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Chapter 28

Mahabharata English - BHISHMA PARVA

“The Holy One said,–‘This imperishable (system of) devotion I declaredto Vivaswat: Vivaswat declared it to Manu; and Manu communicated it toIkshaku. Descending thus from generation, the Royal sages came to knowit. But, O chastiser of foes, by (lapse of a) long time that devotionbecame lost to the world. Even the same (system of) devotion hath todaybeen declared by me to thee, for thou art my devotee and friend, (and)this is a great mystery.’

“Arjuna said,–‘Thy birth is posterior; Vivaswat’s birth is prior. Howshall I understand then that thou hadst first declared (it)?’

“The Holy One said,–‘Many births of mine have passed away, O Arjuna, asalso of thine. These all I know, but thou dost not, O chastiser of foes.Though (I am) unborn and of essence that knoweth no deterioration, though(I am) the lord of all creatures, still, relying on my own (material)nature I take birth by my own (powers) of illusion. Whenever, O Bharata,loss of piety and the rise of impiety occurreth, on those occasions do Icreate myself. For the protection of the righteous and for thedestruction of the evil doers, for the sake of establishing Piety, I amborn age after age. He who truly knoweth my divine birth and work to besuch, casting off (his body) is not born again; (on the other hand) hecometh to me, O Arjuna. Many who have been freed from attachment, fear,wrath, who were full of me, and who relied on me, have, cleansed byknowledge and asceticism, attained to my essence. In whatsoever mannermen come to me, in the selfsame manner do I accept them. It is my way, OPartha, that men follow on all sides.[169] Those in this world who aredesirous of the success of action worship the gods, for in this world ofmen success resulting from action is soon attained. The quadrupledivision of castes was created by me according to the distinction ofqualities and duties. Though I am the author thereof, (yet) know me to benot their author and undecaying.[170] Actions do not touch me. I have nolonging for the fruits of actions. He that knoweth me thus is not impededby actions. Knowing this, even men of old who were desirous ofemancipation performed work. Therefore, do thou also perform work as wasdone by ancients of the remote past. What is action and what isinaction,–even the learned are perplexed at this. Therefore, I will tellthee about action (so that) knowing it thou mayst be freed from evil. Oneshould have knowledge of action, and one should have knowledge offorbidden actions: one should also know of inaction. The course of actionis incomprehensible. He, who sees inaction in action and action ininaction, is wise among men; he is possessed of devotion; and he is adoer of all actions. The learned call him wise whose efforts are all freefrom desire (of fruit) and (consequent) will, and whose actions have allbeen consumed by the fire of knowledge.[171] Whoever, resigning allattachment to the fruit of action, is ever contented and is dependent onnone, doth nought, indeed, although engaged in action. He who, withoutdesire, with mind and the senses under control, and casting off allconcerns, performeth action only for the preservation of the body,incurreth no sin.[172] He who is contented with what is earned withoutexertion, who hath risen superior to the pairs of opposites, who iswithout jealousy, who is equable in success and failure, is not fettered(by action) even though he works. All his actions perish who acts for thesake of sacrifice,[173] who is without affections, who is free (fromattachments), and whose mind is fixed upon knowledge. Brahma is thevessel (with which the libation is poured); Brahma is the libation (thatis offered); Brahma is the fire on which by Brahma is poured (thelibation); Brahma is the goal to which he proceedeth by fixing his mindon Brahma itself which is the action.[174] Some devotees performsacrifice to the gods. Others, by means of sacrifice, offer up sacrificesto the fire of Brahma.[175] Others offer up (as sacrificial libation) thesenses of which hearing is the first to the fire of restraint. Others(again) offer up (as libations) the objects of sense of which sound isthe first to the fire of the senses.[176] Others (again) offer up all thefunctions of the senses and the functions of the vital winds to the fireof devotion by self-restraint kindled by knowledge.[177] Others againperform the sacrifice of wealth, the sacrifice of ascetic austerities,the sacrifice of meditation, the sacrifice of (Vedic) study, thesacrifice of knowledge, and others are ascetics of rigid vows.[178] Someoffer up the upward vital wind (Prana) to the downward vital wind(apana); and others, the downward vital wind to the upward vital wind;some, arresting the course of (both) the upward and the downward vitalwinds, are devoted to the restraint of the vital winds. Others ofrestricted rations, offer the vital winds to the vital winds.[179] Evenall these who are conversant with sacrifice, whose sins have beenconsumed by sacrifice, and who eat the remnants of sacrifice which areamrita, attain to the eternal Brahma. (Even) this world is not for himwho doth not perform sacrifice. Whence then the other, O best of Kuru’srace? Thus diverse are the sacrifices occurring in the Vedas. Know thatall of them result from action, and knowing this thou wilt beemancipated. The sacrifice of knowledge, O chastiser of foes, is superiorto every sacrifice involving (the attainment of) fruits of action, forall action, O Partha, is wholly comprehended in knowledge.[180] Learnthat (Knowledge) by prostration, enquiry, and service. They who arepossessed of knowledge and can see the truth, will teach thee thatknowledge, knowing which, O son of Pandu, thou wilt not again come bysuch delusion, and by which thou wilt see the endless creatures (of theuniverse) in thyself (first) and then in me. Even if thou be the greatestsinner among all that are sinful, thou shalt yet cross over alltransgressions by the raft of knowledge. As a blazing fire, O Arjuna,reduceth fuel to ashes, so doth the fire of knowledge reduce all actionsto ashes. For there is nothing here that is so cleansing as knowledge.One who hath attained to success by devotion finds it without effortwithin his own self in time. He obtaineth knowledge, who hath faith andis intent on it and who hath his senses under control; obtainingknowledge one findeth the highest tranquillity in no length of time. Onewho hath no knowledge and no faith, and whose minds is full of doubt, islost. Neither this world, nor the next, nor happiness, is for him whosemind is full of doubt. Actions do not fetter him, O Dhananjaya, who hathcast off action by devotion, whose doubts have been dispelled byknowledge, and who is self-restrained. Therefore, destroying, by thesword of knowledge, this doubt of thine that is born of ignorance andthat dwelleth in thy mind, betake to devotion, (and) arise, O son ofBharata.’

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