The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, learned men praise truth, self-restraint, forgiveness, and wisdom. What is thy opinion of these virtues?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection I shall recite to thee an old narrative, O Yudhishthira, of the discourse between the Sadhyas and a Swan. Once on a time the Unborn and eternal Lord of all creatures (viz., Brahman), assuming the form of a golden Swan, wandered through the three worlds till in course of his wanderings he came upon the Sadhyas.'
"The Sadhyas said, 'O ford, we are the deities called Sadhyas. We like to question thee. Indeed, we would ask thee about the religion of Emancipation. Thou art well-acquainted with it. We have heard, O bird, that thou art possessed of great learning, and eloquent and wise of speech. O bird, what dost thou think is the highest of all objects? O high-souled one, in what does thy mind find pleasure? Do thou, therefore, O foremost of birds, instruct us as to what that one act is which thou regardest as the foremost of all acts, and by doing which, O chief of the feathery creation, one may soon be freed from all bonds.'
"The Swan said, 'Ye who have drunk Amrita, I have heard that one should have recourse to these, viz., penances, self-restraint, truth, and subjugation of the mind. Untying all the knots of the heart, one should also bring under one's control both what is agreeable and what is disagreeable. 1 One should not wound the vitals of others. One should not be an utterer of cruel speeches. One should never take scriptural lectures from a person that is mean. One should never utter such words as inflict pain on others, as cause others to burn (with misery), and as lead to hell. Wordy shafts fall from the lips. Pierced therewith one (to whom they are directed) burns incessantly. Those shafts do not strike any part other than the very vitals of the person aimed. Hence he that is possessed of learning should never aim them at others. If a person deeply pierces a man of wisdom with wordy shafts, the wise mart should then adopt peace (without giving way to wrath). The man who, though sought to be angered, rejoices without yielding to anger, taketh away from the provoker all his merits. That man of righteous soul, who, full of joy and freed from malice, subdues his blazing wrath which, if indulged, would lead him to speak ill of others and verily
become his foe, takes away the merits of others. As regards myself, I never answer I when another speaks ill of me. If assailed, I always forgive the assault. The righteous are of opinion that forgiveness and truth and sincerity and compassion are the foremost (of all virtues). Truth is the arcanum of the Vedas. The arcanum of Truth is self-restraint. The arcanum of self-restraint is Emancipation. This is the teaching of all the scriptures. I regard that person to be Brahmana and Muni who subjugates the rising impulse of speech, the impulse of wrath appearing in the mind, the impulse of thirst (after unworthy things), and the impulses of the stomach and the organ of pleasure. One who does not yield to wrath is superior to one who does. One who practises renunciation is superior to one who does not. One who possesses the virtues of manhood is superior to one who has them not. One who is endued with knowledge is superior to one who is destitute of it. Assailed with harsh speeches one should not assail in return. Indeed, one who, under such circumstances, renounces wrath, succeeds in burning the assailant and taking away all his merits. 1 That person who when assailed with harsh speeches does not utter a harsh word in reply, who when praised does not utter what is agreeable to him that praises, who is endued with such fortitude as not to strike in return when struck and not to even wish evil to the striker, finds his companionship always coveted by the gods. He that is sinful should be forgiven as if he were righteous, by one that is insulted, struck, and calumniated. By acting in this way one attains to success. Though all my objects have been fulfilled, yet I always wait reverentially on those that are righteous. I have no thirst. My wrath hath been suppressed. Seduced by covetousness I do not fall away from the path of righteousness. I do not also approach any one (with solicitations) for wealth. 2 If cursed, I do not curse in return. I know that self-restraint is the door of immortality. I disclose unto you a great mystery. There is no status that is superior to that of humanity. Freed from sin like the Moon from murky clouds, the man of wisdom, shining in resplendence, attains to success by patiently waiting for his time. A person of restrained soul, who becomes the object of adoration with all by becoming the foremost of the supporting pillars of the universe, and towards whom only agreeable words are spoken by all, attains to the companionship of the deities. Revilers never come forward to speak of the merits of a person as they speak of his demerits. That person whose speech and mind are properly restrained and always devoted to the Supreme, succeeds in attaining to the fruits of the Vedas, Penances, and Renunciation. The man of wisdom should never revile (in return) those that are destitute of merit, by uttering their dispraise and by insults. He should not extol others (being extolled by them) and should never injure themselves. The man endued with wisdom and learning regards revilement as nectar. Reviled, he sleeps without anxiety. The reviler, on the other hand, meets with destruction. The sacrifices that one performs in
anger, the gifts one makes in anger, the penances one undergoes in anger, and the offerings and libations one makes to the sacred fire in anger, are such that their merits are robbed by Yama. The toil of an angry man becomes entirely fruitless. Ye foremost of immortals, that person is said to be conversant with righteousness whose four doors, viz., the organ of pleasure, the stomach, the two arms, and speech, are well-restrained. That person who, always practising truth and self-restraint and sincerity and compassion and patience and renunciation, becomes devoted to the study of the Vedas, does not covet what belongs to others, and pursues what is good with a singleness of purpose, succeeds in attaining to heaven. Like a calf sucking all the four teats of its dam's udders, one should devote oneself to the practice of all these virtues. I do not know whether anything exists that is more sacred than Truth. Having roved among both human beings and the deities, I declare it that Truth is the only means for reaching heaven even as a ship is the only means for crossing the ocean. A person becomes like those with whom he dwells, and like those whom he reverences, and like to what he wishes to be. If a person waits with reverence on him who is good or him who is otherwise, if he waits with reverence on a sage possessed of ascetic merit or on a thief, passes under his way and catches his hue like a piece of cloth catching the dye in which it is steeped. The deities always converse with those that are possessed of wisdom and goodness. They, therefore, never entertain the wish for even seeing the enjoyments in which men take pleasure. The person who knows that all objects of enjoyment (which human beings cherish) are characterised by vicissitudes, has few rivals, and is superior to the very Moon and the Wind. 1 When the Purusha that dwells in one's heart is unstained, and walks in the path of the righteous, the gods take a pleasure in him. The gods from a distance cast off those that are always devoted to the gratification of their organs of pleasure and the stomach, that are addicted to thieving, and that always indulge in harsh speeches, even if they expiate their offences by performing the proper rites. The gods are never pleased with one of mean soul, with one who observes no restrictions in the matter of food, and with one who is of sinful deeds. On the other hand, the gods associate with those men that are observant of the vow of truth, that are grateful, and that are engaged in the practice of righteousness. Silence is better than speech. To speak the truth is better than silence. Again to speak truth that is connected with righteousness is better than to speak the truth. To speak that which, besides being true and righteous, is agreeable, is better than to speak truth connected with righteousness.'
"The Sadhyas said, 'By what is this world covered? For what reason does
one fail to shine? For what cause do people cast off their friends? For what reason do people fail to attain to heaven?'
"The Swan said, 'The world is enveloped by (the darkness of) Ignorance. Men fail to shine in consequence of malice. People cast off friends, induced by covetousness. Men fail to attain to heaven in consequence of attachment.'
"The Sadhyas said, 'Who alone among the Brahmanas is always happy? Who alone amongst them can observe the vow of silence though dwelling in the midst of many? Who alone amongst them, though weak, is still regarded as strong? And who alone amongst them does not quarrel?'
"The Swan said, 'He alone amongst the Brahmanas that is possessed of wisdom is always happy. He alone amongst the Brahmanas that is possessed of wisdom succeeds in observing the vow of silence, though dwelling in the midst of many. He alone amongst the Brahmanas who is possessed of wisdom, though actually weak, is regarded as strong. He alone amongst them that has wisdom succeeds in avoiding quarrel.' 1
"The Sadhyas said, 'in what consists the divinity of the Brahmanas? In what their purity? In what their impurity? And in what their status of humanity?'
"The Swan said, 'In the study of the Vedas is the divinity of the Brahmanas. In their vows and observances is their purity. In obloquy is their impurity. In death is their humanity.' 2
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus have I recited to thee excellent narrative of the discourse between the Sadhyas (and the Swan). The body (both gross and subtile) is the origin of acts, and existence or Jiva is truth.'
370:1 The commentator explains that by tapah is meant the practice or observance of one's own duties. Damah is restraining the senses. Satyam is truthfulness of speech, and atmaguptih is subjugation of the mind. The knots are attachments and desires, etc.
371:1 i.e., the assailant, finding his victim forgiving, himself burns with repentance.
371:2 Vishayena yami is the correct reading; i.e., then here is palatal, and vishayena is in the instrumental case. The Bengal reading is vicious, for it reads Vishaye nayami.
372:1 The Moon is endued with nectar, and, therefore, might have been such a man's equal; but the Moon waxes and wanes; therefore, the Moon cannot approach to an equality with such a man who is the same under all changes. Similarly, the wind, though unstained by the dust it bears is not the equal of such a man; for the wind is changeful, having slow, middling and quick motion. The Burdwan translator makes utter nonsense of the reference to the Moon and the wind. K.P. Singha gives the sense correctly.
373:1 The commentator explains that the object of this verse is to show the merits of that man whose ignorance has disappeared.
373:2 i.e., when Brahmanas incur obloquy they are said to become impure; they are again regarded as possessing the status of humanity only because they die.
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