The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Persons engaged in the practice of acts regard the practice of acts highly. Similarly, those that are devoted to Knowledge do not regard anything other than Knowledge. Persons fully conversant with the Vedas and depending upon the utterances contained in them, are rare. They that are more intelligent desire the path of abstention from acts as the better of the two, viz., heaven and emancipation. 1 Abstention from acts is observed by those that are possessed of great wisdom. That conduct, therefore, is laudable. The intelligence which urges to abstention from acts, is that by which one attains to Emancipation. Possessed of body, a person, through folly, and endued with wrath and cupidity and all the propensities born of Passion and Darkness, becomes attached to all earthly objects. One, therefore, who desires to destroy one's connection with the body, should never indulge in any impure act. On the other hand, one should create by one's acts a path for attaining to emancipation, without wishing for regions of felicity (in the next world). 2 As gold, when united with iron, loses its purity and fails to shine, even so Knowledge, when existing with attachment to earthly objects and such other faults, fails to put forth its splendour. 3 He who, influenced by cupidity and following the dictates of desire and wrath, practises unrighteousness, transgressing the path of righteousness, meets with complete destruction. 4 One who is desirous of benefiting oneself should never follow, with excess of attachments, earthly possessions represented by the objects of the senses. If one does it, wrath and joy--and sorrow arise from one another (and make one miserable). When every one's body is made up of the five original elements as also of the three attributes of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness, whom shall one adore and whom shall one blame with what words? Only they that are fools become attached to the objects of the senses. In consequence of folly they do not know that their bodies are only modifications. 5
As a house made of earth is plastered over with earth, even so this body which is made of earth is kept from destruction by food which is only a modification of earth. Honey and oil and milk and butter and meat and salt and treacle and grain of all kinds and fruit and roots are all modifications of earth and water. Recluses living in the wilderness, giving up all longing (for rich and savoury food), take simple food, that is again unsavoury, for only supporting the body. After the same manner, a person that dwells in the wilderness of the world, should be ready for labour and should take food for passing through life, like a patient taking medicine. 1 A person of noble soul, examining all things of an earthly nature that come upon him, by the aid of truth, purity, candour, a spirit of renunciation, enlightenment, courage, forgiveness, fortitude, intelligence, reflection, and austerities, and desirous of obtaining tranquillity, should restrain his senses. All creatures, stupefied, in consequence of Ignorance, by the attributes of Goodness and Passion and Darkness, are continually revolving like a wheel. All faults, therefore, that are born of Ignorance, should be closely examined and the idea of Self which has its origin in Ignorance, and which is productive of misery, should be avoided. The fivefold elements, the senses, the attributes of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness, the three worlds with the Supreme Being himself, and acts, all rest on Self-consciousness. 2 As Time, under its own laws, always displays the phenomena of the seasons one after another, even so one should know that Consciousness in all creatures is the inducer of acts. 3 Tamas (from which proceeds Consciousness) should be known as productive of delusions. It is like Darkness and is born of Ignorance. To the three attributes of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness are attached all the joys and sorrows (of creatures). Listen now to those consequences that spring from the attributes of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness. Contentment, the satisfaction that arises from joy, certainty, intelligence, and memory,--these are the consequences born of the attribute of Goodness. I shall now mention the consequences of Passion and Darkness. Desire, wrath, error, cupidity, stupefaction, fear, and fatigue, belong to the attribute of Passion. Cheerlessness, grief, discontent, vanity, pride, and wickedness, all belong to Darkness. Examining the gravity or lightness of these and other faults that dwell in the Soul, one should reflect upon each of them one after another (for ascertaining which of them exist, which have become strong or weak, which have been driven off, and which remain).'
"Yudhishthira said, 'What faults are abandoned by persons desirous of Emancipation? What are those that are weakened by them? What are the faults that come repeatedly (and are, therefore, incapable of being got rid of)? What, again, are regarded as weak, through stupefaction (and, therefore, as permissible)? What, indeed, are those faults upon whose strength and weakness a wise man should reflect with the aid of intelligence and of reasons? I have doubts upon these subjects. Discourse to me on these, O grandsire!'
"Bhishma said, 'A person of pure Soul, by extracting all his faults by their roots, succeeds in obtaining Emancipation. As an axe made of steel cuts a steel chain (and accomplishing the act becomes broken itself), after the same manner, a person of cleansed Soul, destroying all the faults that spring from Darkness and that are born with the Soul (when it is reborn), succeeds in dissolving his connection with the body (and attaining Emancipation). 1 The qualities having their origin in Passion, those that spring from Darkness, and those stainless one characterised by purity (viz., those included under the quality of Goodness), constitute as it were the seed from which all embodied creatures have grown. Amongst these, the attribute of Goodness alone is the cause through which persons of cleansed Souls succeed in attaining to Emancipation. A person of cleansed soul, therefore, should abandon all the qualities born of Passion and Darkness. Then again, when the quality of Goodness becomes freed from those of Passion and Darkness, it becomes more resplendent still. Some say that sacrifices and other acts performed with the aid of mantras, and which certainly contribute to the purification of the Soul, are evil or cruel acts. (This view is not correct). On the other hand, those acts are the chief means for dissociating the Soul from all worldly attachments, and for the observance of the religion of tranquillity. Through the influence of the qualities born of Passion, all unrighteous acts are performed, and all acts fraught with earthly purposes as also all such acts as spring from desire are accomplished. Through qualities born of Darkness, one does all acts fraught with cupidity and springing from wrath. In consequence of the attribute of Darkness, one embraces sleep and procrastination and becomes addicted to all acts of cruelty and carnal pleasure. That person, however, who, possessed of faith and scriptural knowledge, is observant of the attribute of Goodness, attends only to all good things, and becomes endued with (moral) beauty and soul free from every taint.'
94:1 The Vedas contain declarations of both kinds, ix., they urge to action as also to abstention from action. The former is necessary as a stepping stone to the latter. Such men are rare as understand the declarations of the Vedas in this way and as conform by their conduct to those declarations thus. What is seen, on the other hand, is that some betake themselves to acts and some to abstention from acts. The second line of the verse has been expanded a little in the translation, following Nilakantha's gloss.
94:2 Deha-yapanam means destruction of the connection the body has with the soul. In the second line, the performance of acts is prescribed only as a preparation, for act contribute to purity of the Soul. Acts should not, the speaker says, be performed from desire of fruit, viz., heaven, by one desirous of Emancipation. K.P. Singha omits the first line of the verse, but gives the sense of the second line correctly. The Burdwan translator mis-understands the gloss he quotes and makes nonsense of the verse.
94:3 Vipakram is explained by Nilakantha as pakahinam; and apakvakashayakhyam as apakva-kashaye pumsi akhya upadesah yasya lam etc.
94:4 Anuplavan is anusaran; akramya means upamridya.
94:5 Vijnana here means the loss or absence of knowledge.
95:1 Yathartham, i.e., for the true objects of life, viz., for acting righteously and accomplishing emancipation.
95:2 At first there was only jiva or the Soul having knowledge alone for its attribute. When it became clothed with Ignorance, the universe sprang up around it. Consciousness is due to that union of the Soul with Ignorance. Hence, all things rest on Consciousness, and Consciousness is the root of all sorrow.
95:3 The sense of this verse seems to be this: if all things rest on Consciousness which is an attribute of Ignorance or Delusion, why then this uniformity instead of the irregularity that characterises all perceptions in dreams? The answer is that the uniformity is the result of Past acts, of acts which are due to Consciousness. These produce uniformity of perceptions even as time, subject to its own laws, produces the phenomena of the seasons with uniformity.
96:1 I have expanded the last line for bringing out the meaning of the word nasyati clearly. Of course, I follow Nilakantha's explanation of the simile.
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