The Anugita

1882 | 64,929 words

Volume 8, The Sacred Books of the East. This part Contains the english translation of the Anugita (a portion of the Ashvamedhika Parva from the Mahabharata)....

Arjuna said:

Be pleased to explain to me the Brahman which is the highest object of knowledge; for by your favour my mind is much interested in (these) subtle[1] (subjects).

Vāsudeva said:

On this, too, they relate an ancient story (in the shape of) a dialogue, connected with final emancipation, between a preceptor and a pupil. A talented pupil, O terror of your foes! asked a Brāhmaṇa preceptor of rigid vows, (when he was) seated, something about the highest good. 'I' (he said), 'whose goal is the highest good, am come to you (who are) venerable; I pray of you with (bowed) head, O Brāhmaṇa! that you should explain to me what I ask.' The preceptor, O son of Pṛthā! said to the pupil who spoke thus: 'I will explain to you everything, O twice-born one! on which you verily have any doubt.' Thus addressed by the preceptor, O best of the Kauravas! he who was devoted to the preceptor, put (his) questions with joined bands. Listen to that, O you of great intelligence!

The pupil said:

Whence am I[2], and whence are you? Explain that which is the highest truth. From what were the movable and immovable entities born? By what do entities live, and what is the limit of their life? What is truth, what penance, O Brāhmaṇa? What are called the qualities by the good? And what paths are happy? What is pleasure, and what sin? These questions of mine, O venerable Brāhmaṇa sage! O you of excellent vows! do you be pleased to explain[3] correctly, truly, and accurately. There is none else here who can explain these questions. Speak, O best of those who understand piety! I feel the highest curiosity (in this matter). You are celebrated in the worlds as skilled in topics connected with the piety (required for) final emancipation. And there exists none else but you who can destroy all doubts. And we[4], likewise, are afraid of worldly life, and also desirous of final emancipation.

Vāsudeva said:

That talented preceptor, who preserved (all) vows, O son of Pṛthā! O chief of the family of the Kauravas! O restrainer of foes! duly explained all those questions to that pupil, who had approached him (for instruction), who put (his) questions properly, who was possessed of (the necessary) qualifications, who was tranquil, who conducted himself in an agreeable manner, who was like (his) shadow[5], and who was a self-restrained ascetic and a Brahmacārin.

The preceptor said:

All this, which is connected with the knowledge of the Vedas[6] and involves a consideration of the real entity, and which is cultivated by the chief sages, was declared by Brahman. We consider knowledge only as the highest thing; and renunciation[7] as the best penance. And he who understands determinately the true object of knowledge which is inexpugnable[8]--the self abiding in all entities--and who can move about anywhere[9], is esteemed highest. The learned man who perceives the abiding together[10], and the severance also, and likewise unity and variety[11], is released from misery. He who does not desire anything, and has no egoism about anything, becomes eligible for assimilation with the Brahman, even while dwelling in this world[12]. He who knows the truth about the qualities of nature, who understands the creation of all entities, who is devoid of (the thought that this or that is) mine, and who is devoid of egoism, is emancipated; there is no doubt of that. Accurately understanding the great (tree) of which the unperceived[13] is the sprout from the seed, which consists of the understanding as its trunk, the branches of which are the great egoism, in the holes of which are the sprouts, namely, the senses, of which the great elements are the flower-bunches[14], the gross elements the smaller boughs, which is always possessed of leaves, always possessed of flowers, and from which pleasant fruits are always produced, on which all entities subsist, which is eternal, and the seed of which is the Brahman; and cutting it with that excellent sword-knowledge-one attains immortality, and casts off birth and death[15]. I will state to you to-day, O highly talented one! the true conclusion[16] about the past, the present, the future, and so forth, and piety, desire, and wealth[17], which is understood by the multitudes of Siddhas, which belongs to olden times, and is eternal, which ought to be apprehended, and understanding which talented men have here attained perfection. Formerly[18], the sages, Bṛhaspati, Bharadvāja, Gautama, and likewise Bhārgava, Vasiṣṭha, and also Kāśyapa, and Viśvāmitra, and Atri also, desiring knowledge, met each other, after having travelled over all paths[19], and becoming wearied of their own actions. And those twice-born (sages), giving the lead to the old sage Āṅgirasa, saw Brahman, from whom (all) sin has departed, in Brahman's mansion. Having saluted that high-souled one who was sitting at ease, the great sages, full of humility, asked him this momentous (question) concerning the highest good: 'How should one perform good action? how is one released from sin? what paths are happy for us? what is truth and what vice? By what action are the two paths southern and northern obtained[20]? (and what is) destruction[21] and emancipation, the birth and death of entities?' What the grandsire said conformably to the scriptures[22], when thus spoken to by the sages, I will state to you. Listen (to that) O pupil!

Brahman said:

From the truth were the entities movable and immovable produced. They live by penance[23]. Understand that, O you of excellent vows! By their own action they remain transcending their own source[24]. For the truth joined with the qualities is invariably of five varieties. The Brahman[25] is the truth; penance is the truth; Prajāpati also is truth; the entities are born from the truth; the universe consisting of (all) creatures is the truth. Therefore Brāhmaṇas whose final goal is always concentration of mind, from whom anger and vexation have departed, and who are invariably devoting themselves to piety, are full of the truth. I will speak about those (Brāhmaṇas) who are restrained by one another[26], who are possessed of knowledge, who are the establishers of the bridge of piety, and who are the constant creators of the people[27]. I will speak of the four (branches of knowledge, and likewise of the castes, and of the four orders, distinctly. The wise always speak of piety as one, (but) having four quarters. I will speak to you, O twice-born ones! of the happy path, which is productive of pleasure, and which has been invariably travelled over. by talented men in old days for (obtaining) assimilation with the Brahman. Learn, O noble ones! from me, now speaking exhaustively, of that highest path which is difficult to understand, and of the highest seat. The first step is said to be the order of Brahmacārins; the second is that of householders; next after that is that of foresters; and next after that too, the highest step must be understood to be that relating to the Adhyātma[28]. Light[29], space, sun, air, Indra, Prajāpati, one sees not these, while one does not attain to the Adhyātma[30]. I will subsequently state the means to that, which you should understand. The order of foresters, (the order) of the sages who dwell in forests and live on fruits roots and air, is prescribed for the three twice-born (castes). The order of householders is prescribed for all castes. The talented ones speak of piety as having faith for its characteristic. Thus have I described to you the paths leading to the gods[31], which are occupied by good and talented men by means of their actions, and which are bridges of piety. He who, rigid in his vows, takes up any one of these modes of piety separately, always comes in time to perceive the production and dissolution of (all) entities[32]. Now I shall state with accuracy and with reasons, all the elements which abide in parts in all objects. The great self[33], the unperceived[34] likewise, and likewise also egoism, the ten senses and the one[35] (sense), and the five great elements, and the specific characteristics of the five elements[36], such is the eternal creation. The number of the elements is celebrated as being twenty-four plus one. And the talented man who understands the production and dissolution of (all) elements, he, of all beings, never comes by delusion. He who accurately understand the elements, the whole of the qualities[37], and also all the deities[38], casting aside sin, and getting rid of all bonds, attains to all the spotless worlds.

Footnotes and references:


See p. 296 supra. The last chapter closes what in some of the MSS. is called the Brahma Gītā, or Brāhmaṇa Gītā contained in the Anugītā Parvan. See further as to this our Introduction, where the point is further dwelt on.


Compare the questions at the beginning of the Śvetāśvatara-upaniṣad.


A similar expression to that in the Sanatsujātīya, p. 149, and elsewhere.


It is not easy to account for the change here from the singular to the plural.


I. e. always attended on the preceptor. Cf. generally, Muṇdaka, p. 283.


The question was not quite from his own imagination, says Nīlakaṇṭha. Arjuna Miśra has a different reading, which he interprets to mean 'that on which the Vedas are all at one.'


Of the fruit of action, Arjuna Miśra.


I. e. not such as to require modification by any other knowledge, as knowledge of the world does.


Nīlakaṇṭha compares Chāndogya, pp. 523-553.


I. e. of Kit and Jaḍa, says Nīlakaṇṭha; of Brahman and its manifestations, as alluded to, inter alia, at pp. 105, 106, 191 supra.


I. e. that variety is only in this world, but that the unity of everything is the true proposition. Cf. inter alia Gītā, p. 104.


Cf. Bṛhadāraṇyaka, p. 858, and Gītā, p. 65.


I. e. the Prakṛti of the Sānkhyas.


The great elements are the five tanmātras of earth, water, fire, air, and space, which afterwards produce what we have called the gross elements in the text, namely, the earth &c. which we perceive.


The tree typifies worldly life. Cf. pp. 111-189 supra. The leaves and flowers, Arjuna Miśra says, stand for volition and action; and Nīlakaṇṭha seems to agree. The tree is called eternal, as worldly life is supposed to have had no beginning. Cf. Sārīraka Bhāṣya, p. 494, 'sprout from the seed,' this rendering is necessitated by Brahman being described as the seed. Cf. Mundaka, p. 288; Śvetāśvatara, p. 362; Kaṭha, pp. 143, 144.


I. e. the means of arriving at it, Arjuna Miśra.


The triad, the acquisition of which worldly men aspire to.


He explains how the doctrine belongs to olden times.


I.e. paths of action, Nīlakaṇṭha. See Sanatsujātīya, p. 165.


Namely, the Pitṛyāna and Devayāna (Arjuna Miśra), as to which see Chāndogya, p. 341, Kauṣītaki, p. 13, and Bṛhadāraṇyaka, p. 1034.


Nīlakaṇṭha seems to interpret this to mean the temporary and final dissolutions of the worlds, on which see, inter alia, Vedānta Paribhāṣā, p. 48.


So Nīlakaṇṭha. May it not be 'according to the received tradition?'


I. e. by action, Nīlakaṇṭha. Cf. Muṇḍaka, p. 280, and see p. 166 supra, note .


I. e. they remain apart from the Brahman, being engaged in action. This answers some of the questions put by the pupil to the preceptor. As to 'the truth,' see p. 162, note  2 supra.


I. e. Īśvara, or god; penance = piety; Prajāpati = the individual soul, Nīlakaṇṭha. Brahman = 'that' (but how is 'that' 'joined with qualities?'); Prajāpati = Brahman, Arjuna Miśra. They agree about penance and entities (which they take to mean the gross elements) and creatures. Brahman and Prajāpati = Virāj and Hiraṇyagarbha (?), p. 186 supra. Cf. Sānti Parvan (Mokṣa), chap. 190, st. 1.


I. e. who commit no breach of piety through fear of one another, Nīlakaṇṭha.


Cf. Gītā, p. 86.


That is to say, that of the ascetic, who specially devotes himself to the acquisition of knowledge about the relation of the supreme and individual self (Adhyātma).


The deity presiding over the bright fortnight, says Arjuna Miśra. The words space and sun and air must be similarly interpreted.


Nīlakaṇṭha says 'one sees these only while one has not had a perception of the self.' He takes light &c. to mean the 'universe.'


I. e. the means of reaching the Devayāna path (mentioned at p. 314 note  5), Nīlakaṇṭha. Cf. also Muṇḍaka. p. 312.


Namely, how they are all manifestations of the Brahman, and are all dissolved in it. Cf. inter alia Gītā, pp. 74, 92.


See the Kathopaniṣad, p. 149. Sec also p. 332 infra.


See p. 313, note  3 supra.


I. e. the mind. Cf. Gītā, p. 102.


Viz. smell, sound, &c.


Tranquillity, self-restraint, &c., Arjuna Miśra. Are they not rather the three qualities? As to 'twenty-four plus one' above, see p. 368.


Does this mean the senses, as at Gītā, p. 123? An accurate understanding of the things noted requires a knowledge of their relation to the supreme, which is the means of final emancipation. And see p. 337 infra.

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