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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Maha Bharata - Gems between stories: 12


Saunaka’s discourse

     In Book 3, Section 2, the Pandavas have started their 12 year banishment to the forests after losing the game of dice. Soon after entering the forest, Yudhishtra meets a sage Saunaka, skilled in the Sankhya system of yoga. He addressed the king, saying, Grief and fear overwhelm the ignorant but not the wise. Sensible men like you should not be deluded by false knowledge of the world.  Men by nature are afflicted with both bodily and mental suffering. Disease, contact with painful things, very hard work and want of objects (desires) are the four causes of bodily suffering. You can cure diseases with medicine, while mental ailments are cured by seeking to forget them by yoga-meditation. Mental grief brings on bodily suffering and true knowledge allays mental suffering. When the mind gets at ease, the body also eases.

     Affection seems to be the root of all mental suffering. Affection leads to attachment and desire. Desire for worldly possessions leads to greater attachment and anxiety. It is the cause of joy, sorrow and fear and every kind of pain. Withdrawing from worldly possessions alone is not adequate for mental peace. He, who though is in actual contact with the world performing his duties, realizes its faults, and remains detached may be said to have truly renounced the world. He lives like the lotus-leaf on which water never sticks.
     Wealth is not conducive to real happiness. Both acquisition and maintaining wealth are fraught with miseries. Wealth leads to pride, fear and anxiety. One with wealth is in constant fear of the king and the thief, of water and fire and even of their relatives. Even people who are helped with wealth become enemies for the sake of that wealth.
     Contentment is the highest happiness; the wise are ever content. They do not covet anything.
     When Yudhishtra says that he is not interested in wealth for personal enjoyment but in order to help others, Saunaka replies: “Life is full of contradictions. It is easy to fall into the cycles of birth and death. Vedas teach us to perform actions but renounce interest in the results of the action. (forerunner of the Gita). Therefore, you should let go of attachment and motives, control the senses and perform the following eight duties: performance of sacrifices, study (of the Vedas), gifts, penance, truth (in both speech and act), forgiveness, subduing the senses, and renunciation of desire. Of these, the four first pave the way to the world of the pitris. The last four last are always observed by the pious for their own welfare.

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