The Mahabharata Home
"Manu said, 'When the fivefold attributes are united with the five senses and the mind, then is Brahma seen by the individual like a thread passing through a gem. As a thread, again, may lie within gold or pearl or a coral or any object made of earth, even so one's soul, in consequence of one's own acts, may live within a cow, a horse, a man, an elephant, or any other animal, or within a worm or an insect. The good deeds an individual performs in a particular body produce rewards that the individual enjoys in that particular body. A soil, apparently drenched with one particular kind of liquid, supplies to each different kind of herb or plant that grows on it the sort of juice it requires for itself. After the same manner, the Understanding, whose course is witnessed by the soul, is obliged to follow the path marked out by the acts of previous lives. 1 From knowledge springs desire. From desire springs resolution. From resolution flows action. From action proceed fruits (i.e.,
consequences, good and bad). Fruits, therefore, are dependent on actions as their cause. Actions have the understanding for their cause. The understanding has knowledge for its cause; and knowledge has the Soul for its cause. That excellent result which is achieved in consequence of the destruction of knowledge, of fruits, of the understanding, and of acts, is called Knowledge of Brahma. 1 Great and high is that self-existent Essence, which yogins behold. They that are devoid of wisdom, and whose understandings are devoted to worldly possessions never behold that which exists in the Soul itself. Water is superior to the Earth in extension; Light is superior to Water; Wind is superior to Light; Space is superior to Wind; Mind is superior to Space; Understanding is superior to Mind; Time is superior to Understanding. The divine Vishnu, whose is this universe, is superior to Time. That god is without beginning, middle, and end. In consequence of his being without beginning, middle, and end, he is Unchangeable. He transcends all sorrow, for sorrow has limits. 2 That Vishnu hath been called the Supreme Brahma. He is the refuge or object of what is called the Highest. Knowing Him, they that are wise, freed from everything that owns the power of Time, attain to what is called Emancipation. All these (that we perceive) are displayed in attributes. That which is called Brahma, being without attributes, is superior to these. 3 Abstention from acts is the highest religion. That religion is sure to lead to deathlessness (Emancipation). The Richs, the Yajuses, and the Samans, have for their refuge the body. They flow from the end of the tongue. They cannot be acquired without effort and are subject to destruction. Brahma, however, cannot be acquired in this way, for (without depending upon the body) it depends upon that (i.e., the knower or Soul) which has the body for its refuge. Without beginning, middle, or end, Brahma cannot be acquired by exertion (like to what is necessary for the acquirement of the Vedas). The Richs, the Samans, the Yajuses have each a beginning. Those that have a beginning have also an end. But Brahma is said to be without beginning. And because Brahma hath neither beginning nor end, it is said to be infinite and unchangeable. In consequence of unchangeableness, Brahma transcends all sorrow as also all pairs of opposites. Through unfavourable destiny, through inability to find out the proper means, and through the impediments offered by acts, mortals succeed not in beholding the path by which Brahma may be reached. In consequence of attachment to worldly possessions, of a vision of the joys of the highest heaven, and of
coveting something other than Brahma, men do not attain to the Supreme. 1 Others beholding worldly objects covet their possession. Desirous of such objects, they have no longing for Brahma in consequence of its transcending all attributes. 2 How shall he that is attached to attributes which are inferior, arrive at a knowledge of him that is possessed of attributes that are superior? It is by inference that one can arrive at a knowledge of Him that transcends all this in attributes and form. By subtile intelligence alone can we know Him. We cannot describe Him in words. The mind is seizable by the mind, the eye by eye. 3 By knowledge the understanding can be purified of its dross. The understanding may be employed for purifying the mind. By the mind should the senses be controlled. Achieving all this, one may attain to the Unchangeable. One who has, by contemplation, become freed from attachments, and who has been enriched by the possession of a discerning mind, succeeds in attaining to Brahma which is without desire and above all attributes. As the wind keeps away from the fire that is embedded within a piece of wood, even so persons that are agitated (by desire for worldly possessions) keep away from that which is Supreme. Upon the destruction of all earthly objects, the mind always attains to That which is higher than the Understanding; while upon their separation the mind always acquires that which is below the Understanding. That person, who, in conformity with the method already described, becomes engaged in destroying earthly objects, attains to absorption into the body of Brahma. 4 Though the Soul is unmanifest; yet when clothed with qualities, its acts become unmanifest. When dissolution (of the body) comes, it once more becomes manifest. The Soul is really inactive. It exists, united with the senses that are productive of either happiness or sorrow. United with all the senses and endued with body, it takes refuge in the five primal elements. Through want of power, however, it fails to act when deprived of force by the Supreme and Unchangeable. No man sees the end of the earth but knows this, viz., that the earth's end Will
surely come. 1 Man, agitated here (by attachments), is surely led to his last refuge like the wind leading a vessel tossed on the sea to a safe harbour at last. The Sun, spreading his rays, becomes the possessor of an attribute, (viz., the lighter of the world): withdrawing his rays (at the hour of setting), he once more becomes an object divested of attributes. After the same manner, a person, abandoning all distinctions (attachments), and betaking himself to penances, at last enters the indestructible Brahma which is divested of all attributes. By discerning Him who is without birth, who is the highest refuge of all righteous persons, who is self-born, from whom everything springs and unto whom all things return, who is unchangeable, who is without beginning, middle, and end, and who is certainty's self and supreme, a person attains to immortality (Emancipation).'"
78:1 Antaratmanudarsini is explained by the commentator as "that which has the Antaratman for its anudarsin or witness. The Burdwan translator is incorrect in rendering the second line.
79:1 The first 'knowledge' refers to the perception of the true connection between the Soul and the not-Soul. 'Fruits' mean the physical forms that are gained in new births. The destruction of the understanding takes place when the senses and the mind are withdrawn into it all of them, united together, are directed towards the Soul. Jneyapratishthitam Jnanam means, of course, knowledge of Brahma.
79:2 The commentator explains that sorrow arises from the relation of the knower and the known. All things that depend upon that relation are transitory. They can form no part of What is eternal and what transcends that relation.
79:3 I take the obvious meaning, instead of the learned explanation offered by Nilakantha.
80:1 The very Yogins, if led away by the desire of acquiring extraordinary powers and the beatitude of the highest heaven do not behold the Supreme.
80:2 Gunam, literally, attributes; hence objects possessed of attributes.
80:3 That which is called the external world has no objective existence. It is purely subjective. Hence, it is the mind that sees and hears and touches the mind itself.
80:4 This verse is a cruce. There can be no doubt that Nilakantha's explanation is correct. Only, as regards budhyavara I am disposed to differ from him very slightly. The grammar of the first line is this; 'Gunadane manah sada budhiyaraya; viprayoge cha tesham budhyavaraya.' Now 'Gunadana' means the 'adana' (destruction) of 'guna'. (This root da means to cut). What is meant by the destruction of 'guna' or attribute or earthly objects is merging them in the buddhi by yoga; in other words, a withdrawal of the senses into the mind, and the senses and the mind into the understanding. "Viprayoga cha tesham" means 'in their separation,' i.e., when these objects are believed to be real and as existing independently of the mind. The result of this would be the acquisition of 'budhyavara,' implying the acquisition of those very objects. In the case of yogins, whose minds may be in such a frame, the powers called 'asiswaryya' are acquired. There is no especial necessity, however, for taking the case of yogins.
81:1 What is said here is that Happiness and Sorrow have an end, though it may not be seen, and the Soul will surely come to its final resting place. This accords with the doctrine of infinite spiritual improvement.
Next: Section CCVII