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Readings from the Mahabharata
A Dialogue between King Janaka and Sulabha
What the dialogue is about : a brief outline
Emancipation does not exist in poverty; nor its bondage to be found in affluence. One attains to Emancipation through knowledge alone, whether one is indigent or affluent.
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The Dialogue Between Janaka and Sulabha
Janaka and Sulabha
Yudhishthira said: Without abandoning the domestic mode of life, O royal sage of Kurus race, whoever attained to Emancipation which is the annihilation of the Understanding (and the other faculties)? Do tell me this! How may the gross and the subtle form be cast off? Do thou also, O grandsire, tell me what the supreme excellence of Emancipation is.
Bhishma said: In this connection is cited the old narrative of the discourse between Janaka and Sulabha, O Bharata! In days of yore there was a king of Mithila, of the name of Janaka. He was devoted to the practices of the religion of Renunciation. He was well conversant with the Vedas, with the scriptures on Emancipation, and with the scriptures bearing on his own duty as a king. Subjugating his senses, he ruled his kingdom. Hearing of his good behaviour in the world, many men of wisdom, well conversant with wisdom, O foremost of men, desired to imitate him. In the same Satya Yuga, a woman of the name of Sulabha, belonging to the mendicant order, practised the duties of Yoga and wandered over the whole Earth. In course of her wanderings over the Earth, Sulabha heard from many Dandis of different places that the ruler of Mithila was devoted to the religion of Emancipation. Hearing this report about King Janaka and desirous of ascertaining whether it was true or not, Sulabha became desirous of having a personal interview with Janaka. Abandoning, by her Yoga powers, her former form and features, Sulabha assumed the most faultless features and unrivalled beauty. In the twinkling of an eye and with the speed of the quickest shaft, the fair-browed lady of eyes like lotus-petals repaired to the capital of the Videhas. Arrived at the chief city of Mithila teeming with a large population, she adopted the guises of a mendicant and presented herself before the king.
The monarch, beholding her delicate form, became filled with wonder and enquired who she was, whose she was, and whence she came. Welcoming her, he assigned her an excellent seat, honoured her by offering water to wash her feet, and gratified her with excellent refreshments. Refreshed duly and gratified with the rites of hospitality offered unto her, Sulabha, the female mendicant, urged the king, who was surrounded by his ministers and seated in the midst of learned scholars, (to declare himself in respect of his adherence to the religion of Emancipation). Doubting whether Janaka had succeeded in attaining to Emancipation, by following the religion of Nivritti (renunciation), Sulabha, endued with Yoga-power, entered the understanding (intellect) of the king by her own understanding. Restraining, by means of the rays of light that emanated from her own eyes, the rays issuing from the eyes of the king, the lady, desirous of ascertaining the truth, bound up king Janaka with Yoga bonds.
[Note: The Sanskrit word sanchodayishyanti implies questioned. Here it means questioning the king internally or by Yoga power,]
That best of monarch, priding himself upon his own invincibleness and defeating the intentions of Sulabha seized her resolution with his own resolution. The king, in his subtle form, was without the royal umbrella and sceptre. The lady Sulabha, in hers, was without the triple stick (of a mendicant). Both staying then in the same (gross) form thus conversed with each other. Listen to that conversation as it happened between the monarch and Sulabha.
Janaka said: O holy lady, to what course of conduct art thou devoted? Whose art thou? Whence hast thou come? After finishing my business here, wither wilt thou go? No one can without questioning, ascertain anothers acquaintance with the scriptures, or age, or order of birth. Thou shouldst, therefore, answer these questions of mine, when thou hast come to me. Know that I am truly freed from all vanity in respect of my royal umbrellla and sceptre. I wish to know thee thoroughly. Thou art deserving, I hold, of my respect. Do thou listen to me as I speak to thee on Emancipation for there is none else (in this world) that can discourse to thee on that topic. Hear me also I tell thee who that person is from whom in days of old I acquired this distinguishing knowledge.
[Note: It is difficult to say in what sense the word Vaiseshikam is used here. There is a particular system of philosophy called Vaiseshika or Kanada; the system believed to have been originally promulgated by a Rishi of the name of Kanada. That system has close resemblance to the atomic theory of European philosophers. It has many points of striking resemblance with Kapilas system or Sankhya. Then, again, some of the original principles, as enunciated in the Sankhya system, are called by the name of Visesha.]
I am the beloved disciple of the high-souled and venerable Panchasikha, belonging to
the mendicant order, of Parsaras race.
[Note: the mention of Vidhi indicates Karmakanda (ceremonies and rituals). The value of Karma in the path of Emancipation is to purify the soul.]
Wandering over the earth and pursuing the while the path that is pointed out by the scriptures, the learned Panchasikha formerly dwelt in happiness in my abode for a period of four months in the rainy season. That foremost of Sankhyas discoursed to me, agreeably to the truth, and in an intelligible manner suited to my comprehension, on the several kinds of means for attaining to Emancipation. He did not, however, command me to give up my kingdom.
Freed from attachments, and fixing my soul on Supreme Brahman, and unmoved by companionship, I lived, practising in its entirety that triple conduct which is laid down in treatises on Emancipation. Renunciation (of all kinds of attachments) is the highest means prescribed for Emancipation.
It is from knowledge that Renunciation, by which one becomes freed, is said to flow. From knowledge arises that endeavour after Yoga, and through that endeavour one attains to knowledge of self or soul. Through knowledge of Self one transcends joy and grief. That enables one to transcend death and attain to high success.
That high intelligence (knowledge of self) has been acquired by me, and accordingly I have transcended all pairs of opposites. Even in this life have I been freed from stupefaction and have transcended all attachments. As a soil, saturated with water and softened thereby, causes the (sown) seed to sprout forth, after the same manner, the acts of men cause rebirth. As a seed, fried on a pan or otherwise, becomes unable to sprout forth although the capacity for sprouting was there, after the same manner my understanding having been freed from the productive principle constituted by desire, by the instruction of the holy Panchasikha of the mendicant order, it no longer produces its fruit in the form of attachment to the object of the senses. I never experience love for any spouse or hate for my foes. Indeed, I keep aloof from both, beholding the fruitlessness of attachment and wrath. I regard both persons equally, viz., him that smears my right hand with sandal-paste and him, that wounds my left.
Having attained my (true) object, I am happy, and look equally upon a clod of earth, a piece of stone, and a lump of gold. I am freed from attachments of every kind, though I am engaged in ruling a kingdom. In consequence of all this I am distinguished over all bearers of triple sticks. Some foremost of men that are conversant with the topic of Emancipation say that Emancipation has a triple path, (these are knowledge, Yoga and sacrifices and rites). Some regard knowledge having all things of the world for its object as the means of emancipation. Some hold that the total renunciation of acts (both external and internal) is the means thereof. Another class of persons conversant with the scriptures of Emancipation say that Knowledge is the single means. Others, viz. Yatis, endued with subtle vision, hold that acts constitute the means. The high-souled Panchasikha, discarding both the opinions about knowledge and acts, regarded the third as the only means of Emancipation.
If men leading the domestic mode of life were endued with Yama and Niyama, they become equals of Sannyasins. If, on the other hand, Sannyasins were endued with desire and aversion and spouses and honour and pride and affection, they become the equals of men leading domestic modes of life. If one can attain to Emancipation by means of knowledge, then may Emancipation exist in triple sticks (for there is nothing to prevent the bearer of such stick from acquiring the needful knowledge). Why then may Emancipation not exist in the umbrella and the sceptre as well, especially when there is equal reason in taking up the triple stick and the sceptre? One becomes attached to all those things and acts with which one has need for the sake of ones own self for particular reasons.
[Note: There is equal reason in taking up etc., implies that the bearing of the sceptre is only a mode of life like that of holders of the triple-stick. Both the king and the Sannyasin are free to acquire knowledge and both, therefore, may attain to Emancipation notwithstanding their respective emblems. In the emblems themselves there is no efficacy or disqualification.]
If a person, beholding the faults of the domestic mode of life, casts it off for adopting another mode (which he considers to be fraught with great merit), he cannot, for such rejection and adoption be regarded as one that is once freed from all attachments, (for all that he has done has been to attach himself to a new mode after having freed himself from a previous one).
[Note: The object of this verse is to show that all persons, led by interest, become attached to particular things. The littleness or greatness of those things cannot aid or bar peoples way to Emancipation. I may be a king, said Janaka, 'and thou mayest be a mendicant, neither thy mendicancy nor my royalty can aid or obstruct Emancipation. Both of us, by Knowledge, can achieve what we wish, notwithstanding our outward surroundings.]
Sovereignty is fraught with the rewarding and the chastising of others. The life of a mendicant is equally fraught with the same (for mendicants also reward and chastise those they can). When, therefore, mendicants are similar to kings in this respect, why would mendicants only attain to Emancipation, and not kings? Notwithstanding the possession of sovereignty, therefore, one becomes cleansed of all sins by means of knowledge alone, living the while in Supreme Brahman. The wearing of brown cloths, shaving of the head, bearing of the triple stick, and the Kamandalu- these are the outward signs of ones mode of life.
These have no value in aiding one to the attainment of Emancipation. When, notwithstanding the adoption of these emblems of a particular mode of life, knowledge alone becomes the cause of ones Emancipation from sorrow, it would appear that the adoption of mere emblems is perfectly useless. Or, if, beholding the mitigation of sorrow in it, thou hast betaken thyself to these emblems of Sannyasi, why then should not the mitigation of sorrow be beheld in the umbrella and the sceptre to which I have betaken myself?
Emancipation does not exist in poverty; nor its bondage to be found in affluence. One attains to Emancipation through knowledge alone, whether one is indigent or affluent.
For these reasons, know that I am living in a condition of freedom, though ostensibly engaged in the enjoyments of religion, wealth and pleasure, in the form of kingdom and spouses, which constitute a field of bondage (for the generality of men). The bonds constituted by kingdom and affluence, and the bondage to attachments, I have cut off with the sword of Renunciation whetted on the stone of the scriptures bearing upon Emancipation. As regards myself then, I tell thee that I have become freed in this way.
O lady of the mendicant order, I cherish an affection for thee. But that should not
prevent me from telling thee that thy behaviour does not correspond with the practices of
the mode of life to which thou hast betaken thyself! Thou hast great delicacy of
formation. Thou hast an exceedingly shapely form. The age is young. Thou hast all these,
and thou hast Niyama (subjugation of the senses).
Listen now to me as to what thy transgression has been in consequence of thy contact with me and thy having entered into my gross body with the aid of thy understanding. To what reason is thy entrance to be ascribed into my kingdom or my palace? At whose sign hast thou entered into my heart?
[Note: What the king says is that he, the king, had made no assignation with the lady in consequence of which she could be justified in entering his body.]
Thou belongest to the foremost of all the orders, being, as thou art, a Brahmana woman. As regards myself, however, I am a kshatriya. There is no union for us two. Do not help to cause an intermixture of colours. Thou livest in the practice of those duties that lead to Emancipation. I live in the domestic mode of life. This act of thine, therefore, is another evil thou hast done, for it produces an unnatural union of two opposite modes of life. I do not know whether thou belongest to my own Gotra (lineage) or dost not belong to it. As regards thyself also, thou dost not know who I am (viz., to what gotra I belong). If thou art of my own gotra, thou hast, by entering into my person, produced another evil- the evil, viz., of unnatural union.
If again, thy husband were alive and dwelling in a distant place, thy union with me has produced the fourth evil of sinfulness, for thou art not one with whom I may be lawfully united. Dost thou perpetrate all these sinful acts, impelled by the motive of accomplishing a particular object? Dost thou do these from ignorance or from perverted intelligence? If again, in consequence of thy evil nature thou hast thus become thoroughly independent or unrestrained in thy behaviour, I tell thee that if thou hast any knowledge of the scriptures, thou wit understand that everything thou hast done has been productive of evil.
A third fault attaches to thee in consequence of these acts of thine, a fault that is destructive of peace of mind. By endeavouring to display thy superiority, the indication of a wicked woman is seen in thee. Desirous of asserting thy victory as thou art, it is not myself alone whom thy wishest to defeat, for it is plain that thou wishest to obtain a victory over even the whole of my court (consisting of these learned and very superior Brahmanas), by casting thy eyes in this way towards all these meritorious Brahmanas, it is evident that thou desirest to humiliate them all and glorify thyself (at their expense).
Stupefied by the pride of Yoga-puissance that has been born of thy jealousy (at sight of my power), thou hast caused a union of thy understanding with mine and thereby hast really mingled together nectar with poison. That union again, of man and woman, when each covers the other, is sweet as nectar. That association, however, of man and woman, when the latter, herself coveting, fails to obtain an individual of the opposite sex that does not covet her, is, instead of being a merit, only a fault that is as noxious as poison. Do not continue to touch me. Know that I am righteous. Do thou act according to thy own scriptures. The enquiry thou hadst wished to make, viz., whether I am or I am not emancipated, has been finished. It behoves thee not to conceal from me all thy secret motives. It behoves thee not, that thus disguisest thyself, to conceal from me what thy object is, that is whether this call of thine has been prompted by the desire of accomplishing some object of thy own or whether thou hast come for accomplishing the object of some other king (that is hostile to me).
One should never appear deceitfully before a king; nor before a Brahmana (Brahmin); nor before one's wife, when that wife is possessed of every wifely virtue. Those who appear in deceitful guise before these three very soon meet with destruction. The power of kings consists in their sovereignty. The power of Brahmanas conversant with the Vedas is in the Vedas. Women wield a high power in consequence of their beauty and youth and blessedness. These then are powerful in the possession of these powers.
He, therefore, that is desirous of accomplishing his own object should always approach these three with sincerity and candour, insincerity and deceit fail to produce success (in these three quarters). It behoveth thee, therefore, to apprise me of the order to which thou belongest by birth, of thy learning and conduct and disposition and nature, as also of the object thou hast in view in coming to this place!
Bhishma continued: Though rebuked by the king in these unpleasant, improper, and ill-applied words, the lady Sulabha was not at all abashed. After the king had said these words, the beautiful Sulabha then addressed herself for saying the following words in reply that were more handsome than her person.
Sulabha said: O king, speech ought always to be free from the nine verbal faults and the nine faults of judgment. It should also, while setting forth the meaning with perspicuity, be possessed of the eighteen well-known merits.
Ambiguity, ascertainment of the faults and merits of premises and conclusions, the conclusion, and the element of persuasiveness or otherwise that attaches to the conclusion thus arrived at- these five characteristics appertaining to the sense- constitute the authoritativeness of what is said. Listen now o the characteristics of these requirements beginning with ambiguity, one after another, as I expound them according to the combinations.
When knowledge rests on distinction in consequence of the object to be known being different from one another, and when (as regards the comprehension of the subject) the understanding rests upon many points, one after another, the combination of words (in whose case this occurs) is said to be vitiated by ambiguity. By ascertainment (of faults and merits), called Sankhya, is meant the establishment, by elimination, of faults or merits (in premises and conclusions), adopting tentative meanings. Krama or weighing the relative strength or weakness of the faults or merits (ascertained by the above process) consists in settling the propriety of the priority or subsequence of the words employed in a sentence.
This is the meaning attached to the word Krama by persons conversant with the interpretation of sentences or texts. By conclusion is meant the final determination, after this examination of what has been said on the subjects of religion, pleasure, wealth, and Emancipation, in respect of what is particularly is that has been said in the text. The sorrow born of wish or aversion increases to a great measure. The conduct, O king, that one pursues in such a matter (for dispelling the sorrow experienced) is called Prayojanam.
[Note: By prayojanam is meant the conduct one pursues for gratifying ones wish to acquire or avoid any object. Wish in respect of either acquisition or avoidance, if ungratified, becomes a source of pain. The section or conduct that one adopts for removing that pain is called Prayojanam. In the Gautama-sutras it is said that yamarthamadhikritya pravartate, tat prayojanam. The two definitions are identical.]
Take it for certain, O king, at my word, that these characteristics of Ambiguity and the other (numbering five in all), when occurring together, constitute a complete and intelligible sentence.
[Note: By occurrence of these five characteristics together is meant that when these are properly attended to by a speaker or writer, only then can his sentence be said to be complete and intelligible. In Nyaya, the five requisites are Pratijna, Hetu, Udaharana, Upanaya, and Nigamana. In the Mimansa philosophy, the five requisites have been named differently. Vishaya, Samsaya, Purvapaksha, Uttara, and Nirnaya.]
The words I shall utter will be fraught with sense, free from ambiguity (in consequence of each of them not being symbols of many things), logical, free from pleonasm or tautology, smooth, certain, free from bombast, agreeable or sweet, truthful, inconsistent with the aggregate of three, (viz., Righteousness, Wealth, and Pleasure), refined (i.e., free from Prakriti), not elliptical or imperfect, destitute of harshness or difficulty of comprehension, characterized by due order, not far fetched in respect of sense, corrected with one another as cause and effect and each having a specific object.
[Note: These characteristics, though numbering sixteen, include the four and twenty mentioned by Bhojadeva in his Rhetoric called Saraswati-kanthabharana.]
I shall not tell thee anything, prompted by desire or wrath or fear or cupidity or abjectness or deceit or shame or compassion or pride. (I answer thee because it is proper for me to answer what thou hast said).
When the speaker, the hearer, and the words said, thoroughly agree with one another in course of a speech, then does the sense or meaning come out very clearly. When, in the matter of what is to be said, the speaker shows disregard for the understanding of the hearer by uttering words whose meaning is understood by himself, then, however good those words may be, they become incapable of being seized by the hearer.
That speaker, again, who, abandoning all regard for his own meaning uses words that are of excellent sound and sense, awakens only erroneous impressions in the mind of the hearer, such words in such connection become certainly faulty. That speaker, however, who employs words that are, while expressing his own meaning, intelligible to the hearer, as well, truly deserves to be called a speaker. No other man deserves the name. It behoveth thee, therefore, O king, to hear with concentrated attention these words of mine, fraught with meaning and endued with wealth of vocables.
Thou hast asked me who I am, whose I am, whence I am coming etc. Listen to me, O king, with undivided mind, as I answer these questions of thine. As Lac and wood, as grains of dust and drops of water, exist commingled when brought together, even so are the existences of all creatures.
[Note: What Sulabha says here is this: the great primal elements are the same whether they make up this body or that other body; and then it is the same Chit that pervades every combination of the great elements. The object of this observation is to show that Janaka should not have asked these questions about Sulabha, he and she being essentially the same person. To regard the two as different would indicate obscuration of vision.]
Sound, touch, taste, form and scent, these and the senses, though diverse in respect of their essences, exist yet in a state of co-mingling like Lac and wood. It is again well known that nobody asks any of these, saying, who art thou? Each of them also has no knowledge either of itself or of the others. The eye cannot see itself. The ear cannot hear itself. The eye, again, cannot discharge the functions of any of the other senses, nor can any of the senses discharge the functions of any sense save its own. If all of them even combine together, even they fail to know their own selves as dust and water mingled together cannot know each other though existing in a state of union. In order to discharge their respective functions, they await the contact of objects that are external to them.
The eye, form and light constitute the three requisites of the operation called seeing.The same, as in this case, happens in respect of the operations of the other senses and the ideas which is their result. Then, again, between the functions of the senses (called vision, hearing, etc.,) and the idea which are their result (viz., form, sound, etc.), the mind is an entity other than the senses and is regarded to have an action of its own. With its help one distinguishes what is existent from what is non-existent for arriving at certainty (in the matter of all ideas derived from the senses).
With the five senses of knowledge and five senses of action, the mind makes a total of eleven. The twelfth is the understanding. When doubt arises in respect of what is to be known, the Understanding comes forward and settles all doubts (for aiding correct apprehension). After the twelfth, Satttwa is another principle numbering the thirteenth. With its help, creatures are distinguished as possessing more of it or less of it in their constitutions. After this, Consciousness (of self) is another principle (numbering the fourteenth). It helps one to an apprehension of self as distinguished from what is not self. Desire is the fifteenth principle, O king. Unto it inhere the whole universe.
[Note: By the word Kala is meant the 16 principles beginning with Prana. What is intended to be said is that as long as the principle of Desire exists, rebirth becomes possible. The universe, therefore, rests on the principle of Desire or Vasana. The senses, etc. all arise from this principle of Vasana.]
The sixteenth principle is Avidya (ignorance). Unto it inhere the seventeenth and the eighteenth principles called Prakriti and Vyakti (i.e., Maya and Prakasa). Happiness and sorrow, decrepitude and death, acquisition and loss, the agreeable and the disagreeable- these constitute the nineteenth principle and are called couples of opposites. Beyond the nineteenth principle is another, viz., Time called the twentieth. Know that the births and death of all creatures are due to the action of this twentieth principle. These twenty exist together. Besides these, the five great primal elements, and existence and non-existence, bring up the tale to seven and twenty. Beyond these, are three others, named Vidhi, Sukra, and Vala that make the tale reach thirty.
[Note: By Vidhi is meant that righteousness and its reverse, which constitute the seed of Desire. By Sukra is meant that which helps that seed to grow or put forth its rudiments. By Vala is meant the exertion that one makes for gratifying ones desire.]
That in which these ten and twenty principles occur is said to be body.Some persons regard unmanifest Prakriti to be the source or cause of these thirty principles. (This is the view of the atheistic Sankhya school). The Kanadas of gross vision regard the Manifest (or atoms) to be their cause. Whether the unmanifest or the Manifest be their cause, or whether the two (viz., the Supreme or Purusha and the Manifest or atoms) be regarded as their cause, or fourthly, whether the four together (viz., the Supreme or Purusha and his Maya and Jiva and Avidya or Ignorance) be the cause, they that are conversant with Adhyatma behold Prakriti as the cause of all creatures. That Prakriti which is Unmanifest, becomes manifest in the form of these principles. Myself, thyself, O monarch, and all others that are endued with body are the result of that Prakriti (so far as our bodies are concerned).
Insemination and other (embryonic) conditions are due to the mixture of the vital seed and blood. In consequence of insemination the result which first appears is called by the name of Kalala. From Kalala arises what is called Vudvuda (bubble). From the stage called Vudvuda springs what is called Pesi. From the condition called Pesi that stage arises in which the various limbs become manifested. From this last condition appear nails and hair.
Upon the expiration of the ninth month, O king of Mithila, the creature takes its birth so that, its sex being known, it comes to be called a boy or girl. When the creature issues out of the womb, the form it presents is such that its nails and fingers seem to be of the hue of burnished copper. The next stage is said to be infancy, when the form that was seen at the time of birth becomes changed. From infancy youth is reached, and from youth, old age.
As the creature advances from one stage into another, the form presented in the previous stage becomes changed. The constituent elements of the body, which serve diverse functions in the general economy, undergo change every moment in every creature. Those changes, however, are so minute that they cannot be noticed. The birth of particles, and their death, in each successive condition, cannot be marked, O king, even as one cannot mark the changes in the flame of a burning lamp. When such is the state of the bodies of all creatures, - that is when that which is called the body is changing incessantly even like the rapid locomotion of a steed of good mettle- who then has come whence or not whence, or whose is it or whose is it not, or whence does it not arise? What connection does there exist between creatures and their own bodies?
[Note: The fact of continual change of particles in the body was well known to the Hindu sages. This discovery is not new of modern physiology. Elsewhere it has been shown that Harveys great discovery about the circulation of the blood was not unknown to the Rishis.
The instance mentioned for illustrating the change of corporal particles is certainly a very apt and happy one. The flame of a burning lamp, though perfectly steady (as in a breezeless spot), is really the result of the successive combustion of particles of oil and the successive extinguishments of such combustion.]
As from the contact of flint with iron, or from two sticks of wood when rubbed against each other, fire is generated, even so are creatures generated from the combination of the (thirty) principles already named. Indeed, as thou thyself seest thy own body in thy body and as thou thyself seest thy soul in thy own soul, why is it that thou dost not see thy own body and thy own soul in the bodies and souls of others? If it is true that thou seest an identity with thyself and others, why then did thou ask me who I am and whose? If it is true that hast, O king been freed from the knowledge of duality that (erroneously) says-this is mine and this other is not mine- then what use is there with such questions as Who art thou, whose art thou and whence dost thou come? What indications of Emancipation can be said to occur in that king who acts as others act towards enemies and allies and neutrals and in victory and truce and war? What indications of Emancipation occur in him who does not know the true nature of the aggregate of three as manifested in seven ways in all acts and who, on that account, is attached to that aggregate of three?
[Note: Hence the questions of Janaka, asking as to who the lady was or whose, were futile.
Note: The seven ways are as follows: Righteousness and wealth and Pleasure independently and distinct from one another count three, then the first and second, the first and third, and second and third, count three and lastly, all three existing together. In all acts, one or other of these seven may be found. The first and second exist in all acts whose result is the righteous acquisition of wealth; the first and third exist in the procreation of children in lawful wedlock; the second and third in ordinary acts of worldly men. Of acts in which all three combine, the rearing of children may be noticed, for it is at once a duty, a source of wealth, and a pleasure.]
What indications of Emancipation exist in him who fails to cast an equal eye on the agreeable, on the weak, and the strong?
Unworthy as thou art of it, thy pretence of Emancipation should be put down by thy counselors! This thy endeavour to attain to Emancipation (when thou hast so many faults) is like the use of medicine by a patient who indulges in all kinds of forbidden food and practices. O chastiser of foes, reflecting upon spouses and other source of attachment, one should behold these in ones own soul. What else can be looked upon as the indication of Emancipation?
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown")
From The Mahabharata
Addressing King Janaka, Sulabha continued:
Listen now to me as I speak in detail of these and certain other minute sources of attachment appertaining to the four well known acts (of lying down for slumber, enjoyment, eating, and dressing) to which thou art still bound though thou professest thyself to have adopted the religion of Emancipation. That man who has to rule the whole world must indeed, be a single king without a second. He is obliged to live in only a single palace. In that palace he has again only one sleeping chamber. In that chamber, again, only one bed on which at night he is to lie down. Half that bed again he is obliged to give to his Queen consort. This may serve as an example of how little the kings share is of all he is said to own.
This is the case with his objects of enjoyment, with the food he eats, and with the robes he wears. He is thus attached to a very limited share of all things. He is, again, attached to the duties of rewarding and punishing. The king is always dependent on others. He enjoys a very small share of all he is supposed to own, and to that small share he is forced to be attached (as well as others are attached to their respective possessions). In the matter also of peace and war, the king cannot be said to be independent. In the matter of women, of sports and other kinds of enjoyment, the kings inclinations are exceedingly circumscribed. In the matter of taking counsel and in the assembly of his councilors what independence can the king be said to have? When, indeed, he sets his orders on other men, he is said to be thoroughly independent. But then the moment after, in the several matters of his orders, his independence is barred by the very men whom he has ordered.
[Note: The king may order some men to do something. These men, after obeying those orders, return to him to report the fact of what they have accomplished. The king is obliged to grant them interview for listening to them.]
If the king desires to sleep, he cannot gratify his desire, resisted by those who have business to transact with him. He must sleep when permitted, and while sleeping he is obliged to wake up for attending to those that have urgent business with him- bathe, touch, drink, eat, pour libations on the fire, perform sacrifices, speak, hear- these are the words which kings have to hear from others and hearing them have to slave to those that utter them. Men come in batches to the king and solicit him for gifts.
Being, however, the protector of the general treasury, he cannot make gifts unto even the most deserving. If he makes gifts, the treasury becomes exhausted. If he does not, disappointed solicitors look upon him with hostile eyes. He becomes vexed and as the result of this, misanthropical feelings soon invade his mind. If many wise and heroic and wealthy men reside together, the kings mind begins to be filled with distrust in consequence. Even when there is no cause of fear, the king entertains fear of those that always wait upon and worship him. Those I have mentioned, O king, also find fault with him. Behold, in what way the kings fears may arise from even them!
Then again all men are kings in their own houses. All men, again, in their own houses are householders. Like kings, O Janaka, all men in their own houses chastise and reward. Like kings others also have sons and spouses and their own selves and treasuries and friends and stores. In these respects the king is not different from other men. The country is ruined- the city is consumed by fire- the foremost of elephants is dead at all this the king yields to grief like others, little regarding that these impressions are all due to ignorance and error. The king is seldom freed from mental griefs caused by desire and aversion and fear. He is generally afflicted also by headaches and diverse diseases of the kind.
The king is afflicted (like others) by all couples of opposites (as pleasure and pain, etc). He is alarmed at everything. Indeed, full of foes and impediments as kingdom is, the king, while he enjoys it, passes nights of sleeplessness. Sovereignty, therefore, is blessed with an exceedingly small share of happiness. The misery with which it is endued is very great. It is as unsubstantial as burning flames fed by straw or the bubbles of froth seen on the surface of water. Who is there that would like to obtain sovereignty or having acquired sovereignty can hope to win tranquillity?
Thou regardest this kingdom and this palace to be thine. Thou thinkest also this army, this treasury, and these counselors to belong to thee. Whose, however, in reality are they, and whose are they not? Allies, ministers, capital, provinces, punishment, treasury, and the king, these seven that constitute the limbs of a kingdom exist, depending upon one another, like three sticks standing with one anothers support. The merits of each are set off by the merits of the others, which of them can be said to be superior to the rest? At those times those particular ones are regarded as distinguished above the rest when some important end is served through their agency. Superiority, for the time being, is said to attach to that one whose efficacy is thus seen. The seven limbs already mentioned, O best of kings, and the three others, forming an aggregate of ten, supporting one another, are said to enjoy the kingdom like the king himself.
[Note: The three others are Vriddhi (increase), Kshaya (decrease), and Sthana, all of which arise from policy. Some of the seven limbs are inanimate, such as the treasury. But it is said that the treasury supports the ministers, and the ministers support the treasury.]
That king who is endued with great energy and who is firmly attached to Kshatriya practices, should be satisfied with only a tenth part of the produce of the subjects field. Other kings are seen to be satisfied with less than a tenth part of such produce. There is no one who owns the kingly office without someone else owning it in the world, and there is no kingdom without a king.
[Note: Hence, when each kingdom has a king, and kings too are many, no one should indulge in pride at the thought of his being a king.]
If there be no kingdom, there can be no righteousness, and there be no righteousness, whence can Emancipation arise? Whatever merit is most sacred and the highest, belongs to kings and kingdoms.
[Note: The object of this verse is to show that as king Janaka rules his kingdom without being attached to it, he cannot lay claim to the merit that belongs to kings.]
By ruling a kingdom well, a king earns the merit that attaches to a Horse-sacrifice with the whole Earth given away as Dakshina (gift). But how many kings are there that rule their kingdoms well? O ruler of Mithila, I can mention hundreds and thousands of faults like these that attach to kings and kingdoms. Then, again, when I have no real connection with even my body, how then can I be said to have any contact with the bodies of others? Thou canst not charge me with having endeavoured to bring about an intermixture of castes. Hast thou heard the religion of Emancipation in its entirety from the lips of Panchasikha together with its means, its methods, its practices, and its conclusion?
[Note: The Sanskrit word Upaya means or implies here the attitude of sitting (as in Yoga). Upanishad or method implies Sravana and Manana i.e., listening and thinking. Upasanga or practice implies the several limbs of Dhyana, etc. Nischaya or conclusion has reference to Brahma.]
If thou hast prevailed over all thy bonds and freed thyself from all attachments, may I ask thee, O king, who thou preservest thy connections still with this umbrella and these other appendages of royalty? I think that thou hast not listened to the scriptures, or, thou hast listened to them without any advantage, or, perhaps, thou hast listened to some other treatises looking like the scriptures. It seems that thou art possessed only of worldly knowledge, and that like an ordinary man of the world thou art bound by the bonds of touch and spouses and mansions and the like. If it be true that thou hast been emancipated from all bonds, what harm have I done thee by entering thy person with only an intellect?
With Yatis, among all orders of men, the custom is to dwell in uninhabited or deserted abodes. What harm then have I done to whom by entering thy understanding which is truly of real knowledge? I have not touched thee, O king, with my hands, or arms, or feet, or thighs, O sinless one, or with any other part of the body. Thou art born in a high race. Thou hast modesty. Thou hast foresight. Whether the act has been good or bad, my entrance into thy body has been a private one, concerning us two only. Was it not improper for thee to publish that private act before all thy court?
These Brahmanas are all worthy of respect. They are foremost of preceptors. Thou also art entitled to their respect, being their king. Doing them reverence, thou art entitled to receive reverence from them. Reflecting on all this, it was not proper for thee to proclaim before these foremost of men the fact of this congress between two persons of opposite sexes, if indeed, thou art really acquainted with the rules of propriety in respect of speech. O king of Mithila, I am staying in thee without touching thee at all even like a drop of water on a lotus leaf that stays on it without drenching it in the least. If, notwithstanding instructions of Panchasikha of the mendicant order, thy knowledge has been abstracted from the sensual objects to which it relates? Thou hast, it is plain, fallen off from the domestic mode of life but thou hast not yet attained to Emancipation that is so difficult to arrive at. Thou stayest between the two, pretending that thou hast reached the goal of Emancipation.
The contact of one that is emancipated with another that has been so, or Purusha with Prakriti, cannot lead to an intermingling of the kind thou dreadest. Only those that regard the soul to be identical with the body, and that think the several orders and modes of life to be really different from one another, are open to the error of supposing an intermingling to be possible. My body is different from thine. But my soul is not different from thy soul. When I am able to realize this, I have not the slightest doubt that my understanding is really not staying in thine though I have entered into thee by Yoga.
A pot is borne in the hand. In the pot is milk. On the milk is a fly. Though the hand and pot, the pot and milk, and the milk and the fly exist together, yet are they all distinct from each other. The pot does not partake the nature of the milk. Nor does the milk partake the nature of the fly. The condition of each is dependent on itself, and can never be altered by the condition of that other with which it may temporarily exist. After this manner, colour and practices, though they may exist together with and in a person that is emancipate, do not really attach to him. How then can an intermingling of orders be possible in consequence of this union of myself with thee?
Then, again, I am not superior to thee in colour. Nor am I Vaisya, nor a Sudra. I am, O king, of the same order with thee, born of a pure race. There was a royal sage of the name of Pradhana. It is evident that thou hast heard of him. I am born in his race, and my name is Sulabha. In the sacrifices performed by my ancestors, the foremost of the gods, viz., Indra, used to come accompanied by Drona and Satasringa, and Chakradwara (and other presiding geniuses of the great mountains). Born in such a race, it was found that no husband could be obtained for me that would be fit for me. Instructed then in the religion of Emancipation, I wander over the Earth alone, observant of the practices of asceticism. I practise no hypocrisy in the matter of the life of renunciation. I am not a thief that appropriates what belongs to others. I am not a confuser of the practices belonging to the different orders.
I am firm in the practices that belong to that mode of life to which I properly belong. I am firm and steady in my vows. I never utter any word without reflecting on its propriety. I did not come to thee, without having deliberated properly. O monarch! Having heard that thy understanding has been purified by the religion of Emancipation, I came here from desire of some benefit. Indeed, it was for enquiring of thee about Emancipation that I had come.
I do not say it for glorifying myself and humiliating my opponents. But I say it, impelled by sincerity only. What I say is, he that is emancipated never indulges in that intellectual gladiatorship which is implied by a dialectical disputation for the sake of victory. He, on the other hand, is really emancipate who devotes himself to Brahma, that sole seat of tranquillity. As a person of the mendicant order resides for only one night in an empty house (and leaves it the next morning), even after the same manner I shall reside for this one night in thy person (which, as I have already said, is like an empty chamber, being destitute of knowledge). Thou hast honoured me with both speech and other offers that are due from a host to a guest. Having slept this one night in thy person, O ruler of Mithila, which is as it were my own chamber now, tomorrow I shall depart.
Bhishma continued: Hearing these words fraught with excellent sense and reason, King
Janaka failed to return any answer thereto.