Mahabharata (English)

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...

Section CCLXX

"Kapila said, 'The Vedas are regarded as authoritative by all. People never disregard them. Brahma is of two kinds, viz., Brahma as represented by sound, and Brahma as Supreme (and intangible).[1] One conversant with Brahma represented by sound succeeds in attaining to Supreme Brahma. Commencing with the rites of Garbhadhana, that body which the sire creates with the aid of Vedic mantras is cleansed (after birth) by Vedic mantras.[2] When the body has been cleansed with purificatory rites (performed with the aid of Vedic mantras), the owner there of come to be called a Brahmana and becomes a vessel fit for receiving knowledge of Brahma. Know that the reward of acts is purity of heart which only leads to Emancipation. I shall presently speak to you of that. Whether purity of heart has been attained or not (by performance of acts) is what can be known to the person himself who has attained it. It can never be known with the aid of either the Vedas or inference. They that cherish no expectation, that discard every kind of wealth by not storing anything for future use, that are not covetous, and that are free from every kind of affection and aversion, perform sacrifices because of the conviction that their performance is a duty. To make gifts unto deserving persons is the end (right use) of all wealth. Never addicted at any time to sinful acts, observant of those rites that have been laid down in the Vedas, capable of crowning all their wishes with fruition, endued with certain conclusions through pure knowledge, never giving way to wrath,—never indulging in envy, free from pride and malice, firm in Yoga,[3] of unstained birth, unstained conduct, and unstained learning, devoted to the good of all creatures, there were in days of yore many men, leading lives of domesticity and thoroughly devoted to their own duties, there were many kings also of the same qualifications, devoted to Yoga (like Janaka, etc.), and many Brahmanas also of the same character (like Yajnavalkya and others).[4] They behaved equally towards all creatures and were endued with perfect sincerity. Contentment was theirs, and certainty of knowledge. Visible were the rewards of their righteousness, and pure were they in behaviour and heart. They were possessed of faith in Brahma of both forms.[5] At first making their hearts pure, they duly observed all (excellent) vows. They were observant of the duties of righteousness on even occasions of distress and difficulty, without failing off in any particular. Uniting together they used to perform meritorious acts. In this they found great happiness. And inasmuch as they never tripped, they had never to perform any expiation. Relying as they did upon the true course of righteousness, they became endued with irresistible energy. They never followed their own understandings in the matter of earning merit but followed the dictates of the scriptures alone for that end. Accordingly they were never guilty of guile in the matter of performing acts of righteousness.[6] In consequence of their observing unitedly the absolute ordinances of the scriptures without betaking themselves ever to the rites laid down in the alternative, they were never under the necessity of performing expiation.[7] There is no expiation for men living in the observance of the ordinances laid down in the scriptures. The Sruti declares that expiation exists for only men that are weak and unable to follow the absolute and substantive provisions of the sacred law. Many Brahmanas there were of this kind in days of old, devoted to the performance of sacrifices, of profound knowledge of the Vedas, possessed of purity and good conduct, and endued with fame. They always worshipped Brahma in the sacrifices, and were free from desire. Possessed of learning they transcended all the bonds of life. The sacrifices of these men, their (knowledge of the) Vedas, their acts performed in obedience to the ordinances, their study of the scripture at the fixed hours, and the wishes they entertained, freed as they were from lust and wrath, observant as they were of pious conduct and acts notwithstanding all difficulties, renowned as they were for performing the duties of their own order and mode of life, purified as their souls were in consequence of their very nature, characterised as they were by thorough sincerity, devoted as they were to tranquillity, and mindful as they were of their own practices, were identical with Infinite Brahma. Even this is the eternal Sruti heard by us.[8] The penances of men that were so high-souled, of men whose conduct and acts were so difficult of observance and accomplishment, of men whose wishes were crowned with fruition in consequence of the strict discharge of their duties, became efficacious weapons for the destruction of all earthly desires. The Brahmanas say that that Good Conduct, which is wonderful, whose origin may be traced to very ancient times, which is eternal and whose characteristics are unchangeable, which differs from the practices to which even the good resort in seasons of distress and represents their acts in other situations, which is identical with heedfulness, over which lust and wrath and other evil passions can never prevail, and in consequence of which there was (at one time) no transgression in all mankind, subsequently came to be distributed into four subdivisions, corresponding with the four modes of life by persons unable to practise its duties in minute detail and entirety.[9] They that are good, by duly observing that course of Good Conduct after adoption of the Sannyasa mode of life, attain to the highest end. They also that betake themselves to the forest mode reach the same high end (by duly observing that conduct). They too that observe the domestic mode of life attain to the highest end (by duly practising the same conduct); and, lastly, those that lead the Brahmacarya mode obtain the same (end by a due observance of the same conduct).[10] Those Brahmanas are seen to shine in the firmament as luminaries shedding beneficent rays of light all around. Those myriads of Brahmanas have become stars and constellations set in their fixed tracks. In consequence of contentment (or Renunciation) they have all attained to Infinity as the Vedas declare. If such men have to come back to the world through the wombs of living creatures, they are never stained by sins which have the unexhausted residue of previous acts for their originating cause. Indeed, one who has led the life of a Brahmacarin and waited dutifully upon his preceptor, who has arrived at settled conclusions (in respect of the soul), and who has devoted himself to Yoga thus, is truly a Brahmana. Who else would deserve to be called a Brahmana? When acts alone determine who is a Brahmana and who is not, acts (good or bad) must be held to indicate the happiness or misery of a person. As regards those that have by conquering all evil passions acquired purity of heart, we have heard the eternal Sruti that in consequence of the Infinity to which they attain (through beholding the universal soul) and of the knowledge of Brahma (they acquire through the declarations of Srutis), they behold everything to be Brahma. The duties (of tranquillity, self-restraint, abstention from acts, renunciation, devotion, and the abstraction of Samadhi) followed by those men of pure hearts, that are freed from desire, and that have Emancipation only for their object, for acquisition of the knowledge of Brahma, are equally laid down for all the four orders of men and all the four modes of life. Verily, that knowledge is always acquired by Brahmanas of pure hearts and restrained soul.[11] One whose soul is for Renunciation based upon contentment is regarded as the refuge of true knowledge. Renunciation, in which is that knowledge which leads to Emancipation, and which is highly necessary for a Brahmana, is eternal (and comes down from preceptor to pupil for ever and ever).[12] Renunciation sometimes exists mixed with the duties of other modes. But whether existing in that state or by itself, one practises it according to the measure of one’s strength (that depends upon the degree of one’s absence of worldly desires). Renunciation is the cause of supreme benefit unto every kind of person. Only he that is weak, fails to practise it. That pure-hearted man who seeks to attain to Brahma becomes rescued from the world (with its misery).'[13]

"Syumarasmi said, 'Amongst those that are given up to enjoyment (of property), they that make gifts, they that perform sacrifices, they that devote themselves to the study of the Vedas, and they that betake themselves to a life of Renunciation after having acquired and enjoyed wealth and all its pleasures, when they depart from this world, who is it that attains to the foremost place in heaven? I ask you this, O Brahmana! Do you tell me truly.'

"Kapila said, 'Those who lead a life of domesticity are certainly auspicious and acquire excellence of every kind. They are unable, however, to enjoy the felicity that attaches to Renunciation. Even you mayst see this.'[14]

"Syumarasmi said, 'You depend upon knowledge as the means (for the attainment of Emancipation). Those who lead lives of domesticity have planted their faith in acts. It has, however, been said that the end of all modes of life is Emancipation.[15] No difference, therefore, is observable between them in respect of either their superiority or inferiority of puissance. O illustrious one, do you tell me then how stands the matter truly.'

"Kapila said, 'Acts only cleanse the body. Knowledge, however, is the highest end (for which one strives).[16] When all faults of the heart are cured (by acts), and when the felicity of Brahma becomes established in knowledge, benevolence, forgiveness, tranquillity, compassion, truthfulness, and candour, abstention from injury, absence of pride, modesty, renunciation, and abstention from work are attained. These constitute the path that lead to Brahma. By those one attains to what is the Highest. That the cure of all faults of the heart is the result of acts becomes intelligible to the wise man when these are attained. That, indeed, is regarded as the highest end which is obtained by Brahmanas endued with wisdom, withdrawn from all acts, possessed of purity and the certitude of knowledge. One who succeeds in acquiring a knowledge of the Vedas, of that which is taught by the Vedas (viz., Brahma as represented in acts), and the minutiae of acts, is said to be conversant with the Vedas. Any other man is only a bag of wind.[17] One who is conversant with the Vedas knows everything, for everything is established on the Vedas. Verity, the present, past, and future all exist in the Vedas.[18] This one conclusion is deducible from all the scriptures, viz., that this universe exists and does not exist. To the man of knowledge this (all that is perceived) is both sat and asat. To him, this all is both the end and the middle.[19] This truth rests upon all the Vedas, viz., that when complete Renunciation takes place one obtains what is sufficient. Then again the highest contentment follows and rests upon Emancipation,[20] which is absolute, which exists as the soul of all mortal and immortal things, which is well-known as such universal soul, which is the highest object of knowledge as being identical with all mobile and immobile things, which is full, which is perfect felicity, which is without duality, which is the foremost of all things, which is Brahma, which is Unmanifest and the cause also, whence the Unmanifest has sprung, and which is without deterioration of any kind.[21] Ability to subdue the senses, forgiveness, and abstention from work in consequence of the absence of desire,—these three are the cause of perfect felicity. With the aid of these three qualities, men having understanding for their eyes succeed in reaching that Brahma which is uncreate, which is the prime cause of the universe, which is unchangeable and which is beyond destruction. I bow to that Brahma, which is identical with him that knows it.'"[22]

Footnotes and references:


The Vedas are Savda-Brahma or Brahma as represented by sound.


I have expanded this verse, following the lead of the commentator. Some idea may be given of the extreme terseness of such verses by offering a literal rendering: 'That lump of matter which is made a (human) body by what is contained in the Veda, is (afterwards) made (a body by the same means).' One approaches one’s wife after performing the rite of Garbhadhana. In this rite, different deities are invoked to develop different organs and parts of the body of the child to be begotten. Thus begotten, the body of the child is, subsequent to birth, cleansed or purified. All this requires the aid of the Vedic mantras. What Kapila wishes to teach is that commencing with acts, knowledge should finally be acquired.


Yoga is the only way to true knowledge, hence Jnana-nishthah is Yoga-nishthah.


These and men like these are pointed out as persons deserving of gifts.


i.e., in Brahma as possessed of attributes and as freed from attributes.


Matra is explained as miyante vishya anya i.e., the understanding. What is meant by guile in the practice of righteousness may be exemplified as follows. Individual grains of barley may be given away instead of cloths by one unable to obtain clothes for gift. But one giving away barley grains when perfectly able to give away clothes would be guilty of guile.


The scriptures frequently lay down ordinances in the alternative. The absolute or substantive provisions are for the able. Those in the alternative are for them that are unable.


What is meant by the sacrifices, etc., of such men being identical with infinite Brahma is that these men were identical with Brahma and whatever they did was Brahma. They had no consciousness of self, or they did nothing for self. They were the Soul of the universe.


What is said here in effect is that at first there was only one course of duties, called sadacara or good conduct, for all men. In progress of time men became unable to obey all its dictates in their entirety. It then became necessary to distribute those duties into four subdivisions corresponding with the four modes of life.


Both K.P. Singha and the Burdwan translator have completely misunderstood verse 23 and the first line of 24, which, as the commentator explains, should be construed together. The construction is Tam (sadacaram) santah grihebhyah nishkramya eva (sannyasam kritwaiva) vidhivatprapya paramam gatim gachcchanti. Anye santo vanamasritah tam vidhivat prapya, etc. Similarly, Grihameva bhisamsritya anye santah, etc.' Jato-anye, etc. Thus, all the four modes, commencing with the last, are spoken of.


It is impossible for any one to read the Burdwan version of such verses without pitying the Pandit responsible for its accuracy. Without understanding the commentary in the least, the words of the great commentator have been reproduced in the Burdwan version in a strange order, rejecting some of the connecting links without any excuse, and making the Collocation utterly unintelligible. K.P. Singha gives the substance very briefly without endeavouring to translate the words. And yet the verse presents almost no difficulty. The last line of 29 and the first line of 30 make one sentence. Caturthopanishaddharmah is explained by the commentator as implying paramatma-vishayini vidya, tadartham dharmah. There p. 270 are four states of consciousness: 1st, wakefulness; 2nd, dream; 3rd, dreamless slumber (sushupti); and 4th, Turiya, which is reached by Samadhi (abstraction of Yoga-meditation), and in which Brahma becomes realisable. What is said in these two lines is simply this: the duties (dharmah), relating to the Caturthopanishat or, the Knowledge of Paramatman, are sadharanah or common to all the four orders of men and modes of life. Those duties, of course, are sama, dama, uparama, titiksha, sraddha, samadhi. What is said in the last line of 30 is that Brahmanas of pure hearts and restrained souls always succeed (by the help of those duties) in acquiring or attaining to that Turiya or consciousness of Brahma.


Apavargamiti is explained by the commentator as apavargaprada vidya or Brahmasakshatkararupa vrittiryasmin iti. Nityin is avasyakah. Yatidharmah is a life of Renunciation. What is meant by sanatanah is sampradayagatah.


Sadharana is opposed to kevala. Yathavalam implies yathavaira-gyam, Gachcchatam Gachcchatam means purushamatrasyavanigvya-dhadeh. The Burdwan translator misses the sense altogether and K.P. Singha quietly passes over the entire second line of this triplet. Durvala means he who is wanting in vairagya.


The commentator explains that the object of this verse is to show that even if there be equality in respect of the end that is attained in next life, there is more of real felicity in a life of Renunciation than in a life of enjoyment. The Burdwan translator misses the sense entirely.


The Burdwan translator gives a very erroneous version of this verse.


For by Knowledge Emancipation is obtained.


Vatarecaka is bhastra or a bellows. What is implied is, perhaps, that such a man breathes or lives in vain.


Nasti is explained by the commentator as the past and the future. Nishtha is swarupam. Literally, what is said is that everything is the Vedas, or the Vedas are everything, This is, perhaps, only an exaggerated mode of saying that the Vedas deal with everything.


The sense seems to be that while they that are ignorant regard the universe to be as existent and durable as the thunder or adamant, the man of knowledge regards it to be truly non-existent though it puts forth the appearance of existence.


I have endeavoured to give a literal version of verse 45. It is difficult, however, to seize the meaning from such versions. The word used in the first line is Tyaga implying Renunciation. The commentator correctly explains that this is that complete Renunciation which takes place in Samadhi or the perfect abstraction of Yoga. Samaptam is samyak aptam (bhavati). This samyak is Brahma. Similarly, santosha is not ordinary contentment but Brahmananda or the Supreme felicity of one who has attained to Brahma. The meaning, then, is this: in the complete abstraction of Yoga (i.e., Samadhi) is Brahma. This all the Vedas teach. In Emancipation again is the Supreme felicity of Brahma. Apavargah is not annihilation but Emancipation, which is existence in Brahma without the dual consciousness of knower and known.


I have followed the commentator in his exposition of almost all the adjectives in the text.


The grammatical construction of this verse is very difficult to catch. There can be no doubt that the commentator is right. Tehjah, kshama, santih,—these are anamayam subham, i.e., nirdukhasya sukhasyapraptau hetuh. Tatha, separates these from what follows. Abidham Vyoma Santanam, and dhruvam are governed by gamyate, Etaih sarvaih refers to Tejah and the two others. Abidham is explained as akittrimam; vyoma as jagatkaranam. The Burdwan translator gives a correct version, although his punctuation is incorrect. He errs, however, in not taking anamayam subham as one and the same. K.P. Singha errs in connecting anamayam with what follows tatha.


This concludes Section CCLXX 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.

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