva
08 - Karna Parva
09 - Shalya Parva
10 - Sauptika Parva
11 - Stri Parva
12 - Santi Parva
13 - Anusasana Parva
14 - Aswamedha Parva
15 - Asramavasika Parva
16 - Mausala Parva
17 - Mahaprasthanika Parva
18 - Svargarohanika Parva

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p. 72


"Manu said, 'The mind united with the senses, recollects after a long time the impressions of the objects received in the past. When the senses are all suspended (in respect of their functions), 1 the Supreme (the Soul), in the form of the Understanding, exists in its own true nature. When the Soul (at such a time) does not in the least regard all those objects of the senses in respect of their simultaneity or the reverse in point of time but mustering them from all directions holds them before it together, it necessarily happens that he wanders among all things that are incongruous. He is, therefore, the (silent) Witness. Hence the Soul encased in body is something having a distinct and independent existence. 2 There is Rajas, there is Tamas, and there is Sattwa, the third. There are again three states of the understanding, viz., waking, dreaming, and sound sleep. The Soul has knowledge of the pleasures and pains, which are all contradictory, of those states, and which partake of the nature of the threefold attributes first mentioned. 3 The Soul enters the senses like the wind entering the fire in a piece of wood. 4 One cannot behold the form of the Soul by one's eye, nor can the sense of touch, amongst the senses, apprehend it. The Soul is not, again, an object of apprehension by the ear. It may, however, be seen by the aid of the Srutis and the instructions of the wise. As regards the senses, that particular sense which apprehends it loses upon such apprehension its existence as a sense. 5 The senses cannot themselves apprehend their respective forms by themselves. The Soul is omniscient (inasmuch as it apprehends both the knower and the known). It beholds all things. Being omniscient, it is the Soul that beholds the senses (without, as already said, the senses being able to apprehend it). Nobody has seen the other side of the Himavat mountains, nor the reverse of the moon's disc. Yet it cannot be said that these do not

p. 73

exist. Similarly, though never apprehended by the senses, yet nobody can say that the Soul, which dwells in all creatures, which is subtile, and which has knowledge for its essence, does not exist. People see the world reflected on the moon's disc in the form of spots. Though seeing, they do not know that it is the world that is so reflected there. Even such is the knowledge of the Soul. That knowledge must come of itself. The Soul depends upon the Soul itself. Men of wisdom, reflecting on the formlessness of visible objects before birth and after destruction, behold by the aid of intelligence, the formlessness of objects that have apparent forms, So also although the Sun's motion cannot be seen, yet persons, by watching its rising and setting, conclude that the sun has motion. 1 Similarly, those who are endued with wisdom and learning behold the Soul by the aid of the lamp of intelligence, though it is at a great distance from them, and seek to merge the fivefold elements, which are near, into Brahma2 Verily, an object cannot be accomplished without the application of means. Fishermen catch fish by means of nets made of strings. Animals are captured by employing animals as are the means. Birds are caught by employing birds as the means. Elephants are taken by employing elephants. In this way, the Soul may be apprehended by the principle of knowledge. We have heard that only a snake can see a snake's legs. After the same manner one beholds, through Knowledge, the Soul encased in subtile form and dwelling within the gross body. People cannot, through their senses, know the senses. Similarly, mere Intelligence at its highest cannot behold the Soul which is supreme. The moon, on the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight, cannot be seen in consequence of its form being hid. It cannot be said, however, that destruction overtakes it, Even such is the case with the Soul dwelling in the body. On the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight, the gross body of the moon becomes invisible. After the same manner, the Soul, when liberated from the body, cannot be apprehended. As the moon, gaining another point in the firmament begins to shine once more, similarly, the Soul obtaining a new body, begins to manifest itself once more. The birth, growth and disappearance of the moon can all be directly apprehended by the eye. These phenomena, however, appertain to the gross form of that luminary. The like are not the attributes of the Soul. The moon, when it shows itself after its disappearance on the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight, is regarded as the same luminary that had become invisible. After the same manner, notwithstanding the changes

p. 74

represented by birth, growth and age, a person is regarded as the same individual without any doubt of his identity. It cannot be distinctly seen how Rahu approaches and leaves the moon. After the same manner, the Soul cannot be seen how it leaves one body and enters another. 1 Rahu becomes visible only when it exists with the sun or the moon. Similarly, the Soul becomes an object of apprehension only when it exists with the body. When liberated from the sun or the moon, Rahu can no longer be seen. Similarly, the Soul, liberated from the body, can no longer be seen. Then again, as the moon, even when it disappears on the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight, is not deserted by the constellations and the stars, the Soul also, even though separated from the body, is not deserted by the fruits of the acts it has achieved in that body.'"


72:1 By death on sleep.

72:2 Yugapat means simultaneous: atulyakalam means differing in point of time in respect of occurrence: kritsnam qualifies indriyartham; Vidwan means Sakshi; and ekah, independent and distinct. What is intended to be said here is that when the soul, in a dream, musters together the occurrences and objects of different times and places, when, in fact, congruity in respect of both time and place does not apply to it, it must be regarded to have an existence that is distinct and independent of the senses and the body.

72:3 The object of this is to show that the Soul has only knowledge of the pleasures and pains arising in consequence of Sattwa and Rajas and Tamas and in connection with the three states of the understanding due to the same three attributes. The Soul, however, though knowing them, does not enjoy or suffer them. He is only the silent and inactive Witness of everything.

72:4 The object of the simile is to show that as wind is a separate entity although existing with the fire in a piece of wood, so the Soul, though existing with the senses is distinct from them.

72:5 The Bengal texts read indriyanam which I adopt. The Bombay edition reads indriyendriyam, meaning the sense of the senses, in the same way as the Srutis declare that is the Prana of Prana, the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, etc., Sravanena darsanam tatha kritam is 'apprehended by the ear,' i.e., as rendered above, 'apprehended through the aid of the Srutis.'

73:1 The commentator uses the illustration of a tree. Before birth the tree was not; and after destruction, it is not; only in the interim, it is. Its formlessness or nothingness is manifest from these two states, for it has been said that which did not exist in the past and will not exist in the future cannot be regarded as existing in the present. Tadgatah is explained by the commentator as udayastamanagatah or taddarsinah.

73:2 Both the vernacular translators render the second line incorrectly. The first line is elliptical, and would be complete by supplying asannam pasyanti. The paraphrase of the second line is Pratyayannam Jneyam Jnanabhisamhitam(prati)ninisante. Jneyam is explained by the commentator as prapancham. Jnanabhisamhitam means that which is known by the name of Knowledge, i.e., Brahma, which has many similar names some of which the commentator quotes such as Satyam (truth), Jananam (knowledge), Anantam (infinite), Vijnanam (true knowledge), Anandam (joy or happiness).

74:1 Tamas is another name for Rahu. The first line, therefore, refers to the manner in which an eclipse occurs. There is no absolute necessity, however, for taking it as an allusion to the eclipse. The meaning may be more general. Every day, during the lighted fortnight, the moon gains in appearance, as, indeed, every day, during the dark fortnight, it loses in appearance. It may, therefore, be said that darkness approaches it or leaves it for eating it away or discovering it more and more. The actual process of covering and discovering cannot be noticed. This circumstance may be taken as furnishing the simile. In verse 21, similarly, tamas is capable of a wider meaning. In 22, the word Rahu is used. It should be explained, however, that Rahu is no imaginary monster as the Puranas describe but the descending node of the moon, i.e., a portion of space in and about the lunar orbit.

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