‘Saying this, the weeping king sat himself down upon the ground. Then a learned Brahmana, Saunaka by name versed in self-knowledge and skilled in the Sankhya system of yoga, addressed the king, saying, ‘Causes of grief by thousands, and causes of fear by hundreds, day after day, overwhelm the ignorant but not the wise. Surely, sensible men like thee never suffer themselves to be deluded by acts that are opposed to true knowledge, fraught with every kind of evil, and destructive of salvation. O king, in thee, dwelleth that understanding furnished with the eight attributes which is said to be capable of providing against all evils and which resulteth from a study of the Sruti (Vedas) and scriptures! And men like unto thee are never stupefied, on the accession of poverty or an affliction overtaking their friends, through bodily or mental uneasiness!
Listen, I shall tell the slokas which were chanted of old by the illustrious Janaka touching the subject of controlling the self! This world is afflicted with both bodily and mental suffering. Listen now to the means of allaying it as I indicate them both briefly and in detail. Disease, contact with painful things, toil and want of objects desired–these are the four causes that induce bodily suffering. And as regards disease, it may be allayed by the application of medicine, while mental ailments are cured by seeking to forget them yoga-meditation. For this reason, sensible physicians first seek to allay the mental sufferings of their patients by agreeable converse and the offer of desirable objects And as a hot iron bar thrust into a jar maketh the water therein hot, even so doth mental grief bring on bodily agony. And as water quencheth fire, so doth true knowledge allay mental disquietude. And the mind attaining ease, the body findeth ease also. It seemeth that affection is the root of all mental sorrow. It is affection that maketh every creature miserable and bringeth on every kind of woe.
Verily affection is the root of all misery and of all fear, of joy and grief of every kind of pain. From affection spring all purposes, and it is from the affection that spring the love of worldly goods! Both of these (latter) are sources of evil, though the first (our purposes) is worse than the second. And as (a small portion of) fire thrust into the hollow of a tree consumeth the tree itself to its roots, even so affection, ever so little, destroyeth both virtue and profit. He cannot be regarded to have renounced the world who hath merely withdrawn from worldly possessions. He, however, who though in actual contact with the world regardeth its faults, may be said to have truly renounced the world. Freed from every evil passion, soul dependent on nothing with such a one hath truly renounced the world. Therefore, should no one seek to place his affections on either friends or the wealth he hath earned. And so should affection for one’s own person be extinguished by knowledge.
Like the lotus-leaf that is never drenched by water, the souls of men capable of distinguishing between the ephemeral and the everlasting, of men devoted to the pursuit of the eternal, conversant with the scriptures and purified by knowledge, can never be moved by affection. The man that is influenced by affection is tortured by desire, and from the desire that springeth up in his heart his thirst for worldly possessions increaseth. Verily, this thirst is sinful and is regarded as the source of all anxieties. It is this terrible thirst, fraught with sin that leaneth unto unrighteous acts.
Those find the happiness that can renounce this thirst, which can never be renounced by the wicked, which decayeth not with the decay of the body, and which is truly a fatal disease! It hath neither beginning nor end. Dwelling within the heart, it destroyeth creatures, like a fire of incorporeal origin. And as a faggot of wood is consumed by the fire that is fed by itself, even so, doth a person of impure soul find destruction from the covetousness born of his heart. And as creatures endued with life have ever a dread of death, so men of wealth are in constant apprehension of the king and the thief, of water and fire and even of their relatives. And as a morsel of meat, if in air, may be devoured by birds; if on ground by beasts of prey, and if in water by the fishes; even so is the man of wealth exposed to dangers wherever he may be.
To many, the wealth they own is their bane, and he that beholding happiness in wealth becometh wedded to it, knoweth not true happiness. And hence accession of wealth is viewed as that which increaseth covetousness and folly. Wealth alone is the root of niggardliness and boastfulness, pride and fear and anxiety! These are the miseries of men that the wise see in riches! Men undergo infinite miseries in the acquisition and retention of wealth. Its expenditure also is fraught with grief. Nay, sometimes, life itself is lost for the sake of wealth! The abandonment of wealth produces misery, and even they that are cherished by one’s wealth become enemies for the sake of that wealth!
When, therefore, the possession of wealth is fraught with such misery, one should not mind its loss. It is the ignorant alone who are discontented. The wise, however, are always content. The thirst of wealth can never be assuaged. Contentment is the highest happiness; therefore, it is, that the wise regard contentment as the highest object of pursuit. The wise knowing the instability of youth and beauty, of life and treasure-hoards, of prosperity and the company of the loved ones, never covet them.
Therefore, one should refrain from the acquisition of wealth, bearing the pain incident to it. None that is rich free from trouble, and it is for this that the virtuous applaud them that are free from the desire of wealth. And as regards those that pursue wealth for purposes of virtue, it is better for them to refrain altogether from such pursuit, for, surely, it is better not to touch mire at all than to wash it off after having been besmeared with it. And, O Yudhishthira, it behoveth thee not to covet anything! And if thou wouldst have virtue, emancipate thyself from the desire of worldly possessions!’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘O Brahmana, this my desire of wealth is not for enjoying it when obtained. It is only for the support of the Brahmanas that I desire it and not because I am actuated by avarice! For what purpose, O Brahmana, doth one like us lead a domestic life, if he cannot cherish and support those that follow him? All creatures are seen to divide the food (they procure) amongst those that depend on them. So should a person leading a domestic life give a share of his food to Yatis and Brahmacharins that have renounced cooking for themselves? The houses of the good men can never be in want of grass (for seat), space (for rest), water (to wash and assuage thirst), and fourthly, sweet words. To the weary a bed,–to one fatigued with standing, a seat,–to the thirsty, water,–and to the hungry, food should ever be given. To a guest are due pleasant looks and a cheerful heart and sweet words. The host, rising up, should advance towards the guest, offer him a seat, and duly worship him. Even this is eternal morality. They that perform not the Agnihotra not wait upon bulls, nor cherish their kinsmen and guests and friends and sons and wives and servants, are consumed with sin for such neglect.
None should cook his food for himself alone and none should slay an animal without dedicating it to the gods, the pitris, and guests. Nor should one eat of that food which hath not been duly dedicated to the gods and pitris. By scattering food on the earth, morning and evening, for (the behoof of) dogs and Chandalas and birds, should a person perform the Viswedeva sacrifice. He that eateth the Vighasa, is regarded as eating ambrosia. What remaineth in a sacrifice after dedication to the gods and the pitris is regarded as ambrosia; and what remaineth after feeding the guest is called Vighasa and is equivalent to ambrosia itself.
Feeding a guest is equivalent to a sacrifice, and the pleasant looks the host casteth upon the guest, the attention he devoteth to him, the sweet words in which he addresseth him, the respect he payeth by following him, and the food and drink with which he treateth him, are the five Dakshinas in that sacrifice. He who giveth without stint food to a fatigued wayfarer never seen before, obtaineth merit that is great, and he who leading a domestic life, followeth such practices, acquireth religious merit that is said to be very great. O Brahmana, what is thy opinion on this?”
“Saunaka said, ‘Alas, this world is full of contradictions! That which shameth the good, gratifieth the wicked! Alas, moved by ignorance and passion and slaves of their own senses, even fools perform many acts of (apparent merit) to gratify in after-life their appetites! With eyes open are these men led astray by their seducing senses, even as a charioteer, who hath lost his senses, by restive and wicked steeds! When any of the six senses findeth its particular object, the desire springeth up in the heart to enjoy that particular object. And thus when one’s heart proceedeth to enjoy the objects of any particular sense a wish is entertained which in its turn giveth birth to a resolve. And finally, like unto an insect falling into a flame from love of light, the man falleth into the fire of temptation, pierced by the shafts of the object of enjoyment discharged by the desire constituting the seed of the resolve! And thenceforth blinded by sensual pleasure which he seeketh without stint, and steeped in dark ignorance and folly which he mistaketh for a state of happiness, he knoweth not himself! And like unto a wheel that is incessantly rolling, every creature, from ignorance and deed and desire, falleth into various states in this world, wandering from one birth to another, and rangeth the entire circle of existences from a Brahma to the point of a blade of grass, now in water, now on land, and now against in the air!
‘This then is the career of those that are without knowledge. Listen now to the course of the wise they that are intent on profitable virtue, and are desirous of emancipation! The Vedas enjoin act but renounce (interest in) action. Therefore, shouldst thou act, renouncing Abhimana, performance of sacrifices, study (of the Vedas), gifts, penance, truth (in both speech and act), forgiveness, subduing the senses, and renunciation of desire,–these have been declared to be the eight (cardinal) duties constituting the true path. Of these, the four first pave the way to the world of the pitris. And these should be practised without Abhimana. The four last are always observed by the pious, to attain the heaven of the gods. And the pure in spirit should ever follow these eight paths. Those who wish to subdue the world for purpose of salvation, should ever act fully renouncing motives, effectually subduing their senses, rigidly observing particular vows, devotedly serving their preceptors, austerely regulating their fare, diligently studying the Vedas, renouncing action as mean and restraining their hearts.
By renouncing desire and aversion the gods have attained prosperity. It is by virtue of their wealth of yoga that the Rudras, and the Sadhyas, and the Adityas and the Vasus, and the twin Aswins, rule the creatures.
Therefore, O son of Kunti, like unto them, do thou, O Bharata, entirely refraining from the action with motive, strive to attain success in yoga and by ascetic austerities. Thou hast already achieved such success so far as thy debts to thy ancestors, both male and female concerned, and that success also which is derived from action (sacrifices). Do thou, for serving the regenerate one’s endeavour to attain success in penances. Those that are crowned with ascetic success, can, by virtue of that success, do whatever they list; do thou, therefore, practicing asceticism realise all thy wishes.”
The Mahabharata-BOOK 3-Aranyaka Parva