by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 2,566,952 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933
The English translation of the Mahabharata is a large text describing ancient India. It is authored by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa and contains the records of ancient humans. Also, it documents the fate of the Kauravas and the Pandavas family. Another part of the large contents, deal with many philosophical dialogues such as the goals of life. Book...
"Yudhishthira said, 'By following what conduct, O you that art conversant with all courses of conduct, did Janaka, the ruler of Mithila versed in the religion of Emancipation, succeed in attaining to Emancipation, after casting off all worldly enjoyments?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the following old narrative of the particular conduct by which that ruler, thoroughly conversant with all courses of conduct, succeeded in achieving the highest felicity. There was a ruler in Mithila of the name of Janadeva of Janaka’s race. He was ever engaged in reflecting upon the courses of conduct that might lead to the attainment of Brahma. A century of preceptors always used to live in his palace, lecturing him upon the diverse courses of duty followed by people who had betaken themselves to diverse modes of life. Given to the study of the Vedas, he was not very well satisfied with the speculations of his instructors on the character of the Soul, and in their doctrines of extinction upon the dissolution of the body or of rebirth after death. Once upon a time a great ascetic of the name of Pancasikha, the son of Kapila, having roamed over the whole world, arrived at Mithila. Endued with correct conclusions in respect of all speculations about the diverse duties connected with renunciation, he was above all pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, happiness and misery), and of doubts he had none. He was regarded as the foremost of Rishis. Dwelling wherever he pleased, he desired to place before the reach of all men eternal felicity that is so difficult of attainment. It seemed that he went about, amazing the world, having assumed the form of none else than that great Rishi, that lord of creatures, whom the followers of the Sankhya doctrine knew by the name of Kapila. He was the foremost of all the disciples of Asuri and was called the undying. He had performed a mental Sacrifice that had lasted for thousand years. He was firm in mind, and had completed all the rites and sacrifices that are enjoined in the scriptures and that lead to the attainment of Brahma. He was fully conversant with the five sheaths that cover the soul. He was devoted to the five acts connected with the adoration of Brahma, and had the five qualities (of tranquillity, self-restraint, etc.). Known (as already said) by the name of Pancasikha, he had approached one day a large concourse of Rishis following the Sankhya doctrines and enquired of them about the highest object of human acquisition, viz., the Unmanifest or that upon which the five Purushas or sheaths (already named) rest. For the sake of obtaining a knowledge of the Soul, Asuri had enquired of his preceptor. In consequence of the latter’s instructions and of his own penances, Asuri understood the distinction between the body and the Soul and had acquired celestial vision. In that concourse of ascetics, Asuri made his exposition of the Immutable One, and Indestructible Brahma which is seen in diverse forms. Pancasikha became a disciple of Asuri. He lived on human milk. There was a certain Brahmani of the name of Kapila. She was the wife of Asuri. Pancasikha was accepted by her as a son and he used to suck her breasts. In consequence of this, he came to be known as the son of Kapila and his understanding became fixed on Brahma. All this, about the circumstances of his birth and those that led to his becoming the son of Kapila, was said unto me by the divine Rishi. The latter also told me about the omniscience of Pancasikha. Conversant with all courses of duty, Pancasikha, after having himself acquired high knowledge, (came to Janaka) and knowing that that king had equal reverence for all his preceptors, began to amaze that century of preceptors (by an exposition of his doctrine fraught), with abundant reasons. Observing the talent of Kapileya, Janaka became exceedingly attached to him, and abandoning his hundred preceptors, began to follow him in particular. Then Kapileya began to discourse unto Janaka, who had according to the ordinance bent his head unto him (as a disciple should) and who was fully competent to apprehend the sage’s instructions, upon that high religion of Emancipation which is explained in Sankhya treatises. Setting forth in the first place the sorrows of birth, he spoke next of the sorrows of (religious) acts. Having finished that topic he explained the sorrows of all states of life ending even with that in the high region of the Creator. He also discoursed upon that Delusion for whose sake is the practice of religion, and acts, and their fruits, and which is highly untrustworthy, destructible, unsteady, and uncertain. Sceptics say that when death (of the body) is seen and is a matter of direct evidence witnessed by all, they who maintain, in consequence of their faith in the scriptures, that something distinct from the body, called the Soul, exists are necessarily vanquished in argument. They also urge that one’s death means the extinction of one’s Soul, and that sorrow, decrepitude, and disease imply (partial) death of the Soul. He that maintains, owing to error, that the Soul is distinct from the body and exists after the loss of body, cherishes an opinion that is unreasonable. If that be regarded as existent which does not really exist in the world, then it may be mentioned that the king, being regarded so, is really never liable to decrepitude or death. But is he, on that account, to be really believed to be above decrepitude and death? When the question is whether an object exists or does not exist, and when that whose existence is asserted presents all the indications of non-existence, what is that upon which ordinary people rely in settling the affairs of life? Direct evidence is the root of both inference and the scriptures. The scriptures are capable of being contradicted by direct evidence. As to inference, its evidentiary effect is not much. Whatever be the topic, cease to reason on inference alone. There is nothing else called jiva than this body. In a banian seed is contained the capacity to produce leaves and flowers and fruits and roots and bark. From the grass and water that is taken by a cow are produced milk and butter, substances whose nature is different from that of the producing causes. Substances of different kinds when allowed to decompose in water for some time produce spirituous liquors whose nature is quite different from that of those substances that produce them. After the same manner, from the vital seed is produced the body and its attributes, with the understanding, consciousness, mind, and other possessions. Two pieces of wood, rubbed together, produce fire. The stone called Suryakanta, coming in contact with the rays of the Sun, produces fire. Any solid metallic substance, heated in fire, dries up water when coming in contact with it. Similarly, the material body produces the mind and its attributes of perception, memory, imagination, etc. As the loadstone moves iron, similarly, the senses are controlled by the mind. Thus reason the sceptics. The sceptics, however, are in error. For the disappearance (of only the animating force) upon the body becoming lifeless (and not the simultaneous extinction of the body upon the occurrence of that event) is the proof (of the truth that the body is not the Soul but that the Soul is something separate from the body and outlives it certainly. If, indeed, body and Soul had been the same thing, both would have disappeared at the same instant of time. Instead of this, the dead body may be seen for some time after the occurrence of death. Death, therefore, means the flight from the body of something that is different from the body). The supplication of the deities by the very men who deny the separate existence of the Soul is another good argument for the proposition that the Soul is separate from the body or has existence that may be independent of a gross material case. The deities to whom these men pray are incapable of being seen or touched. They are believed to exist in subtile forms. (Really, if a belief in deities divested of gross material forms does no violence to their reason, why should the existence of an immaterial Soul alone do their reason such violence)? Another argument against the sceptic is that his proposition implies a destruction of acts (for if body and Soul die together, the acts also of this life would perish,—a conclusion which no man can possibly come to if he is to explain the inequalities or condition witnessed in the universe). These that have been mentioned, and that have material forms, cannot possibly be the causes (of the immaterial Soul and its immaterial accompaniments of perception, memory, and the like). The identity of immaterial existences with objects that are material cannot be comprehended. (Hence objects that are themselves material cannot by any means be causes for the production of things immaterial).—Some are of opinion that there is rebirth and that it is caused by Ignorance, the desire for acts, cupidity, heedlessness, and adherence to other faults. They say that Ignorance (Avidya) is the soul. Acts constitute the seed that is placed in that soil. Desire is the water that causes that seed to grow, in this way they explain rebirth. They maintain that that ignorance being ingrained in an imperceptible way, one mortal body being destroyed, another starts I up immediately from it; and that when it is burnt by the aid of knowledge, the destruction of existence itself follows or the person attains to what is called Nirvana. This opinion also is erroneous. [This is the doctrine of Buddhists]. It may be asked that when the being that is thus reborn is a different one in respect of its nature, birth, and purposes connected with virtue and vice why should I then be regarded to have any identity with the being that was? Indeed, the only inference that can be drawn is that the entire chain of existences of a particular being is not really a chain of connected links (but that existences in succession are unconnected with one another). Then, again if the being that is the result of a rebirth be really different from what it was in a previous phase of existence, it may be asked what satisfaction can arise to a person from the exercise of the virtue of charity, or from the acquisition of knowledge or of ascetic power, since the acts performed by one are to concentrate upon another person in another phase of existence (without the performer himself being existent to enjoy them?) Another result of the doctrine under refutation would be that one in this life may be rendered miserable by the acts of another in a previous life, or having become miserable may again be rendered happy. By seeing, however, what actually takes place in the world, a proper conclusion may be drawn with respect to the unseen. The separate Consciousness that is the result of rebirth is (according to what may be inferred from the Buddhistic theory of life) different from the Consciousness that had preceded it in a previous life. The manner, however, in which the rise or appearance of that separate Consciousness is explained by that theory does not seem to be consistent or reasonable. The Consciousness (as it existed in the previous life) was the very reverse of eternal, being only transitory, extending as it did till dissolution of the body. That which had an end cannot be taken as the cause for the production of a second Consciousness appearing after the occurrence of the end. If, again, the very loss of the previous Consciousness be regarded as the cause of the production of the second Consciousness, then upon the death of a human body being brought about by a heavy bludgeon, a second body would arise from the body that is thus deprived of animation. Once more, their doctrine of extinction of life (or Nirvana or Sattvasankshaya) is exposed to the objection that that extinction will become a recurring phenomenon like that of the seasons, or the year, or the yuga, or heat, or cold, or objects that are agreeable or disagreeable. If for the purpose of avoiding these objections, the followers of this doctrine assert the existence of a Soul that is permanent and unto which each new Consciousness attaches, they expose themselves to the new objection that that permanent substance, by being overcome with decrepitude, and with death that brings about destruction, may in time be itself weakened and destroyed. If the supports of a mansion are weakened by time, the mansion itself is sure to fall down at last. The senses, the mind, wind, blood, flesh, bones (and all the constituents of the body), one after another, meet with destruction and enter each into its own productive cause. If again the existence of an eternal Soul be asserted that is immutable, that is the refuge of the understanding, consciousness, and other attributes of the usual kind, and that is dissociated from all these, such an assertion would be exposed to a serious objection, for then all that is usually done in the world would be unmeaning, especially with reference to the attainment of the fruits of the charity and other religious acts. All the declarations in the Srutis inciting to those acts, and all acts connected with the conduct of men in the world, would be equally unmeaning, for the Soul being dissociated from the understanding and the mind, there is no one to enjoy the fruits of good acts and Vedic rites. Thus diverse kinds of speculations arise in the mind. Whether this opinion is right or that is right, there is no means of settling. Engaged in reflecting on those opinions, particular persons follow particular lines of speculation. The understandings of these, directed to particular theories, become wholly taken up with them and are at last entirely lost in them. Thus all men are rendered miserable by pursuits, good or bad. The Vedas along, bringing them back to the right path, guide them along it, like grooms conducting their elephants. Many men, with weakened minds, covet objects that are fraught with great happiness. These, however, have soon to meet with a much larger measure of sorrow, and then, forcibly torn from their coveted meat, they have to own the sway of death. What use has one, who is destined to destruction and whose life is unstable, with kinsmen and friends and wives and other possessions of this kind? He who encounters death after having cast off all these, passes easily out of the world and has never to return. Earth, space, water, heat and wind, always support and nourish the body. Reflecting upon this, how can one feel any affection for one’s body? Indeed, the body, which is subject to destruction, has no joy in it. Having heard these words of Pancasikha that were free from deception, unconnected with delusion (because discouraging sacrifices and other Vedic acts), highly salutary, and treating of the Soul, king Janadeva became filled with wonder, and prepared himself to address the Rishi once more.'"
Footnotes and references:
Nanapashandavashinah is another reading which is noticed by the commentator. It is explained as 'censurers of diverse sects of Lokayatikas.'
Pancasrotas implies the mind which is said to have five currents.
The verb used is nyavedayat, literally, 'represented,' i.e., ’started' for discourse, or enquired into. The Burdwan translator renders it 'exposed' or 'promulgated,' which, I think, is incorrect.
The Burdwan translator makes a ridiculous blunder by supposing that Asuri obtained this knowledge in consequence of the questions of his disciple. The fact is, samprishtah, as correctly explained the commentator, means samyak prishta prasno yasya. K.P. Singha avoids the error.
Kutumvini means at matron or the wife of a house-holder.
I slightly expand Sarvanirvedam according to the explanation given by Nilakantha. The Sankhya doctrine proceeds upon the hypothesis that all states of life imply sorrow. To find a remedy for this, i.e., to permanently escape all sorrow, is the end of that philosophy.
These are the characteristics of that Delusion under which man takes birth in this world and goes on living till he can permanently conquer all sorrow.
The construction of the first foot is Atmano mrityuh Anatma, meaning the Soul’s death (or that which is called death) is the Soul’s extinction. Verse 24 recites the opinion of the Sceptics, not that of the speaker. K.P. Singha mistranslates the verse. The Burdwan translator renders it correctly.
This and all the following verses are statements of the sceptic’s arguments.
Verse 29 is highly terse. The words are grammatically unconnected with one another. Only a few substantives have been used. These represent the heads of the different arguments urged by sceptics for showing the non-existence of anything besides the body which is seen and felt. I have, of course, followed the commentator in his elaboration of the sense of the verse. There can be no doubt that the commentator is right.
Some idea may be formed by the English reader of the extreme terseness of these verses by attending to the elaborations contained within the parentheses above. The exigencies of English grammar as also of perspicuity have obliged me to use, even in the portions unenclosed, more words than what occur in the original Sanskrit. All these verses are cruces intended to stagger Ganesa.
Both the vernacular translators have rendered this verse wrongly. This fact is, without clearly understanding either the text or the gloss, they have used bits of the gloss without being able to convey any intelligible idea. The gloss sometimes requires gloss to make it intelligible. The commentator says that the theory of rebirth mentioned in verse 34 is that Of the Sugatas or Buddhists. That theory is refuted inverse 35. The objection to the Buddhistic theory is that mere ignorance and karma cannot explain rebirth. There must be an indestructible Soul. This the Buddhists do not allow, for they believe that Nirvana or annihilation is possible. The argument, as sketched, proceeds in this way: the being that is the result of the rebirth is apparently a different being. What right have we to assert its identity with the being that existed before? Ignorance and karma cannot create a Soul though they may affect the surroundings of the Soul in its new birth. The objections to the Buddhistic theory became clear in the verses that follow.
The sense is this: it is never seen in the world that the acts of one person affect for good or for evil another person. If Caitra exposes himself to the night air, Maitra never catches cold for it. This direct evidence should settle the controversy about the unseen, viz., whether the acts of one in a previous life can affect another in a subsequent life if there be no identity between the two beings in two lives.
It is needless to say that I have considerably elaborated the second line of the verse, as a literal rendering would have been entirely unintelligible. For example’s sake I give that rendering; "That which is separate Consciousness is also different. That from which it is, does not recommend self."
If (as has already been said) the second Consciousness be the resulting effect of the loss or destruction itself of the previous Consciousness, then destruction is not annihilation, and, necessarily, after Nirvana has been once attained, there may be a new Consciousness or new birth, and, thus, after having again attained to Nirvana the same result may follow. The Buddhistic Nirvana, therefore, cannot lead to that final Emancipation which is indicated into the Brahmanical scriptures.
The Buddhists then, according to this argument, are not at all benefited by asserting the existence of a permanent Soul unto which each repeated Consciousness may inhere. The Soul, according to the Brahmanical scriptures, has no attributes or possessions. It is eternal, immutable, and independent of all attributes. The affirmance of attributes with respect to the Soul directly leads to the inference of its destructibility, and hence the assertion of its permanency or indestructibility under such conditions is a contradiction in terms, according to what is urged in this verse.
The commentator explains that the object of this verse is to point out that the senses, when destroyed, merge into their productive causes or the substances of which they are attributes. Of course, those causes or substances are the elements or primordial matter. This leads to the inference that though attributes may meet with destruction, yet the substances (of which they are attributes) may remain intact. This may save the Buddhist doctrine, for the Soul, being permanent and owing consciousness, etc., for its attributes, may outlive, like primordial matter, the destruction of its attributes. But the speaker urges that this doctrine is not philosophical and the analogy will not hold. Substance is conjunction of attributes. The attributes being destroyed, the substance also is destroyed. In European philosophy too, matter, as an unknown essence to which extension, divisibility, etc., inhere, is no longer believed in or considered as scientific.
Here the speaker attacks the orthodox Brahmanical doctrine of the character of the Soul.
Possibly because they art based on Revelation.
This concludes Section CCXVIII of Book 12 (Shanti Parva) of the Mahabharata, of which an English translation is presented on this page. This book is famous as one of the Itihasa, similair in content to the eighteen Puranas. Book 12 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.