The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Explanation of the Allegory of Samsara—Forest which is chapter 14 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the fourteenth chapter of the Fifth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 14 - Explanation of the Allegory of Saṃsāra—Forest

He (Śrī Śuka) said:

1. Characterised and influenced by special attributes like sattva and others, auspicious, inauspicious and mixed types of karmas (actions) are being committed by jīvas (individual Souls) who wrongly identify the body with the Soul. The group of six senses (five cognitive senses and the mind) act as the portals or media of experience of the beginningless saṃsāra, consisting of association with and separation from the series of different bodies, created as a result of those karmas.

Just as a caravan of merchants, intent on making money, loses its way to find itself in a wilderness, this company of Jīvas (individual Souls) has been set on this difficult path (of saṃsāra), hard to travel like a mountain pass, by Māyā (the deluding potency of the Lord) which functions under the Supreme Ruler Viṣṇu. It (the multitude of jīvas) finds itself in the wilderness of saṃsāra, in-auspicious-most like a funeral ground. It (i.e. the jīvas), experiences the fruit of their Karmas wrought by means of their bodies. Although all their activities are obstructed by numerous difficulties and rendered fruitless, they do not still betake themselves to the path of bees (votaries of the Lord) who resort to the lotus-like feet of Lord Hari in the form of the preceptor—feet which pacify all the afflictions and agonies of Saṃsāra. It is in the forest of Saṃsāra that what are called the six senses (mind and five senses) act as veritable robbers in practice.

2. For whatever little wealth a person acquires through great hardships, should be utilised for the sake of Dharma. The wise say that this Dharma, characterised by the propitiation of the Supreme Person Himself, is conducive to one’s beatitude in the other world.

But the wealth of a man of perverted intellect and uncontrolled senses, which should have been used for the sake of this Dharma (worship of God), is wasted in house-holder’s life on vulgar pleasures of sight, touch, sound, taste and smell), (the five objects of sensual pleasures and in low desires and resolutions (mental tendencies), even as a company of merchants with an unworthy leader of uncontrolled mind is robbed of money.

3. And here (in the wilderness of saṃsāra) the so-called members of the family such as wife and children, are nothing but wolves and jackals inactions. They carry away the carefully- guarded wealth of the close-fisted householder, despite his watchfulness and unwillingness (to part with his wealth), like a lamb well-protected (in a pen).

4. For just as a field, the seeds (of weeds, grass etc.) in which are not burnt down, again becomes densely over-grown with a thicket of shrubs, grass and creepers at the time of sowing, even though it is (regularly) ploughed annually, in the same way, the householder’s life is a field of karmas wherein the seeds of karmas are never destroyed. This householder’s life is certainly a box of desires (in which seeds of karmas are never completely annihilated, just as the smell of camphor persists even after the exhaustion of camphor-tablets from the camphor- box).

5. While there, (in the householder’s stage of life), his wealth which is the very external life-breath of man, is squeezed (lit. sucked) by vile people comparable to gnats aṇd mosquitoes, and (food-grains) by locusts, birds, thieves, rats and others. At times, wandering on this road (of saṃsāra), his mind becomes eclipsed with ignorance (avidyā), lust or desires and actions. Hence being possessed of erroneous views, he looks upon the human world which is as unreal as the (optic illusion of) the city of Gandharvas, to be factually real.

6. There (in the saṃsāra), with a passionate desire for vicious habits of drinking, eating, sexual intercourse and the like, he sometimes pursues mirage-like (unreal) pleasures.

7. Sometimes, just as a man intensely longs for (the warmth of) fire, runs after the fire-goblin—the will of-the-wisp, he with his mind overpowered with the attribute rajas which is of the same colour as that of gold, ardently yearns to acquire gold which is the abode of all evils and is a kind of excreta of fire.

8. And again, with an earnest desire for dwelling-places, water, wealth and other numerous amenities of life and means of livelihood, it (the company of merchants) runs about here and there in the forest of saṃsāra.

9. Sometimes (when) placed on her lap, by a bewitching young woman who is like a whirlwind, his mind is instantly enveloped in ignorance, due to the force of rajas, and transgresses the boundaries of virtue[1]. With his eyes filled with the dust of lust, his mind is too much charged with passion to cognize (the existence of) the presiding deities of the directions (who watch him).

10. Occasionally, he perceives spontaneously for a moment the unreality of worldly objects. But as he identifies the Soul with his body, he loses his memory) about the nature of the Soul. With his memory (mind) thus led astray, he intensely pursues those very sense-objects which are (illusory) like mirage.

11. Sometimes, its (the company of merchants) ears and heart are intensely troubled by the extremely harsh and fiercely vehement threats administered directly, like hooting of the owls, by king’s officers and indirectly (behind one’s back) like the shrill cries of crickets, by enemies.

12. When he has exhausted his fund of merit acquired in the previous life, he is (in the process of) dying though nominally alive. He runs after (for help to) those who are as good as dead though living, and whose wealth is not useful to them either in this world (as they do not enjoy themselves with it) or in the next world (as they do not donate it and earn merit), and who are comparable to poisonous trees and creepers like kāraskara, kākatuṇḍa and to wells full of poisonous water.

13. Sometimes, with his mind perverted due to association with evil persons, he takes to the path of heretics which leaḍshim to miseries here and hereafter—(an act which is)like falling into the rocky bed of a waterless river.

14. When he cannot get food for himself even by harassing others, he proceeds to devour those possessing even blades of grass belonging to his father or son or to “eat up” his own father or sons.

15. Sometimes, he reaches home which is like a forestconflagration—a home devoid of enjoyable objects, full of a series of miseries. There, being scorched with the fire of deep anguish, he becomes extremely depressed in spirits.

16. To him, wealth was dear-most—a veritable life itself. Sometimes he is deprived of it by demon-like officers of the king who have turned hostile (to him) through change of time. He falls in a swoon or appears like a dead man devoid of any symptom of life.

17. Sometimes, imagining as real, the unreal appearance of his (deceased) father, grandfather in fulfilment of his desire, he enjoys (a momentary) pleasure as in a dream.

18. Sometimes he desires to ascend (i.e. perform in a thorough manner) the mountain of extensively detailed duties prescribed for the householder’s life. But his mind being distracted with worldly miseries, he sinks into despondency and feels afflicted like one entering (and traversing) a tract full of thorns and sharp-edged gravel.

19. Sometimes, his power and energy being sapped by the (gastral) fire (of hunger raging) within his body, he gets angry with the members of his family.

20. Again, being seized (swallowed) by the boa-constrictor in the form of sleep, and sunk in the blinding darkness (of ignorance), he remains asleep, as if in desolate forest, and he is unconscious of anything else like a dead body cast off by the relatives.

21. Sometimes his larger tooth in the form of his egotism is being broken by venomous reptiles, viz. wicked persons. He does not get sleep even for a moment. His consciousness gets dimmer and dimmer as his heart is (deeply) agitated and disturbed. And like a blind man, he falls in a dark, covered well (of ignorance and misery).

22. Sometimes, (he is) on the look out for small drops of honey in the form of sensual pleasure. While he is in attempting to snatch away another man’s wife or property, he is beaten to death by the King or the husband or the master (of the property) and falls into the bottomless unsurmountable hell.

23. Hence, sages say, that karman of both forms (whether Vedic or non-Veḍic) performed in this (path of Pravṛtti) sows the seeds of future series of births (of the doer).

24. If he (the jīva) escapes the bondage (or punishment meted out by the King, the woman’s husband or the master of the property), one Devadatta wrests the prize away from him and from him (another fellow), one Viṣṇumitra, takes it away and so on endlessly. (None retains permanently the objects of enjoyment.

25. And sometimes being incapable of warding off miserable conditions like biting cold winds and others caused by super-human agencies, or by elements (or created beings) or pertaining to his body, he sinks down despondently in unending anxieties.

26. Sometimes while transacting business among themselves, if he deceitfully takes away a petty amount, say, twenty cowries or even less than that, he incurs the enmity of others due to deceitful dealing in money.

27. On this path (of pravṛtti), there are these obstacles (viz. financial losses, difficulties etc. enumerated in Ch. 13.13) and also other ones viz. pleasure and pain, lust and hatred, fear and pride, negligence and madness, delusion and greed, envy and jealousy, insult, hunger and thirst, anxieties and diseases, birth, old age, death and others.

28. Sometimes, (when) embraced with the creeper-like (tender) arms of the woman who is the Māyā (deluding divine potency of the Lord) incarnate, he loses his power of judgment and wisdom. He becomes anxious at heart to construct a pleasure-house for her. His heart becomes transported by the (sweet) speech, (affectionate) looks and (winsome) behaviour of his wife and sons, daughters who resorted to him for protection. Thus, being of uncontrolled mind, he sends himself to the abysmal hell of blinding darkness.

29. Sometimes he gets terrified in his heart at (the thought of) the discus (viz. kāla—Time, death) of the Supreme Ruler, Lord Viṣṇu—the discus is alternatively designated as Time and consists of divisions beginning from the minutest point to the period covering two Parārdha years (the life-span of god Brahmā). With inexorable velocity consisting of ages (childhood, youth, old age), this unwinking (watchful) discus mows down all created beings from god Brahmā down to a clump of grass while they are (helplessly) looking on. But disrespectfully ignoring the Supreme Lord, the presiding Deity of Sacrifice whose weapon is this eternal discus of Time, he on the basis of unauthoritative canon of the heretics, resorts to the deities of the heretics which are no better than kites, vultures, cranes on the banyan trees (in extending protection against death and hence) which are discarded in the religion of Aryas.

30. When he was devastatingly deceived by those heretics who are themselves deluded, he (returns and) stays within the Brāhmanic fold.

He, however, does not like their pious way of life, propitiation of the glorious Lord of Sacrifices with acts prescribed in the Vedas and Smṛtis after performance of the thread investiture ceremony. As he is impure (and hence ineligible) toperform duties enjoined by the Vedas, he resorts to the Śūdra community which like the species of monkeys, indulges in copulation and maintenance of the family.

31. Even in that community, he behaves as he likes, without any restraint. The low-minded fellow forgets the limit of his (span of) life in vulgar gratification of senses such as looking at the faces of each other (mutually by husband and wife).

32. Sometimes he enjoys himself in the householder’s life which, like trees, yields pleasures pertaining to this world only. He is fond of children and wife and like a monkey[2], he delights in sexual enjoyment.

33. Enjoying and suffering pleasures and pain on the path (of pravṛtti), he falls into the veritable dark vale of ailments and other calamities and stays (there) constantly in the fear of the elephant in the form of death.

34. Sometimes, when incapable of protecting himself against innumerable miseries such as heat and cold—miseries caused by supernatural agencies, the elements or creatures or by his own body or mind—he sinks (lit. sits) despondently worrying over endless sense-objects.

35. Sometimes, entering into business transactions among themselves, he acquires some wealth through fraudulent monetary dealings.

36. Sometimes, when his wealth is spent up he becomes destitute of (normal necessities of life such as) a bed, a seat, food etc. He then makes up his mind to snatch away the objects which he covets but has not succeeded to acquire till then. Hence, in due course, he is subjected to insult etc. by the public.

37. Although their mutual hostility is enhanced by their covetousness for wealth, they enter into matrimonial relations or break them according to their tendency resulting from actions to the previous life.

38. On this road of Saṃsāra, if one is afflicted with innumerable sufferings and obstacles and succumbs to calamities or death, he is definitely abandoned then and there. They take with them the new-born children. They sometimes weep, fall in a swoon, are afraid, quarrel, cry and are overjoyed, sing and are bound down. They are avoided by saintly people and are thus denied pious company. In this way, they continue to go ahead. This caravan of men has not yet returned to the starting point of this journey (viz. God) which the sages say, is the terminus of the road (of Saṃsāra).

39. For, he who gets knowledge of and takes to the discipline of Yoga, does not definitely return to the universe or saṃsāra. It is only the meditative persons who have renounced all forms of violence (to all creatures) and are firmly given to self-control (and consequent serenity), and who have detached their minds (from worldly objects), reach the Supreme (Self).

40. Even the royal sages who have conquered the elephants guarding all directions and perf orm sacrifices, do not attain it. Asserting their claim on the earth that it is their own and entering into hostilities for it (its possession), they lie dead on the battlefield, leaving their bodies on the earth (claimed by them) and depart. (These also do not reach the other end of Saṃsāra).

41. Supporting themselves by catching hold of the creeper of karma and getting out, with great difficulty, from the miserable hell, he is again present on the way of Saṃsāra, and rejoins the caravan of men. Similar is the case of men who have gone up to the Heaven.

Thus do they sing of Bharata!

42. Just as a fly cannot, even in its imagination soar up along the path of Garuḍa (high up in the sky), no other King in this world can even mentally follow the path of the high- souled royal sage Bharata, the son of Ṛṣabha.

43. Even while he was a youth, he longed to serve the Lord of hallowing renown (or of Supreme glory), and abandoned like excreta, his wife and children, friends and kingdom, so endearing to the heart and (hence) so difficult to renounce.

44. It is quite befitting on the part of the king (Bharata) that he did not long for the (kingdom of the) earth, sons, relatives, wealth and wife—so difficult to renounce. Nor did he wish for Śrī (the Goddess of Fortune), coveted by great gods, even though She waited for having a gracious look from him. For in the view of the great (Souls) whose minds are devotedly attached to the service of Viṣṇu, even the Final Emancipation is of little account.

45. “Salutations to Lord Hari who is himself the personified Yajña (sacrifice), the defender of righteousness, punctilious observance of scriptural injunctions, Yoga incarnate, the head (the ultimate, chief principle) of the Sāṃkhyas, the controller of the Prakṛti (the personified Will or Māyā of the Almighty), who is the shelter of all created beings)”, so nobly praised he, at the time of casting off his body as a deer.

46. One who faithfully listens to, recites or praises the history of the royal sage Bharata whose spotless virtues and pure actions are appreciated and eulogised by devotees of the Lord—the history which brings in good fortune, long life, riches, renown and leads to (the attainment of) the Heaven and Final Beatitude secures all blessings, of his own accord and needs nothing from others.

Footnotes and references:


like goblins at night according to v.l. accepted by Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā


Bālaprabodhini: “Just as a monkey addicted to sexual enjoyment, becomes negligent (about his safety) and is caught by the hunter while it is indulging in that enjoyment on the trees and is unable to get himself released.”

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