Based on the bhAshya of SrI Sankara bhagavatpAda
Having heard about the greatness of "maunam" or contemplation,
1. dhRtarAshtra said:
kasyaisha maunah katarannu maunam
prabrUhi vidvanniha maunabhAvam
maunena vidvAnupayAti maunam
katham mune maunamihAcaranti 1
1. (The word "maunah" has two meanings: (1) refraining from speaking and (2) contemplation. The king desires to know which is applicable here).
Whose is this "maunah"? That is, who is the person who can be said to practise this "maunah"? Is it a person who merely refrains from speaking, or is it a person who contemplates? Which of these two is "maunah"? O wise one, please tell me this. Does a person attain brahman by merely refraining from speaking? How does one practise "maunam" in this world?
Note. The word "maunam" at the end of the third line in the above verse means "brahman" accordng to SrI Sankara's bhAshya.
yato na vedA manasA sahainam
anupraviSyanti tato"tha maunam
sa tanmayatvena vibhAti rAjan 2
2. brahman is "maunam" because neither the vedas nor the mind can reach (describe) Him. He is the source from which the vedas have arisen. Or, He is the consciousness because of which the words of the vedas are pronounced. He shines as effulgence itself.
Note. The taitt. up. says, "That from which the words return along with the mind without reaching it (is brahman)".
Rco yajUmshyadhIte yah sAmavedam ca yo dvijah
pApAni kurvan pApena lipyate na sa lipyate 3
3. Does a twice-born (brAhmaNa, kshatriya, or vaiSya) who has learnt the Rg, yajur, and sAma vedas become tainted by the sins he commits or does he not become tainted by them?
Note. The question is whether a person can escape the consequences of his sinful actions by the mere fact of having learnt the Vedas.
nainam sAmAni Rco vApi yajUmshi ca vicakshaNa
trAyante karmaNah pApAt na te mithyA bravImyaham 4
4. The Vedas do not protect an evil-doer from the consequences of his evil acts. What I am telling you is not false. You should not have any doubt on this.
na cchandAmsi vRjinAt tArayanti
mAyAvinam mAyayA vartamAnam
nIDam SakuntA iva jAtapakshAh
chandAmsyenam prajahantyantakAle 5
5. The vedas do not protect from sin such a hypocrite who commits evil deeds in spite of having learnt the vedas. The vedas will forsake him at the time of his death, just as young birds leave the nests of their mother as soon as their wings have grown. The idea is that the Vedas do not help such a person to attain the ultimate goal of life.
na cedvedA vedavidam trAtum SaktA vicakshaNa
atha kasmAt pralApo"yam brAhmaNAnAm sanAtanah 6
6. O wise one, if the Vedas do not have the power to save a person who has studied them, why this ancient prattle by brAhmaNas (that the vedas should be studied, their meaning understood and their injunctions should be practiced)?
The obligatory and desire-oriented actions (nitya and kAmya karma) prescribed in the vedas can lead a person only to other worlds such as heaven which are all within the transmigratory state. They cannot lead one to liberation from bondage. The question asked by the king is therefore, what is the idea in the learned people proclaiming that one should study the vedas and perform the actions laid down. What benefit is achieved by it?
idam jagad bhAti mahAnubhAva
nirdiSya samyakpravadanti vedAh
7. O great one! This universe consisting of names and forms is nothing but the appearance of that brahman due to mAyA. The vedas as well as the sages further speak about the real nature of Brahman (as different from this universe).
The upanishads say, "indra (brahman) appears as many forms because of mAya", "ether was born from the Atman". These show that the universe is only an appearance of Brahman through mAyA. The real nature of brahman is described by statements such as: This Brahman is beyond cause and effect, all-pervasive and without any differences either inside or outside. It is beyond the reach of speech and the mind. It is experienced as consciousness by every one.
By the two following verses it is pointed out that actions performed as an offering to God become an indirect means to the ultimate human goal of liberation by purifying the mind and making it fit to receive knowledge of the Self. Actions performed not as offering to God, but with desire for the fruit, become the cause of further bondage.
tadarthamuktam tapa etadijyA
tAbhyAmasau puNyamupaiti vidvAn
puNyena pApam vinihatya paScAt
sa jAyate jnAnavidIpitAtmA 8
jnAnena cAtmAnamupaiti vidvAn
na cAnyathA vargaphalAnukAngkshI
asmin kRtam tatparigRhya sarvam
amutra bhungkte punareti mArgam 9
8 &9. By performing austerities, sacrifices etc., as an offering to that brahman the wise man acquires merit which destroys his sins and ultimately becomes free from all taint. Then knowledge of the Self dawns and he realizes that he is the non-dual Self which is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. This does not happen if his actions are not offered to God and if he is desirous of the fruit of his actions. Such a person goes to other worlds such as heaven and, after enjoying the merits acquired he is born again in this world according to his residual karma.
For liberation one has to become free from both puNya and pApa. Actions performed as an offering to God do not produce any new puNya which is also an obstacle to liberation. They only destroy the existing pApa. The puNya in the prArabdhakarma is destroyed by enjoyment in this life.
The difference between the fruits of action of the enlightened and the unenlightened is stated in the next verse:
asmin loke tapas taptam phalamanyatra bhujyate
brAhmaNAnAm tapah svRddham anyeshAm tAvadeva tat 10
10. The fruit of austerities performed in this world (by the unenlightened and with desire for the fruit) is enjoyed in the next world. The fruit is limited to what is stated in the vedas for the particular action (such as heaven, etc.). But in the case of a knower of brahman the austerities performed yield abundant results.
The idea is: Austerities and other actions performed with desire for the fruit give just the result laid down for that particular action in the vedas, such as sojourn in heaven till the exhaustion of the merit earned. But a knower of brahman performs actions only for the welfare of others and not for any benefit for himself. So the fruits of that action, which benefit the world, become abundant. In his bhAshya on this verse SrI Sankara quotes the statement in chAndogya upanishad (1.1.10), "That action which is performed with right knowledge, faith and concentration becomes exceedingly fruitful".
On hearing this, dhRtarAshtra asked:
katham samRddham atyartham tapo bhavati kevalam
sanatsujAta tadbrUhi katham vidyAmaham prabho 11
11. O sanatsujAta, how does pure austerity become exceedingly fruitful? Please tell me. How am I to know this?
nishkalmasham tapastvetat kevalam paricakshate
etat samRddham atyartham tapo bhavati nAnyathA 12
12. Austerity which is free from all taint is known as "kevala" or pure tapas. Only such austerity yields plentiful results, and not when the austerity is otherwise. (What are the taints? These are described in subsequent verses).
SrI Sankara says: The cause (or seed) of this entire universe is called "kevala". He quotes bhagavAn Sukra's statement, "When the three guNas are in equilibrium the state is said to be "kevala". From this kevala the universe consisting of gross and subtle things is born". The idea is that, similarly, austerity which is "kevala" is the seed of plentiful results.
This austerity is now praised:
tapomUlamidam sarvam yanmAm pRcchasi kshatriya
tapasA vedavidvAmsah param tvamRtamApnuyuh 13
13. O king, all that you are asking has tapas as the root. It is through tapas that knowers of the vedas attain to the supreme immortal Being.
dhRtarAshtra then asked:
kalmasham tapaso brUhi Srutam nishkalmasham tapah
sanatsujAta yenedam vidyAm guhyam sanAtanam 14
14. O sanatsujAta, I have heard from you about (the glory of) taintless tapas. Please tell me what are the taints of tapas, so that, avoiding them, I may attain this eternal profound knowledge.
Thus asked, sanatsujAta said:
krodhAdayo dvAdaSa yasya doshAh
tathA nRSamsAni ca sapta rAjan
jnAnAdayo dvAdaSa cAtatAnAh
SAstre guNA ye viditA dvijAnAm 15
15. Anger, etc., are twelve defects which affect tapas; so also are another set of seven defects such as malice, O king! The good qualities which make the tapas pure are twelve beginning with knowledge, which are elaborated in the scriptures as the qualities of the twice-born.
Now the twelve such as anger are described:
krodhah kAmo lobhamohau vivitsA
akRpAsUyA mAnaSokau spRhA ca
IrshyA jugupsA ca mahAguNena
sadA varjyA dvAdaSaite nareNa 16
16. Anger, lust, greed, lack of discrimination about right and wrong, desire to know about the pleasures from sense-objects, cruelty, the tendency to attribute evil qualities to those who are good, pride, lamentation, desire for sensual enjoyment, envy, and hatred are the twelve taints that should be avoided by a spiritual aspirant.
ekaikamete rAjendra manushyam paryupAsate
lipsamAno"ntaram teshAm mRgANAmiva lubdhakah 17
17. Just as a hunter searches for the weak spots of animals to hunt them down, so also each of these defects takes advantage of the weak spots of each person and attacks him, O king!
vargapraSamsI vanitAm ca dveshTA
ete pare sapta nRSamsarUpAh 18
18. There are seven kinds of malice. These are - the mind being ever intent on enjoying sensual pleasures, prospering by harming others, lamenting after having given away a gift, being prepared to put up with any amount of humiliation out of greed for some paltry gain, lack of the strength of right knowledge (discrimination), boasting about one's own mental and physical faculties, and ill-treating one's own totally dependent wife.
These are obstacles in the path towards spiritual progress.
jnAnam ca satyam ca damah Srutam ca
yajnaSca dAnam ca dhRtih SamaSca
mahAvratA dvAdaSa brAhmaNasya 19
19. The twelve great vows of a brAhmaNa are: knowledge of the Reality, speaking what is true and good for others, control of the mind, study of vedAnta, being free from intolerance of the well-being of others, unwillingness to do anything improper, forbearance in adverse circumstances, not giving publicity to the faults of others, performing sacrifices prescribed in the vedas, giving away wealth to the deserving, self-control even in the presence of temptation, control of the senses. These are the means towards spiritual progress.
sarvAmimAm pRthivIm sa praSishyAt
tribhirdvAbhyAmekato va vimuktAh
kramAdviSishTA maunabhUtA bhavanti 20
20. Those who have achieved perfection in the above twelve great vows will be in a position to control the whole world. Even a person who has perfected three, two, or one of these will gradually attain knowledge and realize his identity with brahman.
The defects that one should guard against while cultivating control of the senses, etc., are stated in the following three verses.
damo'shTAdaSadoshah syAt pratikUlam kRte bhavet
anRtam paiSunam tRshNA prAtikUlyam tamo"ratih 21
lokadvesho"bhimAnaSca vivAdah prANipIDanam
parivAdo"tivAdaSca paritApo"kshamA dhRtih 22
asiddhih pApakRtyam ca himsA ceti prakIrtitAh
etairdoshairvimukto yah sa damah sadbhirucyate 23
21, 22, & 23. Sages say that control of the senses is effective only if the person practising it is free from the following eighteen defects which are opposed to it - speaking untruth, talking ill of others, yearning for enjoyment of sense-objects, being ill-disposed towards every one, ignorance, lack of contentment, behaving in a way that afflicts people, disrespect to all, quarrelsomeness, killing animals for nourishing oneself, telling one's defects to one's face, purposeless chattering, vain lament over past sorrows, inability to bear the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, etc., being tempted in the presence of sense-objects, failure to attain perfection in the practice of dharma, knowledge and detachment, committing forbidden actions, and causing injury (other than in sacrifices sanctioned by scripture).
In the next Sloka "mada" (pride) is described as having eighteen "defects", i.e. eighteen qualities which are opposed to pride and which therefore help one to get rid of pride.
mado'shTAdaSadoshah syAt tyAgo bhavati shaDvidhah
viparyayAh smRtA ete damadoshA udAhRtAh 24
24. There are eighteen "defects" of pride. Six of these fall under the category "sacrifice". (all these are described in the subsequent Slokas). These are the opposites of those which have been described earlier as the eighteen defects of "dama" (control of the senses).
SreyAmstu shaDvidhastyAgastRtIyastatra dushkarah
tena duhkham tarantyeva tasmimstyakte jitam bhavet 25
25. All the six kinds of sacrifice conduce to one's good. Out of these the third (set of two) is very difficult to practise. By practising this third kind of sacrifice one becomes free from all sorrow and conquers everything.
The six kinds of sacrifice are now described:
arhate yAcamAnAya putrAn vittam dadAti yat
ishTApUrtam dvitIyam syAnnityam vairAgyayogatah 26
kAmatyAgaSca rAjendra sa tRtIya iti smRtah
apramAdI bhavedetaih sa cApyashTaguNo matah 27
26, 27. Of these six, the first set of two is gifting (the service or help of) one's own sons and one's wealth to a deserving supplicant. The second set of two is giving gifts during the course of rituals laid down in the Sruti and smRti. (Or gifts to gods and the manes). The third set of two is always giving away gifts of money and possessions with detachment and a pure mind and with the knowledge that they are all ephemeral, and also giving up all desires, O king. By these six kinds of sacrifice one becomes free from "pramAda" or the fall from one's natural state of identity with brahman. This freedom from "pramAda" has eight virtues as its features.
These eight virtues are now described:
satyam dhyAnam samAdhAnam codyam vairAgyameva ca
asteyo brahmacaryam ca tathAsamgraha eva ca 28
28. Truthfulness in speech, keeping the mind fixed continuously on some auspicious object, withdrawing the mind from all external objects while chanting "Om" and remaining established as the non-dual blissful Self, pondering on questions such as "who am I", "where do I come from", etc., an attitude of detachment towards all worldly matters, non-stealing of other's wealth and also not stealing the Self by mistaking it for something else as stated in Sloka 33 of chapter 1, celibacy, and not storing up wealth etc., for the morrow - these are the eight virtues.
The defects to be eschewed are:
evam doshA damasyoktAstAndoshAn parivarjayet
doshatyAge"pramAdah syAt sa cApyashTaguNo matah 29
29. The eighteen defects of dama which have been mentioned should be eradicated. When they are got rid of there will be no pramAda. The eight virtues of apramAda have been narrated above.
Now truthfulness is praised:
satyAtmA bhava rAjendra satye lokAh pratishThitAh
tAmstu satyamukhAnAhuh satye hyamRtamAhitam 30
30. O king, Let Truth be your very nature. All the worlds are established in Truth. Their very existence is said to be dependent on Truth. Immortality is based on Truth.
nivRttenaiva dosheNa tapovratamihAcaret
etad dhAtrA kRtam vittam satyameva satAm varam 31
31. Austerities should be practised in this world only after becoming free from the defects mentioned. This has been ordained by the supreme Lord. Truth is the best wealth of the good.
doshairetairviyuktam tu guNairetaih samanvitam
etat samRddhamatyartham tapo bhavati kevalam 32
32. To one who is free from these defects and endowed with these excellences, austerities become pure and yield plentiful results.
yanmAm pRcchasi rAjendra samkshepAt tad bravImi te
etat pApaharam Suddham janmamRtyujarApaham 33
33. O king, I shall tell you briefly what you are asking me. This will cleanse all sins, is pure and will put an end to birth, death and old age.
indriyebhyaSca pancabhyo manasaScaiva bhArata
atItAnAgatebhyaSca muktaScet sa sukhI bhavet 34
34. O bhArata, if one becomes free from the bondage of the senses, sense-objects, mind and thoughts of the past and the future, he will be happy.
AkhyAnapancamairvedairbhUyishTham katthyate janah
tathA cAnye caturvedAstrivedASca tathApare 35
dvivedAScaikavedASca anRcaSca tathApare
eteshu me"dhikam brUhi yamaham veda brAhmaNam 36
35 & 36. One who has mastered all the four vedas as well as the purANas, which are considered to be the fifth veda, is highly praised by people. There are others who have mastered the four vedas, or three vedas, or two vedas, or one veda and those who have not studied any veda. Please tell me which of these persons is the greatest, which of them is a "brAhmaNa".
Pointing out that it is only the person who remains established as brahman which is existence-consciousness-bliss who can be called a brAhmaNa, it is said that all others are in ignorance:
ekavedasya cAjnAnAdvedAste bahavo"bhavan
satyasyaikasya rAjendra satye kaScidavasthitah 37
37. The vedas have become many because of ignorance of the one "veda", brahman. They are known as vedas because they attempt to know that one brahman by enquiry. In that one Truth a rare person is established. (Such a person is really a brAhmaNa).
ya enam veda tat satyam prAjno bhavati nityadA
dAnamadhyayanam yajno lobhAdeva pravartate 38
38. One who has realized this Truth is always an enlightened person. Giving gifts, studying the scriptures, and performing sacrifices (when these are not undertaken as means for the purification of the mind and attainment of Self-knowledge but only for attaining other fruits such as heaven) are motivated only by desire.
satyAt pracyavamAnAnAm samkalpA vitathAbhavan
tatah karma pratAyeta satyasyAnavadhAraNAt 39
39.The resolves of those who have fallen from the natural state of identity with brahman and therefore identify themselves with the not-self become futile. Because they have not realized the Truth they go on performing more and more actions such as sacrifices. They become subject to all kinds of sorrow.
vidyAd bahupaTham tam tu bahuvAgiti brAhmaNam
ya eva satyAnnApaiti sa jneyo brAhmaNastvayA 40
40. Know that a brAhmaNa (here refers to an unenlightened person) who has merely studied many books is no more than a great speaker. Know that only that person who does not swerve from the Truth (who is established in brahman ) is a real brAhmaNa.
chandAmsi nAma dvipadAm varishTha
svacchandayogena bhavanti tatra
chandovidastena ca tAnadhItya
gatA hi vedasya na vedyamAryAh 41
41. O best among men! The vedas on their own are the means for knowing brahman. The wise study the vedas and thereby attain knowledge of brahman and not knowledge of the world.
But the upanishads say that brahman is different from the known as well as the unknown, and that neither words nor the mind can reach it. So how can the vedas impart knowledge of brahman? This doubt is being answered:
na vedAnAm veditA kaScidasti
vedena vedam na vidur na vedyam
yo veda vedam sa ca veda vedyam
yo veda vedyam na sa veda satyam 42
42.The vedas cannot know brahman, since brahman, being pure consciousness, is not an object of knowledge. vedas are insentient and so neither brahman nor the world can be known through them. He who knows brahman knows the entire universe of objects, since, by knowing brahman everything is known. But he who knows only the universe of objects does not know brahman.
yo veda vedAn sa ca veda vedyam
na tam vidur vedavido na vedAh
tathApi vedena vidanti vedam
ye brAhmaNA vedavido bhavanti 43
43. He who knows the vedas knows only the universe of objects. Neither the vedas nor the knower of the vedas can know brahman, since brahman cannot be objectified. All the same, brAhmaNas (enlightened persons) who know how to understand the purport of the vedas know brahman through the vedas.
yAmAmSabhAgasya tathA hi vedA
yathA hi SakhA ca mahIruhasya
tasmin hi nitye paramAtmano"rthe 44
44. Just as the thin digit of the moon on the first day of the bright fortnight can be pointed out only by first pointing to the branch of a tree through which it can be seen, so also the vedas indicate the nature of the eternal supreme Self only with the help of various hints.
An object can be described by words only if it has some quality such as name, form, action, relationship with some other object, etc. The Self does not have any quality at all. The vedas cannot therefore directly describe the supreme Self. They only point to it by means of various arrow-marks.
abhijAnAmi brAhmaNam AkhyAtAram vicakshaNam
evam yo"bhivijAnAti sa jAnAti param hi tat 45
45. I consider one who understands the purport of the vedas thus and expounds it to be a wise man. One who knows thus knows the supreme Self.
nAsya paryeshaNam gacchet pratyarthishu kadAcana
avicinvannimam vede tatah paSyati tam prabhum 46
46. The spiritual aspirant should not should not identify himself with the body and senses and should not go after sense-objects which take him away from the Self. Shunning accumulation of sense-objects, he should contemplate on the meanings of the words ""that" and "thou" in the upanishads and realize the supreme brahman as his own self.
tUshNImbhUta upAsIta na cecchenmanasA api
abhyAvarteta brahmAsmai bahvanantaramApnuyAt 47
47. Since the Self can be realized only by giving up all sense-objects, one should resort to quietude, i.e., give up all action and meditate on the Self. He should not even think of sense-objects. To such a person the Self reveals itself and he attains the Self which is beyond the dense darkness of ignorance.
(In many of these verses the words do not themselves convey all the meanings. SrI Sankara has given extended meanings conveying the real purport. The translation here is based on his commentary.)
maunAddhi munirbhavati nAraNyavasanAnmunih
aksharam tam tu yo veda sa muniSreshTha ucyate 48
48. Only by quietude (by giving up all action and always meditating on the Self) one becomes a muni, and not merely by living in a forest. He who has realized the eternal supreme Self is the greatest of munis.
sarvArthAnAm vyAkaraNAd vaiyAkaraNa ucyate
tanmUlato vyAkaraNam vyAkarotIti tat tathA 49
49. A grammarian merely analyses words and derives them from their sources. He thus knows the sources of words. brahman is the source of all names and forms. The knower of the Self thus knows the source of everything in this universe. He is therefore the real grammarian.
There is a statement in the br. up, "anena jIvenAtmanA anupraviSya nAmarUpe vyAkaravANi", which means " By entering in the form of the jIva I shall manifest all names and forms". Here the word "vyAkara" is used from which the word "vyAkaraNa" which means "grammar is derived.
pratyakshadarSI lokAnAm sarvadarSI bhavennarah
satye vai brahmaNi tishThamstadvidvAn sarvavid bhavet 50
50. The person who sees the worlds as they are (as brahman itself) is the one who sees everything. Being established in brahman which is Truth, the knower of brahman is omniscient.
JnAnAdishu sthito"pyevam kshatriya brahma paSyati
VedAnAm cArapUrveNa caitadvidvan bravImi te 51
51. O Kshatriya, By being established in knowledge and the other disciplines mentioned earlier such as truthfulness, study of the vedas, reflection and contemplation, etc., one realizes brahman. O wise one, I shall tell you about these (study, reflection and contemplation) now (in the next chapter).
End of Chapter-2.