Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Suka said, 'O illustrious one, O foremost of Rishis, once again discourse to me on Adhyatma more elaborately. Tell me what, indeed, is Adhyatma and whence does it come?' 

"Vyasa said, 'That, O son, which is regarded as Adhyatma with reference to human beings, I shall now mention to thee, and listen to the explanation I give (of Adhyatma). Earth, water, light, wind, and space, are the great entities that form the component parts of all creatures, and, though really one, are yet regarded different like the waves of the ocean (which though identical with respect to their constituent substance are yet counted as different from one another). Like a tortoise stretching out its limbs and withdrawing them again, the great entities (already named), by dwelling in numberless small forms, undergo transformations (called creation and destruction). All this universe of mobile and immobile objects hath for its component parts these five entities. Everything, in respect of its creation and destruction, is referable to this fivefold entity. These five entities occur in all existent things. The Creator of all things, however, hath made an unequal distribution of those entities (by placing them in different things in different proportions) for serving different ends.' 

"Suka said, 'How may one succeed in understanding that unequal distribution (of the five great entities of which thou speakest) in the diverse things of the universe? Which amongst them are the senses and which the attributes? How may this be understood?'

"Vyasa said, 'I shall explain thee this duly one after another. Listen with concentrated attention to the subject as I expound how what I have said actually happens. Sound, the sense of hearing, and all the cavities within the body,--these three--have space for their origin. The vital breaths, the action of the limbs and touch form the attributes of the wind. Form, eyes, and the digestive fire within the stomach, are originated by light. Taste, tongue, and all the humours,--these three,--are from water. Scent, nose, and the body,--these three,--are the attributes of earth. These, then, as I have expounded to thee, are the transformations of the five (great) entities with senses. Touch is said to be the attribute of the wind; taste of water; form of light. Sound is said to have its origin in space, and scent is said to be the property of earth. Mind, Understanding, and Nature,--these three,--spring from their own previous states, and attaining (at each rebirth) to a position higher than the attributes (which form their respective objects), do not transcend those attributes.  As the tortoise stretches out its limbs and withdraws them once again within itself, even so the Understanding creates the senses and once again withdraws them into itself.  The consciousness of personal identity that arises in respect of that which is above the soles of the feet and below the crown of the head, is principally due to the action of the Understanding.  It is the understanding that is transformed into the (five) attributes (of form, scent, etc.). It is understanding also that is transformed into the (five) senses with the mind for the sixth. When the Understanding is absent, where are the attributes?  In man there are five senses. The mind is called the sixth (sense). The Understanding is called the seventh. The Soul is the eighth. The eyes (and the other senses) are for only receiving impressions of form (and scent, etc.). The mind exists for doubting (the accuracy of those impressions). The Understanding

settles those doubts. The Soul is said only to witness every operation without mingling with them. Rajas, Tamas, and Sattwa,--these three,--arise from their own counterparts. These exist equal in all creatures (viz., the deities and human beings, etc.). These are called attributes and should be known by the actions they induce.  As regards those actions all such states in which one becomes conscious of oneself as united with cheerfulness or joy and which are tranquil and pure, should be known as due to the attribute of Sattwa. All such states in either the body or the mind, as are united with sorrow, should be regarded as due to the influence of the attribute called Rajas. All such states again as exist with stupefication (of the senses, the mind or the understanding) whose cause is unascertainable, and which are incomprehensible (by either reasons or inward light), should be known as ascribable to the action of Tamas. Delight, cheerfulness, joy, equanimity, contentment of heart, due to any known cause or arising otherwise, are all effects of the attribute of Sattwa. Pride, untruthfulness of speech, cupidity, stupefication, vindictiveness, whether arising from any known cause or otherwise, are indications of the quality of Rajas. Stupefaction of judgment, heedlessness, sleep, lethargy, and indolence, from whatever cause these may arise, are to be known as indications of the quality of Tamas.'"