Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CCXXII

"Yudhishthira said, 'In this world, O Bharata, acts good and bad attach themselves to man for the purpose of producing fruits for enjoyment or endurance. Is man, however, to be regarded as their doer or is he not to be regarded so? Doubt fills my mind with respect to this question. I desire to hear this in detail from thee, O grandsire!'

"Bhishma said, 'In this connection, O Yudhishthira, is cited the old narrative of a discourse between Prahlada and Indra. The chief of the Daityas, viz., Prahlada, was unattached to all worldly objects. His sins had been washed away. Of respectable parentage, he was possessed of great learning. Free from stupefaction and pride, ever observant of the quality of goodness, and devoted to various vows, he took praise and censure equally. Possessed of self-restraint, he was then passing his time in an empty chamber. Conversant with the origin and the destruction of all created objects, mobile and immobile, he was never angry with things that displeased him and never rejoiced at the accession of objects that were agreeable. He cast an equal eye upon gold and a clump of earth. Steadily engaged in study of the Soul and in acquiring Emancipation, and firm in knowledge, he had arrived at fixed conclusions in respect of truth. Acquainted with what is supreme and what is not so among all things, omniscient and of universal sight, as he was seated one day in a solitary chamber with his senses under complete control, Sakra approached him, and desirous of awakening him, said these words, 'O king, I behold all those qualities permanently residing in thee by which a person wins the esteem of all. Thy understanding seems to be like that of a child, free from attachment and aversion. Thou knowest of the Soul. What, thinkest thou, is the best means by which a knowledge of the Soul may be attained? Thou art now bound in cords, fallen off from thy former position, brought under the sway of thy foes, and divested of prosperity. Thy present circumstances are such as may well inspire grief. Yet how is it, O Prahlada, that thou dost not indulge in grief? Is this due, O son of Diti, to the acquisition of wisdom or is it on account of thy fortitude? Behold thy calamities, O Prahlada, and yet thou seemest like one that is happy and tranquil.' Thus urged by Indra, the chief of the Daityas, endued with determinate conclusions in respect of truth, replied unto the former in these sweet words indicative of great wisdom.'

"Prahlada said, 'He who is unacquainted with the origin and the destruction of all created objects, is, in consequence of such ignorance, stupefied. He, however, who is conversant with these two things, is never stupefied. All kinds of entities and non-entities come into being or cease in consequence of their own nature. No kind of personal exertion is needed (for the production of such phenomena).  In the absence, therefore, of personal exertion, it is evident that no personal agent exists for the production of all this that we perceive. But though (in reality) the person (or the chit) never does anything, yet (through the influence of Ignorance) a consciousness in respect of angry overspreads itself on it. He who regards himself as the doer of acts good or bad, possesses a wisdom that is vitiated. Such a person is, according to my judgment, unacquainted with the truth.  If, O Sakra, the being called person were really the actor, then all acts undertaken for his own benefit would certainly be crowned with success. None of those acts would be defeated. Among even persons struggling their utmost the suspension of what is not desired and the occurrence of what is desired are not to be seen. What becomes then of personal exertion? In the case of some, we see that without

any exertion on their part, what is not desired is suspended and what is desired is accomplished. This then must be the result of Nature. Some persons again are seen to present extraordinary aspects, for though possessed of superior intelligence they have to solicit wealth from others that are vulgar in features and endued with little intelligence. Indeed, when all qualities, good or bad, enter a person, urged by Nature, what ground is there for one to boast (of one's superior possessions)? All these flow from Nature. This is my settled conclusion. Even Emancipation and knowledge of self, according to me, flow from the same source.

"In this world all fruits, good or bad, that attach themselves to persons, are regarded as the result of acts. I shall now discourse to thee in full on the subject of acts. Listen to me. As a crow, while eating some food, proclaims the presence of that food (to the members of its species) by its repeated cawing, after the same manner all our acts only proclaim the indications of Nature. He who is acquainted with only the transformations of Nature but not with Nature that is supreme and exists by herself, feels stupefaction in consequence of his ignorance. He, however, who understands the difference between Nature and her transformations is never stupefied. All existent things have their origin in Nature. In consequence of one's certainty of conviction in this respect, one would never be affected by pride or arrogance. When I know what the origin is of all the ordinances of morality and when I am acquainted with the unstability of all objects, I am incapable, O Sakra, of indulging in grief. All this is endued with an end. Without attachments, without pride, without desire and hope, freed from all bonds, and dissociated from everything, I am passing my time in great happiness, engaged in beholding the appearance and disappearance of all created objects. For one that is possessed of wisdom, that is self-restrained, that is contented, that is without desire and hope, and that beholds all things with the light of self-knowledge, no trouble or anxiety exists, O Sakra! I have no affection or aversion for either Nature or her transformations. I do not behold any one now who is my foe nor any one who is mine own. I do not O, Sakra, at any time covet either heaven, or this world, or the nether regions. It is not the case that there is no happiness in understanding the Soul. But the Soul, being dissociated from everything, cannot enjoy felicity. Hence I desire nothing.'

"Sakra said, 'Tell me the means, O Prahlada, by which this kind of wisdom may be attained and by which this kind of tranquillity may be made one's own. I solicit thee.'

"Prahlada said, 'By simplicity, by heedfulness, by cleansing the Soul, by mastering the passions, and by waiting upon aged seniors, O Sakra, a person succeeds in attaining to Emancipation. Know this, however, that one acquires wisdom from Nature, and that the acquisition of tranquillity also is due to the same cause. Indeed, everything else that thou perceivest is due to Nature.

"Thus addressed by the lord of the Daityas, Sakra became filled with wonder, and commended those words, O king, with a cheerful heart. The lord of the three worlds then, having worshipped the lord of the Daityas, took his leave and proceeded to his own abode.'"