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Selections From The Maha-Bharata - The Desires

( Originally Published 1939 )

THE Brahman said: "Look how creatures of the highest, midway and lowest degrees are everywhere here enmeshed in grief because of their works. Even this my soul here is not mine; or rather, the whole earth is mine, and as it is mine, so it belongs likewise to others; thus I think, and abide undisturbed. Having gained this vision, I rejoice not and grieve not. As in the great ocean one piece of wood meets another, and after meeting they again part from one another, such is the meeting of creatures."


THUS it is with children and children's children, with friends and kinsmen; it is not well to have love for them, for parting from them is inevitable. Come hither from the dark and again gone back into the dark, another knows not thee, and thou knowest not him; who then art thou, and what is anything, that thou Iamentest for it? From the stress of desire arises grief, from the stress of grief arises pleasure, and from pleasure again arises grief, and again grief. The immediate issue of pleasure is grief, the immediate issue of grief is pleasure; pleasure and grief among men roll round like a wheel. When thou hast passed from pleasure into grief, thou wilt thence pass once more into pleasure; men cannot for ever have grief, nor for ever have pleasure.

THE body is the seat alike of grief and of pleasure. Life also arises together with this body; both wax together, and both together decay. Men are held by the manifold snares of the desires in the world of sense, and they fall away without winning to their end, like dykes of sand in water.


LIKE sesame grains for their oil, all things are ground out in the millwheel of creation by the oil grinders, to wit, the taints arising from ignorance, which fasten upon them. The husband gathers to himself evil works on account of his wife; but he alone is therefore afflicted with taints, which cling to man alike in the world beyond and in this. All men are attached to children, wives, and kin; they sink down in the slimy sea of sorrows, like age worn forestelephants.

ON the loss of children, on the loss of substance or of friends and kinsmen, men suffer exceeding anguish, like the fire of a burning forest. This whole world depends upon Fate in pleasure and pain, in birth and unborn being. Whether a man have friends or not, whether he have foes or allies, whether he be wise or void of wisdom, he gets his happiness through Fate.


FRIENDS suffice not to make one happy, nor foes to make one unhappy; wisdom suffices not to make one wealthy, wealth suffices not to make happy. Prudence is not enough to attain wealth, foolishness hinders not success; the wise man, not the fool, understands this course of the world's way. Fortune follows whomsoever she meets, the understanding and bold, the silly and cowardly, the dull and the wise, the weakly and the strong. The cow belongs to the calf, to the herdsman, to the master, and to the thief; to him who drinks her milk the cow verily belongs. The most foolish in the world and the most prudent easily win success; but he who stands midway between them is afflicted.


PLEASURE, when it is of the spirit of sloth, ends in grief; grief, when it is of the spirit of energy, leads to pleasure; prosperity and happiness dwell with the man of energy, not with the slothful. But whether it be pleasure or pain, sweet or bitter, a man should bear with what befalls, as it befalls, unconquered of spirit. A thousand motives of sorrow and a hundred motives of fear fall daily upon the erring, but none upon the wise.


GRIEF touches not him who is understanding, who has won illumination, seeks for knowledge of scripture, and is free from envy, selfcontrolled and master of his senses. The wise man should hold fast to this illumination and keep watch over his thoughts; then he knows how the world arises and dissolves, and no grief can touch him. Whatsoever be the cause whence may arise a grief or an affliction or a sorrow or a labour of spirit, a man should put away that from which these may spring, even though it were a limb of his own body. Whenever any work is done from a spirit of selfishness, in the issue it becomes a source of grief. Whatever desires are cast out, their place is fiIIed up by happiness; but the man who runs after desires falls into destruction after his desires.


ALL happiness that may come from fulfilment of wishes in the world, and all the exceeding bliss that there may be in heaven, do not together weigh the sixteenth part of the happiness that consists in the destruction of desire. On the head of each man, be he wise or foolish or valiant, comes every good and evil work that has been done by him in former incarnation, according to the manner of its doing. Thus truly all these sweets and bitternesses, sorrows and joys in souls roll round and round.


HOLDING fast to this illumination, the good man sits in peace. He should guard himself from all desires; he should cast desires behind him. Wrath is the name of him who stirs in the heart, who when strengthened is as death dwelling in the spirit; abiding in the bodies of embodied beings, thus is he named by the wise.

WHEN a man has drawn inwards the desires, from all sides, as the tortoise gathers in its limbs, he shall behold the light of the Self as his Self in himself. When one fears none and none fear him, when he desires no longer and hates no Ionger, he passes into Brahma. When he surrenders alike the true and the untrue, sorrow and joy, fear and courage, when he leaves behind him the sweet and the bitter, he will live in peace of soul. When he in wisdom does no kind of hurt to any creatures, either in work or in thought or in words, he passes into Brahma. Desire is a sickness that is hard for the foolish to abandon, which ages not with man's ageing, which only ends with life itself; blessed is he who frees himself from it!


BY death the world is afflicted, by age it is held in bar, and the nights are the Unfailing ones that are ever coming and going. When I know that death cannot halt, what can I expect from walking in a cover of lore? If life grows ever shorter as night after night passes by, then the man of understanding may likewise find his days barren. Who could feel joy where he is like a fish in shallow water? Before he sees his desires fulfilled, death falls upon man. Death will seize upon him, while he is gathering flowers and his thought is turned elsewhere, even as a she-wolf seizes upon a lamb, and hastens away with his prey.

THIS very day do what is to thy best profit; let not this hour pass over thy head; for death carries away a man ere yet his tasks are fulfilled. Rather should one do today the work of the morrow rather in the forenoon the work of the afternoon; for death waits not, whether one has brought to an end his labour or not. Yea, who knows whose hour of death will be today. Let even the youth accustom himself to do his duty, for life is frail. Fulfilled duty brings honour on earth and bliss in the world beyond.

POSSESSED by delusion a man toils for wife and child; but whether he have fulfilled his purpose or not, he must surrender the enjoyment thereof. When one is blessed with children and flocks, and his heart is clinging unto them, death carries him away, as a tiger a sleeping deer. While he is still gathering, and while his desires are still unfulfilled, death carries him away, as a tiger an ox. While one is busied in strivings and gratifications, thinking "this is done, this must be done, and this other matter is half done," death overcomes him.

BE he weak or strong, a valiant man or a coward, foolish or prudent, death carries him away ere he has reached the goal of all his wishes. As death and age, sickness and sorrow, arising from many causes, attach to the body, how canst thou remain composed? Death and age pursue all that are born for their destruction; to these two all creatures, unmoving and moving alike, are subject. The town-dweller's love of wife is a door of death, but the forest is a meeting-place of the gods, says holy writ. The town-dweller's Iove of wife is a fettering snare; the good break it and escape, the bad break it not. He who does no hurt to creatures either in thought or in word or by his body, gets Iikewise no hurt from the living things which take away life and possessions.

WITHOUT the Truth no man can ever defeat the assailing host of Death; untruth must be renounced, for in truth is the seat of immortality. Therefore he who walks under the vows of truth, and devotes himself to union with truth, and has a true scripture and is constantly selfcontrolled, overcomes death by the truth. Alike the need to die no more and the need to die have their foundation in bodily life. The need to die arises from delusion; from truth arises the need to die no more.

I, WHO do hurt to none, who long for truth, who have cast away desire and wrath, and am indifferent and content in pleasure and pain, shall become free from death, like one of the immortals. Rejoicing in peace as my sacrifice, selfcontrolled, abiding in the worship of Brahma, a saint offering the sacrifice of word, thought, and deed, I shall pass away by the sun's northern road. How should one such as I bring a bloody sacrifice of beasts? The wise man bring living offerings bearing temporal fruit, like a devil? He who has utterly suppressed words and thoughts for ever, who practises mortification, self-denial, and truth, verily wins the universe.

No eye is peer to knowledge, no mortification to truth; no sorrow is equal to passion, no happiness to self denial. Born in my Self by my self, established in myself, albeit without offspring, I shall live in my Self alone; offspring cannot save me. No wealth is so precious for a Brahman as concord, indifference, truthfulness, goodness, firmness, harmlessness, uprightness, and gradual withdrawing from works in their order. What should avail thee wealth, or kindred, or wives,O Brahman,since thou must die? Seek thou the Self, which is lodged in its covert. Whither have thy forefathers and thy father gone?

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