The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast already explained to me, O grandsire, how the religion of Yoga, which leads to the six well-known attributes, may be adopted
and practised without injuring any creature. Tell me, O grandsire, of that religion which leads to both results, viz., Enjoyment and Emancipation. Amongst these two, viz., the duties of domesticity and those of Yoga, both of which lead to the same end, which is superior?'
"Bhishma said, 'Both courses of duty are highly blessed. Both are extremely difficult of accomplishment. Both are productive of high fruits. Both are practised by those that are admittedly good. I shall presently discourse to thee on the authoritativeness of both those courses of duty, for dispelling thy doubts about their true import. Listen to me with concentrated attention. In this connection is instanced the old narrative of the discourse between Kapila and the cow. Listen to it, O Yudhishthira! 1 It has been heard by us that in days of old when the deity Tvashtri came to the place of king Nahusha, the latter, for discharging the duties of hospitality, was on the point of killing a cow agreeably to the true, ancient, and eternal injunction of the Vedas. Beholding that cow tied for slaughter, Kapila of liberal soul, ever observant of the duties of Sattwa, always engaged in restraining his senses, possessed of true knowledge, and abstemious in diet, having acquired an excellent understanding that was characterised by faith, perfectly fearless, beneficial, firm, and ever directed towards truth, uttered this word once, viz.,--'Alas ye Vedas!'--At that time a Rishi, of the name of Syumarasmi, entering (by Yoga power) the form of that cow, addressed the Yati Kapila, saying, 'Hist O Kapila! If the Vedas be deserving (in consequence of those declarations in them that sanction the slaughter of living creatures), whence have those other duties (fraught with entire harmlessness to all creatures) come to be regarded as authoritative? 2 Men devoted to penances and endued with intelligence, and who have the Srutis and knowledge for their eyes, regard the injunctions of the Vedas, which have been declared through and compiled by the Rishis, to be the words of God himself. 3 What can anybody say (by way of censure or praise) with respect to the contents of the Vedas when these happen to be the words of the Supreme Being himself who is freed from desire of fruit, who is without the fever (of envy and aversion), who is addicted to nothing, and who is destitute of all exertion (in consequence of the immediate fruition of all his wishes)?'
"Kapila said, 'I do not censure the Vedas. I do not wish to say anything in derogation of them. It hath been heard by us that the different courses of duty laid down for the different modes of life, all lead to the same end. The
[paragraph continues] Sannyasin attains to a high end. The forest-recluse also attains to a high end. Both the other two also, viz., the householder and the Brahmacharin, reach the same end. All the four modes of life have always been regarded as Deva-yana ways. The relative strength or weakness of these, as represented by their relative superiority or inferiority, hath been declared in the character of their respective ends. 1--Knowing these, accomplish acts which lead to heaven and other blessings,--this is a Vedic declaration.--Do not accomplish acts,--this also is another binding declaration of the Vedas. If abstention from acts be meritorious, then their accomplishment must be exceedingly reprehensible. When the scriptures stand thus, the strength or weakness of particular declarations must be very difficult to ascertain. If thou knowest of any course of duty which is superior to the religion of harmlessness, and which depends upon direct evidence instead of that of the scriptures, do thou then discourse to me upon it.'
"Syumarasmi said, 'One should perform sacrifice from desire of heaven,--this Sruti is constantly heard by us. Thinking first of the fruit (that is to be attained), one makes preparations for sacrifice. Goat, horse, cow, all species of birds, domestic or wild, and herbs and plants, are food of (other) living creatures. This is heard by us. 2 Food again has been directed to be taken day after day morning and evening. Then again the Sruti declares that animals and grain are the limbs of Sacrifice. 3 The Lord of the universe created them along with Sacrifice. The puissant Lord of all creatures caused the deities to perform sacrifices with their aid. Altogether seven (domestic) and seven (wild) animals are indicated as fit for sacrifice. Instead of all being equally fit, each succeeding one is inferior to each preceding one. The Vedas again declare that the whole universe is appointed for sacrifice. Him also that is called Purusha the Vedas have appointed for the same purpose. 4 This again hath been sanctioned by men of remote and remoter times. What man of learning is there that does not select, according to his own ability, individuals from among living creatures for sacrifice? 5 The inferior animals, human beings, trees, and herbs, all wish for the attainment of heaven. There is no means, however, except sacrifice, by which they can obtain the fruition
of that desire. The deciduous herbs, animals, trees, creepers, clarified butter, milk, curds, meat and other approved things (that are poured on the sacrificial fire), land, the points of the compass, faith, and time which brings up the tale of twelve, the Richs, the Yajuses, the Samans, and the sacrificer himself bringing up the tale to sixteen, and Fire which should be known as the householder,--these seventeen are said to be the limbs of sacrifice. Sacrifice, the Sruti declares, is the root of the world and its course. With clarified butter, milk, curds, dung, curds mixed with milk, skin, the hair in her tail, horns, and hoofs, the cow alone is able to furnish all the necessaries of sacrifice. Particular ones amongst these that are laid down for particular sacrifices, coupled with Ritwijas and presents (to the priests themselves and other Brahmanas) together sustain sacrifices. 1 By collecting these things together, people accomplish sacrifices 2. This Sruti, consistent with the truth, is heard that all things have been created for the performance of sacrifice. It was thus that all men of ancient time set themselves to the performance of sacrifices. As regards that person, however, who performs sacrifices because of the conviction that sacrifices should be performed and not for the sake of fruit or reward, it is seen that he does not injure any creature or bear himself with hostility to anything, or set himself to the accomplishment of any worldly task. 3 Those things that have been named as the limbs of sacrifice, and those other things that have been mentioned as required in sacrifices and that are indicated in the ordinances, all uphold one another (for the completion of sacrifices) when used according to the approved ritual. 4 I behold also the Smritis compiled by he Rishis, into which the Vedas have been introduced. Men of learning regard them as authoritative in consequence of their following the Brahmanas. 5 Sacrifices have the Brahmanas for that progenitor, and truly they rest upon the Brahmanas. The whole universe rests upon sacrifice, and sacrifice rests upon the universe. 6 The syllable Om is the root from which the Vedas have sprung. (Every rite, therefore, should commence with the utterance of that syllable of vast import). Of him who has uttered for him the syllables Om, Namas, Swaha, Svadha, and Vashat, and who has, according to the extent of his ability, performed sacrifices and other rites, there is no fear in respect of next life in all the three worlds. Thus say the Vedas, and sages crowned with ascetic success, and the foremost of Rishis. He in whom are the Richs, the Yajuses, the Samans, and the expletives
necessary for completing the rhythm of the Samans according to the rules laid down in Vedic grammars, is, indeed, a Brahmana. 1 Thou knowest, O adorable Brahmana, what the fruits are of Agnihotra, of the Soma-sacrifice, and of the other great sacrifices. I say, for this reason, one should sacrifice and assist at other people's sacrifices, without scruples of any kind. One who performs such sacrifices as lead to heaven (such as Jyotishtoma, etc.) obtains high rewards hereafter in the form of heavenly beatitude. This is certain, viz., that they who do not perform sacrifices have neither this world nor the next. They who are really conversant with the declarations of the Vedas regard both kinds of declarations (viz., those that incite to acts and those that preach abstention) as equally authoritative.'"
256:1 The redundant syllable is arsha.
256:2 Both acts and knowledge have been pointed out in the Vedas. The Vedas, therefore, being authority for both, one or the other cannot be censured or applauded.
256:3 Arsha means here Vedic injunctions declared through the mouths of inspired Rishis and compiled by Rishis. Viditatmanah is the Supreme Being himself. The object of the speaker is to show that no part of the Vedas can be censured, for every word in them is equally authoritative, all being God's own.
257:1 Deva-yanah is explained by the commentator as Devam atmanam janti ebhiriti, i.e., those by which the Soul is reached. The relative strength or weakness of the four modes of life hath been thus indicated. The Sannyasin attains to Moksha or Emancipation; the forest recluse to the region of Brahman; the house-holder attains to heaven (region of the deities presided over by Indra) and the Brahmacharin attains to the region of the Rishis.
257:2 The commentator explains that having commenced with the assertion that men should sacrifice from desire of heaven, the speaker fears that the hearer may deny the very existence of heaven. Hence, he takes a surer ground for justifying slaughter, viz., the ground that is connected with the consideration of food. Living creatures must eat in order to live. The very support of life requires the slaughter of life. Slaughter, therefore, is justified by the highest necessity.
257:3 i.e., there are the essential requisites of sacrifice.
257:4 The seven domestic animals are cow, goat, man, horse, sheep, mule, and ass. The seven wild ones are lion, tiger, boar, buffalo, elephant, bear, and monkey.
257:5 'Vichinwita is Vivechayet with alamvartham understood: atmanah is equivalent to jivat.
258:1 All the products of the cow that are named here are not required in all sacrifices. Some are required in some, others in others. Those then that are required, when coupled with Ritwijas and Dakshina, complete the respective sacrifices or uphold or sustain them.
258:2 Samhritya means Ekikritya and not 'destroying' as the Burdwan translator wrongly takes it.
258:3 The Burdwan translator, notwithstanding the clear language of both the text and commentary, wrongly connects the first line of verse 31 with the last line of 30, and makes nonsense of both verses.
258:4 By taking the two lines of 32 with the last line of 30, the Burdwan translator makes nonsense of the passage.
258:5 'Brahmanas' here means that part of the Vedas which contains the ritual.
258:6 Each constitutes the refuge of the other.
259:1 There are many such expletives, such as hayi, havu, etc.
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