The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, "Though hast been told what the duties of domesticity are as ordained by the wise. Listen now, O Yudhishthira, to what those duties are that have been next spoken of. Gradually abandoning the domestic mode, one should enter the third mode which is excellent. It is the mode in which wives afflict themselves by means of Austerities. It is the mode practised by those that live as forest recluses. Blessed be thou, O son, listen to the duties observed by those that lead this mode of life in which occur the practices of all men and all modes of life. Listen, indeed, to the duties of those that are denizens of sacred spots and that have resorted to this mode after proper deliberation!'
"Vyasa said, 'When the householder beholds wrinkles on his body and white hair on his head, and children of his children, he should then retire into the forest. The third part of his life he should pass in the observance of the
[paragraph continues] Vanaprastha mode. He should attend to those fires to which he had attended as a householder. Desirous of sacrificing, he should adore the deities (according to the rituals ordained). Observant of vows and abstemious in diet, he should eat only once, the time thereof being the sixth part of the day. He should be always heedful. Attending to his fires, he should keep some kine, waiting upon them dutifully. 1 He should attend to all the rituals of a sacrifice. He should live upon rice growing indigenously, upon wheat growing under similar circumstances, upon grain of other kinds, growing wildly (and belonging to none). He should eat what remains after feeding guests. In this the third mode of life, he should present offerings of clarified butter in the five well-known Sacrifices. 2 Four kinds of courses of conduct have been laid down for observance in the Vanaprastha mode of life. Some collect only what is needed for the day. Some collect stores to last for a month. Some store grain and other necessaries sufficient to last for twelve years. Forest recluses may act in these ways for worshipping guests and performing sacrifices. They should during the season of the rains, expose themselves to rain and betake themselves to water during the autumn. During the summer they should sit in the midst of four fires with the sun burning overhead. Throughout the year, however, they should be abstemious in diet. 3 They sit and sleep on the bare earth. They stand on only their toes. They content themselves with the bare earth and with small mats of grass (owning no other furniture for seat or bed). They perform their ablutions morning, noon, and evening (preparatory to sacrifices). Some amongst them use only teeth for cleaning grain. Others use only stones for that purpose. 4 Some amongst them drink, only during the lighted fortnight, the gruel of wheat (or other grain) boiled very lightly. 5 There are many who drink similar gruel only during the dark fortnight. Some eat what only comes by the way (without seeking to obtain it). Some adopting rigid vows, live upon only roots, some upon only fruits, some upon only flowers, duly observing the method followed by the Vaikhanasas. These and other diverse observances are adopted by those men of wisdom and piety. The fourth is (the mode called Renunciation) based upon the Upanishads. The duties laid down for it may be observed in all the modes of life equally. This mode differing from the others comes after domesticity and forest life. In this very Yuga, O son,
many learned Brahmanas conversant with the truths of all things, have been known to observe this mode. Agastya, the seven Rishis (viz., Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Vasishtha, Narada, and Kratu), Madhucchandas, Aghamarshana, Sankriti Sudivatandi who lived withersoever he pleased and was content to take what came (without ever seeking for anything). 1 Ahovirya Kavya, Tandya, the learned Medhatithi, Karmanirvaka of mighty energy, and Sunyapala who had exerted himself greatly (for acquiring ascetic puissance) were the authors of this course of duties, and themselves observing them have all proceeded to heaven. Many great Rishis, O son, who had the puissance to behold immediately the fruits of their ascetic merit, 2 those numerous ascetics who are known by the name of Yayavaras, many Rishis of very austere penances and possessed of accurate knowledge in respect of distinctions of duty, and many other Brahmanas too numerous to mention, adopted the forest mode of life. The Vaikhanasas, the Valikhilyas, the Saikatas, all of whom were devoted to austere penances, 3 who were steadfast in virtue, who had subdued their senses, and who used to behold the fruits of their penances immediately, adopted this mode of life and finally ascended to heaven. Freed from fear and not counted among the stars and planets, these have become visible in the firmament as luminous bodies. 4 When the fourth or last part of life is reached, and when one is weakened by decrepitude and afflicted by disease, one should abandon the forest mode of life (for the fourth mode called Renunciation). Performing a sacrifice that is capable of being completed in a single day and in which the Dakshina should be everything of which he may be possessed, he should himself perform his own Sraddha. Withdrawn from every other object, he should devote himself to his own self, taking pleasure in himself, and resting also on his own self. 5 He should establish all his sacrificial fires (thenceforth) upon his own self, and give up all kinds of ties and attachments. (In case he fails to attain to complete Renunciation) he should always perform such sacrifices and rites as are completed in a single day. 6 When, however, from performance of the (ordinary) sacrifices of sacrificers, the Sacrifice in Self proceeds, then (may he discontinue all ordinary sacrifices, and) unto the three fires duly sacrifice in
his own Self for the sake of his Emancipation. 1 Without finding fault with his food he should eat five or six mouthfuls, offering them duly unto five vital airs uttering (every time the well-known) mantras of the Yajurveda. 2 Engaged in the observance of austerities while leading the life of a forest recluse, one should shave off one's hair and bristles and pare off one's nails, and having cleansed oneself by acts, pass into the fourth and last mode of life that is fraught with great holiness. 3 That regenerate person who enters the fourth mode of life, giving pledges of assurance unto all creatures, succeeds in earning many regions of blazing effulgence hereafter and ultimately attains to the Infinite. 4 Of excellent disposition and conduct, with sins all washed off, the person who is conversant with his own self never desires to do any act for either this or the other world. Freed from wrath and from error, without anxiety and without friendship, such a person lives in this world like one totally uninterested in its concerns. One (in the observance of Sannyasa) should not feel reluctant in discharging the duties included in Yama and those also that walk behind them (and are included in niyama). Such a one should with energy live according to the ordinances in respect of his own mode, and throw away Vedic study and the sacred thread that is indicative of the order of his birth. Devoted to righteousness and with his senses under complete control, such a one, possessed of knowledge of self, attains undoubtedly to the end for which he strives. 5 After the third is the fourth
mode of life. It is very superior, and fraught with numerous high virtues. It transcends in point of merit the three other modes of life. It is said to occupy the highest place. Listen to me as I discourse upon the duties that belong to that mode which is pre-eminent and which is the high refuge of all!'"
193:1 The cow is a sacred animal and there is merit in feeding and properly tending a cow. Forest recluses kept kine for merit as also for homa or sacrifice with the ghee obtained from them. The story of Vasishtha's cow is well-known.
193:2 These five are Agnihotra, Darsapurnamasi, Chaturmasya, Pasu sacrifice and Soma sacrifice.
193:3 The Burdwan translator misunderstands the words abhravakasah. It is a well-known word occurring in almost every lexicon. Wilson explains it correctly.
193:4 i.e., They do not use a regular husking or cleaning apparatus for cleaning the grain they use as food.
193:5 So that very small portion of the grain comes out for drink or mixes with the water.
194:1 i.e., who had no fixed residence and who never sought with any effort for the necessaries of life. The Burdwan translator takes both yathavasah and akritacramah for two independent names of Rishis instead of taking them as adjectives of Sudivatandi.
194:2 i.e., whose wishes were immediately crowned with success, in respect of both blessings and curses, etc.
194:3 Niranandah is explained as krichcchrachandrayanadiparatwat.
194:4 Anakstrah is explained by the commentator as 'different from stars and planets but still freed from darkness' and, therefore, effulgent or luminous. Anadhrishyah is fearless.
194:5 Atmayaji is explained as one who performs his own sraddha or obsequial rites. The Sandhi in the next word is arsha; atmakrida is one who does not take pleasure in wife or children but whose source of pleasure is his own self: Similarly, atmasraya is one who without depending upon kings or others takes refuge in himself.
194:6 Such sacrifice, for example, as those called Brahma-yajna, etc.
195:1 Yajinam yajna is the sacrifice of ordinary sacrifices, i.e., the usual sacrifices consisting of tangible offerings unto the deities, and performed with the aid of Vedic mantras. The ablative implies cause. Atmani ijya is sacrifice in Self, i.e., Yoga. The meaning of the first line, therefore, is when through performance of ordinary sacrifices and rites, the mind becomes pure and the sacrificer is enabled to practise yoga. Unto the three fires he should duly sacrifice on his own self. means, of course, that without any longer adoring his fires by visible rites and actual recitation of mantras, he should, for the sake of emancipation, worship in his own self or seek the extinction of mind and knowledge in Yoga.
195:2 To this day every orthodox Brahmana or Kshatriya or Vaisya never eats without offering at the outset five small mouthfuls unto the five vital breaths, i.e., Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana, and Vyana.
195:3 Vapya or Vapayitwa means causing or obtaining a shave. The Burdwan translator makes a blunder by supposing it to mean parivyapta. The Sannyasa mode of life, as well-known, can never be entered without a previous shave. K.P. Singha gives the correct version.
195:4 It is difficult to render the word abhaya into English. 'To give abhaya to all creatures' is to pledge oneself to a life of total harmlessness, or to practise universal compassion or benevolence. Abstention from every kind of injury is the great duty of the fourth mode of life.
195:5 The duties included in yama (as explained by the commentator) are universal benevolence, truthfulness, faith, Brahmacharya, and freedom from attachment. Those that are included in niyama are purity (of body and mind), contentment, study of the Vedas, meditation on the Supreme, etc. Swasastra sutra means the sutras of his own sastras--i.e., the duties laid down in respect of that Sannyasa which he has adopted; the chief of which is enquiry after the Soul or Self: Bhutimanta implies Vedic recitation and the sacred thread. He who has taken to Sannyasa should display energy in these, i.e., persistently enquire after the Soul and throw away all caste-marks, and other indications. 'The desirable end' is of course, gradual Emancipation of that obtained at once. Following the commentator, K.P. Singha gives the correct version. The Burdwan version, containing the very words of the gloss, is based upon a complete misconception of their meaning.
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