Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Mahabharata  Index  Previous  Next 


"Yajnavalkya said, 'Thou hast asked me, O monarch, of that Supreme Brahma which resides in the Unmanifest. Thy question relates to a deep mystery. Listen to me with close attention, O king! Having conducted myself with humility according to the ordinances laid down by the Rishis I obtained the Yajushes, O king, from Surya. Without the austerest penances I formerly adored the heat-giving deity. The puissant Surya, O sinless one, gratified with me, saying,--Solicit thou, O regenerate Rishi, the boon upon which thou hast set thy heart, however, difficult it may be of acquisition, I shall, with cheerful Soul, grant it to thee. It is very difficult to incline me to grace! Bowing unto him with a bend of my head, that foremost of heat-giving luminaries was addressed by me in these words, I have no knowledge of the Yajushes. I desire to know them without loss of time!--The holy one, thus solicited, told me,--I shall impart the Yajushes unto thee. Made up of the essence of speech, the goddess Saraswati will enter into thy body. The deity then commanded me to open my mouth. I did as I was commanded. The goddess Saraswati then entered into my body, O sinless one. At this, I began to burn. Unable to endure the pain I plunged into a stream. Not understanding that what the high-souled Surya had done for me was for my good, I became even angry with him. While I was burning with the energy of the goddess, the holy Surya told me,--Do thou endure this burning sensation for only a little while. That will soon cease and thou wilt be cool. Indeed I became cool. Seeing me restored to ease, the Maker of light said unto me,--The whole Vedas, with even those parts that are regarded as its appendix, together with the Upanishads, will appear in thee by inward

p. 48

light, O regenerate one! The entire Satapathas also thou wilt edit, O foremost of regenerate ones. After that, thy understanding will turn to the path of Emancipation. Thou wilt also attain to that end which is desirable and which is coveted by both Sankhyas and Yogins!--Having said these words unto me, the divine Surya proceeded to the Asta hills. Hearing his last words, and after he had departed from the spot where I was, I came home in joy and then remembered the goddess Saraswati. Thought of by me, the auspicious Saraswati appeared instantly before my eyes, adorned with all the vowels and the consonants and having placed the syllable Om in the van, I then, according to the ordinance, offered unto the goddess the usual Arghya, and dedicated another to Surya, that foremost of all heat-giving deities. Discharging this duty I took my seat, devoted to both those deities. Thereupon, the entire Satapatha Brahmanas, with all their mysteries and with all their abstracts as also their appendices, appeared of themselves before my mental vision, at which I became filled with great joy. 1 I then taught them to a hundred good disciples and thereby did what was disagreeable to my high-souled maternal uncle (Vaisampayana) with the disciples gathered round him. 2 Then shining in the midst of my disciples like the Sun himself with his rays, I took the management of the Sacrifice of thy high-souled sire, O king. In that Sacrifice a dispute arose between me and my maternal uncle as to who should be permitted to appropriate the Dakshina that was paid for the recitation of the Vedas. In the very presence of Devala, I took half of that Dakshina (the other half going to my maternal uncle). Thy sire and Sumantra and Paila and Jaimini and other articles all acquiesced in that arrangement. 3

'I had thus got from Surya the five times ten Yajushes, O monarch. I then studied the Puranas with Romaharshan. Keeping before me those (original) Mantras and the goddess Saraswati I, then, O king, aided by

p. 49

the inspiration of Surya, set myself to compile the excellent Satapatha Brahmanas, and succeeded in achieving the task never before undertaken by any one else. That path which I had desired to take has been taken by me and I have also taught it to my disciples. Indeed, the whole of those Vedas with their abstracts have been imparted by me to those disciples of mine. Pure in mind and body, all those disciples have, in consequence of my instructions, become filled with joy. Having established (for the use of others) this knowledge consisting of fifty branches which I had obtained from Surya, I now meditate on the great object of that knowledge viz., (Brahma). The Gandharva Viswavasu, well-conversant with the Vedanta scriptures, desirous, O king, of ascertaining what is beneficial for the Brahmanas in this knowledge and what truth occurs in it, and what is the excellent object of this knowledge, one questioned me. He put to me altogether four and twenty questions, O king, relating to the Vedas. Finally, he asked me a question, numbered twenty-fifth which relates to that branch of knowledge which is concerned with the inferences of ratiocination. Those questions are as follows: What is universe and what is not-universe? What is Aswa and what Aswa? What is Mitra? What is Varuna? What is Knowledge? What is Object of knowledge? What is Unintelligent? What is Intelligent? Who is Kah? Who is possessed of the principle of change? Who is not possessed of the same? What is he that devours the Sun and what is the Sun? What is Vidya and what is Avidya? What is Immobile and what Mobile? What is without beginning, what is Indestructible, and what is Destructible? These were the excellent questions put to me by that foremost of Gandharvas. After king Viswavasu, that foremost of Gandharvas, had asked me these questions one after another, I answered them properly. At first, however, I told him, Wait for a brief space of time, till I reflect on thy questions! So be it, Gandharva said, and sat in silence. I then thought once again of the goddess Saraswati in my mind. The replies then to those questions naturally arose in my mind like butter from curds. Keeping in view the high science of inferential ratiocination, I churned with my mind, O monarch, the Upanishads and the supplementary scriptures relating to the Vedas. The fourth science then that treats of Emancipation, O foremost of kings, and on which I have already discoursed to thee, and which is based upon the twenty-fifth, viz., Jiva, I then expounded to him. 1 Having said all this, O monarch, to king Viswavasu, I then addressed him, saying, Listen now to the answers that I give unto the several questions that thou hast put to me. I now turn to the question, which, O Gandharva, thou askest, viz., What is Universe and what is not-universe? The Universe is Unmanifest and original Prakriti endued with the principles of birth and death which are terrible (to those that are desirous of Emancipation). It is, besides, possessed of the three attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas,

p. 50

and Tamas), in consequence of its producing principles all of which are fraught with those attributes. 1 That which is Not-universe is Purusha divested of all attributes. By Aswa and Aswa are meant the female and the male, i.e., the former is Prakriti and the latter is Purusha. Similarly, Mitra is Purusha, and Varuna is Prakriti. 2 Knowledge, again, is said to be Prakriti, while the object to be known is called Purusha. The Ignorant (Jiva), and the Knowing or Intelligent are both Purusha without attributes (for it is Purusha that becomes Jiva when invested with Ignorance). Thou hast asked what is Kah, who is endued with change and who is unendued therewith. I answer, Kah is Purusha. 3 That which is endued with change is Prakriti. He that is not endued therewith is Purusha. Similarly, that which is called Avidya (the unknowable) is Prakriti; and that which is called Vidya is Purusha. Thou hast asked me about the Mobile and the Immobile. Listen to what my answer is. That which is mobile is Prakriti, which undergoing modification, constitutes the cause of Creation and Destruction. The Immobile is Purusha, for without himself undergoing modifications he assists at Creation and Destruction. (According to a different system of philosophy) that which is Vedya is Prakriti; while that which is Avedya is Purusha. Both Prakriti and Purusha are said to be unintelligent, stable, indestructible, unborn, and eternal, according to the conclusions arrived at by philosophers conversant with the topics included in the name of Adhyatma. In consequence of the indestructibility of Prakriti in the matter of Creation, Prakriti, which is unborn, is regarded as not subject to decay or destruction. Purusha, again, is indestructible and unchangeable, for change it has none. The attributes that reside in Prakriti are destructible, but not Prakriti herself. The learned, therefore, call Prakriti indestructible. Prakriti also, by undergoing modifications, operates as the cause of Creation. The created results appear and disappear, but not original Prakriti. Hence also is Prakriti called indestructible. Thus have I told thee conclusions of the Fourth Science based on the principles of ratiocinative inference and having Emancipation for its end. Having acquired by the science of ratiocinative inference and by waiting upon preceptors, the Rich, the Samans, and the Yajushes, all the obligatory practices should be observed and all the Vedas studied with reverence, O Viswavasu! O foremost of Gandharvas, they who study the Vedas with all their branches but who do not know the Supreme Soul from which all things take their birth and into which all things merge when destruction comes, and which is the one object whose knowledge the Vedas seek to inculcate, Indeed, they, who have no acquaintance with that which the Vedas seek to establish, study the Vedas to no purpose

p. 51

and bear their burthen of such study in vain. If a person desirous of butter churns the milk of the she-ass, without finding what he seeks he simply meets with a substance that is as foul of smell as ordure. After the same manner, if one, having studied the Vedas, fails to comprehend what is Prakriti and what is Purusha, one only proves one's own foolishness of understanding and bears a useless burthen (in the form of Vedic lore). 1 One should, with devoted attention, reflect on both Prakriti and Purusha, so that one may avoid repeated birth and death. Reflection upon the fact of one's repeated births and deaths and avoiding the religion of acts that is productive at best of destructible results, one should betake oneself to the indestructible religion of Yoga. O Kasyapa, if one continuously on the nature of the Jiva-soul and its connection with the Supreme Soul, one then succeeds in divesting oneself on all attributes and in beholding the Supreme Soul. The Eternal and Unmanifest Supreme Soul is regarded by men of foolish understandings to be different from the twenty-fifth or Jiva-soul. They are endued with wisdom that behold both these as truly one and the same. Frightened at repeated births and deaths, the Sankhyas and Yogins regard the Jiva-soul and the Supreme Soul to be one and the same.'

"Viswavasu then said, 'Thou hast, O foremost of Brahmanas, said that Jiva-soul is indestructible and truly undistinguished from the Supreme Soul. This, however, is difficult to understand. It behoveth thee to once more discourse on this topic to me. I have heard discourses on this subject from Jaigishavya, Aista, Devala, the regenerate sage Parasara, the intelligent Varshaganya, Bhrigu, Panchasikha Kapila, Suka, Gautama, Arshtisena, the high-souled Garga, Narada, Asuri, the intelligent Paulastya, Sanatkumara, the high-souled Sukra, and my sire Kasyapa. Subsequently I heard the discourses of Rudra and the intelligent Viswarupa, of several of the deities, of the Pitris. and the Daityas. I have acquired all that they say, for they generally discourse that eternal object of all knowledge. I desire, however, to hear what thou mayst say on those topics with the aid of thy intelligence. Thou art the foremost of all persons, and a learned lecturer on the scriptures, and endued with great intelligence. There is nothing that is unknown to thee. Thou art an ocean of the Srutis, as described, O Brahmana, in the world of both the deities and Pitris. The great Rishis residing in the region of Brahma say that Aditya himself, the eternal lord of all luminaries, is thy preceptor (in the matter of this branch of knowledge). O Yajnavalkya, thou hast obtained the entire science, O Brahmana, of the Sankhyas, as also the scriptures of the Yogins in particular. Without doubt, thou art enlightened, fully conversant with the mobile immobile universe. I desire to hear thee discourse on that knowledge, which may be likened to clarified butter endued with solid grains.'

p. 52

"Yajnavalkya said, 'Thou art, O foremost of Gandharvas, competent to comprehend every knowledge. As, however, thou askest me do thou hear me then discourse to thee according as I myself have obtained it from my preceptor. Prakriti, which is unintelligent, is apprehended by Jiva. Jiva, however, cannot be apprehended by Prakriti, O Gandharva. In consequence of Jiva being reflected in Prakriti, the latter is called Pradhana by Sankhyas and Yogins conversant with the original principles as indicated in the Srutis. O sinless one, the other, beholding, beholds the twenty-fourth (Prakriti) and the twenty-fifth. (Soul); not beholding, it beholds the twenty-sixth. 1 The twenty-fifth thinks that there is nothing higher than itself. In reality, however, though beholding, it does not behold that (viz., the twenty-sixth) which beholds it. 2 Men possessed of wisdom should never accept the Twenty-fourth (viz., Prakriti, which is unintelligent or inert) as identifiable with the Twenty-fifth or the Soul which has a real and independent existence. The fish live in water. It goes thither impelled by its own nature. As the fish, though living in the water, is to be regarded as separate from it, after the same manner is the Twenty-fifth to be apprehended (i.e., though the Twenty-fifth exists in a state of contact with the Twenty-fourth or Prakriti, it is, however, in its real nature, separate from and independent of Prakriti). When overwhelmed with the consciousness of meum or self, and when unable to understand its identity with the Twenty-sixth, in fact, in consequence of the illusion that invests it, of its co-existence with Prakriti, and of its own manner of thinking, the Jiva-soul always skins down, but when freed from such consciousness it goes upwards. When the Jiva-soul succeeds in apprehending that it is one, and Prakriti with which it resides is another, then only does it, O regenerate one, succeed in beholding the Supreme Soul and attaining to the condition of Oneness with the universe. The Supreme is one, O king, and the Twenty-fifth (or Jiva-soul) is another. In consequence, however, of the Supreme

p. 53

overlying the Jiva-soul the wise regard both to be one and the same. 1 For these reasons, Yogins, and followers of the Sankhya system of philosophy, terrified by the birth and death, blessed with sight of the Twenty-sixth, pure in body and mind, and devoted to the Supreme Soul, and do not welcome the Jiva-soul as indestructible. 2 When one beholds the Supreme Soul and losing all consciousness of individuality becomes identified with the Supreme, one than becomes omniscient, and possessed of such omniscience one becomes freed from the obligation of rebirth. I have thus discoursed to thee truly, sinless one, about Prakriti which is unintelligent, and Jiva-soul which is possessed of intelligence, and the Supreme Soul which is endued with omniscience, according to the indications occurring in the Srutis. That man, who beholds not any difference between the knower or the known, is both Kevala and not-Kevala, is the original cause of the universe, is both Jiva-soul and the Supreme Soul. 3

"Viswavasu said, 'O puissant one, thou hast duly and adequately discoursed on that which is the origin of all the deities and which is productive of Emancipation. Thou hast said what is true and excellent. May inexhaustible blessings always attend thee, and may thy mind be ever united with intelligence!'

"Yajnavalkya continued, 'Having said those words, the prince of Gandharvas proceeded towards heaven, shining in resplendence of beauty. Before leaving me, the high-souled one duly honoured me by taking the accustomed turns round my person, and I looked upon him, highly pleased. He inculcated the science he had obtained from me unto those celestials that dwell in the regions of Brahman and other deities, unto those that dwell on Earth, unto also the denizens of the nether regions, and unto them that had adopted the path of Emancipation, O king. The Sankhyas are devoted to the practices of their system. The Yogins are devoted to the practices inculcated by their system. Others there are that are desirous

p. 54

of achieving their Emancipation. Unto these latter this science is productive of visible fruits, O lion among king. Emancipation flows from Knowledge. Without Knowledge it can never be attained. The wise have said it, O monarch. Hence, one should strive one's best for acquiring true Knowledge in all its details, by which one may succeed in freeing oneself from birth and death. Obtaining knowledge from a Brahmana or a Kshatriya or Vaisya or even a Sudra who is of low birth, one endued with faith should always show reverence for such knowledge. Birth and death cannot assail one that is endued with faith. All orders of men are Brahmanas. All are sprung from Brahma. All men utter Brahma. 1 Aided by an understanding that is derived from and directed to Brahma. I inculcated this science treating of Prakriti and Purusha. Indeed, this whole universe is Brahma. From the mouth of Brahma sprung the Brahmanas; from his arms, sprung the Kshatriyas; from his navel, the Vaisya; and from his feet, the Sudras. All the orders, (having sprung in this way) should not be regarded as pilfering from one another. Impelled by Ignorance, all men meet with death and attain, O king, to birth that is the cause of acts. 2 Divested of Knowledge, all orders of men, dragged by terrible Ignorance, fall into varied orders of being due to the principles that flow from Prakriti. For this reason, all should, by every means, seek to acquire Knowledge. I have told thee that every person is entitled to strive for its acquisition. One that is possessed of Knowledge is a Brahmana. Others, (viz., Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras) are possessed of knowledge. Hence, this science of Emancipation is always open to them all. This, O king has been said by the Wise. The questions thou hadst asked me have all been answered by me agreeably to the truth. Do thou, therefore, cast off all grief. Go thou to the other end of this enquiry. Thy questions were good. Blessings on thy head for ever!

"Bhishma continued--Thus instructed by the intelligent Yajnavalkya the king of Mithila became filled with joy. The king honoured that foremost of ascetics by walking round his person. Dismissed by the monarch, he departed from his court. King Daivarati, having obtained the knowledge of the religion of Emancipation, took his seat, and touching a million of kine and a quantity of gold and a measure of gems and jewels, gave them away unto a number of Brahmanas. Installing his son in the sovereignty of the Videhas, the old king began to live, adopting the practices of the Yatis. Thinking mainly of all ordinary duties and their derelictions (as laid down in the scriptures), the king began to study the science of the Sankhyas and the Yogins in their entirety. Regarding himself to be Infinite, he began to reflect on only the Eternal and Independent One. He cast off all ordinary

p. 55

duties and their derelictions, Virtue and Vice, Truth and Falsehood, Birth and Death, and all other things appertaining to the principles produced by Prakriti. Both Sankhyas and Yogins, agreeably to the teachings of their sciences, regard this universe to be due to the action of the Manifest and the Unmanifest. The learned say that Brahma is freed from good and evil, is self-dependent, the highest of the high, Eternal, and Pure. Do thou, therefore, O monarch, become Pure! The giver, the receiver of the gift, the gift itself, and that which is ordered to be given away, are all to be deemed as the unmanifest Soul. The Soul is the Soul's one possession. Who, therefore, can be a stranger to one? Do thou think always in this way. Never think otherwise. He who does not know what is Prakriti possessed of attributes and what is Purusha transcending attributes, only he, not possessed as he is of knowledge, repairs to sacred waters and performs sacrifices. Not by study of the Vedas, not by penances, not by sacrifices O son of Kuru, can one attain to the status of Brahma. Only when one succeeds in apprehending the Supreme or Unmanifest, one comes to be regarded with reverence. They who wait upon Mahat attain to regions of Mahat. They who wait upon Consciousness, attain to the spot that belongs to Consciousness. They who wait upon what is higher attain to places that are higher than these. Those persons, learned in the scriptures, who succeed in apprehending Eternal Brahma who is higher than Unmanifest Prakriti, succeed in obtaining that which transcends birth and death, which is free from attributes, and which is both existent and non-existent I got all this knowledge from Janaka. The latter had obtained it from Yajnavalkya. Knowledge is very superior. Sacrifices cannot compare with it. With the aid of Knowledge one succeeds in crossing the world's ocean which is full of difficulties and dangers. One can never cross that ocean by means of sacrifices. Birth and death, and other impediments, O king, men of knowledge say, one cannot pass over by ordinary exertion. 1 Men attain to heaven through sacrifices, penances, vows, and observances. But they have again to fall down therefrom on the Earth. Do thou, therefore, adore with reverence that which is Supreme, most pure, blessed, stainless, and sacred, and which transcends all states (being Emancipation itself). By apprehending Kshetra, O king, and by performing the Sacrifice that consists in the acquisition of Knowledge, thou wilt really be wise. In former time, Yajnavalkya did that good to king Janaka which is derivable from a study of the Upanishads. The Eternal and Immutable Supreme was the topic about which the great Rishi had discoursed to the king of Mithila. It enabled him to attain to that Brahma which is auspicious, and immortal, and which transcends all kinds of sorrow."


48:1 Chakre literally means 'I made'. The commentator explains it as equivalent to swayam avirbhut.

48:2 Vipriya evidently means 'what is not agreeable.' There was evidently a dispute between Yajnavalkya and his maternal uncle Vaisampayana, the celebrated disciple of Vyasa. This dispute is particularly referred to in the next verse. Vaisampayana had been a recognised teacher of the Vedas and had collected a large number of disciples around him. When, therefore, the nephew Yajnavalkya, having obtaining the Vedas from Surya, began to teach them, he was naturally looked upon with a jealousy, which culminated (as referred to in the next verse) into an open dispute about the Dakshina to be appropriated in the Sacrifice of Janaka. The Burdwan translator incorrectly renders the word vipriya which he takes to mean as 'very agreeable.' In the Vishnu Purana it is mentioned that a dispute took place between Yajnavalkya and Paila. The tatter's preceptor, Vyasa, came, and taking his side, asked Yajnavalkya to return him the Vedas which he had obtained from him. Yajnavalkya vomited forth the Vedas. These were instantly devoured by two other Rishis in the form of Tittiri birds. These afterwards promulgated the Taittiriya Upanishads.

48:3 This shows that I was then regarded as the equal of Vaisampayana himself in the matter of Vedic knowledge. Sumanta and Paila and Jaimini, with Vaisampayana, were the Rishis that assisted the great Vyasa in the task of arranging the Vedas.

49:1 This is called the fourth science, the three others being the three Vedas, Axis culture, and the science of morality and chastisement.

50:1 Prakriti is regarded as something in which Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas reside in exactly equal proportion. All the principles of Mahat, etc. which flow from Prakriti, are characterised by these three attributes in diverse measure.

50:2 By Mitra is meant here the deity giving light and heat. By Varuna is meant the waters that compose the universe.

50:3 Kah, the commentator explained, is anandah or felicity.

51:1 The comparison lies in the folly of the two persons indicated. One churning ass's milk for butter is only a fool. Similarly, one failing to understand the nature of Prakriti and Purusha from the Vedas is only a fool.

52:1 give a literal rendering of this verse for showing how difficult it is to understand the meaning. The commentator correctly explains the sense which is as follows: anyah or the other is the Soul as distinguished from its reflection upon Prakriti, that is the Soul in its real character as independent of Prakriti. What is said here is that when the Soul, in its real character beholds, or acts as a witness of everything (i.e., as exists in the states of wakefulness and dream), becomes conscious of both itself (the Twenty-fifth) and Prakriti (the Twenty-fourth) when, however, it ceases to behold or act as such witness (i.e., in the state of dreamless slumber of Yoga-samadhi), it succeeds in beholding the Supreme Soul or the Twenty-sixth. In simple language what is said here is that the Soul becomes conscious of both itself and Prakriti in the state of wakefulness and dream. In Samadhi alone, it beholds the Supreme Soul.

52:2 What is said here is that the Twenty-sixth or the Supreme Soul always beholds the Twenty-fifth or the Jiva-soul. The latter, however, filled with vanity, regards that there is nothing higher than it. It can easily, in Yoga-samadhi, behold the Twenty-sixth. Though thus competent to behold the Supreme Soul, it fails ordinarily to behold it. The commentator sees in this verse a reputation of the doctrine of the Charvakas and the Saugatas who deny that there is a Twenty-sixth Tattwa or even a Twenty-fifth which they identify with the Twenty-fourth.

53:1 Tatsthanat is explained by the commentator as Varasya avaradhisrhanat, i.e., in consequence of vara overlying the avara. The instance of the string and the snake is cited. At first the string is erroneously taken for the snake. When the error is dispelled, the string appears as the string. Thus the Supreme and the Jiva-soul come to be taken as one when true knowledge comes.

53:2 The ordinary doctrine is that the Jiva-soul is indestructible, for it is both unborn and deathless, its so called births and deaths being only changes of the forms which Prakriti undergoes in course of her association with it, an association that continues as long as the Jiva-soul does not succeed in effecting its emancipation. In this verse the ordinary doctrine is abandoned. What is said here is that the Jiva-soul is not deathless, for when it becomes identified with the Supreme Soul, that alteration may be taken as its death.

53:3 This is a very difficult verse. Pasya and apasya are drashtri and drisya, i.e., knower and known (or Soul and Prakriti) Kshemaya and Tattwo are drik and drisya, i.e., knowledge and known. One that sees no difference between these that is, one that regards all things as one and the same, is both Kevala and not-Kevala, etc, meaning that such a person, though still appearing as a Jiva (to others) is in reality identifiable with the Supreme Soul.

54:1 This may mean that as men speak, and as speech is Brahma, all men must be regarded as utterers of Brahma. If, again, Brahma be taken to mean the Vedas in special, it may imply that all men utter the Vedas or are competent to study the Vedas. Such an exceedingly liberal sentiment from the mouth of Yajnavalkya is compatible only with the religion of Emancipation which he taught.

54:2 The doctrine is that unless acts are destroyed, there can be no Emancipation.

55:1 Literally, 'these are not obstacles by external nature,' and are therefore irremovable by personal exertion of the ordinary kind.

Next: Section CCCXX