The learned ones tell us all that the aim and objective of human life should be the attainment of salvation, mukti, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death and finding unification with the supreme soul, the Paramatma. In this chapter Sri Hari instructs Garuda describing in detail the means for eternal, everlasting liberation. This chapter is the most important for all of us living in the world of change, in this ocean of all kinds of suffering and the allurements of worldly things. We are told about the importance and the essentiality of the performance of the prescribed rites in this purana. The rites properly performed would yield the blessings of Sri Hari and one’s forefathers.
Garuda renews his request and asks the Lord to tell him about the means for eternal liberation. In this world the jeeva is placed in various types of bodies with varied personalities and dispositions. He is born only to die and dies only to be born again. Breaking or ending this cycle of births and death for ever must surely be the end of life. The lord of liberation Sri Hari, explains to Garuda how salvation has to be attained and achieved by man with his conscious efforts, by devotion to Him in a sense of surrender and by following the path of righteousness and performing the rites for the departed ones. Shiva is the effulgent, shining one. He is the supreme Brahman, Parabrahma: all-pervasive, all-knowing and all-powerful. He is eternal, with no beginning or end. He is self-effulgent. He has no attributes. He is absolute bliss sat-chitananda. All creation has the spark of His fire. Man, born on this earth (like many an other creature) must die. Man is fettered by his own deeds, his karma, earning merit by doing good and incurring sin which needs expiation. Man has a higher and subtle body called linga sareera, which lasts till it obtains mukti. Even the inanimate, non-moving things right from a worm to man. must one day cast away their respective bodies to be born again to work out their individual karma. Birth in the human form is the result of the good deeds and the punya, merit accumulated therefrom. The being must have had innumerable births before one is born as a human being. The one who does not make use of his birth as a human being to elevate himself and reach a higher state is an ignorant man, steeped in sin. If one does not know what is good for him, he is as good as a killer of a Brahmin.
The human body is essential to acquire and accumulate merit by following dharma. It is of outmost importance to take care of the body with a view to doing good and thereby to acquire merit in various ways. The human body, once lost, is very difficult to get again without accumulating punya. Land, property, wealth, house etc., if lost once can be gained again-but not the human body which comes as a precious gift from the Supreme Being. Wisdom lies in taking proper care of the body. Normally no human being wants to leave the body. Everyone tries to live long, and if possible for ever. Even though afflicted and rendered incapable even of movement, one wants to live on. One never wishes to die leaving the body.
Very few people realize that the body is important to perform one’s own duty following dharma, making the body a means for the end of realizing the self and attaining salvation or mukti. The body is necessary, in fact, it is a prime requirement, for the acquisition of knowledge; knowledge for the sake of higher things like yoga and meditation. Only in these things lie the methods for self-realization, elevation of the being. Man should try and work for his own elevation. There can be no benefit superior to this. If he does not take care of his body and take precautions against becoming sick and going to hell for misdeeds and sins, how can he work for his salvation? If one is stricken with disease or disability, can he help himself by going to a country or a place where there is no remedy or cure for such a condition? Old age is like a tigress and it can pounce at any moment, when one finds himself helpless owing to age. It is not necessary to become old by age. (Even in Youth the condition of old age may occur.) The length of life may be very short. Life runs out as water from a pot with holes. Diseases may attack one, no matter what one’s age is. As long as one is healthy enough, one should do perform good, merit-yielding deeds. He should strive his best for achieving noble things. Calamity may befall at any moment, misery may engulf one and one’s senses may be become numbed unexpectedly. One must be aware of this and hasten to perform merit- yielding deeds following the path of righteousness.
As long as there is life in one’s body, one should pursue things which are worthwhile in the long run. Only the unwise one begins digging a well when a part of his house is already on fire.
Nobody can predict the onslaught of Death. Unfortunately the one swinging between joys and sorrows of the world does not know what really matters. Man lives in delusion, an improper belief that things would always be the same while he is enjoying them. He sees the sick, the infirm and the helpless in a calamity but he does not realize that he too may face disease or misfortune. Riches are not stable, wealth is deceptive; youth never stays for long, life is changeful, unsteady: knowing all this, can a man with understanding of the real nature of things. be careless or forget his own future? Even though one may live the full life of a hundred years- half of it is spent in sleep. It is lost in idleness and a lot of it would pass in ignorant childhood and the penitent helpless old age. Owing to lack of proper understanding, man does not do what he ought to do. He sleeps when he ought to be awake. He does not realize that life is a bubble in the water which may burst at any moment. It does no good for anyone to be attached to objects or ways of sense-gratification.
For an ignorant man what is bad appears good and what is impermanent and evil appears everlasting and good. Seeing very well, he falters, though his hearing may be good his understanding is poor. While in the jaws of fierce crocodiles like death, disease and old age, he does not understand the plight which he is in. Every moment passing takes a man nearer to death. The passage of time, quick and ever fleeting is not taken note of by the stupid person wallowing in sense-gratification. Time gets exhausted unnoticed just as an unbaked clay pot disappears melting in water unnoticed. Life can never be made permanent or everlasting. One can sooner make the air a prisoner, split ether, bind waves in captivity. Everything is transient. Earth disappears! Mount Meru may be ground into dust, the seas may just go dry. What to say of the fragile, human body! Man is mortal! The wolf of death lies in wait to eat him just as a wolf eats a lamb. Man is thrown into an ignorance that is incurable. He works hard and takes pride in relationships boasting: “My wife! My son!” and so on.
Man plans, proposes, decides to do certain things now and plans to do certain othe10r4things later, but death does not wait for him or for anybody for that matter. Prating about death is the quality of the immature and the ignorant. Man would not think of the saviour, even though old age approaches with an army of infirmities and ailments to crush him. Man is stricken with all kinds of adversities. He suffers the pinpricks of thirst, the stings of serpents, and is roasted in the fires of desires and repulsions. In this world beings die and age is no bar for death. Death may kill a being at any age. Humans die as kids, young men, old men or even as infants and foetuses in the womb.
After departing from this world the person goes to the domain and abode of the Lord of Justice, Yamadharmaraja. The person leaves his body here. He knows that relationships and association with wife and children or friends or relatives are transient but makes much of them. All unhappiness, misery and pain are caused by the changing nature of the world. He who understands this and is wary and wise never suffers grief for long. The wise man abandons this world of change, which is a source of sorrow and pain, a seat of calamities of all kinds, a refuge of all sins. It is possible for a man in fetters and chains to be released but it is not possible for a man fettered with relationships and bonds of wife, son, or friend. Attachments of all kinds may be pleasant to this mind but they are so piercing to the heart as a dagger. Desires for wealth etc., kill people every day. The foods obtained in sense of gratification steal away all good sense and judgement. A fish does not see the danger of the flesh on the iron hook. So is the body which yearns for pleasure. It does not care to protect itself from the torments of Yama.
Sri Hari tells Garuda that the man who does not have discrimination - the sense of judgement as to what is good and what is bad - constantly yearns for the evil sense-gratification. This leads him to suffer the torments of hell. All creatures have desire for sleep, copulation and food. The man who controls these desires and urges is man. The one who does not have control of any kind degenerates into a beast. Those who are tormented by nature’s calls at day break, hunger and thirst when the sun is at the meridian and sexual passion and sleep in night are foolish. Those who can not keep their urges under strict control are doomed to hell. Those who have attachment to the body, to relationships and wealth etc., are born to die in ignorance. This is pitiful.
A wise man shuns attachments since he knows where they lead him. It is not easy or always possible to give up all. But friendship may be cultivated as an alternative and as a remedy for excessive attachment. What one should be attached to is good sense, discrimination and restraint. Without these man becomes blind and can not help taking bad paths and treading dangerous ground. There are some people who are attached to performing ceremonies and rites. They are ignorant and carried away by deceit. By merely being intent on these alone-by repeating mantras without understanding or righteousness is of no use. Fools are those who desire to get enlightened by fasting or emaciating themselves. They are bewildered by maya illusion created by God. Without proper understanding and following the teachings of scriptures, liberation or mukti are not possible by such outward and deceitful activities. Such people are hypocrites who let their hair go matted, sitting on antelope skins and wandering as jnaanis (knowing ones), only to deceive people. The one who says “I know Brahman” while inwardly being attached must be shunned. For the rites he performs are not inspired by knowledge or wisdom. Such people should be treated as outcastes.
One does not became unattached and an ascetic by merely going about naked besmeared with ash, staying in a forest or by bathing in holy waters or taking vows. Sri Hari asks Garuda if a donkey which goes about without shame becomes free from attachment. A dog which is smeared with dust and ashes does not become a liberated one, free from attachments. The beasts that feed on grass, leaves or water, like jackals, rats or deer can not become accomplished by merely eating or feeding on things like grass. Crocodiles and fish living in sacred waters of the Ganga do not become yogis.
Pigeons eat stones and Chataka birds don’t drink any water except the rain water only while it is raining. By merely following these can any one become a yogi? The point is that these practices do not make one a yogi or an ascetic. What makes man a Yogi is the knowledge of truth, total resignation and following non-attachment. Though one falls in the well of the shad darshanas, six systems of philosophy, he cannot become a yogi. By merely studying philosophy one remains a sophist. He may have mastered vedas and shastras but he does not know the real essence of these. He merely learns things by rote and repeats protions of these scriptures like a parrot. By mere scholarship and learning, one gets befuddled with the result that he turns away from truth. Sri Hari declares that people who decorate themselves with poetry, with novel and arresting turns of expression just remain fools with bewildered senses. Man may try with great strain to explain shastras but the highest purport of all shastras is something different. By reciting the scriptures or learning the vedas by rote one does not get wisdom or go any the nearer to God. Sri Hari gives Garuda the example of a ladle. The ladle is used to serve an item of very tasty food. It remains in the vessel long, but it cannot taste or enjoy what it helps to serve. The head wears the flowers but only the nostrils know the fragrance. Reading or reciting vedas does not make a person understand the ultimate reality. The ultimate and absolute truth is within his own self, within himself. A mere scholar is like a goatherd who looks around for his goat which he has right under his arm. This is the result of mere knowledge or ability to preach. A man who has no wisdom is just like a mirror for a blind man. What is important is understanding. Shastras show the way to reach and understand truth.
The scholar is never satisfied with his study and reading. He wishes to read everything, hear everything and know everything. But, it is impossible to exhaustively read, hear and study everything, even if he were to live for a thousand years in devamana, according to the reckoning of time of the deities. Life is short and shastras are many. What can be done is to know the essence; separating the worthy from the worthless like a swan which only can separate the milk from a mixture of water and milk. Sri Hari tells Garuda that a wise man having read the shastras and vedas should just abandon all chaff and retain the rich grain. For one who is satisfied with the ambrosia he has, what use can he have for any other food? Both the shastras and the vedas give accounts of truth and information. It is only wisdom coupled with knowledge that can lead to liberation or salvation. The stages of life, philosophies or actions- these do not give wisdom coupled with knowledge. Sticking to dharma, the path of righteousness alone leads one to mukti. One word from a guru, the preceptor may secure liberation. Mere learning for its own sake is for showman ship. There are so many herbs, but among them Sanjivani is the best. It makes the dead one come alive. Advaita, the non-dual is proclaimed to be the most auspicious. Attaining this knowledge and acquiring this condition does not depend on some body or any action. Only the Guru’s Kripa, compassion, and his word can give liberation for a sadhaka, an aspirant, committed to know the ultimate reality.
Sri Hari tells Garuda that there are two kinds of knowledge: study and discrimination. Sabdabrahman is a matter of study. parabrahman is a matter of discrimination. Judgement, understanding and wisdom go into discrimination. Some take to belief in Advaita; same favour Dwaita. (The first is saying there are no two-there is only one. The second believes that the individual self and the universal self are two and different. Advaita or Monism believes in the unity of the two as one). ‘Mine’—makes for bondage. ‘I’—’My’ ‘Mine’ are all indicative of ahankara (egosense). This leads to bondage. ‘Not-mine’ leads to selflessness and eventually to liberation. Acquiring knowledge is karma that does not bind. This kind of karma liberates. Other kinds of karma leads to bondage and can give only skills.
There can be no realization of Truth as long as ‘actions’ are performed, as long as there are impressions resulting from the world of changes and as long as fickleness is in the mind and the senses. In the same way, there can be no realization of Truth, as long as one takes pride in the body; as long as ‘myness’ ahankara persists; as long as there are unwise efforts etc., with an unstable mind, there can be no real love and reverence for the Guru.
The knower of Truth gets liberation by doing certain things. He cuts off all bonds with the sword of unattachment or vairagya. Vairagya also involves shedding all kinds of desires of the body. The seeker leaves home and goes about bathing in holy places and holy rivers and staying aloof in contemplation or meditation. He concentrates his mind on the parabrahman. He controls his breath while contemplating inwardly the beejaaksharas, the mystic syllables or sounds. Making use of the charioteer (his wisdom and discrimination) he concentrates on the absolute Truth withdrawing himself from all sense-objects with the skill he has already achieved. He keeps his mind on the utterance aham brahmasmi. Sri Hari tells Garuda that he who breathes his last with the single mystic syllable ‘OM’ or ‘Aum’ would be liberated to join the Supreme Being. Thus he achieves the highest goal. People who are pious and committed only outwardly are hypocritical. They cannot go anywhere near the achievement of the ultimate goal. They do not have either jnaana or Vairagya, knowledge or unattachment.
The jnaani is humble, free from pride and delusion and he gives up attachments of all kinds. He treats both pleasure and pain alike with equanimity for he is aware of the higher- self. He is on the path to liberation. The one who bathes in Manasarovar obtains liberation immediately since the waters in that divine lake wash away all impurities and make the individual completely cleansed and sanctified.
Sri Hari then tells Garuda that a person who worships Him with total devotion and complete surrender would attain mukti or salvation. The one who leaves his home and dwells in a holy place, usually a place of pilgrimage like the following cities is blessed by Him with liberation. The cities are Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kashi, Kanchi, Avantika, and Dharawati. Sri Maha Vishnu tells Garuda that listening to what he has described to him would liberate anyone. By hearing this read out or reading it independently one would acquire knowledge and dispassion and thereby attain moksha. Knowers of Truth attain liberation. People who are righteous go to heaven. Sinners would be condemned to hell and are tormented for a long time. Having said all this Sri Hari asks Garuda what more he wanted to know. Sutamuni concluded his narration describing how Garuda went on prostrating to his Lord again and again. Garuda was completely fulfilled and went into contemplation. May Sri Hari protect us all. May He give us the condition of everlasting devotion to the Supreme Being and the bliss therefrom.