The Mahabharata Home
(Vaka-vadha Parva continued)
"Kunti said, Grieve not at all, O Brahmana, on account of this danger. I see a way by which to rescue thee from that Rakshasa. Thou hast only one son, who, besides, is of very tender years, also only one daughter, young and helpless, so I do not like that any of these, or thy wife, or even thyself should go unto the Rakshasa. I have five sons, O Brahmana, let one of them go, carrying in thy behalf tribute of that Rakshasa.'
"Hearing this, the Brahmana replied, 'To save my own life I shall never suffer this to be done. I shall never sacrifice, to save myself, the life of a Brahmana or of a guest. Indeed, even those that are of low origin and of sinful practices refuse to do (what thou askest me to do). It is said that one should sacrifice one's self and one's offspring for the benefit of a Brahmana. I regard this advice excellent and I like to follow it too. When I have to choose between the death of a Brahmana and that of my own, I would prefer the latter. The killing of a Brahmana is the highest sin, and there is no expiation for it. I think a reluctant sacrifice of one's own self is better than the reluctant sacrifice of a Brahmana. O blessed lady, in sacrificing myself I do not become guilty of self-destruction. No sin can attach to me when another will take my life. But if I deliberately consent to the death of a Brahmana, it would be a cruel and sinful act, from the consequence of which there is no escape. The learned have said that the abandonment of one who hath come to thy house or sought thy protection, as also the killing of one who seeketh death at thy hands, is both cruel and sinful. The illustrious among those conversant with practices allowable in seasons of distress, have before now said that one should never perform an act that is cruel and censurable. It is well for me that I should today perish myself with my wife, but I would never sanction the death of a Brahmana.'
"Kunti said, 'I too am firmly of opinion, O Brahmana, that Brahmanas should ever be protected. As regards myself, no son of mine would be less dear to me even if I had a hundred instead of the five I have. But this Rakshasa will not be able to kill my son, for that son of mine is endued with great prowess and energy, and skilled in mantras. He will faithfully deliver
to the Rakshasa his food, but will, I know to a certainty, rescue himself. I have seen before many mighty Rakshasas of huge bodies engaged in combat with my heroic son and killed too by him. But, O Brahmana, do not disclose this fact to anybody, for if it be known, persons desirous of obtaining this power, will, from curiosity, always trouble my sons. The wise have said that if my son imparteth any knowledge, without the assent of his preceptor, unto any person, my son himself will no longer be able to profit by that knowledge.'
"Thus addressed by Pritha, the Brahmana with his wife became exceedingly glad and assented to Kunti's speech, which was unto them as nectar. Then Kunti, accompanied by the Brahmana, went unto the son of Vayu (Bhima) and asked him to accomplish (that difficult task). Bhima replied unto them, saying, 'So be it.'"
Next: Section CLXIV