Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CLXVII

"Vaisampayana said, 'When Bhishma, after having said this, became silent, Yudhishthira (and the others) returned home. The king addressing his brothers with Vidura forming the fifth, said, 'The course of the world rests upon Virtue, Wealth, and Desire. Amongst these three, which is the foremost, which the second, and which the last, in point of importance? For subduing the triple aggregate (viz., lust, wrath, and covetousness), upon which of the first three (viz., Virtue, Wealth, and Desire) should the mind be fixed? It behoveth you all to cheerfully answer this question in words that are true.' Thus addressed by the Kuru chief, Vidura, who was conversant with the science of Profit, with the course of the world, and with truth (that concerns the real nature of things), and possessed of great brilliancy of intellect, spoke first these words, recollecting the contents of the scriptures.'

"Vidura said, 'Study of the various scriptures, asceticism, gift, faith, performance of sacrifices, forgiveness, sincerity of disposition, compassion, truth, self-restraint, these constitute possessions of Virtue. Do thou adopt Virtue. Let not thy heart ever turn away from it. Both Virtue and Profit have their roots in these. I think that all these are capable of being included in one term. It is by Virtue that the Rishis have crossed (the world with all its difficulties). It is upon Virtue, that all the worlds depend (for their existence). It is by Virtue that the gods attained to their position of superiority. It is upon Virtue that Profit or Wealth rests. Virtue, O king, is foremost in point of merit. Profit is said to be middling. Desire, it is said by the wise, is the lowest of the three. For this reason, one should live with restrained soul, giving his attention to Virtue most. One should also behave towards all creatures as he should towards himself.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'After Vidura had finished what he had to say, Pritha's son Arjuna, well skilled in the science of Profit, and conversant also with the truths of both Virtue and Profit, urged on (by the drift of Yudhishthira's question), said these words.'

"Arjuna said, 'This world, O king, is the field of action. Action, therefore, is applauded here. Agriculture, trade, keep of cattle, and diverse kinds of arts, constitute what is called Profit. Profit, again, is the end of all such acts. Without Profit or Wealth, both Virtue and (the objects of) Desire cannot be won. This is the declaration of the Sruti. Even persons of uncleansed souls, if possessed of diverse kinds of Wealth, are able to perform the highest acts of virtue and gratify desires that are apparently difficult of being gratified. Virtue and Desire are the limbs of Wealth as the Sruti declares. With the acquisition of Wealth, both Virtue and the objects of Desire may be won. Like all creatures worshipping Brahman, even persons of superior birth worship a man possessed of Wealth. Even they that are attired in deer-skins and bear matted locks on their heads, that are self-rest rained, that smear their bodies with mire, that have their senses under complete control, even they that have bald heads and that are devoted Brahmacharins, and that live separated from one another, cherish a desire for Wealth. Others attired in yellow robes, bearing long beards, graced with modesty, possessed of learning, contented, and freed from all attachments, become desirous of Wealth. Others, following the practices of their ancestors, and observant of their respective duties, and others desirous of heaven, do the same. Believers and unbelievers and those that are rigid practisers of the highest Yoga--all certify to the excellence of Wealth.  He is said to be truly possessed of Wealth who cherishes his dependants with

objects of enjoyment, and afflicts his foes with punishments. Even this O foremost of intelligent men, is truly my opinion. Listen, however, now to these two (viz., Nakula and Sahadeva) who are about to speak.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'After Arjuna had ceased, the two sons of Madri, viz., Nakula and Sahadeva, said these words of high import.'

"Nakula and Sahadeva said, 'Sitting or lying, walking and standing, one should strive after the acquisition of Wealth even by the most vigorous of means. If Wealth, which is difficult of acquisition and highly agreeable, be earned, the person that has earned it, without doubt, is seen to obtain all the objects of Desire. That Wealth which is connected with Virtue, as also that Virtue which is connected with Wealth, is certainly like nectar.  For this reason, our opinions are as follows. A person without wealth cannot gratify any desire; similarly, there can be no Wealth in one that is destitute of Virtue. He, therefore, who is outside the pale of both Virtue and Wealth, is an object of fear unto the world. For this reason, one should seek the acquisition of Wealth with a devoted mind, without disregarding the requirements of Virtue. They who believe in (the wisdom of) this saying succeed in acquiring whatever they desire. One should first practise Virtue; next acquire Wealth without sacrificing Virtue; and then seek the gratification of Desire, for this should be the last act of one who has been successful in acquiring Wealth.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'The twin sons of the Aswins, after having said these words, remained silent. Then Bhimasena began to say the following.'

"Bhimasena said, 'One without Desire never wishes for Wealth. One without Desire never wishes for Virtue. One who is destitute of Desire can never feel any wish. For this reason, Desire is the foremost of all the three. It is under the influence of Desire that the very Rishis devote themselves to penances subsisting upon fruits, of living upon roots or air only. Others possessed of Vedic lore are engaged upon the Vedas and their branches or upon rites of faith and sacrificial acts, or upon making gifts or accepting them. Traders, agriculturists, keepers of cattle, artists and artisans, and those who are employed in rites of propitiation, all act from Desire. Some there are that dive unto the depths of the ocean, induced by Desire. Desire, indeed, takes various forms. Everything is pervaded by the principle of Desire. A man outside the pale of Desire never is, was, or will be, seen in this world. This, O king, is the truth. Both Virtue and Wealth are based upon Desire. As butter represents the essence of curds, even so is Desire the essence of Profit and Virtue. Oil is better than oil-seeds. Ghee is better than sour milk. Flowers and fruits are better than wood. Similarly, Desire is better than Virtue and Profit. As honeyed juice is extracted from flowers, so is Desire said to be extracted from these two. Desire is the parent of Virtue and Profit. Desire is the soul of these two. Without Desire the Brahmanas would never give either sweets or wealth unto Brahmanas. Without Desire the diverse kinds of action that are seen in the world would never have been seen. For these reasons, Desire is seen to be the foremost of the triple aggregate. Approaching beautiful damsels attired

in excellent robes, adorned with every ornament, and exhilarated with sweet wines, do thou sport with them. Desire, O king, should be the foremost of the three with us. Reflecting upon the question to its very roots, I have come to this conclusion. Do not hesitate to accept this conclusion, O son of Dharma! These words of mine are not of hollow import. Fraught with righteousness as they are they will be acceptable to all good men. Virtue, Profit, and Desire should all be equally attended to. That man who devotes himself to only one of them is certainly not a superior person. He is said to be middling who devotes himself to only two of them. He, on the other hand, is the best of his species who attends to all the three. Having said these words in brief as also in detail, unto those heroes, Bhima possessed of wisdom, surrounded by friends, smeared with sandal-paste, and adorned with excellent garlands and ornaments, remained silent.  Then king Yudhishthira the just, that foremost of virtuous men, possessed of great learning, properly reflecting for a while upon the words spoken by all of them, and thinking all those speeches to be false philosophy, himself spoke as follows.'

"Yudhishthira said, 'Without doubt, all of you have settled conclusions in respect of the scriptures, and all of you are conversant with authorities. These words fraught with certainty that you have spoken have been heard by me. Listen now, with concentrated attention, to what I say unto you. He who is not employed in merit or in sin, he who does not attend to Profit, or Virtue, or Desire, who is above all faults, who regards gold and a brick-bat with equal eyes, becomes liberated from pleasure and pain and the necessity of accomplishing his purposes. All creatures are subject to birth and death. All are liable to waste and change. Awakened repeatedly by the diverse benefits and evils of life, all of them applaud Emancipation. We do not know, however, what Emancipation is. The self-born and divine Brahman has said that there is no Emancipation for him who is bound with ties of attachment and affection. They, however, that are possessed of learning seek Extinction. For this reason, one should never regard anything as either agreeable or disagreeable.  This view seems to be the best. No one in this world can act as he pleases. I act precisely as I am made (by a superior power) to act. The great Ordainer makes all creatures proceed as He wills. The Ordainer is Supreme. Know this, all of you.  No one can, by his acts, obtain what is unobtainable. That which is to be, takes place. Know this. And since he who has withdrawn himself from

the triple aggregate may succeed in winning Emancipation, it seems, therefore, that Emancipation is productive of the highest good.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'Having listened to all these foremost words fraught with reason and acceptable to the heart, Bhima and others were filled with delight and joining their hands, bowed unto that prince o f Kuru's race. Indeed, those foremost of men, O king, having heard that speech of the monarch, well adorned with sweet letters and syllables, acceptable to the heart, and divested of dissonant sounds and words, began to applaud Yudhishthira highly. The high-souled son of Dharma, in return, possessed of great energy, praised his convinced auditors; and once more the king addressed the son of the foremost of rivers, possessed of a high soul, for enquiring about duties.'"