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Righteousness (Part 1)
Yudhishthira said: All men that inhabit this earth are filled with doubts in respect of the nature of righteousness. What is this that is called righteousness? Whence also does righteousness come? Tell me this, O Grandsire! Is righteousness for service in this world or is it for service in the next world? Or, is it for service both here and hereafter? Tell me this, O Grandsire!
Bhishma said: The practices of the good, the Smritis, and the Vedas, are the three indications (sources) of righteousness. Besides these, the learned have declared that the purpose (for which an act is accomplished) is the fourth indication of righteousness.
The Rishis of old have declared what acts are righteous and also classified them as superior or inferior in point of merit. The rules of righteousness have been laid down for the conduct of the affairs of the world. In both the worlds, that is, here and hereafter, righteousness produces happiness as its fruits. A sinful person unable to acquire merit by subtle ways, becomes stained with sin only. Some are of the opinion that sinful persons can never be cleansed of their sins. In seasons of distress, a person by even speaking an untruth acquires the merit of speaking the truth, even as a person who accomplishes an unrighteous act acquires by that very means the merit of having done a righteous act.
Conduct is the refuge of righteousness.
Conduct is the refuge of righteousness. You should know what righteousness is, aided by conduct. (It is the nature of man that he neither sees nor proclaims his own faults but notices and proclaims those of others). The very thief, stealing what belongs to others, spends the produce of his theft in acts of apparent virtue. During a time of anarchy, the thief takes great pleasure in appropriating what belongs to others. When others, however, rob him of what he has acquired by robbery, he then wishes forthwith for a king (for invoking punishment on the head of the offenders). At even such a time, when his indignation for offended rights of property is at its highest, he secretly covets the wealth of those that are contended with their own. Fearlessly and without a doubt in his mind (when he is himself the victim of a robbery) he repairs to the kings palace with a mind cleansed of every sin. Within even his own heart he does not see the stain of any evil act.
To speak the truth is meritorious. There is nothing higher than truth. Everything is upheld by truth, and everything rests upon truth. Even the sinful and ferocious, swearing to keep the truth amongst themselves, dismiss all grounds of quarrel and uniting with one another set themselves to their (sinful) tasks, depending upon truth. If they behave falsely towards one another, they would then be destroyed without doubt.
One should not take what belongs to others. That is an eternal obligation. Powerful men regard it as one that has been introduced by the weak. When, however, the destiny of these men becomes adverse, this injunction then meets with their approval. Then again they that surpass others in strength or prowess do not necessarily become happy. Therefore, do not ever set your heart on any act that is wrong. One behaving in this way has no fear of dishonest men or thieves or the king. Not having done any injury to any one, such a man lives fearlessly and with a pure heart. A thief fears everybody, like a deer driven from the woods into the midst of an inhabited village. He thinks other people to be as sinful as himself. One that is of pure heart is always filled with cheerfulness and has no fear from any direction. Such a person never sees his own misconduct in others (implying that such a man is always alive to his own faults. He never thinks that others are guilty of an offence which he, in a moment of temptation, may have committed).
Practice of charity is another high duty
Persons engaged in doing good to all creatures have said that the practice of charity is another high duty. They that are possessed of wealth think that this duty has been laid down by those that are indigent. When, however, those wealthy men meet with poverty in consequence of some turn of fortune, the practice of charity then recommends itself to them. Men that are exceedingly wealthy do not necessarily meet with happiness.
Knowing how painful it is to himself, a person should never do that to others which he dislikes when done to him by others. What can one who becomes the lover of another mans wife say to another man (guilty of the same transgression)? It is seen, however, that even such a one, when he sees his lady with another lover, becomes unable to forgive the act. How can one who, to draw breath himself think of preventing another by a murderous act, from doing the same? Whatever wishes one entertains with respect to ones own self, one should certainly cherish with respect to another.
With the surplus wealth one may happen to own one should relieve the wants of the indigent. It is for this reason that the Creator ordained the practice of increasing ones wealth.
One should walk alone that path by proceeding along which one may hope to meet with the deities; or, at such times when wealth is gained, adherence to the duties of sacrifice and gift is laudable.
The sages have said that the accomplishment of the objects by means of agreeable (pacific) means is righteousness. See, O Yudhishthira, that even this is the criterion that has been kept in view in declaring the indications of righteousness and iniquity. In days of old the Creator ordained righteousness endowing it with the power of holding the world together. The conduct of the good, that is fraught with excellence, is subjected to (numerous) restraints for acquiring righteousness which depends upon many delicate considerations. The indications of righteousness have now been recounted to you, O foremost one of Kurus race! Do not, therefore, at any time set your understanding upon any act that is wrong.
Yudhishthira said: Thou sayest that righteousness or duty depends upon delicate considerations, that is indicated by the conduct of those that are called good, that it is fraught with restraints (from numerous acts), and that its indications are also contained in the Vedas. It seems to me, however, that I have a certain inward light in consequence of which I can discriminate between right and wrong by inferences. Numerous questions that I had intended to ask thee have all been answered by thee. There is one question, however, that I shall presently ask. It is not prompted, O king, by desire of empty disputation. All these embodied creatures, it seems, take birth, exist, and leave their bodies, of their own nature. Duty and its reverse, therefore, cannot be ascertained, O Bharata, by study of the scriptures alone.
[Note: The argument, as explained by the commentator is this: Bhishma has said that righteousness and its reverse arise from ones acts producing happiness or misery to others, and that they both affect ones future life in respect to the happiness and misery enjoyed or endured therein. But living creatures, says Yudhishthira, are seen to take their births, exist, and die, of their own nature. Nature, therefore, seems to be the efficient cause of birth, existence, and death, and not the declarations in the Srutis (Vedas), consistent though those declarations be with considerations of felicity or the reverse. The study of the Vedas, therefore, cannot alone lead to a knowledge of righteousness and its reverse.]
Yuthishthira continued: The duties of a person who is well off are of one kind. Those of a person who has fallen onto distress are of another kind. How can duty respecting seasons of distress be ascertained by reading the scriptures alone? The acts of the good, thou hast said, constitute righteousness (or duty). The good, however, are to be ascertained by their acts. The definition, therefore, has for its foundation, a begging of the question, with the result that what is meant by conduct of the good remains unsettled.
It is seen that some ordinary person commits unrighteousness while apparently achieving righteousness. Some extraordinary persons again may be seen who achieve righteousness by committing acts that are apparently unrighteous.
[Note : The commentator cites the example of Sudras listening to forbidden scriptures in expectation of merit. They commit sin by such act. Then again high Brahmanas like Agastya, by cursing the denizens of the Dandaka forest, achieved great merit.]
Then again the proof of what I say has been furnished by even those that are well conversant with the scriptures themselves, for it has been heard by us that the ordinances of the Vedas disappear gradually in every successive age. The duties in the Krita age are of one kind. Those in the Treta are of another kind, and those in the Dwapara are again different. The duties in the Kali age, again, are entirely of another kind. It seems, therefore, that duties have been laid down for the respective age according to the powers of human beings in the respective ages. When, therefore, all the declarations in the Vedas do not apply equally to all the ages, the saying that the declarations of the Vedas are true is only a popular form of speech indulged in for popular satisfaction.
From the Srutis (Vedas) have originated the Smritis [e.g. The Mahabharata, Ramayana] whose scope again is very wide. If the Vedas be authority for everything, then authority would attach to the Smritis also for the latter are based on the former. When, however, the Srutis and the Smritis contradict each other, how can either be authoritative? Then again, it is seen that when some wicked persons of great might cause certain portions of certain courses of righteous acts to be stopped, these are destroyed for ever.
Whether we know it or know it not, whether we are able to ascertain it or not to ascertain it, the course of duty is finer than the edge of a razor and grosser than even a mountain. Righteousness (in the form of sacrifices and other religious acts) at first appears in the form of the romantic edifices of vapour seen in the distant sky. When, however, it is examined by the learned, it disappears and become invisible.
[Note: Sacrifices and religious acts at first appear romantic and delightful in consequence of the fruits they hold forth, viz., heaven and felicity. But when they are examined by the light of philosophy, they disappear and shrink into nothingness, for as acts, they are transitory and their consequences too are of the same character.]
Like the small ponds at which the cattle drink or the shallow aqueducts along cultivated fields that dry up very soon, the eternal practices inculcated in the Smritis, falling into discontinuance, at last disappear totally (in the Kali age).
Among men that are no good some are seen to become hypocrites (in respect of the acquisition of righteousness) by suffering themselves to be urged by desire. Some become so, urged by the wishes of others. Others, numbering many, tread in the same path, influenced by diverse other motives of a similar character.
[Note: The object of this verse is to show that it is extremely difficult to ascertain who the good are whose conduct should be taken as the standard of righteousness.]
It cannot be denied that such acts (though accomplished by persons under the influence of evil passions) are righteous. Fools, again, say that righteousness is an empty sound among those called good. They ridicule such persons and regard them as men destitute of reason. Many great men, again, turning back (from the duties of their own order) betake themselves to the duties of the kingly order. No such conduct, therefore, is to be seen (as observed by any man), which is fraught with universal benevolence.
[Note; The commentator cites the instance of Drona and others of that class. These men must be regarded as Mahajanas and Sadhus, but how can their conduct be regarded as righteous? What Yudhishthira means to say is that the standards of righteousness or that by which a good man may be known, is difficult to ascertain.]
By a certain course of conduct one becomes really meritorious. That very course of conduct obstructs another in the acquisition of merit. Another, by practising at his pleasure that conduct, it is seen, remains unchanged.
[Note: The example of Viswamitra, Jamadagnya, and Vasishtha are cited by the commentator. The first won pre-eminence by his mastery over weapons. The second lost his character as a Brahmana by the profession of arms. The third lost nothing although he punished Viswamitras insolence by using even carnal weapons.]
Thus that conduct by which one becomes meritorious impedes another in the acquisition of merit. One may thus see that all courses of conduct are seen to lose singleness of purpose and character. It seems, therefore, that only that which the learned of ancient times called righteousness is righteousness to this day: and through that course of conduct (which the learned so settled) the distinctions and limitations (that govern the world) have become eternal.
[Note: What Yudhishthira says here is that righteousness or virtue or duty does not depend upon the Srutis or the Smritis, nor upon considerations of happiness or misery. On the other hand, righteousness is arbitrary in respect of its standard, that being called righteous which was called so by the learned of ancient times. As regards happiness or misery, its cause is eternal nature.]
Righteousness (Part 3)
Bhishma said: In this connection is cited the old narrative of the conversation of Tuladhara with Jalali on the topic of righteousness.
There was once a Brahmana of the name of Jalali who lived in a certain forest, practising the ways of a forest recluse. Of austere penances, he proceeded on a certain occasion towards the sea-shore, and having arrived there began to practise the most severe penances. Observing many vows and restraints, his food regulated by many rules of fast, his body clad in rags and skins, bearing matted locks on his head his entire person smeared with filth and clay, that Brahmana possessed of intelligence passed many years there, suspending speech (and engaged in Yoga meditation).
Possessed of great energy, that regenerate ascetic, O monarch, while living within the waters (of the sea), roamed through all the worlds with the speed of the mind, desirous of seeing all things.
[Note: His gross body was within the water. Nevertheless, by Yoga power, he was able to rove over the world in his subtle body and beheld everything he wished to see.]
Having beheld the whole earth bounded by the ocean and adorned with rivers and lakes and woods, the ascetic one day, while siting under the water, began to think in this strain. "In this world of mobile and immobile creatures there is none equal to me. Who can roam with me among the stars and planets in the firmament and dwell again within the waters."
Unseen by the Rakshasas (demons) while he repeated this to himself, the Pisachas (wandering ghost) said unto him, "It behoves thee not to say so. There is a man, named Tuladhara, possessed of great fame and engaged in the business of buying and selling. Even he, O best of regenerate persons, is not worthy of saying such words as thou sayest."
Thus addressed by those beings, Jalali of austere penances replied unto them, saying, "I shall see that famous Tuladhara who is possessed of such wisdom."
When the Rishi said those words, those super-human beings raised from the sea, and said unto him, "O best of regenerate persons, go thou along this road."
Thus addressed by those beings, Jalali proceeded onwards with a cheerless heart. Arriving at Varanasi, he met Tuladhara whom he addressed saying the following words
Yudhishthira said, What, O sire, are those difficult feats that Jalali had performed before in consequence of which he had acquired such high success? It behoveth thee to describe them to me.
Bhishma said, Jalali had become engaged in penances of the severest austerities. He used to perform ablutions morning and evening. Carefully tending his fires, he was devoted to the study of the Vedas. Well-conversant with the duties laid down for forest recluses, Jalali (in consequence of his practices) seemed to blaze with effulgence. He continued to live in the woods, engaged all the while in penances. But he never regarded himself as one that had acquired any merit by his acts. In the season of the rains he slept under the open sky. In autumn he sat in water. In summer he exposed himself to the sun and the wind. Still he never regarded himself as one that had acquired any merit through such acts. He used to sleep on diverse kinds of painful beds and also on the bare earth.
Once upon a time, that ascetic, while standing under the sky in the rainy season, received on his head repeated downpours from the clouds. He had to pass through the woods repeatedly. What with exposure to the rains and what with the filth they caught, the locks of that sinless Rishi became entangled and intertwined with one another. On one occasion, that great ascetic, abstaining entirely from food and living upon air only, stood in the forest like a wooden pole. Unmoved at heart, he stood there, without once stirring an inch. While he stood there like a wooden post, perfectly immovable, O Bharata, a pair of Kulinga birds, O king, built their nest on his head.
Filled with compassion, the great Rishi suffered that feathery couple in building their nest among his matted locks with shreds of grass. And as the ascetic stood there like a wooden post, the two birds lived happily and with confidence on his head. The rains passed away and autumn came. The couple, urged by desire, approached each other according to the law of the Creator, and in complete confidence laid their eggs, O king, on the head of that Rishi. Of rigid vows and possessed of energy, the ascetic knew it. Knowing what the bird had done, Jalali moved not. Firmly resolved to acquire merit, no act that involved the slightest injury to others could recommend itself to him. The feathery couple going away and moving every day from and to his head, happily and confidently lived there, O puissant king!
When in the progress of time the eggs became mature and young ones came out, they began to grow up in that nest, for Jalali moved not in the least. Firm in the observance of his vows, the righteous-souled Rishi continued to hold and protect those eggs by standing on that very spot perfectly motionless and rapt in Yoga meditation. In the course of time the young ones grew and became equipped with wings. The Muni (Rishi) knew that the young Kulingas had attained to that stage of development. That foremost of intelligent men, steady in the observance of vows, beheld those young ones and became filled with pleasure. The parent birds, seeing their young ones equipped with wings, became very happy and continued to dwell in the Rishis head with them in perfect safety.
The learned Jalali saw that when the young birds became equipped with wings they took to the air every day and returned to his head without having proceeded far. He still stood motionlesss on that spot. Sometimes, after he saw that, left by their parents, they went out by themselves and returned again by themselves. Jalali still moved not. A little while after, the young birds, going away in the morning passed the whole day out of his sight, but came back in the evening for dwelling in the nest. Sometimes, after that, leaving their nest for five days at a stretch, they returned on the sixth day. Jalali still moved not. Subsequently, when their strength became fully developed they left him and returned not at all even after many days. At last, on one occasion, leaving him, they came not even after a month. Then, O king, Jalali left that spot.
When they had thus gone away for good, Jalali wondered much, and thought that he had achieved ascetic success Then pride entered his heart. Firm in the observance of vows, the great ascetic, seeing the birds thus leave him after having been reared on his head, thought highly of himself, and became filled with delight. He then bathed in a stream and poured libations on the sacred fire, and paid his adorations to the rising Sun, indeed, having thus caused those Chataka birds to grow on his head, Jalali, that foremost of ascetics, began to slap his armpits and proclaim loudly through the sky, I have won great merit.
Then an invisible voice arose in the sky and Jalali heard these words, Thou art not equal, O Jalai, to Tuladhara in point of righteousness. Possessed of great wisdom, that Tuladhara lives at Varanasi. Even he is not fit to say what thou sayest, O regenerate one.
Hearing these words, Jalali became filled with wrath, and desirous of meeting Tuladhara, O monarch, began to roam over the whole earth, observing the vow of silence and passing the night at that spot where evening overtook him..
[Note: this was a new vow that Jalali began to observe, the vow, viz., of travelling over the entire earth, sleeping there where evening overtook him.]
After a considerable time he reached the city of Varanasi, and saw Tuladhara engaged in selling miscellaneous articles. As soon as the shopkeeper Tuladhara beheld the Brahmana arrived at his place, he cheerfully stood up and worshipped the guest with proper salutations.
Tuladhara said, Without doubt, O Brahmana, it is known to me that you have come to me. Listen, however, O foremost of regenerate persons, to what I say. Living on a low land near the seashore you underwent very austere penances. But you had no consciousness of having achieved righteousness or merit. When you did at last attain to ascetic success, certain birds were born on your head. You took great care of the little creatures.
When at last those birds became equipped with wings and when they began to leave your head for going here and there in search of food, it was then that, in consequence of having thus assisted at the birth of those Chataka birds, you began to feel the impulse of pride, O Brahmana, thinking you had achieved great merit. Then, O foremost of regenerate persons, you heard in the sky a voice that referred to me. The words you did hear filled you with wrath, and as the consequence thereof you are here. Tell me, what wish of yours I shall accomplish, O best of Brahmanas!
Bhishma said: Thus addressed by the intelligent Tuladhara on that occasion, Jalali of great intelligence, that foremost of ascetics, said these words unto him.
Jalali said: You sell all kinds of juices and scents, O son of a trader, as also (barks and leaves of) large trees and herbs and their fruits and roots. How have you succeeded in acquiring a certitude or stability of understanding? Whence has this knowledge come to you? O thou of great intelligence, tell me all this in detail.
Bhishma continued: Thus addressed by that Brahmana possessed of great fame, Tuladhara of the Vaisya (trader) order, well-acquainted with the truths touching the interpretations of morality and contented with knowledge, discoursed to Jalali who had undergone severe penances, upon the ways of morality.'
Tuladhara said: O Jalali, I know morality, which is eternal, with all its mysteries. It is nothing else than that ancient morality which in known to all, and which consists of universal friendliness, and is fraught with beneficence to all creatures. That mode of living which is founded upon a total harmlessness towards all creatures or (in case of actual necessity) upon a minimum of such harm, is the highest morality. I live according to that mode, O Jalali!
This my house has been built with wood and grass cut by other peoples hands. Lac dye, the roots of Nymphaea lotus, filaments of the lotus, diverse kinds of good scents and many kinds of liquids, O regenerate Rishi, with the exception of wines, I purchase from other peoples hand and sell without cheating. He, O Jalali, is said to know what morality or righteousness is, who is always the friend of all creatures and who is always engaged in the good of all creatures, in thought, word and deed.
I never solicit anyone. I never quarrel with anyone. I never cherish aversion for anyone. I never cherish desire for anything. I cast equal eyes upon all things and all creatures. Behold, O Jalali, this is vow! My scales are perfectly even, O Jalali, with respect to all creatures.
[Note: The commentator explains: The meaning is that weighing creatures I regard all of them as equal. In my scales a Brahmana does not weigh heavier than a Chandala, or an elephant heavier than a dog or a cat.]
Know, O Jalali, that I cast equal eyes upon all creatures. O foremost of intelligent men, I see no difference between a clod of earth, a piece of stone, and a lump of gold. As the blind, the deaf, and they that are destitute of reason, are perfectly consoled for the loss of their senses, after the same manner am I consoled, by their example (for the enjoyments I abstain from). [Note: Persons whose senses (doors) have been closed by the deities, i.e., men with senses that are defective or lost.]
As they that are overtaken by decrepitude, they that are afflicted by disease, and they that are weakened and emaciated, have no relish for enjoyments of any kind, after the same manner have I ceased to feel any relish for wealth or pleasure or enjoyments. When a person fears nothing and himself is not feared, when he cherishes no desire and has no aversion for anything, he is then said to attain to Brahma (the Supreme Lord).
When a person does not conduct himself sinfully towards any creature in thought, word, or deed, then is he said to attain to Brahma. There is no past, no future. There is no morality or righteousness. He who is not an object of fear with any creature succeeds in attaining to a state in which there is no fear. [Note; The state is Brahma, and there is no fear of return from it. Hence it is called Abhayam Padam.]
On the other hand that person who for harshness of speech or severity of temper, is a source of trouble unto all creatures even as death itself, certainly attains to a state which abounds with fear. I follow the practices of high-souled and benevolent men of advanced years who with their children and childrens children live in the due observance of the ordinance laid down in the scriptures.
The eternal practices (laid down in the Vedas) are entirely given up by one who suffers himself to be stupefied by some errors that he may have noticed in the conduct of those that are admittedly good and wise. One, however, that is endued with learning, or one that has subdued ones senses, or one that is possessed of strength of mind, succeeds in attaining to Emancipation, guided by that very conduct.
[Note: The sense is this: There is an eternal course of righteousness as laid down in the Vedas. That which is called the conduct of the good may sometimes be stained by some errors. Fools, led by this, give up righteousness itself. On the other hand, wise men, avoiding those errors, take what is good and are saved. An old saying is cited by the commentator to the effect that when all is threatened, a wise man gives up half for saving the remainder. A fool, however, gives up the whole when only half is threatened with destruction.]
That wise man who, having restrained his senses, practises, with a heart cleansed from all desires of injuring others, the conduct that is followed by those called good, is sure, O Jalali, to acquire the merit of righteousness (and Emancipation which is its fruits). In this world as in a river, a piece of wood that is being borne away by the current as it pleases, is seen to come into contact (for some time) with another piece that is being similarly borne away. There, on the current, other pieces of wood that had been joined together, are seen again to separate from one another. Grass, sticks, and cowdung cakes, are seen to be united together. This union is due to accident and not to purpose or design. He of whom no creature is frightened in the least is himself, O ascetic, never frightened by any creature. He, on the other hand, O learned man, of whom every creature is frightened as of a wolf, becomes himself filled with fear as aquatic animals when forced to leap on the shore from fear of the roaring Vadva fire.
This practice of universal harmlessness has arisen even thus. One may follow it by every means in ones power. He who has followers and he who has wealth may seek to adopt it. It is sure to lead also to prosperity and heaven. In consequence of their ability to dispel the fears of others, men possessed of wealth and followers are regarded as foremost by the learned. They that are for ordinary happiness practise this duty of universal harmlessness for the sake of fame; while they that are truly skilled, practise the same for the sake of attaining to Brahma.
[Note: Men who seek ordinary felicity, viz., that which has a termination. The Patavah are the truly wise, i.e., those that seek felicity that is unending. Kritsna is Brahma; the truly wise practise it for the sake of Brahma.]
Whatever fruits one enjoys by penances, by sacrifices, by practising liberality, by speaking the truth, and by paying court to wisdom, may all be had by practising the duty of harmlessness. That person who gives unto all creatures the assurance of harmlessness obtains the merit of all sacrifices and at last wins fearlessness for himself as his reward.
There is no duty superior to the duty of abstention from injuring other creatures. He of whom, O great ascetic, no creature is frightened in the least, obtains for himself fearlessness of all creatures. He of whom everybody is frightened as one is of a snake ensconced within ones sleeping chamber, never acquires any merit in this world or in the next. The very gods, in their search after it, become stupefied in the track of that person who transcends all states, the person, viz., who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures and who looks upon all creatures as identical with his own self.
Of all gifts, the assurance of harmlessness to all creatures is the highest (in point of merit). I tell thee truly, believe me, O Jalali! One who betakes himself to acts at first wins prosperity, but then (upon the exhaustion of his merit) he once more encounters adversity. Beholding the destruction of (the merits of) acts, the wise do not applaud acts. There is no duty, O Jalali, that is not prompted by some motive (of happiness). Duty, however, is very subtle. Duties have been laid down in the Vedas for the sake of both Brahma and heaven. [Note: Bhuta is explained by the commentator as Brahma, and Bhavya, as heaven or the regions of felicity in the next world. In the Vedas both kinds of duties occur, such as Samah, etc., for Brahma, and sacrifices, etc., for heaven.]
The subject of duties has many secrets and mysteries. It is so subtle that it is not easy to understand it fully. Amongst diverse conflicting ordinances, some succeed in comprehending duty by observing the acts of the good. [Note: The commentator cites some ordinances about the slaughter of cow. The subject of duty is thus confused, contradictory declarations being noticeable in the Vedas.]
Why do you not consume them that emasculate bulls and bore their noses and cause them to bear heavy burdens and bind them and put them under diverse kinds of restraint, and that eat the flesh of living creatures after slaying them? Men are seen to own men as slaves, and by beating, by binding, and by otherwise subjecting them to restraints, cause them to labour day and night. These people are not ignorant of the pain that results from beating and fastening in chains.
[Note: The Sanskrit word Badha here means striking or beating. If taken in the sense of death the meaning would be putting some to death so that others may be frightened. These verses are noble protest against the institution of slavery.]
In every creature that is endued with the five senses live all the deities. Surya (sun), Chandramas (moon), the god of wind, Brahman, Prana, Kratu, and Yama (these dwell in living creatures). There are men that live by trafficking in living creatures! When they earn a living by such a sinful course, what scruples need they feel in selling dead carcasses? The goat is Agni. The sheep is Varuna. The horse is Surya. Earth is the deity Virat. The cow and the calf are Soma. The man who sells these can never obtain success. But what fault can attach to the sale of oil, or of Ghrita, or honey, or drugs, O regenerate one?
There are many animals that grow up in ease and comfort in places free from gnats and biting insects. Knowing that they are loved dearly by their mothers, men persecute them in diverse ways, and lead them into miry spots abounding with biting insects. Many draft animals (for pulling loads) are oppressed with heavy burdens. Others again, are made to languish in consequence of treatment not sanctioned by the scriptures. I think that such acts of injury done to animals are in no way distinguished from foeticide (abortion).
People regard the profession of agriculture to be sinless. That profession, however, is certainly fraught with cruelty. The iron-faced plough wounds the soil and many creatures that live in the soil. Cast your eyes, O Jalali, on those bullocks yoked to the plough. Cows are called in the Srutis the Unslayable. That man perpetrates a great sin who slays a bull or a cow. In the days of yore, many Rishis with restrained senses addressed Nahusha, saying, " You have, O king, slain a cow which is declared in the scriptures to be like unto ones mother. You have also slain a bull, which is declared to be like unto the Creator himself.
[Note: The cow is called the mother because of the use to which she is subservient. Her milk nourishes every infant as much as mothers bosom. The bull again, is Prajapati, because like Prajapati he creates offspring and assists man in the production of food.] You have perpetrated an evil act, O Nahusha, and we have been exceedingly pained at it.
For cleansing Nahusha, however, they divided that sin into a hundred and one parts and converting the fragments into diseases cast them among the creatures. [Note: Nahusha had killed a cow and a bull for honouring the Rishis. The Rishis, however, expressed their dissatisfaction at the act, and cleansed him of the sin in the manner indicated in the text. The commentator cites the instance of how Indra (king of the gods in heaven) was cleansed of the sin of Brahmanicide (killing of a Brahmin or priest). The Rishis, in compassion, distributed the sin among all beings of the feminine sex. That sin manifests itself in their periodical flows and the consequent impurity.]
Thus, O Jalali, did those highly blessed Rishis cast that sin on all living creatures, and addressing Nahusha who had been guilty of foeticide, said "We shall not be able to pour libations in your sacrifice." Thus said those high-souled Rishis and Yatis conversant with the truths of all things, having ascertained by their ascetic power that king Nahusha had not been intentionally guilty of that sin.
[Note: The commentator explains that the Rishis addressed Nahusha in that style even when they knew he had not intentionally slain the cow and the bull. The object of the speaker is to show the enormity of the act when done intentionally.]
These, O Jalali, are some of the wicked and dreadful practices that are current in this world. You practise them because they are practised by all men from ancient times, and not because they agree with the dictates of your cleansed understanding. One should practise what one considers to be ones duty, guided by reasons, instead of blindly following the practices of the world. Listen now, O Jalali, as to what my behaviour is towards him that injures and him that praises me.
I regard both of them in the same light. I have none whom I like and none whom I dislike. The wise applaud such a course of conduct as consistent with duty or religion. Even this course of conduct which is consistent with reasons, is followed by Yatis. The righteous always observe it with eyes possessed of improved vision.
Jalali said: This course of duty that you, O holder of scales, preaches, closes the door of heaven against all creatures and puts a stop to the very means of their subsistence. From agriculture comes food. That food offers subsistence even to you. With the aid of animals and of crops and herbs, human beings, O trader, are enabled to support their existence. From animals and food sacrifices flow. Your doctrines smack of atheism. This world will come to an end if the means by which life is supported have to be abandoned.
Tuladhara said: I shall now speak on the object of the means of sustenance. I am not, O Brahmana, an atheist. I do not blame Sacrifices. The man, however, is very rare that is truly conversant with Sacrifices. I bow to that Sacrifice which is ordained for Brahmanas. I bow also to them that are conversant with that Sacrifice. Alas, the Bramanas, having given up the Sacrifice that is ordained for them, have betaken themselves to the performance of Sacrifices that are for Kshatriyas. [Note: The fact is, all Sacrifices in which injury is done to animal and vegetable life are Sacrifices for Kshatriyas. The only Sacrifice that Brahmanas should perform is Yoga.]
Many persons of faith, O regenerate one, that are covetous and fond of wealth, without having understood the true meaning of the declarations of the Srutis, and proclaiming things that are really false but that have the show of truth, have introduced many kinds of Sacrifices, saying, "This should be given away in this Sacrifice. This other thing should be given away in this other Sacrifice. The first of this is very laudable."
The consequence, however, of all this, O Jalali, is that theft and many evil acts spring up. It should be known that only that sacrificial offering which was acquired by righteous means can gratify the gods. There are abundant indications in the scriptures that the worship of the deities may be accomplished with vows, with libations poured on the fire, with recitations or chanting of the Vedas, and with plants and herbs. From their religious acts unrighteous persons get wicked offspring. From covetous men are born children that are covetous, and from those that are contented spring children that are contented.
If the sacrificer and the priest suffer themselves to be moved by desire of fruit (in respect of the Sacrifices they perform or assist in), their children take the stain. If, on the other hand, they do not yield to desire of fruit, the children born to them become of the same kind. From Sacrifices spring progeny like clear water from the firmament. The libations poured on the sacrificial fire rise up to the Sun. From the Sun springs rain. From rain springs food. From food are born living creatures.
In former days, men righteously devoted to Sacrifices used to obtain therefrom the fruition of all their wishes. The earth yielded crops without tillage. The blessing uttered by the Rishis produced herbs and plants. The men of former times never performed Sacrifices from desire of fruits and never regarded themselves as called upon to enjoy those fruits. Those who somehow perform sacrifices doubting the while their efficacy take birth in their next lives as dishonest, wily, and greedy men exceedingly covetous of wealth. That man who by the aid of false reasoning holds up all the authoritative scriptures as fraught with evil, is certain to go, for such sinful acts of his, into the regions of the sinful. Such a man is certainly possessed of a sinful soul, O foremost of Brahmanas, and always remains here, bereft of wisdom. [Note: Bereft of wisdom is explained by the commentator as implying the non-attainment of emancipation.]
That man who regards those acts as obligatory which have been laid down in the Vedas and directed to be accomplished every day, who is penetrated with fear if he fails to accomplish them any day, who takes all the essentials of Sacrifice as identical with Brahma, and who never regards himself as the actor, is truly a Brahmana. [Note: The commentator refers to the Gita: The view expressed in the Gita is that we should do all acts believing ourselves to be only agents or instruments of the Supreme Deity. Acts are His, we are only His tools. Such a conviction is sure to guard us against all evil acts.]
If the acts of such a person become incomplete, or if their completion be obstructed by all unclean animals, even then those acts are, as heard by us, of superior efficacy. If, however, those acts are done from desire of fruit (and their completion be obstructed by such impediments), then expiation would become necessary. They who covet the acquisition of the highest objects of life (viz., Emancipation), who are bereft of cupidity in respect of all kinds of worldly wealth, who discard all provision of the future, and who are freed from envy, betake themselves to practice of truth and self-restraint as their Sacrifice.
[Note: When Sacrifices are done from a sense of duty, notwithstanding their incompleteness, they become efficacious. It is only when they are performed from desire of fruit that expiation becomes necessary if their completion be obstructed by any cause. Having thus applauded the Sacrifices (represented by acts) of the truly wise, other kinds of Sacrifices are indicated in verse 18.]
They that are conversant with the distinction between body and soul, that are devoted to Yoga, and that meditate on the Pranava (AUM) always succeed in gratifying others. The universal Brahman (viz., Pranava) which is the soul of the deities, dwells in him who is conversant with Brahma. When, therefore, such a man eats and is gratified, O Jalali, become gratified and contented. [Note: When such a man eats and is gratified, the whole universe becomes gratified.]
As one who is gratified with all kinds of taste feels no desire for any particular taste, after the same manner one who is gratified with knowledge has everlasting gratification which to him is a source of perfect bliss. Those wise men who are the refuge of righteousness and whose delight is in righteousness, are persons that have certain knowledge of what is to be done and what should not be done. One possessed of such wisdom always regards all things in the universe to have sprung from his own Self.
[Note: such a man regards all things as Brahman (The Supreme Reality), and himself as Brahman. Some that are endued with knowledge, that strive to reach the other shore (of this ocean of life), and that are possessed of faith, succeed in attaining to the region of Brahman, which is productive of great blessings, highly sacred, and inhabited by righteous persons,- a region which is freed from sorrow, whence there is no return, and where there is no kind of agitation or pain.
Such men do not covet heaven. They do not adore Brahman in costly sacrifices. They walk along the path of righteousness. The Sacrifices they perform are performed without injury to any creature. [Note: The path of righteousness the commentator thinks, is Yoga.]
These men know trees and herbs and fruits and roots as the only sacrificial offerings. Covetous priests, for they are desirous of wealth, never officiate at the sacrifices of these (poor) men. These regenerate men, although all their acts have been completed, still perform sacrifices from desire of doing good to all creatures and constituting their selves as sacrificial offerings. [Note: They perform mental sacrifices.]
For this reason, grasping priests officiate at the Sacrifices of only those misguided persons who, without endeavouring to attain to Emancipation, seek for heaven. As regards those however, that are really good, they always seek, by accomplishing their own duties, to cause others to ascend to heaven. Looking at both these kinds of behaviour, O Jalali, I have abstained from injuring any creature in the world and have come to regard all creatures with an equal heart.
[Note: For the reason, i.e., because they cannot officiate at the Sacrifices of those that are truly good. Such men (the truly good) accomplish their own duties not for benefiting their own selves but for the good of others. Observing both kinds of behaviour, i.e., that of the good and that of the misguided, I follow the path of the former by abstaining from every kind of injury.]
Endued with wisdom, many foremost of Brahmanas perform Sacrifices (which with respect to their fruits are of two kinds, for some of them lead to Emancipation whence there is no return, and others lead to regions of bliss whence there is return). By performing those Sacrifices, they proceed, O great ascetic, along paths trodden by the gods. Of one class of Sacrificers, (viz., those who sacrifice from desire of fruit) there is return (from the region which they reach). Of those, however, that are truly wise (viz., those who sacrifice without being urged thereto by desire of fruit), there is no return. Although both classes of sacrificers, O Jalali, proceed along the path trodden by the deities (in consequence of the sacrifices they perform), yet such is the difference between their ultimate ends. [Note: What the speaker wishes to lay down is that only a certain class of sacrificers succeed in attaining to an end whence there is no return.]
In consequence of the success that attends the purposes formed in the minds of such men, bulls without being forced thereto, willingly set their shoulders to the plough for assisting at tillage and to the yoke for dragging their cars, and cows pour forth milk from udders untouched by human hands. Creating sacrificial stakes (and other necessaries of Sacrifice) by simple fiats of the will, they perform many kinds of Sacrifice well-completed with abundant presents. [Note: The sense seems to be that they perform mental Sacrifices and not actual sacrifices after created by Yoga-power all the necessary articles.]
One who is such a cleansed soul may slaughter a cow (as an offering in Sacrifice). [Note: The sin of slaughtering a cow will not touch such a person, his soul being above the influence of acts.] They, therefore, that are not of that kind should perform Sacrifices with herbs and plants (and not animals). Since Renunciation has such merit, it is for that reason that I have kept it before my eyes in speaking to you.
[Note; I have for this reason spoken in praise of Renunciation and not that frame of mind in which one acts from desire of fruit.]
The gods know him for a Brahmana who has given up all desires of fruit, which has no exertion in respect of worldly acts, who never bows down his head unto any one, who never utters the praises of others, and who is endued with strength though his acts have all been weakened. [Note: There are of course, the indications of complete Renunciation. Such a man never bends his head to another and never flatters another, for he is above all want.]
What, O Jalali, will be the end of him who does not recite the Vedas, unto others, who does not perform Sacrifices (properly), who does not make gifts unto deserving Brahmanas, and who follows and avocation in which every kind of desire is indulged? By properly reverencing, however, the duties that appertain to Renunciation, one is sure to attain to Brahman.
[Note: In the first two lines the speaker says that one who does not accomplish the acts specified, fails to attain to a desirable end. In the last line, the Sanskrit word Idam" refers to the duties of a true Brahmana or the indications of the Renunciation. The Sanskrit term Yajnam is Vishnu or Brahman as the Srutis declare.]
Jalali said: we had never before, O son of a trader, heard of these recondite doctrines of ascetics that perform only mental Sacrifices. These doctrines are exceedingly difficult of comprehension. It is for this reason that I ask you (about them). The sages of olden days were not followers of those doctrines of Yoga. Hence, the sages that have succeeded them have not propounded them (for general acceptance). If you say that only men of brutish minds fail to achieve sacrifices in the soil of the Soul, then, O son of a trader, by what acts would they succeed in accomplishing their happiness? Tell me this, O thou of great wisdom! Great is my faith in your words!.
Tuladhara said: Sometimes sacrifices performed by some persons do not become sacrifices (in consequence of the absence of faith of those that perform them). These men, it should be said, are not worthy of performing any sacrifice (internal or external). As regards the faithful, however, only one thing, viz., the cow, is fit for upholding all sacrifices by means of full libations of clarified butter, milk, and curds, the hair at end of her tail, her horns, and her hoofs.
[Note: The commentator explains: What is said here is this: the sacrifices of some men become lost through absence of faith. These men, it is plain, are not worthy of performing any kind of sacrifice internal or external. The performance of sacrifice, is easy. The cow and her products can minister to all sacrifices. In the case of those that are able, full libations of clarified butter, of milk, and of curds, are sufficient to enable them to perform whatever they wish. As regards those that are poor, the dust of a cows hoof and the water in which a cows tail and horns have been washed, are quite sufficient to enable them to perform their sacrifices. Purnahuti (the final oblations) should not, I think, be taken as different from Ghee (clarified butter) etc.]
(The vedas declare that sacrifices cannot be performed by an unmarried man). In performing sacrifices, according to the mode I have pointed out (viz., by abstaining from slaughter of animals and dedicating only clarified butter, etc), one may make Faith ones wedded wife, for dedicating such (innocent) offerings to the deities. By duly reverencing such sacrifices, one is sure to attain to Brahman. To the exclusion of all animals (which are certainly unclean as offering in sacrifices), the rice-ball is a worthy offering in sacrifices.
O,Jalali, the Soul is itself a Tirtha (place of pilgrimage). Do not wander about on the earth for visiting sacred places. A person, by observing these duties (that I have spoken of and that do not involve injury to other creatures), and by seeking the acquisition of merit agreeably to his own ability, certainly succeeds in obtaining blessed regions hereafter.
[Note: The soul is itself a Tirtha. A Tirtha, of course, is a place containing sacred water. One should seek the acquisition of merit in the soul instead of going to places called sacred and lying in different parts of the earth. According to his own ability means according to the best of his power. If one can perform a sacrifice with clarified butter, one should not do it with the dust of a cows hoofs.]
Bhishma continued: These are the duties, O Yudhishthira, which Tuladhara applauded, - duties that are consistent with reason, and that are always observed by those that are good and wise.
Tuladhara said: See with your own eyes, O Jalali, who, viz., those that are good or those that are otherwise, have adopted this path of duty that I have spoken of. You shall then understand properly how the truth stands. Behold, many birds are hovering in the sky. Amongst are those that were reared on your head, as also many hawks and many others of other species. Behold, O Brahmana, those birds have contracted their wings and legs for entering their respective nests. Summon them, O regenerate one! There those birds, treated with affection by you, are displaying their love for you that are their father. Without doubt, you are their father, O Jalali! Do summon your children.
Bhishma continued: Then those birds, summoned by Jalali, made answer agreeably to the dictates of that religion which is not fraught with injury to any creature. All acts that are done without injuring any creature become serviceable (to the doer) both here and hereafter. Those acts, however, that involve injury to others, destroy faith, and faith being destroyed, involves the destroyer in ruin. The sacrifices of those that regard acquisition and non-acquisition in the same light, that are endued with faith that are self-restrained, that have tranquil minds, and that perform sacrifices from a sense of duty (and not from desire of fruit), become productive of fruit.
Faith with respect to Brahma is the daughter of Surya, O regenerate one. She is the protectress and she is the giver of good birth. Faith is superior to the merit born of (Vedic) recitations and meditation.
[Note: Daughter of Surya means Sattwiki. Faith is the outward form of speech and mind, implying that it transcends (the merit born of) speech (recitation) and mind (meditation).]
An act vitiated by defect of speech is saved by Faith. An act vitiated by defect of mind is saved by Faith. But neither speech nor mind can save an act that is vitiated by want of Faith.
[Note: Defects of speech are incorrect utterance of Mantras. Defects of mind are such as listlessness, haste, etc.]
Men conversant with the occurences of the past recite in this connection the following verse sung by Brahman. The offerings in sacrifices of a person that is pure (in body and acts) but wanting in Faith, and of another that is impure (in respect of their worthiness of acceptance). The food, again, of a person conversant with the Vedas but miserly in behaviour, and that of a usurer that is liberal in conduct, the deities after careful consideration, had held to be equal (in respect of their worthiness of acceptance). The Supreme Lord of all creatures (viz., Brahman) then told them that they had committed an error. The food of a liberal person is sanctified by Faith. The food, however, of a person that is void of Faith is lost in consequence of such want of Faith. The food of a liberal usurer is acceptable but not the food of a miser.
[Note: The four classes of persons indicated are (1) he that is destitute of Faith but is (outwardly) pure, (2) he that has Faith but is not (outwardly) pure, (3) a miserly person possessed of learning, and (4) a usurer endued with liberality. The answer of Brahman, without touching other points, refers particulary to Faith. The liberal mans food is sanctified by Faith. The food of him that has no faith is lost. For this reason, the liberal mans food, even if he happens to be a usurer, is worthy of acceptance, and not so the food of the miser even though he may be possessed of Vedic lore.]
Only one person in the world, viz., he that is bereft of Faith, is unfit to make offerings to the deities. The food of only such a man is unfit to be eaten. This is the opinion of men conversant with duties. Want of Faith is a high sin. Faith is a cleanser of sins. Like a snake casting off its slough, the man of Faith succeeds in casting off all his sins. The religion of abstention with Faith is superior to all things considered sacred. Abstaining from all faults of behaviour, he who takes himself to Faith, become sanctified. What need has such a person of penances, or of conduct, or of endurance? Every man has Faith.
Faith, however, is of three kinds, viz., as affected by Sattwa, by Rajas and by Tamas, and according to the kind of Faith that one has, one is named. Persons endued with goodness and possessed of insight into the true import of morality have thus laid down the subject of duties. We have, as the result of our enquiries, got all this from the sage Dharmadarsana. O thou of great wisdom, betake thyself to Faith, for thou shalt then obtain that which is superior. He who has Faith (in the declarations of the Srutis or Vedas), and who acts according to their import (in the belief that they are good for him), is certainly of righteous soul. O Jalali, he who adheres to his own path (under the influence of Faith) is certainly a superior person.
Bhishma continued: After a short while, Tuladhara and Jalali, both of whom had been endued with great wisdom, ascended to heaven and sported there in great happiness, having reached their respective places earned by their respective acts.
[Note: They sported (not in the ordinary felicity of heaven but) in the puissance of Yoga.]
Many truths of this kind were spoken of by Tuladhara. That eminent person understood
this religion (of abstention from injury) completely. These eternal duties were
accordingly proclaimed by him. The regenerate Jalali, O son of Kunti, having heard these
words of celebrated energy, betook himself to tranquillity. In this way, many truths of
grave import were uttered by Tuladhara, illustrated by exaples for instruction.