The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Exposition of right Conduct (Concluded) which is chapter 15 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 fifteenth chapter of the Seventh Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 15 - Exposition of right Conduct (Concluded)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Nārada said:

1. Some Brāhmaṇas (gṛhasthas) are devoted to rituals prescribed for their particular āṣhrama, some (vānaprasthas), are bent on performing austere penance, others (brahmacārins) to the study of the Vedas, some to the teaching and exposition of the Vedas, while some to spiritual enlightenment, (as in the case of saṃnyāsins) and some to perfection in Yoga.

2. A person desirous of attaining eternally lasting merit should offer the gifts of food etc. intended for manes—(pitṛs) and those meant for gods, to persons who are solely devoted to spiritual knowledge, and in their absence to others according to their merits.

3. One should feed two Brāhmaṇas in rites connected with gods, three for ceremonies (Śrāddha) intended for (pitṛs) or may feed one only in each. Even though a person is very affluent, he should not invite a large number.

4. If invitations are given on a large scale, and food etc. is distributed among relatives, conditions regarding proper place, time, piety, devotion, proper materials, worthy recipients etc. are not properly observed.

5. When proper time and place offers itself, food proper for sages and offered to god Hari, if given with proper formalities and devotion to a worthy person, yields desired objects and everlasting fruit.

6. While distributing food to gods, sages, pitṛs, beings and one’s relatives, one should look upon these all as identical with the Supreme Person.

7. A person who knows the essence of dharma should not give (serve) flesh (non-vegetarian food), nor should eat it at the time of Śrāddha, for there is no real gratification in slaughter of animals (flesh); for there is supreme satisfaction with the type of food proper for sages.

8. For those persons who desire to follow the right course of conduct, there is no supreme dharma other than abstinence from violence to living beings caused by thought, word and deed.

9. Some persons who are well-versed in sacrificial lore and who have spiritual wisdom, become desireless and offer the ritualistic sacrifices requiring external actions, into the fire of self-control kindled by spiritual knowledge.

10. Living beings become apprehensive on seeing a person who performs sacrifices with gross materials. (They say) “This cruel man, not grasping the spirit of the rules prescribed for Yajñas, and thirsting after my life, will surely kill me”.

11. Therefore, a person knowing the real path of righteousness should be satisfied with the hermit’s fare providentially obtained by him, and should every day carry on the prescribed daily and occasional duties.

12. A man versed in righteousness should steer clear of the five forms (branches) of adharma (impiety), viz. vidharma, paradharma, ābhāsa, upamā, chala, regarding them all as adharma (impiety).

13. Vidharma is that which, though practised as a dharma, obstructs real dharma (e.g. black-magic of the tantras). Paradharma is the course of conduct ordained for another (varṇa or āśrama (e.g. Fighting in the case of Brāhmaṇas). Upadharma is the heresy opposing the Vedas (e.g. path or duties prescribed in āgama) or hypocrisy, while chala is the distortion of the text showing apparent conformity to the letter of the scriptures or quibbling.

14. The course of conduct different from the duties (prescribed by Vedas for different varṇas—classes in society—and āśramas—stages in life) but adopted according to one’s fancy (e.g. the avadhūta mode of life is (dharma-) ābhāsa. Who would regard dharma which is agreeable to his innate disposition, as not conducive to his (inner) peace and prosperity!

15. An indigent person should not try to earn money either for the sake of charitable donations etc. or for the maintenance of his life. Effortless state of one who ceases from activities becomes his means of subsistence, as in the case of the (proverbial) Python.

16. How can the happiness enjoyed by a self-contented person cherishing no desires and delighted in his own self, be obtained by a person who, actuated by passion and covetousness, runs in all directions in quest of wealth.

17. All directions are full of happiness to a man who is ever contented in his mind, just as the feet protected by shoes have complete safety against gravels, thorns and others.

18. With what will not a self-contented man pull on—say even with water? Due to beggarly yearnings for the pleasures of the sex and tongue, a man behaves like a dog.

19. The spiritual power, learning, (power accrued from) penance, and glory of a discontented Brāhmaṇa leak away (and are exhausted) and his spiritual knowledge is also dissipitated.

20. A person may cease to feel the sexual urge due to intensity of hunger and thirst (as these are much more powerful), he may see the end of anger when its fruit (revenge) is achieved. But he never sees the end of avarice even after conquering all the quarters and enjoying the sovereignty of the world.

21. There are a number of learned scholars of extensive knowledge, capable of dispelling the doubts of others and leaders of assemblies who have fallen down (into deep hell) through discontent.

22. One should overcome passion by foregoing the desire of love for it, anger by eschewing desire: greed, by looking upon wealth and worldly things as evil; and fear, by the perception of the truth (about the objects of fear).

23. (He should conquer) grief and delusion by realizing the distinction between the Self (ātman) and the non-self (anātman); hypocrisy, by association with the great; interruption to Yoga (mental concentration) by observing silence; and violence to other beings, by bodily inactivity (to secure merit, wealth etc.).

24. He should overcome troubles given by other beings by cherishing compassion (even towards the trouble-makers); and those caused by destiny or gods by equipoise and concentration of the mind; the ailments of the body by the force of Yoga (prāṇāyāma and other Yogic expedients); and sleep by recourse to sātivic food.

25. He should vanquish rajas and tamas by sattva, and sattva by complete withdrawal of attachment (and activity for it). A man can easily overpower all these above-mentioned through intense devotion to the spiritual preceptor.

26. The spiritual guide is verily the Venerable Lord Himself who imparts to a man the light of knowledge. But the spiritual knowledge or learning of a person who entertains the perverted notion that his preceptor is an ordinary mortal, is as useless as the bath of an elephant (which besmears itself with dust immediately after the bath).

27. For the spiritual preceptor whom people regard as merely a human being, is directly the Almighty God, the Supreme Ruler both of Prakṛti and Puruṣa (matter and the individual Soul) and His feet are sought after by masters of Yoga.

28. All the precepts ordained (for performance of sacrifices etc.) are intended for one purpose, viz. restraint of six passions (e.g., desire, anger and others or alternatively five senses and the mind). If they do not lead to the accomplishment of Yoga (viz. dhyāna, dhāraṇā and samādhi) all the above is a source of sheer (fruitless) labour.

29. Just as the rewards and procurements of agriculture and other pursuits do not bear the fruits of Yoga (viz. Final Emancipation from saṃsāra), the performance of sacrifices and undertakings for public welfare (e.g. construction of tanks etc.) will lead to evil results in case of a person whose mind is attached to external objects (of worldly nature).

30. He who has resolved to subjugate his mind should dissociate himself from all attachments and belongings; he should become a recluse and live alone in secluded place', eating moderately what he gets as alms.

31. One should arrange his seat in a clean hallowed level place and seat himself in an erect, stable, comfortable posture, repeating silently the sacred syllable Om, Oh King.

32. With his gaze fixed on the tip of his nose one should control one’s breath (prāṇa and apāna—inhalation and exhalation) by inhailing, suspending and exhaling his breath till his mind gives up desires.

33. A wise man should retrieve his ever-roving mind smitten with desires from whatever external object it goes and confine it into his heart.[1]

34. A recluse who strives to exercise such control day and night, finds in a short period that his mind attains quiescence like fire for lack of fuel.

35. When the mind, not agitated by desires and passions, and with its activities calmed down, is touched by the ecstasy of the realization of the Brahman, it never responds to external objects in saṃsāra.

36. If a recluse who has formerly renounced his house which is a nursery of dharma, artha and kāma (three objects of human life) again takes to the householder’s life and enjoys them, the shameless fellow (is like a man who) is swallowing up his vomited food.

37. If those who have regarded their own body as distinct from Soul, mortal and reducible to excrement (if the body is eaten up by a carnivorous animal), worms (if interred in a grave), and ashes (if cremated on a pyre), highly extol it as if it is the Ātman, such persons are the vilest ones.

38-39. Avoidance of religious rites and duties in the case of gṛhastha, non-observance (of the vow of celibacy, studies etc.) in the case of a brahmacārin, residence in an inhabited locality in the case of ascetics performing penance, and lack of self-control in the case of recluses (saṃnyāsins)—all these are the accursed banes of their respective āśramas as these certainly reduce their āśramas to mockery. Out of compassion, one should neglect these fellows who are deluded by the illusive power (Māyā) of the Almighty God.

40. If a person realizes his Self as Supreme Brahman, all the traces of attachment are shaken off from his mind by that spiritual knowledge. (It is not known) with what ulterior motive or for whom does this addict to worldly pleasures nourishes his body.

41. The wise say that this body is a chariot, the senses are the horses, mind, the controller of senses[2], is the reins, the objects of senses are the paths, intellect (reasoning faculty) is the charioteer, and the heart (power is the all-embracing cordage created by God.

42. The ten vital breaths[3] from the axis, Dharma and Adharma its two wheels, the Soul who identifies himself with the body due to Ego (ahaṃkāra) is the owner (occupant) of the chariot. They say that the sacred syllable OM is the bow[4], the pure Self is the arrow and Paramātman (the Supreme Soul) is the target.

43-44. Love, hatred, greed, sorrow, infatuation, fear, pride, haughtiness, disgrace, jealousy, deceitfulness, violence, envy, passion, negligence, hunger, sleep—these and the like are the enemies to be vanquished. These are born of rajas and tamas and rarely from sattva. (At the time of concentration of the mind, the appearance of ideas of doing good is also a distraction and hence inimical.

45. While yet he continues to hold the chariot in the form of human body with all its constituent parts (the sense organs) under his control, he, deriving his strength from Lord Viṣṇu, and wielding the sword of spiritual knowledge sharpened through the service of the highly exalted Souls, should put an end to all the (aforesaid) enemies. Enjoying to his utmost satisfaction the highest bliss of the Self, he should attain (perfect) tranquillity and cast off this (body).

46. Otherwise, these wicked horses in the form of senses and the (feeble) charioteer take the careless and unwary occupant astray to the path of Pravṛtti and land him among a band of robbers, viz., objects of sense-enjoyment. Those robbers hurl him among with the horses and the charioteer in the deep well of blinding darkness in the form of saṃsāra beset with the terrible fear of death.

47. Acts prescribed in the Vedas are of two kinds: Pravṛtta (leading to enjoyment of worldly life) and Nivṛtta (leading to spiritual life). By performance of Pravṛtta karma a person is born again in saṃsāra, while by Nirvṛtta karma he attains to immortality (Mokṣa).

48-49. Ritual (like Śyena-yāga) to destroy the enemies and sacrifices involving slaughter of animals, Agnihotra (maintenance of daily domestic sacrificial worship), Darśa (sacrifice to be performed on the New Moon day), Paurṇimāsyā (sacrifice on the Full Moon day), Cāturmāsya (a sacrifice to be performed at the beginning of a quarter—four monthly division—of the year), animal-sacrifice, Soma-sacrifice, Vaiśvadeva (oblations to the Viśvadevas offered before taking meals) and Bali- haraṇa (symbolic offer of food to demigods, household divinities, men and other creature) are known as sacrificial acts; while construction of temples, gardens, tanks or wells and booths supplying water to men and animals, form (what is known as) Pūrta acts. Both of these (iṣṭa and pūrta) are included under Pravṛtta karma.

50-51. (The gradual ascension of the departed soul is marked by the subtle modifications of materials of his astral body liṅgaśarīra which is supposed to be escorted by the deities presiding over), the smoke, the night, the dark half of the month, the dakṣiṇāyana (representing the Sun’s apparent movement to the South of equator), the orb of the Moon. (After enjoying the fruit of his action, the path of descent of that jīva is through) the New Moonday, annual plants and creepers, food grains and the semen (resulting thereby)—this is the path of Pitṛs which leads to birth again. Having gone through these stages one by one, a jīva is born again in this world[5].

52. A twice-born person (viz. Brāhmaṇa, Kṣattriya and Vaiśya) who is consecrated with the sixteen purificatory rites from garbhādhāna to the funeral obsequies, oblates all his activities as sacrifice into his five cognitive senses kindled by the light of spiritual wisdom.

53. He offers (i.e. merges) the senses into the mind or the thinking faculty full of thoughts, the mind born of Vāikārika (sāttvic) ahaṃkāra into the Speech; the speech into the body of articulate sounds (which go to form Speech), and that collection of sounds into Praṇava OM; he should merge that into Bindu, the Bindu into Nada, the Nāda into Prāṇa (vital breath) and Prāṇa in the Supreme (Brahman).

54-55. The path wherein the progress is watched by deities presiding over Fire, the Sun, the Day Time, the Evening (close of the day), the bright fortnight, the full Moon day, Uttarāyaṇa (the period when the Sun appears to move to the North of the equator), god Brahmā.[6] (Brahmā’s region marks the highest point in the ascent of the departed Soul. After the termination of the person of enjoyment in the Brahma Ioka he proceeds to) Viśva (when the Soul identifies himself with gross matter), Taijasa (wherein the Soul merges the gross into the subtle upādhi, and with his subtle upādhi is absorbed into Kāraṇa upādhi he becomes) Prājña, (after merging of Kāraṇa upādhi he becomes) the Turīya (when he is mere witness of all the states)—all these stages being absorbed into one he becomes Pure Self, i.e. is liberated. This path is known as the path of gods (deva-yāna). Going through these stages serially, this propitiator of the (Supreme) Self being established into the Supreme Self attains to perfect tranquillity and never returns (to saṃsāra).[7]

56. He who, through Śāstric point of view, distinctly and correctly understands these paths of Pitṛs and gods as created by the Vedas, does not get deluded[8] (and does not fall down to a lower stage in life), even though he still abides in this (physical) body.

57.[9] For, the knower of the path factually constitutes whatever exists before the creation and after the extinction of the body; he himself is whatever is outside the body (external world to be enjoyed) and inside the body (the enjoyer of the world), what is high and low, knowledge and the object of knowledge, the world and the object denoted by it, darkness as well as light.

58.[10] Just as a reflection, though logically disproved in everyway, is supposed to be something real, so objects which are cognised by senses are imagined to be really existent. But their objective reality is difficult to be proved.

59.[11] (Here the unreality of the body is logically proved). This “shadow” (-like psycho-physical organism called body which is regarded as a combination of five elements such as the earth and others) is nothing of (unrelated to) the earth and other elements; for it is neither a collection or a mixture nor a compound or modification. It is neither of them separately or conjointly. Hence, it is unreal.

60. (He now shows that the constituents making up the body are unreal). The ingredients or “the roots” of the body, viz. the five gross elements being themselves composed of components, cannot exist apart from their subtle forms (tanmātras) which form their components. And when the whole i.e. combination of constituents) proves to be unreal, the parts (or constituents) ipso facto cease to be real.

61. Objection: In case the existence of an individual avayavin is denied, the identity of the same individual at different stages in life or periods of time cannot be recognized. The reply:

When there is no difference in Paramātman, it is through similarities between the successive appearances that the mistake in identification will take place while the influence of avidyā survives. The force of Śāstric injunctions and prohibition is similar to the distinction between wakefulness and sleep, both perceived during the dream-stage[12].

62.[13] A contemplative sage who, through the realization of the Self comprehends the unity of Bhāva[14] (thought), Kriyā[14] (action) and Dravya[14] (materials) of the ātman, shakes off the three dreamy states, viz., wakefulness, dream and sleep.

63. Bhāvādvaita (non-duality of thought) is the comprehension of the essential one-ness of cause and effect like that in the thread and cloth (woven out of thread), their difference being unreal.

64. Oh Yudhiṣṭhira (son of Pṛthā Kuntī)! The resignation of all acts performed through the instrumentality of thought, words and deeds directly to the Supreme Brahman himself, is the Kriyādvaita (non-duality of action).

65. The Dravyādvaita (non-duality of substances) is the realization of artha and kāma (wealth, property and desire) of one’s own self and his wife, children as well as all other embodied beings.

66. Except in the case of calamity (i.e. normally) one should perform one’s duties with the materials the acquisition of which is permitted by whatever means, from whatever source and at whatever time and place, (to the man’s class and stage in society).

67. Oh King! He who abides by these and other duties prescribed for him in the Vedas and is deeply devoted to Lord Kṛṣṇa, attains to the Lord’s realm (or state of god- hood) even though he be staying at home.

68. Oh King of kings! Just as you (and your brothers) tided over a series of unsurmountable difficulties by the grace of the Lord and have performed sacrifices after conquering the guardian-elephants of all quarters, so you may cross over this saṃsāra through the grace of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the saviour of all.

69. In the previous Mahākalpa, I was born as a Gandharva named Upabarhaṇa and was highly respected among the Gandharvas.

70. Being an amiable person with beautiful appearance, comeliness, sweet in speech and fragrance, I was a favourite with women. I was always intoxicated and extremely lascivious.

71. Once upon a time, in a sacrifice performed by gods Gandharvas celestial musicians) and Apsaras (heavenly damsels) were invited by the Prajāpatis (Lords of creations) to chant verses in honour of Lord Hari.

72. On coming to know of that invitation, I, in the company of women, went there (drunk) singing (profane songs). Being informed of my contemptuous conduct the creators of the universe cursed with their ascetic power: “Being bereft of your glory, do you be born instantly as a Śūdra, as you have behaved disrespectfully.”

73. At first I was born of a female-servant. Even in that birth through my reverential service to and association with sages who had realised Brahman, I became (lit. attained the status of being) Brahmā’s son.

74. The righteous course of conduct prescribed for house-holders and which is capable of destroying sins, has been described to you in details. Following this course, a householder easily attains to the goal of a saṃnyāsin, viz. Mokṣa (Liberation).

75. In this world you are certainly highly fortunate inasmuch as sages who sanctify the world come to your house where the Supreme Brahman disguised in a human form resides (with you).

76. This (Lord Kṛṣṇa) is verily the Supreme Brahman who is the embodiment of the realization of the ecstatic bliss of eternal emancipation which is sought after by great sages. This venerable Lord is your beloved friend, maternal cousin, your most adorable preceptor, your (very) Soul, and the executor of your commands.

77. May this Lord of Sātvatas (Lord Kṛṣṇa) be propitious unto us—Lord Kṛṣṇa whose essential form (nature) could not be adequately (comprehended and) described with their intellectual faculties even by great gods like Śiva, Brahmā and others, and who is worshipped by us in silence, devotion and tranquillity.

Śrī Śuka said:

78. Hearing the above discourse of the divine sage Nārada, the foremost one of Bharatas (Yudhiṣṭhira) was highly delighted and overwhelmed with devotional love worshipped Kṛṣṇa.

79. The sage who was duly worshipped, took leave of Kṛṣṇa and Yudhiṣṭhira. Yudhiṣṭhira was highly amazed to learn that Kṛṣṇa was the Supreme Brahman.

80. Thus the genealogy of the different dynasties of the daughters of Dakṣa have been severally described to you, and gods, Asuras. human beings and other mobile and immobile creation in the world are included in these (dynasties).

Footnotes and references:


(1) śucau deśe pratiṣṭhāpya sthiram āsanam ātmanaḥ /
nātyucchritaṃ nātinīcaṃ cailājinakuśottaram //
  —B.G. 6.11

(2) samāṃ kāya-śiro-grīvaṃ dhārayannacalaṃ śiraḥ /
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṃ svaṃ diśścānavalokayan //
  —B.G. 6.13

(3) yato yato niścarati manaś cañcalam asthiram /
tas tato niyamyaitad ātmanyeva vaśaṃ nayet //
  —B.G. 6.26


ātmānaṃ rathinaṃ viddhi śarīraṃ ratham eva tu /
buddhiṃ tu sārathiṃ viddhi, manaḥ pragrahom eva ca /
indrīyāṇi hayānāhur viṣayānś teṣu gocarān //
  —Kaṭha Upa. 1.3-3-4


They are: Prāṇa, Apāna, Samāna, Vyāna and Udāna, Nāga, Kūrma, Kṛkala, Devadatta and Dhanañjaya.


Cf., praṇavo dhanuḥ śaro hyātmā—Muṇḍaka Upa. 2.2.4.


The belief in the journey of the Soul by the Path of Pitṛs (pitṛ-yāṇa) is very old. In fact the above verses echo verbatim Chāndogya Upa. 5.10.3-6.

Also: dhūmo rātris tathā kṛṣṇaḥ ṣaṇmāsā dākṣiṇāyanam /
tatra cāndramasaṃ jyotir yogi prāpya nivartate //
  —B.G. 8.25.


agnir jyotir ahaḥ śuklaḥ ṣaṇmāsā uttarāyaṇam /
tatra prayātā gacchanti brahma brahma-vido janāḥ //
  —Bhagavad Gītā 8.24.


Padaratnāvalī states that every higher stage is more blessed than the former. When he ultimately attains to the Supreme Self, he becomes established in perfect bliss whence there is no return to Saṃsāra.


Is not attached to either of the paths—S.D.


Bhāgavata Candrikā: Before the creation and after the destruction of the universe in and out of the living beings during the tenure of the universe whatever exists high or low, consciousness (Jīva) and the insentient things to be known, the word and the thing described darkness (Mūla Prakṛti) and light (Samaṣṭi-jīva)—these all are Paramātman.


Bhāgavata Candrikā interprets ābhāsa as (1) the visible physical body and (2) the body in the dream state and gives two explanations:

(1) The actual body though continues to be unḍestroyed does not deserve to be regarded as Puruṣārtha. So are the objects of senses, unworthy of pursuit as objects of human life (Puruṣārtha).

(2) Just as the body in the dream state disappears at the time of waking, so is the body in the waking state unreal as the eternal qualities of the Soul are not found therein.

B.P. and Siddhāntapradīpa seem to accept this interpretation.

Padaratnāvalī states the dvaita point of view as follows:

The body which is pratibimba is (as per smṛti texts) Vastu as the Supreme Self, abides in it. The body aṇd other objects have a real existence as god and nobody else can create them.


Bhāgavata Candrikā: The shadow of trees etc. which are products of the elements like the earth and other elements is neither their collection normodification; it is neither apart from the tree nor connected with it but is impermanent (anitya); so is relation of the body and the ātman. The body is not the ātman.

Padaratnāvalī interprets chāyā as an aspect of state. He explains, “As none else but god has created everything in this universe it is real; for the bhūtas are neither a collection, compound or the modification of other bhūtas e.g. the earth or water etc.


Bhāgavata Candrikā: The injunctive and interdictory orders in the Śāstric texts may be binding till this body lasts, just as the distinction between the state of wakefulness and sleep in dreams lasts till the dream continues.


Padaratnāvalī: A sage who comprehends the meaning of Śāstras knows the identity (advaita) in Bhāva, Kriyā and Dravya.


The terms are defined in the following verses.

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