Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, what is Adhyatma with respect to man and whence it arises.'

"Bhishma said, 'Aided by the science of Adhyatma one may know everything. It is, again, superior to all things. I shall, with the help of my intelligence, explain to thee that Adhyatma about which thou askest me. Listen, O son, to my explanation. Earth, Wind, Space, Water, and Light forming the fifth, are the great essences. These are (the causes of) the origin and the destruction of all creatures. The bodies of living creatures (both subtile and gross), O bull of Bharata's race, are the result of the combination of the virtues of these five. Those virtues (whose combinations produce the bodies of creatures) repeatedly start into existence and repeatedly merge into the original cause of all things, viz., the Supreme Soul.  From those five primal essences are created all creatures, and into those five great elements all creatures resolve themselves, repeatedly, like the infinite waves of the Ocean rising from the Ocean and subsiding into that which causes them. As a tortoise stretches forth its legs and withdraws them again into itself, even so the infinite number of creatures spring from (and enter) these five great fixed essences. Verily, sound springs from Space, and all dense matter is the attribute of earth. Life is from Wind. Taste is from Water. Form is said to be the property of Light. The entire mobile and immobile universe is thus these five great essences existing together in various proportions. When Destruction comes, the infinite diversity of creatures resolve themselves into those five, and once more, when Creation begins, they spring from the same five. The Creator places in all creatures the same five great essences in proportions that He thinks proper. Sound, the ears, and all cavities,--these three,--have Space for their producing cause. Taste, all watery or juicy substances, and the tongue, are said to be the properties of water. Form, the eye, and the digestive fire in the stomach, are said to partake of the nature of

Light. Scent, the organ of smelling, and the body, are the properties of earth. Life, touch, and action are said to be the properties of Wind. I have thus explained to thee, O king, all the properties of the five primal essences. Having created these, the Supreme Deity, O Bharata, united with them Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas, Time, Consciousness of functions, and Mind forming the sixth.  That which is called the Understanding dwells in the interior of what thou seest above the soles of the feet and below the crown of the head. In man the senses (of knowledge) are five. The sixth (sense) is the Mind. The seventh is called the Understanding. The Kshetrajna or Soul is the eighth. The senses and that which is the Actor should be ascertained by apprehension of their respective functions. The conditions or states called Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas, depend upon the senses for their refuge or formation. The senses exist for simply seizing the impressions of their respective objects. The Mind has doubt for its function. The Understanding is for ascertainment. The Kshetrajna is said to be only an inactive witness (of the functions of the others). Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas, Time, and Acts, O Bharata, these attributes direct the Understanding. The Understanding is the senses and the five fore-mentioned attributes.  When the Understanding is wanting, the senses with the mind, and the five other attributes (viz., Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas, Time, and Acts) cease to be. That by which the Understanding sees is called the eye. When the Understanding hears, it is called the ear. When she smells, she becomes the sense of scent; and when she tastes the various objects of taste, she comes to be called by the name of tongue. When again she feels the touch of the various objects of touch, she becomes the sense of touch. It is the Understanding that becomes modified diversely and frequently. When the Understanding desires anything, she becomes Mind. The five senses with the Mind, which separately constitute the foundations (of the Understanding), are the creations of the Understanding. They are called Indriyas. When they become stained, the Understanding also becomes stained.  The Understanding, dwelling in Jiva, exists in three states. Sometimes she obtains joy; sometimes she indulges in grief; and sometimes she exists in a state that is neither pleasure nor pain. Having for her essence these conditions or states (viz., Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas), the Understanding resolves through these three states.  As the lord of rivers, viz., the surging Ocean, always keeps within his continents, even so the Understanding, which exists in connection with the (three)

states, exists in the Mind (including the senses). When the state of Rajas is awakened, the Understanding becomes modified into Rajas. Transport of delight, joy, gladness, happiness, and contentedness of heart, these, when somehow excited, are the properties of Sattwa. Heart-burning, grief, sorrow, discontentedness, and unforgivingness,  arising from particular causes, are the result of Rajas. Ignorance, attachment and error, heedlessness, stupefaction, and terror, meanness, cheerlessness, sleep, and procrastination,--these, when brought about by particular causes, are the properties of Tamas. Whatever state of either body or mind, connected with joy or happiness, arises, should be regarded as due to the state of Sattwa. Whatever, again, is fraught with sorrow and is disagreeable to oneself should be regarded as arising from Rajas. Without commencing any such act, one should turn one's attention to it (for avoiding it). Whatever is fraught with error or stupefaction in either body or mind, and is inconceivable and mysterious, should be known as connected with Tamas. Thus, have I explained to thee that things in this world dwell in the Understanding. By knowing this one becomes wise. What else can be the indication of wisdom? Know now the difference between these two subtile things, viz., Understanding and Soul. One of these, viz., the Understanding, creates attributes. The other, viz., the Soul, does not create them. Although they are, by nature, distinct from each other, yet they always exist in a state of union. A fish is different from the water in which it dwells, but the fish and the water must exist together. The attributes cannot know the Soul. The Soul, however, knows them. They that are ignorant regard the Soul as existing in a state of union with the attributes like qualities existing with their possessors. This, however, is not the case, for the Soul is truly only an inactive Witness of everything. The Understanding has no refuge.  That which is called life (involving the existence of the Understanding) arises from the effects of the attributes coming together. Others (than these attributes which are created by the Understanding), acting as causes, create the Understanding that dwells in the body. No one can apprehend the attributes in their real nature or form of existence. The Understanding, as already said, creates the attributes. The Soul simply beholds them (as an inactive Witness). This union that exists between the Understanding and the Soul is eternal. The indwelling Understanding apprehends all things through the Senses which are themselves inanimate and unapprehending. Really the senses are only like lamps (that throw their light for discovering objects to others without themselves being able to see them). Even this is the nature (of the Senses, the Understanding, and the Soul). Knowing this, one should live cheerfully, without yielding to either grief or joy. Such a man is said to be beyond the influence of pride. That the Understanding creates all these attributes is due to her own nature,--even as a spider weaves threads in

consequence of her own nature. These attributes should be known as the threads the spider weaves. When destroyed, the attributes do not cease to exist; their existence ceases to be visible. When, however, a thing transcends the ken of the senses, its existence (or otherwise) is affirmed by inference. This is the opinion of one set of persons. Others affirm that with destruction the attributes cease to be. Untying this knotty problem addressed to the understanding and reflection, and dispelling all doubt, one should cast off sorrow and live in happiness.  As men unacquainted with its bottom become distressed when they fall upon this earth which is like a river filled with the waters of stupefaction, even so is that man afflicted who falls away from that state in which there is a union with the Understanding.  Men of knowledge, however, conversant with Adhyatma and armed with fortitude, are never afflicted, because they are capable of crossing to the other shore of those waters. Indeed, Knowledge is an efficient raft (in that river). Men of knowledge have not to encounter those frightful terrors which alarm them that are destitute of knowledge. As regards the righteous, none of them attains to an end that is superior to that of any other person amongst them. Indeed, the righteous show, in this respect, an equality. As regards the man of Knowledge, whatever acts have been done by him in past times (while he was steeped in Ignorance) and whatever acts fraught with great iniquity he does (after attainment of Knowledge), he destroys both by Knowledge as his sole means. Then again, upon the attainment of Knowledge he ceases to perpetrate these two evils, viz., censuring the wicked acts of others and doing any wicked acts himself under the influence of attachment.'"