Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Vyasa said, 'Borne up and down in life's ocean, he that is capable of meditation seizes the raft of Knowledge and for achieving his Emancipation adheres to Knowledge itself (without extending his arms hither and thither for catching any other support).' 

"Suka said, 'What is that Knowledge? Is it that learning by which, when error is dispelled, the truth becomes discovered? Or, is it that course of duties consisting of acts to be done or achieved, by the aid of which the object sought may be understood or attained? Or, is it that course of duties, called abstention from acts, by which an extension of the Soul is to be sought? Do tell me what it is, so that by its aid, the two, viz., birth and death, may be avoided.' 

"Vyasa said, 'That fool who believing that all this exists in consequence of its own nature without, in fact, an existent refuge or foundation, fills by such instruction the aspirations of disciples, dispelling by his dialectical ingenuity the reasons the latter might urge to the contrary, succeeds not in attaining to any truth.  They again who firmly believe that all Cause is due to the nature of things, fail to acquire any truth by even listening to (wiser) men or the Rishis (who are capable of instructing them).  Those men of little intelligence who stop (in their speculations), having adopted either of these doctrines, indeed, those men who regard nature as the cause, never succeed in obtaining any benefit for themselves.  This belief in Nature (as the producing and the sustaining Cause), arising as it does from a mind acting under the influence of error, brings about the destruction of the person who cherishes it. Listen now to the truth with respect to these two doctrines that maintain (1) that things exist by their own nature and (2) that they flow (in consequence of their own nature) from others that are different from and that precede them.  Wise men apply themselves to agriculture and tillage, and the acquisition of crops (by those means) and of vehicles (for locomotion) and seats and carpets and houses. They attend also to the laying of pleasure-gardens, the construction of commodious mansions, and the preparation of

medicines, for diseases of every kind. It is wisdom (which consists in the application of means) that leads to the fruition of purposes. It is wisdom that wins beneficial results. It is wisdom that enables kings to exercise and enjoy sovereignty although they are possessed of attributes equal to those of persons over whom they rule.  It is by wisdom that the high and the low among beings are distinguished. It is by wisdom that the superior and the inferior ones among created objects are understood. It is wisdom or knowledge that is the highest refuge of all things.  All the diverse kinds of created things have four kinds of birth. They are viviparous, oviparous, vegetables, and those born of filth. Creatures, again, that are mobile should be known to be superior to those that are immobile. It is consistent with reason that intelligent energy, inasmuch as it differentiates (all non-intelligent matter), should be regarded as superior to.(non-intelligent) matter.  Mobile creatures, that are innumerable, and of two kinds, viz., those that have many legs and those that have two. The latter, however, are superior to the former. Bipeds, again are of two species, viz., those that live on land and those that are otherwise. Of these, the former are superior to the latter. The superior ones eat diverse kinds of cooked food.  Bipeds moving on land are of two kinds viz., middling or intermediate, and those that are foremost. Of these, the middling or intermediate are regarded as superior (to the former) in consequence of their observance of the duties of caste.  The middling or intermediate ones are said to be of two kinds, viz., those that are conversant with duties, and those that are otherwise. Of those, the former are superior in consequence of their discrimination in respect of what should be done and what should not. Those conversant with duties are said to be of two kinds, viz., those

that are acquainted with the Vedas and those that are otherwise. Of these the former are superior, for the Vedas are said to dwell in them.  Those that are acquainted with the Vedas are said to be of two kinds, viz., those that lecture on the Vedas and those that are otherwise. Of these, the former, who are fully conversant with the Vedas, with the duties and the rites laid down in them, and the fruits of those duties and rites, are superior in consequence of their publishing all those duties and rites. Indeed, all the Vedas with the duties laid down in them are said to flow from them. Preceptors of the Vedas are of two kinds, viz., those that are conversant with the Soul and those that are otherwise. Of these, the former are superior in consequence of their knowledge of what is meant by Birth and Death.  As regards duties, they are, again, of two kinds (viz., Pravritti and Nivritti). He who is conversant with duties is said to be omniscient or possessed of universal knowledge. Such a man is a Renouncer. Such a man is firm in the accomplishment of his purposes. Such a man is truthful, pure (both outwardly and inwardly), and possessed of puissance.  The gods know him for a Brahmana who is devoted to knowledge of Brahma (and not him who is conversant with only the duties of Pravritti). Such a man is versed also in the Vedas and earnestly devoted to the study of the Soul.  They that have true knowledge behold their own Soul as existing both in and out. Such men, O child, are truly regenerate and such men are gods.  Upon these rests this world of Beings, in them dwell this whole universe. There is nothing that is equal to their greatness. Transcending birth and death and distinctions and acts of every kind, they are the lords of the four kinds of creatures and are the equals of the Self-born himself.'"