Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana Book 7 Chapter 15:46-56

Book 7: Chapter 15

Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 7: Chapter 15: Verses 46-56
An inquiry into right conduct (concluded)

Otherwise the unruly horses in the shape of the senses inclined towards the world as well as the charioteer (in the shape of a feeble understanding) lead the unwary occupant of the chariot astray (put him on the path of worldly activity) and betray him to robbers in the shape of the objects of senses. (And) these robbers hurl him, horses, charioteer and all, into the pit of transmigration, dark with ignorance and beset with the great fear of death . Action recommended in the Vedas is of two kinds : Pravrtta Karma (that which turns the mind towards worldly objects) and Nivrtta Karma (that which draws the mind away from the external world and turns it inwards). By means of Pravrtta Karma one is likely to return to mundane existence (in order to enjoy its fruit); while through Nivrtta Karma one enjoys immortality (final beatitude).

A ritual (such as Syena-Yaga or hawk-sacrifice) having for its object the destruction of an enemy, or that conducted by means of material substances, such as Agnihotra (the daily offering of oblations into the sacred fire), as well as Darta.(a fortnightly sacrifice performed on every Amavasya, the last day of a dark fortnight when the sun and the moon dwell together) and Purnamasa (another fortnightly sacrifice performed on the full moon), Caturmasya (one of the three sacrifices performed at the beginning of every four months), an animal sacrifice, a Soma sacrifice, Vaiswadeva (a rite which must be performed by every householder both morning and evening and especially before the midday meal and consists in homage paid to the Viswedevas) and even so Balikarma (offering, before the daily meal, morsels of cooked food such as rice, bread etc., to certain gods, semi-divine beings, household divinities, spirits, men, birds, other animals and all creatures including even lifeless objects)-(collectively) known as lsta (sacrificial acts)--, and Purta (works of public utility) such as the construction of a temple, a garden, a well or a place where water is supplied to wayfarers, cattle and so on-(both) these are designated as Pravrtta Karma, if they are undertaken from interested motives, and bring uneasiness (of mind) in their train (accompanied as they are by excessive attachment). The subtle modification of material substances (thrown into the fire as oblations, and entering into the constitution of an ethereal body), (the deities presiding over) smoke, the night-time, the dark fortnight, the winter half-year (representing the sun's progress south of the equator) and (the sphere of) the moon, (which mark the gradual ascent of the departed soul, and dissolution of the ethereal body (as illustrated by Amavasya, when the moon altogether ceases to appear), annual plants and creepers, foodgrains and vital fluid (which mark its gradual descent)-these, O ruler of the earth, make the path[1] of Pravrtta Karma (known by the name of Pitryana or Dhumamarga, the Dark Path), characterized by rebirth. Having gone through each one of these stages in the order mentioned above, the soul is reborn on this earth. (Only) a member of the twice-born classes (duly) consecrated by (all) the purificatory rites from Garbhadhana (the ceremony of impregnation performed before conception) down to Antyesti (the funeral rites perfomed at the crematory) follows this course. Those devoted to Nivrtta Karma (on the other hand) offer sacrifices in the form of ritual acts (themselves) into (the fire of) the senses lighted by Knowledge (of the Self). (In other words, they look upon the functions of the senses as the manifestation of the senses themselves). (Again,) such a man merges his senses in the mind, representing the thinking faculty; the mind, full of morbid thoughts, in speech (because it is speech in the form of scriptural ordinance etc, that propels the mind to pose as the doer and so on, which is truly speaking only an aberration); speech, in the body of articulate sounds (because it is in these specific forms that speech reveals itself); the latter, in the compound vowel sound OM; (the mystical sound) OM, in (what is known by the name of) Bindu (the nasal sound); the latter (again) in Nada (the echo); Nada, in Praha (the Jiva as associated with the vital air); and the last-named, in Brahma (the all-pervading Spirit). (The deities presiding over) fire, the sun, the day-time, the close of day (eventide), the bright fortnight, the full moon (the closing day of a bright fortnight), the summer half-year (representing the progress of the sun to the north of the equator) and Brahma[2] (that mark the ascent of the departed soul to Brahmaloka, the realm of Brahma, the uppermost and the subtlest sphere of this material universe and representing the climax of material enjoyment), the Viswa (the soul identifying itself with gross matter), Taijasa (the soul identified with subtle matter), the Prajna (the soul indentified with the causal matter), the Turya (the soul standing as a witness of all these states), so-called because of its being associated with each of these states (as its witness), and Atma (the pure Spirit)-the Vedas speak of these as (marking) the path of the gods (also known by the name of Arcirmarga or the Bright Path, which culminates in Liberation). Going through (all) these stages one after another, the tranquil-minded votary of the (supreme) Spirit (God), established in the Self, never returns (to this world). (Even) he who discerns these two paths presided over by the manes and the gods (respectively)--conclusively and distinctly made known by the Vedas-with the eye of scriptural knowledge never gives way to infatuation even though remaining in (this) body.



  1. The idea is that the soul of one devoted to Pravrtta Karma here is invested after death with an ethereal body Made up of the subtle modifications of material substances thrown by him during his lifetime as oblations into the sacred fire; and, united with this body, the soul gradually ascends to the sphere of the moon, being escorted on the way one after another by the deities presiding over smoke, the night-time, the dark fortnight and the winter half-year. Having enjoyed the pleasures of the moon-world (which is a part of heaven) and thus exhausted the merit responsible for its stay there, the soul takes a downward course. As the soul falls from heaven, the ethereal body with which it was clothed in heaven gets dissolved even as the orb of the moon ceases to be visible on an Amavasya. Descending on earth with a rain-drop, it enters an annual plant or creeper and appears in the form of a grain. Then, finding its way and getting absorbed into the system of a male human being, it is transformed by stages into the generative fluid, which, on entering the uterus and getting united with the ovum during the process of conception is gradually developed into a male or female embryo. This process of ascent and descent of a human soul devoted to Pravrtta Karma has been outlined in the verses translated above and is corroborated by the following Sruti text (Chandogya Upanisad V. x. 3-6) Also compare the following verse of the Bhagavadgita:- The other path is that in which are stationed the gods presiding over smoke, night, the dark fortnight and the-six months of the southward course of the sun; the Yogi (devoted to action with an interested motive and) taking to this path, after death, is led by the above-said gods. one after another, and attaining to the lustre (region) of the moon (and enjoying the fruit of his meritorious deeds in heaven) returns to this mortal world.
  2. Verse 54 likewise delineates the path of the human soul devoted to Nivrtta Karma. Here the soul of the deceased gradually ascends to the abode of Brahma (the creator), being conducted on the way by the deities presiding over fire, the sun, the day-time, eventide, the bright fortnight, the full moon and the summer half-year. There it enjoys the luxuries of that realm and finally attain; Liberation along with Brahma. The latter half of this verse outlines the process of Liberation, which commences with the soul, which was till now known by the name of Vitwa, merging its physical body in the astral and remaining identified with the latter, when it is designated as Taijasa. The Taijasa merges its astral body in the causal sheath and enjoys the title of Prajna so long as it remains identified with the causal frame. Then, merging the causal sheath in the all-witnessing Self, which is united with all bodies, it assumes the title of Turya; and finally casting off the role of a witness too, it remains in its primary state as the pure Self or Absolute. In other words, it is shorn of all adjuncts and gets liberated. This is corroborated by the following texts of the Chandogya Upanisad :-- Also compare the following couplet of the Bhagavadgita: - (VIII.24) '(Of the two paths) the one is that in which are stationed the all-effulgent fire-god and the deities presiding over daylight, the bright fortnight and the six months of the northward course of the sun respectively, proceeding along it after death Yogis, who have known Brahma, being successively led by the above gods, finally reach Brahma.'