The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Hearing these words fraught with morality and reason that were spoken by his wife, the pigeon became filled with great delight and his eyes were bathed in tears of joy. Beholding that fowler whose avocation was the slaughter of birds, the pigeon honoured him scrupulously according to the rites laid down in the ordinance. Addressing him, he said, 'Thou art welcome today. Tell me, what I shall do for thee. Thou shouldst not repine. This is thy home. 2 Tell me quickly what I am to do and what is thy pleasure. I ask thee this in affection, for thou hast solicited shelter at our hands. Hospitality should be shown to even one's foe when he comes to one's house. The tree withdraws not its shade from even the person that approaches it for cutting it down. One should, with scrupulous care, do the duties of hospitality towards a person that craves for shelter. Indeed, one is especially bound to do so if one happens to lead a life of domesticity that consists of the five sacrifices. If one, while leading a life of domesticity, does not, from want of judgment, perform the five sacrifices, one loses, according to the scriptures, both this and the next world. Tell me then trustfully and in intelligible words what thy, wishes are. I will accomplish them all. Do not set thy heart on grief.' Hearing these words of the bird, the fowler replied unto him, saying, 'I am stiff with cold. Let provision be made for warming me.' Thus addressed, the bird gathered together a number of dry leaves on the ground, and taking a single leaf in his beak speedily went away for fetching fire. Proceeding to a spot where fire is kept, he obtained a little fire and came back to the spot. He then set fire to those dry leaves, and when they blazed forth into vigorous flames, he addressed his guest, saying, 'Do thou trustfully and without fear warm thy
limbs.' Thus addressed, the fowler said, 'So be it.' And he set himself to warm his stiffened limbs. Recovering (as it were) his life-breathes the fowler said unto his winged host, 'Hunger is afflicting me. I wish thee to give me some food.' Hearing his words the bird said, 'I have no stores by which to appease thy hunger. We, denizens of the woods, always live upon what we get every day. Like the ascetics of the forest we never hoard for the morrow.' Having said these words, the bird's face became pale (from shame). He began to reflect silently as to what he should do and mentally deprecated his own method of living. Soon, however, his mind became clear. Addressing the slaughterer of his species, the bird said, 'I shall gratify thee. Wait for a moment.' Saying these words, he ignited a fire with the help of some dry leaves, and filled with joy, said, 'I heard in former days from high-souled Rishis and gods and Pitris that there is great merit in honouring a guest. O amiable one, be kind to me. I tell thee truly that my heart is set upon honouring thee that art my guest.' Having formed this resolution, the high-souled bird with a smiling face, thrice circumambulated that fire and then entered its flames. Beholding he bird enter that fire, the fowler began to think, and asked himself, 'What have I done? Alas, dark and terrible will be my sin, without doubt in consequence of my own acts! I am exceedingly cruel and worthy of reprobation. Indeed, observing the bird lay down his life, the fowler, deprecating his own acts, began to indulge in copious lamentations like thee.'"
326:1 The sense seems to be that our strength, though little, should be employed by us in attending to the duties of hospitality in our own way.
326:2 Literally, 'thou art at home,' meaning I will not spare any trouble in making thee feel and enjoy all the comforts of home in this place.
Next: Section CXLVII