The Mahabharata Home
"Vyasa said, 'The mind creates (within itself) numerous ideas (of objects or existent things). The Understanding settles which is which. The heart discriminates which is agreeable and which is disagreeable. These are the three forces that impel to acts. The objects of the senses are superior to the senses. The mind is superior to those objects. The understanding is superior to mind. The Soul is regarded as superior to Understanding. (As regards the ordinary purposes of man) the Understanding is his Soul. When the understanding, of its own motion, forms ideas (of objects) within itself, it then comes to be called Mind. 3 In consequence of the senses being different from one another (both in respect of their objects and the manner of their operation), the Understanding (which is one and the same) present different aspect in consequence
of its different modifications. When it hears, it becomes the organ of hearing, and when it touches, it becomes the organ of touch. Similarly, when it sees, it becomes the organ of vision, and when it tastes, it becomes the organ of taste, and when it smells, it becomes the organ of scent. It is the Understanding that appears under different guises (for different functions) by modification. It is the modifications of the Understanding that are called the senses. Over them is placed as their presiding chief (or overseer) the invisible Soul. Residing in the body, the Understanding exists in the three states (of Sattwa, Rajas, and, Tamas). Sometimes it obtains cheerfulness, sometimes it gives way to grief; and sometimes its condition becomes such that it is united with neither cheerfulness nor grief. The Understanding, however, whose chief function (as already said) is to create entities, transcends those three states even as the ocean, that lord of rivers, prevails against the mighty currents of the rivers that fall into it. 1 When the Understanding desires for anything, it comes to be called by the name of Mind. The senses again, though (apparently different) should all be taken as included within the Understanding. The senses, which are engaged in bearing impressions of form, scent etc., should all be subdued. 2 When a particular sense becomes subservient to the Understanding, the latter though in reality not different (from that sense), enters the Mind in the form of existent things. Even this is what happens with the senses one after another (separately and not simultaneously) with reference to the ideas that are said to be apprehended by them. 3 All the three states that exist (viz., Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas), inhere to these three (viz., Mind, Understanding, and Consciousness) and like the spokes of a car-wheel acting in consequence of their attachment to the circumference of the wheel, they follow the different objects (that exist in Mind, Understanding, and Consciousness). 4 The mind must make a lamp
of the senses for dispelling the darkness that shuts out the knowledge of the Supreme Soul. This knowledge that is acquired by Yogins with the aid of all especial agency of Yoga, is acquired without any especial efforts by men that abstain from worldly objects. 1 The universe is of this nature (viz., it is only a creation of the understanding). The man of knowledge, therefore, is never stupefied (by attachment to things of this world). Such a man never grieves, never rejoices, and is free from envy (at seeing another possessing a larger share of earthly objects). The Soul is incapable of being seen with the aid of the senses whose nature is to wander among all (earthly) objects of desire. Even righteous men, whose senses are pure, fail to behold the soul with their aid, what then should be said of the vicious whose senses are impure? When, however, a person, with the aid of his mind, tightly holds their reins, it is then that his Soul discovers itself like an object (unseen in darkness) appearing to the view in consequence of the light of a lamp. Indeed, as all things become visible when the darkness that envelopes them is dispelled, even the soul becomes visible when the darkness that covers it is removed. 2 As an aquatic fowl, though moving on the water, is never drenched by that element, after the same manner the Yogin of freed soul is never soiled by the imperfections of the three attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas). After the same manner, the man of wisdom, by even enjoying all earthly objects without being attached to any of them, is never soiled by faults of any kind that arise in the case of others from such enjoyment. He who avoids acts after having done them duly, 3 and takes delight in the one really existent entity, viz., the Soul, who has constituted himself the soul of all created beings, and who succeeds in keeping himself aloof from the three attributes, obtains an understanding and senses that are created by the Soul. The qualities are incapable of apprehending the Soul. The Soul, however, apprehends them always. The Soul is the witness that beholds the qualities and duly calls them up into being. Behold, this is the difference between the understanding and the Soul both of which are exceedingly subtile. One of them creates the qualities. The other never creates them. Though they are different from each other by nature, yet they are always united. The fish living in the water is different from the element in which it lives. But as the fish and the water forming its home are always united, after the same manner Sattwa and Kshetrajna exists in a state of union. The gnat born within a rotten fig is really not the fig but different
from it. Nevertheless, as the gnat and the fig are seen to be united with each other, even so are Sattwa and Kshetrajna. As the blade in a clump of grass, though distinct from the clump, nevertheless exists in a state of union with it, even so these two, though different from each other, each existing in its own self, are to be seen in a state of constant union.'"
204:3 In the original, the word atman is used in various senses. Sometimes it stands for the Jiva-soul, sometimes for the Supreme Soul, sometimes for essence or the principal portion of anything, sometimes for one's own self, and sometimes even for the person or body. It is not difficult to distinguish in which sense the word is used in what place.
205:1 Vela is tide or current. The Understanding, although it exists with the three states of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas, can yet transcend them by Yoga. The ordinary and extraordinary states of the understanding are spoken of in this verse.
205:2 The Bengal texts make this a verse of one line. In the Bombay text, verse 9 is made a triplet, so that this line is included in it. Medhyani is explained as medha, rupadi jnanam, tatra tani.
205:3 If I have understood this verse correctly, the theory of perception laid down is a sort of idealism which has not, perhaps, its counterpart in European metaphysics. The senses are first said to be only modifications of the understanding. The mind also is only a modification of the same. A particular sense, say the eye, becomes subservient to the understanding at a particular moment. As soon as this happens, the understanding, though in reality it is only the eye, becomes united with the eye, and entering the mind raises an image there, the consequence of which is that that image is said to be seen. External world there is, of course, as independent of mind and understanding. That which is called a tree is only an idea or image created in the mind by the understanding with the aid of the sense of vision.
205:4 The speaker here combats the theory that the qualities of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas inhere to the objects themselves of the senses. His own view is that they inhere to the Mind, the Understanding, and Consciousness. The qualities may be seen to exist with objects, but in reality they follow objects in consequence of their permanent connection with the mind, the understanding, and consciousness which have agency in the production of objects. The commentator cites the instance of a wife's beautiful and symmetrical limbs. These excite pleasure in the husband, envy in a co-wife, and desire (mixed with pain at its not being p. 206 gratified) in a weak-hearted gazer. All the while the limbs remain unchanged. Then again, the husband is not always pleased with them, nor is the co-wife always filled with envy at their sight, nor is the gazer always agitated. Like the spokes of a wheel which are attached to the circumference and which move with circumference, the qualities of Sattwa, etc., attached to the mind, understanding and consciousness, move along with them, i.e., follow those objects in the production of which the mind, etc., are causes.
206:1 This version of verse is offered tentatively. I give the substance without following the exact order of the original. Compare this verse with 42 of section 194 ante.
206:2 As soon as the darkness of the understanding is dispelled and true knowledge succeeds, the Soul becomes visible.
206:3 i.e., who adopts the Sannyasa or the last mode of life after having duly gone through the preceding modes.
Next: Section CCXLIX