The Mahabharata Home
"Vasudeva said, touching the feet of that sage, the Brahmana asked him some questions that were exceedingly difficult to answer. That foremost of all righteous persons then discoursed on those duties that were referred to.
'Kasyapa said, 'How does the body dissolve away, and how is another acquired? How does one become emancipated after passing through a repeated round of painful rebirths? Enjoying Prakriti for sometime, how does Jiva cast off the particular body (which Prakriti gives)? How does Jiva, freed from the body, attain to what is different from it (viz., Brahman)? How does a human being enjoy (and endure the fruits of) the good and bad acts done by him? Where do the acts exist of one that is devoid of body? 2
'The Brahmana said,--Thus urged by Kasyapa, the emancipated sage answered those questions one after another. Do thou listen to me, O scion of the Vrishi race, as I recite to thee the answers he made.'
'--The Emancipated sage said, 'Upon the exhaustion of those acts capable
of prolonging life and bringing on fame which are done in a particular body that Jiva assumes, the embodied Jiva, with the span of his life shortened, begins to do acts hostile to life and health. On the approach of destruction, his understanding turns away from the proper course. The man of uncleansed soul, after even a correct apprehension of his constitution and strength and of the season of both his own life and of the year, begins to eat at irregular intervals and to eat such food as is hostile to him. 1 At such a time he indulges in practices that are exceedingly harmful. He sometimes eats excessively and sometimes abstains altogether from food. He eats bad food or bad meat or takes bad drinks, or food that has been made up of ingredients incompatible with one another. He eats food that is heavy in excess of the measure that is beneficial, or before the food previously taken has been digested. He indulges in physical exercise and sexual pleasure in excess of the due measure, or through avidity for work, suppresses the urgings of his corporeal organism even when they become pronounced. Or, he takes food that is very juicy, or indulges in sleep during daytime. Food that is not properly digested, of itself excites the faults, when the time comes. 2 From such excitement of the faults in his body, he gets disease ending in death itself. Sometimes the person engages in perverse or unnatural acts like hanging (for bringing about his death). Through these causes the living body of the creature dissolves away. Understand correctly the manner as I declare it to thee. 3 Urged on by the Wind which becomes violent, the heat in the body, becoming excited and reaching every part of the body one after another, restrains all the (movements of the) vital breaths. Know truly that excited all over the body, the heat becomes very strong, and pierces every vital part where life may be said to reside. In consequence of this, Jiva, feeling great pain, quickly takes leave of its mortal casement. Know, O foremost of regenerate persons, that when the vital parts of the physical organism become thus afflicted, Jiva slips away from the body, overwhelmed with great pain. All living creatures are repeatedly afflicted with birth and death. It is seen, O chief of Brahmanas, that the pain which is felt by a person when casting off his bodies is like what is felt by him when first entering the womb or when issuing out of it. His joints become almost dislocated and he derives much distress from the waters (of the womb). 4 Urged on by (another) violent
wind, the wind that is in the body becomes excited through cold, and dissolves away the union of matter (called the body) into its respective elements numbering five. 1 That wind which resides in the vital breaths called Prana and Apana occurring within this compound of the five primal elements, rushes upwards, from a situation of distress, leaving the embodied creature. It is even thus that the wind leaves the body. Then is seen breathlessness. The man then becomes destitute of heat, of breath, of beauty, and of consciousness. Deserted by Brahman (for Jiva is Brahman), the person is said to be dead. By those ducts through which he perceives all sensuous objects, the bearer of the body no longer perceives them. It is the eternal Jiva who creates in the body in those very duets the life-breaths that are generated by food. The elements gathered together become in certain parts firmly united. Know that those parts are called the vitals of the body. It is said so in the Sastras. When those vital parts are pierced, Jiva, rising up, enters the heart of the living creature and restrains the principle of animation without any delay. The creature then, though still endued with the principle of consciousness, fails to know anything. The vital parts being all overwhelmed, the knowledge of the living creature becomes overwhelmed by darkness. Jiva then, who has been deprived of everything upon which to stay, is then agitated by the wind. He then, deeply breathing a long and painful breath, goes out quickly, causing the inanimate body to tremble. Dissociated from the body, Jiva, however, is surrounded by his acts. He becomes equipped on every side with all his auspicious acts of merit and with all his sins. Brahmanas endued with knowledge and equipped with the certain conclusions of the scriptures, know him, from indications, as to whether he is possessed of merit or with its reverse. Even as men possessed of eyes behold the fire-fly appearing and disappearing amid darkness, men possessed of the eye of knowledge and crowned with success of penances, behold, with spiritual vision, Jiva as he leaves the body, as he is reborn, and as he enters the womb. It is seen that Jiva has three regions assigned to him eternally. This world where creatures dwell is called the field of action. Accomplishing acts good or bad, all embodied creatures attain to the fruits thereof. In consequence of their own acts, creatures acquire even here superior or inferior enjoyments. Doers of evil deeds here, in consequence of those acts of theirs, attain to Hell. This condition of sinking with head downwards, in which creatures are cooked, is one of great misery. It is such that a rescue therefrom is exceedingly difficult. Indeed; one should strive hard for saving oneself from this misery. Those regions where creatures dwell when they ascend from this world I shall now declare truly. Do thou listen to me with attention. By listening to what I say, thou shalt attain to firmness of understanding and a clear apprehension of (good and bad) acts. Know that even those are the regions of all creatures of righteous deeds, viz., the
stellar worlds that shine in the firmament, the lunar disc, and the solar disc as well that shines in the universe in its own light. Upon the exhaustion, again, of their merits, they fall away from those regions repeatedly. There, in Heaven itself, is distinction of inferior, superior, and middling felicity. There, in Heaven itself, is discontent at sight of prosperity more blazing than one's own. Even these are the goals which I have mentioned in detail. I shall, after this, discourse to you on the attainment by Jiva of the condition of residence in the womb. Do thou hear me, with concentrated attention, O regenerate one, as I speak to thee!'
26:2 The commentator explains that altogether seven questions are asked. The first is about the dissolution of the body. The second relates to the manner of re-acquiring a body. The third has reference to the manner in which rebirth may be avoided. The fourth relates to the causes that operate for giving a body to Jiva. By Prakriti is meant Nature or that Nescience which is the cause of body. The fifth relates to the Anyat or Param, viz., how final Emancipation or absorption into Brahman takes place. The sixth pertains to the manner in which the fruits of acts are enjoyed or endured. The seventh enquires after the way in which acts attach to Jiva even when devoid of a body.
27:1 Kala here means both the season of the year and the age of the person. Food that is beneficial in summer is not so in winter, or that which is beneficial in youth is otherwise at old age. All the texts that I have seen have viditwa and not aviditiwa which Telang takes in his version for the Sacred Books of the East. Kala is always interpreted by the commentators of Charaka as referring to either period of life or period of the year. This, as well as the following verses, relates to the laws of health as expounded by Charaka.
27:2 The faults are three, viz., Wind, Bile, and Phlegm. When existing in a state of harmony, they produce health. When one is excited or two, or all, indisposition sets in. They are called dosha or faults, because of their liability to be excited and product, disease. Telang, not suspecting that the whole passage is a reproduction of a passage in the ancient work edited by Charaka, misunderstands some expressions and wrongly renders doshan into 'disorders.'
27:3 Jivitam in the second line seems to be an objective of sariram in the first.
27:4 Garbha-sankramane is explained by Nilakantha as 'entering the foetus in the womb after casting off the body appertaining to the other world. I think Telang is not correct in p. 28 his version of 19 and 20. Atisarpana can never imply 'exhaustion'; hence, karmanam can never be the reading he adopts. Besides tadrisam seems to settle the question. The tortures felt at death are similar to those at birth.
28:1 Sambutatwam is sanhatatwam. Niyachachati is nasyyati Vayu is understood in the second line, or that in the first line of the next verse may be taken as the nom. of niyachachati.
Next: Section XVIII