Death and Decrepitude

The following part is translated from Shanti Parva Chapter of Mahabharata of U. Mahesh Prabhu

If death assails the world; the neglect encompasses it. All those irresistible things which come and go away are like nights – continually lessening the period of human life. When death approaches there’s none, like a fish in shallow water, who can feel joy. Death consumes a man, always, before his desires are fulfilled. Death snatches away a person when he is engaged in work of his heart’s delight, like a tigress bearing away a ram.

Death drags its victims before their objectives are accomplished. Therefore, the acts of tomorrow should be done today, those of the afternoon in the forenoon. Death does not wait to see whether the acts of its victims have been accomplished or not. Therefore, in prime of age practice virtue for life is verily transitory.

Overwhelmed by ignorance, one is ready to exert oneself for sons and wives. Achieving virtuous or vicious acts, one brings them up and aggrandize them. Like a tiger bearing away a sleeping deer death snatches away the man addicted to gratification of desires and engaged in the enjoyment of sons and animals. Before he has been able to pluck the flowers upon which he has set his heart, before he has been gratified by the acquisition of the object of his desire, Death bears him away like a tiger bearing away its prey.

Death overpowers a man while the latter is still in the midst of the happiness that accrues from the gratification of desire, and while still thinking, ‘This has been done; this is to be done; this has been half-done.’ Death bears away the man, however designated according to his profession, attached to his field, his shop, or his home, before he has obtained the fruit of his acts. Death bears away the weak, the strong, the brave, the timid, the idiotic, and the learned, before any of these obtain fruits of their acts.

When death, decrepitude, disease and sorrow arising from diverse causes, are all residing in your body, how is it that you live as if you are perfectly hale? As soon as a creature is born, Ailments and Death pursue its destruction. All existent things, mobile and immobile, are affected by these two. The attachment which one feels for dwelling in villages and towns is said to be the very mouth of Death. The forest, on the other hand, is regarded as the fold within which the senses may be penned.

The attachment a person feels for dwelling in a village or town (in the midst of men) is like a cord that binds him effectually. They who are good break that cord and attain to liberation, while they who are wicked do not succeed in breaking them.

Both Immortality and Death are planted in the body. One comes to Death through ignorance and loss of judgement; while Immortality is achieved through Truth. Therefore, abstain from injury and seek to achieve Truth. Transgressing the way of desire and wrath, regard pleasure and pain with an equal eye, and attaining tranquility, avoid Death like an immortal.

There is no eye which is equal to the eye of knowledge. There is no penance like that involved in Truth. There is no arrow equal to that involved in attachment. There is no happiness like that which is obtainable from renunciation.

I have sprung from Brahma through Brahma. I shall devote myself to Brahma, though I am childless. I shall return to Brahma. I do not require a son for rescuing me. A wise man can have no wealth like the state of being alone, the state of consequence of which he is capable of regarding everything with an equal eye, the practice of truthfulness, good behavior, patience, abstention from injury, simplicity and avoidance of all rites and visible sacrifices.

When you know that Death waits for none and approaches steadily towards every creature, pass your good time gaining knowledge.

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