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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


From Mundaka Upanishad
Translated by Swami Gambhirananda
Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati
This Self is not attained by one devoid of strength, nor through delusion, nor through knowledge unassociated with monasticism. But the Self of that knower, who strives through these means, enters into the abode that is Brahman.
Having attained this, the seers become contented with their knowledge, established in the Self, freed from attachment, and composed. Having realised the all-pervasive One everywhere, these discriminating people, ever merged in contemplation, enter into the All.
- 3.2.5
Those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained, and who endeavour assiduously with the help of the Yoga of monasticism, become pure in mind. At the supreme moment of final departure all of them become identified with the supreme Immortality in the worlds that are Brahman, and they become freed on every side.
It is not comprehended through the eye, nor through speech, nor through the other senses; nor is It attained through austerity or Karma. Since one becomes purified in mind through the favourableness of the intellect, therefore can one see that indivisible Self through meditation.
Sannyasa- Renunciation
From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CCXLV
Translated by sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
[Notes are comments by the scholar and
translator Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli]
Suka said: While living in the due observance of the duties of the foremost of life, how should one, who seeks to attain to That which is the highest object of knowledge, set one’s soul on Yoga according to the best of one’s power?
Vyasa said: Having acquired (purity of conduct and body) by the practice of the first two modes of life, viz., Brahmacharya and domesticity, one should, after that, set one’s soul on Yoga in the third mode of life (Vanprastha). Listen now with concentrated attention to what should be done for attaining to the highest object of acquisition!
[Note: By the first line of this verse, Vyasa answers his son’s question. Having answered the question, the speaker (in the second line) proceeds to indicate the simple or straight path for reaching the highest object of men’s endeavour, viz., Parmartham or Brahman.]
Having subdued all faults of the mind and the heart by easy means in the practice of the first three modes of life (viz., pupilage, domesticity, and seclusion) one should pass into the most excellent and the most eminent of all the modes, viz., Sannyasa or Renunciation. Do thou then pass thy days, having acquired that purity. Listen also to me. One should, alone and without anybody to assist him or bear him company, practise Yoga for attaining to success (in respect of one’s highest object of acquisition). One who practises Yoga without companionship, who beholds everything as a repetition of his own self, and who never discards anything (in consequence of all things being pervaded by the Universal Soul), never falls away from Emancipation.
Without keeping the sacrificial fire and without a fixed habitation, such a person should enter a village for only begging his food. He should provide himself for the day without storing for the morrow. He should betake himself to penances, with heart fixed on the Supreme. [Note: Bhava-samahitah is explained as chitta-samadhanavan.]
Eating little and that even under proper regulations, he should not eat more than once a day. The other indications of a (religious) mendicant are the human skull, shelter under trees, rags for wearing, solitude unbroken by the companionship of any one, and indifference to all creatures. [Note: The skull is to be used as a drinking vessel. Kuchela, which I render ‘rags’, is supposed by the commentator to signify reddish or brown cloth which has, from age, lost its colour.]
That person into whom words enter like affrighted elephants into a well, and from whom they never come back to the speaker, is fit to lead this mode of life which has Emancipation for its object. [Note: Elephants, when hurled into a well, become utterly helpless and unable to come out. That person, therefore, into whom words enter like elephants into a well, is he who answers not the evil speeches of others. What is said here is that only a person of such forbearance should betake himself to mendicancy or Sannyasa.]
The mendicant (or Renouncer) should never take note of the evil acts of any person. He should never hear what is said in dispraise of others. Especially should he avoid speaking evil of a Brahmana (Brahmin). He should always say only what is agreeable to the Brahmanas. When anything is said in dispraise (of himself), he should (without answering) remain perfectly silent. Such silence, indeed, is the medical treatment prescribed for him. That person in consequence of whose single self the place he occupies becomes like the eastern sky, and who can make a spot teeming with thousands of men and things appear to himself perfectly solitary or unoccupied, is regarded by the deities to be a true Brahmana. [Note: I have given a closely literal version of this verse. The commentator explains that first line refers to the person who deems himself to be everything to be himself. The second line refers to the same individual who, by Yoga, can withdraw his senses and the mind and consequently make the most populous place appear as totally solitary or unoccupied. This is the Yoga process called Pratyahara.]
Him the gods know for a Brahmana who clothes himself with whatever comes by the way, who subsists upon whatever he gets, and who sleeps on whatever spot he finds. Him the gods know for a Brahmana who is afraid of company as of a snake; (afraid) of the full measure of gratification (from sweet viands and drinks) as of hell; and (afraid) of women as of a corpse. [Note: Suhitya, whence Sauhitya, means no satiety but the full measure of gratification from eating. The speaker wishes to lay down that the mendicant or renouncer should never take food to the full measure of gratification. He should eat without completely appeasing his hunger.]
Him the gods know for a Brahmana who is never glad when honoured and never angry when insulted, and who has given assurances of compassion unto all creatures. One in the observance of the last mode of life should not view death with joy. Nor should he view life with joy. He should only wait for is hour like a servant waiting for the behest (of his master). He should purify his heart of all faults. He should purify his speech of all faults. He should cleanse himself of all sins. As he has no foes, what fear can assail him? He who fears no creature and whom no creature fears, can have no fear from any quarter, freed as he is from error of every kind. As the footprints of all other creatures that move upon legs are engulfed within those of elephants, after the same manner all ranks and conditions are absorbed within Yoga.
[Note: I follow the commentator in his exposition of Kunjara which he derives as Kun (earth or the body which is made of earth) Jaravati iti kunjarah, i.e., a Yogi in Samadhi. The sense seems to be that the fruits of Yoga include or absorb the fruits of every other act. The rank and status of Indra himself is absorbed within what is attained to by Yoga. There is no kind of felicity that is not engulfed in the felicity of Emancipation, which Yoga alone can confer.]
After the same manner, every other duty and observance is supposed to be engulfed within the one duty of abstention from injury (to all creatures). [Note: The commentator thinks that by the ‘one duty of abstention from injury’ is implied the fourth mode of life or Sannyasa. What is said, therefore, is that the observance of the single duty of harmlessness includes that of every other duty; or, what amounts to the same thing, the fourth mode of life is singly capable of giving merit which all the others may give together.]
He lives an everlasting life of felicity who avoids injuring other creatures. One who abstains from injury, who casts an equal eye upon all creatures, who is devoted to truth, who is endued with fortitude, who has his senses under control, and who grants protection to all beings, attains to an end that is beyond compare. The condition called death succeeds not in transcending such a person who is content with self-knowledge, who is free from fear, and who is divested of desire and expectancy. On the other hand, such a person succeeds in transcending death. Him the gods know for a Brahmana who is freed from attachments of every kind, who is observant of penances, who lives like space which while holding everything is yet unattached to anything, who has nothing which he calls his own, who leads a life of solitude, and whose is tranquillity of soul. The gods know him for a Brahamana whose life is for the practice of righteousness, whose righteousness is for the good of them that wait dutifully upon him, and whose days and nights exist only for the acquisition of merit.
[Note: Hartyartham means ‘for the sake of Hari’ i.e., one who takes away merit, implying a disciple or attendant. Some texts read Ratyrtham, meaning ‘for the happiness (of others)’.]
The gods know him for a Brahmana who is freed from desire, who never exerts himself for doing such acts as are done by worldly men, who never bends his head unto any one, who never flatters another, and who is free from attachments of every kind. All creatures are pleased with happiness and filled with fear at the prospect of grief. The man of faith, therefore, who should feel distressed at the prospect of filling other creatures with grief, must abstain entirely from acts of every kind. [Note: Because all acts are fraught with injury to others. Whether ‘acts’ betaken in its general sense or in the particular sense of ‘religious acts’, their character is such.]
The gift of assurances of harmlessness unto all creatures transcends in point of merit all other gifts. He, who, at the outset, forswears the religion of injury, succeeds in attaining to Emancipation (in which or) whence is the assurance of harmlessness unto all creatures. [Note: The commentator correctly explains that Tikshnam tanum means the religion of injury, i.e., the religion of sacrifices and acts. ‘So’ for ‘sa’ is Arsha; as also anantyam for anantyam which, of course, implies moksham or Emancipation. The commentator correctly supplies yatah after apnoti and shows that prajabhyah is equivalent to prajanam. The last clause of the second line, therefore, means sa moksham apnoti, yatah prajabhyah (or prajanam) abhayam. The dative, not ablative as the vernacular translators take it, is not bad grammar, although the genitive is more agreeable with usage.]
That man who does not pour into his open mouth even the five or six mouthfuls that are laid down for the forest recluse, is said to be the navel of the world, and the refuge of the universe. The head and other limbs, as also the acts good and bad, become possessed by Fire. Such a man, who sacrifices in his own self, makes a libation of his senses and mind into the fire that dwells within the limited space of his own heart. In consequence again of his pouring such a libation into such a fire within his own self, the universe with all creatures including the very gods, become gratified.
He that apprehends the Jiva-soul (embodied soul) that is endued with effulgence, that is enveloped in three cases, that has three attributes for its characteristics, to be Iswara partaking of that which is foremost, viz., the nature of the Supreme Soul, becomes object of great regard in all the worlds. The very gods with all human beings speak highly of their merits. He who succeeds in beholding in the soul that resides in his own body all the Vedas, space and the other objects of perception, the rituals that occur in scriptures, all those entities that are comprehensible in sound only and the superior nature of the Supreme Soul, is sought to be worshipped by the very deities as the foremost of all beings.
He who sees in the soul that resides within his body, that foremost of beings which is not attached to the earth, which is immeasurable in even the (measureless) firmament, which is made of gold, which is born of the egg and resides within the egg, which is equipped with many feathers, and which has two wings like a bird, and which is rendered effulgent by many rays of light, is sought to be worshipped by the very deities as the foremost of all beings. [Note: All these expressions apply to the Supreme Soul. Immeasurable in the firmament implies that the Supreme Being is vaster than the firmament. ‘Made of gold’ means, as the commentator explains, Chit having knowledge only for its attribute. ‘Born of the egg’ i.e., belonging to the universe. ‘Within the egg’ means ‘capable of being apprehended in the heart’. ‘Equipped with many feathers’ i.e., having many limbs each of which is presided over by a particular deity. The two wings are absence of attachment or complete dissociation from everything and joy and gladness and aptitude for enjoyment. ‘Rendered effulgent by many rays of light’, i.e., transformed into a living and active agent by means of eyes, ears, etc.]
The very deities worship him in whose understanding is set the wheel of Time, which is constantly revolving, which knows no decay, which swallows up the period of existence of every creature, which has the six seasons for its naves, which is equipped with two and ten radii consisting of the two and ten months, which has excellent joint, and towards whose gaping mouth proceeds this universe (ready to be devoured). [Note: The sense is that he who understands the wheel of Time is a person worthy of universal regard. The excellent joints of that wheel are the Parva days, viz., those sacred lunations on which religious rites are performed.]
The Supreme Soul is the capacious unconsciousness of dreamless slumber. That Unconsciousness is the body of the universe. It pervades all created things. Jiva, occupying a portion of that capacious unconsciousness gratifies the deities. These last, being gratified, gratify the open mouth of that unconsciousness. [Note: I give little version of verse 33, following the commentator as regards the meaning of Samprasadam. The sense, however, of the verse is this: Brahma, in the previous sections, has often been spoken of as Sushupti or the unconsciousness of dreamless slumber. The universe flows from Brahma. Unconsciousness, therefore, is the cause or origin or body of the universe. That unconsciousness, therefore, pervades all things, viz., gross and subtle. Jiva, finding a place within that unconsciousness existing in the form of gross and subtle, gratifies the deities, prana and the senses. These, thus gratified by Jiva, at last gratify the open mouth of the original unconsciousness that waits to receive or swallow them. All these verses are based upon the figurative ideas that find expression in the Upanishads.]
Endued with effulgence as also with the principle of eternity, Jiva is without beginning. It acquires (by following particular paths) infinite regions of eternal happiness. He, of whom no creature is afraid, has never to fear any creature. He who never does anything censurable and who never censures another, is said to be a truly regenerate person. Such a man succeeds in beholding the Supreme Soul. He whose ignorance has been dispelled and whose sins have been washed away, never enjoys either here or hereafter the happiness that is enjoyed by others (but attains to complete Emancipation). A person in the observance of the fourth mode of life wanders on the earth like one unconnected with everything. Such a one is freed from wrath and error. Such a one regards a clod of earth and lump of gold with an equal eye. Such a man never stores anything for his use. Such a one has no friends and foes. Such a one is utterly regardless of praise or blame, and of the agreeable and the disagreeable.

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