The Mahabharata Home
"Ashtavakra said, 'When no Brahmana is met with on the way, the way belongeth to the blind, the deaf, the women, carriers of burden, and the king respectively. But when a Brahmana is met with on the way, it belongeth to him alone.' Thereupon the king said, 'I give the privilege to enter. Do thou, therefore, go in by whatever way thou likest. No fire ever so small is to be slighted. Even Indra himself boweth unto the Brahmanas.' At this Ashtavakra said, 'We have come, O ruler of men, to witness thy sacrificial ceremony and our curiosity, O king, is very great. And we have come here as guests. We want the permission of thy order (to enter). And, O son of Indradyumna, we have come, desirous of seeing the sacrifice, and to meet king Janaka and speak to him. But thy warder obstructs us and for this our anger burneth us like fever.' The warder said, 'We carry out the orders of Vandin. Listen to what I have to say. Lads are not permitted to enter here and it is only the learned old Brahmanas that are allowed to enter.' Ashtavakra said. 'If this be the condition, O warder, that the door is open to those only that are old, then we have a right to enter. We are old and we have observed sacred vows and are in possession of energy proceeding from the Vedic lore. And we have served our superiors and subdued our
[paragraph continues] passions--and have also won proficiency in knowledge. It is said that even boys are not to be slighted,--for a fire, small though it be, burneth on being touched.' The warder replied, 'O young Brahmana, I consider you a boy, and therefore recite, if you know, the verse demonstrating the existence of the Supreme Being, and adored by the divine sages, and which, although composed of one letter, is yet multifarious. Make no vain boast. Learned men are really very rare.' Ashtavakra said, 'True growth cannot be inferred from the mere development of the body, as the growth of the knots of the Salmali tree cannot signify its age. That tree is called full-grown which although slender and short, beareth fruits. But that which doth not bear fruits, is not considered as grown.' The warder said, 'Boys receive instruction from the old and they also in time grow old. Knowledge certainly is not attainable in a short time. "Wherefore then being a child, dost thou talk like an old man?' Then Ashtavakra said, 'One is not old because his head is gray. But the gods regard him as old who, although a child in years, is yet possessed of knowledge. The sages have not laid down that a man's merit consists in years, or gray hair, or wealth, or friends. To us he is great who is versed in the Vedas. I have come here, O porter, desirous of seeing Vandin in the court. Go and inform king Janaka, who hath a garland of lotuses on his neck, that I am here. Thou shalt to-day see me enter into a dispute with the learned men, and defeat Vandin in a controversy. And when others have been silenced, the Brahmanas of matured learning and the king also with his principal priests, bear witness to the superior or the inferior quality of my attainments.' The warder said, 'How canst thou, who art but in thy tenth year, hope to enter into this sacrifice, into which learned and educated men only are admitted? I shall, however, try some means for thy admittance. Do thou also try thyself'. Ashtavakra then addressing the king said, 'O king, O foremost of Janaka's race, thou art the paramount sovereign and all power reposeth in thee. In times of old, king Yayati was the celebrator of sacrifices. And in the present age, thou it is that art performer thereof. We have heard that the learned Vandin, after defeating (in controversy) men expert in discussion, causeth them to be drowned by faithful servants employed by thee. Hearing this, I have come before these Brahmanas, to expound the doctrine of the unity of the Supreme Being. Where is now Vandin? Tell me so that I may approach him, and destroy him, even as the sun destroyeth the stars. Thereupon the king said, 'Thou hopest, O Brahmana, to defeat Vandin, not knowing his power of speech. Can those who are familiar with his power, speak as thou dost? He hath been sounded by Brahmanas versed in the Vedas. Thou hopest to defeat Vandin, only because thou knowest not his powers (of speech). Many a Brahmana hath waned before him, even as the stars before the sun. Desirous of defeating him, people proud of their learning, have lost their glory on appearing before him, and have retired from his presence, without even venturing to speak with the members of the assembly.' Ashtavakra said, 'Vandin hath never entered into disputation with a man like myself, and it is for this only that he looketh upon himself as a lion, and goeth about roaring like one. But to-day meeting me he will
lie down dead, even like a cart on the highway, of which the wheels have been deranged.' The king said, 'He alone is a truly learned man who understandeth the significance of the thing that hath thirty divisions, twelve parts twentyfour joints, and three hundred and sixty spokes.' Ashtavakra said, 'May that ever-moving wheel that hath twentyfour joints, six naves, twelve peripheries, and sixty spokes protect thee! 1' The king said, 'Who amongst the gods beareth those two which go together like two mares (yoked to a car), and sweep like a hawk, and to what also do they give birth?' Ashtavakra said, 'May God, O king, forfend the presence of these two 2 in thy house; aye, even in the house of thine enemies. He who appeareth, having for his charioteer the wind, 3 begetteth them, and they also produce him.' Thereupon the king said, 'What is that doth not close its eyes even while sleeping; what is it that doth not move, even when born; what is it that hath no heart; and what doth increase even in its own speed?' Ashtavakra said, 'It is a fish 4 that doth not close its eye-lids, while sleeping; and it is an a egg 5 that doth not move when produced; it is stone 6 that hath no heart; and it is a river 7 that increase in its own speed.'
"The king said, 'It seemeth, O possessor of divine energy, that thou art no human being. I consider thee not a boy, but a matured man; there is no other man who can compare with thee in the art of speech. I therefore give thee admittance. There is Vandin.'"
276:1 This wheel is the wheel of Time--i.e., measured according to the solar, lunar and astral revolutions. The importance of Ashtavakra's reply is this: May the meritorious deeds performed at proper times, during the revolution of this wheel of Time protect thee.
276:2 Thunder and lightning or misery and death.
276:3 Cloud or the mind.
276:4 The male being that is ever conscious.
276:5 The mundane egg.
276:6 The soul that has renounced connection with the body.
276:7 The heart of a Yogi.
Next: Section CXXXIV