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May 14, 2015

Conquering Sorrow

The following is an excerpt from Mahabharata’s chapter called Shanti Parva. Translated by U. Mahesh Prabhu.

An ancient King named Senajit was in deep agony after losing his eldest son. He was inconsolable beyond any means of making him feel better. This was when a wise Brahman approached the benevolent ruler. ‘O King, why are you stupefied. You look bereft of intelligence,” he asked, adding “Have you forgotten that you yourself are an object of grief? Why do thou grieve for others? It’s a matter of time when others will grieve for you, and in their time they will grieved for by others. Every earthling, O King, is bound to be embraced by death.”

King Senajit, moved by words of the wise looking Brahman, replied, “What is that intelligence, that penance, O learned Brahmana, let me know the knowledge knowing which I would never yield to sorrow?”

The Brahmana replied “All creatures – the superior, the middling and the inferior – in consequence of their respective acts, are entangled in grief. Do not regard even your own self to be yours. On the contrary, regard the whole world to be yours. All this (which you see) is as much yours as it belongs to others. Grief cannot approach you in consequence of this thought. Having acquired such an understanding, do not yield either to joy or to grief.

“The union of two souls is like that of two pieces of wood, which floating on the ocean come together at one time only to be separated again shortly thereafter. Sons, grandsons, kinsmen, and relatives are all of this kind. While feeling of affection for them is natural, so is inevitable separation and potential grief.

“Your son, O King, came from an invisible realm and he has returned to where he came from. Neither did he know you where he came from nor did you know him in his true nature. Who are you and for whom do you grieve?

“Grief arises from the disease constituted by desire. Happiness sprouts when the disease of desire is cured. After joy comes sorrow and vice versa, after sorrow comesw joy. The joys and sorrows of human beings are cyclic. After previous happiness this sorrow has come to you. Therefore you shall again see happiness.

“None suffers sorrow or enjoy happiness for eternity. Your body is the refuge of both, sorrow and happiness. Since you do everything through this body, you – therefore – have to bear the consequences thereof through this body itself.

“Life springs with the springing of the body into existence. The two exist together, and the two perish together.

“Men, when bereft of wisdom, are wedded to worldly things through various bondages. Such men are sure to face destruction like embankments of sand in water. Woes of diverse kinds are born of ignorance. They act like pressers of oil seeds, for assailing all creatures in consequence of their attachments. These expereinces press them like oil-seeds in the oil-making machine represented by the round of rebirths (to which they are subject).

“Man, for the sake of his wife (and others), commits numerous evil acts, but suffers – alone. All men, attached to children, wives, kinsmen and relatives, sink in the miry sea of grief.

“Indeed, O King, upon loss of wealth, son, kinsmen or relatives a man suffers great pain. All this, viz., joy and grief, existence and non-existence, is dependent upon destiny upon which we have little control.

“One having friends or one destitute of friends, one having foes or one destitute of foes, one having wisdom or one destitute of wisdom, each and every one among these obtains happiness through destiny.

“Friends are not the cause of one’s happiness. Foes are not the cause of one’s misery.

“Wisdom is not competent to bring an acquisition of wealth; nor is wealth competent to bring an acquisition of happiness. Intelligence is not the cause of wealth nor stupidity the cause of penury.

“Only he who is possessed of wisdom understands the true order of the world. Among the intelligent, the heroic, the foolish, the cowardly, the idiotic, the learned, the weak or the strong happiness comes to him for whom it is ordained.

“They whose understanding is absolutely dormant, and they who have attained to that state of mind which lies beyond the sphere of the intellect, succeed in enjoying happiness. Only they that are between the two classes, suffer misery.

“The sages have said that the attainment of any of these two extremes constitutes happiness. Misery consists in the states that are intermediate between the two. They who have succeeded in attaining to real felicity and who have become free from the pleasures and pains of this world, and who are destitute of envy, are never agitated by either the gaining of wealth or its loss.

“They who have not succeeded in acquiring that intelligence which leads to real felicity, but who have transcended folly and ignorance, give way to excessive joy and excessive misery. Men destitute of all notions of right or wrong, insensate with pride and with success over others, yield to transports of delight like the gods in heaven.

“Be it happiness or be it misery, be it agreeable or be it disagreeable, what comes to one should be enjoyed or endured with an unconquered heart.

“Every day a thousand occasions for sorrow, and hundred occasions for fear assail the man of ignorance and folly but not the man who has acquired wisdom. Indeed, sorrow is unable to touch him who wise.

“That object, whatever it may be, in respect of which the idea of ‘mine’ is cherished, becomes a source of grief and heart burning. Whatever objects, amongst things that are desired, are cast off become sources of happiness.

“The man who pursues objects of desires meets with destruction in course of this pursuit. Neither the happiness that is derived from a gratification of the senses nor that great felicity which one may enjoy in the heaven, approaches to even a sixteenth part of the bliss which arises from the destruction of all desires.

“The acts of former lives, right or wrong, visit, in their consequences, the wise and the foolish, the brave and the timid. It is even thus that joy and sorrow, the agreeable and the disagreeable, continually revolve (as on wheel) among living creatures. Relying upon such an understanding, the man of intelligence and wisdom lives at ease.

“A person should disregard all desires and never allow his anger to get better of him. This wrath springs in the heart and grows there into in strength and power. This wrath that dwells in the bodies of men and is born in their minds, is spoken of the wise as Death.

“When a person himself feels no fear, and is feared by no one, when he cherishes no desire and no aversion, he is then said to attain to the state of Brahman. Casting off both truth and falsehood, grief and joy, fear and courage, the agreeable and the disagreeable, you can be a tranquil soul.

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