Mahaabhaarat | General


Home | Mahaabhaarat | General | Articles


Previous | Next

24-Sanatsujaat's Preaching in MBH-1
This article has been taken from I have no intention to claim it as my own, but it is placed here because I liked it and with the possibility that the author might like to remove it anytime from the web I have adapted it here for the benefit of the people.

Our great epic Mahabharata contains several famous episodes of high philosophical discussions one of which is called Sanatsujaateeyam, meaning what has been taught by Sage Sanatsujaat. It is in the form of a dialogue between King Dhritraashtra and Sage Sanatsujaat, who is one of the Maanas Putra of Lord Brahmaa. It forms part of the Udyog Parv of the epic. It is one of the three jewels in the Mahaabhaarat on which Aadi Shankar has written commentaries, the other two being the Bhagvad Geetaa and Vishnu Sahastranaam. Being a mini compendium on Brahm Vidyaa having deep implications, it attracted the attention of other commentators also like Nilakantha, Sarvagya Narayana and Vadiraja. In the modern times, this work has been translated by Professor Max Muller, the famous Sanskrit scholar from Germany in his "Sacred Books of the East" Series.

Just before the Kurukshetra battle, King Dhritraashtra was very much disturbed by the happenings in the kingdom that signaled an impending destructive war. He called Vidur, his younger brother for moral support. Vidur tried to offer words of solace to the King by talking eloquently on justice, morals, fair play, and Royal Duties etc, and concluded that these things are not the ultimate end in themselves and that there is a higher goal in life beyond these which is called Immortality or Amritatwam.

The word Immortality caught the mind of Dhritraashtra who wished to know more about such higher truths from him. Vidur excused himself by telling the King that he is unfit to impart such knowledge because of his having been born of a lower class woman. So he suggested Sanatsujaat's name to tell him allthese things. Then he requested Sage Sanatsujaat, a Brahm Gyaanee who had been his preceptor, to instruct King Dhritarshtra on spirituality, particularly on Immortality and Ultimate Reality. This dialogue, between the worldly Dhritraashtra and the divine sage Sanatsujaat, came to be known as Sanatsujaateeya, turned out to be such an outstanding classic on the entire gamut of Vedaant Shaastra at par with Srimad Bhagvad Geetaa that made Aadi Shankar write a Bhaashya (commentary) on it.

Dhrtarashtra starts questioning Sanatsujaat thus "O, Sage Sanatsujaat, I hear that you are of the opinion that there is no such thing as death. On the other hand it is said that the Devtaa and Asur practiced austerities and approached Prajaapati to overcome death that will make them immortal. So of these two views, which is the truth? Is there death or is there no death?" Sanatsujaat’s highly sophisticated reply to this eternal question is spread over four chapters, glimpses of which are given below. It may be noted that a similar question was also put by the young boy Nachiketaa to Lord Yam whose response occupies the whole of the Kathopanishad.

1. Enquiry into the Nature of Death and Immortality

Sanatsujaat replied - "Some say that immortality is attained through the performance of Vaidik rituals, while others hold that there is no death at all. Some people, being absolutely unenlightened, think that death is real and that it can be conquered by the performance of Vaidik rituals and therefore perform such rituals for attaining immortality, yet others, who do not see a second entity different from Paramaatmaa, say that immortality is attained through a combination of rituals and knowledge. Still others, who hold that there is nothing else other than the A-Dwait (non-dual) Aatmaa, say that there is no death at all, because the Aatmaa has neither birth nor death.

These apparently contradictory views can be reconciled. Both the views, namely that "there is death and there is no death", are true and there is no contradiction between them. Some seers are of the view that delusion, which means looking upon the not-Self as the Self, is death. But I do not say so. I say that Pramaad, which means A-Gyaan, ignorance of one’s real and natural state of being Brahm is death. This Pramaad is the cause of false knowledge ie the ignorance of the Self is the seed of all calamities such as birth, death etc. So I say that being ever vigilant, and remaining established in one’s natural state as Brahm ie in the state of absence of ignorance i.e. A-Pramaad or Gyaan is immortality.

Brahm, being the Self of all, is ever present and does not need to be attained. Brahm is changeless and so it cannot be the result of modification or purification of any other object. The Shruti says that being established in one’s real nature, Brahm, is Liberation. Liberation is eternal and is not something produced by any action.

The question how Pramaad (Ignorance) is death and A-Pramaad (Knowledge) is immortality is now answered. Sanatsujat says - "The Asur failed (to realize the Self) because of Pramaad, while the Devtaa realized their identity with Brahm by A-Pramaad. Because of fall from their real nature as Brahm and consequently looking upon the body as the Self, the Asur failed to know Brahm while the Devtaa, led by Indra, attained realization of their identity with Brahm, by remaining established in the knowledge that they were the non-dual Self which is Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. This is Immortality.

Death in the form of A-Gyaan, also called Pramaad, manifests at first as the ego (Ahankaar), then it becomes desire (Kaam) which always runs after something other than oneself. When desire is thwarted it turns into anger (Krodh) and delusion (Moh). Because of this ego man entangles himself in duality and identifies himself as a Braahman, Kshatriya, stout, lean, son of so and so, etc. As a result he becomes affected by attachment and aversion and goes into wrong paths (A-Maarg). He then loses all chances of realizing his identity with Brahm. This is how Pramaad can be equated with death. Ignorance and desire are the causes of bondage. The person who performs an action becomes attached to its result. This leads to another birth to enjoy the left-over results. Thus he can never get released from the chain of births and deaths. Because of not realizing his identity with Brahm he continues to pursue sensual pleasures.

Attachment to sense-objects which are all unreal (Mithyaa) is what causes the greatest delusion to the sense-organs. One who is overcome by attachment to sense objects always thinks of them only (and never of the means to liberation). Constant thinking of sense-objects first makes him a slave to them and he falls from his real state. Then desire and anger overtake him and bring about his downfall. These three pitfalls make him unwise lacking in discrimination and dumps him into the deep chasm of repeated births and deaths. On the contrary he who summarily rejects sense-objects which constantly invade him, realizing that they are ephemeral, impure, possessing seeds of sorrow only, becomes free of desire and attains the state of “death of death” itself. Thus actions lead to bondage and transmigration while Self-knowledge alone is the means to liberation."

When Sanatsujaat applauded knowledge and its efficacy, the King reacted by asking him "what then is the value of Karm or actions ie prayers and acts of sacrifices as ordained in the scriptures." Sanatsujaat replied - "The Ved prescribe Karm only for ignorant persons and the person who realizes that his Self is identical with the Supreme Self does not take to the path of Karm but takes to the path of knowledge alone. The higher worlds attained by the performance of Vaidik Karm all fall within the sphere of trans-migratory existence. The happiness attained there is transient. Such persons will be born again on this earth on the exhaustion of the merit acquired by those actions. Only the realization of one’s identity with Brahm leads to the infinite and eternal happiness.

Dhritaraashtra said - "If it is the Supreme Being Himself who creates the entire universe constituted of the five elements, who or what is it that makes him to do so and for what purpose does He take birth in various wombs? What adverse result can befall to Him by not doing so?"

Sanatsujaat said - "If multiplicity is accepted in Brahm it will be a great mistake, because non-duality will be contradicted. Moreover, if Brahm is considered as having taken different forms, then Brhhm will be impermanent (that is also wrong). If the difference between the Jeev and Brahm is accepted, then also there are serious adverse consequences. But from the empirical standpoint Brahm and the Jeev appear different because of beginning less association with Maayaa. Brahm appears as the innumerable Jeev because of Maayaa. The Jeev, being in reality identical with Brahm, are eternal. But in spite of appearing as Jeev, Brahm’s immutability and infinitude are not affected at all. The Jeev appear only because of Maayaa which has no beginning (Anaadi).

Dhritraashtra said - "In this world people perform righteous deeds as well as unrighteous deeds. Is the merit acquired by righteous deeds destroyed by the sin resulting from unrighteous deeds, or do the sins get destroyed by merit? The idea is, do merit (Punya) and sin (Paap) set off each other or are their fruits to be experienced separately?"

Sanatsujaat said - "The enlightened person destroys both merit and sin by virtue of having realized the Self. The unenlightened person who identifies himself with his body experiences the fruits of both merit and sin separately. They do not cancel each other. The unenlightened person goes through several cycles of birth and death carrying the fruits of his good and bad Karm with him to experience them. The wise man who dedicates all his actions to God destroys his sins with his merits. His merits are stronger than his sins. His desire less actions lead him to knowledge by purifying his mind.



Home | Mahaabhaarat | General | Articles


Previous | Next

Created by Sushma Gupta On 05/27/04
Modified on 03/24/12