Mahabharata Vana Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CCXII

"The Brahmana enquired, 'How is it that fire (vital force) in combination with the earthly element (matter), becomes the corporeal tenement (of living creatures), and how doth the vital air (the breath of life) according to the nature of its seat (the muscles and nerves) excite to action (the corporeal frame)?' Markandeya said, 'This question, O Yudhishthira, having been put to the Brahmana by the fowler, the latter, in reply, said to that high-minded Brahmana. (The fowler said):--The vital spirit manifesting itself in the seat of consciousness, causes the action of the corporeal frame. And the soul being present in both of them acts (through them). The past, the present and the future are inseparably associated with the soul. And it is the highest of a creature's possessions; it is of the essence of the Supreme Spirit and we adore it. It is the animating principle of all creatures, and it is the eternal purusha (spirit). It is great and it is the intelligence and the ego, and it is the subjective seat of the various properties of elements. Thus while seated here (in a corporeal frame) it is sustained in all its relations external or internal (to matter or mind) by the subtle ethereal air called prana, and thereafter, each creature goes its own way by the action of another subtle air called Samana. And this latter transforming itself into Apana air, and supported by the head of the stomach carries the refuse matter of the body, urine &c, to the kidneys and intestines. That same air is present in the three elements of effort, exertion and power, and in that condition it is called Udana air by persons learned in physical science, and when manifesting itself by its presence at all the junctional points of the human system, it is known by the name Vyana. And the internal heat is diffused over all the tissues of our system, and supported by these kinds of air, it transforms our food and the tissues and the humours of our system. And by the coalition of Prana and other airs, a reaction (combination) ensues, and the heat generated thereby is known as the internal heat of the human system which causes the digestion of our food. The Prana and the Apana air are interposed within the Samana and the Udana air. And the heat generated by their coalition causes the growth of the body (consisting of the seven substances, bones, muscles, &c). And that portion of its seat extending to as far as the rectum is called Apana; and from that arteries arise in the five airs Prana, &c. The Prana air, acted on by the heat strikes against the extremity of the Apana region and then recoiling, it reacts on the heat. Above the navel is the region of undigested food and below it the region of digestion. And the Prana and all other airs of the system are seated in the navel. The arteries issuing from the heart run upwards and downwards, as also in oblique directions; they carry the best essence of our food, and are acted upon by the ten Prana airs. This is the way by which patient Yogins who have overcome all difficulties, and who view things with an impartial and equal eye, with their souls seated in the brain, find the Supreme Spirit, the Prana and the Apana airs are thus present in the body of all creatures. Know that the spirit is embodied in corporeal disguise, in the eleven allotropous conditions (of the animal system), and that though eternal, its normal state is apparently modified by its accompaniments,--even like the fire purified in its pan,--eternal, yet with its course altered by its surroundings; and that the divine thing which is kindred with the body is related to the latter in the same way as a drop of water to the sleek surface of a lotus-leaf on which it rolls. Know that sattwa, rajas and tamas, are the attributes of all life and that life is the attribute of spirit, and that the latter again is an attribute of the Supreme Spirit. Inert, insensible matter is the seat of the living principle, which is active in itself and induces activity in others. That thing by which the seven worlds are incited to action is called the most high by men of high spiritual insight. Thus in all these elements, the eternal spirit does not show itself, but is perceived by the learned in spiritual science by reason of their high and keen perception. A pure-minded person, by purification of his heart, is able to destroy the good and evil effect of his actions and attains eternal beatitude by the enlightenment of his inward spirit. That state of peace and purification of heart is likened to the state of a person who in a cheerful state of mind sleeps soundly, or the brilliance of a lamp trimmed by a skillful hand. Such a pure-minded person living on spare diet perceives the Supreme Spirit reflected in his own, and by practising concentration of mind in the evening and small hours of the night, he beholds the Supreme Spirit which has no attributes, in the light of his heart, shining like a dazzling lamp, and thus he attains salvation. Avarice and anger must be subdued by all means, for this act constitutes the most sacred virtue that people can practise and is considered to be the means by which men can cross over to the other side of this sea of affliction and trouble. A man must preserve his righteousness from being overcome by the evil consequences of anger, his virtues from the effects of pride, his learning from the effects of vanity, and his own spirit from illusion. Leniency is the best of virtues, and forbearance is the best of powers, the knowledge of our spiritual nature is the best of all knowledge, and truthfulness is the best of all religious obligations. The telling of truth is good, and the knowledge of truth may also be good, but what conduces to the greatest good of all creatures, is known as the highest truth. He whose actions are performed not with the object of securing any reward or blessing, who has sacrificed all to the requirements of his renunciation, is a real Sannyasin and is really wise. And as communion with Brahma cannot be taught to us, even by our spiritual preceptor,--he only giving us a clue to the mystery--renunciation of the material world is called Yoga. We must not do harm to any creature and must live in terms of amity with all, and in this our present existence, we must not avenge ourselves on any creature. Self-abnegation, peace of mind, renunciation of hope, and equanimity,--these are the ways by which spiritual enlightenment can always be secured; and the knowledge of self (one's own spiritual nature) is the best of all knowledge. In this world as well as hereafter, renouncing all worldly desires and assuming a stoic indifference, wherein all suffering is at rest, people should fulfil their religious duties with the aid of their intelligence. The muni who desires to obtain moksha (salvation), which is very difficult to attain, must be constant in austerities, forbearing, self-restrained, and must give up that longing fondness which binds him to the things of this earth. They call these the attributes of the Supreme Spirit. The gunas (qualities or attributes) that we are conscious of, reduce themselves to agunas (non-gunas) in Him; He is not bound by anything, and is perceptible only by the expansion and development of our spiritual vision; as soon as the illusion of ignorance is dispelled, this supreme unalloyed beatitude is attained. By foregoing the objects of both pleasure and pain and by renouncing the feelings which bind him to the things of this earth, a man may attain Brahma (Supreme Spirit or salvation). O good Brahmana, I have now briefly explained to thee all this, as I have heard. What else dost thou wish to know?"