The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Cruel and sinful that we are, alas, we have slain brothers and sires and grandsons and kinsmen and friends and sons. How, O grandsire, shall we dispel this thirst for wealth. Alas, through that thirst we have perpetrated many sinful deeds.'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the old narrative of what was said by the ruler of the Videhas unto the enquiring Mandavya. The ruler of the Videhas said, 'I have nothing (in this world), yet I live in great happiness. If the whole of Mithila (which is said to be my kingdom) burn in a conflagration, nothing of mine will be burnt down. Tangible possessions, however valuable, are a source of sorrow to men of knowledge; while possessions of even little value fascinate the foolish. 2 Whatever happiness exists here, derivable from the gratification of desire, and whatever heavenly happiness exists of high value, do not come up to even a sixteenth part of the felicity that attends the total disappearance of desire. As the horns of a cow grow with the growth of the cow itself, after the same manner the thirst for wealth increases with increasing acquisitions of wealth. Whatever the object for which one feels an attachment, that object becomes a source of pain when it is lost. One
should not cherish desire. Attachment to desire leads to sorrow. When wealth has been acquired, one should apply it to purposes of virtue. One should even then give up desire. 1 The man of knowledge always looks upon other creatures even as he looks upon himself. Having cleansed his soul and attained to success, he casts off everything here. 2 By casting off both truth and falsehood, grief and joy, the agreeable and disagreeable, fearlessness and fear, one attains to tranquillity, and becomes free from every anxiety. That thirst (for earthly things) which is difficult of being cast off by men of foolish understanding, which wanes not with the wane of the body, and which is regarded as a fatal disease (by men of knowledge), one who succeeds in casting off is sure to find felicity. The man of virtuous soul, by beholding his own behaviour that has become bright as the moon and free from evil of every kind, succeeds in happily attaining to great fame both here and hereafter.' Hearing these words of the king, the Brahmana became filled with joy, and applauding what he heard, Mandavya betook himself to the path of Emancipation.'"
285:2 The commentator points out that possessions of value include even the region of Brahman. Men of knowledge, who seek Emancipation, do not set any value on even the joy of the region of the Creator.
286:1 The commentator explains that one should not cherish 'the desire for wealth even for the sake of acquiring virtue therewith. When, however, wealth is obtained without effort, such wealth should be applied to the acquisition of virtue. One is also directed to give up the desire of acquiring wealth (by even innocent means) the reason being that desire, when cherished, is sure to increase and get the better of one's heart.
286:2 The commentator observes that the first line means that the man of knowledge should wish for happiness to all, and never wish sorrow to any one. Sarvam includes virtue and vice. Of course, the practice of nishkama dharma is recommended.
Next: Section CCLXXVII