The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O thou of mighty arms, tell me, after this what is beneficial for us. O grandsire, I am never satiated with thy words which seem to me like Amrita. What are those good acts, O best of men, by accomplishing which a man succeeds in obtaining what is for his highest benefit both here and hereafter, O giver of boons!'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection I shall narrate to thee what the celebrated king Janaka had enquired, in days of yore, of the high-souled Parasara, 'What is beneficial for all creatures both in this world and the next! Do thou tell me what should be known by all this connection.' Thus questioned, Parasara,
possessed of great ascetic merit and conversant with the ordinances of every religion, 1 said these words, desirous of favouring the king.'
"Parasara said, 'Righteousness earned by acts is supreme benefit both in this world and the next. The sages of the old have said that there is nothing higher than Righteousness. By accomplishing the duties of righteousness a man becomes honoured in heaven. The Righteousness, again, of embodied creatures, O best of kings, consists in the ordinance (laid down in the scriptures) on the subject of acts. 2 All good men belonging to the several modes of life, establishing their faith on that righteousness, accomplish their respective duties. 3 Four methods of living, O child, have been ordained in this world. (Those four methods are the acceptance of gifts for Brahmanas; the realisation of taxes for Kshatriyas; agriculture for Vaisyas; and service of the three other classes for the Sudras). Wherever men live the means of support come to them of themselves. Accomplishing by various ways acts that are virtuous or sinful (for the purpose of earning their means of support), living creatures, when dissolved into their constituent elements attain to diverse ends. 4 As vessels of white brass, when steeped in liquefied gold or silver, catch the hue of these metals, even so a living creature, who is completely dependent upon the acts of his past lives takes his colour from the character of those acts. Nothing can sprout forth without a seed. No one can obtain happiness without having accomplished acts capable of leading to happiness. When one's body is dissolved away (into its constituent elements), one succeeds in attaining to happiness only in consequence of the good acts of previous lives. The sceptic argues, O child, saying, I do not behold that anything in this world is the result of destiny or the virtuous and sinful acts of past lives. Inference cannot establish the existence or operation of destiny. 5 The deities, the Gandharvas and the Danavas have become what they are in consequence of their own nature (and not of their acts of past lives). People never recollect in their next lives the acts done by them in previous ones. For explaining the acquisition of fruits in any particular life people seldom name the four kinds of acts alleged to have been accomplished in past lives. 6 The declarations
having the Vedas for their authority have been made for regulating the conduct of men in this world, and for tranquillizing the minds of men. These (the sceptic says), O child, cannot represent the utterances of men possessed of true wisdom. This opinion is wrong. In reality, one obtains the fruits of whatever among the four kinds of acts one does with the eye, the mind, the tongue, and muscles. 1 As the fruit of his acts, O king, a person sometimes obtains happiness wholly, sometimes misery in the same way, and sometimes happiness and misery blended together. Whether righteous or sinful, acts are never destroyed (except by enjoyment or endurance of their fruits). 2 Sometimes, O child, the happiness due to good acts remains concealed and covered in such a way that it does not display itself in the case of the person who is sinking in life's ocean till his sorrows disappear. After sorrow has beep exhausted (by endurance), one begins to enjoy (the fruits of) one's good acts. And know, O king, that upon the exhaustion of the fruits of good acts, those of sinful acts begin to manifest themselves. Self-restraint, forgiveness, patience, energy, contentment, truthfulness of speech, modesty, abstention from injury, freedom from the evil practices called vyasana, and cleverness,--these are productive of happiness. No creature is eternally subject to the fruits of his good or bad acts. The man possessed of wisdom should always strive to collect and fix his mind. One never has to enjoy or endure the good and bad acts of another. Indeed, one enjoys and endures the fruits of only those acts that one does oneself. The person that casts off both happiness and misery walks along a particular path (the path, viz., of knowledge). Those men, however, O king, who suffer themselves to be attached to all worldly objects, tread along a path that is entirely different. A person should rot himself do that act which, if done by another, would call down his censure. Indeed, by doing an act that one censures in others, one incurs ridicule. A Kshatriya bereft of courage, a Brahmana that takes every kind of food, a Vaisya unendued with exertion (in respect of agriculture and other moneymaking pursuits), a Sudra that is idle (and, therefore, averse to labour), a learned person without good behaviour, one of high birth but destitute of righteous conduct, a Brahmana fallen away from truth, a woman that is unchaste and wicked, a Yogin endued with attachments, one that cooks food for one's own self, an ignorant person employed in making a discourse,
a kingdom without a king and a king that cherishes no affection for his subjects and who is destitute of Yoga,--these all, O king, are deserving of pity!'" 1
346:1 i.e., the religions of all the orders and all the modes of life.
346:2 The scriptural injunctions are that one should sacrifice in honour of the gods, pour libations on the sacred fire, make gifts etc, In these exists Righteousness.
346:3 The grammar of the third line is a little involved. Tasmin refers to Dharme. Supply nisthavantah after tasmin. The sense, of course, is that believing in the efficacy of righteousness, people of all modes of life accomplish the duties of their respective modes.
346:4 The sinful become intermediate animals. The virtuous attain to heaven. They that are both virtuous and sinful attain to the status of humanity. They that acquire Knowledge become Emancipated.
346:5 Destiny here means the result of the acts of past lives.
346:6 The reading I adopt is jatikritam karma etc. Hence, this Verse also represents the arguments of the sceptic or the Charvakas. The four kinds of acts are Nitya, Naimittika, Kamya, and Nishiddha. If, however, for 'jatikritam karma, etc.,' the reading yantyakritam karma be adopted, the meaning would be--'In one's next life one does not meet with fruits that are not the results of one's acts of past life. This must be so, for the opposite opinion would imply the destruction of acts and their consequences. Then again, such an opinion would conflict with the received opinion of mankind, for men, when they obtain the fruits of any p. 347 act, always recollect the four kinds of acts of a past life for explaining the accession of those fruits.
347:1 Verses 12 to 14 represent the theory of the sceptic, and I have rendered them as such. Only by reading verse 13 as 'yantyakritam karma, etc.,' the commentator points out that it may be taken as an observation of Parasara himself. As regards verse 15, it represents the ipse dixit of the speaker. He does not think that the sceptic is at all entitled to a reply. It is scarcely necessary to say that the Burdwan translator makes a thorough mess of these verses. K.P. Singha gives the substance correctly.
347:2 The commentator shows that this is an answer to the sceptic's averment about Nature being the cause of everything. Fire is hot-by nature, therefore, it does not become hot at one time, cold at another, and lukewarm at another time. One becomes either wholly happy or wholly unhappy or wholly happy and unhappy at the same time. Man's nature should not be such. The difference of state is produced by difference of causes.
348:1 A Brahmana is precluded from eating many things. Many things again that he is competent to eat on all days of the year. In fact, there are many rules for regulating the fare of a Brahmana. To this day, an orthodox Brahmana abstains from many kinds of food. A Brahmana, therefore, who is unscrupulous in respect of his food, is no Brahmana and deserves to be pitied. Similarly, a man who cooks food for himself is an object of pity. Raw food, such as fruits, etc., one may take without offering a share thereof to guests and others. But cooked food can never be taken without a share thereof being given to others. Yati cha Brahmachari cha pakvannaswaminavubhau, hence he that takes cooked food without giving a share to these is said to eat Brahmaswam or that which belongs to a Brahmana.
Next: Section CCXCII