Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE INDIAN ASCETIC


('The Laws of Manu,' VI, 33-65)

33. But having thus passed the third part of (a man's natural term of) life in the forest, he may live as an ascetic during the fourth part of his existence, after abandoning all attachments to worldly objects.1

34. He who after passing from order to order, after offering sacrifices and subduing his senses, becomes, tired with (giving) alms and offerings of food, an ascetic, gains bliss after death.

35. When he has paid the three debts, let him apply his mind to, (the attainment of) final liberation; he who seeks it without having paid (his debts) sinks downwards.

36. Having studied the Vedas in accordance with the rule, having begat sons according to the sacred law, and having offered sacrifices according to his ability, he may direct his mind to (the attainment of) final liberation. . . .

41. Departing from his house fully provided with the means of purification (Pavitra),2 let him wander about absolutely silent, and caring nothing for enjoyments that may be offered (to him).

42. Let him always wander alone, without any companion, in order to attain (final liberation), fully understanding that the solitary (man, who) neither forsakes nor is forsaken, gains his end.

43. He shall neither possess a fire, nor a dwelling, he may go to a village for his food, (he shall be) indifferent to everything, firm of purpose, mediating (and) concentrating his mind on Brahman. . . .

45. Let him not desire to die, let him not desire to live; let him wait for (his appointed) time, as a servant (waits) for the payment of his wages.

46. Let him put down his foot purified by his sight,3 let him drink water purified by (straining with) a cloth, let him utter speech purified by truth, let him keep his heart pure.

47. Let him patiently bear hard words, let him not insult anybody, and let him not become anybody's enemy for the sake of this (perishable) body.

48. Against an angry man let him not in return show anger, let him bless when he is cursed, and let him not utter speech, devoid of truth, scattered at the seven gates. 4

49. Delighting in what refers to the Soul,5 sitting (in the postures prescribed by the Yoga), independent (of external help), entirely abstaining from sensual enjoyments, with himself for his only companion, he shall live in this world, desiring the bliss (of final liberation). . . .

60. By the restraint of his senses, by the destruction of love, 6 and hatred, and by the abstention from injuring the creatures, 7 he becomes fit for immortality.

61. Let him reflect on the transmigrations of men, caused by their sinful deeds, on their falling into hell, and on the torments in the world of Yama,

62 On the separation from their dear ones, on their union with hated men, on their being overpowered by age and being tormented with diseases,

63. On the departure of the individual soul from this body and its new birth in (another) womb, and on its wanderings through ten thousand millions of existences,

64. On the infliction of pain on embodied (Limits), which is caused by demerit, and the gain of eternal bliss, which is caused by the attainment of their highest aim, (gained through) spiritual merit.

65. By deep meditations, let him recognize the subtle nature of the supreme Soul,1 Reference here is to the ideal four stages (ashramas) of the Brahman's life: student (brahmacarin), householder (grihastha), hermit or forest-dweller (vanaprastha), and finally, ascetic or mendicant (yati, bhikshu, parivrajaka, samnyasin).

2 Construed as either his capacities after having completed three states of life, or his 'equipment' such as staff and water-pot.

3 Lest he injure any small animal, or step on something impure.

4The seven bodily orifices?

5 Atman.

6 Or, affection, passion (raga).

7 Ahimsa, non-injury.

8 Brahman.


Translation by G. Buhler in Sacred Books of the East, xxv (Oxford, 1886), pp. 204-10

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