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Chapter 27

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

“Arjuna said,–‘If devotion, O Janardana, is regarded by thee as superiorto work, why then, O Kesava, dost thou engage me in such dreadful work?By equivocal words thou seemest to confound my understanding. Therefore,tell (me) one thing definitely by which I may attain to what is good.’

“The Holy One said,–‘It hath already been said by me, O sinless one,that here are, in this world, two kinds of devotion; that of the Sankhyasthrough knowledge and that of the yogins through work. A man doth notacquire freedom from work from (only) the non-performance of work. Nordoth he acquire final emancipation from only renunciation (of work). Noone can abide even for a moment without doing work.[151] That man ofdeluded soul who, curbing the organs of sense, liveth mentally cherishingthe objects of sense, is said to be a dissembler. He however, O Arjuna,who restraining (his) senses by his mind, engageth in devotion (in theform) of work with the organs of work, and is free from attachment, isdistinguished (above all). (Therefore), do thou always apply yourself towork, for action is better than inaction. Even the support of thy bodycannot be accomplished without work.[152] This world is fettered by allwork other than that which is (performed) for Sacrifice. (Therefore), Oson of Kunti, perform work for the sake of that, freed fromattachment.[153] In olden times, the Lord of Creation, creating men andsacrifice together, said,–flourish by means of this (Sacrifice). Letthis (Sacrifice) be to you (all) the dispenser of all objects cherishedby you. Rear the gods with this, and let the gods (in return) rear you.Thus fulfilling the mutual interest you will obtain that which isbeneficial (to you).[154] Propitiated with sacrifices the gods willbestow on you the pleasures you desire. He who enjoyeth (himself) withoutgiving them what they have given, is assuredly a thief. The good who eatthe remnant of sacrifices are freed from all sins. Those unrighteous onesincur sin who dress food for their own sake.–From food are allcreatures; and sacrifice is the outcome of work.[155] Know that workproceeds from the Vedas; Vedas have proceeded from Him who hath no decay.Therefore, the all-pervading Supreme Being is installed insacrifice.[156] He who conformeth not to this wheel that is thusrevolving, that man of sinful life delighting (the indulgence of) hissenses, liveth in vain, O Partha.[157] The man, however, that is attachedto self only, that is contented with self, and that is pleased in hisself,–hath no work (to do). He hath no concern whatever with action norwith any omission here. Nor, amongst all creatures, is there any uponwhom his interest dependeth.[158] Therefore, always do work that shouldbe done, without attachment. The man who performeth work withoutattachment, attaineth to the Supreme. By work alone, Janaka and others,attained the accomplishment of their objects. Having regard also to theobservance by men of their duties, it behoveth thee to work. Whatever agreat man doth, is also done by vulgar people. Ordinary men follow theideal set by them (the great).[159] There is nothing whatever for me, OPartha, to do in the three worlds, (since I have) nothing for me whichhath not been acquired; still I engage in action.[160] Because if at anytime I do not, without sloth, engage in action, men would follow my path,O Partha, on all sides. The worlds would perish if I did not performwork, and I should cause intermixture of castes and ruin these people. Asthe ignorant work, O Bharata, having attachment to the performer, soshould a wise man work without being attached, desiring to make menobservant of their duties. A wise man should not cause confusion ofunderstanding amongst ignorant persons, who have attachment to workitself; (on the other hand) he should (himself) acting with devotionengage them to all (kinds of) work. All works are, in every way, done bythe qualities of nature. He, whose mind is deluded by egoism, however,regards himself as the actor.[161] But he, O mighty-armed one, whoknoweth the distinction (of self) from qualities and work, is notattached to work, considering that it is his senses alone (and not hisself) that engage in their objects.[162] Those who are deluded by thequalities of nature, become attached to the works done by the qualities.A person of perfect knowledge should not bewilder those men of imperfectknowledge.[163] Devoting all work to me, with (thy) mind directed toself, engage in battle, without desire, without affection and with thy(heart’s) weakness dispelled.[164] Those men who always follow thisopinion of mine with faith and without cavil attain to final emancipationeven by work. But they who cavil at and do not follow this opinion ofmine, know, that, bereft of all knowledge and without discrimination,they are ruined. Even a wise man acts according to his own nature. Allliving beings follow (their own) nature. What then would restraint avail?The senses have, as regards the objects of the senses, either affectionor aversion fixed. One should not submit to these, for they are obstaclesin one’s way.[165] One’s own duty, even if imperfectly performed, isbetter than being done by other even if well performed. Death in(performance of) one’s own duty is preferable. (The adoption of) the dutyof another carries fear (with it).

“Arjuna said, ‘Impelled by whom, O son of the Vrishni race, doth a mancommit sin, even though unwilling and as if constrained by force’?

“The Holy One said,–‘It is desire, it is wrath, born of the attribute ofpassion; it is all devouring, it is very sinful. Know this to be the foein this world.[166] As fire is enveloped by smoke, a mirror by dust, thefoetus by the womb, so is this enveloped by desire. Knowledge, O son ofKunti, is enveloped by this constant foe of the wise in the form ofdesire which is insatiable and like a fire. The senses, the mind and theunderstanding are said to be its abode. With these it deludeth theembodied self, enveloping (his) knowledge. Therefore, restraining (thy)senses first, O bull of Bharata’s race, cast off this wicked thing, forit destroyeth knowledge derived from instruction and meditation.[167] Ithath been said that the senses are superior (to the body which is inert).Superior to the senses is the mind. Superior to the mind is theknowledge. But which is superior to knowledge is He.[168] Thus knowingthat which is superior to knowledge and restraining (thy) self by self,slay, O mighty-armed one, the enemy in the shape of desire which isdifficult to conquer.'”

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