Santi Parva, Section CCXV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Bhishma said: Living creatures, by being attached to objects of the senses, which are always fraught with evil, become helpless. Those high-souled persons, however, who are not attached to them, attain to the highest end. The man of intelligence, beholding the world over-whelmed with the evils constituted by birth, death, decrepitude, sorrow, disease, and anxieties, should exert himself for the attainment of Emancipation. He should be pure in speech, thought, and body; he should be free from pride. Of tranquil soul and possessed of knowledge, he should lead a life of mendicancy, and pursue happiness without being attached to any worldly object. Again, if attachment were seen to possess the mind in consequence of compassion to creatures, he should, seeing that the universe is the result of acts, show indifference in respect of compassion itself.
[Note: Compassion may sometimes lead to excess of attachment, as in the case of Bharata towards his little deer. The universe is the result of acts because acts determine the character of the life the soul assumes. In the case of Bharata, he was obliged to take birth as a deer in his next life in consequence of all his thoughts in the previous life been centred on a deer.]
Whatever good acts are performed, or whatever sin (is perpetrated), the doer tastes the consequences. Hence, one should, in speech, thought and deed, do only acts that are good. He succeeds in obtaining happiness who practises abstention from injuring (others), truthfulness of speech, honesty towards all creatures, and forgiveness, and who is never heedless. Hence one, exercising one’s intelligence, should dispose one’s mind, after training it, on peace towards all creatures.
[Note: The Buddhi here referred to is intelligence cleansed by scriptures. Samahitam Manak is, as explained by the commentator, mind freed from anger and malice, etc., i.e., properly trained.]
That man who regards the practice of the virtues enumerated above as the highest duty, as conducive to the happiness of all creatures, and as destructive of all kinds of sorrow, is possessed of the highest knowledge, and succeeds in obtaining happiness. Hence (as already said), one should, exercising one’s intelligence, dispose one’s mind, after training it, on peace towards all creatures. One should never think of doing evil to others. One should not covet what is far above one’s power to attain. One should not turn one’s thoughts towards objects that are non-existent. One should, on the other hand, direct one’s mind towards knowledge by such persistent efforts as are sure to succeed.
[Note: One should not covet, etc., like kingdoms and thrones in the case of ordinary men. ‘Non-existent objects,’ such as sons and wives that are dead or that are unborn or unwed.]
With the aid of the declarations of the Srutis and of persistent efforts calculated to bring success, that Knowledge is sure to flow. One that is desirous of saying good words or observing a religion that is refined of all dross, should utter only truth that is not fraught with any malice or censure. One that is possessed of a sound heart should utter words that are not fraught with dishonesty, that are not harsh, that are not cruel, that are not evil, and that are not characterized by garrulity. The universe is bound in speech. If disposed to renunciation (of all worldly objects) then should one proclaim, with a mind fraught with humility and cleansed understanding, one’s own evil acts.
[Note: Samsara, as explained by the commentator, means both this and the other world. It is bound in speech in this sense, viz., that whatever is spoken is never destroyed and affects permanently both the speaker and the listener, so that not only in one life, but in the infinite course of lives, the speaker will be affected for good or for evil by the words that escape his lips. This fully accords with the discovery of modern science, so eloquently and poetically enunciated by Babbage, of the indestructibility of force or energy when once applied.
‘Proclaim one’s own evil acts’: such self-disclosure destroys the effects of those acts and prevents their recurrence.]
He who betakes himself to action, impelled thereto by propensities fraught with the attribute of Passion, obtains much misery in this world and at last sinks into hell. One should, therefore, practise self-restraint in body, speech and mind. Ignorant persons bearing the burdens of the world are like robbers laden with their booty of straggling sheep (secreted from herds taken out for pasture). The latter are always regardful of roads that are unfavourable to them (owing to the presence of the king’s watch).
[Note: Robbers laden with booty are always in danger of seizure. Even so unintelligent men bearing the burdens of life are always liable to destruction.]
Indeed, as robbers have to throw away their spoil if they wish for safety, even so should a person cast off all acts dictated by Passion and Darkness if he is to obtain felicity. Without doubt, a person that is without desire, free from the bonds of the world, contented to live in solitude, abstemious in diet, devoted to penances and with senses under control, that has burnt all his sorrows by (the acquisition of) knowledge, that takes a pleasure in practising all the particulars of Yoga discipline, and that has a cleansed soul, succeeds, in consequence of his mind being withdrawn into itself, in attaining to Brahman or Emancipation.
One endued with patience and a cleansed soul, should without doubt, control one’s understanding. With the understanding (thus disciplined), one should next control one’s mind, and then with the mind overpower the objects of the senses. Upon the mind being thus brought under control and the senses being all subdued, the senses will become luminous and gladly enter into Brahman. When one’s senses are withdrawn into the mind, the result that occurs is that Brahman becomes manifested in it. Indeed, when the senses are destroyed, and the soul returns to the attributes of pure existence, it comes to be regarded as transformed into Brahman.
Then again, one should never make a display of one’s Yoga power. On the other hand, one should always exert to restrain one’s senses by practising the rules of Yoga. Indeed, one engaged in the practice of Yoga rules should do all those acts by which one’s conduct and disposition may become pure. (Without making one’s Yoga powers the means of one’s subsistence) one should rather live upon broken grains of corn, ripe beans, dry cakes of seeds from which oil has been pressed out, pot-herbs, half-ripe barley, flour of fried pulses, fruits and roots, obtained in alms.
[Note: Kulmasha means ripe grains or seeds of the Phaselous radiatus. Pinyaka is the cake of mustard seed or sesamum after the oil has been pressed out. Yavaka means unripe barley, or, as the commentator explains, raw barley powdered and boiled in hot water.]
Reflecting upon the characteristics of time and place, one should according to one’s inclinations observe, after proper examination, vows and rules about fasts. One should not suspend an observance that has been begun. Like one slowly creating a fire, one should gradually extend an act that is prompted by knowledge. By doing so, Brahman gradually shines in one like the Sun. The Ignorance which has Knowledge for its resting ground, extends its influence over all the three states (of waking, dreaming and dreamless slumber). The Knowledge, again, that follows the Understanding, is assailed by ignorance.
[Note: What is meant by the first line of the verse is this: The Soul had, before the creation, only Knowledge for its attribute. When Ignorance or Delusion, proceeding from Supreme Brahman, took possession of it, the Soul became an ordinary creature, i.e., consciousness, mind, etc., resulted. This ignorance, therefore, established itself upon Knowledge and transformed the original character of the Soul. What is stated in the second line is that ordinary knowledge which follows the lead of the understanding is affected by ignorance, the result of which is that the Soul takes those things that really spring from itself to be things different from itself and possessing an independent existence.]
The evil hearted person fails to obtain a knowledge of the Soul in consequence of taking it as united with the three states although in reality it transcends them all. When, however, he succeeds in apprehending the limits under which the two, viz., union with the three states and separation from them, are manifested, it is then that he becomes divested of attachment and attains to Emancipation. When such an apprehension has been attained, one transcends the effects of age, rises superior to the consequences of decrepitude and death, and obtains Brahman which is eternal, deathless, immutable, undeteriorating.
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