The Mahabharata Home
"Suka said, 'I have now understood that there are two kinds of creation, viz.,
one commencing with Kshara (which is universal), and which is from the (universal) Soul. The other, consisting of the senses with their objects, is traceable to the puissance of the knowledge. This last transcends the other and is regarded to be the foremost. 1 I desire, however, to once more hear of that course of righteousness which runs in this world, regulated by the virtue of Time and according to which all good men frame their conduct. 2 In the Vedas there are both kinds of declarations, viz., do acts and avoid acts. How shall I succeed in ascertaining the propriety of this or that? It behoveth thee to expound this clearly. 3 Having obtained, through thy instructions, a thorough knowledge of the course of conduct of human beings, having purified myself by the practice of only righteousness, and having cleansed my understanding, I shall, after casting off my body, behold the indestructible Soul.' 4
"Vyasa said, 'The course of conduct that was first established by Brahma himself was duly observed by the wise and pious persons of old, viz., the great Rishis of ancient times. The great Rishis conquer all the worlds by the practice of Brahmacharya. Seeking all things that are good for himself by fixing the mind on the knowledge, 5 practising severe austerities by residing in the forest and subsisting on fruits and roots, by treading on sacred spots, by practising universal benevolence, and by going on his rounds of mendicancy at the proper time to the huts of forest recluses when these become smokeless and the sound of the husking rod is hushed, a person succeeds in attaining to Brahma. 6 Abstaining from flattery and from bowing thy heads to others, and avoiding both good and evil, live thou in the forest by thyself,
appeasing hunger by any means that comes by the way.'
"Suka said, 'The declarations of the Vedas (already referred to in respect of acts) are, in the opinion of the vulgar, contradictory. Whether this is authoritative or that is so, when there is this conflict, how can they be said to be scriptural? 1 I desire to hear this: how can both be regarded as authoritative? How, indeed, can Emancipation be obtained without violating the ordinance about the obligatory character of acts?'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed, the son of Gandhavati, viz., the Rishi, applauding these words of his son possessed of immeasurable energy, replied unto him, saying the following.'
"Vyasa said, 'One that is a Brahmacharin, one that leads a life of domesticity, one that is a forest recluse, and one that leads a life of (religious) mendicancy, all reach the same high end by duly observing the duties of their respective modes of life. Or, if one and the same person, freed from desire and aversion, practises (one after another) all these four modes of life according to the ordinances that have been laid down, he is certainly fitted (by such conduct) to understand Brahma. The four modes of life constitute a ladder or flight of steps. That flight is attached to Brahma. By ascending that Right one--succeeds in reaching the region of Brahma. For the fourth part of his life, the Brahmacharin, conversant--with the distinctions of duty and freed from malice, should live with his preceptor or his preceptor's son. While residing in the preceptor's house, he should go to bed after the preceptor has gone to his, and rise therefrom before the preceptor rises from his. 2 All such acts again as should be done by the disciple, as also those which should be done by a menial servant, should be accomplished by him. Finishing these he should humbly take his stand by the side of the preceptor. Skilled in every kind of work, he should conduct himself like a menial servant, doing every act for his preceptor. Having accomplished all acts (without leaving any portion undone), he should study, sitting at the feet of his preceptor, with eager desire to learn. He should always behave with simplicity, avoid evil, speech, and take lessons only when his preceptor invites him for it. 3 Become pure in body and mind, and acquiring cleverness and other virtues, he
should now and then speak what is agreeable. Subduing his senses, he should look at his preceptor without eyes of longing curiosity. 1 He should never eat before his preceptor has eaten; never drink before his preceptor has drunk; never sit down before his preceptor has sat down; and never go to bed before his preceptor has gone to bed. He should gently touch his preceptor's feet with upturned palms, the right foot with the right and the left with the left. Reverentially saluting the preceptor, he should say unto him, 'O illustrious one, teach me. I shall accomplish this (work), O illustrious one! This (other work) I have already accomplished. O regenerate one, I am ready to accomplish whatever else thy reverend self may be pleased to command.' Having said all this, and having duly offered himself unto him (thus), he should accomplish whatever acts of his preceptor wait for accomplishment, and having completed them inform the preceptor once more of their completion. Whatever scents or tastes the Brahmacharin may abstain from while actually leading a life of Brahmacharya may be used by him after his return from the preceptor's abode. This is consistent with the ordinance. Whatever observances have been elaborately laid down for Brahmacharins (in the scriptures) should all be regularly practised by him. He should, again, be always near his preceptor (ready within call). Having contributed to his preceptor's gratification in this way to the best of his powers, the disciple should, from that mode of life, pass into the others (one after another) and practise the duties of each. Having (thus) passed a fourth part of his life in the study of the Vedas, and observance of vows and fasts, and having given the preceptor the (final) fee, the disciple should, according to the ordinance, take his leave and return home (for entering into a life of domesticity). 2 Then, having taken spouses, obtaining them in the ways indicated in the ordinances, and having carefully established the domestic fire, he should, observant all the while of vows and fasts, become a house-holder and pass the second period of life.'"
187:1 I follow Nilakantha substantially in his interpretation of this verse. Two kinds of creation are here referred to as those of which Vyasa has spoken in the previous Sections. The first is Ksharat prabhriti yah sargah, meaning that creation which consists of the four and twenty entities commencing with Kshara or Prakriti. The other creation, consisting of the senses with their objects, represents buddhaiswarya or the puissance of the buddhi, these being all buddhikalpitah. This second creation is also atisargah which means, according to the commentator, utkrishtah and which is also pradhanah or foremost, the reason being bandhakatwam or its power to bind all individuals. I take atisargah to mean 'derivative creation,' the second kind of creation being derived from or based upon the other, or (as I have put it in the text) transcends or overlies the other.
187:2 It is explained in previous sections how the course of righteousness is regulated by the character of the particular Yuga that sets in.
187:3 Vyasa has already explained the character of the two apparently hostile declarations. The meaning of Suka's question, therefore, is that if two declarations are only apparently hostile,--if, as explained in the Gita, they are identical,--how is that identity to be clearly ascertained? The fact is, Suka wishes his sire to explain the topic more clearly.
187:4 The course of conduct of human beings,' i.e., the distinctions between right and wrong. Vimuktatma is taken by the commentator to imply tyaktadehah. The second line may also mean 'having cast off (by Yoga) the consciousness of body, I shall behold my own Soul.'
187:5 I do not follow the commentator in his interpretation of this line.
187:6 'When the huts become smokeless,' i.e., when the cooking and the eating of the inmates are over. 'When the sound of the husking rod is hushed,' i.e., when the pestle for cleaning p. 189 rice no longer works, and consequently when the inmates are not likely to be able to give much to the mendicant.
188:1 There is an apparent conflict between the two declarations. If both are authoritative, they cannot be regarded to be scriptural declarations in consequence of their conflict.. if one is so and the other not so, the scriptural character of the latter at least is lost. The scriptures cannot but be certain and free from fault. How then (the question proceeds) is the scriptural character of both to be maintained?
188:2 The Burdwan translator makes a ridiculous blunder in rendering Jaghanyasayi, which he takes to mean 'sleeping on a wretched bed.' Jaghanya implies, here as elsewhere, subsequence in point of time.
188:3 Both the Vernacular translators have misunderstood the last part of the second line., It does not mean that the disciple should approach the preceptor when summoned, implying that he should be prompt to answer the summons, but that he should not disturb his Preceptor by clamouring for lessons or instruction. He should go to his preceptor for taking lessons only when his preceptor summons him for it.
189:1 Meaning, he should cast submissive or humble glances instead of staring boldly or rudely.
189:2 Learning was never sold in this country in ancient times. The final fee is not a return for the services of the preceptor but a token of gratitude from the pupil. Its value depended upon the ability of the disciple, though there are stories in the scriptures of disciples coming to grief on account of their persistent forwardness in pressing the acceptance of this fee. Vide the story of Galava in the Udyoga Parva.
Next: Section CCXLIII