Garuda Purana, Chapter 16


Translated by Ernest Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam

| Ch.1 | | Ch.2 | | Ch.3 | | Ch.4 | | Ch.5 | | Ch.6 | | Ch.7 | | Ch.8 | | Ch.9 | | Ch.10 | | Ch.11 | | Ch.12 | | Ch.13 | | Ch.14 | | Ch.15 | | Ch.16 | | Index | | complete |

An Account of the Law for Liberation.

1-4. Garuḍa said: I have heard from you, O Ocean of compassion, about the transmigrating of the individual, through ignorance, in the worlds of change. I now wish to hear about the means for eternal liberation.

O Lord, O Ruler of the Shining Ones, compassionate to those who seek refuge,--in this terrible world of change, in the unsubstantial, in all deep miseries,

The endless multitudes of individuals, placed in various kinds of bodies, are born and die--of them no end is known.

Always miserable in this world, no one is ever known to be happy. O Lord of Liberation, tell me by what means they may obtain release, O Lord.

5-7. The Blessed Lord said: Listen, O Târkṣya, and I will explain to you what you have asked, even by the hearing of which a man is released from the world of change.

There is a Shining One, Śiva, who has the nature of Supreme Brâhmaṇ, who is partless, all-knowing, all-doing, Lord of all, stainless and secondless,

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Self-illumined, beginningless and endless, beyond the Beyond, without attributes, Being and Knowing and Bliss. That which is considered the individual is from a part of Him.

8-10 These, like sparks of a fire, with beginningless ignorance, separated and encased in bodies by beginningless karma,

Are fettered by forms of good and evil, giving happiness and misery,--with nationality of body, length of life, and fortune born of karma.

In every life obtained. They have also, O Bird, a higher and more subtle body, the liṅga, lasting until liberation.

11-13. The unmoving things, worms, goats, birds, animals, men, the righteous, the thirty-three deities, and also the liberated, according to their order,

Having worn and cast aside the four sorts of bodies thousands of times, one becomes a man by good deeds, and if he becomes a knower 1 he attains liberation.

The embodied, in the eighty-four hundred thousands of bodies before attaining human birth, can obtain no knowledge of the truth.

14-16. Through millions of myriads of thousands of births some time a being obtains human birth, through the accumulation of merit.

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He who, having obtained a human body, difficult to get, and a step to liberation, does not help himself over,--who in this world is more sinful than he?

The man who, having obtained this highest birth and superior senses, does not understand what benefits the soul is a slayer of Brâhmaṇ.

17-19. Without a body, nobody obtains the object of human life; therefore should he guard his body as wealth and perform meritorious deeds.

He should always guard his body, which is the means to everything. Living, he should make every effort to protect it, in view of welfare.

A village again, a field again, wealth again, a house again, good and evil actions again--the body never again. 1

20-21. The wise always adopt means for the preservation of the body; even those afflicted with diseases such as leprosy do not wish to give it up.

It should be guarded for the sake of duty; duty for the sake of knowledge; knowledge for the sake of Yoga-meditation,--then he is soon released.

22-23. If he does not guard himself against harm who else will? Therefore should he look after his own benefit.

He who does not take precautions against the diseases of hell while here; afflicted with disease and having gone to a country where there is no medicine, what will he do?

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24-25. Old age comes on like a tigress; life goes like water from a broken pot; diseases attack like foes. Therefore should he strive for the best.

So long as misery does not come, so long as calamity does not befall, so long as the senses are not decayed, so long should he strive for the best.

26-32. So long as the body lasts, so long should truth be pursued,--the stupid man digs his well when the corner of his house is already afire.

The time of death is not known by those who are variously embodied in the world of change. Alas! a man, between happiness and misery, does not know his own benefit.

Though seeing those just born, the afflicted, the dead, those whom calamity has befallen, and the miserable, people are never afraid, having drunk the liquor of delusion.

Riches are like unto a dream; youth is like a flower, life is fickle as lightning,--where is there a discerning one who is at ease?

Even a hundred years of life is very little, and half of it is sleep and idleness, and even that little is unfruitful owing to the miseries of childhood, disease and old age.

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He does not do what ought to be done; when he should be awake he sleeps; where he should fear he confides. Alas! what man is not stricken.

How shall the individual who has taken a body, which is like foam on water and is attached to passing objects, be free from fear?

33-35. He who does not know what is good for him thinks the harmful beneficial, the impermanent permanent, and the evil good;

Though seeing, he falters; though hearing, he does not understand; though reading, he does not know; bewildered by the divine magic.

This universe is immersed in the boundless ocean of death,--though grasped by the crocodiles of death, disease and old age, he does not understand.

36-38. Time, though wearing away with every moment, is unnoticed, just as an unbaked pot placed in water disappears imperceptibly.

Air may be enclosed, ether may be split; waves may be bound,--life cannot be made permanent.

Earth is burnt away by time; even Meru is reduced to powder; the water of the ocean is dried away--what shall be said of the body?

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39-41. The wolf of death forcibly slays the lamb of a mortal, who prates of "my offspring; my wife; my wealth; my relatives."

"This has been done; this is to be done; this other is done or not done." Him who is thus prating death overpowers.

"It must be done to-morrow; it must be done to-day; in the morning or in the afternoon,"--death does not consider whether it leas been done or not done.

42. Thou shalt encounter the enemy, death, whose, coming is shown by age, who has an army of dreadful diseases--wilt thou not see the saviour?

43-44. Death preys upon the man afflicted with the needles of thirst, bitten by the serpent of sense-objects, and baked in the fire of desire and repulsion.

Death attacks children, young men, the old, those in the embryo condition,--such is this world of creatures.

45-48. This individual, leaving his own body, goes to the abode of Yama. What is the good of association with wife, mother, father, son and others?

The world of change is verily the root of misery. He who is in it is afflicted with misery. He who abandons it becomes happy,--otherwise never.

This world of change, which is the source of all misery, the seat of all calamities, and the refuge of all sins, should be abandoned at once.

A man bound in fetters of iron or wood may be released, but from the fetters of son and wife can never be freed.

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49-51. So long as the being makes attachments pleasant to the mind, so long shall the dagger of sorrow pierce his heart.

People are destroyed every day by the desire for great wealth. Alas! Fie upon the foods of the senses, which steal away the senses of the body.

Just as the fish, covetous of flesh, does not see the iron hook, so the embodied, covetous of pleasure, does not see the torments of Yama.

52-55. Those men who do not understand what is good and what is not good for them, who constantly pursue evil courses, and are intent on the filling of the belly, are destined for hell, O Bird.

Sleep, sexual pleasure, and eating are common to all creatures. Who possesses knowledge is called a man, who is devoid of it is called a beast.

Foolish men are tormented at break of day by nature's calls; when the sun is in the meridian by hunger and thirst; in the night by passion and sleep.

All those beings who are attached to their bodies, wealth, wife and other things, are born and die deluded by ignorance, alas!

56-57. Therefore should attachment be shunned always, It is not possible to give up everything. therefore should friendship with the great be cultivated, as a remedy for attachment.

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Attachment to the good, discrimination, and purity of the eyes--the man who has not these is blind. How shall he not tread evil ways?

58. All those deluded men who turn away from the duties of their respective castes and orders, and do not understand the highest righteousness, perish fruitlessly.

59-60. Some are intent upon ceremonies, attached to the practice of vows; with self enveloped in ignorance the imposters go about.

The men who are attached to the ceremonial alone are satisfied with mere names, deluded by the repetitions of mantras, oblations and other things, and by elaborate rituals.

61-62. The fools, bewildered by My magic, desire to obtain the invisible by single meals, fasts and other restraints, and by the emaciation of the body.

Of those who have no discrimination, what liberation can there be by bodily tortures alone? What great serpent is killed by beating the anthill alone? 1

63. The hypocrites, putting on appearances, and wearing quantities of matted hair, and using antelope skins, wander about like knowers, and even delude people.

64. He who is attached to the pleasures of the worlds of change, saying "I am a knower of Brâhmaṇ," and is devoid of both rites and Brâhmaṇ should be shunned like a low outcaste.

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65-69. Donkeys walk about among people, in forests and among houses, quite naked and unashamed. Are these free from attachment?

If men are to be liberated by earth, ashes and dust, does the dog which always live among earth and ashes become liberated?

The jackals, rats, deer and others, which feed upon grass, leaves and water, and always live in forests,--do these become ascetics?

The crocodiles, fishes and others, which from birth to death, dwell in the waters of Ganges,--do these become Yogins?

Pigeons at times eat stones, and Châtaka birds do not drink water from the earth,--are these observers of vows?

70. Therefore this class of practices is a thing which makes pleasure for people, O Lord of Birds,--direct knowledge of the Truth is the cause of liberation.

71-73. Fallen into the great well of the six philosophies, 1 O Bird, the brutes do not understand the chief good; bound in the snare of animalism.

They are tossed hither and thither in the dreadful ocean of Vedas and Śâstras; caught in the six waves they remain sophists.

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He who knows the Vedas, the Śâstras and the Purâṇas, but does not know the chief good,--of that imitator all this is as the speech of a crow.

71-76. "This is known; this must be known,"--thus bewildered by anxiety they read the scriptures day and night, turning away from the highest truth.

The fools, decorated with garlands of poetry constructed of forms of speech, miserable with anxiety, remain with senses bewildered.

76-77. Men trouble themselves variously, but the highest truth is otherwise; they explain in different ways but the best purport of the Śâstras is otherwise.

They talk of the highest experiences, not realising them themselves. Some have ceased preaching, being engrossed in egotism.

78-82. They repeat the Vedas and the Śâstras, and argue with one another, but they do not understand the highest truth,--like the spoon the flavour of the food.

The head bears flowers, the nostril knows the smell. They read the Vedas and the Śâstras, but find impossible the understanding of the truth.

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The fool, not knowing that the truth is seated in himself, is bewildered by the Śâstras,--a foolish goatherd, with the young goat under his arm, peers into the well.

Verbal knowledge cannot destroy the illusions of the world of change,--darkness never disappears by talking of a lamp.

Reading, to a man devoid of wisdom, is like a mirror to the blind; hence, for those who have understanding, Śâstras are only a potter to the knowledge of the truth.

83-84. "'This is known; this must be known,"--he wishes to hear everything. If one lives for a thousand celestial years he cannot reach the end of the Śâstras.

The Śâstras are numerous; life is brief; and there are tens of millions of obstacles; therefore the essence should be understood,--like the swan taking the milk in the water.

85-86. Haring practised the Vedas and the Śâstras, and having known the Truth, the wise man should abandon all the scriptures; just as one rich in grains abandons the straw.

Just as there is no use for food to one who is satisfied with nectar, so is there not use for the scriptures, O Târkṣya, to the knower of the Truth.

87-88. There is no liberation by the study of the Vedas, nor by the reading of the Śâstras. Emancipation is by knowledge alone, not otherwise, O son of Vinatâ.

The stages of life are not the cause of liberation, nor are the philosophies, nor are actions,---knowledge only is the cause.

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89-90. The word from the Teacher gives liberation; all learning is masquerade. Among thousands of woods the Sañjîvana 1 is best.

The non-dual, verily declared auspicious, is beyond efforts of action, and to be obtained by the word of the Teacher, not by the study of tens of millions of texts.

91. Knowledge is said to be of two kinds: study and discrimination. The study is of Śabda Brâhmaṇ; Para Brahmaṇ is reached by discrimination.

92. Some prefer the Non-dual 2; other prefer the Dual 3 but they do not understand the One Reality, beyond the Dual and Non-dual.

93-94. Two phrases make for bondage and liberation: "Mine" and "Not-mine." The being saying "Mine" is bound; saying "Not-mine" is released.

That is the karma that does not bind, that the knowledge that gives release; other karma is worrying, other knowledge is skilful chiselling.

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95-97. So long as actions are performed; so long as the impressions of the world of change remain, so long as the senses are fickle; so long how can there be realisation of Truth?

So long as there is pride of body; so long as there is the sense of "mineness," so long as there is excited striving; so long as there is imagination of plans;

So long as there is not stability of mind; so long as there is no meditation upon the Śâstras, so long as there is no love for the Teacher; so long how can there be realisation of Truth?

98-99. So long as one does not reach Truth, so long should he do austerities, vows, pilgrimage to sacred waters, recitations, oblations, worship and reading of the prescribed texts of the Vedas and Śâstras.

Therefore, if one desires liberation for himself, O Târkṣya, he should every effort, always, and under all circumstances he attached to Truth.

100. One who is tormented by the three miseries and the rest, should resort to the shade of the tree of Liberation, whose flowers are righteousness and knowledge, and fruits are heaven and liberation.

101. Therefore from the mouth of the Blessed Teacher the Truth of the self should be known. By knowledge the being is easily released from the awful bondage of the worlds of change.

102. Listen! I will tell you now about the final actions of the knower of the Truth, by which he obtains liberation, which is called the Nirvâṇa of Brâhmaṇ.

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103-107. His last days approaching, the man, rid of fear, should cut off, with the sword of unattachment, the desires connected with the body.

Courageously wandering from home, performing ablutions in the water of the holy bathing places, sitting alone on a pure seat prepared as prescribed,

He should practise mentally upon the supreme three-fold pure Word of Brahmâ. He should, with breath controlled, restrain his mind, not forgetting the Brahma Bîja. 1

With reason for charioteer he should withdraw the senses from the sense-objects by the mind, and should fix his mind, drawn away by karmas, with understanding, upon the pure.

"1 am Brâhmaṇ, the Supreme Abode; I am Brâhmaṇ, the Highest Goal,"--having realised this and placed the self in the self he should meditate.

108. He who, when leaving the body, utters the one-syllabled Brâhmaṇ, "Oṁ," remembering me, goes to the Highest Goal.

109-110. The hypocrites, devoid of knowledge and unattachment, do not go there. I will tell you about the wise, who go to that goal.

Free from pride and delusion, with the evils of attachment conquered, always dwelling in the Higher Self, with desires overcome, released from the contracts known as pleasure and pain, they go, undeluded, on that eternal path.

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111-114. He who bathes in the water of the Mânasa, 1 which removes the impurities of attraction and repulsion, in the lake of knowledge, in the waters of Truth,--he verily attains liberation.

He who, firm in non-attachment, worships me, thinking of no other, full-visioned, with tranquil self,--he verily attains liberation.

He who, expecting to die, leaning his home, dwells at a sacred bathing-place, or dies in a place of liberation, he verily attains liberation.

Ayodhyâ, 2 Mathurâ, 3 Gayâ, 4 Kaśî, 5 Kañchi, 6 Avantikâ, 7 Dwârâvatî, 8--these seven cities should be known as the givers of liberation.

115. This eternal way of liberal in al has been described to you, O Târkṣya,--hearing it with knowledge and dispassion one attains liberation.

116. Knowers of Truth attain liberation; righteous men go to heaven; sinners go to an evil condition; birds and others transmigrate.

117. Thus in sixteen chapters I have related to you the extracted essence of all the scriptures. What else do you wish to hear?

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118-120. Sûta said: Having thus heard, O King, these words from the mouth of the Lord, Garuḍa, repeatedly prostrating himself, said this, with hands folded together:--

"O Lord, O God of Gods, having heard these words of nectar I have been helped over the ocean of existence, O Lord, O. Protector!

"I stand freed from doubts. My desires have been completely fulfilled." Having said this, Garuḍa became silent and lost in meditation.

121. May Hari, the remembrance of whom removes evil, who gives the condition of happiness for the sacrifice of worship, and who gives liberation for supreme devotion to Him,--protect us.

Suggestions for Further Reading


155:1 That is, One who knows the Self.

156:1 Meaning that one may re-obtain these things after losing them--but not the body.

161:1 There is supposed to be a serpent living in the ground beneath the ant-hill.

162:1 Nyâya, Vaiśeṣika, Sâṅkhya, Yoga, Mîmânsâ, Vedânta.

165:1 The plant brought by Hanumat to restore Lakṣman when killed by Indrajit.

165:2 Adwaita philosophy. Eternal inseparateness and non-duality.

165:3 Dwaita. Separateness of the individual and universal self.

167:1 Bîja is a seed; a mantra governing a work such as an Upaniṣad Oṁ.

168:1 A holy lake in the Himâlayas, also a mystical place.

168:2 Perhaps Oudh.

168:3 Muttra.

168:4 Gayâ.

168:5 Benares.

168:6 Conjeeveram.

168:7 Ujjain.

168:8 Dwârakâ.

Source: Originally Scanned at, June 2006. Proofed and formatted by John Bruno Hare. The text has been reformatted and rearranged for this online edition at by Jayaram V. This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published prior to January 1st, 1923. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact in all copies.

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