The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'After Vyasa had left the spot, Narada, traversing through the sky, came to Suka employed in studying the scriptures. The celestial Rishi came for the object of asking Suka the meaning of certain portions of the Vedas. Beholding the celestial Rishi Narada arrived at his retreat, Suka worshipped him by offering him the Arghya according to the rites laid down in the Vedas. Pleased with the honours bestowed upon him, Narada addressed Suka, saying,--Tell me, O foremost of righteous persons, by what means, O dear child, may I accomplish what is for
thy highest good!--Hearing these words of Narada, Suka, said unto him, O Bharata, these words:--It behoveth thee to instruct me in respect of that which may be beneficial to me:
'Narada said, In days of yore the illustrious Sanatkumara had said these words unto certain Rishis of cleansed souls that had repaired to him for enquiring after the truth. There is no eye like that of knowledge. There is no penance like renunciation. Abstention from sinful acts, steady practice of righteousness, good conduct, the due observance of all religious duties,--these constitute the highest good. Having obtained the status of humanity which is fraught with sorrow, he that becomes attached to it, becomes stupefied: such a man never succeeds in emancipating himself from sorrow. Attachment (to things of the world) is an indication of sorrow. The understanding of person that is attached to worldly things becomes more and more enmeshed in the net of stupefaction. The man who becomes enmeshed in the net of stupefaction attains to sorrow, both here and hereafter. One should, by every means in one's power, restrain both desire and wrath if one seeks to achieve what is for one's good. Those two (viz., desire and wrath) arise for only destroying one's good. 1 One should always protect one's penances from wrath, and one's prosperity from pride. One should always protect one's knowledge from honour and dishonour and, one's soul from error. 2 Compassion is the highest virtue. Forgiveness is the highest might. The knowledge of self is the highest knowledge. There is nothing higher than truth. It is always proper to speak the truth. It is better again to speak what is beneficial than to speak what is true. I hold that that is truth which is fraught with the greatest benefit in all creatures. 3 That man is said to be truly learned and truly possessed of wisdom who abandons every act, who never indulges in
hope, who is completely dissociated from all worldly surroundings, and who has renounced everything that appertains to the world. That person who, without being attached thereto, enjoys all objects of sense with the aid of senses that are completely under his control, who is possessed of a tranquil soul, who is never moved by joy of sorrow, who is engaged in Yoga-meditation, who lives in companionship with the deities presiding over his senses and dissociated also from them, and who, though endued with a body, never regards himself as identifiable with it, becomes emancipated and very soon attains to that which is highest good. One who never sees others, never touches others, never talks with others, soon, O ascetic, attains to what is for one's highest good. One should not injure any creature. On the other hand, one should conduct oneself in perfect friendliness towards all. Having obtained the status of humanity, one should never behave inimically towards any being. A complete disregards for all (worldly) things, perfect contentments, abandonment of hope of every kind, and patience,--these constitute the highest good of one that has subjugated one's senses and acquired a knowledge of self. Casting off all attachments, O child, do thou subjugate all thy senses, and by that means attain to felicity both here and hereafter. They that are free from cupidity have never to suffer any sorrow. One should, therefore, cast off all cupidity from one's soul. By casting off cupidity, O amiable and blessed one, thou shalt be able to free thyself from sorrow and pain. One who wishes to conquer that which is unconquerable should live devoting oneself to penances, to self-restraint, to taciturnity, to a subjugation of the soul. Such a person should live in the midst of attachments without being attached to them. 1 That Brahmana who lives in the midst of attachments without being attached to them and who always lives in seclusion, very soon attains to the highest felicity. That man who lives in happiness by himself in the midst of creatures who are seen to take delight in leading lives of sexual union, should be known to be a person whose thirst has been slaked by knowledge. It is well known that that man whose thirst has been slaked by knowledge has never to indulge in grief. One attains to the status of the deities by means of good acts; to the status of humanity by means of acts that are good and bad; while by acts that are purely wicked, one helplessly falls down among the lower animals. Always assailed by sorrow and decrepitude and death, a living creature is being cooked in this world (in the cauldron of Time). Dost thou not known it? Thou frequently regardest that to be beneficial which is really injurious; that to be certain which is really uncertain; and that to be desirable and good which is undesirable and not good. Alas, why dost thou not awake to a correct apprehension of these? Like a silkworm that ensconces itself in its own cocoon, thou art continually ensconcing thyself in a cocoon made of thy own innumerable acts born of stupefaction and error. Alas, why chest thou not awake to a correct
apprehension of thy situation? No need of attaching thyself to things of this world. Attachment to worldly objects is productive of evil. The silk-worm that weaves a cocoon round itself is at last destroyed by its own act. Those persons that become attached to sons and spouses and relatives meet with destruction at last, even as wild elephants sunk in the mire of a lake are gradually weakened till overtaken by Death. Behold, all creatures that suffer themselves to be dragged by the net of affection become subject to great grief even as fishes on land, dragged thereto by means of large nets! Relatives, sons, spouses, the body itself, and all one's possessions stored with care, are unsubstantial and prove of no service in the next world. Only acts, good and bad, that one does, follow one to the other world. When it is certain that thou shalt have to go helplessly to the other world, leaving behind thee all these things alas, why dost thou then suffer thyself to be attached to such unsubstantial things of no value, without attending to that which constitutes thy real and durable wealth? The path which thou shalt have to travel through is without resting places of any kind (in which to take rest). There is no support along that way which one may catch for upholding oneself. The country through which it passes is unknown and undiscovered. It is, again enveloped in thick darkness. Alas, how shalt thou proceed along that way without equipping thyself with the necessary expenses? When thou shalt go along that road, nobody will follow thee behind. Only thy acts, good and bad, will follow behind thee when thou shalt depart from this world for the next. One seeks one's object of objects by means of learning, acts, purity (both external and internal), and great knowledge. When that foremost of objects is attained, one becomes freed (from rebirth). The desire that one feels for living in the midst of human habitations is like a binding cord. They that are of good acts succeed in tearing that bond and freeing themselves. Only risen of wicked deeds do not succeed in breaking them. The river of life (or the world) is terrible. Personal beauty or form constitutes its banks. The mind is the speed of its current. Touch forms its island. Taste constitutes its current. Scent is its mire. Sound is its waters. That particular part of it which leads towards heaven is attended with great difficulties. Body is the boat by which one must cross that river. Forgiveness is the oar by which it is to be propelled. Truth is the ballast that is to steady that boat. The practice of righteousness is the string that is to be attached to the mast for dragging that boat along difficult waters. Charity of gift constitutes the wind that urges the sails of that boat. Endued with swift speed, it is with that boat that one must cross the river of life. Cast off both virtue and vice, and truth and falsehood. Having cast off truth and falsehood, do thou cast off that by which these are to be cast off. By casting off all purpose, do thou cast off virtue; do thou cast off sin also by casting off all desire. With the aid of the understanding, do thou cast off truth and falsehood; and, at last, do thou cast off the understanding itself by knowledge of the highest topic (viz., the supreme Soul). Do thou cast off this body having bones for its
pillars; sinews for its binding strings and cords; flesh and blood for its outer plaster; the skin for its outer case; full of urine and faeces and, therefore, emitting a foul smell; exposed to the assaults of decrepitude and sorrow; forming the seat of disease and weakened by pain; possessed of the attribute of Rajas in predominance: not permanent or durable, and which serves as the (temporary) habitation of the indwelling creature. This entire universe of matter, and that which is called Mahat or Buddhi, are made up of the (five), great elements. That which is called Mahat is due to the action of the Supreme. The five senses, the three attributes of Tamas, Sattwa, and Rajas,--these (together with those which have been mentioned before) constitute a tale of seventeen. These seventeen, which are known by the name of the Unmanifest, with all those that are called Manifest, viz., the five objects of the five senses, (that is to say, form, taste, sound, touch, and scent), with Consciousness and the Understanding, form the well-known tale of four and twenty. When endued with these four and twenty possessions, one comes to be called by the name of Jiva (or Puman). He who knows the aggregate of three (viz., Religion, Wealth, and Pleasure), as also happiness and sorrow and life and death, truly and in all their details, is said to know growth and decay. Whatever objects exist of knowledge, should be known gradually, one after another. All objects that are apprehended by the senses are called Manifest. Whatever objects transcend the senses and are apprehended by means only of their indications are said to be Unmanifest. By restraining the senses, one wins great gratification, even like a thirsty and parched traveller at a delicious shower of rain. Having subjugated the senses one beholds one's soul spread out for embracing all objects, and all objects in one's soul. Having its roots in knowledge, the puissance is never lost of the man who (thus) beholds the Supreme in his soul,--of the man, that is to say, who always beholds all creatures in all conditions (in his own soul). 1 He who by the aid of knowledge, transcends all kinds of pain born of error and stupefaction, never catches any evil by coming into contact with all creatures. 2 Such a man, his understanding being fully displayed, never finds fault with the course of conduct that prevails in the world. One conversant with Emancipation says that the Supreme Soul is without beginning and without end; that it takes birth as all creatures; that it resides (as a witness) in the Jiva-soul; that it is inactive, and without form. Only that man who meets with grief in consequence of his own misdeeds, slays numerous
creatures for the purpose of warding off that grief. 1 In consequence of such sacrifices, the performers have to attain to rebirths and have necessarily to perform innumerable acts on every side. Such a man, blinded by error, and regarding that to be felicity which is really a source of grief, is continually rendered unhappy even like a sick person that eats food that is improper. Such a man is pressed and grinded by his acts like any substance that is churned. Bound by his acts, he obtains re-birth, the order of his life being determined by the nature of his acts. Suffering many kinds of torture, he travels in a repeated round of rebirths even like a wheel that turns ceaselessly. Thou, however, hast cut through all thy bonds. Thou, abstainest from all acts! Possessed of omniscience and the master of all things, let success be thine, and do thou become freed from all existent objects. Through subjugation of their senses and the power of their penances, many persons (in days of yore), having destroyed the bonds of action, attained to high success and uninterrupted felicity.'"
98:1 The first line runs into the second.
98:2 Penances should be protected from wrath. By penances one attains to great power. The ascetic's puissance frequently equals that of Brahman himself. If, however, the ascetic indulges in wrath and curses one from wrath, his puissance becomes diminished. For this reason, forgiveness is said to be the highest virtue a Brahmana can practise. A Brahmana's might lay in forgiveness. Knowledge also should be protected from honour and dishonour, i.e. one should never receive honour for his knowledge, that is, do anything for the object of achieving honour. Similarly, one should never do anything which may have the effect of dishonouring one's knowledge. These are some of the highest duties preached in scriptures.
98:3 The saying Satyadapi hitam vadet is frequently misunderstood. The scriptures do not say that truth should be sacrificed in view of what is beneficial, for such view will militate with the saying that there is nothing higher than truth. The saying has reference to those exceptional instances where truth becomes a source of positive harm. The story of the Rishi who spoke the truth respecting the place where certain travellers lay concealed, when questioned by certain robbers who were for killing the travellers, is an instance to the point. The goldsmith's son who died with a falsehood on his lips for allowing his lawful prince to escape from the hands of his pursuers did a meritorious act of loyalty. Then, again, the germ of the utilitarian theory may be detected in the second line of this verse.
99:1 To conquer the unconquerable means to attain to Brahma.
101:1 In the Srutis, Paravara is an equivalent for the Supreme Soul. The correct reading is nasyati at the end of the first line, and not pasyati as in some of the Bengal texts. Adhering to pasyati (which gives no meaning), the Burdwan translator gives a ridiculous and unmeaning version of this verse, K. P. Singha, of course, adopts the correct reading.
101:2 This verse is not at all difficult. The sense is that the man who transcends all attachments never comes to grief if brought into union with other creatures. The Burdwan translator gives a thoroughly unmeaning version of this couplet.
102:1 The object of this verse is to show that men of knowledge do not perform sacrifices, in which, as a matter of course, a large number of creatures is slain. Men wedded to the religion of Pravriti perform sacrifices, Coming into the world in consequence of past acts, they seek happiness (by repairing to heaven) along the way of sacrifices and religious rites. A large number of creatures is slain, for besides the victims ostensibly offered, an infinite number of smaller and minuter creatures are killed in the sacrificial fires and in course of the other preparations that are made in sacrifices.
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