|Dr. Bibek Debroy|
In this sub-section, there is a conversation between Krishna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa and his son, Shuka, where Shuka asks his father and preceptor about moksha. This is what Vedavyasa says. “A being is bound down through deeds and is freed through knowledge..…However, a person who obtains knowledge reaches the spot where there is no reason to grieve. Once one goes there, one does not die. Once one goes there, one is not born. Once one goes there, one does not decay. Once one goes there, one does not increase.” In Sanskrit, the last two sentences are as follows. यत्र गत्वा न म्रियते यत्र गत्वा न जायते। न जीर्यते यत्र गत्वा यत्र गत्वा न वर्धते। This is the sense in which moksha is usually understood, a state where an individual is freed from the cycle and bondage of death and rebirth and karma. Indeed, this is precisely what happens to Shuka. He is liberated and emancipated in that sense.
But if one reads the Mahabharata, is that the sense in which the word moksha is used? The Mahabharata was not only about exceptional people like Shuka. It was also about people concerned with this world, people who had to deal with dharma, artha and kama, not only about moksha, interpreted as liberation from the cycle of life. The Bhagavad Gita has 18 chapters and the titles of each of these chapters is qualified by the use of the word योग (yoga). Only one of these titles uses the word moksha and this is the 18th chapter, titledमोक्षसंन्यासयोग (moksha-sannyasa-yoga). If one reads through this entire chapter, there is not a single instance of the word moksha being used in the Shuka sense. Instead, the entire argument is about detachment, even when one is engaged in dharma, artha and kama. Without deviating from the subject and going off on a tangent on a discussion of moksha, there is a simple point being made. Who has said that Hinduism is about the other-worldly pursuit of moksha in a Shuka sense? That’s a selective and subjective reading of some texts. It isn’t a proposition that should be advanced as a sweeping generalization.
Since this has little to do with the main topic of discussion, this listing is reproduced from the 1883 Richard Burton translation, though there is some minor variance with the prevalent Sanskrit text.“(1) Singing; (2) Playing on musical instruments; (3) Dancing; (4) Union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental music; (5) Writing and drawing; (6) Tattooing; (7) Arraying and adorning an idol with rice and flowers; (8) Spreading and arranging beds or couches of flowers, or flowers upon the ground; (9) Colouring the teeth, garments, hair, nails and bodies, i.e. staining, dyeing, colouring and painting the same; (10) Fixing stained glass into a floor; (11) The art of making beds, and spreading out carpets and cushions for reclining; (12) Playing on musical glasses filled with water; (13) Storing and accumulating water in aqueducts, cisterns and reservoirs; (14) Picture making, trimming and decorating; (15) Stringing of rosaries, necklaces, garlands and wreaths; (16) Binding of turbans and chaplets, and making crests and top-knots of flowers; (17) Scenic representations, stage playing Art of making ear ornaments Art of preparing perfumes and odours; (18) Proper disposition of jewels and decorations, and adornment in dress; (19) Magic or sorcery; (20) Quickness of hand or manual skill; (21) Culinary art, i.e. cooking and cookery; (22) Making lemonades, sherbets, acidulated drinks, and spirituous extracts with proper flavour and colour; (23) Tailor's work and sewing; (24) Making parrots, flowers, tufts, tassels, bunches, bosses, knobs, etc., out of yarn or thread; (25) Solution of riddles, enigmas, covert speeches, verbal puzzles and enigmatical questions; (26) A game, which consisted in repeating verses, and as one person finished, another person had to commence at once, repeating another verse, beginning with the same letter with which the last speaker's verse ended, whoever failed to repeat was considered to have lost, and to be subject to pay a forfeit or stake of some kind; (27) The art of mimicry or imitation; (28) Reading, including chanting and intoning; (29) Study of sentences difficult to pronounce. It is played as a game chiefly by women and children and consists of a difficult sentence being given, and when repeated quickly, the words are often transposed or badly pronounced; (30) Practice with sword, single stick, quarter staff and bow and arrow; (31) Drawing inferences, reasoning or inferring; (32) Carpentry, or the work of a carpenter; (33) Architecture, or the art of building; (34) Knowledge about gold and silver coins, and jewels and gems; (35) Chemistry and mineralogy; (36) Colouring jewels, gems and beads; (37) Knowledge of mines and quarries; (38) Gardening; knowledge of treating the diseases of trees and plants, of nourishing them, and determining their ages; (39) Art of cock fighting,
quail fighting and ram fighting; (40) Art of teaching parrots and starlings to speak; (41) Art of applying perfumed ointments to the body, and of dressing the hair with unguents and perfumes and braiding it; (42) The art of understanding writing in cypher, and the writing of words in a peculiar way; (43) The art of speaking by changing the forms of words. It is of various kinds. Some speak by changing the beginning and end of words, others by adding unnecessary letters between every syllable of a word, and so on; (44) Knowledge of language and of the vernacular dialects; (45) Art of making flower carriages; (46) Art of framing mystical diagrams, of addressing spells and charms, and binding armlets; (47) Mental exercises, such as completing stanzas or verses on receiving a part of them; or supplying one, two or three lines when the remaining lines are given indiscriminately from different verses, so as to make the whole an entire verse with regard to its meaning; or arranging the words of a verse written irregularly by separating the vowels from the consonants, or leaving them out altogether; or putting into verse or prose sentences represented by signs or symbols. There are many other such exercises; (48) Composing poems; (49) Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies; (50) Knowledge of ways of changing and disguising the appearance of persons; (51) Knowledge of the art of changing the appearance of things, such as making cotton to appear as silk, coarse and common things to appear as fine and good; (52) Various ways of gambling; (53) Art of obtaining possession of the property of others by means of mantras or incantations; (54) Skill in youthful sports: (55) Knowledge of the rules of society, and of how to pay respect and compliments to others; (56) Knowledge of the art of war, of arms, of armies, etc; (57) Knowledge of gymnastics; (58) Art of knowing the character of a man from his features; (59) Knowledge of scanning or constructing verses; (60) Arithmetical recreations; (61) Making artificial flowers: (62) Making figures and images in clay.”