Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 2 - Chapter 14
Having heard these remarks, full of profound truth, the king was highly pleased with the Brahman, and respectfully thus addressed him:
"What you have said is no doubt the truth; but in listening to it my mind is much disturbed.
You have shown that to be discriminative wisdom which exists in all creatures, and which is the great principle that is distinct from plastic nature;
but the assertions: 'I do not bear the palanquin---the palanquin does not rest upon me--the body, by which the vehicle is conveyed, is different from me--the conditions of elementary beings are influenced by acts, through the influence of the qualities, and the qualities are the principles of action;'--what sort of positions are these?
After hearing these doctrines, my mind, which is anxious to investigate the truth, is lost in perplexity.
It was my purpose, illustrious sage, to have gone to Kapila Ṛṣi, to inquire of him what in this life the most desirable object is: but now that I have heard from you such words, my mind turns to you, to become acquainted with the great end of life.
The Ṛṣi Kapila is a portion of the mighty and universal Viṣṇu, who has come down upon earth to dissipate delusion; and surely it is he who, in kindness to me, has thus manifested himself to me in all that you have said.
To me, thus suppliant, then, explain what the best of all things is; for thou art an ocean overflowing with the waters of divine wisdom."
The Brahman replied to the king:
"You, again, ask me what is the best of all things, not what is the great end of life; but there are many things which are considered best, as well as those which are the great ends (or truths) of life.
To him who, by the worship of the gods, seeks for wealth, prosperity, children, or dominion, each of these is respectively best:
Best is the rite or sacrifice, which is rewarded with heavenly pleasures. Best is that which yields the best recompense, although it might be not solicited.
Self-contemplation, ever practised by devout ascetics, is to them the best. But best of all is the identification of soul with the supreme spirit.
Hundreds and thousands of conditions may be called the best; but these are not the great and true ends of life. Hear what those are:
Wealth cannot be the true end of life, for it may be relinquished through virtue, and its characteristic property is expenditure for the gratification of desire.
If a son were final truth, that would be equally applicable to a different source; for the son that is to one the great end of life, becomes the father of another.
Final or supreme truth, therefore, would not exist in this world, as in all these cases those objects which are so denominated are the effects of causes, and consequently are not finite.
If the acquisition of sovereignty were designated by the character of being the great end of all, then finite ends would sometimes be, and sometimes cease to be.
If you suppose that the objects to be effected by sacrificial rites, performed according to the rules of the Rik, Yajur, and Sama Vedas, be the great end of life, attend to what I have to say.
Any effect which is produced through the causality of earth partakes of the character of its origin, and consists itself of clay; so any act performed by perishable agents, such as fuel, clarified butter, and Kuśa grass, must itself be of but temporary efficacy.
The great end of life (or truth) is considered by the wise to be eternal; but it would be transient, if it were accomplished through transitory things.
If you imagine that this great truth is the performance of religious acts, from which no recompense is sought, it is not so; for such acts are the means of obtaining liberation, and truth is (the end), not the means.
Meditation on self, again, is said to be for the sake of supreme truth; but the object of this is to establish distinctions (between soul and body), and the great truth of all is without distinctions.
Union of self with supreme spirit is said to be the great end of all; but this is false; for one substance cannot become substantially another. Objects, then, which are considered most desirable are infinite.
What the great end of all is, you shall, monarch, briefly learn from me:
It is soul: one (in all bodies), pervading, uniform, perfect, preeminent over nature (Prakriti), exempt from birth, growth, and decay, omnipresent, undecaying, made up of true knowledge, independent, and unconnected with unrealities, with name, species, and the rest, in time present, past, or to come.
The knowledge that this spirit, which is essentially one, is in one's own and in all other bodies, is the great end, or true wisdom, of one who knows the unity and the true principles of things.
As one diffusive air, passing through the perforations of a flute, is distinguished as the notes of the scale (Sherga and the rest),
so the nature of the great spirit is single, though its forms be manifold, arising from the consequences of acts. When the difference of the investing forms, as that of god or the rest, is destroyed, then there is no distinction."