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Chapter 268

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Thou hast already explained to me, O grandsire, howthe religion of Yoga, which leads to the six well-known attributes, maybe adopted and practised without injuring any creature. Tell me, Ograndsire, of that religion which leads to both results, viz., Enjoymentand Emancipation. Amongst these two, viz., the duties of domesticity andthose of Yoga, both of which lead to the same end, which is superior?’

“Bhishma said, ‘Both courses of duty are highly blessed. Both areextremely difficult of accomplishment. Both are productive of highfruits. Both are practised by those that are admittedly good. I shallpresently discourse to thee on the authoritativeness of both thosecourses of duty, for dispelling thy doubts about their true import.Listen to me with concentrated attention. In this connection is instancedthe old narrative of the discourse between Kapila and the cow. Listen toit, O Yudhishthira![1225] It has been heard by us that in days of oldwhen the deity Tvashtri came to the place of king Nahusha, the latter,for discharging the duties of hospitality, was on the point of killing acow agreeably to the true, ancient, and eternal injunction of the Vedas.Beholding that cow tied for slaughter, Kapila of liberal soul, everobservant of the duties of Sattwa, always engaged in restraining hissenses, possessed of true knowledge, and abstemious in diet, havingacquired an excellent understanding that was characterised by faith,perfectly fearless, beneficial, firm, and ever directed towards truth,uttered this word once, viz.,–‘Alas ye Vedas!’–At that time a Rishi, ofthe name of Syumarasmi, entering (by Yoga power) the form of that cow,addressed the Yati Kapila, saying, ‘Hist O Kapila! If the Vedas bedeserving (in consequence of those declarations in them that sanction theslaughter of living creatures), whence have those other duties (fraughtwith entire harmlessness to all creatures) come to be regarded asauthoritative?[1226] Men devoted to penances and endued withintelligence, and who have the Srutis and knowledge for their eyes,regard the injunctions of the Vedas, which have been declared through andcompiled by the Rishis, to be the words of God himself.[1227] What cananybody say (by way of censure or praise) with respect to the contents ofthe Vedas when these happen to be the words of the Supreme Being himselfwho is freed from desire of fruit, who is without the fever (of envy andaversion), who is addicted to nothing, and who is destitute of allexertion (in consequence of the immediate fruition of all his wishes)?’

“Kapila said, ‘I do not censure the Vedas. I do not wish to say anythingin derogation of them. It hath been heard by us that the differentcourses of duty laid down for the different modes of life, all lead tothe same end. The Sannyasin attains to a high end. The forest-reclusealso attains to a high end. Both the other two also, viz., thehouseholder and the Brahmacharin, reach the same end. All the four modesof life have always been regarded as Deva-yana ways. The relativestrength or weakness of these, as represented by their relativesuperiority or inferiority, hath been declared in the character of theirrespective ends.[1228]–Knowing these, accomplish acts which lead toheaven and other blessings,–this is a Vedic declaration.–Do notaccomplish acts,–this also is another binding declaration of the Vedas.If abstention from acts be meritorious, then their accomplishment must beexceedingly reprehensible. When the scriptures stand thus, the strengthor weakness of particular declarations must be very difficult toascertain. If thou knowest of any course of duty which is superior to thereligion of harmlessness, and which depends upon direct evidence insteadof that of the scriptures, do thou then discourse to me upon it.’

“Syumarasmi said, ‘One should perform sacrifice from desire ofheaven,–this Sruti is constantly heard by us. Thinking first of thefruit (that is to be attained), one makes preparations for sacrifice.Goat, horse, cow, all species of birds, domestic or wild, and herbs andplants, are food of (other) living creatures. This is heard by us.[1229]Food again has been directed to be taken day after day morning andevening. Then again the Sruti declares that animals and grain are thelimbs of Sacrifice.[1230] The Lord of the universe created them alongwith Sacrifice. The puissant Lord of all creatures caused the deities toperform sacrifices with their aid. Altogether seven (domestic) and seven(wild) animals are indicated as fit for sacrifice. Instead of all beingequally fit, each succeeding one is inferior to each preceding one. TheVedas again declare that the whole universe is appointed for sacrifice.Him also that is called Purusha the Vedas have appointed for the samepurpose.[1231] This again hath been sanctioned by men of remote andremoter times. What man of learning is there that does not select,according to his own ability, individuals from among living creatures forsacrifice?[1232] The inferior animals, human beings, trees, and herbs,all wish for the attainment of heaven. There is no means, however, exceptsacrifice, by which they can obtain the fruition of that desire. Thedeciduous herbs, animals, trees, creepers, clarified butter, milk, curds,meat and other approved things (that are poured on the sacrificial fire),land, the points of the compass, faith, and time which brings up the taleof twelve, the Richs, the Yajuses, the Samans, and the sacrificer himselfbringing up the tale to sixteen, and Fire which should be known as thehouseholder,–these seventeen are said to be the limbs of sacrifice.Sacrifice, the Sruti declares, is the root of the world and its course.With clarified butter, milk, curds, dung, curds mixed with milk, skin,the hair in her tail, horns, and hoofs, the cow alone is able to furnishall the necessaries of sacrifice. Particular ones amongst these that arelaid down for particular sacrifices, coupled with Ritwijas and presents(to the priests themselves and other Brahmanas) together sustainsacrifices.[1233] By collecting these things together, people accomplishsacrifices[1234]. This Sruti, consistent with the truth, is heard thatall things have been created for the performance of sacrifice. It wasthus that all men of ancient time set themselves to the performance ofsacrifices. As regards that person, however, who performs sacrificesbecause of the conviction that sacrifices should be performed and not forthe sake of fruit or reward, it is seen that he does not injure anycreature or bear himself with hostility to anything, or set himself tothe accomplishment of any worldly task.[1235] Those things that have beennamed as the limbs of sacrifice, and those other things that have beenmentioned as required in sacrifices and that are indicated in theordinances, all uphold one another (for the completion of sacrifices)when used according to the approved ritual.[1236] I behold also theSmritis compiled by he Rishis, into which the Vedas have been introduced.Men of learning regard them as authoritative in consequence of theirfollowing the Brahmanas.[1237] Sacrifices have the Brahmanas for thatprogenitor, and truly they rest upon the Brahmanas. The whole universerests upon sacrifice, and sacrifice rests upon the universe.[1238] Thesyllable Om is the root from which the Vedas have sprung. (Every rite,therefore, should commence with the utterance of that syllable of vastimport). Of him who has uttered for him the syllables Om, Namas, Swaha,Svadha, and Vashat, and who has, according to the extent of his ability,performed sacrifices and other rites, there is no fear in respect of nextlife in all the three worlds. Thus say the Vedas, and sages crowned withascetic success, and the foremost of Rishis. He in whom are the Richs,the Yajuses, the Samans, and the expletives necessary for completing therhythm of the Samans according to the rules laid down in Vedic grammars,is, indeed, a Brahmana.[1239] Thou knowest, O adorable Brahmana, what thefruits are of Agnihotra, of the Soma-sacrifice, and of the other greatsacrifices. I say, for this reason, one should sacrifice and assist atother people’s sacrifices, without scruples of any kind. One who performssuch sacrifices as lead to heaven (such as Jyotishtoma, etc.) obtainshigh rewards hereafter in the form of heavenly beatitude. This iscertain, viz., that they who do not perform sacrifices have neither thisworld nor the next. They who are really conversant with the declarationsof the Vedas regard both kinds of declarations (viz., those that inciteto acts and those that preach abstention) as equally authoritative.'”

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