The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose Vana Parva, Part 2 online

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play when their foundation is laid in truth, and in the exercise of
virtue truth is of the highest value. Purity of conduct is the
characteristic of all good men. Those that are distinguished for holy
living are good and virtuous. All creatures follow the principles of
conduct which are innate in their nature. The sinful being who has no
control over self acquires lust, anger and other vices. It is the
immemorial rule that virtuous actions are those that are founded on
justice, and it is also ordained by holy men that all iniquitous conduct
is sin. Those who are not swayed by anger, pride, haughtiness and envy,
and those who are quiet and straight-forward, are men of virtuous
conduct. Those who are diligent in performing the rites enjoined in the
three _Vedas_, who are wise, and of pure and virtuous conduct, who
exercise self-restraint and are full of attention to their superior, are
men of virtuous conduct. The actions and conduct of such men of great
power, are very difficult of attainment. They are sanctified by the
purification of their own actions, and consequently sin in them dies out
of itself. This virtue of good conduct is wonderful, ancient, immutable
and eternal; and wise men observing this virtue with holiness, attain to
heaven. These men who believe in the existence of the Deity, who are
free from false pride, and versed in holy writ, and who respect
regenerate (twice-born) men, go to heaven. Among holy men, virtue is
differentiated in three ways - that great virtue which is inculcated in
the _Vedas_, the other which is inculcated in the _dharmashastras_ (the
minor scriptures), and virtuous conduct. And virtuous conduct is
indicated by acquisition of knowledge, pilgrimage to sacred places,
truthfulness, forbearance, purity and straight-forwardness. Virtuous men
are always kind to all creatures, and well-disposed towards regenerate
men. They abstain from doing injury to any creature, and are never rude
in speech. Those good men who know well the consequences of the fruition
of their good and evil deeds, are commended by virtuous men. Those who
are just and good-natured, and endowed with virtue, who wish well of all
creatures, who are steadfast in the path of virtue, and have conquered
heaven, who are charitable, unselfish and of unblemished character, who
succour the afflicted, and are learned and respected by all, who
practise austerities, and are kind to all creatures, are commended as
such by the virtuous. Those who are charitably disposed attain
prosperity in this world, as also the regions of bliss (hereafter). The
virtuous man when solicited for assistance by good men bestow alms on
them by straining to the utmost, even to the deprivation of the comforts
of his wife and servants. Good men having an eye to their own welfare,
as also virtue and the ways of the world, act in this way and thereby
grow in virtue through endless ages. Good persons possessing the virtues
of truthfulness, abstention from doing injury to any one, rectitude,
abstention from evil towards any one, want of haughtiness, modesty,
resignation, self-restraint, absence of passion, wisdom, patience, and
kindness towards all creatures, and freedom from malice and lust, are
the witnesses of the world. These three are said to constitute the
perfect way of the virtuous, viz., a man must not do wrong to any body,
he must bestow alms, and must always be truthful. Those high-souled good
men of virtuous conduct, and settled convictions, who are kind to all
and are full of compassion, depart with contentment from this world to
the perfect way of virtue. Freedom from malice, forbearance, peace of
mind, contentment, pleasant speech, renunciation of desire and anger,
virtuous conduct and actions regulated according to the ordinances of
holy writ, constitute the perfect way of the virtuous. And those who are
constant in virtue follow these rules of virtuous conduct, and having
reached the pinnacle of knowledge, and discriminating between the
various phases of human conduct, which are either very virtuous or the
reverse, they escape from the great danger. Thus, O great Brahmana,
having introduced the subject of virtuous conduct, have I described to
thee all this, according to my own knowledge and to what I have heard on
the subject."'"


"Markandeya continued, 'The pious fowler, O Yudhishthira, then said to
that Brahmana, "Undoubtedly my deeds are very cruel, but, O Brahmana,
Destiny is all-powerful and it is difficult to evade the consequence of
our past actions. And this is the _karmic evil_ arising out of sin
committed in a former life. But, O Brahmana, I am always assiduous in
eradicating the evil. The Deity takes away life, the executioner acts
only as a secondary agent. And we, O good Brahmana, are only such agents
in regard to our _karma_. Those animals that are slain by me and whose
meat I sell, also acquire _karma_, because (with their meat), gods and
guests and servants are regaled with dainty food and the _manes_ are
propitiated. It is said authoritatively that herbs and vegetables, deer,
birds and wild animals constitute the food of all creatures. And, O
Brahmana, king Sivi, the son of Usinara, of great forbearance attained
to heaven, which is hard to reach, giving away his own flesh. And in
days of yore, O Brahmana, two thousand animals used to be killed every
day in the kitchen of king Rantideva; and in the same manner two
thousand cows were killed every day; and, O best of regenerate beings,
king Rantideva acquired unrivalled reputation by distributing food with
meat every day. For the performance of the fourmonthly rites animals
ought to be sacrificed daily. 'The sacred fire is fond of animal food,'
this saying has come down to us. And at sacrifices animals are
invariably killed by regenerate Brahmanas, and these animals being
purged of sin, by incantation of hymns, go to heaven. If, O Brahmana,
the sacred fire had not been so fond of animal food in ancient times, it
could never have become the food of any one. And in this matter of
animal food, this rule has been laid down by _Munis_: - Whoever partakes
of animal food after having first offered it duly and respectfully to
the gods and the _manes_, is not polluted by the act. And such a man is
not at all considered to have partaken of animal food, even, as a
Brahmacharin having intercoursed with his wife during the menstrual
period, is nevertheless considered to be a good Brahmana. After
consideration of the propriety and impropriety of the matter, this rule
has been laid down. King Saudasa, O Brahmana, when under a curse, often
used to prey upon men; what is thy opinion of this matter? And, O good
Brahmana, knowing this to be the consequence of my own actions, I obtain
my livelihood from this profession. The forsaking of one's own
occupation is considered, O Brahmana, to be a sin, and the act of
sticking to one's own profession is without doubt a meritorious act. The
_Karma_ of a former existence never forsakes any creature. And in
determining the various consequences of one's _Karma_, this rule was not
lost sight of by the Creator. A person having his being under the
influence of evil _Karma_, must always consider how he can atone for his
_Karma_, and extricate himself from an evil doom, and the evil _Karma_
may be expiated in various ways. Accordingly, O good Brahmana, I am
charitable, truthful, assiduous in attending on my superior, full of
respect towards regenerate Brahmanas, devoted to and free from pride and
(idle) excessive talk. Agriculture is considered to be a praiseworthy
occupation, but it is well-known that even there, great harm is done to
animal life; and in the operation of digging the earth with the plough,
numberless creatures lurking in the ground as also various other forms
of animal life are destroyed. Dost thou not think so? O good Brahmana,
_Vrihi_ and other seeds of rice are all living organisms. What is thy
opinion on this matter? Men, O Brahmana, hunt wild animals and kill them
and partake of their meat; they also cut up trees and herbs; but, O
Brahmana, there are numberless living organisms in trees, in fruits, as
also in water; dost thou not think so? This whole creation, O Brahmana,
is full of animal life, sustaining itself with food derived from living
organisms. Dost thou not mark that fish preys upon fish, and that
various species of animals prey upon other species, and there are
species the members of which prey upon each other? Men, O Brahmana,
while walking about hither and thither, kill numberless creatures
lurking in the ground by trampling on them, and even men of wisdom and
enlightenment destroy animal life in various ways, even while sleeping
or reposing themselves. What hast thou to say to this? - The earth and
the air all swarm with living organisms, which are unconsciously
destroyed by men from mere ignorance. Is not this so? The commandment
that people should not do harm to any creature, was ordained of old by
men, who were ignorant of the true facts of the case. For, O Brahmana,
there is not a man on the face of this earth, who is free from the sin
of doing injury to creatures. After full consideration, the conclusion
is irresistible that there is not a single man who is free from the sin
of doing injury to animal life. Even the sage, O good Brahmana, whose
vow is to do harm to no creature, doth inflict injury to animal life.
Only, on account of greater needfulness, the harm is less. Men of noble
birth and great qualities perpetrate wicked acts in defiance of all, of
which they are not at all ashamed. Good men acting in an exemplary way
are not commended by other good men; nor are bad men acting in a
contrary way praised by their wicked compeers; and friends are not
agreeable to friends, albeit endowed with high qualities; and foolish
pedantic men cry down the virtues of their preceptors. This reversal of
the natural order of things, O good Brahmana, is seen everywhere in this
world. What is thy opinion as to the virtuousness or otherwise of this
state of things? There is much that can be said of the goodness or
badness of our actions. But whoever is addicted to his own proper
occupation surely acquires great reputation."'"


"Markandeya continued, 'O Yudhishthira, the virtuous fowler, eminent in
pity, then skilfully addressed himself again to that foremost of
Brahmanas, saying, "It is the dictum of the aged that the ways of
righteousness are subtle, diverse and infinite. When life is at stake
and in the matter of marriage, it is proper to tell an untruth. Untruth
sometimes leads to the triumph of truth, and the latter dwindles into
untruth. Whichever conduces most to the good of all creatures is
considered to be truth. Virtue is thus perverted; mark thou its subtle
ways. O best of virtuous men, man's actions are either good or bad, and
he undoubtedly reaps their fruits. The ignorant man having attained to
an abject state, grossly abuses the gods, not knowing that it is the
consequence of his own evil _karma_. The foolish, the designing and the
fickle, O good Brahmana, always attain the very reverse of happiness or
misery. Neither learning nor good morals, nor personal exertion can save
them. And if the fruits of our exertion were not dependent on anything
else, people would attain the object of their desire, by simply striving
to attain it. It is seen that able, intelligent and diligent persons are
baffled in their efforts, and do not attain the fruits of their actions.
On the other hand, persons who are always active in injuring others and
in practising deception on the world, lead a happy life. There are some
who attain prosperity without any exertion. And there are others, who
with the utmost exertion, are unable to achieve their dues. Miserly
persons with the object of having sons born to them worship the gods,
and practise severe austerities, and those sons having remained in the
womb for ten months at length turn out to be very infamous issue of
their race; and others begotten under the same auspices, decently pass
their lives in luxury with heaps of riches and grain accumulated by
their ancestors. The diseases from which men suffer, are undoubtedly the
result of their own _karma_. They then behave like small deer at the
hands of hunters, and they are racked with mental troubles. And, O
Brahmana, as hunters intercept the flight of their game, the progress of
those diseases is checked by able and skilful physicians with their
collections of drugs. And, thou best of the cherishers of religion, thou
hast observed that those who have it in their power to enjoy (the good
things of this earth), are prevented from doing so from the fact of
their suffering from chronic bowel-complaints, and that many others that
are strong and powerful, suffer from misery, and are enabled with great
difficulty to obtain a livelihood; and that every man is thus helpless,
overcome by misery and illusion, and again and again tossed and
overpowered by the powerful current of his own actions (_karma_). If
there were absolute freedom of action, no creature would die, none would
be subject to decay, or await his evil doom, and everybody would attain
the object of his desire. All persons desire to out distance their
neighbours (in the race of life), and they strive to do so to the utmost
of their power; but the result turns out otherwise. Many are the persons
born under the influence of the same star and the same auspices of good
luck; but a great diversity is observable in the maturity of their
actions. No person, O good Brahmana, can be the dispenser of his own
lot. The actions done in a previous existence are seen to fructify in
our present life. It is the immemorial tradition that the soul is
eternal and everlasting, but the corporeal frame of all creatures is
subject to destruction here (below). When therefore life is
extinguished, the body only is destroyed, but the spirit, wedded to its
actions, travels elsewhere."

"'The Brahmana replied, "O best of those versed in the doctrine of
_karma_, and in the delivery of discourses, I long to know accurately
how the soul becomes eternal." The fowler replied, "The spirit dies not,
there being simply a change of tenement. They are mistaken, who
foolishly say that all creatures die. The soul betakes itself to another
frame, and its change of habitation is called its death. In the world of
men, no man reaps the consequences of another man's _karma_. Whatever
one does, he is sure to reap the consequences thereof; for the
consequences of the _karma_ that is once done, can never be obviated.
The virtuous become endowed with great virtues, and sinful men become
the perpetrators of wicked deeds. Men's actions follow them; and
influenced by these, they are born again." The Brahmana enquired, "Why
does the spirit take its birth, and why does its nativity become sinful
or virtuous, and how, O good man, does it come to belong to a sinful or
virtuous race?" The fowler replied, "This mystery seems to belong to the
subject of procreation, but I shall briefly describe to you, O good
Brahmana, how the spirit is born again with its accumulated load of
_karma_, the righteous in a virtuous, and the wicked in a sinful
nativity. By the performance of virtuous actions it attains to the state
of the gods, and by a combination of good and evil, it acquires the
human state; by indulgence in sensuality and similar demoralising
practices it is born in the lower species of animals, and by sinful
acts, it goes to the infernal regions. Afflicted with the miseries of
birth and dotage, man is fated to rot here below from the evil
consequences of his own actions. Passing through thousands of births as
also the infernal regions, our spirits wander about, secured by the
fetters of their own _karma_. Animate beings become miserable in the
next world on account of these actions done by themselves and from the
reaction of those miseries, they assume lower births and then they
accumulate a new series of actions, and they consequently suffer misery
over again, like sickly men partaking of unwholesome food; and although
they are thus afflicted, they consider themselves to be happy and at
ease and consequently their fetters are not loosened and new _karma_
arises; and suffering from diverse miseries they turn about in this
world like a wheel. If casting off their fetters they purify themselves
by their actions and practise austerities and religious meditations,
then, O best of Brahmanas, they attain the Elysian regions by these
numerous acts and by casting off their fetters and by the purification
of _karma_, men attain those blissful regions where misery is unknown to
those who go there. The sinful man who is addicted to vices, never comes
to the end of his course of iniquities. Therefore must we strive to do
what is virtuous and forbear from doing what is unrighteous. Whoever
with a heart full of gratefulness and free from malice strives to do
what is good, attains wealth, virtue, happiness and heaven (hereafter).
Those who are purified of sins, wise, forbearing, constant in
righteousness, and self-restrained enjoy continuous felicity in this as
well as in the next world. Man must follow the standard of virtue of the
good and in his acts imitate the example of the righteous. There are
virtuous men, versed in holy writ and learned in all departments of
knowledge. Man's proper duty consists in following his own proper
avocation, and this being the case these latter do not become confused
and mixed up. The wise man delights in virtue and lives by
righteousness. And, O good Brahmana, such a man with the wealth of
righteousness which he hereby acquires, waters the root of the plant in
which he finds most virtue. The virtuous man acts thus and his mind is
calmed. He is pleased with his friends in this world and he also attains
happiness hereafter. Virtuous people, O good man, acquire dominion over
all and the pleasure of beauty, flavour, sound and touch according to
their desire. These are known to be the rewards of virtue. But the man
of enlightened vision, O great Brahmana, is not satisfied with reaping
the fruits of righteousness. Not content with that, he with the light of
spiritual wisdom that is in him, becomes indifferent to pain and
pleasure and the vice of the world influenceth him not. Of his own free
will he becometh indifferent to worldly pursuits but he forsaketh not
virtue. Observing that everything worldly is evanescent, he trieth to
renounce everything and counting on more chance he deviseth means for
the attainment of salvation. Thus doth he renounce the pursuits of the
world, shunneth the ways of sin, becometh virtuous and at last attaineth
salvation. Spiritual wisdom is the prime requisite of men for salvation,
resignation and forbearance are its roots. By this means he attaineth
all the objects of this desire. But subduing the senses and by means of
truthfulness and forbearance, he attaineth, O good Brahmana, the supreme
asylum of _Brahma_." The Brahmana again enquired, "O thou most eminent
in virtue and constant in the performance of the religious obligations,
you talk of senses; what are they; how may they be subdued; and what is
the good of subduing them; and how doth a creature reap the fruits
thereof? O pious man, I beg to acquaint myself with the truth of this


"Markandeya continued, 'Hear, O king Yudhishthira what the virtuous
fowler, thus interrogated by that Brahmana, said to him in reply. The
fowler said, "Men's minds are at first bent on the acquisition of
knowledge. That acquired, O good Brahmana, they indulge in their
passions and desires, and for that end, they labour and set about tasks
of great magnitude and indulge in much-desired pleasures of beauty,
flavour, &c. Then follows fondness, then envy, then avarice and then
extinction of all spiritual light. And when men are thus influenced by
avarice, and overcome by envy and fondness, their intellect ceases to be
guided by righteousness and they practise the very mockery of virtue.
Practising virtue with hypocrisy, they are content to acquire wealth by
dishonourable means with the wealth thus acquired the intelligent
principle in them becomes enamoured of those evil ways, and they are
filled with a desire to commit sins. And when, O good Brahmana, their
friends and men of wisdom remonstrate with them, they are ready with
specious answers, which are neither sound nor convincing. From their
being addicted to evil ways, they are guilty of a threefold sin. They
commit sin in thought, in word, as also in action. They being addicted
to wicked ways, all their good qualities die out, and these men of
wicked deeds cultivate the friendship of men of similar character, and
consequently they suffer misery in this world as well as in the next.
The sinful man is of this nature, and now hear of the man of virtue. He
discerns these evils by means of his spiritual insight, and is able to
discriminate between happiness and misery, and is full of respectful
attention to men of virtue, and from practising virtues, his mind
becomes inclined to righteousness." The Brahmana replied, "Thou hast
given a true exposition of religion which none else is able to expound.
Thy spiritual power is great, and thou dost appear to me to be like a
great _Rishi_." The fowler replied, "The great Brahmanas are worshipped
with the same honours as our ancestors and they are always propitiated
with offerings of food before others. Wise men in this world do what is
pleasing to them, with all their heart. And I shall, O good Brahmana,
describe to thee what is pleasing to them, after having bowed down to
Brahmanas as a class. Do thou learn from me the Brahmanic philosophy.
This whole universe unconquerable everywhere and abounding in great
elements, is Brahma, and there is nothing higher than this. The earth,
air, water, fire and sky are the great elements. And form, odour, sound,
touch and taste are their characteristic properties. These latter too
have their properties which are also correlated to each other. And of
the three qualities, which are gradually characterised by each, in order
of priority is consciousness which is called the mind. The seventh is
intelligence and after that comes egoism; and then the five senses, then
the soul, then the moral qualities called _sattwa, rajas_ and _tamas_.
These seventeen are said to be the unknown or incomprehensible
qualities. I have described all this to thee, what else dost thou wish
to know?"'"


"Markandeya continued, 'O Bharata, the Brahmana, thus interrogated by
the virtuous fowler, resumed again this discourse so pleasing to the
mind. The Brahmana said, "O best of the cherishers of religion, it is
said that there are five great elements; do thou describe to me in full
the properties of any one of the five." The fowler replied, "The earth,
water, fire, air and sky all have properties interlapping each other. I
shall describe them to thee. The earth, O Brahmana, has five qualities,
water four, fire three and the air and sky together three also. Sound,
touch, form, odour and taste - these five qualities belong to earth, and
sound, touch, form and taste, O austere Brahmana, have been described to
thee as the properties of water, and sound, touch and form are the three
properties of fire and air has two properties sound and touch, and sound
is the property of sky. And, O Brahmana, these fifteen properties
inherent in five elements, exist in all substances of which this
universe is composed. And they are not opposed to one another; they
exist, O Brahmana, in proper combination. When this whole universe is
thrown into a state of confusion, then every corporeal being in the
fulness of time, assumes another _corpus_. It arises and perishes in due
order. And there are present the five elementary substances of which all
the mobile and immobile world is composed. Whatever is perceptible by
the senses, is called _vyakta_ (knowable or comprehensible) and whatever
is beyond the reach of the senses and can only be perceived by guesses,
is known to be _avyakta_ (not _vyakta_). When a person engages in the
discipline of self-examination, after having subdued the senses which
have of their own proper objective play in the external conditions of
sound, form, &c, then he beholds his own spirit pervading the universe,
and the universe reflected in itself. He who is wedded to his previous
_karma_, although skilled in the highest spiritual wisdom, is cognisant
only of his soul's objective existence, but the person whose soul is
never affected by the objective conditions around, is never subject to

Online LibraryUnknownThe Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose Vana Parva, Part 2 → online text (page 18 of 42)