Interesting shlokas from Mahabharata

 Some years ago I read a portion of Mahabharata (up to Gita) and made some notes for myself. I have given below some interesting shlokas. (I am not claiming that these shlokas are the only interesting ones in this section of Mahabharata.)

Mahabharata talks about itself

1. As the full-moon by its mild light expandeth the buds of the water-lily,
so this Purana, by exposing the light of the Sruti hath expanded the human
intellect. (Adi Parva I)

2. In former days, having placed the four Vedas on one side and the Bharata
on the other, these were weighed in the balance by the celestials assembled
for the purpose. And as the later weighed heavier than the four Vedas with
their mysteries, from that period it hath been called in the world Mahabharata
. (Adi Parva I)

3. This Bharata consists of a hundred thousand sacred slokas composed by the
son of Satyavati, of immeasurable mental power. He that reads it to others,
and they that hear it read, attain the world of Brahman and become equal to
the very gods. This Bharata is equal unto the Vedas, is holy and excellent;
is the worthiest of all to be listened to, and is a Purana worshipped by the
Rishis. It contains much useful instruction on Artha and Kama. This sacred
history maketh the heart desire for salvation. Learned persons by reciting
this Veda of Krishna-Dwaipayana to those that are liberal, truthful, and
believing, earn much wealth. Sins such as killing the embryo in the womb, are
destroyed assuredly by this. (Adi Parva LXII)

Duration of writing

4. The sage Krishna-Dwaipayana completed this work in three years. (Adi Parva
LXII)

On Virgin Birth!!

5. And Satyavati gratified with having obtained the excellent boon in
consequence of which she became sweet-scented and her virginity remained
unsullied conceived through Parasara's embraces. (Adi Parva LXIII)

Mahabharata on chittasuddhi needed for the Brahman experience

6. It is only when man doth not commit any sin in respect of any living
thing, in thought, deed. or speech, it is then that he attaineth to purity
as that of Brahman. When one feareth nothing, when one is not feared by
anything, when one wisheth for nothing, when one injureth nothing, it is
then that one attaineth to the purity of Brahman. (Adi Parva LXXV)

King Yayati's description of the deadly power of Brahmanas

7. Yayati the said, "The wise know that a Brahmana is more to be avoided than
an angry snake of virulent poison, or a blazing fire of spreading flames.'
Devyani then told the monarch,'O bull among men, why dost thou, indeed, say
that Brahmana should be more avoided than an angry snake of virulent poison or
a blazing fire of spreading flames?' The monarch answered,'The snake killeth
only one. The sharpest weapon slayeth but a single person. The Brahmana,
when angry destroyeth whole cities and kingdoms! Therefore, O timid one, do
I deem a Brahmana as more to be avoided than either……' (Adi Parva LXXXI)

King Yayati's criticism of self praise

8. Yayati answered,'..they that speak of their own merits are deemed to suffer
the hell called Bhauma.." (Adi Parva XC)

King Yayati's lecture on Jnana and Yoga

9. Ashtaka asked, 'Who amongst these, O king, both exerting constantly like
the Sun and the Moon, first attaineth to communion with Brahma, the ascetic
or the man of knowledge?'
   Yayati answered,'The wise, with the help of the Vedas and of Knowledge,
having ascertained the visible universe to be illusory, instantly realises
the Supreme Spirit as the sole existent independent essence. While they that
devote themselves to Yoga meditation take time to acquire the same knowledge,
for it is by practice alone that these latter divest themselves of the
consciousness of quality. Hence the wise attain to salvation first. Then again
if the person devoted to Yoga find not sufficient time in one life to attain
success, being led astray by the attraction of the world, in his next life
he is benefitted by the progress already achieved, for he devoteth himself
regretfully to the pursuit of success. But the man of knowledge ever beholdeth
the indesctructible unity, and, is, therefore, though steeped in wordly
enjoyments, never affected by them at heart. Therefore, there is nothing to
impede his salvation. He, however, who faileth to attain to knowledge, should
yet devote himself to piety as dependent on action. But he that devoteth
himself to such piety, moved thereto by desire of salvation, can never achieve
success. His sacrifices bear no fruit and partake of the nature of cruelty.
Piety which is dependent on action that proceedeth not from the desire of
fruit, is, in the case of such men Yoga itself.' (Adi Parva XCII)

Mahabharata's acknowledgement of changes in rules of women's conduct

10. … women formerly were not immured within houses and dependent on
husbands and other relatives. They used to go about freely enjoying themselves
as best as they liked. O thou of excellent qualities, they did not then adhere
to their husbands faithfully, and yet, O handsome one, they were not regarded
sinful, for that was the sanctioned usage of the times. (Adi Parva CXXII)

Mahabharata's acknowledgement of the importance of Puranas

11. the celestials answered, "..he hath studied the four Vedas together with
the Puranas that are regarded as the fifth." (Aranya Parva LVIII)

Mahabharata on earthly and spiritual vows

12. These blessed ones addressing Yudhisthir said," ..banish all evil thoughts
from your minds. Purify your hearts and then set out for the tirthas. .. the
observance of regulations in respect of the body are called earthly vows,
while efforts to purify the heart, so that it may be free from evil thoughts,
are called spiritual vows." (Aranya Parva XCIII)

Mahabharata on the importance of associating with the wise

13. Citizens of Hastinapur said," .. listen as we indicate the merits and
demerits springing respectively from association with what is good and bad!
As cloth, water, the ground, and sesame seeds are perfumed by association
with flowers, even so are qualities ever the product of association. Verily
association with fools produceth an illusion that entangleth the mind, as
daily communion with the good and the wise leadeth to the practice of virtue.
Therefore they that desire emancipation should associate with those that are
wise and old and honest and pure in conduct and possesed of ascetic merit.
They should be waited upon whose triple possesions, viz, knowledge (of the
Vedas), origin and acts, are all pure, and association with them is even
superior to (the study of the) scriptures. Devoid of the religious acts as
we are, we shall yet reap religious merit by association with the righteous,
as we should come by sin by waiting upon the sinful. The very sight and touch
of the dishonest, and converse and association with them cause diminution of
virtue, and men (that are doomed to these) never attain purity of mind.
Association with the base impaireth the understanding, as, indeed, with the
indifference maketh it indifferent, while the communion with the good ever
exalteth it." (Aranya Parva I)

Yudhisthira's views on virtue

14. Yudhisthira said,".. I never act, solicitous of the fruits of my actions.
I give away, because it is my duty to give; I sacrifice because it is my duty
to sacrifice! ..I act virtously not from the desire of reaping the fruits of
virtue, but of not transgressing the ordinances of the Veda, and beholding the
also the conduct of the good and wise! My heart…. is naturally attracted
towards virtue. The man who wisheth to reap the fruits of virtue is a trader
of virtue. His nature is mean and he should never be counted amongst the
virtuous. Noe doth he ever obtain the fruits of his virtue! … if the
virtues that are practised by the virtous had no fruits, this universe then
would be enveloped in infamous darkness. No one then would pursue salvation,
no one would seek to acquire knowledge not even wealth, but men would live
like beasts. If ascetism, the austerities of celibate life, sacrifices,
study of the Vedas, charity, honesty, these all were fruitless, men would
not have practised virtue generation after generation." (Aranya Parva XXXI)

Kubera's views on success in human affairs

15. Kubera said, "O Yudhishtira, patience, ability, appropriate time and
space and prowess lead to success in human affairs". (Aranya Parva CLXI)

Sage Pulastya's views on how to become a Brahmana

16.Sage Pulastya said,"..by vows, by investiture of the sacred, by fasts,
by rites, and by Mantras, one becometh a Brahmana." (Aranya Parva LXXXIII)

Yudhisthira's views on Varnasramdharma

17. The serpent said," O Yudhisthira, say – Who is a Brahmana and what should
be known? .."

Yudhisthira said," O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted by the wise, in
whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence,
observance of the rites of his order, and mercy is a Brahmana. And, O serpent,
that which should be known is even the supreme Brahma, in which is neither
happiness nor misery —- and attaining which beings are not affected with
misery; what is thy opinion?"

The serpent said," O Yudhisthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence,
benighnity, kindness and the Veda which worketh the benefit of the four orders
, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen
even in the Sudra. As regards the object to be known and which thou allegest
is without both happiness and misery, I do not see any such that is devoid of
these."

Yudhisthira said," Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra do not
exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra.
AND A SUDRA IS NOT A SUDRA BY BIRTH ALONE – NOR A BRAHMANA IS BRAHMANA BY
BIRTH ALONE. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a
Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom qualities do not exist, even
though he be a Brahmana by birth. And again, as for thy assertion that the
object be known (as asserted by me) doth not exist, because nothing exists
that is devoid of both (happiness and misery), such indeed is the opinion, O
serpent, that nothing exists that is without (them) both. But as in cold, heat
doth not exist, nor in heat, cold, so there can not exist an object in which
both (happiness and misery) can not exist?"

The serpent said, "O king, if thou recognize him as a Brahmana by
characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becometh
futile as long as conduct doth not come into play."

Yudhisthira said, " In human society, O mighty and highly intelligent serpent,
it is difficult to ascertain one's caste, because of promiscuous intercourse
among the four orders. This is my opinion. Men belonging to all orders
(promiscuously) begat offspring upon women of all the orders. And of men,
speech, sexual intercourse, birth and death are common. And to this the Rishis
have borne testimony by using as the beginning of a sacrifice such expressions
as — of what caste server may be, we celebrate the sacrifice. Therefore,
those that are wise have asserted that CHARACTER IS THE CHIEF ESSENTIAL
REQUISITE. …. WHATSOEVER NOW CONFORMS TO THE RULES OF PURE AND VIRTOUS CONDUCT, HIM HAVE I, ERE NOW, DESIGNATED AS A BRAHMANA." (Aranya Parva CLXXIX)

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