Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Yudhishthira said, 'How was Suka, the son of Vyasa, in days of old, won over to Renunciation? I desire to hear thee recite the story. My curiosity in this respect is irrepressible. It behoveth thee, O thou of Kuru's race, to discourse to me on the conclusions in respect of the Unmanifest (Cause), the Manifest (Effects), and of the Truth (or Brahma) that is in, but unattached to them, as also of the acts of the self-born Narayana, as they are known to thy understanding.

"Bhishma said, 'Beholding his son Suka living fearlessly as ordinary men do in practices that are considered harmless by them, Vyasa taught him the entire Vedas and then discoursed to him one day in these words: 'Vyasa said, O son, becoming the master of the senses, do thou subdue extreme cold and extreme heat, hunger and thirst, and the wind also, and having subdued them (as Yogins do), do thou practise righteousness. Do thou duly observe truth and sincerity, and freedom from wrath and malice, and self-restraint and penances, and the duties of benevolence and compassion. Rest thou on truth, firmly devoted to righteousness, abandoning all sort of insincerity and deceit. Do thou support thy life on what remains of food after feeding gods and guests. Thy body is as transitory as the froth on the surface of water. The Jiva-soul is sitting unattached in it as a bird on a tree. The companionship of all agreeable object is exceedingly short-lived. Why then, O son, dost thou sleep in such forgetfulness? Thy foes are heedful and awake and ever ready (to spring on thee) and always watchful of their opportunity. Why art thou so foolish as not to know this?  As the days are going one after another, the period of thy life is being lessened. Indeed when thy life is being incessantly shortened, why dost thou not run to preceptors (for learning the means of rescue)? Only they that are destitute of faith (in the existence of next life) set their hearts on things of this world that have the only effect of increasing flesh and blood. They are totally unmindful of all that is concerned with the next world. Those men that are stupefied by erroneous understandings display a hatred for righteousness. The man who walks after those misguided persons that have betaken themselves to devious and wrong paths is afflicted equally with them. They however, that are contented, devoted to the scriptures, endued with high souls, and possessed of great might, betake themselves to the part of righteousness. Do thou wait upon them with reverence and seek instruction from them. Do thou act according to the instructions received from those wise men whose eyes are set upon righteousness. With understanding cleansed by such lessons and rendered superior, do thou then restrain thy heart which is ever ready to deviate from the right course. They whose understandings are always concerned with the present, who fearlessly regard the tomorrow as something quite remote,--they who do not observe any restrictions in the matter of food,--ate really senseless persons that fail to understand that this world is only a field of probation.  Repairing to the fight of steps constituted by Righteousness, do thou ascend those steps one after another. At present thou art like a worm that is employed in weaving its cocoon round itself and thereby depriving itself of all means of escape. Do thou keep to thy left, without any scruple, the atheist who transgresses all restraints, who is situated like a house by the side of a fierce and encroaching current, (for the destruction he courts), and who (to others) seems to stand like a bamboo with its tall head erected in

pride.  Do thou with the raft of Yoga, cross the ocean of the world whose waters are constituted by thy five senses. Having Desire and Wrath and Death for its fierce monsters, and owning birth for its vortex. Do thou cross, with the raft of Righteousness, the world that is affected by Death and afflicted by Decrepitude, and upon which the thunder-bolts constituted by days and nights are falling incessantly. When death is seeking thee at all moments, viz., when thou art sitting or lying down, it is certain that Death may get thee for his victim at any time. Whence art thou to obtain thy rescue! Like the she-wolf snatching away a lamb. Death snatches away one that is still engaged in earning wealth and still unsatisfied in the indulgence of his pleasures. When thou art destined to enter into the dark, do thou hold up the blazing lamp made of righteous understanding and whose flame has been well-husbanded out. Failing into various forms one after another in the world of men, a creature obtains the status of Brahmanhood with great difficulty. Thou hast obtained that status. Do thou then, O son endeavour to maintain it (properly).  A Brahman hath not been born for the gratification of desire. On the other hand, his body is intended to be subjected to mortification and penances in this world so that incomparable happiness may be his in the next world. The status of Brahmanhood is acquired with the aid of long-continued and austere penances. Having acquired that status, one should never waste one's time in the indulgence of one's senses. Always engaged in penances and self-restraint and desirous of what is for thy good, do thou live and act, devoted to peace and tranquillity. The period of life, of every man, is like a steed. The nature of that steed is unmanifest. The (sixteen) elements (mentioned before) constitute its body. Its nature is exceedingly subtile. Kshanas, and Trutis, and Nimeshas are the hair on its body. The twilights constitute its shoulder joints; The lighted and the dark fortnights are its two eyes of equal power. Months are its other limbs. That steed is running incessantly. If thy eyes be not blind, beholding then that steed incessantly moving forward in its invisible course, do thou set thy heart on righteousness, after hearing what thy preceptors have to say on the question of the next world. They that fall away from righteousness and that conduct themselves recklessly, that always display malice towards others and betake themselves to evil ways are obliged to assume (physical) bodies in the regions of Yama and suffer diverse afflictions, in consequence of their unrighteous acts of diverse

kind.  That king who is devoted to righteousness and who protects and chastises the good and the wicked with discrimination, attains to those regions that belong to man of righteous deeds. By doing diverse kinds of good acts, he attains to such felicity as is faultless and as is incapable of being attained to by undergoing even thousands of births.  Furious dogs of frightful mien, crows of iron beaks, flocks of ravens and vultures and other birds, and blood-sucking worms, assail the man who transgresses the commands of his parents and preceptors when he goes to hell after death.  That sinful wretch who, in consequence of his recklessness, transgresses the ten boundaries that have been fixed by the Self-born himself, is obliged to pass his time in great affliction in the wild wastes that occur in the dominions of the king of Pitris.  That man who is tainted with cupidity, who is in love with untruth, who always takes a delight in deception and cheating, and who does injuries to others by practising hypocrisy and deception, has to go to deep hell and suffer great woe and affliction for his acts of wickedness. Such a man is forced to bathe in the broad river called Vaitarani whose waters are scalding, to enter into a forest of trees whose leaves are as sharp as swords, and then to lie down on a bed of battle-axes. He has thus to pass his days in frightful hell in great affliction. Thou beholdest only the regions of Brahman and other deities, but thou art blind to that which is the highest (viz., Emancipation). Alas, thou art ever blind also to that which brings Death on its train (viz., decrepitude and old age).  Go (along the path of Emancipation)! Why tarriest thou? A frightful terror, destructive of thy happiness, is before thee! Do thou take prompt steps for achieving thy Emancipation! Soon after death thou art sure to be taken before Yama at his command. For obtaining felicity in the next world, strive to attain to righteousness through the practice of difficult and austere vows. The puissant Yama, regardless of the sufferings of others, very soon takes the lives of all persons, that is of thyself and thy friends. There is none capable of resisting him. Very soon the wind of Yama will blow before thee (and drive thee to his presence). Very soon wilt thou be taken to that dread presence all alone. Do thou achieve what will be for thy good there. Where now is that Death-wind which will blow before

thee very soon? (Art thou mindful of it?) Very soon will the points of the compass, when that moment arrives, begin to whirl before thy eyes. (Art thou mindful of that?) O son, soon (when that moment comes) will thy Vedas disappear from thy sight as thou goest helplessly into that dread presence. Do thou, therefore, set thy heart on Yoga abstraction which is possessed of great excellence.  Do thou seek to attain that one only treasure so that thou mayst not have to grieve at the recollection (after Death) of thy former deeds good and bad all of which are characterised by error.  Decrepitude very soon weakens thy body and robs thee of thy strength and limbs and beauty. Do thou, therefore, seek that one only treasure. Very soon the Destroyer, with Disease for his charioteer, will with a strong hand, for taking thy life, pierce and break thy body. Do thou, therefore practise austere penance. Very soon will, those terrible wolves that reside within thy body, assail thee from every side. Do thou endeavour, therefore, to achieve acts of righteousness.  Very soon wilt thou, all alone, behold a thick darkness, and very soon wilt thou behold golden trees on the top of the hill. Do thou, therefore, hasten to achieve acts of righteousness.  Very soon will those evil companions and foes of thine, (viz., the senses), dressed in the guise of friends, swerve thee from correct vision. Do thou, then, O son, strive to achieve that which is of the highest good. Do thou earn that wealth which has no fear from either kings or thieves, and which one has not to abandon even at Death. Earned by one's own acts, that wealth has never to be divided among co-owners. Each enjoys that wealth (in the other world) which each has earned for himself. O son, give that to others by which they may be able to live in the next world. Do thou also set thyself to the acquisition of that wealth which is indestructible and durable. Do not think that thou shouldst first enjoy all kinds of pleasures and then turn thy heart on Emancipation, for before thou art satiated with enjoyment thou mayst be overtaken by Death. Do thou, in view of this, hasten to do acts of goodness.  Neither mother, nor son, nor relatives, nor dear friends even when solicited with honours, accompany the man that dies. To the regions of Yama one has to go oneself, unaccompanied by any one. Only those deeds, good and bad, that one did before death accompany the man that goes to the other world. The gold and gems that one has earned by good and bad means do not become

productive of any benefit to one when one's body meets with dissolution. Of men that have gone to the other world, there is no witness, better than the soul, of all act done or undone in life. That when the acting-Chaitanya (Jiva-soul) enters into the witness-Chaitanya the destruction of the body takes place, is seen by Yoga-intelligence when Yogins enter the firmament of their hearts.  Even here, the god of Fire, the Sun and the Wind,--these three reside in the body. These, beholding as they do all the practices of one's life become one's witnesses. Days and Nights,--the former characterised by the virtue of displaying all things and the latter characterised by the virtue of concealing all things,--are running incessantly and touching all things (and thereby lessening their allotted periods of existence). Do thou, therefore, be observant of the duties of thy own order.  The road in the other world (that leads to the regions of Yama), is infested by many foes (in the form of iron-beaked birds and wolves) and by many repulsive and terrible insects and worms. Do thou take care of thy own acts, for only acts will accompany you along that road. These one has not to share one's acts with others, but every one enjoys or endures the fruits of those acts which every one has himself performed. As Apsaras and great Rishis attain to fruits of great felicity, after the same manner, men of righteous deeds, as the fruits of their respective righteous acts, obtain in the other world cars of transcendent brightness that move everywhere at the will of the riders. Men of stainless deeds and cleansed souls and pure birth obtain in the next world fruits that correspond with their own righteous acts in this life. By walking along the high road constituted by the duties of domesticity, men acquire happy ends by attaining to the region of Prajapati or Vrihaspati or of him of a hundred sacrifices. I can give thee thousands and thousands of instructions. Know, however, that the puissant cleanser (viz., Righteousness), keeps all foolish persons in the Dark.  Thou hast passed four and twenty years. Thou art now full five and twenty years of age. Thy years are passing away. Do thou beg in to lay thy store of righteousness. The Destroyer that dwells within error and heedlessness will very soon deprive thy senses of their respective powers. Do thou before that consummation is brought about, hasten to observe thy duties, relying on thy body alone.  When

it is thy duty to go along that road in which thyself only shalt be in front and thyself only in the rear, what need then hast thou with either thy body or thy spouse and children?  When men have to go individually and without companions to the region of Yama, it is plain that in view of such a situation of terror, thou shouldst seek to acquire that one only treasure (viz., Righteousness or Yogasamadhi). The puissant Yama, regardless of the afflictions of others, snatches, away the friends and relatives of one's race by the very roots. There is no one that can resist him. Do thou, therefore, seek to acquire a stock of righteousness I impart to thee these lessons, O son, that are all agreeable with the scriptures I follow. Do thou observe them by acting according to their import. He who supports his body by following the duties laid down for his own order, and who makes gifts for earning whatever fruits may attach to such acts, becomes freed from the consequences that are born of ignorance and error.  The knowledge which a man of righteous deeds acquires from Vedic declarations leads to omniscience. That omniscience is identical with the science of the highest object of human acquisition (viz., Emancipation). Instruction, imparted to the grateful, became beneficial (in consequence of their leading to the attainment of that highest object of human acquisition).  The pleasure that one takes in living amidst the habitations of men is truly a fast-binding cord. Breaking that cord, men of righteous deeds repair to regions of great felicity. Wicked men, however, fail to break that bond. What use hast thou of wealth, O son, or with relatives, or with children, since thou hast to die: Do thou employ thyself in seeking for thy soul which is hidden in a cave. Where have all thy grandsires gone? Do that today which thou wouldst keep for tomorrow. Do that in the forenoon which thou wouldst keep for the afternoon. Death does not wait for any one, to see whether one has or has not accomplished one's task. Following the body after one's death (to the crematorium), one's relatives and kinsmen and friends come back, throwing it on the funeral pyre. Without a scruple do thou avoid those men that are sceptics, that are destitute of compassion, and that are devoted to wicked ways, and do thou endeavour to seek, without listlessness

or apathy, that which is for thy highest good. When, therefore, the world is thus afflicted by Death, do thou, with thy whole heart, achieve righteousness, aided all the while by unswerving patience. That man who is well conversant with the means of attaining to Emancipation and who duly discharges the duties of his order, certainly attains to great felicity in the other world. For thee that dost not recognise death in the attainment of a different body and that dost not deviate from the path trod by the righteous, there is no destruction. He that increases the stock of righteousness is truly wise. He, on the other hand, that falls away from righteousness is said to be a fool. One that is engaged in the accomplishment of good deeds attains to heaven and other rewards as the fruits of those deeds; but he that is devoted to wicked deeds has to sink in hell. Having acquired the status of humanity, so difficult of acquisition, that is the stepping-stone to heaven, one should fix one's soul on Brahma so that one may not fall away once more. That man whose understanding, directed to the path of heaven, does not deviate therefrom, is regarded by the wise as truly a man of righteousness and when he dies his friends should indulge in grief. That man whose understanding is not restless and which is directed to Brahma and who has attained to heaven, becomes freed from a great terror (viz., hell). They that are born in retreats of ascetics and that die there, do not earn much merit by abstaining all their life from enjoyments and the indulgence of desire. He, however, who though possessed of objects of enjoyment casts them off and engages himself in the practice of penances, succeeds in acquiring everything. The fruits of the penances of such a man are, I think, much higher. Mothers and sires and sons and spouses, by hundreds and thousands, every one had and will have in this world. Who, however, were they and whose are we? I am quite alone. I have no one whom I may call mine. Nor do I belong to any one else. I do not see that person whose I am, nor do I see him whom I may call mine. They have nothing to do with thee. Thou hest nothing to do with them.  All creatures take birth agreeably to their acts of past lives. Thou also shalt have to go hence (for taking birth in a new order) determined by thy own acts. In this world it is seen that the friends and followers of only those that are rich behave towards the rich with devotion. The friends and followers of those, however, that are poor fall away during even the life-time of the poor. Man commits numerous evil acts for the sake of his wife (and children). From those evil acts he derives much distress both here and hereafter. The wise man beholds the world of life devastated by the acts performed by every living being. Do thou, therefore, O son, act according to all the instructions I have given thee!

The man possessed of true vision, beholding this world to be only a field of action, should, from desire of felicity in the next world, do acts that are good. Time, exerting his irresistible strength, cooks all creatures (in his own cauldron), with the aid of his ladle constituted by months and seasons, the sun for his fire, and days and nights for his fuel, days and nights, that is that are the witnesses of the fruits of every act done by every creature. For what purpose is that wealth which is not given away and which is not enjoyed? For what purpose is that strength which is not employed in resisting or subjugating one's foes? For what purpose is that knowledge of the scriptures which does not impel one to deeds of righteousness? And for what purpose is that soul which does not subjugate the senses and abstain from evil acts? "Bhishma continued, 'Having heard these beneficial words spoken by the Island-born (Vyasa), Suka, leaving his sire, proceeded to seek a preceptor that could teach him the religion of Emancipation.'"