The Mahabharata Home
"Suka said, 'O illustrious one, O foremost of Rishis, once again discourse to me on Adhyatma more elaborately. Tell me what, indeed, is Adhyatma and whence does it come?' 1
"Vyasa said, 'That, O son, which is regarded as Adhyatma with reference to human beings, I shall now mention to thee, and listen to the explanation I give (of Adhyatma). Earth, water, light, wind, and space, are the great entities that form the component parts of all creatures, and, though really one, are yet regarded different like the waves of the ocean (which though identical with respect to their constituent substance are yet counted as different from one another). Like a tortoise stretching out its limbs and withdrawing them again, the great entities (already named), by dwelling in numberless small forms, undergo transformations (called creation and destruction). All this universe of mobile and immobile objects hath for its component parts these five entities. Everything, in respect of its creation and destruction, is referable to this fivefold entity. These five entities occur in all existent things. The Creator of all things, however, hath made an unequal distribution of those entities (by placing them in different things in different proportions) for serving different ends.' 2
"Suka said, 'How may one succeed in understanding that unequal distribution (of the five great entities of which thou speakest) in the diverse things of the universe? Which amongst them are the senses and which the attributes? How may this be understood?'
"Vyasa said, 'I shall explain thee this duly one after another. Listen with concentrated attention to the subject as I expound how what I have said actually happens. Sound, the sense of hearing, and all the cavities within the body,--these three--have space for their origin. The vital breaths, the action of the limbs and touch form the attributes of the wind. Form, eyes, and the digestive fire within the stomach, are originated by light. Taste, tongue, and all the humours,--these three,--are from water. Scent, nose, and the body,--these three,--are the attributes of earth. These, then, as I have expounded to thee, are the transformations of the five (great) entities with senses. Touch is said to be the attribute of the wind; taste of water; form of light. Sound is said to have its origin in space, and scent is said to be the property of earth. Mind, Understanding, and Nature,--these three,--spring from their own previous states, and attaining (at each rebirth) to a position higher than the attributes (which form their respective objects), do not transcend those attributes. 1 As the tortoise stretches out its limbs and withdraws them once again within itself, even so the Understanding creates the senses and once again withdraws them into itself. 2 The consciousness of personal identity that arises in respect of that which is above the soles of the feet and below the crown of the head, is principally due to the action of the Understanding. 3 It is the understanding that is transformed into the (five) attributes (of form, scent, etc.). It is understanding also that is transformed into the (five) senses with the mind for the sixth. When the Understanding is absent, where are the attributes? 4 In man there are five senses. The mind is called the sixth (sense). The Understanding is called the seventh. The Soul is the eighth. The eyes (and the other senses) are for only receiving impressions of form (and scent, etc.). The mind exists for doubting (the accuracy of those impressions). The Understanding
settles those doubts. The Soul is said only to witness every operation without mingling with them. Rajas, Tamas, and Sattwa,--these three,--arise from their own counterparts. These exist equal in all creatures (viz., the deities and human beings, etc.). These are called attributes and should be known by the actions they induce. 1 As regards those actions all such states in which one becomes conscious of oneself as united with cheerfulness or joy and which are tranquil and pure, should be known as due to the attribute of Sattwa. All such states in either the body or the mind, as are united with sorrow, should be regarded as due to the influence of the attribute called Rajas. All such states again as exist with stupefication (of the senses, the mind or the understanding) whose cause is unascertainable, and which are incomprehensible (by either reasons or inward light), should be known as ascribable to the action of Tamas. Delight, cheerfulness, joy, equanimity, contentment of heart, due to any known cause or arising otherwise, are all effects of the attribute of Sattwa. Pride, untruthfulness of speech, cupidity, stupefication, vindictiveness, whether arising from any known cause or otherwise, are indications of the quality of Rajas. Stupefaction of judgment, heedlessness, sleep, lethargy, and indolence, from whatever cause these may arise, are to be known as indications of the quality of Tamas.'" 2
202:1 Adhyatma is topic bearing on the Soul. Here it signifies the seven and twenty usual topics of philosophical discourse, viz., the five organs of action, the five organs of knowledge, the mind and three others called Chitta, etc., the five vital breaths, the five elementary substances, Desire. Acts, and Avidya.
202:2 The second clause of the second line is explained by the commentator as yasmin kamani nimitte sati yat anupasyati.
203:1 The grammatical construction is Gunebhyah paramagatah gunan na ativartante. The meaning is this: Mind, Understanding, and Nature (or individual disposition of man or animal or vegetable, etc) are all due to their own previous states. Nature in particular being the result of the desires of a past state of existence. Such being their origin, they too are due to the five entities named. As regards their functions, it is said that having reached to that which is Gunebhyah parama, i.e., Srotradikaryam swarupam, they do not transcend the gunas themselves; or in other words having become endued with the faculty or power of seizing particular attributes (such as scent, form, etc)., they actually seize or apprehend them.
203:2 In other words, the senses and the mind are nothing but the understanding displayed in a particular shape or form. The principal function of the mind is to cherish and discard impressions. The understanding is nischayatmika or engaged in arriving at certainty of conclusions.
203:3 Everything above the soles of, the feet and below the crown of the head, is, of course, the whole body or self or the person. Asmin kritye is, aham iti yat darsanam tasmin karaniye. There can be no doubt that the commentator correctly explains the meaning.
203:4 Neniyate is as the commentator explains, an instance of karmakartari prayogah. Hence, the meaning is that both the attributes of form etc., and the senses with mind which apprehend those attributes, are the understanding itself, so that when the understanding is not, these also are not. The object of this verse is to establish the identity of the understanding with the senses, the mind, and the attribute with the senses and the mind apprehend. Both the vernacular versions are inaccurate.
204:1 The three attributes of Rajas, Tamas, and Sattwa do not spring front any different thing but from their own counterparts existing in a previous state of existence or life. They arise from their respective states as they existed with the Chitta or understanding in a previous life. Hence Chitta, and the objects of the senses and the senses also arising from it, are all affected by these three Gunas.
204:2 The last word in the first line is not prabodhita but aprabodhita.
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