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Chapter 218

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘By following what conduct, O thou that artconversant with all courses of conduct, did Janaka, the ruler of Mithilaversed in the religion of Emancipation, succeed in attaining toEmancipation, after casting off all worldly enjoyments?’

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is cited the following old narrativeof the particular conduct by which that ruler, thoroughly conversant withall courses of conduct, succeeded in achieving the highest felicity.There was a ruler in Mithila of the name of Janadeva of Janaka’s race. Hewas ever engaged in reflecting upon the courses of conduct that mightlead to the attainment of Brahma. A century of preceptors always used tolive in his palace, lecturing him upon the diverse courses of dutyfollowed by people who had betaken themselves to diverse modes oflife.[793] Given to the study of the Vedas, he was not very wellsatisfied with the speculations of his instructors on the character ofthe Soul, and in their doctrines of extinction upon the dissolution ofthe body or of rebirth after death. Once upon a time a great ascetic ofthe name of Panchasikha, the son of Kapila, having roamed over the wholeworld, arrived at Mithila. Endued with correct conclusions in respect ofall speculations about the diverse duties connected with renunciation, hewas above all pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, happiness andmisery), and of doubts he had none. He was regarded as the foremost ofRishis. Dwelling wherever he pleased, he desired to place before thereach of all men eternal felicity that is so difficult of attainment. Itseemed that he went about, amazing the world, having assumed the form ofnone else than that great Rishi, that lord of creatures, whom thefollowers of the Sankhya doctrine knew by the name of Kapila. He was theforemost of all the disciples of Asuri and was called the undying. He hadperformed a mental Sacrifice that had lasted for thousand years.[794] Hewas firm in mind, and had completed all the rites and sacrifices that areenjoined in the scriptures and that lead to the attainment of Brahma. Hewas fully conversant with the five sheaths that cover the soul.[795] Hewas devoted to the five acts connected with the adoration of Brahma, andhad the five qualities (of tranquillity, self-restraint, etc.). Known (asalready said) by the name of Panchasikha, he had approached one day alarge concourse of Rishis following the Sankhya doctrines and enquired ofthem about the highest object of human acquisition, viz., the Unmanifestor that upon which the five Purushas or sheaths (already named)rest.[796] For the sake of obtaining a knowledge of the Soul, Asuri hadenquired of his preceptor. In consequence of the latter’s instructionsand of his own penances, Asuri understood the distinction between thebody and the Soul and had acquired celestial vision.[797] In thatconcourse of ascetics, Asuri made his exposition of the Immutable One,and Indestructible Brahma which is seen in diverse forms. Panchasikhabecame a disciple of Asuri. He lived on human milk. There was a certainBrahmani of the name of Kapila. She was the wife of Asuri.[798]Panchasikha was accepted by her as a son and he used to suck her breasts.In consequence of this, he came to be known as the son of Kapila and hisunderstanding became fixed on Brahma. All this, about the circumstancesof his birth and those that led to his becoming the son of Kapila, wassaid unto me by the divine Rishi.[799] The latter also told me about theomniscience of Panchasikha. Conversant with all courses of duty,Panchasikha, after having himself acquired high knowledge, (came toJanaka) and knowing that that king had equal reverence for all hispreceptors, began to amaze that century of preceptors (by an expositionof his doctrine fraught), with abundant reasons. Observing the talent ofKapileya, Janaka became exceedingly attached to him, and abandoning hishundred preceptors, began to follow him in particular. Then Kapileyabegan to discourse unto Janaka, who had according to the ordinance benthis head unto him (as a disciple should) and who was fully competent toapprehend the sage’s instructions, upon that high religion ofEmancipation which is explained in Sankhya treatises. Setting forth inthe first place the sorrows of birth, he spoke next of the sorrows of(religious) acts. Having finished that topic he explained the sorrows ofall states of life ending even with that in the high region of theCreator.[800] He also discoursed upon that Delusion for whose sake is thepractice of religion, and acts, and their fruits, and which is highlyuntrustworthy, destructible, unsteady, and uncertain.[801] Sceptics saythat when death (of the body) is seen and is a matter of direct evidencewitnessed by all, they who maintain, in consequence of their faith in thescriptures, that something distinct from the body, called the Soul,exists are necessarily vanquished in argument. They also urge that one’sdeath means the extinction of one’s Soul, and that sorrow, decrepitude,and disease imply (partial) death of the Soul. He that maintains, owingto error, that the Soul is distinct from the body and exists after theloss of body, cherishes an opinion that is unreasonable.[802] If that beregarded as existent which does not really exist in the world, then itmay be mentioned that the king, being regarded so, is really never liableto decrepitude or death. But is he, on that account, to be reallybelieved to be above decrepitude and death?[803] When the question iswhether an object exists or does not exist, and when that whose existenceis asserted presents all the indications of non-existence, what is thatupon which ordinary people rely in settling the affairs of life? Directevidence is the root of both inference and the scriptures. The scripturesare capable of being contradicted by direct evidence. As to inference,its evidentiary effect is not much. Whatever be the topic, cease toreason on inference alone. There is nothing else called jiva than thisbody. In a banian seed is contained the capacity to produce leaves andflowers and fruits and roots and bark. From the grass and water that istaken by a cow are produced milk and butter, substances whose nature isdifferent from that of the producing causes. Substances of differentkinds when allowed to decompose in water for some time produce spirituousliquors whose nature is quite different from that of those substancesthat produce them. After the same manner, from the vital seed is producedthe body and its attributes, with the understanding, consciousness, mind,and other possessions. Two pieces of wood, rubbed together, produce fire.The stone called Suryakanta, coming in contact with the rays of the Sun,produces fire. Any solid metallic substance, heated in fire, dries upwater when coming in contact with it. Similarly, the material bodyproduces the mind and its attributes of perception, memory, imagination,etc. As the loadstone moves iron, similarly, the senses are controlled bythe mind.[804] Thus reason the sceptics. The sceptics, however, are inerror. For the disappearance (of only the animating force) upon the bodybecoming lifeless (and not the simultaneous extinction of the body uponthe occurrence of that event) is the proof (of the truth that the body isnot the Soul but that the Soul is something separate from the body andoutlives it certainly. If, indeed, body and Soul had been the same thing,both would have disappeared at the same instant of time. Instead of this,the dead body may be seen for some time _after_ the occurrence of death.Death, therefore, means the flight from the body of something that isdifferent from the body). The supplication of the deities by the very menwho deny the separate existence of the Soul is another good argument forthe proposition that the Soul is separate from the body or has existencethat may be independent of a gross material case. The deities to whomthese men pray are incapable of being seen or touched. They are believedto exist in subtile forms. (Really, if a belief in deities divested ofgross material forms does no violence to their reason, why should theexistence of an immaterial Soul alone do their reason such violence)?Another argument against the sceptic is that his proposition implies adestruction of acts (for if body and Soul die together, the acts also ofthis life would perish,–a conclusion which no man can possibly come toif he is to explain the inequalities or condition witnessed in theuniverse).[805] These that have been mentioned, and that have materialforms, cannot possibly be the causes (of the immaterial Soul and itsimmaterial accompaniments of perception, memory, and the like). Theidentity of immaterial existences with objects that are material cannotbe comprehended. (Hence objects that are themselves material cannot byany means be causes for the production of things immaterial).–Some areof opinion that there is rebirth and that it is caused by Ignorance, thedesire for acts, cupidity, heedlessness, and adherence to other faults.They say that Ignorance (Avidya) is the soul. Acts constitute the seedthat is placed in that soil. Desire is the water that causes that seed togrow, in this way they explain rebirth. They maintain that that ignorancebeing ingrained in an imperceptible way, one mortal body being destroyed,another starts I up immediately from it; and that when it is burnt by theaid of knowledge, the destruction of existence itself follows or theperson attains to what is called Nirvana. This opinion also is erroneous.[This is the doctrine of Buddhists]. It may be asked that when the beingthat is thus reborn is a different one in respect of its nature, birth,and purposes connected with virtue and vice why should I then be regardedto have any identity with the being that was? Indeed, the only inferencethat can be drawn is that the entire chain of existences of a particularbeing is not really a chain of connected links (but that existences insuccession are unconnected with one another).[806] Then, again if thebeing that is the result of a rebirth be really different from what itwas in a previous phase of existence, it may be asked what satisfactioncan arise to a person from the exercise of the virtue of charity, or fromthe acquisition of knowledge or of ascetic power, since the actsperformed by one are to concentrate upon another person in another phaseof existence (without the performer himself being existent to enjoythem?) Another result of the doctrine under refutation would be that onein this life may be rendered miserable by the acts of another in aprevious life, or having become miserable may again be rendered happy. Byseeing, however, what actually takes place in the world, a properconclusion may be drawn with respect to the unseen.[807] The separateConsciousness that is the result of rebirth is (according to what may beinferred from the Buddhistic theory of life) different from theConsciousness that had preceded it in a previous life. The manner,however, in which the rise or appearance of that separate Consciousnessis explained by that theory does not seem to be consistent or reasonable.The Consciousness (as it existed in the previous life) was the veryreverse of eternal, being only transitory, extending as it did tilldissolution of the body. That which had an end cannot be taken as thecause for the production of a second Consciousness appearing after theoccurrence of the end. If, again, the very loss of the previousConsciousness be regarded as the cause of the production of the secondConsciousness, then upon the death of a human body being brought about bya heavy bludgeon, a second body would arise from the body that is thusdeprived of animation.[808] Once more, their doctrine of extinction oflife (or Nirvana or Sattwasankshaya) is exposed to the objection thatthat extinction will become a recurring phenomenon like that of theseasons, or the year, or the yuga, or heat, or cold, or objects that areagreeable or disagreeable.[809] If for the purpose of avoiding theseobjections, the followers of this doctrine assert the existence of a Soulthat is permanent and unto which each new Consciousness attaches, theyexpose themselves to the new objection that that permanent substance, bybeing overcome with decrepitude, and with death that brings aboutdestruction, may in time be itself weakened and destroyed. If thesupports of a mansion are weakened by time, the mansion itself is sure tofall down at last.[810] The senses, the mind, wind, blood, flesh, bones(and all the constituents of the body), one after another, meet withdestruction and enter each into its own productive cause.[811] If againthe existence of an eternal Soul be asserted that is immutable, that isthe refuge of the understanding, consciousness, and other attributes ofthe usual kind, and that is dissociated from all these, such an assertionwould be exposed to a serious objection, for then all that is usuallydone in the world would be unmeaning, especially with reference to theattainment of the fruits of the charity and other religious acts. All thedeclarations in the Srutis inciting to those acts, and all acts connectedwith the conduct of men in the world, would be equally unmeaning, for theSoul being dissociated from the understanding and the mind, there is noone to enjoy the fruits of good acts and Vedic rites.[812] Thus diversekinds of speculations arise in the mind. Whether this opinion is right orthat is right, there is no means of settling. Engaged in reflecting onthose opinions, particular persons follow particular lines ofspeculation. The understandings of these, directed to particulartheories, become wholly taken up with them and are at last entirely lostin them. Thus all men are rendered miserable by pursuits, good or bad.The Vedas along, bringing them back to the right path, guide them alongit, like grooms conducting their elephants.[813] Many men, with weakenedminds, covet objects that are fraught with great happiness. These,however, have soon to meet with a much larger measure of sorrow, andthen, forcibly torn from their coveted meat, they have to own the sway ofdeath. What use has one, who is destined to destruction and whose life isunstable, with kinsmen and friends and wives and other possessions ofthis kind? He who encounters death after having cast off all these,passes easily out of the world and has never to return. Earth, space,water, heat and wind, always support and nourish the body. Reflectingupon this, how can one feel any affection for one’s body? Indeed, thebody, which is subject to destruction, has no joy in it. Having heardthese words of Panchasikha that were free from deception, unconnectedwith delusion (because discouraging sacrifices and other Vedic acts),highly salutary, and treating of the Soul, king Janadeva became filledwith wonder, and prepared himself to address the Rishi once more.'”



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