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Sense Objects – Mahabahrata And Bhagavad Gita See Them As Poison

The mind, which has not attained to the state jnana, is ever in an unsteady condition and in that sense regarded as constituting a false state, vis., that of aham. The Mahabharata throws light on the above mentioned distinctions as affecting human life by the following metaphorical description:

"Frightful is the current of life which, flowing in diverse directions, bears the world onward in its course. The five senses are its crocodiles; the manas and its purposes are its shores; temptation and stupefaction are the grass and straw that float on its bosom; lust and wealth are the fierce reptiles that live in it ; truth forms the tirtha by its miry banks ; falsehood forms its surges, and anger its mire. Taking its rise from the unmanifest, rapid is its current incapable of being crossed by persons of uncleaned souls. Do thou with the aid jnana cross that river which harbours alligators in the shape of the passions.”

The Bhagavad Gita impresses the same truths in similar metaphorical but more philosophical language.

It says "He is learned in the Vedas who knows that tree, the root of which is above [in the higher sphere], and the branches below [in the lower sphere] and which must be known as the indestructible."

“The branches of which spread both above and below, cherished by the gunas which tend to objects of desire."

“The branches throw down roots [as those of an asivatka tree] all around in this mortal world drawn by the attraction of karma [selfful course of life, the result of which is to bind man to the consequences of his acts]."

The entire shape of this tree cannot be known, neither its beginning, nor end, nor the way in which it exists. One should cut off the firmly fixed lower roots of this tree by means of the process called dsanga, i.e., securing freedom from attachment, and thus one should seek the feet of that Being who is the beginning and end of all existence.''

The following from Mahabharata contains another similar metaphorical description of the phenomenon of the life of man.

There is a wonderful tree, called kama [selfful motive of life] in the heart of man. It is born of the seed called spiritual confusion. Wrath and pride constitute its large trunk. Constant selfish longing for action is the basin around its foot for holding the water that nourishes it. Ajnana [want of the perception of a universal spiritual order] is the root of that tree, and mistaken hankering after external objects is the water that sustains it.

Envy constitutes its leaves. The evil acts of past times supply it with vigour. Loss of equanimity and anxiety are its twigs. Grief forms its large branches, and fear is its sprout. Longings after diverse objects that are apparently agreeable, form the creepers that twine round it on every side. The man, who is the slave of desires bound in chains of iron sitting around that fruit-yielding-tree, pays his homage to it in expectation of obtaining its fruit. "But he, who unfastening those chains cuts down that tree and seeks to cast off both pleasure and sorrow attending it, succeeds in attaining to the end of both.

The foolish man, who nourishes this tree by indulgence in the objects of the senses, is destroyed by those very objects in which he indulges after the manner of a poisonous pill destroying the patient to whom it is administered."

Source - The Hindu System Of Moral Science (1912) by - Kishori Lal Sarkar – Published by S G. Majumdar, 121, Cornwallis Street. Kolkata (Page 61 - 66)