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Excerpt from the Mahabharata

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Mon Oct 31 1994 - 18:00:33 PST

I posted the following over two years ago to soc.culture.indian.
I think it will be of interest to members of this list.

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This is another installment in my occasional series of excerpts
from the Mokshadharma Parva of the Mahabharata, which is a
sub-Parva of the Shanti Parva.  Most of the Shanti is phrased
as a dialogue between the venerable grandsire of the Kuru clan,
Bhishma, and Prince Yudhisthira.  

The following passage is from XII.176 in P.C. Ray's translation
of the vulgate text.  My numbering will slightly differ from
V.S. Sukhtankar's critical edition of the Mahabharata.  At any
rate, my primary goal is to present the wealth of thought that
exists in this great epic.

This particular section, which I find very inspiring, is a 
tribute to simple, sincere living.

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Yudhisthira said:
Grandsire, how do happiness and misery come to
those who are rich, as well as those who are poor, but who live
by observing different practices and rites?

	[The commentator explains the object of Yudhisthira's
	question: in the previous section, it has been taught
	that one may seek moksha (salvation) even while young.
	Yudhisthira is asking if wealth (which is necessary for
	the performance of traditional sacrifices) is needed 
	to seek moksha.  If wealth is deemed necessary, the
	poor would then not be able to follow this path.  Hence the
	enquiry about the way in which joy and sorrow come to 
	the wealthy and to the poor.]

Bhishma replied:
In this connection, we can cite the old story told by CampAka
who had attained peace and emanciption for himself.  

In former times, a certain brahmin, who led an (apparently)
pitiful because of a bad wife, lack of clothing, and hunger,
lived in the observance of the vow of renunciation and told me
these verses:

>From the day of his birth, a person born on this earth undergoes
various types of joys and sorrows. 

If he could ascribe either of them to the hand of Destiny, he
would not then feel glad when happiness came or miserable when
sorrow overtook him.

Although your mind is without desire, you carry a heavy burden.
You aren't seeking what is good for you, (your salvation).  Are
you not successful in controlling your mind?

If you go about your life, having renounced your home and
desirable possessions, you will taste real happiness.  A person
divested of everything sleeps and awakes only in happiness. 

Complete poverty, in this world, is happiness.  It is a good
regimen, it is the source of blessings, it is freedom from
danger.  This noble path is not attainable (by those who
cherish desire) but is attainable (by those who are free from
desire).

As I look at every part of the three worlds, I cannot see
anyone who is equal to a poor man of pure conduct and without
attachment (to worldly things).

I weighted poverty and sovereignty in a balance; poverty
weighed heavier than sovereignty and seemed to possess greater
merits.

Between poverty and sovereignty, this is this great
distinction: the sovereign, a man of great wealth, is always
agitated by anxiety and seems to be within the very jaws of
death.

The poor man, however, who because of his divestment of wealth
has freed himself from (unwanted) hopes and has therefore
emancipated himself, cannot be bettered by fire, nor
enemy, nor death, nor robbers.

	[The key is that he is satisfied in his soul, and
	cannot be harmed by things of this world.]

The very gods applaud such a man, who wanders about according
to his will, who lies down on the bare ground with his arm for
a pillow, and who is possessed of inner peace.

Affected by rage and selfish desire, the man of affluence is
stained by a wicked heart.  He casts oblique glances and makes
dry speeches.  He becomes sinful, and his face is always
darkened with frowns.

Biting his lips, excited with wrath, he utters harsh and cruel
words.  If such a man desires to even make a gift of the whole
world, who is there that would like to even look at him?

Constant companionship with Prosperity stupefies a person of
weak judgment.  It drives off his judgment like the wind drives
off the clouds of autumn.  Companionship with Prosperity
induces him to think, `I am damn good-looking! I'm really
rich!

`I am high-born! I'll always be successful in whatevver I do!
I'm not an ordinary human being!' Because of these three
reasons, his heart becomes intoxicated.

Deeply attached to worldly possessions, he wastes the wealth
hoarded by his acestors.  Reduced to want, he then thinks that
the appropriation of others' wealth is blameless.

At this stage, when he transgresses all barriers and begins to
take from others from every side, the government obstruct and
afflict him like hunters afflict a deer that is spied in the
woodswith sharp arrows.

Such a man is then overwhelmed with suffering of a similar
kind, that come from weapons and fire.

Therefore, disregarding all selfish worldly desires as well as
all fleeting unrealities, one should, aided by one's reason,
apply the proper medicine to cure these afflictions.  

Without Renunciation, one can never attain happiness.  Without
Renunciation, one can never obtain what is for one's highest
good.  Without Renunciation, one can never sleep at ease.
Therefore, renouncing all, make happiness your own!

	[This is very much like Bhagavad-gita 18.66; the
	significant difference is that Sri Krishna adds the
	positive statement that He will save us Himself.]

All this, what ChampAka sang, was told to me long ago at
Hastinapura, by a learned brahmin.  For this reason, I regard
Renunciation to be the foremost of things.

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Yours in Peace,
Mani

Narayanasmaranam.