The Mahabharata Home
"Uma said, 'Forest recluses reside in delightful regions, among the springs and fountains of rivers, in bowers by the sides of streams and rills, on hills and mountains, in woods and forests, and in sacred spots full of fruits and roots. With concentrated attention and observant of vows and rules, they dwell in such places. I desire, O Sankara, to hear the sacred ordinances which they follow. These recluses, O god of all gods, are persons that depend, for the protection of their bodies, upon themselves alone.' 1
Maheswara said, 'Do thou hear with concentrated attention what the duties are of forest recluses. Having listened to them with one mind, O goddess, do thou set thy heart upon righteousness. Listen then to what the acts are that should be practised by righteous recluses crowned with success, observant of rigid vows and rules, and residing in woods and forests. Performing ablutions thrice a day, worshipping the Pitris and the deities, pouring libations on the sacred fire, performing those sacrifices and rites that go by the name of Ishti-homa, picking up the grains of Nivara-paddy, eating fruit and roots, and using oil that is
pressed out from Inguda and castor-seeds are their duties. Having gone through the practices of Yoga and become crowned with (ascetic) success and freed from lust and wrath, they should seat themselves in the attitude called Virasana. Indeed, they should reside in those places which are inaccessible to cowards. 1 Observant of the excellent ordinances relating to Yoga, sitting in summer in the midst of four fires on four sides with the sun overhead, duly practising what is called Manduka Yoga, and always seated in the attitude called Virasana, and lying on bare rocks or the earth, these men, with hearts set upon righteousness, must expose themselves to cold and water and fire. They subsist upon water or air or moss. They use two pieces of stones only for husking their corn. Some of them use their teeth only for such a purpose. They do not keep utensils of any kind (for storing anything for the day to come). Some of them clothe themselves with rags and barks of trees or deer-skins. Even thus do they pass their lives for the measure of time allotted to them, according to the ordinances (set forth in the scriptures). Remaining in woods and forests, they wander within woods and forests, live within them, and are always to be found within them. Indeed, these forest recluses entering into woods and forests live within them as disciples, obtaining a preceptor, live with him. The performance of the rites of Homa is their duty, as also the observance of the five sacrifices. A due observance of the rules about distribution (in respect of time) of the fivefold sacrifices as laid down in the Vedas, devotion to (other) sacrifices, forming the eighth, observance of the Chaturmasya, performance of the Paurnamasya, and other sacrifices, and performance of the daily sacrifices, are the duties of these men dissociated from wives, freed from every attachment, and cleansed from every sin. Indeed, they should live even thus in the forest. The sacrificial ladle and the water-vessel are their chief wealth. They are always devoted to the three fires. Righteous in their conduct and adhering to the path of virtue, they attain to the highest end. These Munis, crowned with (ascetic) success and ever devoted to the religion of Truth, attain to the highly sacred region of Brahman or the eternal region of Soma. O auspicious goddess, I have thus recited to thee, in brief, the outlines of the religion that is followed by forest recluses and that has many practices in detail.'
"Uma said, 'O holy one, O lord of all creatures, O thou that art worshipped by all beings, I desire to hear what the religion is of those Munis that are followers of the scriptures treating of ascetic success. Do thou recite it to me. Residing in woods and forests and well-accomplished in the scriptures of success, some amongst them live and act as they like, without being restrained by particular practices; others have wives. How, indeed, have their practices been laid down?'
"Mahadeva said, 'O goddess, the shaving of the head and the wearing of the brown robes are the indications of those recluses that rove about in freedom; while the indications of those that sport with wedded wives consist in passing their nights at home. Performing ablutions there times a day is the duty of the classes, while the Homa, with water and fruits from the wilderness, belongs to the wedded recluses as performed by the Rishis in general. Absorption, Yoga-meditation, and adherence to those duties that constitute piety and that have been laid down as such (in the scriptures and the Vedas) are some of the other duties prescribed for them. All those duties also of which I have spoken to thee before as appertaining to recluses residing in forests, are the duties of these also. Indeed, if those duties are observed, they that observe them, attain to the rewards that attach to severe penances. Those forest recluses that lead wedded lives should confine the gratification of their senses to these wedded wives of theirs. By indulging in sexual congress with their wives at only those times when their seasons come, they conform to the duties that have been laid down for them. The religion which these virtuous men are to follow is the religion that has been laid down and followed by the Rishis. With their eyes set upon the acquisition of righteousness, they should never pursue any other object of desire from a sense of unrestrained caprice. That man who makes the gift unto all creatures of an assurance of perfect harmlessness or innocence, freed as his soul becomes from the stain of malice or harmfulness, becomes endued with righteousness. Verily, that person who shows compassion to all creatures, who adopts as a vow a behaviour of perfect sincerity towards al creatures, and who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures, becomes endued with righteousness. A bath in all the Vedas, and a behaviour of sincerity towards all creatures, are looked upon as equal in point of merit; or, perhaps, the latter is a little distinguished above the other in point of merit. Sincerity, it has been said, is Righteousness; while insincerity or crookedness is the reverse. That man who conducts himself with sincerity becomes endued with Righteousness. The man who is always devoted to sincerity of behaviour, succeeds in attaining to a residence among the deities. Hence, he who wishes to achieve the merit of righteousness should become endued with sincerity. Possessed of a forgiving disposition and of self-restraint, and with wrath under complete subjection, one should transform oneself into an embodiment of Righteousness and become freed from malice. Such a man, who becomes devoted, besides, to the discharge of all the duties Religion, becomes endued with the merit of Righteousness. Freed from drowsiness and procrastination, the pious person, who adheres to the path of Righteousness to the best of his power, and becomes possessed of pure conduct, and who is venerable in years, comes to be regarded as equal to Brahma himself.'
"Uma said. By what course of duties, O god, do those ascetics who are attached to their respective retreats and possessed of wealth of
penances, succeed in becoming endued with great splendour? By what acts again, do kings and princes who are possessed of great wealth, and others who are destitute of wealth, succeed in obtaining high rewards? By what acts, O god, do denizens of the forest succeed in attaining to that place which is eternal and in adorning their persons with celestial sandal-paste? O illustrious god of three eyes, O destroyer of the triple city, do thou dispel this doubt of mine connected with the auspicious subject of the observance of penances by telling everything in detail.'
"The illustrious deity said, 'Those who observe the vows relating to fasts and restrain their senses, who abstain from injury of any kind to any creature, and who practise truthfulness of speech, attain to success and ascending to Heaven sport in felicity with the Gandharvas as their companions, freed from every kind of evil. The righteous souled man who lies down in the attitude which appertains to Manduka-Yoga, and who properly and according to the ordinance performs meritorious acts after having taken the Diksha, sports in felicity in the next world in the company of the Nagas. That man who lives in the company of deer and subsists upon such grass and vegetables as fall off from their mouths, and who has undergone the Diksha and attends to the duties attached to it, succeeds in attaining to Amaravati (the mansions of Indra). That man who subsists upon the moss he gathers and the fallen leaves of trees that he picks up, and endures all the severities of cold, attains to very high place. That man who subsists upon either air or water, or fruits and roots, attains in after life to the affluence that belongs to the Yakshas and sports in felicity in the company of diverse tribes of Apsaras. Having practised for two and ten years, according to the rites laid down in the ordinances, the vow relating to the endurance of the five fires in the summer season, one becomes in one's next life a king. That man who, having observed vows with respect to food, practises penances for two and twelve years, carefully abstaining from all interdicted food, taken at forbidden hours, during the periods becomes in his next life a ruler of earth. 1 That man who sits and lies on the bare ground with the cope of the firmament alone for his shelter, observes the course of duties that attach to Diksha, and then casts off his body by abstaining from all food, attains to great felicity in Heaven. The rewards of one who sits and lies down upon the bare ground (with the welkin alone for his shelter) are said to be excellent vehicles and beds, and costly mansions possessed of the resplendence of the moon, O lady! That man who, having subsisted upon abstemious diet and observed diverse excellent vows, lives depending upon his own self and then casts off his body by abstaining from all food, succeeds in ascending to heaven and enjoying all its felicity. That man who, having lived in entire dependence upon his own self, observes for two and ten years the duties that appertain to Diksha, and at last casts
off his body on the great ocean, succeeds in attaining to the regions of Varuna after death. That man who, living in entire dependence upon his own self observes the duties that attach to Diksha for two and ten years, and pierces his own feet with a sharp stone, attains to the felicity of the region that belongs to the Guhyakas. He who cultivates self with the aid of self, who frees himself from the influence of all pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, joy and sorrow, etc), who is freed from every kind of attachment, and who mentally observes for two and ten years such a course of conduct after Diksha, attains to Heaven and enjoys every happiness with the deities as his companions. He who lives in entire dependence upon his own self and observes for two and ten years the duties that attach to Diksha and finally casts off his body on the fire as an oblation to the deities, attains to the regions of Brahman and is held in high respect there. That regenerate man, O goddess, who having properly gone through the Diksha keeps his senses under subjugation, and placing his Self on Self frees himself from the sense of meum, desirous of achieving righteousness, and sets out, without a covering for his body, after the due observance of the duties of Diksha for two and ten years and after having placed his sacred fire on a tree, and walks along the path that belongs to heroes and lies down (when need for lying down comes) in the attitude of heroes, and conducts himself always after the manner of heroes, certainly attains to the end that is reserved for heroes. 1 Such a man repairs to the eternal region of Sakra where he becomes crowned with the fruition of all his wishes and where he sports in joy, his person decked with garlands of celestial flowers and celestial perfumes. Indeed, that righteous souled person lives happily in Heaven, with the deities as his companions. The hero, observant of the practices of heroes and devoted to that Yoga which belongs to heroes, living in the practice of Goodness, having renounced everything, having undergone the Diksha and subjugated his senses, and observing purity of both body and mind, is sure to attain to that path which is reserved for heroes. Eternal regions of happiness are his. Riding on a car that moves at the will of the rider, he roves through all those happy regions as he likes. Indeed, dwelling in the region of Sakra, that blessed person always sports in joy, freed from every calamity."
297:1 Swasarirapa-jivishu implies persons that do not stand in need of the services of others for the support of their bodies.
298:1 The great forests are called Virasthana for cowards cannot enter or reside in them.
300:1 Marum samsadhya implies abstention from even air and water as food or means of subsistence.
301:1 It should be noted that the word Vira in the various compounds in which, it occurs here, does not mean heroes of war. On the other hand, it signifies heroes of righteousness and penances. The path of heroes is the forest, for cowards cannot go there. The attitude of heroes (Virasana) is a kind of attitude for Yogins to sit in.
Next: Section CXLIII