Agni Purana Part 12
Krishna had taught Arjuna the lessons of the Gita on the plains of Kurukshetra. The Agni Purana now relates the essence of the Gita.
If physical body is alive, that is no reason for rejoicing. Just as, if the physical body is dead, that is no reason for mourning. The atman does not die. It does not decay, it cannot be destroyed and it is immortal. The atman does not warrant any tears that might be shed over it. People who are addicted to sensual pleasures cannot realise this. The person who is addicted to the atman alone has no desire for anything else. He had no action to perform. He had neither gains nor losses. The knowledge of this is like a raft that rescues one from the flood of illusions.
This knowledge frees one from the shackles of all actions (karma), since all actions are vested in the Brahman. A person with this knowledge is as pure as a drop of water on a lotus flower. Such a person sees himself in everything and everything in himself. There are four types of people who worship Vishnu. The first category consists of people who are in trouble. The second consists of people who desire wealth. The third consists of people who are merely curious, while the last consists of people who hanker after true knowledge. It is the last category of people who realise the union and identity of the atman and the Brahman.
The Brahman is there in the smallest blade of grass. It is there in the most powerful and sacred of people. The physical senses mean nothing, they merely further the Brahman extends beyond all these senses. The Brahman has neither traits, nor is it without traits.
The Brahman creates and destroys, it is the most powerful of all energies. Some realise the identity of the atman and the Brahman through meditation, others through actions.
There was a king named Vajashrava. His son was Nachiketa. Vajashrava arranged for a wonderful sacrifice at which he gave away all his wealth.
Nachiketa asked, “Father, whom have you given me to?”
His father did not reply, but Nachiketa kept asking again and again. At this, Vajashrava became angry and said, “I have given you to Yama.”
Faithful to his father’s word, Nachiketa decided to go to Yama’s abode. The road was difficult, but Nachiketa got their and waited for three days to see Yama. No one return to the earth from Yama’s abode. But Yama was so pleased to have met Nachiketa that he granted him the boon that Nachiketa could return to the earth. Nachiketa however, had no desire to accept such a boon. Instead, he wanted to know from Yama the true nature of the atman. The instructions that Yama gave to Nachiketa have come to be known as the Yama Gita.
The Agni Purana now recapitulates the essence of the Yama Gita. Yama said that it was indeed strange that men craved after positions, possessions, houses and clothes. The sages have all taught that one should not get addicted to these sensual pleasures. And yet, man did not learn.
The Brahman is that which possesses nothing and everything. It cannot be seen and yet it is everywhere. The atman is like a warrior on a chariot, the physical body being the chariot, the intelligence the charioteer and the mind the bridle. The senses are the horses and the warrior’s job is to control the horses and target his arrow at the knowledge of the Brahman. Those who are truly learned know of the identity between the atman and the Brahman. Samadhi is nothing but the recognition of this union. When the physical body comes to an end, the atman is free and can merge with the Brahman.
The Agni Purana’s Virtues
The last chapter of the Agni Purana describes three virtues of the Purana.
The Agni Purana is most holy. It gives health and ends nightmares. It spreads happiness. Ill omens vanish from house where the Agni Purana is kept. A man who listens to the recital of the Agni Purana every day, had no need of pilgrimages, alms, sacrifices and fasts. Reading one chapter of the text yields the same punya as may be obtained from donating a cow. Even if one only wishes to hear a recital of the Agni Purana, the sins committed over the duration of a day are forgiven. Reading the whole of the text gives one the punya that can be obtained by donating hundred cows at a sacred place of pilgrimage. Enemies and thieves dare not frequent a house where there is a text of the Agni Purana. Ghosts give such a house a miss. A brahman who listens to a recital of the Purana becomes learned in the Vedas. A kshatriya becomes the ruler of the world, a vaishya becomes rich and a shudra attains good health. Nothing is so sacred as writing down the text of the Purana and donating it to brahmanas.