By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Parasaragita, ParAZaragitA, Paraasharagitaa
The epics and the purāṇas contain several religious discourses that go by the name ‘Gītā,’ in imitation of the famous Bhagavadgitā. One such from the epic Mahābhārata, is the Parāśaragitā. It forms a part of the Śāntiparva. It has nine chapters, the total number of verses being 288. The sage Parāśara is the teacher while the king Janaka is the recipient of the teaching. This short work is definitely a useful addition to the Gītā-literature.
Content of Parāśaragitā
A brief summary of the it is following:
It has 26 verses. The teachings of this section can be delineated as follows:
- Dharma is the best means of obtaining śreyas or spiritual welfare.
- Karmas give their results, good or bad.
- Cultivation of virtues like dama, kṣamā, satya leads to happiness.
- People ruin themselves by going against their svadharma.
It has 23 verses. The moral of this section is as follows:
- Since a human birth and a long life are difficult to obtain, one should do only good actions and avoid bad actions.
- The law of karma is inexorable.
- Sins committed out of ignorance can be erased through proper expiations but not the ones committed intentionally.
It has 23 verses. The gist of this chapter is as follows:
- Money earned through dharma, the righteous means, is good.
- Serving guests is a pious act.
- Everyone is born under certain ṛṇas or debts like deva-ṛṇa and ṛṣi-ṛṇa, debts towards gods and sages, and should discharge oneself from them as described in the holy scriptures.
- Prayer to God and performance of good actions are of great help in life.
It has 21 chapters. The teachings of this chapter is as under:
- Eulogy of the benefits wrought by the company of holy men is stressed here.
- The importance of following the dharmas that accrue to one as per his varṇa and āśrama, is highlighted.
It has 31 verses. The gist of this section is as follows:
- It describes as to how the people of the four varṇas should live. They should abandon all the forbidden actions.
- When the āsuri or demoniac tendencies rose in the hearts of human beings making them inclined towards evil, Lord Śiva destroyed them.
- The decimation of the Tripuras by Lord Śiva is symbolic of this.
It has 39 verses. A person deeply attached to sense-pleasures gradually goes down whereas the one who performs his duties properly and also tapas or austerities, raises himself and attains perfection in course of time.
It has 39 verses. The moral of this section can be explained as under:
- While continuing the topic of the varṇas, Parāśara declares here that a person born in a higher varṇa, automatically goes down to the lower ones if he neglects his duties.
- On the other hand, persons of lower varṇas can raise themselves to higher levels through tapas.
It has 40 verses. This chapter deals with the following subjects:
- Importance of sweet speech
- Various kinds of death
- Some rules regarding wars and battles
- Realization of the ātman puts an end to transmigration
- Greatness of a person, who being born as a human being, attains ātmajṅāna or realisation
- Auspiciousness of dying in the uttarāyaṇa
- Need for serving the spiritually great ones
- Condemnation of suicide
- Eulogy of performing good deeds, giving gifts and bathing in sacred rivers
It has 46 verses. The gist of this section is about the importance of asaṅgatva. It describes a beautiful description of a man who has attained that state is the main topic of this concluding chapter.
- Śāntiparva chapters 290 to 298
- Dama means self control.
- Kṣamā means forgiveness.
- Satya means truth.
- Svadharma means the duties allotted to them.
- Dharma means duties here.
- Tripuras means the three cities of the demons and the demons themselves.
- Uttarāyaṇa means northern solstice.
- Asaṅgatva means non-attachment.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore