The Mahabharata 11
2:36 h
The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. It narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their succession. Along with the Rāmāyaṇa, it forms the Hindu Itihasa. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or puruṣārtha (12.161). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.
The Mahabharata
Book 11: Stri Parva
Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section 1


Om! Having bowed down unto Narayana and Nara, the foremost of male beings, and unto the goddess Sarasvati, must the word Jaya be uttered.

Janamejaya said, “After Duryodhana had fallen and after all the warriors also had fallen, what, O sage, did king Dhritarashtra do on receipt of the intelligence? What also did the high-souled Kuru king Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma, do? What did the three survivors (of the Kuru army) viz. Kripa and the others do? I have heard everything about the feats of Ashvatthama. Tell me what happened after that mutual denunciation of curses. Tell me all that Sanjaya said unto the blind old king.”

Vaishampayana said, “After he had lost his century of sons, king Dhritarashtra, afflicted with grief on that account, cheerless, and looking like a tree shorn of its branches, became overwhelmed with anxiety and lost his power of speech. Possessed of great wisdom, Sanjaya, approaching the monarch, addressed him, saying, ‘Why dost thou grieve, O monarch? Grief does not serve any purpose. Eight and ten Akshauhinis of combatants, O king, have been slain! The earth hath become desolate, and is almost empty now! Kings of diverse realms, hailing from diverse quarters, united with thy son (for aiding him in battle) have all laid down their lives. Let now the obsequial rites of thy sires and sons and grandsons and kinsmen and friends and preceptors be performed in due order.”

Vaishampayana continued, “Destitute of sons and counsellors and all his friends, king Dhritarashtra of great energy suddenly fell down on the earth like a tree uprooted by the wind.

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘Destitute as I am of sons and counsellors and all my friends, I shall, without doubt have to wander in sorrow over the earth. What need have I now of life itself, left as I am of kinsmen and friends and resembling as I do a bird shorn of its wings and afflicted with decrepitude? Shorn of kingdom, deprived of kinsmen, and destitute of eyes, I cannot, O thou of great wisdom, shine any longer on earth like a luminary shorn of its splendours! I did not follow the counsels of friends of Jamadagni’s son, of the celestial rishi Narada, and of island-born Krishna, while they offered me counsel. In the midst of the assembly, Krishna told me what was for my good, saying, “A truce (tense) to hostilities, O king! Let thy son take the whole kingdom! Give but five villages to the Pandavas!” Fool that I was, for not following that advice, I am now obliged to repent so poignantly! I did not listen to the righteous counsels of Bhishma. Alas, having heard of the slaughter of Duryodhana whose roars were as deep as those of a bull, having heard also of the death of Duhshasana and the extinction of Karna and the setting of the Drona-sun, my heart does not break into pieces. I do not, O Sanjaya, remember any evil act committed by me in former days, whose consequences, fool that I am, I am suffering today. Without doubt, I committed great sins in my former lives, for which the Supreme Ordainer has set me to endure such a measure of grief. This destruction of all my kinsmen, this extermination of all my well-wishers and friends, at this old age, has come upon me through the force of Destiny. What other man is there on earth who is more afflicted than my wretched self? Since it is so, let the Pandavas behold me this very day firmly resolved to betake myself to the long way that leads to the regions of Brahman!’”

Vaishampayana continued, “While king Dhritarashtra was indulging in such lamentations, Sanjaya addressed him in the following words for dispelling his grief, ‘Cast off thy grief, O monarch! Thou hast heard the conclusions of the Vedas and the contents of diverse scriptures and holy writ, from the lips of the old, O king! Thou hast heard those words which the sages said unto Sanjaya while the latter was afflicted with grief on account of the death of his son. When thy son, O monarch, caught the pride that is born of youth, thou didst not accept the counsels offered unto thee by thy well-wishers. Desirous of fruit, thou didst not, through covetousness, do what was really for thy benefit. Thy own intelligence, like a sharp sword, has wounded thee. Thou didst generally pay court to those that were of wicked behaviour. Thy son had Duhshasana for his counsellor, and the wicked-souled son of Radha, and the equally wicked Shakuni and Citrasena of foolish understanding, and Salya. Thy son (by his own behaviour) made the whole world his enemy. Thy son, O Bharata, did not obey the words of Bhishma, the reverend chief of the Kurus, of Gandhari and Vidura, of Drona, O king, of Kripa the son of Sharadvata, of the mighty-armed Krishna, of the intelligent Narada, of many other rishis, and of Vyasa himself of immeasurable energy. Though possessed of prowess, thy son was of little intelligence, proud, always desirous of battle, wicked, ungovernable, and discontented. Thou art possessed of learning and intelligence and art always truthful. They that are so righteous and possessed of such intelligence as thou, are never stupefied by grief. Virtue was regarded by none of them. Battle was the one word on their lips. For this the Kshatriya order has been exterminated and the fame of thy foes enhanced. Thou hadst occupied the position of an umpire, but thou didst not utter one word of salutary advise. Unfitted as thou wert for the task, thou didst not hold the scales evenly. Every person should, at the outset, adopt such a beneficial line of action that he may not have, in the end, to repent for something already done by him. Through affection for thy son, O monarch, thou didst what was agreeable to Duryodhana. Thou art obliged to repent for that now. It behoveth thee, however not to give way to grief. The man whose eyes are directed towards only the honey without being once directed to the fall, meets with destruction through his covetousness for honey. Such a man is obliged to repent even like thee. The man who indulges in grief never wins wealth. By grieving one loses the fruits one desires. Grief is again an obstacle to the acquisition of objects dear to us. The man who gives way to grief loses even his salvation. The man who shrouds a burning coal within the folds of his attire and is burnt by the fire that is kindled by it, would be pronounced a fool if he grieves for his injuries. Thyself, with thy son, hadst, with your words, fanned the Partha-fire, and with your covetousness acting as clarified butter caused that fire to blaze forth, into consuming flames. When that fire thus blazed forth thy sons fell into it like insects. It behoveth thee not, however, to grieve for them now that they have all been burnt in the fire of the enemy’s arrow. The tear-stained face, O king, which thou bearest now is not approved by the scriptures or praised by the wise. These tears, like sparks of fire, burn the dead for whom they are shed. Kill thy grief with thy intelligence, and bear thyself up with the strength of thy own self!’ Thus was the king comforted by the high-souled Sanjaya. Vidura then, O scorcher of foes, once again addressed the king, displaying great intelligence.”

Section 2

Vaishampayana said, “Listen, O Janamejaya, to the nectar-like words that Vidura said unto the son of Vicitravirya and by which he gladdened that bull among men!

“Vidura said, ‘Rise, O king! Why art thou stretched on the earth? Bear thyself up with thy own self. O king, even this is the final end of all living creatures. Everything massed together ends in destruction; everything that gets high is sure to fall down. Union is certain to end in separation; life is sure to end in death. The destroyer, O Bharata, drags both the hero and the coward. Why then, O bull amongst Kshatriyas, should not Kshatriyas engage in battle? He that does not fight is seen to escape with life. When, however, one’s time comes, O king, one cannot escape. As regards living creatures, they are non-existent at first. They exist in the period that intervenes. In the end they once more become non-existent. What matter of grief then is there in this? The man that indulges in grief succeeds not in meeting with the dead. By indulging in grief, one does not himself die. When the course of the world is such, why dost thou indulge in sorrow? Death drags all creatures, even the gods. There is none dear or hateful to death, O best of the Kurus! As the wind tears off the tops of all blades of grass, even so, O bull of Bharata’s race, death overmasters all creatures. All creatures are like members of a caravan bound for the same destination.(When death will encounter all) it matters very little whom he meets with first. It behoveth thee not, O king, to grieve for those that have been slain in battle. If the scriptures are any authority, all of them must have obtained the highest end. All of them were versed in the Vedas; all of them had observed vows. Facing the foe all of them have met with death. What matter of sorrow is there in this? Invisible they had been (before birth). Having come from that unknown region, they have once more become invisible. They are not thine, nor art thou theirs. What grief then is there in such disappearance? If slain, one wins heaven. By slaying, fame is won. Both these, with respect to us, are productive of great merit. Battle, therefore, is not bootless. No doubt, Indra will contrive for them regions capable of granting every wish. These, O bull among men, become the guests of Indra. Men cannot, by sacrifices with profuse gifts, by ascetic penances and by learning, go so speedily to heaven as heroes slain in battle. On the bodies of hostile heroes constituting the sacrificial fire, they poured their arrowy libations. Possessed of great energy, they had in return to endure the arrowy libations (poured upon them by their enemies). I tell thee, O king, that for a Kshatriya in this world there is not a better road to heaven than battle! They were all high-souled Kshatriyas; possessed of bravery, they were ornaments of assemblies. They have attained to a high state of blessedness. They are not persons for whom we should grieve. Comforting thyself by thy own self cease to grieve, O bull among men! It behoveth thee not to suffer thyself to be overwhelmed with sorrow and to abandon all actions. There are thousands of mothers and fathers and sons and wives in this world. Whose are they, and whose are we? From day to day thousands of causes spring up for sorrow and thousands of causes for fear. These, however, affect the ignorant but are nothing to him that is wise. There is none dear or hateful to Time, O best of the Kurus! Time is indifferent to none. All are equally dragged by Time. Time causeth all creatures to grow, and it is Time that destroyeth everything. When all else is asleep, Time is awake. Time is irresistible. Youth, beauty, life, possessions, health, and the companionship of friends, all are unstable. He that is wise will never covet any of these. It behoveth thee not to grieve for what is universal. A person may, by indulging in grief, himself perish, but grief itself, by being indulged in, never becomes light. Ifthou feelest thy grief to be heavy, it should be counteracted by not indulging in it. Even this is the medicine for grief, viz., that one should not indulge in it. By dwelling on it, one cannot lessen it. On the other hand, it grows with indulgence. Upon the advent of evil or upon the bereavement of something that is dear, only they that are of little intelligence suffer their minds to be afflicted with grief. This is neither Profit, nor Religion, nor Happiness, on which thy heart is dwelling. The indulgence of grief is the certain means of one’s losing one’s objects. Through it, one falls away from the three great ends of life (religion, profit, and pleasure). They that are destitute of contentment, are stupefied on the accession of vicissitudes dependent upon the possession of wealth. They, however, that are wise, are on the other hand, unaffected by such vicissitudes. One should kill mental grief by wisdom, just as physical grief should be killed by medicine. Wisdom hath this power. They, however, that are foolish, can never obtain tranquillity of soul. The acts of a former life closely follow a man, insomuch that they lie by him when he lies down, stay by him when he stays, and run with him when he runs. In those conditions of life in which one acts well or ill, one enjoys or suffers the fruit thereof in similar conditions. In those forms (of physical organisation) in which one performs particular acts, one enjoys or suffers the fruits thereof in similar forms. One’s own self is one’s own friend, as, indeed, one’s own self is one’s own enemy. One’s own self is the witness of one’s acts, good and evil. From good acts springs a state of happiness, from sinful deeds springs woe. One always obtains the fruit of one’s acts. One never enjoys or suffers weal or woe that is not the fruit of one’s own acts. Intelligent persons like thee, O king, never sink in sinful enormities that are disapproved by knowledge and that strike at the very root (of virtue and happiness).’”

Section 3

“Dhritarashtra said, ‘O thou of great wisdom, my grief has been dispelled by thy excellent words! I desire, however, to again hear thee speak. How, indeed, do those that are wise free themselves from mental grief born of the advent of evils and the bereavement of objects that are dear?’

“Vidura said, ‘He that is wise obtains tranquillity by subduing both grief and joy through means by which one may escape from grief and joy. All those things about which we are anxious, O bull among men, are ephemeral. The world is like a plantain tree, without enduring strength. Since the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, all, divested of their anxieties, sleep on the crematorium, with bodies reft of flesh and full of bare bones and shrivelled sinews, whom amongst them will the survivors look upon as possessed of distinguishing marks by which the attributes of birth and beauty may be ascertained?(When all are equal in death) why should human beings, whose understandings are always deceived (by the things of this world) covet one another’s rank and position? The learned say that the bodies of men are like houses. In time these are destroyed. There is one being, however, that is eternal. As a person, casting off one attire, whether old or new, wears another, even such is the case with the bodies of all embodied beings. O son of Vicitravirya, creatures obtain weal or woe as the fruit of their own acts. Through their acts they obtain heaven, O Bharata, or bliss, or woe. Whether able or unable, they have to bear their burdens which are the result of their own acts. As amongst earthen pots some break while still on the potter’s wheel, some while partially shaped, some as soon as brought into shape, some after removal from the wheel, some while in course of being removed, some after removal, some while wet, some while dry, some while being burnt, some while being removed from the kiln, some after removal therefrom, and some while being used, even such is the case with the bodies of embodied creatures. Some are destroyed while yet in the womb, some after coming out of the womb, some on the day after, some on the expiration of a fortnight or of a month, some on the expiration of a year or of two years, some in youth, some in middle age, and some when old. Creatures are born or destroyed according to their acts in previous lives. When such is the course of the world, why do you then indulge in grief? As men, while swimming in sport on the water, sometimes dive and sometimes emerge, O king, even so creatures sink and emerge in life’s stream. They that are of little wisdom suffer or meet with destruction as the result of their own acts. They, however, that are wise, observant of virtue, and desirous of doing good unto all living creatures, they, acquainted with the real nature of the appearance of creatures in this world, attain at last to the highest end.’”