The Mahabharata Home
"Vyasa said, 'The knowledge called Trayi which occurs in the Vedas and their branches should be acquired. That knowledge is to be derived from the Richs, the Samans, and the sciences called Varna and Akshara. There are besides, the Yajuses and the Atharvans. In the six kinds of acts indicated in these, dwells the Divine Being. They that are well-versed in the declarations of the Vedas, that have knowledge of the Soul, that are attached to the quality of Goodness, and that are highly blessed, succeed in understanding the origin and the end of all things. A Brahmana should live in the observance of the duties laid down in the Vedas. He should do all his acts like a good man of restrained soul. He should earn his livelihood without injuring any creature. Having derived knowledge from the good and wise, he should control his passions and propensities. Well-versed in the scriptures, he should practise those duties that have been laid down for him, and do all acts in this world guided by the quality of goodness. Leading even the domestic mode of life., the Brahmana should be observant of the six acts already spoken of. 1 His heart full of faith, he should worship the deities in the five well-known sacrifices. Endued with patience, never heedless, having self-control, conversant with duties, with a cleansed soul, divested of joy, pride, and wrath, the Brahmana should never sink in languor. Gifts, study of the Vedas, sacrifices, penances, modesty, guilelessness, and self-restraint,--these enhance one's energy and destroy one's sins. One endued with intelligence should be abstemious in diet and should conquer one's senses. Indeed, having subdued both lust and wrath, and having washed away all his sins, he should strive for attaining to Brahma. He should worship the Fire and Brahmanas, and bow to the deities. He should avoid all kinds of inauspicious discourse and all acts of unrighteous injury. This preliminary course of conduct is first laid down for a Brahmana. Subsequently, when knowledge comes, he should engage himself in acts, for in acts lies success. 2 The Brahmana who is endued with intelligence succeeds in crossing the stream of life that is so difficult to cross and that is so furious and terrible, that has the five senses for its waters that has cupidity for its source, and wrath for its mire. He should never shut his eyes to the fact that Time stands behind him in a threatening attitude.--Time who is the great stupefier of all things, and who is armed with very great and irresistible force, issuing from the great Ordainer himself. Generated by the current of Nature, the universe is being ceaselessly carried along. The mighty river of Time, overspread with eddies constituted by the years, having the months for its waves and the seasons for its current, the fortnights for its floating straw and grass, and the rise and fall of the eyelids for its froth, the days and the nights for its water, and desire and lust for its terrible crocodiles, the Vedas and sacrifices for its rafts, and
the righteousness of creatures for its islands, and Profit and Pleasure for its springs, truthfulness of speech and Emancipation for its shores, benevolence for the trees that float along it, and the yugas for the lakes along its course,--the mighty river of Time,--which has an origin as inconceivable as that of Brahma itself, is ceaselessly bearing away all beings created by the great Ordainer towards the abode of Yama. 1 Persons possessed of wisdom and patience always succeed in crossing this awful river by employing the rafts of knowledge and wisdom. What, however, can senseless fools, destitute of similar rafts do (when thrown into that furious stream)? That only the man of wisdom succeeds in crossing this stream and not he that is unwise, is consistent with reason. The former beholds from a distance the merits and faults of everything. (Accordingly, he succeeds in adopting or rejecting what is deserving of adoption or rejection). The man, however, of unstable and little understanding, and whose soul is full of desire and cupidity, is always filled with doubt. Hence the man destitute of wisdom never succeeds in crossing that river. He also who sits inactively (in doubt) can never pass it over. The man destitute of the raft of wisdom, in consequence of his having to bear the heavy weight of great faults, sinks down. One that is seized by the crocodile of desire, even if possessed of knowledge, can never make knowledge one's raft. 2 For these reasons, the man of wisdom and intelligence should strive to float over the stream of Time (without sinking in it). He indeed, succeeds in keeping himself afloat who becomes conversant with Brahma. One born in a noble race, abstaining from the three duties of teaching, officiating at other's sacrifices and accepting gifts, and doing only the three other acts, viz., studying, sacrificing, and giving, should, for those reasons, strive to float over the stream. Such a man is sure to cross it aided by the raft of wisdom. One who is pure in conduct, who is self-restrained and observant of good vows, whose soul is under control, and who is possessed of wisdom, certainly wins success in this and the other world. The Brahmana leading a domestic mode of life should conquer wrath and envy, practise the virtues already named, and worshipping the deities in the five sacrifices, eat after having fed the deities, Pitris, and guests. He should conform to those duties which are observed by the good; he should do all his acts like a person of governed soul; and he should, without injuring any creature, draw his substance by adopting a course that is not censurable. One who is well-versed
in the truths of the Vedas and the other branches of knowledge, whose behaviour is like that of a person of well-governed soul, who is endued with a clear vision, who observes those duties that are laid down for his order, who does not, by his acts, produce an inter-mixture of duties, who attends to the observances set down in the scriptures, who is full of faith, who is self-restrained, who is possessed of wisdom, who is destitute of envy and malice, and who is well-conversant with the distinctions between righteousness and inequity, succeeds in crossing all his difficulties. That Brahmana who is possessed of fortitude, who is always heedful, who is self-restrained, who is conversant with righteousness, whose soul is under control, and who has transcended joy, pride, and wrath, has never to languish in grief. This is the course of conduct that was ordained of old for a Brahmana. He should strive for the acquisition of Knowledge, and do all the scriptural acts. By living thus, he is sure to obtain success. One who is not possessed of clear vision does wrong even when one wishes to do right. Such a person, by even exercising his judgment, does such acts of virtue as partake of the nature of inequity. Desiring to do what is right, one does what is wrong. Similarly, desiring to do what is wrong one does what is right. Such a person is a fool. Not knowing, the two kinds of acts, one has to undergo repeated rebirths and deaths.'"
166:1 The first and the fourth verses are triplets in the Bengal texts.
166:2 These are, of course, religious acts.
167:1 In the Bengal texts verse 12 consists of on, line. This, I think, is correct. Verses 13, 14, 15, and 16 form one sentence. Verse 12 is complete by itself. The udaka in kalodaka should be taken as meaning stream or river otherwise ahoratrajalena would be pleonastic. Again arthakamajalena, to avoid, redundancy, should be taken as implying the springs that supply the water. Vihinsa-taruvahina is, 'having benevolence for the trees that float on its water.' This idea is beautiful. Creatures that are being home away in, the stream of Time may catch these trees of benevolence for saving themselves. The Burdwan translator misunderstands vihinsa and makes nonsense of the idea. Altogether, though highly ornate, the metaphors are original. Of course, the idea is eminently oriental. Eastern rhetoric being fond of spinning out metaphors and similes, which, in the hands of Eastern poets, become highly elastic.
167:2 K.P. Singha misunderstands this verse. The Burdwan translator is also inaccurate.
Next: Section CCXXXVI