The Mahabharata Home
"Vyasa said, 'Borne up and down in life's ocean, he that is capable of meditation seizes the raft of Knowledge and for achieving his Emancipation adheres to Knowledge itself (without extending his arms hither and thither for catching any other support).' 6
"Suka said, 'What is that Knowledge? Is it that learning by which, when error is dispelled, the truth becomes discovered? Or, is it that course of duties consisting of acts to be done or achieved, by the aid of which the object sought may be understood or attained? Or, is it that course of duties, called abstention from acts, by which an extension of the Soul is to be sought? Do tell me what it is, so that by its aid, the two, viz., birth and death, may be avoided.' 1
"Vyasa said, 'That fool who believing that all this exists in consequence of its own nature without, in fact, an existent refuge or foundation, fills by such instruction the aspirations of disciples, dispelling by his dialectical ingenuity the reasons the latter might urge to the contrary, succeeds not in attaining to any truth. 2 They again who firmly believe that all Cause is due to the nature of things, fail to acquire any truth by even listening to (wiser) men or the Rishis (who are capable of instructing them). 3 Those men of little intelligence who stop (in their speculations), having adopted either of these doctrines, indeed, those men who regard nature as the cause, never succeed in obtaining any benefit for themselves. 4 This belief in Nature (as the producing and the sustaining Cause), arising as it does from a mind acting under the influence of error, brings about the destruction of the person who cherishes it. Listen now to the truth with respect to these two doctrines that maintain (1) that things exist by their own nature and (2) that they flow (in consequence of their own nature) from others that are different from and that precede them. 5 Wise men apply themselves to agriculture and tillage, and the acquisition of crops (by those means) and of vehicles (for locomotion) and seats and carpets and houses. They attend also to the laying of pleasure-gardens, the construction of commodious mansions, and the preparation of
medicines, for diseases of every kind. It is wisdom (which consists in the application of means) that leads to the fruition of purposes. It is wisdom that wins beneficial results. It is wisdom that enables kings to exercise and enjoy sovereignty although they are possessed of attributes equal to those of persons over whom they rule. 1 It is by wisdom that the high and the low among beings are distinguished. It is by wisdom that the superior and the inferior ones among created objects are understood. It is wisdom or knowledge that is the highest refuge of all things. 2 All the diverse kinds of created things have four kinds of birth. They are viviparous, oviparous, vegetables, and those born of filth. Creatures, again, that are mobile should be known to be superior to those that are immobile. It is consistent with reason that intelligent energy, inasmuch as it differentiates (all non-intelligent matter), should be regarded as superior to.(non-intelligent) matter. 3 Mobile creatures, that are innumerable, and of two kinds, viz., those that have many legs and those that have two. The latter, however, are superior to the former. Bipeds, again are of two species, viz., those that live on land and those that are otherwise. Of these, the former are superior to the latter. The superior ones eat diverse kinds of cooked food. 4 Bipeds moving on land are of two kinds viz., middling or intermediate, and those that are foremost. Of these, the middling or intermediate are regarded as superior (to the former) in consequence of their observance of the duties of caste. 5 The middling or intermediate ones are said to be of two kinds, viz., those that are conversant with duties, and those that are otherwise. Of those, the former are superior in consequence of their discrimination in respect of what should be done and what should not. Those conversant with duties are said to be of two kinds, viz., those
that are acquainted with the Vedas and those that are otherwise. Of these the former are superior, for the Vedas are said to dwell in them. 1 Those that are acquainted with the Vedas are said to be of two kinds, viz., those that lecture on the Vedas and those that are otherwise. Of these, the former, who are fully conversant with the Vedas, with the duties and the rites laid down in them, and the fruits of those duties and rites, are superior in consequence of their publishing all those duties and rites. Indeed, all the Vedas with the duties laid down in them are said to flow from them. Preceptors of the Vedas are of two kinds, viz., those that are conversant with the Soul and those that are otherwise. Of these, the former are superior in consequence of their knowledge of what is meant by Birth and Death. 2 As regards duties, they are, again, of two kinds (viz., Pravritti and Nivritti). He who is conversant with duties is said to be omniscient or possessed of universal knowledge. Such a man is a Renouncer. Such a man is firm in the accomplishment of his purposes. Such a man is truthful, pure (both outwardly and inwardly), and possessed of puissance. 3 The gods know him for a Brahmana who is devoted to knowledge of Brahma (and not him who is conversant with only the duties of Pravritti). Such a man is versed also in the Vedas and earnestly devoted to the study of the Soul. 4 They that have true knowledge behold their own Soul as existing both in and out. Such men, O child, are truly regenerate and such men are gods. 5 Upon these rests this world of Beings, in them dwell this whole universe. There is nothing that is equal to their greatness. Transcending birth and death and distinctions and acts of every kind, they are the lords of the four kinds of creatures and are the equals of the Self-born himself.'" 6
172:6 Brahmanam is arsha for Brahmam.
173:1 I follow Nilakantha's gloss in rendering the words Vidya, Pravritti and Nivritti, as used in this verse. By the first, the commentator thinks, is meant that course of instruction in consequence of which error may be dispelled and truth acquired. The usual illustration of the cord and the snake is given. The former maybe mistaken for the latter, but when the mistake ceases, correct apprehension follows. Pravritti has been sufficiently indicated in the text in which the words of the gloss has been incorporated. By Nivritti is meant the doctrine of the Sunyavadins and Lokayatikas (evidently the Buddhists) who seek annihilation or extinction as the only true Emancipation. Both the Vernacular translators are wrong. The Burdwan translator, as usual, citing the very words of the gloss, misunderstands them completely.
173:2 The construction of the first line is 'yastu achetanah bhavam vina swabhavena (sarvam bhati iti) pasyan, etc., etc., pushyate (sa na kinchana labhate).' Bhavan is explained as 'adhishthanasattam.' The commentator is of opinion that the speaker refers in this verse to the Sunyavadins.
173:3 The Bombay text reads Putwatrinamishikamva.
173:4 Enam is singular. The commentator thinks it should be taken distributively. In verse 3, the doctrine of the Nihilists (Sunyavadins) has been referred to. In verse 4, that of the Lokayatikas. In both, Nature is spoken of as the cause, with this difference that the former regard the universe to be only an erroneous impression of an existent entity, while the latter regard it as a real entity flowing from and manifesting itself under its own nature. Both doctrines, the speaker says, are false.
173:5 Both the Vernacular translators skip over the word paribhava in the second line of verse p. 174 6. The commentator correctly explains that swabhava in 6 means swasyaiva bhavah sattakaranam iti, ekah pakshah. Paribhava, he explains is paritah swasya itaresham bhavah. The first refers to the Nihilists, the second to the Lokayatikas or to verses 3 and 4 respectively.
174:1 It is by the wisdom that all these results are achieved. Wisdom is the application of means for the accomplishment of ends. Nature, never rears palaces or produces vehicles and the diverse other comforts that man enjoys. He that would rely upon Nature for these would never obtain them however long he might wait. The need for exertion, both mental and physical, and the success which crowns that exertion furnish the best answer, the speaker thinks, to both the Nihilist sand the Lokayatikas. The word tulyalakshanah is skipped over by both the Bengali translators.
174:2 By para is meant the Chit or Soul, by avara, all else, i.e., non-ego or matter. The words Prajna, Jnana, and Vidya are all as used here, equivalent. The second line of this verse is wrongly rendered by both the Bengali translators, the Burdwan translator, as usual, not understanding the words of the gloss he quotes.
174:3 It is difficult to render the word cheshta as used here. Ordinarily it implies effort or action. It is plain, however, that here it stands for intelligent energy, implying both mental and physical effort or action, for its function is to distinguish or differentiate.
174:4 The itarani do not refer to Pisachas as rendered by K.P. Singha, but to birds which are called Khechare or denizens of the sky or air. Khechara may include Pisachas, but these are also Bhuchara or denizens of the surface of the earth.
174:5 The commentator explains that for ascertaining who are uttama or foremost, the middling, p. 175 or intermediate ones are first spoken of and their distinctions mentioned in the following verses. Of course, the foremost are foremost, and the intermediate ones can never be superior to them. For all that, intermediate ones are observers of the duties of caste; the foremost ones are not so, they having transcended such distinctions; hence, tentatively, the ignorant or popular opinion is first taken, to the effect that the observers of caste are superior to those who do not observe Jatidharma.
175:1 This probably means that as the Vedas had not been reduced to writing, their contents rested or dwelt in memories of men versed in them.
175:2 To understand what is birth and what is death, and to avoid birth (add, therefore, death), are the highest fruits of knowledge of the Soul. Those that have no knowledge of the Soul have to travel in a round of repeated rebirths.
175:3 i.e., of power that comes of Yoga.
175:4 The word para (the locative form of which is used here) always means that which is high or foremost. It is frequently employed to mean either Brahma or the Soul, and as Soul is regarded to be apart of Brahma, para has but one and the same meaning. The Burdwan translator takes it for 'Scriptures other than the Vedas.' K.P. Singha skips over it. Of course, savda-Brahma stands for the Vedas.
175:5 To look upon everything in the universe as one's own. Soul is the highest aspiration of a righteous person. It is yoga that enables one to attain to this highest ideal of existence. One who realises this is said to be a true Brahmana, a really regenerate person, in fact, a god on Earth. Adhiyajna and Adhidaivata are words that signify the Soul.
175:6 What the distinction is between anta and nidhan is not obvious. The commentator is p. 176 silent. K.P. Singha translates the verse correctly. The Burdwan translator makes utter nonsense of the words in the second line.
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