From knowledge to wisdom

A wonderful thing to study is the interrelationship between ‘this world in its essence’ and the ‘human presence with all their inquisitiveness to know this essence’. As an example, before humans knew that apple falls down to the Earth and does not go up above because of an attractive force of Earth – gravity – that pulls it towards it center, obviously this force was always present there. By the works of Isaac Newton we got an idea of this force and its peculiar mechanism of working.

What is the relationship of this force of gravity as it exists there in nature and our understanding of this force? This simpleton explanation of this force given by Isaac Newton is not correct, we are told by Einstein; it is because of the curvature of space (and space is real thing!) created by the presence of Earth around it that makes the Newton’s apple move along the shortest path – geodesic path – which looks like falling of the apple down towards Earth!

This time also, the force of gravity as it is in its essence was always present there and simply we changed our understanding of the same. We call this change the development of science.

What is the relationship of this development of science to humans? Nature with all its essence (or all its forces) has always been present and working there without any consideration for the human presence and their efforts to know this essence. When we humans come to know of some part of nature, we simply change ourselves; when we reform and refine our understanding further, we further change ourselves. The development of science is reflected in human evolution.

We humans are inquisitive by nature. We live in a world, which is made-up of a countless things of myriad qualities. We want to know our world, which of course includes us humans also.

It is a mysterious yet beautiful loop, wherein ‘we’ who are the product of this world and yet we want to know this world. In this inquisitive pursuit, what is given to us as an undisputed premise is ‘our world’ and what is given to us as an available tool is ‘our mind’. The working of our mind is akin to a computer wherein the biological brain is the ‘processor’, input to this processor is made by feeding ‘data’ obtained from our observed world and the output is the ‘reasoned conclusion’.  ‘Reason’ is ingrained in nature as its inherent working principle and when it is represented and understood in an abstract form it becomes mathematics.

This ‘reasoned conclusion’ has a long history of development culminating into modern science. Science, to understand world, observes phenomena, offers speculative reason (hypothesis), tests the correctness of this reason by artificially duplicating in laboratory the phenomenon in question (experiment) and after validating this reason in this manner adds one more brick to the edifice of science.

Mathematics is the strongest tool of science to validating a ‘reasoned conclusion’. In this manner in order to understand our world we labor brick by brick, develop our science gradually and in the process we become more and more enlightened species of life on earth.

In this pursuit of understanding the world, we have come a long way today. Have we, really? Of course, it is all relative!

From where we started (as cave-dwelling hunters) our journey of this inquisitiveness, we have really come a long way! From the goal of understanding our world fully, where  there is no question left anymore to answer or no doubt is left to resolve, we are still far away!!

Humankind is belaboring itself since it came out of the cave-dwelling to reach this goal. It has covered a long journey from the point where it started off in this quest. Yet – as if it has not covered anything – it is still as far away from this goal as when it started this knowledge seeking journey! In fact, the goal is far away, the journey is long and we – human beings – have limited means at our command.

Humankind should not care that the goal is far away and our journey towards this goal is long; but it should very much care that the means at its disposal to reach this goal are limited. It is the kind – quality – of our means that make our journey towards this goal long or short. We have the “mind” – or reason at our disposal to reach this goal; but this instrument, called reason, is not efficacious enough to take us to this goal; it is not efficacious enough because of the nature of this goal. Moreover, this instrument – mind endowed with reason – was neither gifted by Nature to life at the starting point – in primordial stage – of its evolutionary journey nor it is the culmination – an ultimate product – of this journey.  The secret of the this universe – ‘why’ and not ‘how’ this universe is there – is a mystery to mind; and it shall always remain a mystery to mind, for mind is not designed by nature to understand this ‘Why’.

Spiritual India has been for ages belaboring itself in the search of an efficacious means to make us – humans – more effective in our journey towards this goal, which is a mystery to mind, and is well known for its experience accumulated over the ages. Let us have a look at this spiritual India. How do we start? We start with things – this visible universe – in Time. How did the things start in time? But before that, how do we calculate the time – what is the unit of Time?

Let us start with time. The beauty of the approach of this spiritual India towards the concept of Time is ‘cyclic’ in nature. There is no point in Time where it starts and where it ends!

Julius Eggeling, the German Sanskrit scholar who translated the Satapatha – Brahmana (according to the text of the Madhyandina School) says in the introduction to his translation: “In the Rig-Veda there is, with the single exception of the Purusha-sukta, no clear indication of the existence of caste in the proper, Brahmanical sense of the word. That institution, we may assume, was only introduced after the Brahmans had finally established their claims to highest rank in the body politic; when they sought to perpetuate their social ascendancy by strictly defining the privileges and duties of the several classes, and assigning to them their respective places in the graded scale of the Brahmanical community.

  ‘’The period during which the main body of the Vedic hymns was composed, in the land of the seven rivers, seems to have been followed by a time of wars and conquests… The struggle for social ascendancy between the priesthood and the ruling military class must, in the nature of things, have been of long duration. In the chief literary documents of this period which have come down to us, viz. The Yajur-Veda, the Brahmans, and the hymns of the Atharva-Veda some of which perhaps go back to the time of the later hymns of the Rik, we meet with numerous passages in which the ambitious claims of the Brahmans are put forward with singular frankness. The powerful personal influence exercised by the Purohitas seems to have largely contributed to the final success of the sacerdotal order.”

  Sage Vasishta (in Vasishtha-Dharamsastra) propounds the ancient laws applicable to those who enter the order of ascetics thus: “There are four castes (varnas), Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras.  The first three castes are called twice-born and their firth is from their Mother; the second from the investiture (in Veda) with the sacred girdle. In that second birth the Savitri (the Divine Mother) is the mother but the teacher is said to be the father.. As fire consumes dry grass, even so the Veda, though asked for, (but) not honored, (destroys the enquirer). Let him not proclaim the Veda to that man, who does not show him honor according to his ability.”

  Chapter III of this code further lays down the law governing Ashrams and Varnas of people in these words: “(Brahmans) who neither study nor teach the Veda nor keep sacred fires become equal to Sudras. The king shall punish that village where Brahmans, unobservant of their sacred duties and ignorant of Vedas, subsist by begging; for it feeds robbers. An elephant made of wood, an antelope made of leather, and a Brahman ignorant of the Veda; those three have nothing but the name (of their kind)”.

  Chapter IX the code provides the law thus: “A hermit shall remain chaste and his heart shall be full of meekness.”

  And chapter X of the code reads in these words: “Let an ascetic depart from his house, giving a promise of safety from injury to all animated beings.  (A sage has said) that ascetic who wanders about at peace with all creatures, forsooth, has nothing to fear from any living being. (To pronounce) the one syllable (OM) is the best (mode of reciting the) Veda, to suppress the breath is the highest (form of) austerity; to subsist on alms is better than fasting; compassion is preferable to liberality. Let the ascetic constantly seek in his heart the knowledge (of the universal soul). Freedom from future births is certain for him who constantly dwells in the forest, who has subdued his organs of sensation and action, who has renounced all sensual gratification, whose mind is fixed in meditation on the Supreme Spirit, and who is (wholly) indifferent (to pleasure and pain)”.

  Sage Baudhayana (in Prasna II, Adhyaya 10, Kandika 17, 7-9 of Baudhayana Dharamsastra) reiterates ancient Aryan rules for ascetics in these words: “That eternal greatness of the Brahman is neither increased nor diminished by works. The soul knows the nature of that (greatness). He, who knows that, is not stained by evil deeds. It leads to the cessation of births. The eternal one leads him to glory. It is declared in the Veda, ‘Entering order after order, (man) becomes (one with) Brahman”… Now they quote also (the following verse):’An ascetic who roams about after having given a promise of safety to all living beings is not threatened with danger by any creature.”

  Ancient sage Apastamba (in Apastamba aphorism on the sacred laws) says in Prasna H. Patala 9, Khanda 21 of the four orders of society, viz, of students, householders, ascetics and hermits, thus: “There are four orders, viz. the order of student, of householder, of ascetics and of hermits in the woods. The duty to live in the teacher’s house after the initiation is common to all of them. Not to abandon sacred learning is a duty common to all. (For the Sanyasin the duties are) he shall live without a fire, without a house, without pleasures, without protection. Remaining silent and uttering speech only on the occasion of the daily recitation of the Veda, begging so much food only in the village as will sustain his life, he shall wander about neither caring for this world nor for heaven. Abandoning truth and falsehood, pleasure and pain, the Vedas, this world and the next, he shall seek Atman. Hermit shall keep one fire only, have no house, enjoy no pleasures, have no protector and observe silence, uttering speech on the occasion of the daily recitation of the Veda only.”

  In Prasna 11, Patala 9, Khanda 23, No. 5 – 8, Apastamba further rules: “Those sages who desired no offspring passed by Aryaman’s road, obtained immortality and thus they are praised who keep the vow of chastity; they accomplish their wishes merely by conceiving them, like, they may procure rain, bestow children, second-sight, move quick as thought and any other desires of the like nature (only by conceiving or wishing them to happen).”

  Sage Gautam (in Gautam’s Institutes of Sacred Law) says in Chapter 1 thus: “The Veda is the source of the sacred law. And the tradition and practice of those who know the (Veda); transgression of the law and violence are observed (= allowed) in the case of those great men: but both are without force as precedent on account of the weakness of the men of later ages; and if authorities of equal force are conflicting, either may be followed at pleasure. As performer of this rite of initiation (one) shall seek to obtain a man in whose family sacred learning is hereditary, who himself possesses it, and who is devout (in following the law). (There are) four castes – Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras.”

  Rishi Gautam further notes the opinion held by some other authorities and then explains the law thus: “Some Rishis declare that he who has studied the Veda may make his choice that among the (four) orders he is going to enter. The four orders are, (that of) the student, the householder, the ascetic and the hermit in the woods. The householder is the source of these because the others do not produce offspring. An ascetic shall not possess any store. He must be chaste. He shall enter a village only in order to beg. He shall beg late (after people have finished their meals), without returning (twice). Abandoning desire he shall restrain his speech, his eyes and his actions. He shall be indifferent towards all creatures (whether they do him) an injury or kindness. A hermit shall live in the forest subsisting on roots and fruits, practicing austerities. He shall worship gods, manes, men, goblins, and Rishis. He may even use the flesh of animals killed by carnivorous beasts. He shall not enter a village.”

  His ruling of the law further declares: “A king and a Brahman, deeply versed in the Vedas, these two, uphold the moral order in the world.”

  Alberuni (around 1030 AD) says about ancient social institutions of Indians thus: “The Hindus have similar traditions regarding the chaturyugas, for according to them, at the beginning of it, i.e., at the beginning of kritayuga, there was happiness and safety, fertility and abundance, health and force, ample knowledge and a great number of Brahmans. The good period is complete in this age, like four-fourth of a whole, and life lasted 4000 years alike for all beings during this whole space of time.

  “Thereupon things began to decrease and to be mixed with opposite elements to such a degree, which at the beginning of tretayuga the good was thrice as much as the invading had, and that bliss was three-quarters of the whole. There were a great number of Kshatriyas than of Brahmans, and life had the same length as in the preceding age. So it is represented by the Vishnu-Dharma, whilst analogy requires that it should be shorter by the same amount than bliss is smaller, i.e., by one-fourth. In this age, when offering to the fire, they begin to kill animals and to tear off plants, practices which before were unknown.

  “Then the evil increases till, at the beginning of Dwapara, evil and good exist in equal proportions, and likewise bliss and misfortune. The climates begin to differ, there is much killing going on, and the religions become different. Life becomes shorter, and lasts only 400 years, according to the Vishu-Dharma. At the beginning of Tishya, i.e. Kaliyuga, evil is thrice as much as the remaining good. The Hindus have several well-known traditions of events that are said to have occurred in the treta and dwapar yugas, e.g. the story of Rama, who killed Ravana; that of Parasurama the Brahman, who killed every Kshatriya, he laid hold upon, revenging on them the death of his father. They think that he lives in heaven, that he has already twenty-one times appeared on earth, and that he will again appear. Further the story of the war of the children of Pandu with those of Kuru.

  “In the Kaliyuga evil increases, till at last it results in the destruction of all good. At that time the inhabitants of the earth perish, and a new race (appears) out of those who are scattered through the mountains and hide themselves in cave, uniting for the purpose of worshipping and flying from the horrid, demoniac human race. Therefore this age is called kritayuga, which means, “Being ready for going away after having finished the work.”

‘Kaliyuga’ and the Laws of Manu:

  Views held by Indians since ages past about Kaliyuga find striking corroboration in the events happening today. These views have been described by Alberuni (around 1030 AD) in these words: “In the story of Saunaka that Vishnu received from Brahman, God speaks to him in the following words: ‘When the Kaliyuga comes, I send Buddhodana, the son of Suddhodana the pious, to spread the good in the creation. But then the Muhammira, i.e. the red-wearing-ones, who derive their origin from him, will change everything that he has brought, and the dignity of the Brahmans will be gone to such a degree that a Sudra, their servant, will be impudent towards them, and that a Sudra and Chandala will share with them the presents and offerings. Man will entirely be occupied with gathering wealth by crimes. All this will result in a rebellion of the small ones against the great ones, of the children against their parents, of the servants against their masters.

  ‘’The castes will be in uproar against each other, the genealogies will become confused, the four castes will be abolished, and there will be many religions and sects. Many books will be composed, and the communities that formerly were united will on account of them be dissolved into single individuals. The temples will be destroyed and the schools will be waste. Justice will be gone, and the kings will not know anything but oppression and spoliation, robbing and destroying, as if they wanted to devour the people, foolishly indulging in far-reaching hopes, and not considering how short life is in comparison with the sins (for which they have to atone). The more the mind of people is depraved, the more will pestilential diseases be prevalent. Lastly, people maintain that most of the astrological rules obtained in that age are void and false.”

  The division of time into yugas with their individual characteristics does not take into account the rise and fall of mankind’s development. It talks of the rise and fall of virtues – a state of internal consciousness – of mankind and not of their life’s comforts.

  The translator of ‘Manusmriti’, G. Buhler (the renowned German Indologist), says in his introduction to this code (Manusmirti) thus: “Manu-smriti (in metrical Sanscrit) is based on, or is in fact a recast of, an ancient Dharma-sutra (composed in Sutras)… The systematic cultivation of the sacred sciences of Brahmans began and for a long time had its centre in the ancient Sutrakaranas, the schools which first collected the fragmentary doctrines, scattered in the older Vedic works, and arranged them for the convenience of oral instruction in Sutras or strings of aphorisms. One such old Dharam-sutra, that of Apastambiyas, still remained connected with Manu-smriti, but the existence of several such old Dharam-sutras, e.g. Dharamsastras of Gautama, Vasishtha and Vishnu, prior to and utilized by Manu-smirti cannot be doubted. As the metrical Smirtis are later than the Dharam-Sutras, it is very probable that each of them is based on a particular Dharamsutra. The Manava Dharamsastra in particular may be considered as a recast and versification of the Dharam-sutra of the Manava Sutrakarana, a subdivision of the Maitrayaniya.”

  Alberuni (1030 AD) states the belief held by ancient Indians thus: “The Hindus relate that originally the affairs of government and war were in the hands of the Brahmans, but the country became disorganized, since they ruled according to the philosophic principles of their religious codes, which proved impossible when opposed to the mischievous and perverse elements of the populace. They were even near losing also the administration of their religious affairs.

  “Therefore they humiliated themselves before the lord of their religion. (Whereupon) Brahman entrusted them exclusively with the functions which they now have, whilst he instructed the Kshatriyas with the duties of ruling and fighting. Ever since the Brahmans live by asking and begging, and the penal code is exercised under the control of the kings, not under that of the scholars.”

  Alberuni also states about the life of Brahman in these words: “The life of the Brahman, after seven years of it has passed, is divided into four parts. The first part begins with the eighth year, when the Brahman comes to him to instruct him, to teach him his duties, and to enjoin him to adhere to them and to embrace them as long as he lives. … The first period of the Brahman’s life extends till the twenty-fifth year of his age, or, according to the Vishnu-Purana, till his forty-eighth year. His duty is to practice abstinence, to make the earth his bed, to begin with the learning of the Veda and of its explanation, of the science of theology and laws, all this being taught to him by a master whom he serves day and night. He washes himself thrice a day, and performs a sacrifice to the fire both at the beginning and end of the day. After the sacrifice he worships his master. He fasts a day and he breaks fast a day, but he is never allowed to eat meat. He dwells in the house of the master, which he only leaves in order to ask for a gift and to beg in not more than five houses once a day, either at noon or in the evening. Whatever alms he receives he places before his master to choose from it what he likes. Thus the pupil nourishes himself from the remains of the dishes of his master. Further, he fetches the wood for the fire, wood of two kinds of trees, Palasa (Butea frondosa) and darbha, in order to perform the sacrifice; for the Hindus highly venerate the fire, and offer flowers to it…

  “The second period of their life extends from the twenty-fifth year till the fiftieth, or, according to the Vishnu-Pooran, till the seventieth. The master allows him to marry. He marries, establishes a household, and intends to have descendants, but he cohabits with his wife only once in a month after she has become clean of the menstruation. He is not allowed to marry a woman above twelve years of age.

  ‘’He gains his sustenance either by the fee he obtains for teaching Brahmans and Kshatriyas, not as a payment, but as a present, or by presents which he receives from someone because he performs for him the sacrifices to the fire, or by asking a gift from the kings and nobles, there being no importunate pressing on his part, and no unwillingness on the part of the giver. … Lastly, the Brahman lives from what gathers on the earth or from the trees. … Originally trade is forbidden (for Brahman) on account of the deceiving and lying which are mixed up with it.

  “The third period of the life of the Brahman extends from the fiftieth year to the seventy- fifth, or, according to the Vishnu-Pooran, till the ninetieth. He practices abstinence, leaves his household, and hands it as well as his wife over to his children, if the latter does not prefer to accompany him into the life in the wilderness. He dwells outside civilization, and leads the same life again, which he led in the first period. He does not take shelter under a roof, nor wear any other dress but some bark of a tree, simply sufficient to cover his loins. He sleeps on the earth without any bed, and only nourishes himself by fruit, vegetables, and roots. He lets the hair grow long, and does not anoint himself with oil.

  “The fourth period extends till the end of life. He wears a red garment and holds a stick in his hand. He is always given to meditation; he strips the mind of friendship and enmity, and roots out desire, and lust, and wrath. He does not converse with anybody at all. When walking to a place of a particular merit, in order to gain a heavenly reward, he does not stop on the road in a village longer than a day, nor in a city longer than five days. If anyone gives him something, he does not leave a remainder of it for the following day. He has no other business but that of caring for the path that leads to salvation and for reaching moksha, whence there is no return to this world.”

  Alberuni further says: “The Brahman, as long as he lives, eats only twice a day,  at noon and at nightfall; and when he wants to take his meal, he begins by putting aside as much as is sufficient for one or two men as alms, especially for strange Brahmans who happen to come at evening-time asking for something. To neglect their maintenance would be grave sin. Further, he puts something aside for the cattle, the birds, and the fire. Over the remainder he says prayers and eats it. The remainder of his dish he places outside his house, and does not any more come near it, as it is no longer allowable for him, being destined for the chance passer-by who wants it, be he a man, bird, dog, or something else.”

  Manu states the law about Brahman thus: “As the Brahman sprang from (Brahma’s) mouth, as he was the first-born, and he possesses the Vedas, he is by right the lord of this whole creation.”

  Brahman was imposed by the same law a correspondingly onerous duty. The Law (of Manu) was not only aimed at regulating the society in an orderly manner where there was hierarchy of four Varnas, the Brahman being at the apex, far from it, it (the Law) was geared to secure an end.

  This end was realization of Supreme Reality, Divine Being. All the four Varnas, that is, castes, were ordained to follow the four Ashrams (studentship, householder, ascetic and sanyas). A Brahman was at the apex because he was to spend his entire life in pursuit of the Supreme Truth and others were not. But all the four Varnas, the castes, were equally ordained by law to enter the stages of ascetic and Sanyasa after completing the first two and follow the rules applicable to them.

  Let us see what Manu says of the legal duties of a person who has entered the Ashram of ascetic. Manu lays down the Law on the point thus: “Duties of ascetics: Let him always wander alone, without any companion, in order to attain (final liberation), fully understanding that the solitary (man, who) neither forsakes nor is forsaken (and) gains his end. He shall neither possess a fire, nor a dwelling; he may go to a village for his food, (he shall be) indifferent to everything, firm of purpose, meditating (and) concentrating his mind on Brahma. Let him not desire to die, let him not  desire to live; let him wait for (his appointed) time, as a servant (waits) for the payment of his wages. Delighting in what refers to the Soul, sitting (in the postures prescribed by the Yoga), independent (of external help), entirely abstaining from sensual enjoyments, with himself for his only companion, he shall live in this world, desiring the bliss (of final liberation).

“Let him go to beg once (a day), let him not be eager to obtain a large quantity (of alms); for as ascetic who eagerly seeks alms, attaches himself also to sensual enjoyments. Let him not be sorry when he obtains nothing, nor rejoice when he obtains (something), let him (accept) so much only as will sustain life, let him not care about the (quality of his) utensils. By the restraint of his senses, by the destruction of love and hatred, and by the abstention from injuring the creatures, he becomes fit for immortality.

  “Let him reflect on the separation from their dear ones, on their union with hated men, on their being overpowered by age and being tormented with diseases. (Let him reflect on) the departure of the individual soul from this body and its new birth in (another) womb, and on its wanderings (through ten thousand millions of existences). (Let him reflect on) the infliction of pain on embodied (spirits), which is caused by demerit, and the gain of eternal bliss, which is caused by the attainment of their highest aim, (gained through) spiritual merit. By deep meditation let him recognizes the subtle nature of the supreme Soul, and its presence in all organisms, both the highest and the lowest. Let him quit this dwelling, composed of the five elements, where the bones are the beams, which is held together by tendons (instead of cords), where the flesh and the blood are the mortar, which is thatched with the skin, which is foul-smelling, filled with urine and ordure, infested by old age and sorrow, the seat of disease, harassed by pain, gloomy with passion, and perishable. All that has been declared (above) depends on meditation; for he who is not proficient in the knowledge of that which refers to the Soul reaps not the full reward of the performance of rites.”

  Manu declares the Law: “That man is called a (true) Tridandin in whose mind these three, the control over his speech (vagdanda), the control over his thought (manodanda), and the control over his body (kayadanda), are firmly fixed. That man who keeps this threefold control (over himself) with respect to all created beings and wholly subdues desire and wrath, thereby assuredly gains complete success. The craving after sensual pleasures is declared to be the mark of Darkness, (the pursuit of) wealth (the mark of) Activity, (the desire to gain) spiritual merit the mark of Goodness; each later (named quality is) better than the preceding one. Studying the Vedas, (practicing) austerities, (the acquisition of true) knowledge, the subjugation of the organs, abstention from doing injury, and serving the Guru are the best means for attaining supreme bliss. (If you ask) whether among all these virtuous actions, (performed) here below, (there be) one which has been declared more efficacious (than the rest) for securing supreme happiness to man (the answer is that) the knowledge of the Soul is stated to be the most excellent among all of them; for that is the first of all sciences, because immortality is gained through that. He who sacrifices to the Self (alone), equally recognizing the Self in all created beings and all created beings in the Self, becomes (independent like) an autocrat and self-luminous. The Self alone is the multitude of the gods; the universe rests on the Self; for the Self produces the connection of these embodied (spirits) with actions. Let him know the supreme Male (Purusha, to be) the sovereign ruler of them all, smaller than even small, bright like gold, and perceptible by the intellect (only when) in (a state of) sleep (-like abstraction); some call him Agni (Fire), others Manu, the Lord of creatures, others Indra, others the vital air, and again others eternal Brahman. He pervades all created beings in the five forms, and constantly makes them, by means of birth, growth and decay revolve like the wheels (of a chariot). He, who thus recognizes the Self through the Self in ail created beings, becomes equal (-minded) towards all, and enters the highest state, Brahma.”

Ramayana, Mahabharata and Gita:

  Ramayana and Mahabharata, of which part is Bhagavad-Gita, are regarded by western Indologists as epic but Indian masses do not put any faith in such opinions. They hold them as part of India’s ancient history, which are supported by the existence in India even today of places like Aayodhya, Indraprastha and Kurukshetra that are associated with the events of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

  Ramayana as authored by Valmiki, and later on by poet Tulsidasa, contains the tragic events of kidnapping of Lord Rama’s wife – Sita – by Ravana – a demon king of Lanka, war between Lord Rama and the evil doer, and victory of good over evil in this war. But Ramayana is not a mere story of these events. It contains a spiritual  lesson that is taught by Lord Rama to public at large – to his supports as well as to his opponents -by his supremely human conduct in the midst of these trying circumstances. Ramayana sets the highest standards of conduct, which could possibly be attained by a human being, in respects of one’s duty towards his parents, love towards his brother, fidelity towards his wife, example of morality towards his subjects, attitude towards his enemy etc.

  Alberuni (1030 AD) recorded his observations of Indian people’s opinion and belief about Mahabharata in the following words: “Besides, they have a book, which they hold in such veneration that they firmly assert that everything which occurs in other books is found also in this book, but not of all which occurs in this book is found in other books. It is called Bharata (that is, Mahabharata), and composed by Vyasa, the son of Parasara, at the time of the Great War between the children of Pandu and those of Kuru. The title itself gives an indication of those times. The book has 100,000 Slokas in eighteen parts, each of which is called Parvan. Here we give the list of them:

1. Sabha-parvan, i.e. the king’s dwelling.

2. Aranya, i.e. going out into the open field, meaning the exodus of the children of Pandu.

3. Virata, i.e. the name of a king in whose realm they dwelt during the time of their concealment.

4. Udyoga, i.e. the preparing for battle.

5. Bhishma.

6. Drona, the Brahmin.

7. Karna, the son of the Sun.

8.Salya the brother of Duryodhana, some of the greatest heroes who did the fighting, one always coming forward after his predecessor had been killed.

9. Gada, i.e. the club.

10. Sauptika, i.e. the killing of the sleepers, when Asvatthama the son of Drona attacked the city of Panchala during the night and killed the inhabitants.

11. Jalapradanika, i.e. the successive drawing of water forthe dead, after people have washed off the impurity caused by the touching of the dead.

12. Stri, i.e. the lamentations of the women.

13. Santi, containing 24,000 Slokas on eradicating hatred from the heart, in four parts:

  • Rajadharma, on the reward of the kings.

  • Danadharama, on the reward for almsgiving.

  • Apaddharama, on the reward of those who are in need and trouble.

  • Mokshadharama, on the reward of him who is liberated from the world.

14. Aswamedha, i.e. the sacrifice of the horse which is sent out together with an army to wander through the world. Then they proclaim in public that it belongs to the king of the world, and that he who does not agree thereto is  to come forward to fight. The Brahmans follow the horse, and celebrate sacrifices to the fire in those places where the horse drops its dung.

15. Mausala, i.e. the fighting of the Yadavas, the tribe of Vasudeva, among themselves.

16. Asramavasa, i.e. leaving one’s own country.

17. Prasthana, i.e. quitting the realm to seek liberation.

18. Swargarohana, that is, journeying towards paradise.

  These eighteen parts are followed by another one which is called Harivamsa-Parva, which contains the traditions relating to Vasudeva.”

  Alberuni records a quote from Gita, a book being the part of Mahabharata in these words: “The following passage is taken from the book Gita, a part of the book Bharata, from the conversation between Vasudeva and Arjuna: … It is desire that causes most men to take refuge with God for their wants. But if you examine their case closely, you will find that they are very far from having an accurate knowledge of him; for God is not apparent to everyone, so that he might perceive him with his senses. Therefore they do not know him. Some of them do not pass beyond what their senses perceive; some pass beyond this, but stop at the knowledge of the laws of nature, without learning that above them there is one who did not give birth  nor was born, the essence of whose being has not been comprehended by the knowledge of anyone, while his knowledge comprehends everything.”

  Gita is a book of spiritual things par excellence. It takes the subject to the height where human mind comes face to face with the ultimate reality existing in Nature. Gita says:

  “There is no existence for that which is unreal; there is no non-existence for that which is real. .. the destruction of that inexhaustible principle none can bring about. … As a man, casting off old clothes, puts on others and new ones, so the embodied (self), casting off old bodies, goes to others and new ones. Weapons do not divide the self (into pieces); fire does not burn it; waters do not moisten it; the wind does not dry it up. It is not divisible; it is not combustible; it is not to be moistened; it is not to be dried up. It is everlasting, all pervading, stable, firm, and eternal. It is said to be unperceived, to be unthinkable, to be unchangeable. .. The source of things… is unperceived; their middle state is perceived; and their end again is unperceived. .. One looks upon it as a wonder; another similarly speaks of it as a wonder; and even after having heard it, no one does really know it. .. When a man … abandons all the desires of his heart, and is pleased in his self only and by his self, he is then called of a steady mind. He whose heart is not agitated in the midst of calamities, who has no longing for pleasures, and from whom (the feelings of) affaction, fear, and wrath have departede, is called a sage of a steady mind. .. A man’s mind is steady, when he withdraws his senses from (all) objects of sense, as the tortoise (withdraws) its limbs from all sides. Objects of sense withdraw themselves from a person who is abstinent; not so (when he seeks) the taste for those objects. But even the taste departs from him, when he has seen the Supreme.”

  In chapter 3, Lord Vasudeva says thus:

  “A man does not attain freedom from action merely by not engaging in action; nor does he attain perfection by mere renunciation. For nobody ever remains even for an instant without performing some action; since the qualities of nature constrains everybody, not having free will (in the matter) to some action… Therefore always perform action, which must be performed, without attachment. For a man, performing action without attachment attains the Supreme… He whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks himself the doer of the actions, which, in every way, are done by the qualities of nature… Even a man of knowledge acts consonantly to his own nature. All beings follow nature. “

  Chapter 5 of Gita states:

  “Renunciation and pursuit of action are both instruments of happiness but of the two, pursuit of action is superior to renunciation of action. He should be understood to be always an ascetic, who has no aversion and no desires… One whose self is not attached to external objects, obtains the happiness that is in (one’s) self; and by means of concentration of mind, joining one’s self (with the Brahmn) one obtains indestructible happiness. For the enjoyments born of contact (between senses and their objects) are, indeed, sources of misery; they have a beginning as well as an end. “

  Chapter 9 proceeds further:

  “But there is another entity, unperceived and eternal, and distinct from this unperceived (principle), which is not destroyed when all entities are destroyed. It is called the unperceived, the indestructible; they call it the highest goal. Attaining to it, none returns.”

  In Chapter 18 Lord Krishna says thus:

  “By renunciation the sages understand the rejection of actions done with desires. The wise call the abandonment of the fruit of all actions (by the name) abandonment. .. The duties of Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and of Sudras too … distinguished according to the qualities born of nature. Tranquillity, restraint of senses, penance, purity, forgiveness, straightforwardness, also knowledge, experience, and belief (in a future world or still better, in all the things taught in the Gita), this is the moral duty of Brahmanas. Valour, glory, courage, dexterity, not slinking away from battle, gifts, exercise of lordly power, this is the natural duty of Kshatriyas. Agriculture, tending cattle, trade, this is the natural duty of Vaisyas. And the natural duty of Sudras, too, consists in service. (Every) man intent on his own respective duties obtains perfection.“

  Alberuni further records thus: “All other men except the Chandala, as far as they are not Hindus, are called maleccha, i.e. unclean, all those who kill men and slaughter animals and eat the flesh of cows. All these things originate in the difference of the classes and castes, one set of people treating the others as fools. This apart, all men are equal to each other, as Vasudeva says regarding him who seeks salvation: “In the judgment of the intelligent man, the Brahman and Chandala are equal, the friend and the foe, the faithful and the deceitful, nay, even, the serpent and the weasel. If to the eyes of intelligence all things are equal, to ignorance they appear as separated and different.

  “Vasudeva speaks to Arjuna: “If the civilization of the world is that which is intended, and if the direction of it cannot proceed without our fighting for the purpose of suppressing evil, it is the duty of us who are the intelligent to act and to fight, not in order to bring to an end that which is deficient within us, but because it is necessary for the purpose of healing what is ill and banishing destructive elements.

  ‘’Then the ignorant imitate us in acting, as the children imitate their elders, without their knowing the real aim and purport of actions. For, their nature has an aversion to intellectual methods, and they use force only in order to act in accordance with the influences of lust and passion on their senses. In all this, the intelligent and educated man is directly the contrary to them.”

  Alberuni referring to the book of Patanjali quotes from there the questions-answers between pupil and master about the Ultimate Reality thus: “In the book of Patanjali the pupil asks: Who is the worshipped one, by the worship of whom blessing is obtained?

  “The master says:  It is he who, being eternal and unique, does not for his part stand in need of any human action for which he might give as recompense either a blissful repose, which is hoped and longed for, or a troubled existence, which is feared and dreaded.

  “He is unattainable to thought, being sublime beyond all unlikeness that is abhorrent and all likeness that is sympathetic. He by his essence knows from all eternity. Knowledge, in human sense of the term, has as its object (that) which was unknown before. Whilst not knowing does not at any time or in any condition apply to God.

  “Further the pupil speaks: Do you attribute to him other qualities besides those you have mentioned.

  “The master says: He is height, absolute in the idea, not in space, for he is sublime beyond all existence in any space. He is the pure absolute good, longed for by every created being. He is the knowledge free from the defilement of forgetfulness and not-knowing.

  “The pupil speaks:  Do you attribute to him speech or not?

  “The master says: As he knows, he no doubt also speaks.

  “The pupil asks: If he speaks because he knows, what, then, is the difference between him and the knowing sages who have spoken of their knowing?

  “The master says: The difference between them is time, for they have learnt in time and spoken in time, after having been not-knowing and not-speaking. By speech they have transferred their knowledge to others. Therefore their speaking and acquiring knowledge take place in time. And as divine matters have no connection with time, God is knowing, speaking from eternity.

  “It was he who spoke to Brahman and to others of the first beings in different ways. On the one he bestowed a book; for the other he opened a door, a means of communicating with him; a third one he inspired so that he obtained by cognition what God bestowed upon him.”

  We further read from this source: “In the book of Patanjali we read: We divide the path of liberation into three parts: First, the practical one (kriya-yoga), a process of habituating the senses in a gentile way to detach themselves from the external world, and to concentrate themselves upon the internal one, so that they exclusively occupy themselves with god. This is in general the path of him who does not desire anything save what is sufficient to sustain life.”

  The source reads further: “The second part of the path of liberation is renunciation (the via omissionis), based on the knowledge of the evil which exists in the changing things of creation and their vanishing shapes. In consequence the heart shuns them, the longing for them ceases, and a man is raised above the three primary forces which are the cause of actions and of their diversity. For he who accurately understands the affairs of the world knows that the good ones among them are evil in reality, and that the bliss that they afford changes in the course of recompense into pains. Therefore he avoids everything which might aggravate his condition of being entangled in the world, and which might result in making him stay in the world for a still longer period.”

  And the third part of the path of liberation is described thus: “The third part of the path of liberation which is to be considered as instrumental to the preceding two is worship, for this purpose, that God should help a man to obtain liberation, and design to consider him worthy of such a shape of existence in the metempsychosis in which he may affect his progress towards beatitude.”

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