The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
The third kind of dissolution, or final liberation from existence. Evils of worldly life. Sufferings in infancy, manhood, old age. Pains of hell. Imperfect felicity of heaven. Exemption from birth desirable by the wise. The nature of spirit or god. Meaning of the terms Bhagavat and Vásudeva.
THE wise man having investigated the three kinds of worldly pain, or mental and bodily affliction and the like 1, and having acquired true wisdom, and detachment from human objects, obtains final dissolution. The first of the three pains, or Ádhyátmika, is of two kinds, bodily and mental. Bodily pain is of many kinds, as you shall hear. Affections of the head, catarrh, fever, cholic, fistula, spleen, hemorrhoids, intumescence, sickness, ophthalmia, dysentery, leprosy, and many other diseases, constitute bodily affliction. Mental sufferings are love, anger, fear, hate, covetousness, stupefaction, despair, sorrow, malice, disdain, jealousy, envy, and many other passions which are engendered in the mind. These and various other afflictions, mental or corporeal, are comprised, under the class of worldly sufferings, which is called Ádhyátmika (natural and inseparable). That pain to which, excellent Brahman, the term Ádhibhautika (natural, but incidental) is applied, is every kind of evil which is inflicted (from without) upon men by beasts, birds, men, goblins, snakes, fiends, or reptiles; and the pain that is termed Ádhidaivika (or superhuman) is the work of cold, heat, wind, rain, lightning, and other (atmospherical phenomena). Affliction, Maitreya, is multiplied in thousands of shapes in the progress of conception, birth, decay, disease, death, and hell. The tender (and subtile) animal exists in the embryo, surrounded by abundant filth, floating in water, and distorted in its back, neck, and bones; enduring severe pain even in the course of its developement, as disordered by the acid, acrid, bitter, pungent, and saline articles of its mother's food; incapable of extending or contracting
its limbs; reposing amidst the slime of ordure and urine; every way incommoded; unable to breathe; endowed with consciousness, and calling to memory many hundred previous births. Thus exists the embryo in profound affliction, bound to the world by its former works.
When the child is about to be born, its face is besmeared by excrement, urine, blood, mucus, and semen; its attachment to the uterus is ruptured by the Prájápati wind; it is turned head downwards, and violently expelled from the womb by the powerful and painful winds of parturition; and the infant losing for a time all sensation, when brought in contact with the external air, is immediately deprived of its intellectual knowledge. Thus born, the child is tortured in every limb, as if pierced with thorns, or cut to pieces with a saw, and falls from its fetid lodgment, as from a sore, like a crawling thing upon the earth. Unable to feel itself, unable to turn itself, it is dependent upon the will of others for being bathed and nourished. Laid upon a dirty bed, it is bitten by insects and musquitoes, and has not power to drive them away. Many are the pangs attending birth, and many are those which succeed to birth; and many are the sufferings which are inflicted by elemental and superhuman agency in the state of childhood. Enveloped by the gloom of ignorance, and internally bewildered, man knows not whence he is, who he is, whither he goeth, nor what is his nature; by what bonds he is bound; what is cause, and what is not cause; what is to be done, and what is to be left undone; what is to be said, and what is to be kept silent; what is righteousness, what is iniquity; in what it consists, or how; what is right, what is wrong; what is virtue, what is vice. Thus man, like a brute beast, addicted only to animal gratifications, suffers the pain that ignorance occasions. Ignorance, darkness, inactivity, influence those devoid of knowledge, so that pious works are neglected; but hell is the consequence of neglect of religious acts, according to the great sages, and the ignorant therefore suffer affliction both in this world and in the next.
When old age arrives, the body is infirm; the limbs are relaxed; the face is emaciate and shrivelled; the skin is wrinkled, and scantily covers the veins and sinews; the eye discerns not afar off, and the pupil gazes
on vacuity; the nostrils are stuffed with hair; the trunk trembles as it moves; the bones appear beneath the surface; the back is bowed, and the joints are bent; the digestive fire is extinct, and there is little appetite and little vigour; walking, rising, sleeping, sitting, are all painful efforts; the ear is dull; the eye is dim; the mouth is disgusting with dribbling saliva; the senses no longer are obedient to the will; and as death approaches, the things that are perceived even are immediately forgotten. The utterance of a single sentence is fatiguing, and wakefulness is perpetuated by difficult breathing, coughing, and painful exhaustion. The old man is lifted up by somebody else; he is clothed by somebody else; he is an object of contempt to his servants, his children, and his wife. Incapable of cleanliness, of amusement, or food, or desire, he is laughed at by his dependants, and disregarded by his kin; and dwelling on the exploits of his youth, as on the actions of a past life, he sighs deeply, and is sorely distressed. Such are some of the pains which old age is condemned to suffer. I will now describe to you the agonies of death.
The neck droops; the feet and hands are relaxed; the body trembles; the man is repeatedly exhausted, subdued, and visited with interrupted knowledge; the principle of selfishness afflicts him, and he thinks what will become of my wealth, my lands, my children, my wife, my servants, my house? the joints of his limbs are tortured with severe pains, as if cut by a saw, or as if they were pierced by the sharp arrows of the destroyer; he rolls his eyes, and tosses about his hands and feet; his lips and palate are parched and dry, and his throat, obstructed by foul humours and deranged vital airs, emits a rattling sound; he is afflicted with burning heat, and with thirst, and with hunger; and he at last passes away, t́ortured by the servants of the judge of the dead, to undergo a renewal of his sufferings in another body. These are the agonies which men have to endure when they die. I will now describe to you the tortures which they suffer in hell.
Men are bound, when they die, by the servants of the king of Tartarus with cords, and beaten with sticks, and have then to encounter the fierce aspect of Yama, and the horrors of their terrible route. In the
different hells there are various intolerable tortures with burning sand, fire, machines, and weapons; some are severed with saws, some roasted in forges, some are chopped with axes, some buried in the ground, some are mounted on stakes, some cast to wild beasts to be devoured, some are gnawed by vultures, some torn by tigers, some are boiled in oil, some rolled in caustic slime, some are precipitated from great heights, some tossed upwards by engines. The number of punishments inflicted in hell, which are the consequences of sin, is infinite 2.
But not in hell alone do the souls of the deceased undergo pain: there is no cessation even in heaven; for its temporary inhabitant is ever tormented with the prospect of descending again to earth. Again is he liable to conception and to birth; he is merged again into the embryo, and repairs to it when about to be born; then he dies, as soon as born, or in infancy, or in youth, or in manhood, or in old age. Death, sooner or later, is inevitable. As long as he lives he is immersed in manifold afflictions, like the seed of the cotton amidst the down that is to be spun into thread. In acquiring, losing, and preserving wealth there are many griefs; and so there are in the misfortunes of our friends. Whatever is produced that is most acceptable to man, that, Maitreya, becomes a seed whence springs the tree of sorrow. Wife, children, servants, house, lands, riches, contribute much more to the misery than to the happiness of mankind. Where could man, scorched by the fires of the sun of this world, look for felicity, were it not for the shade afforded by the tree of emancipation? Attainment of the divine being is considered by the wise as the remedy of the threefold class of ills that beset the different stages of life, conception, birth, and decay, as characterized by that only happiness which effaces all other kinds of felicity, however abundant, and as being absolute and final 3.
It should therefore be the assiduous endeavour of wise men to attain unto god 4. The means of such attainment are said, great Muni, to be
knowledge and works. Knowledge is of two kinds, that which is derived from scripture, and that which is derived from reflection. Brahma that is the word is composed of scripture; Brahma that is supreme is produced of reflection 5. Ignorance is utter darkness, in which knowledge, obtained through any sense (as that of hearing), shines like a lamp; but the knowledge that is derived from reflection breaks upon the obscurity like the sun. What has been said by Manu, when appealing to the meaning of the Vedas with respect to this subject, I will repeat to you. There are two (forms of) spirit (or god), the spirit which is the word, and the spirit which is supreme. He who is thoroughly imbued with the word of god obtains supreme spirit 6. The Atharva Veda also states that there are two kinds of knowledge; by the one, which is the supreme, god is attained; the other is that which consists of the Rich and other Vedas 7. That which is imperceptible, undecaying, inconceivable, unborn, inexhaustible, indescribable; which has neither form, nor hands, nor feet; which is almighty, omnipresent, eternal; the cause of all things, and without cause; permeating all, itself unpenetrated, and from which all things proceed; that is the object which the wise behold, that is Brahma, that is the supreme state, that is the subject of contemplation to those who desire liberation, that is the thing spoken of by the Vedas, the infinitely subtile, supreme condition of Vishńu. That essence of the
supreme is defined by the term Bhagavat 8: the word Bhagavat is the denomination of that primeval and eternal god: and he who fully understands the meaning of that expression, is possessed of holy wisdom, the sum and substance of the three Vedas. The word Bhagavat is a convenient form to be used in the adoration of that supreme being, to whom no term is applicable; and therefore Bhagavat expresses that supreme spirit, which is individual, almighty, and the cause of causes of all things. The letter Bh implies the cherisher and supporter of the universe. By ga is understood the leader, impeller, or creator. The dissyllable Bhaga indicates the six properties, dominion, might, glory, splendour, wisdom, and dispassion. The purport of the letter va is that elemental spirit in which all beings exist, and which exists in all beings 9. And thus this great word Bhagavan is the name of Vásudeva, who is one with the supreme Brahma, and of no one else. This word therefore, which is the general denomination of an adorable object, is not used in reference to the supreme in a general, but a special signification. When applied to any other (thing or person) it is used in its customary or general import. In the latter case it may purport one who knows the origin and end and revolutions of beings, and what is wisdom, what ignorance. In the former it denotes wisdom, energy, power, dominion, might, glory, without end, and without defect.
The term Vásudeva means that all beings abide in that supreme being, and that he abides in all beings 10, as was formerly explained by Keśidhwaja to Kháńd́ikya, called Janaka, when he inquired of him an explanation of the name of the immortal, Vásudeva. He said, "He
dwelleth internally in all beings, and all things dwell in him; and thence the lord Vásudeva is the creator and preserver of the world. He, though one with all beings, is beyond and separate from material nature (Prakriti), front its products, from properties, from imperfections: he is beyond all investing substance: he is universal soul; all the interstices of the universe are filled up by him: he is one with all good qualities; and all created beings are endowed with but a small portion of his individuality. Assuming at will various forms, he bestows benefits on the whole world, which was his work. Glory, might, dominion, wisdom, energy, power, and other attributes, are collected in him. Supreme of the supreme, in whom no imperfections abide, lord over finite and infinite, god in individuals and universals, visible and invisible, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, almighty. The wisdom, perfect, pure, supreme, undefiled, and one only, by which he is conceived, contemplated, and known, that is wisdom; all else is ignorance."
638:1 The three kinds of affliction, inseparable, incidental, and superhuman, are fully described in the commentary on the first verse of the Sánkhya Káriká, p. 8, in a similar strain as that which is adopted in the text.
641:2 Some further particulars of the different hells, and the punishments inflicted in them, have been given before: see p. 207.
641:3 All this is conformable to the Sánkhya doctrines in particular, although the same spirit pervades all Hindu metaphysics.
641:4 Tasmát Tat práptaye yatna kartavya p. 642 pańd́itairnaraih. The expression Tat práptaye, 'for the obtaining of that,' refers to the phrase immediately preceding, Bhagavatprapti, 'obtaining of,' or 'attaining to, Bhagavat,' the lord.
642:5 Brahma is of two kinds; Śabda-Brahma, spirit or god to be attained through the word, that is, the Vedas and the duties they prescribe; and Para-Brahma, spirit or god to be attained through reflection, by which the difference between soul and matter is ascertained.
642:6 This seems intended as a quotation from Manu, but it has not been found in the code; it is ###.
642:7 The commentator quotes other passages from the Vedas of a similar tendency, intimating, however, the necessity of performing acts prior to attaining knowledge; as, 'The decoction (preparatory process) being digested by rites, thereafter knowledge is the supreme resource.' 'Having crossed the gulph of death by ignorance (ceremonial acts), man obtains immortality by (holy) knowledge.'
643:8 According to the comment, allusion is here made to the twelve syllable Mantra, or mystic formula addressed to Vishńu: 'Om Bhagavate Vásudeváya nama; 'Om! salutation to Bhagavat Vásudeva:' the repetition of which, by those devoted (bhakta) to Vishńu, is the easy mode of securing their liberation." The mysticism is, however, no doubt older than the worship of Vishńu; and the term Bhagavat is defined in the text according to the interpretation of the Vedas.
643:9 The commentator says these interpretations are from the Nirukta, the glossary of the Vedas. The more etymological derivation of the term is, Bhaga, 'power,' 'authority,' and vat possessive affix.
643:10 From the root Vas, 'abiding,' 'dwelling' See p. 1 and 9.