» Home

The Mahabharata
of Krishna - Dwaipayana Vyasa
translated by
Kisari Mohan Ganguli

[pub. between 1883 and 1896]

01 - Adi Parva
02 - Sabha Parva
03 - Vana Parva
04 - Virata Parva

05 - Udyoga Parva
06 - Bhishma Parva
07 - Drona Parva
08 - Karna Parva
09 - Shalya Parva
10 - Sauptika Parva
11 - Stri Parva
12 - Santi Parva
13 - Anusasana Parva
14 - Aswamedha Parva
15 - Asramavasika Parva
16 - Mausala Parva
17 - Mahaprasthanika Parva
18 - Svargarohanika Parva

» Translations
» Summary
» Stories
» Scriptures
» Articles
» Glossary

The Mahabharata Home Index  Previous  Next 


"Parasara said, 'I have now discoursed to thee on what the ordinances are of the duties in respect of one that leads the domestic mode of life. I shall now speak to thee of the ordinances about penances. Listen to me as I discourse on the topic. It is generally seen, O king, that in consequence of sentiments fraught with Rajas and Tamas, the sense of meum, born of attachment, springs up in the heart of the householder. Betaking oneself to the domestic mode of life, one acquires kine, fields, wealth of diverse kinds, spouses, children, and servants. One that becomes observant of this mode of life continually casts one's eye upon these objects. Under these circumstances, one's attachments and aversions increase, and one ceases to regard one's (transitory) possessions as eternal and indestructible. When a person becomes overwhelmed by attachment and aversion, and yields himself up to the mastery of earthly objects, the desire of enjoyment then seizes him, taking its rise from heedlessness, O king. Thinking that person to be blessed who has the largest share of enjoyments in this world, the man devoted to enjoyment does not, in consequence of his attachment thereto, see that there is any other happiness besides what waits upon the gratification of the senses. Overwhelmed with cupidity that results from such attachment, he then seeks to increase the number of his relatives and attendants, and for gratifying these latter he seeks to increase his wealth by every means in his power. Filled with affection for children, such a person commits, for the sake of acquiring wealth, acts that he knows to be evil, and gives way to grief if his wealth be lost. Having earned honours and always guarding against the defeat of his plans, he betakes himself to such means as would gratify his desire of enjoyment. At last he

p. 357

meets with destruction as the inevitable consequence of the conduct he pursues. It is well-known, however, that true felicity is theirs that a e endued with intelligence, that are utterers of the eternal Brahma, that seek to accomplish only acts that are auspicious and beneficial, and that abstain from all acts that are optional and spring from desire alone. 1 From loss of all such objects in which are centred our affections, from loss of wealth, O king, and from the tyranny of physical diseases add mental anguish, a person falls into despair. From this despair arises art awakening of the soul. From such awakening proceeds study of the Scriptures. From contemplation of the import of the scriptures, O king, one sees the value of penance. A person possessed of the knowledge of what is essential and what accidental, O king, is very rare,--he, that is, who seeks to undergo penances, impressed with the truth that the happiness one derives from the possession of such agreeable objects as spouses and children leads ultimately to misery. 2 Penances, O child, are for all. They are ordained for even the lowest order of men (viz., Sudras). Penances set the self-restrained man having the mastery over all his senses on the way to heaven. It was through penances that the puissant Lord of all creatures, O, king, observing vows at particular intervals created all existent objects. The Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, Agni, the Aswins, the Maruts, the Viswedevas, the Saddhyas, the Pitris, the Maruts, the Yakshas, the Rakshasas, the Gandharvas, the Siddhas and the other denizens of heaven, and, indeed, all other celestials whatever, O child, have all been crowned with success through their penances. Those Brahmanas whom Brahmana created at the outset, succeeded through their penances in honouring not the Earth alone but the heaven also in which they roved at pleasure. In this world of mortals, they that are kings, and those others that are householders born in high families, have all become what they are only in consequence of their penances. 3 The silken robes they wear, the excellent ornaments that adorn their persons, the animals and vehicles they ride, and the seats they use are all the result of their penances. The many charming and beautiful women, numbering by thousands, that they enjoy, and their residence in palatial mansions, are all due to their penances. Costly beds and diverse kinds of delicious viands become theirs that act righteously. There is nothing in the three worlds, O scorcher of foes, that penances cannot attain. Even those that are destitute of true knowledge win Renunciation as the consequence of their penances. 4 Whether in affluent circumstances or miserable, a person should cast off

p. 358

cupidity, reflecting on the scriptures, with the aid of his Mind and understanding, O best of kings. Discontent is productive of misery. (Discontent is the result of cupidity). Cupidity leadeth to the stupefaction of the senses. The senses being stupefied, one's wisdom disappears like knowledge not kept up by continued application. When one's wisdom disappears, one fails to discriminate what is proper from what is improper. Hence, when one's happiness is destroyed (and one becomes subject to misery) one should practise the austerest of penances. 1 That which is agreeable is called happiness. That which is disagreeable is said to be misery. When penances are practised, the result is happiness. When they are not practised, the result is misery. Behold the fruits of practising and abstaining from penances! 2 By practising stainless penances, people always meet with auspicious consequences of every kind, enjoy all good things, and attain to great fame. 3 He, however, who by abandoning (stainless penances), betakes himself to penances from desire of fruit, meets with many disagreeable consequences, and disgrace and sorrow of diverse kinds, as the fruits thereof, all of which have worldly possessions for their cause. 4 Notwithstanding the desirability of practising righteousness, penances, and gifts, the wish springs up in his mind of accomplishing all kinds of forbidden acts. By thus perpetrating diverse kinds of sinful acts, he goes to hell. 5 That person, O best of men, who, in both happiness and misery, does not fall away from the duties ordained for him, is said to have the scriptures for his eye. It is said that the pleasure one derives from the gratification of one's senses of touch, tongue, sight, scent, and hearing, O monarch, lasts only so long as a shaft urged from the bow takes in falling down upon the earth. Upon the cessation of that pleasure, which is so short-lived, one experiences the most keen agony. It is only the senseless that do not applaud the felicity of Emancipation that is unrivalled. Beholding the misery that attends the gratification of the senses, they that are possessed of wisdom cultivate the virtues of tranquillity and self-restraint for the purpose of attaining to Emancipation. In consequence of their righteous behaviour, wealth, and pleasure can never succeed in afflicting them. 6 Householders

p. 359

may, without any compunction, enjoy wealth and other possessions that are obtained without Exertion. As regards, however, the duties of their order that are laid down in the scriptures, these, I am of opinion, they should discharge with the aid of Exertion. 1 The practice of those that are honoured, that are born in high families, and that have their eyes always turned towards the import of the scriptures, is incapable of being followed by those that are sinful and that are possessed of unrestrained minds. All acts that are done by man under the influence of vanity, meet with destruction. Hence, for them that are respectable and truly righteous there is no other act in this world to do than penance. 2 As regards, those house-holders, however, that are addicted to acts, they should, with their whole hearts, set themselves to acts. Following the duties of their order, O king, they should with cleverness and attention perform sacrifices and other religious rites. Indeed, as all rivers, male and female, have their refuge in the Ocean, even so men belonging to all the other orders have their refuge in the householder.'"


357:1 After sukham supply bhavati or some such verb. Tyajatam stands by itself and refers to kamya karma, meaning they that abstain from such acts as are not nitya but as are only kamya or optional.

357:2 The sense is that those who betake themselves to penances as the consequence of despair, are many. Those men, however, are very rare who adopt penances, being at once impressed that the happiness of domesticity is unreal and ends in misery.

357:3 i.e., their penances of past lives.

357:4 I am not sure that I have correctly understood the second line of this verse. Akrita-karmanam is explained by the commentator as anut-pannatattwajnanam and upabhogavarityagah is Renunciation or Vairagyam phalani has tapasah understood before it. But why phalani instead of phalam?

358:1 The second line of this verse concludes the argument. The tasmat has reference to all the statements before, and not to only the first line of 26. The statement in the second line is the same as the second line of verse 13 above.

358:2 I expand the second line a little for making it intelligible.

358:3 By 'stainless penances' is meant nishkamam tapah or penances undertaken without desire of fruit.

358:4 Tyaktwa has nishkalmasham tapah understood after it. The order of the words is Phalarthi apriyani etc., vishyatmakam tat phalam prapnoti. The distinction between nishkamam and sakamam tapah is this; through the former one attains to happiness. Even the earthly wealth he earns becomes fraught with happiness; through the latter, however, one meets with diverse kinds of sorrow resulting from the earthly possessions he succeeds in obtaining.

358:5 The grammar of the first line is this: Dharme tapasi dane cha (sati avihitakarme) vidhitsa, etc. If vidhitsa be taken with 'dharma, etc.,' the verse would be unmeaning.

358:6 The first line is difficult to construe. Tatah means 'inconsequence of the pain that attends the gratification of the senses.' Sarvasya refers to vivekinah; jyayase phalartham is 'for the sake of the highest fruit,' which, of course, is Emancipation. Gunah is 'same', 'dama, etc.'

359:1 The commentator points out that the object of this verse is to show that everything one owns or does is not the result of the past acts. Spouses, food, drink, etc., one obtains as the result of past acts or praravdha karma. In respect of these, purushakara or Exertion is weak. Hence, to put forth Exertion for their acquisition would not be wise. As regards the acquisition of righteousness, however, there Exertion is efficacious. Hence, one should, with Exertion, seek to conform to one's own duties as laid down in the scriptures. Without such a distinction between destiny (praravdha) and Exertion (purushakara), the injunctions and interdictions of the Scriptures would be unmeaning. The Burdwan translator, citing portions of the commentary without at all understanding them, makes utter nonsense of the verse. K.P. Singha gives the meaning correctly.

359:2 Sacrifices and all other acts undertaken from a sense of vanity, are destructible as regards their consequences, for heaven is terminable. Penances, however, that are undertaken without desire of fruit are not so, for these lead to Emancipation. Tesham refers to those mentioned in the first line of verse 37. It should not be taken to mean men in general, as the Burdwan translator wrongly does.

Next: Section CCXCVII