Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section CCXCVI

"Parasara said, 'I have now discoursed to thee on what the ordinances are of the duties in respect of one that leads the domestic mode of life. I shall now speak to thee of the ordinances about penances. Listen to me as I discourse on the topic. It is generally seen, O king, that in consequence of sentiments fraught with Rajas and Tamas, the sense of meum, born of attachment, springs up in the heart of the householder. Betaking oneself to the domestic mode of life, one acquires kine, fields, wealth of diverse kinds, spouses, children, and servants. One that becomes observant of this mode of life continually casts one's eye upon these objects. Under these circumstances, one's attachments and aversions increase, and one ceases to regard one's (transitory) possessions as eternal and indestructible. When a person becomes overwhelmed by attachment and aversion, and yields himself up to the mastery of earthly objects, the desire of enjoyment then seizes him, taking its rise from heedlessness, O king. Thinking that person to be blessed who has the largest share of enjoyments in this world, the man devoted to enjoyment does not, in consequence of his attachment thereto, see that there is any other happiness besides what waits upon the gratification of the senses. Overwhelmed with cupidity that results from such attachment, he then seeks to increase the number of his relatives and attendants, and for gratifying these latter he seeks to increase his wealth by every means in his power. Filled with affection for children, such a person commits, for the sake of acquiring wealth, acts that he knows to be evil, and gives way to grief if his wealth be lost. Having earned honours and always guarding against the defeat of his plans, he betakes himself to such means as would gratify his desire of enjoyment. At last he meets with destruction as the inevitable consequence of the conduct he pursues. It is well-known, however, that true felicity is theirs that a e endued with intelligence, that are utterers of the eternal Brahma, that seek to accomplish only acts that are auspicious and beneficial, and that abstain from all acts that are optional and spring from desire alone.  From loss of all such objects in which are centred our affections, from loss of wealth, O king, and from the tyranny of physical diseases add mental anguish, a person falls into despair. From this despair arises art awakening of the soul. From such awakening proceeds study of the Scriptures. From contemplation of the import of the scriptures, O king, one sees the value of penance. A person possessed of the knowledge of what is essential and what accidental, O king, is very rare,--he, that is, who seeks to undergo penances, impressed with the truth that the happiness one derives from the possession of such agreeable objects as spouses and children leads ultimately to misery.  Penances, O child, are for all. They are ordained for even the lowest order of men (viz., Sudras). Penances set the self-restrained man having the mastery over all his senses on the way to heaven. It was through penances that the puissant Lord of all creatures, O, king, observing vows at particular intervals created all existent objects. The Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, Agni, the Aswins, the Maruts, the Viswedevas, the Saddhyas, the Pitris, the Maruts, the Yakshas, the Rakshasas, the Gandharvas, the Siddhas and the other denizens of heaven, and, indeed, all other celestials whatever, O child, have all been crowned with success through their penances. Those Brahmanas whom Brahmana created at the outset, succeeded through their penances in honouring not the Earth alone but the heaven also in which they roved at pleasure. In this world of mortals, they that are kings, and those others that are householders born in high families, have all become what they are only in consequence of their penances.  The silken robes they wear, the excellent ornaments that adorn their persons, the animals and vehicles they ride, and the seats they use are all the result of their penances. The many charming and beautiful women, numbering by thousands, that they enjoy, and their residence in palatial mansions, are all due to their penances. Costly beds and diverse kinds of delicious viands become theirs that act righteously. There is nothing in the three worlds, O scorcher of foes, that penances cannot attain. Even those that are destitute of true knowledge win Renunciation as the consequence of their penances.  Whether in affluent circumstances or miserable, a person should cast off

cupidity, reflecting on the scriptures, with the aid of his Mind and understanding, O best of kings. Discontent is productive of misery. (Discontent is the result of cupidity). Cupidity leadeth to the stupefaction of the senses. The senses being stupefied, one's wisdom disappears like knowledge not kept up by continued application. When one's wisdom disappears, one fails to discriminate what is proper from what is improper. Hence, when one's happiness is destroyed (and one becomes subject to misery) one should practise the austerest of penances.  That which is agreeable is called happiness. That which is disagreeable is said to be misery. When penances are practised, the result is happiness. When they are not practised, the result is misery. Behold the fruits of practising and abstaining from penances!  By practising stainless penances, people always meet with auspicious consequences of every kind, enjoy all good things, and attain to great fame.  He, however, who by abandoning (stainless penances), betakes himself to penances from desire of fruit, meets with many disagreeable consequences, and disgrace and sorrow of diverse kinds, as the fruits thereof, all of which have worldly possessions for their cause.  Notwithstanding the desirability of practising righteousness, penances, and gifts, the wish springs up in his mind of accomplishing all kinds of forbidden acts. By thus perpetrating diverse kinds of sinful acts, he goes to hell.  That person, O best of men, who, in both happiness and misery, does not fall away from the duties ordained for him, is said to have the scriptures for his eye. It is said that the pleasure one derives from the gratification of one's senses of touch, tongue, sight, scent, and hearing, O monarch, lasts only so long as a shaft urged from the bow takes in falling down upon the earth. Upon the cessation of that pleasure, which is so short-lived, one experiences the most keen agony. It is only the senseless that do not applaud the felicity of Emancipation that is unrivalled. Beholding the misery that attends the gratification of the senses, they that are possessed of wisdom cultivate the virtues of tranquillity and self-restraint for the purpose of attaining to Emancipation. In consequence of their righteous behaviour, wealth, and pleasure can never succeed in afflicting them.  Householders

may, without any compunction, enjoy wealth and other possessions that are obtained without Exertion. As regards, however, the duties of their order that are laid down in the scriptures, these, I am of opinion, they should discharge with the aid of Exertion.  The practice of those that are honoured, that are born in high families, and that have their eyes always turned towards the import of the scriptures, is incapable of being followed by those that are sinful and that are possessed of unrestrained minds. All acts that are done by man under the influence of vanity, meet with destruction. Hence, for them that are respectable and truly righteous there is no other act in this world to do than penance.  As regards, those house-holders, however, that are addicted to acts, they should, with their whole hearts, set themselves to acts. Following the duties of their order, O king, they should with cleverness and attention perform sacrifices and other religious rites. Indeed, as all rivers, male and female, have their refuge in the Ocean, even so men belonging to all the other orders have their refuge in the householder.'"