The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, "If a person, weak, worthless, and light-hearted, O grand sire, doth from folly provoke, by means of unbecoming and boastful speeches, a powerful foe always residing in his vicinity, competent to do good (when pleased) and chastise (when displeased), and always ready for action, how should the former, relying on his own strength, act when the latter advances against him in anger and from desire of exterminating him?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited, O chief of the Bharatas, the old story of the discourse between Salmali and Pavana. There was a lordly (Salmali) tree on one of the heights of Himavat. Having grown for many centuries, he had spread out his branches wide around. His trunk also was huge and his twigs and leaves were innumerable. Under his shade toil-worn elephants in rut, bathed in sweat, used to rest, and many animals of other
species also. The girth of his trunk was four hundred cubits, and dense was the shade of his branches and leaves. Loaded with flowers and fruits, it was the abode of innumerable parrots, male and female. In travelling along their routes, caravans of merchants and traders, and ascetics, residing in the woods, used to rest under the shade of that delightful monarch of the forest. One day, the sage Narada, O bull of Bharata's race, seeing the wide-extending and innumerable branches of that tree and the circumference of his trunk, approached and addressed him, saying, 'O thou art delightful! O thou art charming! O foremost of trees, O Salmali, I am always delighted at thy sight! O charming tree, delightful birds of diverse kinds, and elephants and other animals, cheerfully live; on thy branches and under their shade. Thy branches, O wide-branched monarch of the forest, and thy trunk are gigantic. I never see any of them broken by the god of the wind. Is it, O child, the case that Pavana is pleased with thee and is thy friend so that he protects thee always in these woods? The illustrious Pavana possessed of great speed and force moveth from their sites the tallest and strongest trees, and even mountain summits. That sacred bearer of perfumes, blowing (when he wills) drieth up rivers and takes and seas, including the very nether region. Without doubt, Pavana protects thee through friendship. It is for this reason that, though possessed of innumerable branches, thou art still graced with leaves and flowers. O monarch of the forest, this thy verdure is delightful since these winged creatures, O child, filled with joy, sport on thy twigs and branches. During the season when thou puttest forth thy blossoms, the sweet notes of all these denizens of thy branches are heard separately when they indulge in their melodious songs. Then, again, O Salmali, these elephants that are the ornaments of their species, bathed in sweat and indulging in cries (of delight), approach thee and find happiness here. Similarly, diverse other species of animals inhabiting the woods, contribute to adorn thee. Indeed, O tree, thou lookest beautiful even like the mountains of Meru peopled by creatures of every kind. Resorted to also by Brahmanas crowned with ascetic success, by others engaged in penances, and by Yatis devoted to contemplation, 1 this thy region, I think, resembles heaven itself.'"
342:1 The word sramana is used in Brahmanical literature to signify a certain order of ascetics or yatis that have renounced work for meditation. It is also frequently employed to mean a person of low life or profession. It should be noted, however, that in Buddhistic literature the word came to be exclusively used for Buddhist monks.
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