Mahabharata Vana Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CCIX

"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?'"