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Chapter 217

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Bhishma said, ‘He cannot be said to know Brahma who does not know thefour topics (viz., dreams, dreamless slumber, Brahma as indicated byattributes, and Brahma as transcending all attributes), as also what isManifest (viz., the body), and what is Unmanifest (the chit-soul), whichthe great Rishi  (Narayana) has described as Tattwam.[776] That which ismanifest should be known as liable to death. That which is unmanifest(viz., the chit-soul), should be known as transcending death. The RishiNarayana has described the religion of Pravritti. Upon that rests thewhole universe with its mobile and immobile creatures. The religion ofNivritti again leads to the unmanifest and eternal Brahma.[777] TheCreator (Brahma) has described the religion of Pravritti. Pravrittiimplies rebirth or return. Nivritti, on the other hand, implies thehighest end. The ascetic who desires to discriminate with exactitudebetween good and evil, who is always bent on understanding the nature ofthe Soul, and who devotes himself to the religion of Nivritti, attains tothat high end.[778] One desirous of accomplishing this, should know boththe Unmanifest and Purusha of which I shall speak presently. That, again,which is different from both the Unmanifest and Purusha, and whichtranscends them both, and which is distinguished from all beings, shouldbe particularly viewed by one possessed of intelligence.[779] BothPrakriti and Purusha are without beginning and without end. Both areincapable of being known by their like. Both are eternal andindestructible. Both are greater than the greatest (of being). In thesethey are similar. They are points of dissimilarity again between them.(Of these I shall speak presently). Prakriti is fraught with the threeattributes (of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness). It is also engaged increation. The true attributes of Kshetrajna (Purusha or the Soul) shouldbe known to be different.[780] Purusha is the apprehender of all thetransformations of Prakriti (but cannot be apprehended himself). Hetranscends (in respect of his original nature) all attributes. As regardsPurusha and the Supreme Soul again, both of them are in-comprehensible.In consequence again of both of them being without attributes by whichthey can be distinguished, both are highly distinguished from allelse.[781] A turbaned person has his head circled with three folds of apiece of cloth. (The person, however, is not identical with the turban hewears). After the same manner the embodied Soul is invested with thethree attributes of Goodness, Passion, and Darkness. But though thusinvested, the Soul is not identical with those attributes. Hence thesefour topics, which are covered by these fourfold considerations, shouldbe understood.[782] One who understands all this is never stupefied whenone has to draw conclusions (in respect of all subjects of enquiry). Hethat is desirous of attaining to high prosperity should become pure inmind, and betaking himself to austere practices in respect of the bodyand the senses, should devote himself to yoga without desire of fruits.The universe is pervaded by yoga power secretly circulating through everypart of it and illumining it brightly. The sun and the moon shine witheffulgence in the firmament of the heart in consequence of yoga power.The result of yoga is Knowledge. Yoga is talked of very highly in theworld.[783] Whatever acts are destructive of Passion and Darknessconstitute yoga in respect of its real character. Brahmacharya andabstention from injury are said to constitute yoga of the body; whilerestraining mind and speech properly are said to constitute yoga of themind. The food that is obtained in alms from regenerate personsconversant with the ritual is distinguished from all other food. Bytaking that food abstemiously, one’s sins born of Passion begin to fade.A yogin subsisting upon such food finds his senses gradually withdrawnfrom their objects. Hence, he should take only that measure of food whichis strictly necessary for the support of his body. (Another advice thatmay be offered is that) that knowledge which one obtains gradually bymind devoted to yoga should cheerfully be made one’s own during one’slast moments by a forcible stretch of power.[784] The embodied Soul, whendivested of Rajas (does not immediately attain to Emancipation but)assumes a subtile form with all the senses of perception and moves aboutin space. When his mind becomes unaffected by acts, he, in consequence ofsuch renunciation (loses that subtile form and) becomes merged inPrakriti (without however, yet attaining to Brahma or Emancipation whichtranscends Prakriti).[785] After the destruction of this gross body, onewho through absence of heedlessness escapes from all the three bodies(viz., the gross, the subtile and the karana) succeeds in attaining toEmancipation.[786] The birth and death of creatures always depend uponthe cause constituted by original Ignorance (or Avidya). When knowledgeof Brahma arises, necessity no longer pursues the person. Those, however,that accept what is the reverse of truth (by believing that to be Selfwhich is really not-Self) are men whose understandings are always takenup with the birth and death of all existent things. (Such people neverdream even of Emancipation).[787] Supporting their bodies by aid ofpatience, withdrawing their hearts from all external objects by the aidof their understanding, and withdrawing themselves from the world ofsenses, some yogins adore the senses in consequence of theirsubtility.[788] Some amongst them, with mind cleansed by yoga, proceedingaccording to (the stages indicated in) the scriptures and reaching thehighest, succeed in knowing it by the aid of the understanding and dwellin that which is the highest and which without resting on any other thingrests on itself.[789] Some worship Brahma in images. Some worship Him asexisting with attributes. Some repeatedly realise the highest Divinitywhich has been described to be like a flash of lightning and which isagain indestructible.[790] Others who have burnt their sins by penances,attain to Brahma in the end. All those high-souled persons attain to thehighest end. With the eye of scripture one should observe the subtileattributes of these several forms, as distinguished by attributes, ofBrahma that are (thus) worshipped by men. The yogin who has transcendedthe necessity of depending on the body, who has cast off all attachments,and whose mind is devoted to yoga abstraction, should be known as anotherinstance of Infinity, as the Supreme Divinity, or as that which itUnmanifest.[791] They whose hearts are devoted to the acquisition ofknowledge succeed first in freeing themselves from the world of mortals.Subsequently, by casting off attachments they partake of the nature ofBrahma and at last attain to the highest end.

“Thus have persons conversant with the Vedas spoken of the religion thatleads to the attainment of Brahma. They who follow that religionaccording to the measure of their knowledge all succeed in obtaining thehighest end. Even those persons who succeed in acquiring knowledge thatis incapable of being shaken (by the assaults of scepticism) and thatmakes its possessors free from attachments of every kind, attain tovarious high regions after death and become emancipated according to themeasure of their knowledge. Those persons of pure hearts who have imbibedcontentment from knowledge, and who have cast off all desires andattachments, gradually approach in respect of their nature, nearer andnearer to Brahma which has the unmanifest for his attribute, which isdivine, and without birth and death. Realising that Brahma dwells intheir Souls, they become themselves immutable and have never to return(to the earth). Attaining to that supreme state which is indestructibleand eternal, they exist in felicity. The knowledge with respect to thisworld is even this: it exists (in the case of erring persons). It doesnot exist (in the case of those who have not been stupefied by error).The whole universe, bound up in desire, is revolving like a wheel. As thefibres of a lotus-stalk overspread themselves into every part of thestalk, after the same manner the fibres of desire, which have neitherbeginning nor end, spread themselves over every part of the body. As aweaver drives his threads into a cloth by means of his shuttle, after thesame manner the threads that constitute the fabric of the universe arewoven by the shuttle of Desire. He who properly knows transformations ofPrakriti, Prakriti herself and Purusha, becomes freed from Desire andattains to Emancipation.[792] The divine Rishi Narayana, that refuge ofthe universe, for the sake of compassion towards all creatures, clearlypromulgated these means for the acquisition of immortality.'”



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