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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA

SECTION XC
(Sambhava Parva continued)

“Ashtaka said, ‘Capable of assuming any form at will, thou hast lived for a million years in the gardens of Nandana. For what cause, O foremost of those that flourished in the Krita age, hast thou been compelled to leave that region and come hither?’ Yayati answered, ‘As kinsmen, friends, and relatives forsake, in this world, those whose wealth disappears so, in the other world, the celestials with Indra as their chief, forsake him who hath lost his righteousness.’ Ashtaka said, ‘I am extremely anxious to know how in the other world men can lose virtue. Tell me also, O king, what regions are attainable by what courses of action. Thou art acquainted, I know, with the acts and sayings of great beings.”

“Yayati answered, ‘O pious one, they that speak of their own merits are doomed to suffer the hell called Bhauma. Though really emaciated and lean, they appear to grow on Earth (in the shape of their sons and grandsons) only to become food for vultures, dogs, and jackals. Therefore, O king, this highly censurable and wicked vice should be repressed. I have now, O king, told thee all. Tell me what more I shall say.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘When life is destroyed with age, vultures, peacocks, insects, and worms eat up the human body. Where doth man then reside? How doth he also come back to life? I have never heard of any hell called Bhauma on Earth!’

“Yayati answered, ‘After the dissolution of the body, man, according to his acts, re-entereth the womb of his mother and stayeth there in an indistinct form, and soon after assuming a distinct and visible shape reappeareth in the world and walketh on its surface. This is that Earth-hell (Bhauma) where he falleth, for he beholdeth not the termination of his existence and acteth not towards his emancipation. Some dwell for sixty thousand years, some, for eighty-thousand years in heaven, and then they fall. And as they fall, they are attacked by certain Rakshasas in the form of sons, grandsons, and other relatives, that withdraw their hearts from acting for their own emancipation.’

“Ashtaka asked, ‘For what sin are beings, when they fall from heaven, attacked by these fierce and sharp-toothed Rakshasas? Why are they not reduced to annihilation? How do they again enter the womb, furnished with senses?’

“Yayati answered, ‘After falling from heaven, the being becometh a subtile substance living in water. This water becometh the semen whence is the seed of vitality. Thence entering the mother’s womb in the womanly season, it developeth into the embryo and next into visible life like the fruit from the flower. Entering trees, plants, and other vegetable substances, water, air, earth, and space, that same watery seed of life assumeth the quadrupedal or bipedal form. This is the case with all creatures that you see.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘O tell me, I ask thee because I have my doubts. Doth a being that hath received a human form enter the womb in its own shape or in some other? How doth it also acquire its distinct and visible shape, eyes and ears and consciousness as well? Questioned by me, O, explain it all! Thou art, O father, one acquainted with the acts and sayings of great beings.’ Yayati answered, ‘According to the merits of one’s acts, the being that in a subtile form co-inheres in the seed that is dropped into the womb is attracted by the atmospheric force for purposes of re-birth. It then developeth there in course of time; first it becomes the embryo, and is next provided with the visible physical organism. Coming out of the womb in due course of time, it becometh conscious of its existence as man, and with his ears becometh sensible of sound; with his eyes, of colour and form; with his nose, of scent; with his tongue, of taste; by his whole body, of touch; and by his mind, of ideas. It is thus, O Ashtaka, that the gross and visible body developeth from the subtile essence.’

“Ashtaka asked, ‘After death, the body is burnt, or otherwise destroyed. Reduced to nothing upon such dissolution, by what principle is one revived?’ Yayati said, ‘O lion among kings, the person that dies assumes a subtil form; and retaining consciousness of all his acts as in a dream, he enters some other form with a speed quicker than that of air itself. The virtuous attain to a superior, and the vicious to an inferior form of existence. The vicious become worms and insects. I have nothing more to say, O thou of great and pure soul! I have told thee how beings are born, after development of embryonic forms, as four-footed, six-footed creatures and others with more feet. What more wilt thou ask me?’

“Ashtaka said, ‘How, O father, do men attain to those superior regions whence there is no return to earthly life? Is it by asceticism or by knowledge? How also can one gradually attain to felicitous regions? Asked by me, O answer it in full.’

“Yayati answered, ‘The wise say that for men there are seven gates through which admission may be gained into Heaven. There are asceticism, benevolence, tranquillity of mind, self-command, modesty, simplicity, and kindness to all creatures. The wise also say that a person loseth all these in consequence of vanity. That man who having acquired knowledge regardeth himself as learned, and with his learning destroyed the reputation of others, never attaineth to regions of indestructible felicity. That knowledge also doth not make its possessor competent to attain to Brahma. Study, taciturnity, worship before fire, and sacrifices, these four remove all fear. When, however, these are mixed with vanity, instead of removing it, they cause fear. The wise should never exult at (receiving) honours nor should they grieve at insults. For it is the wise alone that honour the wise; the wicked never act like the virtuous. I have given away so much–I have performed so many sacrifices,–I have studied so much,–I have observed these vows,–such vanity is the root of fear. Therefore, thou must not indulge in such feelings. Those learned men who accept as their support the unchangeable, inconceivable Brahma alone that ever showereth blessings on persons virtuous like thee, enjoy perfect peace here and hereafter.’”

SECTION XCI
(Sambhava Parva continued)

“Ashtaka said, ‘Those cognisant of the Vedas differ in opinion as to how the followers of each of the four modes of life, viz., Grihasthas, Bhikshus, Brahmacharins, and Vanaprashthas, should conduct themselves in order to acquire religious merit.”

“Yayati answered, ‘These are what a Brahmacharin must do. While dwelling in the abode of his preceptor, he must receive lessons only when his preceptor summons him to do so; he must attend to the service of his preceptor without waiting for the latter’s command; he must rise from his bed before his preceptor riseth, and go to bed after his preceptor hath gone to bed. He must be humble, must have his passions under complete control, must be patient, vigilant, and devoted to studies. It is then only that he can achieve success. It hath been said in the oldest Upanishad that a grihastha, acquiring wealth by honest means, should perform sacrifices; he should always give something in charity, should perform the rites of hospitality unto all arriving at his abode, and should never use anything without giving a portion thereof to others.

A Muni, without search for woods, depending on his own vigour, should abstain from all vicious acts, should give away something in charity, should never inflict pain on any creature. It is then only that he can achieve success. He, indeed, is a true Bhikshu who doth not support himself by any manual arts, who possesseth numerous accomplishments, who hath his passions under complete control, who is unconnected with worldly concerns, who sleepeth not under the shelter of a householder’s roof, who is without wife, and who going a little way every day, travelleth over a large extent of the country. A learned man should adopt the Vanaprastha mode of life after performance of the necessary rites, when he hath been able to control his appetites for enjoyment and desire of acquiring valuable possessions. When one dieth in the woods while leading the Vanaprastha mode of life, he maketh his ancestors and the successors, numbering ten generations including himself, mix with the Divine essence.’

“Ashtaka asked, ‘How many kinds of Munis are there (observers of the vow of the silence)?’

“Yayati answered, ‘He is, indeed, a Muni who, though dwelling in the woods, hath an inhabited place near, or who, though dwelling in an inhabited place, hath the woods near.’

“Ashtaka enquired what is meant by Muni.’ Yayati replied, ‘A Muni withdrawing himself from all worldly objects liveth in the woods. And though he might never seek to surround himself with those objects that are procurable in an inhabited place, he might yet obtain them all by virtue of his ascetic power. He may truly be said to dwell in the woods having an inhabited place near to himself. Again a wise man withdrawn from all earthly objects, might live in a hamlet leading the life of a hermit. He may never exhibit the pride of family, birth or learning. Clad in the scantiest robes, he may yet regard himself as attired in the richest vestments. He may rest content with food just enough for the support of life. Such a person, though dwelling in an inhabited place, liveth yet in the woods.

“The person again, who, with passions under complete control, adopteth the vow of silence, refraining from action and entertaining no desire, achieveth success. Why shouldst thou not, indeed, reverence the man who liveth on clean food, who refraineth from ever injuring others, whose heart is ever pure, who stands in the splendour of ascetic attributes, who is free from the leaden weight of desire, who abstaineth from injury even when sanctioned by religion? Emaciated by austerities and reduced in flesh, marrow and blood, such a one conquereth not only this but the highest world. And when the Muni sits in yoga meditation, becoming indifferent to happiness and misery, honour and insult, he then leaveth the world and enjoyeth communion with Brahma. When the Muni taketh food like wine and other animals, i. e., without providing for it beforehand and without any relish (like a sleeping infant feeding on the mother’s lap), then like the all-pervading spirit he becometh identified with the whole universe and attaineth to salvation.’”

SECTION XCII
(Sambhava Parva continued)

“Ashtaka asked, ‘Who amongst these, O king, both exerting constantly like the Sun and the Moon, first attaineth to communion with Brahma, the ascetic or the man of knowledge?’

“Yayati answered, ‘The wise, with the help of the Vedas and of Knowledge, having ascertained the visible universe to be illusory, instantly realises the Supreme Spirit as the sole existent independent essence. While they that devote themselves to Yoga meditation take time to acquire the same knowledge, for it is by practice alone that these latter divest themselves of the consciousness of quality. Hence the wise attain to salvation first. Then again if the person devoted to Yoga find not sufficient time in one life to attain success, being led astray by the attractions of the world, in his next life he is benefited by the progress already achieved, for he devoteth himself regretfully to the pursuit of success. But the man of knowledge ever beholdeth the indestructible unity, and, is, therefore, though steeped in worldly enjoyments, never affected by them at heart. Therefore, there is nothing to impede his salvation. He, however, who faileth to attain to knowledge, should yet devote himself to piety as dependent on action (sacrifices &c.). But he that devoteth himself to such piety, moved thereto by desire of salvation, can never achieve success. His sacrifices bear no fruit and partake of the nature of cruelty. Piety which is dependent on action that proceedeth not from the desire of fruit, is, in case of such men Yoga itself.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘O king, thou lookest like a young man; thou art handsome and decked with a celestial garland. Thy splendour is great! Whence dost thou come and where dost thou go? Whose messenger art thou? Art thou going down into the Earth?’


“Yayati said, ‘Fallen from heaven upon the loss of all my religious merits, I am doomed to enter the Earth-hell. Indeed, I shall go there after I have finished my discourse with you. Even now the regents of the points of the universe command me to hasten thither. And, O king, I have obtained it as a boon from Indra that though fall I must upon the earth, yet I should fall amidst the wise and the virtuous. Ye are all wise and virtuous that are assembled here.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘Thou art acquainted with everything. I ask thee, O king, are there any regions for myself to enjoy in heaven or in the firmament? If there be, then, thou shalt not fall, though falling.’

“Yayati answered, ‘O king, there are as many regions for thee to enjoy in heaven even as the number of kine and horses on Earth with the animals in the wilderness and on the hills.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘If there are worlds for me to enjoy, as fruits of my religious merits, in heaven, O king, I give them all unto thee. Therefore, though falling, thou shalt not fall. O, take thou soon all those, wherever they be, in heaven or in the firmament. Let thy sorrow cease.’

“Yayati answered, ‘O best of kings, a Brahma-knowing Brahmana alone can take in gift, but not one like ourselves. And, O monarch, I myself have given away to Brahmanas as one should. Let no man who, is not a Brahmana and let not the wife of a learned Brahmana ever live in infamy by accepting gifts. While on earth, I ever desired to perform virtuous acts. Having never done so before, how shall I now accept a gift?’

“Pratardana who was amongst them asked, ‘O thou of the handsomest form, I am Pratardana by name. I ask thee if there are any worlds for me to enjoy as fruits of my religious merits, in heaven or the firmament? Answer me, thou art acquainted with everything.’

“Yayati said, ‘O king, numberless worlds, full of felicity, effulgent like the solar disc, and where woe can never dwell, await thee. If thou dwellest in each but for seven days, they would not yet be exhausted.’

“Pratardana said, ‘These then I give unto thee. Therefore, though falling, thou must not fall. Let the worlds that are mine be thine, whether they be in the firmament or heaven. O, soon take them. Let thy woes cease.’

“Yayati answered, ‘O monarch, no king of equal energy should ever desire to receive as gift the religious merits of another king acquired by Yoga austerities. And no king who is afflicted with calamity through the fates should, if wise, act in a censurable way. A king keeping his eye fixed for ever on virtue should walk along the path of virtue like myself and, knowing what his duties are, should not act so meanly as thou directest. When others desirous of acquiring religious merits do not accept gifts, how can I do what they themselves do not? On the conclusion of this speech, that best of kings, Yayati, was then addressed by Vasumat in the following words.’”

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