The Mahabharata 13
Category: Hindu
32:59 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.

The Mahabharata

Book 13: Anusasana Parva

Kisari Mohan Ganguli, tr.

Section I

(Anusasanika Parva)

OM! HAVING BOWED down unto Narayana, and Nara the foremost of male beings, and unto the goddess Saraswati, must the word Jaya be uttered.

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O grandsire, tranquillity of mind has been said to be subtile and of diverse forms. I have heard all thy discourses, but still tranquillity of mind has not been mine. In this matter, various means of quieting the mind have been related (by thee), O sire, but how can peace of mind be secured from only a knowledge of the different kinds of tranquillity, when I myself have been the instrument of bringing about all this? Beholding thy body covered with arrows and festering with bad sores, I fail to find, O hero, any peace of mind, at the thought of the evils I have wrought. Beholding thy body, O most valiant of men, bathed in blood, like a hill overrun with water from its springs, I am languishing with grief even as the lotus in the rainy season. What can be more painful than this, that thou, O grandsire, hast been brought to this plight on my account by my people fighting against their foes on the battle-field? Other princes also, with their sons and kinsmen, having met with destruction on my account. Alas, what can be more painful than this. Tell us, O prince, what destiny awaits us and the sons of Dhritarashtra, who, driven by fate and anger, have done this abhorrent act. O lord of men, I think the son of Dhritarashtra is fortunate in that he doth not behold thee in this state. But I, who am the cause of thy death as well as of that of our friends, am denied all peace of mind by beholding thee on the bare earth in this sorry condition. The wicked Duryodhana, the most infamous of his race, has, with all his troops and his brothers, perished in battle, in the observance of Kshatriya duties. That wicked-souled wight does not see thee lying on the ground. Verily, for this reason, I would deem death to be preferable to life. O hero that never swervest from virtue, had I with my brothers met with destruction ere this at the hands of our enemies on the battle-field, I would not have found thee in this pitiful plight, thus pierced with arrows. Surely, O prince, the Maker had created is to become perpetrators of evil deeds. O king, if thou wishest to do me good, do thou then instruct me in such a way that I may be cleansed of this sin in even another world.’ "Bhishma replied, 'Why, O fortunate one, dost thou consider thy soul, which is dependent (on God and Destiny and Time) to be the cause of thy actions? The manifestation of its inaction is subtle and imperceptible to the senses. In this connection is cited the ancient story of the conversation between Mrityu and Gautami with Kala and the Fowler and the serpent. There was, O son of Kunti, an old lady of the name of Gautami, who was possessed of great patience and tranquillity of mind. One day she found her son dead in consequence of having been bitten by a serpent. An angry fowler, by name Arjunaka, bound the serpent with a string and brought it before Gautami. He then said to her, — This wretched serpent has been the cause of thy son's death, O blessed lady. Tell me quickly how this wretch is to be destroyed. Shall I throw it into the fire or shall I hack it into pieces? This infamous destroyer of a child does not deserve to live longer.'

“Gautami replied, ‘Do thou, O Arjunaka of little understanding, release this serpent. It doth not deserve death at thy hands. Who is so foolish as to disregard the inevitable lot that awaits him and burdening himself with such folly sink into sin? Those that have made themselves light by the practice of virtuous deeds, manage to cross the sea of the world even as a ship crosses the ocean. But those that have made themselves heavy with sin sink into the bottom, even as an arrow thrown into the water. By killing the serpent, this my boy will not be restored to life, and by letting it live, no harm will be caused to thee. Who would go to the interminable regions of Death by slaying this living creature?’

“The fowler said, ‘I know, O lady that knowest the difference between right and wrong, that the great are afflicted at the afflictions of all creatures. But these words which thou hast spoken are fraught with instruction for only a self-contained person (and not for one plunged in sorrow). Therefore, I must kill this serpent. Those who value peace of mind, assign everything to the course of Time as the cause, but practical men soon assuage their grief (by revenge). People through constant delusion, fear loss of beatitude (in the next world for acts like these). therefore, O lady, assuage thy grief by having this serpent destroyed (by me).

“Gautami replied, ‘People like us are never afflicted by (such misfortune). Good men have their souls always intent on virtue. The death of the boy was predestined: therefore, I am unable to approve of the destruction of this serpent. Brahmanas do not harbour resentment, because resentment leads to pain. Do thou, O good man, forgive and release this serpent out of compassion.’

“The fowler replied, ‘Let us earn great and inexhaustible merit hereafter by killing (this creature), even as a man acquires great merit, and confers it on his victim sacrificed as well, by sacrifice upon the altar. Merit is acquired by killing an enemy: by killing this despicable creature, thou shalt acquire great and true merit hereafter.’

“Gautami replied, ‘What good is there in tormenting and killing an enemy, and what good is won by not releasing an enemy in our power? Therefore, O thou of benign countenance, why should we not forgive this serpent and try to earn merit by releasing it?’

“The fowler replied, ‘A great number (of creatures) ought to be protected from (the wickedness of) this one, instead of this single creature being protected (in preference to many). Virtuous men abandon the vicious (to their doom): do thou, therefore, kill this wicked creature.’

“Gautami replied, ‘By killing this serpent, O fowler, my son will not be restored to life, nor do I see that any other end will be attained by its death: therefore, do thou, O fowler, release this living creature of a serpent.

“The fowler said, ‘By killing Vritra, Indra secured the best portion (of sacrificial offerings), and by destroying a sacrifice Mahadeva secured his share of sacrificial offerings: do thou, therefore, destroy this serpent immediately without any misgivings in thy mind!’

“Bhishma continued, ‘The high-souled Gautami, although repeatedly incited by the fowler for the destruction of the serpent did not bend her mind to that sinful act. The serpent, painfully bound with the cord: sighing a little and maintaining its composure with great difficulty, then uttered these words slowly, in a human voice.’

“The serpent said, ‘O foolish Arjunaka, what fault is there of mine? I have no will of my own, and am not independent. Mrityu sent me on this errand. By his direction have I bitten this child, and not out of any anger or choice on my part. Therefore, if there be any sin in this, O fowler, the sin is his.’

“The fowler said, ‘If thou hast done this evil, led thereto by another, the sin is thine also as thou art an instrument in the act. As in the making of an earthen vessel the potter’s wheel and rod and other things are all regarded as causes, so art thou, O serpent, (cause in the production of this effect). He that is guilty deserves death at my hands. Thou, O serpent, art guilty. Indeed, thou confessest thyself so in this matter!’

“The serpent said, ‘As all these, viz., the potter’s wheel, rod, and other things, are not independent causes, even so I am not an independent cause. Therefore, this is no fault of mine, as thou shouldst grant. Shouldst thou think otherwise, then these are to be considered as causes working in unison with one another. For thus working with one other, a doubt arises regarding their relation as cause and effect. Such being the case, it is no fault of mine, nor do I deserve death on this account, nor am I guilty of any sin. Or, if thou thinkest that there is sin (in even such causation), the sin lies in the aggregate of causes.’

“The fowler said, ‘If thou art neither the prime cause nor the agent in this matter, thou art still the cause of the death (of his child). Therefore, thou dost deserve death in my opinion. If, O serpent, thou thinkest that when an evil act is done, the doer is not implicated therein, then there can be no cause in this matter; but having done this, verily thou deservest death. What more dost thou think?’ “The serpent said, ‘Whether any cause exists or not, no effect is produced without an (intermediate) act. Therefore, causation being of no moment in either case, my agency only as the cause (in this matter) ought to be considered in its proper bearings. If, O fowler, thou thinkest me to be the cause in truth, then the guilt of this act of killing a living being rests on the shoulders of another who incited me to this end.’

“The fowler said, ‘Not deserving of life, O foolish one, why dost thou bandy so many words, O wretch of a serpent? Thou deservest death at my hands. Thou hast done an atrocious act by killing this infant.’

“The serpent said, ‘O fowler, as the officiating priests at a sacrifice do not acquire the merit of the act by offering oblations of clarified butter to the fire, even so should I be regarded with respect as to the result in this connection.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘The serpent directed by Mrityu having said this, Mrityu himself appeared there and addressing the serpent spoke thus.

“Mrityu said, ‘Guided. by Kala, I, O serpent, sent thee on this errand, and neither art thou nor am I the cause of this child’s death. Even as the clouds are tossed hither and thither by the wind, I am like the clouds, O serpent, influenced by Kala. All attitudes appertaining to Sattwa or Rajas, or Tamas, are provoked by Kala, and operate in all creatures. All creatures, mobile and immobile, in heaven, or earth, are influenced by Kala. The whole universe, O serpent, is imbued with this same influence of Kala. All acts in this world and all abstentions, as also all their modifications, are said to be influenced by Kala, Surya, Soma, Vishnu, Water, Wind, the deity of a hundred sacrificer, Fire, Sky, Earth, Mitra and Parjanya, Aditi, and the Vasus, Rivers and Oceans, all existent and non-existent objects, are created and destroyed by Kala. Knowing this, why dost thou, O serpent, consider me to be guilty? If any fault attaches to me in this, thou also wouldst be to blame.’

“The serpent said, ‘I do not, O Mrityu, blame thee, nor do I absolve thee from all blame. I only aver that I am directed and influenced (in my actions) by thee. If any blame attaches to Kala, or, if it be not desirable to attach any blame to him, it is not for me to scan the fault. We have no right to do so. As it is incumbent on me to absolve myself from this blame, so it is my duty to see that no blame attaches to Mrityu.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Then the serpent, addressing Arjunaka, said — Thou hast listened to what Mrityu has said. Therefore, it is not proper for thee to torment me, who am guiltless, by tying me with this cord.’ “The fowler said, ‘I have listened to thee, O serpent, as well as to the words of Mrityu, but these, O serpent, do not absolve thee from all blame. Mrityu and thyself are the causes of the child’s death. I consider both of you to be the cause and I do not call that to be the cause which is not truly so. Accursed be the wicked and vengeful Mrityu that causes affliction to the good. Thee too I shall kill that art sinful and engaged, in sinful acts!’

“Mrityu said, ‘We both are not free agents, but are dependent on Kala, and ordained to do our appointed work. Thou shouldst not find fault with us if thou dost consider this matter thoroughly.’

“The fowler said, ‘If ye both, O serpent and Mrityu, be dependent on Kala, I am curious to know how pleasure (arising from doing good) and anger (arising from doing evil) are caused.’

“Mrityu said, ‘Whatever is done is done under the influence of Kala. I have said it before, O fowler, that Kala is the cause of all and that for this reason we both, acting under the inspiration of Kala, do our appointed work and therefore, O fowler, we two do not deserve censure from thee in any way!’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Then Kala arrived at that scene of disputation on this point of morality, and spoke thus to the serpent and Mrityu and the fowler Arjunaka assembled together.’

“Kala said, ‘Neither Mrityu, nor this serpent, nor I, O fowler, am guilty of the death of any creature. We are merely the immediate exciting causes of the event. O Arjunaka, the Karma of this child formed the exciting cause of our action in this matter. There was no other cause by which this child came by its death. It was killed as a result of its own Karma. It has met with death as the result of its Karma in the past. Its Karma has been the cause of its destruction. We all are subject to the influence of our respective Karma. Karma is an aid to salvation even as sons are, and Karma also is an indicator of virtue and vice in man. We urge one another even as acts urge one another. As men make from a lump of clay whatever they wish to make, even so do men attain to various results determined by Karma. As light and shadow are related to each other, so are men related to Karma through their own actions. Therefore, neither art thou, nor am I, nor Mrityu, nor the serpent, nor this old Brahmana lady, is the cause of this child’s death. He himself is the cause here. Upon Kala, O king, expounding the matter in this way, Gautami, convinced in her mind that men suffer according to their actions, spoke thus to Arjunaka.’

“Gautami said, ‘Neither Kala, nor Mrityu, nor the serpent, is the cause in this matter. This child has met with death as the result of its own Karma. I too so acted (in the past) that my son has died (as its consequence). Let now Kala and Mrityu retire from this place, and do thou too, O Arjunaka, release this serpent.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Then Kala and Mrityu and the serpent went back to their respective destinations, and Gautami became consoled in mind as also the fowler. Having heard all this, O king, do thou forego all grief, and attain to peace of mind. Men attain to heaven or hell as the result of their own Karma. This evil has neither been of thy own creation, nor of Duryodhana’s. Know this that these lords of Earth have all been slain (in this war) as a result of acts of Kalas.’”

Vaisampayana said, “Having heard all this, the powerful and virtuous Yudhishthira became consoled in mind, and again enquired as follows.”

Section II

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O grandsire, O wisest of men, O thou that art learned in all the scriptures, I have listened to this great story, O foremost of intelligent men. I am desirous of again hearing the recital of some history full of religious instruction, and it behoves thee to gratify me. O lord of Earth, tell me if any householder has ever succeeded in conquering Mrityu by the practice of virtue. Do thou recite this to me with all details!’

“Bhishma said, ‘This ancient history is recited as an illustration of the subject of the conquest by a householder, over Mrityu, through the practice of virtue. The Prajapati Manu had a son, O king, of the name of the Ikshwaku. Of that king, illustrious as Surya, were born a hundred sons. His tenth son, O Bharata, was named Dasaswa, and this virtuous prince of infallible prowess became the king of Mahismati. Dasaswa’s son, O king, was a righteous prince whose mind was constantly devoted to the practice of truth and charity and devotion. He was known by the name of Madiraswa and ruled over the Earth as her lord. He was constantly devoted to the study of the Vedas as also of the science of arms. Madiraswa’s son was the king named Dyutimat who possessed great good fortune and power and strength and energy. Dyutimat’s son was the highly devout and pious king who was famous in all the worlds under the name of Suvira. His soul was intent on religion and he possessed wealth like another Indra, the lord of the deities. Suvira too had a son who was invincible in battle, and who was the best of all warriors and known by the name of Sudurjaya. And Durjya too, possessed of a body like that of Indra, had a son who beamed with splendour like that of fire. He was the great monarch named Duryodhana who was one of the foremost of royal sages. Indra used to pour rain profusely in the kingdom of this monarch, who never fled from the battlefield and was possessed of valour like unto Indra himself. The cities and the kingdom of this king were filled with riches and gems and cattle and grain of various kinds. There was no miser in his kingdom nor any person afflicted with distress or poverty. Nor was there in his kingdom any person that was weak in body or afflicted with disease. That king was very clever, smooth in speech, without envy, a master of his passions, of a righteous soul, full of compassion, endued with prowess, and not given to boasting. He performed sacrifices, and was self-restrained and intelligent, devoted to Brahmanas and Truth. He never humiliated others, and was charitable, and learned in the Vedas and the Vedanta. The celestial river Narmada, auspicious and sacred and of cool waters, in her own nature, O Bharata, courted him. He begot upon that river, a lotus-eyed daughter, by name Sudarsana, who was, O king, endued with great beauty. No creature, O Yudhisthira, had ever been born before among womankind, that was, possessed of such beauty as that excellent damsel who was the daughter of Duryodhana. The god Agni himself courted the beautiful princess Sudarsana, and taking the shape of a Brahmana, O monarch, sought her hand from the king. The king was unwilling to give his daughter in marriage to the Brahmana who was poor and not of the same rank with himself. Thereupon Agni vanished from his great sacrifice. The king, grieved at heart, then addressed the Brahmanas, saying, — Of what sin have I, ye excellent Brahmanas, or you, been guilty, that Agni should disappear from this sacrifice, even as good done unto wicked men disappears from their estimation. Great, indeed, must that sin of ours be for which Agni has thus disappeared. Either must the sin be yours, or, it must be mine. Do you fully investigate the matter. — Then hearing the king's words, O foremost prince of Bharata's race, the Brahmanas, restraining speech, sought with concentrated faculties the protection of the god of fire. The divine carrier of oblations, resplendent as the autumnal Sun, appeared before them, enveloping his self in glorious refulgence. The high-souled Agni then addressed those excellent Brahmanas, saying, — I seek the daughter of Duryodhana for my own self. At this all those Brahmanas were struck with wonder, and rising on the morrow, they related to the king what had been said by the fire-god. The wise monarch, hearing the words of those utterers of Brahma, was delighted at heart, and said, — Be it so. — The king craved a boon of the illustrious fire-god as the marriage dower, — Do thou, O Agni, deign to remain always with us here. — Be it so — said the divine Agni to that lord of Earth. For this reason Agni has always been present in the kingdom of Mahismati to this day, and was seen by Sahadeva in course of his conquering expedition to the south. Then the king gave his daughter, dressed in new garments and decked with jewels, to the high-souled deity, and Agni too accepted, according to Vedic rites, the princess Sudarsana as his bride, even as he accepts libations of clarified butter at sacrifices, Agni was well pleased with her appearance, her beauty, grace, character, and nobility of birth, and was minded to beget offspring upon her. And a son by Agni, of the name of Sudarsana, was soon born of her. Sudarsana also was, in appearance, as beautiful as the full moon, and even in his childhood he attained to a knowledge of the supreme and everlasting Brahma. There was also a king of the name of Oghavat, who was the grandfather of Nriga. He had a daughter of the name of Oghavati, and a son too of the name of Ogharatha born unto him. King Oghavat gave his daughter Oghavati, beautiful as a goddess, to the learned Sudarsana for wife. Sudarsana, O king, leading the life of a householder with Oghavati, used to dwell in Kurukshetra with her. This intelligent prince of blazing energy took the vow, O lord, of conquering Death by leading the life of even a householder. The son of Agni, O king, said to Oghavati, — Do thou never act contrary to (the wishes of) those that seek our hospitality. Thou shouldst make no scruple about the means by which guests are to be welcomed, even if thou have to offer thy own person. O beautiful one, this vow is always present in the mind, since for householders, there is no higher virtue than hospitality accorded to guests. Do thou always bear this in mind without ever doubting it, if my words be any authority with thee. O sinless and blessed one, if thou hast any faith in me, do thou never disregard a guest whether I be at thy side or at a distance from thee! Unto him, with hands clasped and placed on her head, Oghavati replied, saying, — 'I shall leave nothing undone of what thou commandest me. — Then Mrityu, O king, desiring to over-reach Sudarsana, began to watch him for finding out his lathes. On a certain occasion, when the son of Agni went out to fetch firewood from the forest, a graceful Brahmana sought the hospitality of Oghavati with these words: — O beautiful lady, if thou hast any faith in the virtue of hospitality as prescribed for householders, then I would request thee to extend the rites of hospitality to me to-day. — The princess of great fame, thus addressed by that Brahmana, O king, welcomed him according to the rites prescribed in the Vedas. Having offered him a seat, and water to wash his feet, she enquired, saying, — What is thy business? What can I offer thee? The Brahmana said unto her, — My business is with thy person, O blessed one. Do thou act accordingly without any hesitation in thy mind. If the duties prescribed for householders be acceptable to thee, do thou, O princess, gratify me by offering up thy person to me. — Though tempted by the princess with offers of diverse other things, the Brahmana, however, did not ask for any other gift than the offer of her own person. Seeing him resolved, that lady, remembering the directions which had before been given to her by her husband, but overcome with shame, said, to that excellent Brahmana, Be it so. — Remembering the words of her husband who was desirous of acquiring the virtue of householders, she cheerfully approached the regenerate Rishi. Meanwhile, the son of Agni, having collected his firewood, returned to his home. Mrityu, with his fierce and inexorable nature, was constantly by his side, even, as one attends upon one's devoted friend. When the son of Pavaka returned to his own hermitage, he called Oghavati by name, and (receiving no answer) repeatedly, exclaimed, — Whether art thou gone? — But the chaste lady, devoted to her husband, being then locked in the arms of that Brahmana, gave no reply to her husband. Indeed, that chaste woman, considering herself contaminated became speechless, overcome with shame. Sudarsana, addressing her again, exclaimed, — Where can my chaste wife be? Whither has she gone? Nothing can be of greater moment to me than this (her disappearance). Why does not that simple and truthful lady, devoted to her husband, alas, answer to my call today as she used to do before with sweet smiles? Then that Brahmana, who was within the hut, thus replied to Sudarsana, — Do thou learn, O son of Pavaka, that a Brahmana guest has arrived, and though tempted by this thy wife with diverse other offers of welcome, I have, O best of Brahmanas, desired only her person, and this fair-faced lady is engaged in welcoming me with due rites. Thou art at liberty to do whatever thou thinkest to be suitable to this occasion. Mrityu, armed with the iron club, pursued the Rishi at that moment, desirous of compassing the destruction of one that would, he thought, deviate from his promise. Sudarsana was struck with wonder, but casting off all jealousy and anger by look, word, deed, or thought, said, — Do thou enjoy thyself, O Brahmana. It is a great pleasure to me. A householder obtain the highest merit by honouring a guest. It is said by the learned that, as regards the householder, there is no higher merit than what results unto him from a guest departing from his house after having been duly honoured by him. My life, my wife, and whatever other worldly possessions I have, are all dedicated to the use of my guests. Even this is the vow that I have taken. As I have truly made this statement, by that truth, O Brahmana, I shall attain to the knowledge of Self. O foremost of virtuous men, the five elements, viz., fire, air, earth, water, and sky, and the mind, the intellect and the Soul, and time and space and the ten organs of sense, are all present in the bodies of men, and always witness the good and evil deeds that men do. This truth has today been uttered by me, and let the gods bless me for it or destroy me if I have spoken falsely. At this, O Bharata, there arose in all directions, in repeated echoes, a voice, crying, — This is true, this is not false. Then that Brahmana came out of the hovel, and like the wind rising and encompassing both Earth and sky, and making the three worlds echo with Vedic sounds, and calling that virtuous man by name, and congratulating him said, — O sinless one, I am Dharma; All glory to thee. I came here, O truth-loving one, to try thee, and I am well pleased with thee by knowing thee to be virtuous. Thou hast subdued and conquered Mrityu who always has pursued thee, seeking thy laches? O best of men, no one in the three worlds has the ability to insult, even with looks, this chaste lady devoted to her husband, far less to touch her person. She has been protected from defilement by thy virtue and by her own chastity. There can be nothing contrary to what this proud lady will say. This utterer of Brahma, endued with austere penances, shall, for the salvation of the world, be metamorphosed into a mighty river. And thou shalt attain to all the worlds in this thy body, and as truly as the science of Yoga is within her control, this highly blessed lady will follow thee with only half of her corporeal self, and with the other half will she be celebrated as the river Oghavati! And thou shalt attain with her to all the worlds that acquired through penances, Those eternal and everlasting worlds from which none cometh back will be attained by thee even in this gross body of thine. Thou hast conquered Death, and attained to the highest of all felicities, and by thy own power (of mind), attaining to the speed of thought, thou hast risen above the power of the five elements! By thus adhering to the duties of a householder, thou hast conquered thy passions, desires, and anger, and this princess, O prince of virtuous men has, by serving thee, conquered affliction, desire, illusion, enmity and lassitude of mind!'

“Bhishma continued, ‘Then the glorious Vasava (the lord of the gods), riding in a fine chariot drawn by a thousand white horses, approached that Brahmana. Death and Soul, all the worlds, all the elements, intellect, mind, time, and space as also desire and wrath, were all conquered. There-fore, O best of men, do thou bear this in mind, that to a householder there is no higher divinity than the guest. It is said by the learned that the blessings of an honoured guest are more efficacious than the merit of a hundred sacrifices. Whenever a deserving guest seeks the hospitality of a householder and is not honoured by him, he takes away (with him) all the virtues of the latter giving him his sins (in return). I have now recited to thee, my son, this excellent story as to how Death was conquered of old by a householder. The recital of this excellent story confers glory, fame, and longevity (upon those that listen to it). The man that seeks worldly prosperity should consider it as efficacious in removing all evil. And, O Bharata, the learned man that daily recites this story of the life of Sudarsana attains to the regions of the blessed.’”

Section III

“Yudhishthira said, ‘If, O prince, Brahmanahood be so difficult of attainment by the three classes (Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras), how then did the high souled Viswamitra, O king, though a Kshatriya (by birth), attain to the status of a Brahmana? I desire to know this, O sire. Therefore, do thou truly relate this matter to me. That powerful man, O sire, by virtue of his austerities, destroyed in a moment the hundred sons of the high-souled Vasishtha. While under the influence of anger, he created numerous evil spirits and Rakshasas of mighty vigour and resembling the great destroyer Kala himself. The great and learned race of Kusika, numbering hundreds of regenerate sages and belauded by the Brahmanas, was founded in this world of men by him. Sunasepha of austere penances, the son of Richika, having been sought to be slain as an animal in the great sacrifice of Amvarisha, obtained his deliverance through Viswamitra. Harishchandra, having pleased the gods at a sacrifice, became a son of the wise Viswamitra. For not having honoured their eldest brother Devarat, whom Viswamitra got as a son from the gods, the other fifty brothers of his were cursed, and all of them became Chandalas. Trisanku, the son of Ikshwaku, through the curse of Vasistha became a Chandala, and when abandoned by his friends, and remaining suspended with his head downwards in the lower regions, was translated to heaven at the pleasure of Viswamitra. Viswamitra had a large river, by name Kausika, that was frequented by celestial Rishis. This sacred and auspicious stream was frequented by the gods and regenerate Rishis. For disturbing his devotions, the famous celestial nymph Rambha of fine bracelets, was cursed and metamorphosed into a rock. Through fear of Viswamitra the glorious Vasishtha, in olden times, binding himself with creepers, threw himself down into a river and again rose released from his bonds. In consequence of this, that large and sacred river become thenceforth celebrated by the name of Vipasa. He prayed to the glorious and puissant Indra who was pleased with him and absolved him from a curse. Remaining on the northern side of the firmament, he sheds his lustre from a position in the midst of the seven regenerate Rishis, and Dhruva the son of Uttanpada These are his achievements as well as many others. O descendant of Kuru, as they were performed by a Kshatriya, my curiosity has been roused in this matter. Therefore, O foremost one of Bharata's race, do thou relate this matter to me truly. How without casting off his corporeal frame and taking another tenement of flesh could he become a Brahmana? Do thou, O sire, truly relate this matter to me as thou hast related to me the story of Matanga. Matanga was born as a Chandala, and could not attain to Brahmanahood,(with all his austerities) but how could this man attain to the status of a Brahmana?"

Section IV

“Bhishma said, ‘Listen truly in detail, O son of Pritha, how in olden times Viswamitra attained to the status of a Brahmana Rishi. There was, O foremost of Bharata’s descendants, in the race of Bharata, a king of the name of Ajamida, who performed many sacrifices and was the best of all virtuous men. His son was the great king named Jahnu. Ganga was the daughter of this high-minded prince. The farfamed and equally virtuous Sindhudwipa was the son of this prince. From Sindhudwipa sprung the great royal sage Valakaswa. His son was named Vallabha who was like a second Dharma in embodied form. His son again was Kusika who was refulgent with glory like unto the thousand-eyed Indra. Kusika's son was the illustrious King Gadhi who, being childless and desiring to have a son born unto him, repaired to the forest. Whilst living there, a daughter was born unto him. She was called Satyavati by name, and in beauty of appearance she had no equal on Earth. The illustrious son of Chyavana, celebrated by the name of Richika, of the race of Bhrigu, endued with austere penances, sought the hand of this lady. Gadhi, the destroyer of his enemies, thinking him to be poor, did not bestow her in marriage upon the high-souled Richika. But when the latter, thus dismissed, was going away, the excellent king, addressing him said, — 'If thou givest me a marriage dower thou shalt have my daughter for thy wife.'

“Richika said, ‘What dower, O king, shall I offer thee for the hand of thy daughter? Tell me truly, without feeling any hesitation in the matter. Gadhi said, — ’O descendant of Bhrigu, do thou give me a thousand horses fleet as the wind, and possessing the hue of moon-beams, and each having one ear black.’

"Bhishma said, 'Then that mighty son of Chyavana who was the foremost of Bhrigu's race, besought the deity Varuna, the son of Aditi, who was the lord of all the waters. — O best of gods, I pray to thee to give me a thousand horses, all endued with the speed of the wind and with complexion as effulgent as the moon's, but each having one ear black. The god Varuna, the son of Aditi, said to that excellent scion of Bhrigu's race, — Be it so. Wheresoever thou shalt seek, the horses shalt arise (in thy presence). — As soon as Richika thought of them, there arose from the waters of Ganga thousand high-mettled horses, as lustrous in complexion as the moon. Not far from Kanyakubja, the sacred bank of Ganga is still famous among men as Aswatirtha in consequence of the appearance of those horses at that place. Then Richika, that best of ascetics, pleased in mind, gave those thousand excellent horses unto Gadhi as the marriage-dower. King Gadhi, filled with wonder and fearing to be cursed, gave his daughter, bedecked with jewels, unto that son of Bhrigu. That foremost of regenerate Rishis accepted her hand in marriage according to the prescribed rites. The princess too was well-pleased at finding herself the wife of that Brahmana. That foremost of regenerate Rishis, O Bharata, was well pleased with her conduct and expressed a wish to grant her boon. The princess, O excellent king, related this to her mother. The mother addressed the daughter that stood before her with down-cast eyes, saving, — It behoves thee, O my daughter, to secure a favour for me also from thy husband. That sage of austere penances is capable of granting a boon to me, the boon, viz. of the birth of a son to me. — Then, O king, returning quickly to her husband Richika, the princess related to him all that had been desired by her mother. Richika said, — By my favour, O blessed one, she will soon give birth to a son possessed of every virtue. May thy request be fulfilled. Of thee too shall be born a mighty and glorious son who, endued with virtue, shall perpetuate my race. Truly do I say this unto thee! When you two shall bathe in your season, she shall embrace a peepul tree, and thou, O excellent lady, shalt likewise embrace a fig tree, and by so doing shall ye attain the object of your desire. O sweetly-smiling lady, both she and you shall have to partake of these two sacrificial offerings (charu) rated with hymns, and then shall ye obtain sons (as desired). — At this, Satyavati, delighted at heart, told her mother all that had been said by Richika as also of the two balls of charu. Then the mother, addressing her daughter Satyavati, said: — O daughter, as I am deserving of greater consideration from thee than thy husband, do thou obey my words. The charu, duly consecrated with hymns, which thy husband has given to thee, do thou give unto me and thyself take the one that has been prescribed for me. O sweetly-smiling one of blameless character, if thou hast any respect for my word, let us change the trees respectively designed for us. Every one desires to possess an excellent and stainless being for his own son. The glorious Richika too must have acted from a similar motive in this matter, as will appear in the end. For this reason, O beautiful girl, my heart inclines towards thy charu, and thy tree, and thou too shouldst consider how to secure an excellent brother for thyself. — The mother and the daughter Satyavati having acted in this way, they both, O Yudhishthira, became big with child. And that great Rishi, the excellent descendant of Bhrigu, finding his wife quick with child, was pleased at heart, and addressing her, said, — O excellent lady, thou hast not done well in exchanging the charu as will soon become apparent. It is also clear that thou hast changed the trees. I had placed the entire accumulated energy of Brahma in thy charu and Kshatriya energy in the charu of thy mother. I had so ordered that thou wouldst give birth to a Brahmana whose virtues would be famous throughout the three worlds, and that she (thy mother) would give birth to an excellent Kshatriya. But now, O excellent lady, that thou hast reversed the order (of the charu) so, thy mother will give birth to an excellent Brahmana and thou too, O excellent lady, will give birth to a Kshatriya terrible in action. Thou hast not done will, O lady, by acting thus out of affection for thy mother. — Hearing this, O king the excellent lady Satyavati, struck with sorrow, fell upon the ground like a beautiful creeper cut in twain. Regaining her senses and bowing unto her lord with head (bent), the daughter of Gadhi said to her husband, that foremost one of Bhrigu's race, — O regenerate Rishi, O thou that art foremost amongst those versed in Brahma, do thou take pity on me, thy wife, who is thus appeasing thee and so order that a Kshatriya son may not be born unto me. Let my grandson be such a one as will be famous for his terrible achievements, if it be thy desire, but not my son, O Brahmana. Do thou confer this favour on me. — Be it so, — said that man of austere penances to his wife and then, O king, she gave birth to a blessed son named Jamadagni. The celebrated wife of Gadhi too gave birth to the regenerate Rishi Viswamitra versed in the knowledge of Brahma, by favour of that Rishi. The highly devout Viswamitra, though a Kshatriya, attained to the state of a Brahmana and became the founder of a race of Brahmanas. His sons became high-souled progenitors of many races of Brahmanas who were devoted to austere penances, learned in the Vedas, and founders, of many clans. The adorable Madhuchcchanda and the mighty Devrat, Akshina, Sakunta, Vabhru, Kalapatha, the celebrated Yajnavalkya, Sthula of high vows, Uluka, Mudgala, and the sage Saindhavayana, the illustrious Valgujangha and the great Rishi Galeva, Ruchi, the celebrated Vajra, as also Salankayana, Liladhya and Narada, the one known as Kurchamuka, and Vahuli, Mushala, as also Vakshogriva, Anghrika, Naikadrik, Silayupa, Sita, Suchi, Chakraka, Marrutantavya, Vataghna, Aswalayana, and Syamayana, Gargya, and Javali, as also Susruta, Karishi, Sangsrutya, and Para Paurava, and Tantu, the great sage Kapila, Tarakayana, Upagahana, Asurayani, Margama, Hiranyksha, Janghari, Bhavravayani, and Suti, Bibhuti, Suta, Surakrit, Arani, Nachika, Champeya, Ujjayana, Navatantu, Vakanakha, Sayanya, Yati, Ambhoruha, Amatsyasin, Srishin, Gardhavi Urjjayoni, Rudapekahin, and the great Rishi Naradin, — these Munis were all sons of Viswamitra and were versed in the knowledge of Brahma. O king Yudhishthira, the highly austere and devout Viswamitra, although a Kshatriya (by descent), became a Brahmana for Richika having placed the energy of supreme Brahma (in the charu), O foremost prince of Bharata's race, I have now related to you, with all details, the story of the birth of Viswamitra who was possessed of energy of the sun, the moon, and the fire-god. O best of kings, if thou hast any doubt with regard to any other matter, do thou let me know it, so that I may remove it.'"

Section V

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O thou that knowest the truths of religion, I wish to hear of the merits of compassion, and of the characteristics of devout men. Do thou, O sire, describe them to me.’

“Bhishma said, In this connection, this ancient legend, the story of Vasava and the high-minded Suka, is cited as an illustration. In the territories of the king of Kasi, a fowler, having poisoned arrows with him went out of his village on a hunting excursion in search of antelopes. Desirous of obtaining, meat, when in a big forest in pursuit of the chase, he discovered a drove of antelopes not far from him, and discharged his arrow at one of them. The arrows of that folder of irresistible arms, discharged for the destruction of the antelope, missed its aim and pierced a mighty forest-tree. The tree, violently pierced with that arrow tipped with virulent poison, withered away, shedding its leaves and fruits. The tree having thus withered a parrot that had lived in a hollow of its trunk all his life, did not leave his nest out of affection for the lord of the forest. Motionless and without food silent and sorrowful, that grateful and virtuous parrot also withered away with the tree. The conqueror of Paka (Indra) was struck with wonder upon finding that high-souled, and generous-hearted bird thus uninfluenced by misery or happiness and possessing extraordinary resolution. Then the thought arose in Sakra's mind, — How could this bird come to possess humane and generous feelings which are impossible in one belonging to the world of lower animals? Perchance, there is nothing wonderful in the matter, for all creatures are seen to evince kindly and generous feelings towards others. — Assuming then the shape of a Brahmana, Sakra descended on the Earth and addressing the bird, said, — O Suka, O best of birds, the grand-daughter (Suki) of Daksha has become blessed (by having thee as her offspring). I ask thee, for what reason dost thou not leave this withered tree? — Thus questioned, the Suka bowed unto him and thus replied: — Welcome to thee O chief of the gods, I have recognised thee by the merit of my austere penances — Well-done, well-done! — exclaimed the thousand-eyed deity. Then the latter praised him in his mind, saying, — O, how wonderful is the knowledge which he possesses. — Although the destroyer of Vala knew that parrot to be of a highly virtuous character and meritorious in action, he still enquired of him about the reason of his affection for the tree. This tree is withered and it is without leaves and fruits and is unfit to be the refuge of birds. Why dost thou then cling to it? This forest, too, is vast and in this wilderness there are numerous other fine trees whose hollows are covered with leaves and which thou canst choose freely and to thy heart's content. O patient one exercising due discrimination in thy wisdom, do thou forsake this old tree that is dead and useless and shorn of all its leaves and no longer capable of any good.'"

“Bhishma said, ‘The virtuous Suka, hearing these words of Sakra, heaved a deep sigh and sorrowfully replied unto him, saying — O consort of Sachi, and chief of the gods, the ordinances of the deities are always to be obeyed. Do thou listen to the reason of the matter in regard to which thou hast questioned me. Here, within this tree, was I born, and here in this tree have I acquired all the good traits of my character, and here in this tree was I protected in my infancy from the assaults of my enemies. O sinless one, why art thou, in thy kindness, tampering with the principle of my conduct in life? I am compassionate, and devoutly intent on virtue, and steadfast in conduct. Kindliness of feeling is the great test of virtue amongst the good, and this same compassionate and humane feeling is the source of perennial felicity to the virtuous. All the gods question thee to remove their doubts in religion, and for this reason, O lord, thou hast been placed in sovereignty over them all. It behoves thee not, O thousand-eyed one, to advise me now to abandon this tree for ever. When it was capable of good, it supported my life. How can I forsake it now? — The virtuous destroyer of Paka, pleased with these well-meant words of the parrot, thus said to him: — I am gratified with thy humane and compassionate disposition. Do thou ask a boon of me. — At this, the compassionate parrot craved this boon of him, saying, — Let this tree revive. — Knowing the great attachment of the parrot to that tree and his high character, Indra, well-pleased, caused the tree to be quickly sprinkled over with nectar. Then that tree became replenished and attained to exquisite grandeur through the penances of the parrot, and the latter too, O great king, at the close of his life, obtained the companionship of Sakra by virtue of that act of compassion. Thus, O lord of men, by communion and companionship with the pious, people attain all the objects of their desire even as the tree die through its companionship with the parrot.’”

Section VI

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell me, O learned sire that art versed in all the scriptures, of Exertion and Destiny which is the most powerful?’

“Bhishma said, ‘This ancient story of the conversation of Vasishtha and Brahma, O Yudhishthira, is an illustration in point. In olden times the adorable Vasishtha enquired of Brahma as to which among these two, viz., the Karma of a creature acquired in this life, or that acquired in previous lives (and called Destiny), is the more potent in shaping his life. Then, O king, the great god Brahma, who had sprung from the primeval lotus, answered him in these exquisite and well-reasoned words, full of meaning.’”

“Brahma said, ‘Nothing comes into existence without seed. Without seed, fruits do not grow. From seeds spring other seeds. Hence are fruits known to be generated from seeds. Good or bad as the seed is that the husbandman soweth in his field, good or bad are the fruits that he reaps. As, unsown with seed, the soil, though tilled, becomes fruitless, so, without individual Exertion, Destiny is of no avail. One’s own acts are like the soil, and Destiny (or the sum of one’s acts in previous births) is compared to the seed. From the union of the soil and the seed doth the harvest grow. It is observed every day in the world that the doer reaps the fruit of his good and evil deeds; that happiness results from good deeds, and pain from evil ones; that acts, when done, always fructify; and that, if not done, no fruit arises. A man of (good) acts acquires merits with good fortune, while an idler falls away from his estate, and reaps evil like the infusion of alkaline matter injected into a wound. By devoted application, one acquires beauty, fortune, and riches of various kinds. Everything can be secured by Exertion: but nothing can be gained through Destiny alone, by a man that is wanting in personal Exertion. Even so does one attain to heaven, and all the objects of enjoyment, as also the fulfilment of one’s heart’s desires by well-directed individual Exertion. Al! the luminous bodies in the firmament, all the deities, the Nagas, and the Rakshasas, as also the Sun and the Moon and the Winds, have attained to their high status by evolution from man’s status, through dint of their own action. Riches, friends, prosperity descending from generation to generation, as also the graces of life, are difficult of attainment by those that are wanting in Exertion. The Brahmana attains to prosperity by holy living, the Kshatriya by prowess, the Vaisya by manly exertion, and the Sudra by service. Riches and other objects of enjoyment do not follow the stingy, nor the impotent, nor the idler. Nor are these ever attained by the man that is not active or manly or devoted to the exercise of religious austerities. Even he, the adorable Vishnu, who created the three worlds with the Daityas and all the gods, even He is engaged in austere penances in the bosom of the deep. If one’s Karma bore no fruit, then all actions would become fruitless, and relying on Destiny men would become idlers. He who, without pursuing the human modes of action, follows Destiny only, acts in vain, like unto the woman that has an impotent husband. In this world the apprehension that accrues from performance of good or evil actions is not so great if Destiny be unfavourable as one’s apprehension of the same in the other world if Exertion be wanting while here. Man’s powers, if properly exerted, only follow his Destiny, but Destiny alone is incapable of conferring any good where Exertion is wanting. When it is seen that even in the celestial regions, the position of the deities themselves is unstable, how would the deities maintain their own position or that of others without proper Karma? The deities do not always approve of the good deeds of others in this world, for, apprehending their own overthrow, they try to thwart the acts of others. There is a constant rivalry between the deities and the Rishis, and if they all have to go through their Karma, still it can never be averted that there is no such thing as Destiny, for it is the latter that initiates all Karma. How does Karma originate, if Destiny form the prime spring of human action? (The answer is) that by this means, an accretion of many virtues is made even in the celestial regions. One’s own self is one’s friend and one’s enemy too, as also the witness of one’s good and evil deeds. Good and evil manifest themselves through Karma. Good and evil acts do not give adequate results. Righteousness is the refuge of the gods, and by righteousness is everything attained. Destiny thwarts not the man that has attained to virtue and righteousness.p. 18

In olden times, Yayati, falling from his high estate in heaven descended on the Earth but was again restored to the celestial regions by the good deeds of his virtuous grandsons. The royal sage Pururavas, celebrated as the descendant of Ila, attained to heaven through the intercession of the Brahmanas. Saudasa, the king of Kosala, though dignified by the performance of Aswamedha and other sacrifices, obtained the status of a man-eating Rakshasa, through the curse of a great Rishi. Aswatthaman and Rama, though both warriors and sons of Munis, failed to attain to heaven by reason of their own actions in this world. Vasu, though he performed a hundred sacrifices like a second Vasava, was sent to the nethermost regions, for making a single false statement. Vali, the son of Virochana, righteously bound by his promise, was consigned to the regions under the Earth, by the prowess of Vishnu. Was not Janamejaya, who followed the foot-prints of Sakra, checked and put down by the gods for killing a Brahmana woman? Was not the regenerate Rishi Vaisampayana too, who slew a Brahmana in ignorance, and was polluted by the slaughter of a child, put down by the gods? In olden times the royal sage Nriga became transmuted into a lizard. He had made gifts of kine unto the Brahmanas at his great sacrifice, but this availed him not. The royal sage Dhundhumara was overwhelmed with decrepitude even while engaged in performing his sacrifices, and foregoing all the merits thereof, he fell asleep at Girivraja. The Pandavas too regained their lost kingdom, of which they had been deprived by the powerful sons of Dhritarashtra, not through the intercession of the fates, but by recourse to their own valour. Do the Munis of rigid vows, and devoted to the practice of austere penances, denounce their curses with the aid of any supernatural power or by the exercise of their own puissance attained by individual acts? All the good which is attained with difficulty in this world is possessed by the wicked, is soon lost to them. Destiny does not help the man that is steeped in spiritual ignorance and avarice. Even as a fire of small proportions, when fanned by the wind, becomes of mighty power, so does Destiny, when joined with individual Exertion, increase greatly (in potentiality). As with the diminution of oil in the lamp its light is extinguished so does the influence of Destiny is lost if one’s acts stop. Having obtained vast wealth, and women and all the enjoyments of this world, the man, without action is unable to enjoy them long, but the high-souled man, who is even diligent, is able to find riches buried deep in the Earth and watched over by the fates. The good man who is prodigal (in religious charities and sacrifices) is sought by the gods for his good conduct, the celestial world being better than the world of men, but the house of the miser though abounding in wealth is looked upon by the gods as the house of dead. The man that does not exert himself is never contented in this world nor can Destiny alter the course of a man that has gone wrong. So there is no authority inherent in Destiny. As the pupil follows one’s own individual perception, so the Destiny follows Exertion. The affairs in which one’s own Exertion is put forth, there only Destiny shows its hand. O best of Munis, I have thus described all the merits of individual Exertion, after having always known them in their true significance with the aid of my yogic insight. By the influence of Destiny, and by putting forth individual Exertion, do men attain to heaven. The combined aid of Destiny and Exertion, becomes efficacious.’”

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