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)....

Chapter XXXIV

The sages said:

Which (form of) piety is deemed to be the most worthy of being performed? We observe the various modes of piety to be as it were contradictory. Some say (it[1] remains) after the body (is destroyed); some say that is not so. Some (say) everything[2] is doubtful; and others that there is no doubt. Some say the permanent (principle) is impermanent, and others, too, that it exists, and (others) that it exists not[3]. Some (say it is) of one form or twofold, and others (that it is) mixed[4]. Some Brāhmaṇas, too, who know the Brahman and perceive the truth, believe it to be one; others distinct; and others again (that it is) manifold[5]. Some say both time and space (exist)[6], and others that that is not so. Some have matted hair and skins; and some (are) clean-shaven and without covering. Some people are for bathing; some for the omission[7] of bathing. Some are for taking food; others are intent on fasting. Some people extol action, and others tranquillity. Some extol final emancipation; some various kinds of enjoyments; some wish for riches, and others indigence. Some (say) means[8] should be resorted to; others that that is not so. Some are devoted to harmlessness, and some given up to destruction; some are for merit and glory; and others say that is not so. Some are devoted to goodness; some are in the midst of doubts; some are for pleasure, and some for pain[9]. Some people (say) meditation[10], other Brāhmaṇas (say) sacrifice, and others, gifts; but others extol penance, and other persons sacred study; some knowledge, and renunciation[11]; and those who ponder on the element[12], nature[13]. Some extol everything, and others nothing[14]. And, O best of the gods! piety being thus confused and abounding in contradictions, we are deluded, and come to no determination. People are acting, (saying) this is good, this is good. And he who is attached to a certain (form of) piety, always esteems that. Here (therefore) our understanding breaks down, and our mind is distracted. We wish, O best (of beings)! to be informed of what is good. Be pleased now to proceed to state what is (so) mysterious, and what is the cause of the connexion between the Kṣetrajña and nature. Thus addressed by those Brāhmaṇas, the venerable, holy, and talented creator of worlds told them accurately (what they asked).

Footnotes and references:


I. e. the piety, Arjuna Miśra,; the self, Nīlakaṇṭha.


I. e. such as piety, &c., Arjuna Miśra.


follow Arjuna Miśra, who says 'permanent' means soul, &c. The correct expression would seem to be 'that which is called permanent by others is impermanent.'


This is the view of those who hold the theory of Pariṇāma, or development, says Arjuna Miśra.


'To be one' = knowledge to be all of one description, 'distinct' = knowledge having various entities for its distinct objects (this is the view of the holders of the Vijñānavāda, says Arjuna Miśra); manifold = that the selfs are numberless. The words here are nearly identical with those at Gītā, p. 83, see note  4 there.


I. e. help in action, Arjuna Miśra.


See Āpastamba I, 1, 1, 2 (comment).


I. e. for the acquisition of anything desirable, Arjuna Miśra, who adds, 'by those who wish for piety.' Nīlakaṇṭha says means = 'meditation and so forth;' as to 'that is not so' he cites what he calls a Śruti, which is however one of the Kārikās of Gauḍapāda on the Māṇḍukya; see p. 432.


This, too, is not quite clear, but Nīlakaṇṭha says, 'meditation should be practised for release from pain, and for acquisition of pleasure;' land others say not so, it should be done without desire.'


That is to say, they hold that meditation should be practised.


Arjuna Miśra seems to take this to mean 'renunciation of knowledge,' i.e. a blank, and says this was the view of the Mādhyamikas,--I suppose the Mādhyamika Bauddhas.


I. e. the Cārvākas, Arjuna Miśra.


Śvetāśvatara, p. 276, and Śaṅkara's commentary there.


Were there optimists. and pessimists at the time of the Anugītā in India? This verse, however, does not occur in some MSS. Nīlakaṇṭha's note on this passage may be of some interest. He says, 'Some hold that the self exists after the body is lost; others, that is the Lokāyatas or Cārvākas, hold the contrary. Everything doubtful is the view of the Syādvādins; nothing doubtful that of the Tairthikas, the great teachers (I presume, about their own respective doctrines). Everything impermanent, Tārkikas; permanent, Mīmāṃsakas; nothing exists, the Śūnyavādins; something exists, but only momentarily, p. 377 Saugatas; knowledge is one, but the ego and non-ego are two different principles, the Yogācāras; mixed, Uḍulomas; one, is the view of the worshippers of the Brahman as possessed of qualities; distinct, other Mīmāṃsakas, who hold that the special actions are the cause (of everything, is meant, I presume); manifold = the atomists; time and space = astrologers. Those who "say that is not so," that is to say, that what we see has no real existence at all, are the Vṛddhas, ancient philosophers; omission to bathe = the condition of Naiṣṭhika Brahmacārins; bathing = householder's condition; "means should be resorted to, that is not so," those who are against all meditation, &c., according to the Śruti text, which Nīlakaṇṭha quotes; "merit and glory, that is not so," some say there is no merit as the Lokāyatas or Cārvākas; "knowledge, renunciation," the former is to be gained only by means of the latter; "ponder on elements" = who are intent on the investigation of the true nature of things; nature = abundance of resources, by which alone knowledge is produced, not by mere renunciation.' It will be understood, that this commentary assumes a different syntactical construction of the original in some places from that adopted in our translation.

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