The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'If one does acts oneself that are good or causes others to accomplish them, one should then expect to attain to the merits of righteousness. Similarly, if one does acts oneself that are evil, and causes others to accomplish them, one should never expect to attain to the merits of righteousness. 2 At all times, it is Time that, entering the understandings of all creatures, sets them to acts of righteousness or unrighteousness, and then confer felicity or misery upon them. When a person, beholding the fruits of Righteousness, understands Righteousness to be superior, it is then that he inclines towards Righteousness and puts faith in it. One, however, whose understanding is not firm, fails to put faith in it, As regards faith in Righteousness, it is this (and nothing else). To put faith in Righteousness is the indication of the wisdom of all persons. One that is acquainted with both (i.e., what should be done and what should not be done), with a view to opportuneness, should, with care and devotion, achieve what is right. Those Righteous men who have in this life been blessed with affluence, acting of their own motion, take particular care of their souls so that they may not, in their next lives, have to take birth as persons with the attribute of Passion predominating in them. Time (which is the supreme disposer of all things) can never make Righteousness the cause of misery. One should, therefore, know that the soul which is righteous is certainly pure (i.e., freed from the element of evil and misery). As regards Unrighteousness, it may be said that, even when of large proportions, it is incapable of
even touching Righteousness which is always protected by Time and which shines like a blazing fire. These are the two results achieved by Righteousness, viz., the stainlessness of the soul and unsusceptibility of being touched by Unrighteousness. Verily, Righteousness is fraught with victory. Its effulgence is so great that it illumines the three worlds. A man of wisdom cannot catch hold of a sinful person and forcibly cause him to become righteous. When seriously urged to act righteously, the sinful only act with hypocrisy, impelled by fear. They that are righteous among the Sudras never betake themselves to such hypocrisy under the plea that persons of the Sudra order are not permitted to live according to any of the four prescribed modes. I shall tell thee particularly what the duties truly are of the four orders. So far as their bodies are concerned, the individuals belonging to all the four orders have the five primal elements for the constituent ingredients. Indeed, in this respect, they are all of the same substance. For all that, distinctions exist between them in respect of both practices relating to life or the world and the duties of righteousness. Notwithstanding these distinctions, sufficient liberty of action is left to them in consequence of which all individuals may attain to an equality of condition. The regions of felicity which represent the consequences or rewards of Righteousness are not eternal, for they are destined to come to an end. Righteousness, however, is eternal. When the cause is eternal, why is the effect not so? 1 The answer to this is as follows. Only that Righteousness is eternal which is not promoted by the desire of fruit or reward. (That Righteous, however, which is prompted by the desire of reward, not eternal. Hence, the reward though undesired that attaches to the first kind of Righteousness, viz., attainment of identity with Brahman, is eternal. The reward, however, that attaches to that Righteousness prompted by desire of fruit. Heaven is not eternal). 2 All men are equal in respect of their physical organism. All of them, again, are possessed of souls that are equal in respect of their nature. When dissolution comes, all else dissolve away. What remains is the inceptive will to achieve Righteousness. That, indeed, reappears (in next life) of itself. 3 When such is the result (that is, when the enjoyments and endurance of this life are due to the acts of a past life), the inequality of lot discernible among human beings cannot be regarded in any way anomalous. So also, it is seen that those creatures
that belong to the intermediate orders of existence are equally subject, in the matter of their acts, to the influence of example.'"
387:1 What is stated here is this; the condition of all living creatures is determined by their acts of this and past lives.. Nature, again, is the cause of acts. What of felicity and misery, therefore, one sees in this world, must be ascribed to these two causes. As regards the self also, O Yudhishthira, thou art not freed from that universal law. Do thou, therefore, cease to cherish doubts of any kind. If thou seest a learned man that is poor, or an ignorant man that is wealthy, if thou seest exertion failing and the absence of exertion leading to success. thou must always ascribe the result to acts and Nature.
387:2 What is stated here is this; one may become righteous by accomplishing oneself righteous deeds or inducing or helping others to do them. Similarly, one becomes unrighteous by doing oneself acts that are evil or by inducing or helping others to do them.
388:1 Righteousness leads to regions of felicity. The former is said to be eternal. While the latter are not so. The question asked (or doubt raised) is why is the effect not eternal when the cause is eternal? It is explained below.
388:2 There are two kinds of Righteousness, viz., nishkama and sakama. The former leads to attainment of Brahma, the latter to heaven and felicity. Brahma is eternal; the latter not so. Nishkama Righteousness being eternal, leads to an eternal reward. Sakama Righteousness not being so, does not lead to an eternal reward. The word Kala here means Sankalpa, hence Dhruvahkalah means nishkama Dharma.
388:3 Here, Calah means 'Sankalpa'.
Next: Section CLXV