Ethics of Tulādhāra
The story of Tulādhāra and Jājali occurs in the twelfth book, Śānti Parva of the Mahābhārata. Tulādhāra is a Vaishya and Jājali is a Brahmin. Jājali is such a great ṛṣi (seer) that owing to his austerities, a pair of pigeons had nested a family in the locks of this hair. Thus, he became proud of his accomplishments. An ākāśavāṇi roars in the sky that he is uncomparable to Tulādhāra (“holder of the scales”) of Vāraṇāsi. He then travels to Vāraṇāsi to seek lessons in dharma from Tulādhāra. This episode is significant due to the fact that a lower-caste Vaishya instructs an upper-caste Brahmin in the matter of dharma.
What follows is a selection of verses from Tulādhāra’s discourse, numbered as per the Gita Press edition, prefering southern recension.
Gita Press: chapters 261–264
BORI’s critical edition: chapters 253–256
KM Ganguly’s English translation: chapters 261–264
P.P.S. Sastri’s southern recension: chapters 246–249
Kumbakonam mega-southern recension: chapters 267–270
sarvēṣāṃ yaḥ suhṛn-nityaṃ sarvēṣāṃ ca hitē rataḥ
karmaṇā manasā vācā sa dharmaṃ vēda jājalē /12.262.9/
One who is kind-hearted to all beings and enagages his actions, mind and words in the welfare of others – he knows Dharma, O Jājali.
sarvēṣāṃ is notable. It signifies not only human beings, but
everything – animals, plants, living and non-living beings.
nānurudhyē virudhyē vā na dvēṣmi na ca kāmayē
samōʼsmi sarva-bhūtēṣu paśya me jājalē vratam
tulā mē sarva-bhūtēṣu samā tiṣṭhati jājalē /12.262.10/
I neither appease nor oppose, neither hate nor wish from others. Envisioning all living entities equally is my vow, O Jājali. My measuring scale tilts equally for everyone.
samōʼsmi – “I am equal” – irrespective of humans, animals, plants,
gender, race, caste or any other differentiating factor.
nāhaṃ parēṣāṃ karmāṇi praṣamsāmi śapāmi vā
ākāṣasyēva lōkasya jājalē paśya citratām /12.262.11/
I consign neither praise nor curse on the actions of others. O Jājali, I observe the manifold happenings in the world and yet stay unattached like the sky.
yathāvad vartamānānāṃ vṛddhānāṃ putra-pautriṇām
anuvartāmahē vṛttam-ahiṃstrāṇāṃ mahātmanām /12.262.19/
Just as an old-aged person, endowed with children and grand-children behaves in accordance with scriptures and ahimsa, I too follow the path of such great souls.
This is a reminder of our responsibility towards our children and future generations.
na bhūtānām-ahiṃsāyā jyāyān dharmōʼsti kaścana
yasmān-nōdvijatē bhūtaṃ jātu kiñcit kathañcana
soʼbhayaṃ sarva-bhūtēbhyaḥ samprāpnōti mahamunē /12.262.30/
There is no dharma greater than ahimsa towards other beings. O great sage, one who does not frighten other beings even a small bit ever, shall obtain in return the same fearlessness from all of them.
“Thou shalt not cause fear” – this is a statement of anti-terrorism. “If you don’t cause fear in others, then you don’t need to be afraid of them”.
mānuṣā mānuṣānēva dāsa-bhōgēna bhuñjatē
vadha-bandha-nirodhēna kārayanti divāniśam
atmanaś-cāpi jānāti yad duḥkhaṃ vadha-bandhanē /12.262.39/
Men enjoy other men as slaves. They are made to toil day and night by beating, by binding and by restraining. These lords certainly know of the pain that results from beating and binding in chains (and yet commit the sin).
This is a noble rejection of the practice of slavery.
aghnyā iti gavāṃ nāma ka ētān hantum-arhati
mahac-cakārākuśalaṃ vṛthā yō gāṃ nihanti ha /12.262.47/
Bovines are called unslayable in the Śrutis, so who can consider to kill them? One who kills a cow or a bull perpetrates a great sin.
This chapter deals with the nature of yajña. It condemns animal sacrifice and recommends offerings of dairy and plant-based foods.
iṣṭāpūrtād-asādhūnāṃ viduṣāṃ jāyatē prajā
lubdhebhyō jāyatē lubdhaḥ samēbhyō jāyatē samaḥ /12.263.10/
Know that those wise men who perform yajña desirous of its merit (sakāma-karma) will beget unwise offspring. Greedy ones give birth to greedy children. Those who are equal-minded (contended) will beget contended children.
yajñāt-prajā prabhavati nabhasoʼmbha ivāmalam
ādityāj-jāyatē vṛṣṭir-vṛṣṭērannaṃ tataḥ prajāḥ /12.263.11/
Just like pure rain flows from a clear sky, worthy populace are gotten from a niṣkāma yajña. Oblations cast into the yajña’s fire will rise up to the Sun (Brahman), Sun produces rain (via cloud formation from evaporation), rain produces food, fulfilling food produces satisfied populace.
kartavyam-iti kartavyaṃ vētti vai brāhmaṇō bhayam
brahmaiva vartatē lōkē naiva kartavyatāṃ punaḥ /12.263.16/
One who performs his duty for the sake of duty alone, dreads about it when not performed, and for whom this world depends on Brahman, and yet thinks that he is not the doer – he is the real Brāhmaṇa.
The above verses summarize Karma Yoga:
- Do your duty, not because you like it or dislike it or because of money/greed. Getting the job done is, well, your job. kartavyatām-iti kartavyaṃ.
- You should do your duty without attachment. Fruitless and selfless action. Focus on the job, not the outcome.
- You are not the doer because you are dependent on Brahman.
- You are not responsible for the results because you’re not the doer.
- Be mindful of not excelling in your actions.
- Success and failure are seen with an equal vision.
satya-yajñā dama-yajñā alubdhāś-ca ātma-vṛttayaḥ
utpanna-tyāginaḥ sarvē janā āsanna-matsarāḥ /12.263.18/
They were performing the yajña of Truth and Self-Control. They were non-covetous in their own actions. They gave up their earned wealth (in pursuit of mokṣa) and were non-envious towards all the beings.
How to perform niṣkāma-karma ? This verse gives us two do’s and two don’ts:
- Be truthful.
- Be temperate.
- Don’t be greedy.
- Don’t be jealous.
akhilaṃ daivataṃ sarvaṃ brahma brahmaṇi saṃśritam
tṛptyanti tṛpyatō devāḥ tṛptātṛptasya jājalē /12.263.20/
Brahman is all manifestation, He is the form of all dēvatas (gods). He resides inside the Brahman-knowing brahmin. Hence, when He is satisfied, all the gods are satisfied, O Jājali.
Brahman pervades everything. This verse reminisces of the time when Lord Krishna satiated the hunger of Dūrvāsa ṛṣi when he visited the Pandavas in exile.
naiva tē svargam-icchanti na yajanti yashō-dhanāḥ
satāṃ vartmānuvartantē yathābalam-ahiṃsayā /12.263.25/
vanaspatīnōṣadhīś-ca phala-mūlāni tē viduḥ
na caitān-ṛtvijō lubdhā yājayanti phalārthinaḥ /12.263.26/
Such sattvic brahmins don’t desire celestial abode (svarga). They don’t officiate yajña for fame or wealth. They tread the path of the virtuous and perform yajña with the strength of ahimsa (non-injury to any creatures). They consider only plants, herbs, flowers and roots as suitable offerings in yajña. Greedy ṛtvijs (priests) desirous of results do not officiate such yajñas.
This verse clearly condemns animal sacrifice. Use of rice balls (piṇḍa), coconuts, and other plant-based offerings is instead recommended.
svamēva cārthaṃ kurvāṇā yajñaṃ cakruḥ punar-dvijāḥ
pariniṣṭhita-karmaṇaḥ prajānugraha-kāmyayā /12.263.27/
Regenerate brahmins consider themselves as apparatus of yajña and perform mānasika-yajña (yajña of the Mind, mental sacrifice, elsewhere called sva-yajña, i.e. self-sacrifice). Although their actions are perfected, they still do the yajña only wishing the welfare of the people.
akṣīṇaṃ kṣīṇakarmāṇaṃ taṃ dēvā brāhmaṇaṃ viduḥ /12.263.34/
One who has no worldly desires in his mind, who doesn’t begin his actions desiring its fruit, who is indifferent to bowing down and praise, whose dharma has not weakened, whose shackles of karma are lost – such a man is defined as Brāhmaṇa by the gods.
This verse describes the qualities of a brāhmaṇa. The most important being niṣkāma-karma.
na śrāvayan na ca yajan na dadad brāhmaṇēṣu ca
kāmyaṃ vṛttiṃ lipsamānaḥ kāṃ gatiṃ yāti jājalē
idaṃ tu daivataṃ kṛtvā yathā yajñam-avāpnuyāt /12.263.35/
What, O Jajali, will be the end of him who does not recite the Vedas to others, who does not perform yajña (properly), who does not make gifts to (deserving) Brahmanas, and who follows a calling in which every kind of desire is indulged? By duly respecting, however, the duties which belong to Renunciation, one is sure of attaining moksha.
This verse is a summary conclusion of Tulādhāra’s instruction. Everyone asks “How to attain moksha?”. Here is a simple answer: One who regards fruitless action as worshippable as divinity itself, will attain the object of yajña, i.e., liberation.
ājyēna payasā dadhnā satkṛtyāmikṣayā tvacā
bālaiḥ śṛṅgēṇa pādēna sambharatyēva gaurmakham /12.263.40/
The faitfhful complete their yajña with just one thing, i.e. the cow, by means of full offerings of ghee, milk, curds, the hair at end of her tail, her horns, and her hoofs.
purōḍāśō hi sarvēṣāṃ paśūnāṃ madhyē ucyate
sarvā nadyaḥ sarasvatyaḥ sarvē puṇyāḥ śilōccayāḥ
jājalē tīrtham-ātmēva mā sma dēśātithirbhava /12.263.42/
All the yajña-worthy animals’ milk, etc. are themselves said to be the purōḍāśa (i.e. leftovers of a yajña’s offerings). All the rivers themselves are the Sarasvatī river and all the mountains themselves are merit-worthy places (puṇya-pradēṣa). O Jājali, this soul itself is a holy place (tīrtha). Don’t wander all over the country in search of it.
This verse clearly states that you can find God from wherever you are. No need to roam around pilgrimages.
ahiṃsādi kṛtaṃ karma iha caiva paratra ca
śraddhāṃ nihanti vai brahman sā hatā hanti taṃ naram /12.264.6/
All acts that are done without injury to anyone become useful both here (i.e. in this life) and hereafter (i.e. after rebirth). O brahmin! Those acts, however, that injure others, destroy Faith, and Faith being destroyed, ruins the destroyer.
samānaṃ śraddadhānānāṃ saṃyatānāṃ sucētasām
kurvatāṃ yajña ity-ēva na yajñō jātu nēṣyatē /12.264.7/
The yajñas of those who regard equally both acquisition and non-acquisition, who are endued with faith, who are self-controlled, who have tranquil minds, and that perform yajña from a sense of duty (and not from desire of fruit), become productive of fruit.
aśraddhā paramaṃ pāpaṃ śraddhā pāpa-pramōcanī
jahāti pāpaṃ śraddhāvān sarpō jīrṇāmiva tvacam /12.264.15/
Faithlessness (in Brahman and yajña) is a great sin. Faith is a purifier of sins. Like a snake shedding its skin, the man of Faith succeeds in shaking off all his sins.
śraddhāṃ kuru mahā-prājña tataḥ prāpsyasi yat param
śraddhāvāñ śraddadhānaś-ca dharmaś-caiva hi vāṇija
sarvātmani sthitaś-caiva garīyān-ēva jājalē /12.264.19/
O you of great wisdom, take to Faith, for you shall then obtain that which is superior. He who has Faith (in the Vedas), and who acts according to their message (in the faith that they are good for him), is certainly of righteous soul. O Jajali, he who adheres to his own dharma (under the influence of Faith) is certainly a superior person.