The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'By what means doth a man become sinful, by what doth he achieve virtue, by what doth he attain to Renunciation, and by what doth he win Emancipation?'
"Bhishma said, 'Thou knowest all duties. This question that thou askest is only for confirmation of thy conclusions. Listen now to Emancipation, and Renunciation, and Sin, and Virtue to their very roots. Perceiving any one of the five objects (viz., form, taste, scent, sound, and touch), desire runs after it at first. Indeed, obtaining them within the purview of the senses, O chief of Bharata's race, desire or aversion springs up. 2 One, then, for the sake of that object (i.e., for acquisition of what is liked and avoidance of what is disliked) strives and begins acts that involve much labour. One endeavours one's best for repeatedly enjoying those forms and scents (and the three other objects of the remaining three senses) that appear very agreeable. Gradually, attachment, and aversion, and greed, and errors of judgment arise. The mind of one overwhelmed by greed and error and affected by attachment and aversion is never directed to virtue. One then begins with hypocrisy to do acts that are good. Indeed, with hypocrisy one then seeks to acquire virtue, and with hypocrisy one likes to acquire wealth. When one succeeds, O son of Kuru's race, in winning wealth with hypocrisy, one sets one's heart to such acquisition wholly. It is then that one begins to do acts that are sinful, notwithstanding the admonitions of well-wishers and the wise, unto all which he makes answers plausibly consistent with reason and conformable to the injunctions of the scriptures. Born of attachment and error, his sins, of three kinds, rapidly increase, for he thinks sinfully, speaks sinfully, and acts sinfully. When he fairly starts on the way of sin, they that are good mark his wickedness. They, however, that are of a disposition similar to that of the sinful man, enter into friendship with him. He succeeds not in winning happiness even here. Whence then would he succeed in winning happiness hereafter? It is thus that one becomes sinful. Listen now to me as I speak to thee of one that is righteous. Such a man, inasmuch as he seeks the good of others, succeeds in winning good for himself. By practising duties that are fraught with other people's good, he attains at last to a highly agreeable end. He who, aided by his wisdom, succeeds beforehand in beholding the faults
above adverted to, who is skilled in judging of what is happiness and what is sorrow and how each is brought about, and who waits with reverence upon those that are good, makes progress in achieving virtue, both in consequence of his habit and such companionship of the good. The mind of such a person takes delight in virtue, and he lives on, making virtue his support. If he sets his heart on the acquisition of wealth, he desires only such wealth as may be acquired in righteous ways. Indeed, he waters the roots of only those things in which he sees merit. In this way, doth one become righteous and acquires friends that are good. In consequence of his acquisition of friends, of wealth, and of children, he sports in happiness both here and hereafter. The mastery (in respect of enjoyment) that a living creature attains over sound, touch, taste, form, and scent, O Bharata, represents the fruit of virtue. 1 Remember this. Having obtained the fruit of virtue, O Yudhishthira, such a man does not give himself up to joy. Without being contented with such (visible) fruits of virtue he betakes himself to Renunciation, led on by the eye of knowledge. When, having acquired the eye of knowledge, he ceases to take pleasure in the gratification of desire, in taste and in scent, when he does net allow his mind to run towards sound, touch and form, it is then that he succeeds in freeing himself from desire. 2 He does not, however, even then cast off virtue or righteous acts. Beholding then all the worlds to be liable to destruction, he strives to cast off virtue (with its rewards in the form of heaven and its happiness) and endeavours to attain to Emancipation by the (well-known) means. 3 Gradually abandoning all sinful acts he betakes himself to Renunciation, and becoming righteous-souled succeeds at last in attaining to Emancipation. I have now told thee, O son, of that about which thou hadst asked me, viz., the topics of Sin, Righteousness, Renunciation, and Emancipation, O Bharata! Thou shouldst, therefore, O Yudhishthira, adhere to virtue in all situations. Eternal is the success, O son of Kunti, of thee that adherest to righteousness.'" 4
278:2 The commentator explains the grammar as panchanam (madhya ekam) artham prapya, etc.
279:1 This is the mastery or puissance that is brought by Yoga, so that the person succeeds, flats of the will, in creating whatever he desires.
279:2 The Burdwan translator gives a ridiculous version of this verse. He cites the commentator's words without understanding them aright.
279:3 What he does is to abandon sakamah dharmah for betaking himself to nishaamah dharmah or the practice of duties without desire of fruit, for only such a course of conduct can lead to Emancipation.
279:4 By dharma here is meant nishkama dharma, for the fruits of sakama dharma are not eternal, heaven like all things else having an end.
Next: Section CCLXXIV