The Rishabha-Gita is contained in sloka 19 of chapter 4 and chapters 5 & 6 of Skandha V of Srimad Bhagavata.
1. Once, while moving about the country, Rishabha was in Brahmavarta. There, in an assembly of sages, where a large audience was present to listen to him, Rishabha delivered a sermon especially to teach his sons, though they were endowed with self-control, humility, affection and discipline in all matters of life.
Rishabha was referred to as Rsabha in the Mahabharata, Vishnu-Purana and Siva-Puruna.
2. Oh children! The sacred human body that you have got in the world is not meant to be utilized for sensuous enjoyment as by low creatures, which too get such enjoyment through the filth they consume. It is to be used for observance of austerity with noble spiritual ends. By such austerity the mind becomes pure, enabling one to attain to the
bliss of the Brahman.
The seekers that realize God without practising any spiritual discipline are called the Nityasiddha – the eternally perfect. Those who realize God through austerity, japam and the like are called the Sadhanasiddha – the perfect through spiritual discipline.
The practice of mortification does not necessarily lead to a virtuous life. The mortified may practise all the cardinal virtues such as prudence, fortitude, temperance and chastity and yet remain a thoroughly bad man. This is for the reason that his virtues are accompanied by, and connected with, the sins of pride, envy, chronic anger and un-charitableness assuming the proportion of active cruelty. Mistaking the means for the end, the puritan fancies himself holy because he is austere. But austerity is just the exaltation of the ego of the individual. Holiness, on the other hand, is the total denial of the separative self and abandonment of the will to God. To the extent that there is attachment to ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’, there is no attachment to God and only affirmation of self. Austerity coupled with holiness is what attains the Brahman.
3. The association with holy ones is the door for entrance to the realm of liberation. And the entrance to hell (spiritual degradation) consists in association with worldly-minded men who are intensely attached to women. Holy men are those who are even-minded, tranquil, peaceful, unperturbed, friendly to all, and endowed with all good qualities.
One is to free oneself from likes and dislikes, and to engage oneself in righteous self-effort to reach the supreme Truth. Self-effort is that which springs from right understanding of the scriptures and the teachings of holy persons.
The samskaras (tendencies, impressions) brought forward from the previous lives are of two kinds. The pure ones lead one to liberation and the impure ones keep one in bondage. One is pure consciousness oneself, not inert physical matter. One is not impelled to action by anything other than oneself. It is open to one to strengthen the pure latent tendencies in preference to the impure ones. That is the reason why the holy men advise that one shall tread consciously the path that leads to the eternal good. The wise seeker knows that the fruit of his endeavour is always commensurate with the intensity of his self-effort. Fate or destiny or god does not ordain it otherwise. The seeker is, therefore, to endeavour for his true good – his salvation by a keen and intelligent study of the scriptures, by having the company of the holy ones and by right self-effort.
4. Or, holy men are those who consider the intense attraction they have for Me as their noblest attainment in life, who have no attachment to worldly-minded people, wife, children, properties, etc, and who are satisfied with such requirements as are enough to live on.When there is non-attachment to family, property, worldly minded people, etc, the will turns away from the normal life. Man attains to the state of voluntary renunciation, resignation, true indifference and perfect willessness. The phenomenon by which this change is marked is the transition from virtue to asceticism.Voluntary and complete chastity or the denial of the will to live is the first step in asceticism. Second, it shows itself in voluntary and intentional poverty. It arises either as possessions are given away to mitigate the sufferings of others, or it is an end in itself as a constant mortification of wills itself, its visible form, its objectivity and the body. He nourishes the body sparingly lest it excite more strongly the will to seek expression in the worldly possessions. He is absorbed in the inward, direct, intuitive knowledge from which alone all virtue and holiness arise and which is expressed in precisely the same way in the conduct of life. Intuitively every man is conscious of all philosophical truths. Only the ascetic realizes and lives the truths.
5. Whoever struggles to satisfy the senses is bound to be morally and spiritually lethargic and bound to do many evil deeds. I find no meaning in men doing again and again the very kind of karma which has brought into existence this body which, besides being short-lived and ephemeral, is the cause of all suffering. The repetition of the karma is bound to result in new embodiments in a series, and more suffering.
Samsara is a series of lives with birth and death with no enlightenment. In ignorance, man binds himself to family and friends, to wealth and possessions and to pleasures associated with body. He gets involved in the cycle of samsara with no effort at redemption. He makes no effort to realize the ultimate Truth or the Reality. He lives the life of a beast, caring for satisfaction of the physical senses and appetites.
If a seeker is intent to overcome the series of lives, he is to associate with realized souls to know the way to overcoming samsara. The enlightened persons, having realized themselves, will be of help to the seeker in his effort.
6. As long as man does not make an earnest enquiry about the Spirit within, so long will he, out of ignorance, be debarring the dawn of spiritual consciousness in him. As long as he works for selfish attainments, so long will his mind be inclined only towards such actions (and not for spiritual enquiry). And for such body-centred men given to
selfish actions, embodiments are caused again and again.
There are three kinds of reality – the Supreme Spirit, the individual spirits and the material principle. There are three kinds of relationship – the relation of the Supreme Spirit to the individual spirits, the relations of the individual spirits to matter and the relation of matter to the Supreme Spirit. Each of the three terms is related to the other two. So each relationship has two directions.
One must practise discrimination to enquire the pros and cons of each issue and to choose the one that leads to God. For instance, ‘lust and greed’ is impermanent. God is the only Eternal Substance. Discrimination is the knowledge of what is real and what is unreal. It is the realization that God alone is the real and eternal Substance and all else is unreal, transitory and impermanent. One must cultivate intense zeal and love for God and be attracted to Him as the Gopis of Brindavan. The magician alone is real; his magic is illusory. This is discrimination. As long as the seeker does not practise enquiry and discrimination ultimately resulting in realization, so long does he continue to be in samsara – the repetition of birth and death.
7. When ignorance clouds the mind, it is enslaved by samskaras -the impressions of actions done earlier. As long as the mind does not develop attraction and love for Me, Vasudeva, so long release from embodiment does not arise.
The samskaras are creative and dynamic. They are of two kinds – cosmic and individual. The birth and the way one has been born, which is common to all individuals are due to cosmic samskaras. The samskaras, which are peculiar to one, are due to one’s own actions in one’s past births. For example, of two children born in a family, one may become a saint and the other a criminal. This is because of the personal samskaras of the individuals carried from their previous births.
Likewise, the new samskaras acquired during the present life may influence future activities in this life itself or in the next lives.