"Yudhishthira said, 'What is that which is called Undeteriorating and by attaining to which no one has to come back? What, again, is that which is called Deteriorating, and by attaining to which one has to return once more? O slayer of foes, I ask thee the distinction that exists, O thou of mighty arms, between the Deteriorating and the Undeteriorating ones for understanding them both truly, O delighter of the Kurus, Brahmanas conversant with the Vedas speak of thee as an Ocean of knowledge. Highly-blessed Rishis and Yatis of high souls do the same. Thou hast very few days to live. When the Sun turns from the southern path for entering into the northern, thou shalt attain to thy high end. When thou shalt leave us, from whom shall we hear of all that is beneficial for us? Thou art the lamp of Kuru's race. Indeed thou art always blazing with the light of knowledge. O perpetuator of Kuru's race, I desire, therefore to hear all this from thee. Listening to thy discourses that are always sweet like nectar, my curiosity, without being satiated is always increasing!'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall, in this connection, relate to thee the old narrative of the discourse that took place between Vasishtha and king Karala of Janaka's race. Once on a time when that foremost of Rishis, viz., Vasishtha, endued with the effulgence of the Sun, was seated at his ease, king Janaka asked him about that highest knowledge which is for our supreme good. Highly proficient in that department of knowledge which is concerned with the Soul and possessed of certain conclusions in respect of all branches of that science, as Maitravaruni, that foremost of Rishis, was seated the king approaching him with joined hands, asked him in humble words, well pronounced and sweet and destitute of all controversial spirit, the question,--O holy one, I desire to hear, of Supreme and Eternal Brahma by attaining to which men of wisdom have not to come back. I desire also to know that which is called Destructible and That into which this universe enters when destroyed. Indeed, what is That which is said to be indestructible, suspicious, beneficial and free from evil of every kind?
"Vasishtha said, Hear, O lord of Earth, as to haw this universe is destroyed, and, of That which was never destroyed and which will never be destroyed at any time. Twelve thousand years, (according to the measure of the celestials), make a Yuga, four such Yugas taken a thousand times, make a Kalpa which measures one day of Brahman. Brahman's night also, O king, is of the same measure. When Brahman himself is destroyed . Sambhu of formless soul and to whom the Yuga attributes of Anima, Laghima, &c, naturally inhere, awakes, and once more creates that First or Eldest of all creatures, possessed of vast proportions of infinite deeds, endued with form, and identifiable with the universe. That Sambhu is otherwise called Isana (the lord of
everything). He is pure Effulgence, and transcends all deterioration, having his hands and feet stretching in all directions, with eyes and head and mouth everywhere, and with ears also in every place. That Being exists, overwhelming the entire universe. The eldest-born Being is called Hiranyagarbha. This holy one has (in the Vedanta) been called the Understanding. In the Yuga scriptures He is called the Great, and Virinchi, and the Unborn. In the Sankhya scriptures, He is indicated by diverse name, and regarded as having Infinity for his Soul. Of diverse forms and constituting the soul of the universe. He is regarded as One and Indestructible. The three worlds of infinite ingredients have been created by Him without assistance from any source and have been overwhelmed by him. In consequence of His manifold forms, He is said to be of universal form. Undergoing modifications He creates Himself by Himself. Endued with mighty energy, He first creates Consciousness and that Great Being called Prajapati endued with Consciousness. The Manifest (or Hiranyagarbha) is created from the Unmanifest. This is called by the learned the Creation of Knowledge. The creation of Mahan (or Virat) and Consciousness, by Hiranyagarbha, is the creation of Ignorance. Ascription of attributes (worthy of worship) and the destruction thereof, called respectively by the names of Ignorance and Knowledge by persons learned by the interpretation of the Srutis, then arose, referring to this, that, or the other of the three (viz., Akshara, Hiranyagarbha, or Virat). Know, O king, that the creation of the (subtile) elements from consciousness is the third. In all kinds of consciousness is the fourth creation which flows modification of the third. This fourth creation comprises Wind and Light and Space and Water and Earth, with their properties of sound, touch, form, taste and scent. This aggregate of ten arose, without doubt, at the same time. The fifth creation, O monarch, is that which has arisen from combination of the primal elements (named above). This comprises the ear, the skin, the eyes, the tongue, and the nose forming the fifth, and speech, and the two hands, and the two legs, and the lower duct, and the organs of generation. The first five of these constitute the organs of knowledge, and the last five the organs of action. All these,
with mind, arose simultaneously O king. These constitute the four and twenty topics that exist in the forms of all living creatures. By understanding these properly, Brahmanas possessed of insight into the truth have never to yield to sorrow. In the three worlds a combination of these, called body, is possessed by all embodied creatures. Indeed, O king a combination of those is known as such in deities and men and Danavas, and Yakshas and spirits and Gandharvas and Kinnaras and great snakes, and Charanas and Pisachas, in celestial Rishis and Rakshasas, in biting flies, and worms, and gnats, and vermin born of filth and rats, and dogs and Swapakas and Chaineyas and Chandalas and Pukkasas in elephants and steeds and asses and tigers, and trees and kine. Whatever other creatures exist in water or space or on earth, for there is no other place in which creatures exist as we have heard, have this combination. All these, O sire, included within the class called Manifest, are seen to be destroyed day after day. Hence, all creatures produced by union of these four and twenty are said to be destructible.
"This then is the Indestructible. And since the universe, which is made up of Manifest and Unmanifest, meet with destruction, therefore, it is said to be Destructible. The very Being called Mahan who is the eldest-born is always spoken of as an instance of the Destructible. I have now told thee, O monarch, all that thou hadst asked me. Transcending the four and twenty topics already adverted to is the twenty-fifth called Vishnu. That Vishnu in consequence of the absence of all attributes, is not a topic (of knowledge) though as then which pervades all the topics, he has been called so by the wise. Since that which is destructible has caused all this that is Manifest, therefore, all this is endued with form. The twenty-fourth, which is Prakriti, is said to preside over all this (which has sprung from her modifications). The twenty-fifth, which is Vishnu, is formless and, therefore, cannot be said to preside over the universe. It is that Unmanifest (Prakriti), which, when endued with body (in consequence of union with Chit) dwells in the hearts of all creatures endued with body. As regards eternal Chetana (the Indestructible), although he is without attributes and without form, yet he (in consequence of a union with Prakriti) assumes all forms. Uniting with Prakriti which has the attributes of birth and death, he also assumes the attributes of birth and death. And in consequence of such union he becomes an object of perception and though in reality divested of all attributes yet he comes to be invested therewith. It is in this way that the Mahan-Soul (Hiranyagarbha), becoming united with Prakriti and invested with Ignorance, undergoes modifications and becomes conscious of Self. Uniting
with the attributes of Sattwa and Rajas and Tamas, he becomes identified with diverse creatures belonging to diverse orders of Being, in consequence of his forgetfulness and his waiting upon Ignorance. In consequence of his birth and destruction arising from the fact of his dwelling in upon with Prakriti, he thinks himself to be no other than what he apparently is. Regarding himself as this or that, he follows the attributes of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. Under the influence of Tamas, he attains to diverse kinds of conditions that are affected by Tamas. Under the influence of Rajas and Sattwa, he attains similarly to conditions that are affected by Rajas and Sattwa. There are three colours in all, viz., White, Red, and Dark. All those colours appertain to Prakriti (so that He it is who becomes White or Red or Dark according as the nature of the Prakriti with which is He becomes identified for the time being). Through Tamas one goes to hell. Through Rajas one attains to and remains in the status of humanity. Through Sattwa, people ascend to the regions of the deities and become sharers of great felicity. By adhering to sin continuously one sinks into the intermediate order of beings. By acting both righteously and sinfully one attains to the status of the deities. In this way the twenty-fifth, viz., Akshara (the Indestructible), the wise say, by union with the unmanifest (Prakriti), becomes transformed into Kshara (destructible). By means of knowledge however, the Indestructible becomes displayed in His true nature--"