The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “the discrimination of the soul” which forms the 37th chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 37 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XXXVII - The conversation between the Father and Son (continued): The discrimination of the Soul

Alarka ruled righteously and prosperously, but was greatly addicted to pleasure—His brother Subāhu, wishing to correct him, formed an alliance with the king of Kāśī—Both attacked Alarka to wrest the kingdom from him, and reditced him to great straits—In his distress he looks at Madālasā’s token-ring and seeks relief from Dattātreya—He explains to Dattātreya wherein lies Ms suffering, and launches into a metaphysical disquisition on the soul, the mind, the body, and pleasure and pain.

Jaḍa spoke:

And Alarka also, righteous in soul, protected justly and like children his glad people who practised each his own business. Inflicting punishment on the wicked, and worthily affording protection to the peaceable, he experienced intense delight; and he offered great sacrifices.

And there were born to him sons, mighty and valiant, righteous in soul, magnanimous, who were adversaries to evil conduct. And he amassed wealth by means of righteousness, and righteousness again by means of wealth; and since those two things are not antagonistic, he enjoyed even the pleasures of sense. Thus many years passed away as if but a single day, while he ruled the earth, devoted to righteousness, wealth and the gratification of his desires. No feelings of indifference occurred while he enjoyed his loved objects of sense; nor again did he grow satiated in amassing righteousness and wealth.

His brother Subāhu, who roamed the forests, heard that he was thus besotted in his attachment to pleasure, and uncontrolled in his senses. The prince, being desirous of admonishing him, pondered long and concluded that an alliance on his part with the king’s enemies would be beneficial to the king. Then he cleverly made repeated visits to the king of Kāśī, who had numerous armies and chariots, as his protector, in order to regain his kingdom.

That king collected together his army against Alarka, and despatched a messenger to demand that the kingdom should be gived up to Subāhu. Alarka refused, cognizant of his own justice, to give up the kingdom then in obedience to that command, and returned answer to the messenger of the king of Kāśī;—“Let my elder brother come to me with affection and ask for the kingdom for himself. I will not yield up the smallest bit of territory through fear on an attack.” Even wise Subāhu made no request then. Supplication is not the duty of kṣatriyas, for he was mighty in valour.

Then the king of Kāśī accompanied by all his army marched to attack the country of king Alarka. And forthwith forming a close union with the contiguous kings he attacked with some of their many vassals, and reduced him to subjection. And without harassing Alarka’s neighbouring kings by molesting their realms, he thus subjugated both the governors of the fortresses and the forest tribes. He reduced into submission some kings by bribes, and some by creating dissension, and others who were well-affected towards Alarka by conciliation.

Then the king with his small army, harassed by the adversary’s host, found his treasury depleted extremely by the foe that blockaded his city. And being thus straitened and with his treasury diminishing daily, he fell into intense dejection and perplexity of mind. After suffering the keenest pain, he then bethought him of the ring, about which his mother Madālasā had formerly spoken to him. Then bathing and purifying himself, he addressed the brāhmans, and drawing out the ring saw the motto thereof in clear characters. The king pronounced what his mother had written thereon, while the hair of his body was visibly standing erect, and his eyes were expanded with joy:—‘Association must be shunned by every soul; if to shun it be impossible, it should be formed with the good, for association with the good is a panacea. Love must be shunned by every soul; if to eschew it be impossible, it should be displayed towards the desire for final emancipation from existence, for that desire is a cure therefor.’

Now having exclaimed repeatedly, ‘How can men really attain bliss and having decided that it was through the desire for final emancipation since that desire is appropriate[1] thereto, the king next pondering upon association with the good, and suffering the most poignant grief, visited illustrious Dattātreya. On meeting him, magnanimous, stainless and devoid of attachments, he prostrated himself and worshipped him and addressed him with propriety; “O brāhman! show me favour, thou who art the refuge of refuge-seekers! Remove affliction from me, who am in affliction, and over-addicted to desires.”

Dattātreya spoke:

“At once indeed do I remove thy affliction, O king. Tell me truly, wherefore hast thou that affliction, O king?”

Jaḍa spoke:

Being thus addressed by that wise Muni, the king pondered over the seat and the nature of his three-fold affliction. The king, being noble in intellect, held long and repeated deliberation with his soul, being steadfast the while, and then laughing spoke thus:—

“It is not myself, nor the earth, nor the sea, nor the stars, nor the wind, nor the air; but I wish for happiness in bodily concerns. Pleasure and pain pass to deficiency or excess in this body composed of five elements: what welfare should I not get, if such I might have, in another body wherein I should possess a constant and perfect good-disposition and should be raised and depressed through inequalities? Moreover a man of self-denial is perceived by his difference from others. And so does bodily pleasure or pain generate a good disposition in one who looks upon the subtle third portion which exists merely moment? Since pain dwells in the mind,[2] and pleasure again is a mental thing; therefore neither pain nor pleasure belong to the Ego; for the Mind is not the Ego. Inasmuch as neither Self-consciousness,[3] nor Mind, nor Intellect[4] is the Ego, why then does the in-horn pain in something else affect me? Since the Ego is not the Body, nor the Mind, the Ego is distinct from the Body and the Mind. Therefore let pleasures and pains dwell in the Mind or in the Body; how is the Ego concerned hereat? If my elder brother covets the sovereignty over this body, it is an aggregate of five elements. How then is my Self concerned with the action of the qualities therein? He when seated therein and I are distinct as regards the Body. He who altogether lacks hands and other organs, flesh, hones and head, what connexion, even a slight one, has that man here with elephants, horses, chariots and other treasures? Hence my Self has no foe, it has no pain, it has no pleasure, nor city, nor treasury, nor army composed of horses, elephants, &c., neither has he, nor a third person, nor any one, nor have I any of these things. For as the air that occupies the orb[5] of a small water-jar and a pitcher, though one, is perceived in many ways, so Subāhu and the king of Kāśī and I, methinks, are perceived among bodies by bodily differences.”

Footnotes and references:


For tatsaṅgato read tatsaṅgatā?








For maṇḍalu read maṇḍala.

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