The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'In consequence of the fall Abhimanyu of tender years, of the sons of Draupadi, of Dhrishtadyumna, of Virata, of king Drupada, of Vasusena conversant with every duty, of the royal Dhrishtaketu, and of diverse other kings hailing from diverse regions, in battle, grief does not forsake my wretched self that am a slayer of kinsmen. Indeed, I am inordinately covetous of kingdom and am an exterminator of my own race. He upon whose breast and limbs I used to roll in sport, alas, that Ganga's son has been slain by me in battle through lust of sovereignty. When I beheld that lion among men, viz., our grandsire, assailed by Sikhandin and trembling and reeling in consequence of Partha's shafts that resembled thunder-bolts in energy, when I beheld his tall form pierced all over with blazing arrows and himself become weak like an aged lion, my heart was deeply pained. When I beheld that afflictor of hostile cars reel like a mountain summit and fall down strengthless on the terrace of his own vehicle with his face turned towards the east, my senses were stupefied. That scion of Kuru's race who with bow and shaft in hand had contended in fierce battle for many days with Rama himself of Bhrigu's line on the field sanctified by Kuru, that son of Ganga, that hero, who, at Baranasi, for the sake of brides, had, on a single car, challenged to battle the assembled Kshatriyas of the world, he who had burnt by the energy of his weapons that irresistible and foremost of kings, viz., Ugrayudha, alas, that hero has been caused by me to be slain in battle. Knowing full well that Sikhandin the prince of Panchala was his destroyer, that hero still refrained from slaying the prince with his shafts. Alas, such a magnanimous warrior was slain by Arjuna. O best of sages, at that moment when I beheld the grandsire stretched on the earth and covered with blood, a violent fever afflicted my heart. He who had protected and reared us when we were children, alas, he was caused to be slain by my sinful self that am covetous of kingdom, that am a slayer of reverend seniors, and a perfect fool, for the sake of sovereignty that would last but a few days. Our preceptor, the great archer Drona, adored by all the kings, was approached by me and addressed falsely in respect of his son. The memory of that act of mine is burning all my limbs. The preceptor said unto me, 'Tell me truly, O king, whether my son liveth still. Expecting truth from me, the Brahmana asked me of all others. By silently uttering the word elephant, I behaved falsely towards him. Sinful that I am exceedingly covetous of kingdom, and a slayer of my reverend seniors, I behaved even thus towards my preceptor in battle, throwing off the garb of truth (which I was believed to wear), for I said unto him that Aswatthaman had been killed when, in fact, an elephant of that name had been slain. To what regions shall I go (thereafter), having perpetrated such infamous deeds? I caused also my eldest brother Karna to be slain, that terrible warrior who never retreated from battle. Who is there more sinful than I? Through covetousness I caused Abhimanyu of tender years, that hero who resembled a lion born in the hills, to penetrate into the array that was protected by Drona
himself. I am like one guilty of infanticide. Sinful as I am, I have not since then, been able to look Arjuna or the lotus-eyed Krishna in the face. I grieve also few Draupadi who is bereft of her five sons like the Earth bereft of her five mountains. I am a great offender, a great sinner, and a destroyer of the earth! Without rising from this seat that I now occupy, I will weaken my body (by starvation) and meet with death. Know me who am the slayer of my preceptor as one that has sat down here in the observance of the Praya vow. An exterminator of my race, I must do so in order that I may not he reborn in any of other orders of beings! 1 I shall forgo all food and drink, and without moving from this place, O great ascetic, shall dry up my life-breaths that are so dear. I pray you with humility, grant me permission in this and go whithersoever you please. Let every one grant me permission. I shall cast off this body of mine.'
Vaisampayana continued, "Restraining Pritha's son who, stupefied by sorrow on account of his kinsmen, uttered such words, Vyasa, that best of ascetics, spoke as follows, first telling him, 'This can not be!'
"Vyasa said, 'It behoveth thee not, O monarch, to indulge in such poignant grief. I shall repeat what I have once said. All this is Destiny, O puissant one! Without doubt, all creatures that are born display at first a union (of diverse materials and forces). Dissolution. however, overtakes them at the end. Like bubbles in the water they rise and disappear. All things massed together are sure to crumble away and all things that rise must fall down. Union ends in dissolution and life ends in death. Idleness, though temporarily agreeable, ends in misery, and labour with skill, though temporarily painful, ends in happiness. Affluence, Prosperity, Modesty, Contentment, and Fame dwell in labour and skill but not in idleness. Friends are not competent to bestow happiness, nor foes competent to inflict misery. Similarly wisdom does not bring wealth nor does wealth bring happiness. Since, O son of Kunti, thou hast been created by the Maker to engage thyself in Work. Success springs from Work. Thou art not fit, O king, to avoid Work.'"
50:1 The. meaning is that I must undergo such a severe penance in order that in order that in my next life I may not be born as an inferior animal but succeed in taking birth among men.
Next: Section XXVIII