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 CXI

"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, O you that art possessed of great wisdom and conversant with all the scriptures. I desire to know those excellent ordinances in consequence of which mortal creatures have to travel through their rounds of rebirth. What is that conduct by following which, O king, men succeed in attaining to high heaven, and what is that conduct by which one sinks in Hell? When, abandoning the dead body that is as inert as a piece of wood or clod of earth, people proceed to the other world, what are those that follow them thither?'

"Bhishma said, 'Yonder comes the illustrious Vrihaspati of great intelligence! Do you ask his blessed self. The subject is an eternal mystery. None else is capable of explaining the matter. There is no speaker like Vrihaspati.'

"Vaisampayana said, 'While the son of Pritha and the son of Ganga were thus speaking with each other, there came to that spot from the firmament the illustrious Vrihaspati of cleansed soul. King Yudhishthira, and all others, with Dhritarashtra at their head, stood up and received Vrihaspati with proper honours. Verily, the worship they offered to the preceptor of the celestials was excellent. Then Dharma’s royal son, Yudhishthira, approaching the illustrious Vrihaspati, asked him the question in proper form, desirous of knowing the truth.'

"Yudhishthira said, 'O illustrious one, you are conversant with all duties and all the scriptures. Do you tell me, what is truly the friend of mortal creatures? Is the father, or mother, or son, or preceptor, or kinsmen, or relatives, or those called friends, that may be said to truly constitute the friend of a mortal creature? One goes to the next world, leaving one’s dead body that is like a piece of wood or a clod of earth. Who is it that follows him thither?'

"Vrihaspati said, 'One is born alone, O king, and one dies alone; one crosses alone the difficulties one meets with, and one alone encounters whatever misery falls to one’s lot. One has really no companion in these acts. The father, the mother, the brother, the son, the preceptor, kinsmen, relatives, and friends, leaving the dead body as if it were a piece of wood or a clod of earth, after having mourned for only a moment, all turn away from it and proceed to their own concerns. Only Righteousness follows the body that is thus abandoned by them all. Hence, it is plain, that Righteousness is the only friend and that Righteousness only should be sought by all. One endued with righteousness would attain to that high end which is constituted by heaven. If endued with unrighteousness, he goes to Hell. Hence, the man of intelligence should always seek to acquire religious merit through wealth won by lawful means. Piety is the one only friend which creatures have in the world hereafter. Let by cupidity, or stupefaction, or compassion, or fear, one destitute of much knowledge is seen to do improper acts, for the sake of even another, his judgment thus stupefied by cupidity.[1] Piety, wealth and pleasure,—these three constitute the fruit of life. One should acquire these three by means of being free from impropriety and sin.'

"Yudhishthira, said, 'I have carefully heard the words spoken by your illustrious self,—these words that are fraught with righteousness, and that are highly beneficial. I wish now to know of the existence of the body (after death).[2] The dead body of man becomes subtil and unmanifest. It becomes invisible. How is it possible for piety to follow it?'

"Vrihaspati said, 'Earth, Wind, Ether, Water, Light, Mind, Yama (the king of the dead), Understanding, the Soul, as also Day and Night, all together behold as witnesses the merits (and demerits) of all living creatures. With these, Righteousness follows the creature (when dead).[3] When the body becomes bereft of life, skin, bones, flesh, the vital seed, and blood, O you of great intelligence, leave it at the same time. Endued with merit (and demerit) Jiva (after the destruction of this body) attains to another. After the attainment by Jiva of that body, the presiding deities of the five elements once more behold as witnesses all his acts good and bad. What else dost you wish to hear? If endued with righteousness, Jiva enjoys happiness. What other topic, belonging to this or the other world, shall I discourse upon?'

"Yudhishthira said, 'Your illustrious self has explained how Righteousness follows Jiva. I desire to know how the vital seed is originated.'

"Vrihaspati said, 'The food that these deities, O king, who dwell in the body, viz., Earth, Wind, Ether, Water, Light, and Mind eat, gratifies them. When those five elements become gratified, O monarch, with Mind numbering as their sixth, their vital seed then becomes generated, O you of cleansed soul! When an act of union takes place between male and female, the vital seed flows out and causes conception. I have thus explained to you what you have asked. What else dost you wish to hear?'

"Yudhishthira said, 'You have, O illustrious one, said how conception takes place. Do you explain how the Jiva that takes birth grows (by becoming possessed of body).'

"Vrihaspati said, 'As soon as Jiva enters the vital seed, he becomes overwhelmed by the elements already mentioned. When Jiva becomes disunited therewith, he is said to attain to the other end (viz., death). Endued as Jiva becomes with all those elements, he attains, in consequence thereof, a body. The deities, that preside over those elements behold as witnesses all his acts, good and bad. What else dost you wish to hear?'

"Yudhishthira said, 'Leaving off skin and bone and flesh, and becoming destitute of all those elements, in what does Jiva reside, O illustrious one, for enjoying and enduring happiness and misery?'

"Vrihaspati said, 'Endued with all his acts, the Jiva quickly enters the vital seed, and utilizing the functional flow of women, takes birth in time, O Bharata. After birth, the Jiva receives woe and death from the messengers of Yama. Indeed, misery and a painful round of rebirth are his inheritance. Endued with life, O king, the Jiva in this world, from the moment of his birth, enjoys and endures his own (previous) acts, depending upon righteousness (and its reverse). If the Jiva, according to the best of his power, follows righteousness from the day of his birth, he then succeeds in enjoying, when reborn, happiness without interruption. If, on the other hand, without following righteousness without interruption, he acts sinfully, he reaps happiness at first as the reward of his righteousness and endures misery after that. Endued with unrighteousness, the Jiva has to go to the dominions of Yama and suffering great misery there, he has to take birth in an intermediate order of being,[4] Listen to me as I tell you what the different acts are by doing which the diva, stupefied by folly, has to take birth in different orders of being, as declared in the Vedas, the scriptures, and the (sacred) histories. Mortals have to go to the frightful regions of Yama. In those regions, O king, there are places that are fraught with every merit and that are worthy on that account of being the abodes of the very deities. There are, again, places in those regions that are worse than those which are inhabited by animals and birds. Indeed, there are spots of these kinds in the abode of Yama which (so far as its happier regions are concerned) is equal to the region of Brahman himself in merits. Creatures, bound by their acts, endure diverse kinds of misery. I shall, after this, tell you what those acts and dispositions are in consequence of which a person obtains to an end that is fraught with great misery and terror. If a regenerate person, having studied the four Vedas, becomes stupefied by folly and accepts a gift from a fallen man, he has then to take birth in the asinine order. He has to live as an ass for five and ten years. Casting off his asinine form, he has next to take birth as an ox, in which state he has to live for seven years. Casting off his bovine form, he has next to take birth as a Rakshasa of regenerate order. Living as Rakshasa of the regenerate order for three months, he then regains his status (in his next birth) of a Brahmana.[5] A Brahmana, by officiating at the sacrifice of a fallen person, has to take birth as a vile worm. In this form he has to live for five and ten years, O Bharata. Freed from the status of a worm, be next takes birth as an ass. As an ass he has to live for five years, and then a hog, in which state also he has to remain for as many years. After that, he takes birth as a cock, and living for five years in that form, he takes birth as a jackal and lives for as many years in that state. He has next to take birth as a dog, and living thus for a year he regains his status of humanity. That foolish disciple who offends his preceptor by doing any injury to him, has certainly to undergo three transformations in this world. Such a person, O monarch, has in the first instance to become a dog. He has then to become a beast of prey, and then an ass. Living his asinine form, he has to wander for some time in great affliction as a spirit. After the expiration of that period, he has to take birth as a Brahmana. That sinful disciple who even in thought commits adultery with the wife of his preceptor, has in consequence of such a sinful heart, to undergo many fierce shapes in this world. First taking birth in the canine order he has to live for three years. Casting off the canine form when death comes, he takes birth as a worm or vile vermin. In this form he has to live for a year. Leaving that form he succeeds in regaining his status as a human being of the regenerate order. If the preceptor kills, without reason, his disciple who is even as a son to him, he has, in consequence of such a wilful act of sin on his part, to take birth as a beast of prey. That son who disregards his father and mother, O king, has to take birth, after leaving off his human form as an animal of the asinine order. Assuming the asinine form he has to live for ten years. After that he has to take birth as a crocodile, in which form he has to live for a year. After that he regains the human form. That son with whom his parents become angry, has, in consequence of his evil thoughts towards them, to take birth as an ass. As an ass he has to live for ten months. He has then to take birth as a dog and to remain as such for four and ten months. After that he has to take birth as a cat and living in that form for seven months he regains his status of humanity. Having spoken ill of parents, one has to take birth as a Sarika. Striking them, one has to take birth, O king, as tortoise. Living as a tortoise for ten years, he has next to take birth as a porcupine. After that he has to take birth as a snake, and living for six months in that form he regains the status of humanity. That man who, while subsisting upon the food that his royal master supplies, commits acts that are injurious to the interests of his master,—that man, thus stupefied by folly, has after death to take birth as an ape. For ten years he has to live as an ape, and after that for five years as a mouse. After that he has to become a dog, and living in that form for a period of six months he succeeds in regaining his status of humanity. That man who misappropriates what is deposited with him in trustfulness has to undergo a hundred transformations. He at last takes birth as a vile worm. In that order he has to live for a period of ten and five years, O Bharata. Upon the exhaustion of his great demerit in this way, he succeeds in regaining his status of humanity. That man who harbours malice towards others has, after death, to take birth as a Sarngaka. That man of wicked understanding who becomes guilty of breach of trust has to take birth as a fish. Living as a fish for eight years, he takes birth, O Bharata, as a deer. Living as a deer for four months, he has next to take birth as a goat. After the expiration of a full year he casts off his goatish body, he takes birth then as a worm. After that he succeeds in regaining his status of humanity. That shameless insensate man who, through stupefaction, steals paddy, barley, sesame, Masha, Kulattha, oil-seeds, oats, Kalaya, Mudga, wheat, Atasi, and other kinds of corn, has to take birth as a mouse[6]. After leading the life for some time he has to take birth as a hog. As soon as he takes birth as a hog he has to die of disease. In consequence of his sin, that foolish man has next to take birth as a dog, O king. Living as a dog for five years, he then regains his status of humanity. Having committed an act of adultery with the spouse of another man, one has to take birth as a wolf. After that he has to assume the forms of a dog and jackal and vulture. He has next to take birth as a snake and then as a Kanka and then as a crane.[7] That man of sinful soul who, stupefied by folly, commits an act of sexual congress with the spouse of a brother, has to take birth as a male Kokila and to live in that form for a whole year, O king. He who, through lust, commits an act of sexual congress with the wife of a friend, or the wife of preceptor, or the wife of his king, has, after death, to take the form of a hog. He has to live in his porcine form for five years and then to assume that of a wolf for ten years. For the next five years he has to assume that of a wolf for ten years. For the next five years he has to live as a cat and then for the next ten years as a cock. He has next to live for three months as an ant, and then as a worm for a month. Having undergone these transformations he has next to live as a vile worm for four and ten years. When his sin becomes exhausted by such chastisement, he at last regains the status of humanity. When a wedding is about to take place, or a sacrifice, or an act of gifts is about to be made, O you of great puissance, the man who offers any obstruction, has to take birth in his next life as a vile worm, Assuming such a form he has to live, O Bharata, for five and ten years. When his demerit is exhausted by such suffering, he regains the status of humanity. Having once bestowed his daughter in marriage upon a person, he who seeks to bestow her again upon a second husband, has, O king, to take birth among vile worms. Assuming such a form, O Yudhisthira, he has to live for a period of three and ten years. Upon the exhaustion of his demerit by such sufferance, he regains the status of humanity. He who eats without having performed the rites in honour of the deities or those in honour of the Pitris or without having offered (even) oblations of water to both the Rishis and the Pitris, has to take birth as a crow. Living as a crow for a hundred years he next assumes the form of a cock. His next transformation is that of a snake for a month. After this, he regains the status of humanity. He who disregards his eldest brother who is even like a sire, has, after death, to take birth in the order of cranes. Having assumed that form he has to live in it for two years. Casting off that form at the conclusion of that period, he regains the status of humanity. That Sudra who has sexual intercourse with a Brahmana woman, has, after death, to take birth as a hog. As soon as he takes birth in the porcine order he dies of disease, O king. The wretch has next to take birth as a dog. O king, in consequence of his dire act of sin. Casting off his canine form he regains upon the exhaustion of his demerit, the status of humanity. The Sudra who begets offspring upon a Brahmana woman, leaving off his human form, becomes reborn as a mouse. The man who becomes guilty of ingratitude O king, has to go to the regions of Yama and there to undergo very painful and severe treatment at the hands of the messengers, provoked to fury, of the grim king of the dead. Clubs with heavy hammers and mallets, sharp-pointed lances, heated jars, all fraught with severe pain, frightful forests of sword-blades, heated sands, thorny Salmalis—these and many other instruments of the most painful torture such a man has to endure in the regions of Yama, O Bharata! The ungrateful person, O chief of Bharata’s race, having endured such terrible treatment in the regions of the grim king of the dead, has to come back to this world and take birth among vile vermin.[8] He has to live as a vile vermin for a period of five and ten years. O Bharata, He has then to enter the womb and die prematurely before birth. After this, that person has to enter the womb a hundred times in succession. Indeed, having, undergone a hundred rebirths, he at last becomes born as a creature in some intermediate order between man and inanimate nature. Having endured misery for a great many years, he has to take birth as a hairless tortoise. A person that steals curds has to take birth as a crane. One becomes a monkey by stealing raw fish. That man of intelligence who steals honey has to take birth as a gadfly. By stealing fruits or roots or cakes one becomes an ant. By stealing Nishpava one becomes a Halagolaka.[9] By stealing Payasa one becomes in one’s next birth a Tittiri bird. By stealing cakes one becomes a screech-owl. That man of little intelligence who steals iron has to take birth as a cow. That man of little understanding who steals white brass has to take birth as a bird of the Harita species. By stealing a vessel of silver one becomes a pigeon. By stealing a vessel of gold one has to take birth as a vile vermin. By stealing a piece of silken cloth, one becomes a Krikara. By stealing a piece of cloth made of red silk, one becomes a Vartaka.[10] By stealing a piece of muslin one becomes a parrot. By stealing a piece of cloth that is of fine texture, one becomes a duck after casting off one’s human body. By stealing a piece of cloth made of cotton, one becomes a crane. By stealing a piece of cloth made of jute, one becomes a sheep in one’s next life. By stealing a piece of linen, one has to take birth as a hare. By stealing different kinds of colouring matter one has to take birth as a peacock. By stealing a piece of red cloth one has to take birth as a bird of the Jivajivaka species. By stealing unguents (such as sandal-paste) and perfumes in this world, the man possessed of cupidity, O king, has to take birth as a mole. Assuming the form of a mole one has to live in it for a period of five and ten years. After the exhaustion of his demerit by such sufferings he regains the status of humanity. By stealing milk, one becomes a crane. That man, O king, who through stupefaction of the understanding, steals oil, has to take birth, after casting off this body, as an animal that subsists upon oil as his form.[11] That wretch who himself well armed, slays another while that other is unarmed, from motives of obtaining his victim’s wealth or from feelings of hostility, has, after casting off his human body, to take birth as an ass. Assuming that asinine form he has to live for a period of two years and then he meets with death at the edge of a weapon. Casting off in this way his asinine body he has to take birth in his next life as a deer always filled with anxiety (at the thought of foes that may kill him). Upon the expiration of a year from the time of his birth as a deer, he has to yield up his life at the point of a weapon. Thus casting off his form of a deer, he next takes birth as a fish and dies in consequence of being dragged up in net, on the expiration of the fourth month. He has next to take birth as a beast of prey. For ten years he has to live in that form, and then he takes birth as a pard in which form he has to live for a period of five years. Impelled by the change that is brought about by time, he then casts off that form, and his demerit having been exhausted he regains the status of humanity. That man of little understanding who kills a woman has to go the regions of Yama and to endure diverse kinds of pain and misery. He then has to pass through full one and twenty transformations. After that, O monarch, he has to take birth as a vile vermin. Living as a vermin for twenty years, he regains the status of humanity. By stealing food, one has to take birth as a bee. Living for many months in the company of other bees, his demerit becomes exhausted and he regains the status of humanity. By stealing paddy, one becomes a cat. That man who steals food mixed with sesame cakes has in his next birth to assume the form of a mouse large or small according to the largeness or smallness of the quantity stolen. He bites human beings every day and as the consequence thereof becomes sinful and travels through a varied round of rebirths. That man of foolish understanding who steals ghee has to take birth as a gallinule. That wicked person who steals fish has to take birth as a crow. By stealing salt one has to take birth as a mimicking bird. That man who misappropriates what is deposited with him through confidence, has to sustain a diminution in the period of his life, and after death has to take birth among fishes. Having lived for some time as a fish he dies and regains the human form. Regaining, however, the status of humanity, he becomes short-lived. Indeed, having committed sins, O Bharata, one has to take birth in an order intermediate between that of humanity and vegetables. Those people are entirely unacquainted with righteousness which has their own hearts for its authority. Those men that commit diverse acts of sin and then seek to expiate them by continuous vows and observances of piety, become endued with both happiness and misery and live in great anxiety of heart.[12] Those men that are of sinful conduct and that yield to the influence of cupidity and stupefaction, without doubt, take birth as Mlecchas that do not deserve to be associated with. Those men on the other hand, who abstain from sin all their lives, become free from disease of every kind, endued with beauty of form and possessed of wealth. Women also, when they act in the way indicated, attain to births of the same kind. Indeed, they have to take births as the spouses of the animals I have indicated. I have told you all the faults that relate to the appropriation of what belongs to others. I have discoursed to you very briefly on the subject, O sinless one. In connection with some other subject, O Bharata, you shalt again hear of those faults. I heard all this, O king, in days of old, from Brahman himself, and I asked all about it in a becoming way, when he discoursed on it in the midst of the celestial Rishis. I have told you truly and in detail all that you had asked me. Having listened to all this, O monarch, do you always set your heart on righteousness.'"

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

The sense seems to be this: One that is not possessed of much learning is liable to do improper acts. These acts are all done for another, viz., one’s body and the senses and not oneself. The para here is, the Not-self.

[2]:

Nichayam is, as explained by the commentator Avasthitim.

[3]:

The sense is that when these leave the body, they are accompanied by Righteousness.

[4]:

Intermediate. i.e., between deities and human beings; hence, animals and birds.

[5]:

Brahma-Rakshasa is a Rakshasa that belongs, like Ravana and others, by birth to the regenerate order.

[6]:

Masha is Phaseolus Roxburghii, Kulatta is Dolichos biflosus, Roxb. Kalaya is Pisum Sativum, Linn. Mudga is Phaseolus Mango, Linn. Atasi is Linum usitattisimam, Linn.

[7]:

A Kanka is a bird of prey.

[8]:

He is repeatedly struck with the clubs and hammers and mallets. He is frequently impaled. He is confined with fiery vessels. He is dragged with forests of sword-blades. He is made to walk over heated sand. He is rubbed against thorny Salmalis. The Salmali is the Bombox Malabaricum.

[9]:

The commentator explains that Nishpava means Rajamasha which is a kind of bears. It is the Dolichas catjung. Halagolaka is a long-tailed worm.

[10]:

A Krikara is a kind of partridge. It is spelt also as Krikala or Krikana. A Vartaka is a sort of quail.

[11]:

Tailapayin is, literally, one that drinks oil. That name is applied to a cockroach.

[12]:

Vyathitah and vyadhitah are the correct readings.

Conclusion:

This concludes Section CXI of Book 13 (Anushasana 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 13 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

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