The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Thus addressed (by his sire), Suka, highly applauding these instructions of the great Rishi, set himself about asking the following, question relating to the import of duties that lead to Emancipation.'
"Suka said, 'By what means doth one possessed of wisdom, conversant with the Vedas, observant of sacrifices, endued with wisdom, and free from malice, succeed in attaining to Brahma which is incapable of being apprehended by either direct evidence or inference, and unsusceptible of being indicated by the Vedas? Asked by me, tell me by what means is Brahma to be apprehended? Is it by penance, by Brahmacharya, by renunciation of everything, by intelligence, by the aid of the Sankhya philosophy, or by Yoga? By what means may what kind of singleness of purpose be attained by men, with respect to both, viz., the mind and the senses? It behoveth thee to expound all this to me.' 4
"Vyasa said, 'No man ever attains to success by means other than the acquisition of knowledge, the practice of penances, the subjugation of the senses, and renunciation of everything. 1 The great entities (five in number) represent the first (or initial) creation of the Self-born. They have been very largely placed in embodied creatures included in the world of life. 2 The bodies of all embodied creatures are derived from earth. The humours are from water. Their eyes are said to be derived from light. Prana, Apana (and the three other vital breaths) have the wind for their refuge. And, lastly, all unoccupied apertures within them (such as the nostrils, the cavities of the ear, etc.) are of Space. In the feet (of living creatures) is Vishnu. In their arms is Indra. Within the stomach is Agni desirous of eating. In the ears are the points of the horizon (or the compass) representing the sense of hearing. In the tongue is speech which is Saraswati. 3 The ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose forming the fifth, are said to be the sense of knowledge. These exist for the purposes of apprehension of their respective objects. Sound, touch, form, taste and scent forming the fifth, are the objects of the (five) senses. These should always be regarded as separate from (or independent of) the senses. Like the charioteer setting his well-broken steeds along the paths he pleases, the mind sets the senses (along directions it pleases). The mind, in its turn, is employed by the knowledge sitting in the heart. 4 The mind is the lord of all these senses in respect of employing them in their functions and guiding or restraining them. Similarly, the knowledge is the lord of the mind (in employing, and guiding or restraining it). 5 The senses, the objects of the senses, the attributes of those objects represented by the word nature, knowledge, mind, the vital breaths, and Jiva dwell in the bodies of all embodied creatures. 6 The body within which the knowledge dwells has no real existence. The body, therefore, is not the refuge of the knowledge. Primordial Nature (Prakriti) having the three attributes (of Goodness and Passion and Darkness) is the refuge of the knowledge which exists only in the form of a sound. The Soul also is not the refuge of the knowledge. It is Desire that creates the knowledge. Desire, however, never creates the three
attributes. 1 The man of wisdom, capable of subduing his senses, beholds the seventeenth, viz., the Soul, as surrounded by six and ten attributes, in his own knowledge by the aid of the mind. The Soul cannot be beheld with the aid of the eye or with that of all the senses. Transcending all, the Soul becomes visible by only the light of the mind's lamp. Divested of the properties of sound and touch and form, without taste and scent, indestructible and without a body (either gross or subtile) and without senses, it is nevertheless beheld within the body. Unmanifest and supreme, it dwells in all mortal bodies. Following the lead of the preceptor and the Vedas, he who beholds it hereafter becomes Brahma's self. They that are possessed of wisdom look with an equal eye upon a Brahmana possessed of knowledge and disciples, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a Chandala. 2 Transcending all things, the Soul dwells in all creatures mobile and immobile. Indeed, all things are pervaded by it. 3 When a living creature beholds his own Soul in all things, and all things in his own Soul, he is said to attain to Brahma. One occupies that much of the Supreme Soul as is commensurate with what is occupied in one's own soul by Vedic sound. 4He that can always realise the identity of all things with his own self certainly attains to immortality. The very gods are stupefied in the track of that trackless man who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures, who is engaged in the good of all beings, and who desire
to attain to (Brahma which is) the final refuge (of all things). 1 Indeed, the track which is pursued by men of knowledge is as visible as that of birds in the sky or of fish in water. Time of its own power, cooks all entities within itself. No one, however, knows That in which Time, in its turn, is itself cooked. 2 That (of which I speak) does not occur above, or in the middle or below, or in transverse or in any other direction. That is to tangible entity; it is not to be found in any place. 3 All these worlds are within That. There is nothing in these worlds that exists out of that. Even if one goes on ceaselessly with the celerity of a shaft impelled from the bow-string, even if one goes on with the speed of the mind, itself, one would not still reach the end of that which is the cause of all this. 4 That is so gross that there is nothing grosser. His hands and feet extend everywhere. His eyes, head, and face are everywhere. His ears are everywhere in the universe. He exists overwhelming all things. That is minuter than the minutest, that is the heart of all entities. Existing, without doubt, that is still imperceptible. Indestructible and destructible,--these are the dual forms of existence of the (Supreme) Soul. In all mobile and immobile entities the existence it displays is destructible; while the existence it displays in Chaitanya is celestial, immortal, and indestructible. Though the lord of a existent beings both mobile and immobile, though inactive and divested of attributes, it enters, nevertheless, the well-known mansion of nine doors and becomes engaged in action. 5 Men of wisdom who are capable of beholding the other shore say that the Unborn (or the Supreme Soul) becomes invested with the attribute of action in consequence of motion, pleasure and pain, variety of form, and the nine well-known possessions. 6 That indestructible Soul which is said to be invested with the attribute of action is nothing else than that indestructible Soul which is said to be inactive. A person of knowledge, by attaining to that indestructible essence, gives up for good both life and birth.'" 7
178:4 Yatha in the first line of verse means, as the commentator explains, yat prakarakam.
179:1 The commentator points out that by these four words the four modes of life are indicated.
179:2 The commentator explains that this means that amongst embodied creatures they that are ignorant take those great entities which are really non-ego for either the ego or its Possessions.
179:3 The commentator explains that the object of this verse is to show that the Yoga view of the Soul being only the enjoyer but not the actor, is not correct. On the other hand, the Sankhya view of the Soul being neither the enjoyer nor the actor, is true. The deities, remaining in the several senses, act and enjoy. It is through ignorance that the Soul ascribes to itself their enjoyments and their actions.
179:4 I render Bhutatma by knowledge, following the commentator who uses the words buddhyupadhirjivah for explaining it.
179:5 Niyama and Visarga are explained by the commentator as 'destruction' and 'creation.' I prefer to take them as meaning 'guiding or restraining,' and 'employing.' Practically, the explanations are identical.
179:6 What is meant by the objects of the senses residing within the bodies of living creatures p. 180 is that (as the commentator explains) their concepts exist in 'the cavity of the heart' (probably, mind) so that when necessary or called for, they appear (before the mind's eye). Swabhava is explained as 'attributes' like heat and cold, etc.
180:1 This is a very difficult verse. I have rendered it, following Nilakantha's gloss. In verse the speaker lays down what entities dwell in the body. In the rest he expounds the nature of Sattwa which the commentator takes to mean buddhi or knowledge. He begins with the statement that Sattwasya asrayah nasti. This does not mean that the knowledge has no refuge, for that would be absurd, but it means that the asraya of the knowledge, i.e., that in which the knowledge dwells, viz., the body, does not exist, the true doctrine being that the body has no real existence but that it exists like to its image in a dream. The body being non-existent, what then is the real refuge of the knowledge? The speaker answers it by saying Gunah, implying that primeval Prakriti characterised by the three attributes is that real refuge. Then it is said that Chetana (by which is implied the Soul here) is not the refuge of the knowledge for the Soul is dissociated from everything and incapable of transformation of any kind. The question is then mentally started,--May not the Gunas be the qualities of the knowledge (instead of being, as said above, its refuge)? For dispelling this doubt, it is stated that Sattwa is the product of Tejas (Desire). The Gunas are not the product of Tejas. Hence the Gunas, which have a different origin cannot be the properties of Sattwa. The Gunas exist independently of Desire. Thus the knowledge, which has Desire for its originating cause, rests on the Gunas or has them for its refuge. In this verse, therefore, the nature of the body, the knowledge, and the Gunas, is expounded. The grammatical construction of the first line is exceedingly terse.
180:2 Such men behold Brahma in all things. Abhijanah is explained by the commentator as sishyakuladih. This seems to be the true meaning of the word here.
180:3 In rendering this word tatam (where it occurs in the Gita), it has been shown that to take it as equivalent to 'spread' is incorrect. In such connections, it is evident that it means 'pervaded!
180:4 If I have understood the gloss aright, this is what the first line of 21 means. Vedatma is explained as Vedic sound, i.e., the instructions inculcated in the Vedas. The word atma p. 181 in the second clause means simply oneself or a person or individual. The sense then is this. The Vedas teach that all is one's soul. The extent to which one succeeds in realising this is the measure of one's attainment of Brahma. If one can realise it fully, one attains to Brahma fully. If partially, one's attainment of Brahma also is partial.
181:1 The track of such a person, it is said, is as invisible as the skies. The commentator explains that the very gods become stupefied in respect of the object which such a man seeks, the object, of course, being Brahma.
181:2 That, of course, in which Time is cooked, is Brahma.
181:3 By this the speaker says that Brahma is not to be found in any particular spot however holy.
181:4 Because Brahma is infinite.
181:5 'Niyatah' is explained by the commentator as achanchalah, and vasi as without the fault of upadhi. 'Hansati, i.e., gachechati ite,' hence gatimati.
181:6 The sense is that the Soul residing within the body is identical with the Supreme Soul, and men of wisdom only know it.
181:7 The construction is Hansoktancha yat aksharam tat (eva) kutastham aksharam, meaning that there is no difference between Jivatman and Paramatman. Both are identical.
Next: Section CCXL