The Mahabharata Home
"Sanjaya said, 'Thus addressed by Yudhishthira, Kunti's son owning white steeds, filled with rage, drew his sword for slaying that bull of Bharata's race. Beholding his wrath, Keshava, conversant with the workings of the (human) heart said, "Why, O Partha, dost thou draw thy sword? I do not, O Dhananjaya, behold anyone here with whom thou hast to fight! The Dhartarashtras have now been assailed by the intelligent Bhimasena. Thou comest from battle, O son of Kunti, for seeing the king. The king has been seen by thee. Indeed, Yudhishthira is well. Having seen that tiger among kings who is endued with prowess equal to that of a tiger, why this folly at a time when thou shouldst rejoice? I do not see here, O son of Kunti, the person whom thou mayst slay. Why then dost thou desire to strike? What is this delusion of thy mind? Why dost thou, with such speed, take up that formidable sword? I ask thee this, O son, of Kunti! What is this that thou art about, inasmuch as, O thou of inconceivable prowess, thou graspest that sword in anger?" Thus addressed by Krishna, Arjuna, casting his eyes on Yudhishthira, and breathing like an angry snake, said unto Govinda, "I would cut off the head of that man who would tell me 'Give thy Gandiva to another person." Even this is my secret vow. Those words have been spoken by this king, O thou of immeasurable prowess, in thy presence, O Govinda! I dare not forgive them. I will for that slay this king who himself fears the slightest falling from virtue. Slaying this best of men, I will keep my vow. It is for this that I have drawn the sword, O delighter of the Yadus. Even I, slaying Yudhishthira, will pay off my debt to truth. By that I will dispel my grief and fever, O Janardana. I ask thee, what do you think suitable to the circumstances that have arisen? Thou, O sire, knowest the entire past and future of this universe. I will do what thou wilt tell me.'"
"Sanjaya continued, 'Govinda then said, "Fie, fie," unto Partha and once more continued to say, "I now know, O Partha, that thou hast not waited upon the old, since, O tiger among men, thou hast yielded to wrath at a time when thou shouldst not have done so. No one that is acquainted with the distinctions of morality would act in the way, O Dhananjaya, in which thou, O son of Pandu, that art unacquainted with them, art acting today! He, O Partha, is the worst of men who committeth acts that should not be done and doeth acts that are apparently proper but condemned by the scriptures. Thou knowest not the decisions of those learned men who, waited upon by pupils, declare their opinions, following the dictates of morality. The man that is not acquainted with those rulings becomes confounded and stupefied, O Partha, even as thou hast been stupefied, in discriminating between what should be done and what should not. What should be done and what should not cannot be ascertained easily. Everything can be ascertained by the aid of the scriptures. Thou, however, art not acquainted with the scriptures. Since (believing thyself) conversant with morality, thou art desirous of observing morality (in this way, it seems) thou art actuated by ignorance. Thou believest thyself to be conversant with virtue, but thou dost not know, O Partha, that the slaughter of living creatures is a sin. Abstention from injury to animals is, I think, the highest virtue. One may even speak an untruth, but one should never kill. How then, O foremost of men, couldst thou wish, like an ordinary person, to slay thy eldest brother, the King, who is conversant with morality? The slaughter of a person not engaged in battle, or of a foe, O Bharata who has turned his face from battle or who flies away or seeks protection or joins his hands or yields himself up or is careless, is never applauded by the righteous. All these attributes are in thy superior. This vow, O Partha, was adopted by thee before from foolishness. In consequence of that vow thou art now, from folly, desirous of perpetrating a sinful act. Why, O Partha, dost thou rush towards thy reverend superior for slaying him, without having resolved the exceedingly subtle course of morality that is, again, difficult of being understood? I will now tell thee, O son of Pandu, this mystery connected with morality, this mystery that was declared by Bhishma, by the righteous Yudhishthira, by Vidura otherwise called Kshatri, and by Kunti, of great celebrity. I will tell thee that mystery in all its details. Listen to it, O Dhananjaya! One who speaks truth is righteous. There is nothing higher than truth. Behold, however, truth as practised is exceedingly difficult to be understood as regards its essential attributes. Truth may be unutterable, and even falsehood may be utterable where falsehood would become truth and truth would become falsehood. In a situation of peril to life and in marriage, falsehood becomes utterable. In a situation involving the loss of one's entire property, falsehood becomes utterable. On an occasion of marriage, or of enjoying a woman, or when life is in danger, or when one's entire property is about to be taken away, or for the sake of a Brahmana, falsehood may be uttered. These five kinds of falsehood have been declared to be sinless. On these occasions falsehood would become truth and truth would become falsehood. He is a fool that practises truth without knowing the difference between truth and falsehood. One is said to be conversant with morality when one is able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. What wonder then in this that a man of wisdom, by perpetrating even a cruel act, may obtain great merit like Valaka by the slaughter of the blind beast? What wonder, again, in this that a foolish and ignorant person, from even the desire of winning merit, earns great sin like Kausika (living) among the rivers?"
"'Arjuna said, "Tell me, O holy one, this story that I may understand it, viz., this illustration about Valaka and about Kausika (living) among rivers."
"'Vasudeva said, "There was a certain hunter of animals, O Bharata, of the name of Valaka. He used, for the livelihood of his son and wives and not from will, to slay animals. Devoted to the duties of his own order and always speaking the truth and never harbouring malice, he used also to support his parents and others that depended upon him. One day, searching for animals even with perseverance and care, he found none. At last he saw a beast of prey whose sense of smell supplied the defect of his eyes, employed in drinking water. Although he had never seen such an animal before, still he slew it immediately. After the slaughter of that blind beast, a floral shower fell from the skies (upon the head of the hunter). A celestial car also, exceedingly delightful and resounding with the songs of Apsaras and the music of their instruments, came from heaven for taking away that hunter of animals. That beast of prey, having undergone ascetic austerities, had obtained a boon and had become the cause of the destruction of all creatures. For this reason he was made blind by the Self-born. Having slain that animal which had resolved to slay all creatures, Valaka went to heaven. Morality is even so difficult of being understood. There was an ascetic of the name of Kausika without much knowledge of the scriptures. He lived in a spot much removed from a village, at a point where many rivers met. He made a vow, saying, 'I must always speak the truth.' He then became celebrated, O Dhananjaya, as a speaker of truth. At that time certain persons, from fear of robbers, entered that wood (where Kausika dwelt). Thither even, the robbers, filled with rage, searched for them carefully. Approaching Kausika then, that speaker of truth, they asked him saying, 'O holy one, by which path have a multitude of men gone a little while before? Asked in the name of Truth, answer us. If thou hast seen them, tell us this'. Thus adjured, Kausika told them the truth, saying, 'Those men have entered this wood crowded with many trees and creepers and plants'. Even thus, O Partha, did Kausika give them the information. Then those cruel men, it is heard, finding out the persons they sought, slew them all. In consequence of that great sin consisting in the words spoken, Kausika, ignorant of the subtilities of morality, fell into a grievous hell, even as a foolish man, of little knowledge, and unacquainted with the distinctions of morality, falleth into painful hell by not having asked persons of age for the solution of his doubts. There must be some indications for distinguishing virtue from sin. Sometimes that high and unattainable knowledge may be had by the exercise of reason. Many persons say, on the one hand, that the scriptures indicate morality. I do not contradict this. The scriptures, however, do not provide for every case. For the growth of creatures have precepts of morality been declared. That which is connected with inoffensiveness is religion. Dharma protects and preserves the people. So it is the conclusion of the Pandits that what maintains is Dharma. O Partha, I have narrated to you the signs and indications of Dharma. Hearing this, you decide whether Yudhishthira is to be slaughtered by you or not." Arjuna said, "Krishna, your words are fraught with great intelligence and impregnated with wisdom. Thou art to us like our parents and our refuge. Nothing is unknown to thee in the three worlds, so thou art conversant with the canons of morality. O Keshava of the Vrishni clan, thou knowest my vow that whoever among men would tell me, 'Partha, give thy Gandiva to some one braver than you,' I shall at once put an end to his life. Bhima has also made a promise that whoever would call him 'tularak', would be slaughtered by him there and then. Now the King has repeatedly used those very words to me in thy presence, O hero, viz., 'Give thy bow.' If I slay him, O Keshava, I will not be able to live in this world for even a moment. Having intended again the slaughter of the king through folly and the loss of my mental faculties, I have been polluted by sin. It behoveth thee today, O foremost of all righteous persons, to give me such counsel that my vow, known throughout the world, may become true while at the same time both myself and the eldest son of Pandu may live.'"
"'Vasudeva said, "The king was fatigued, and under the influence of grief, He had been mangled in battle by Karna with numerous arrows. After that, O hero, he was repeatedly struck by the Suta's son (with his shafts), while he was retreating from battle. It was for this that, labouring under a load of sorrow, he spoke those improper words unto thee in wrath. He provoked thee by those words so that thou mightest slay Karna in battle. The son of Pandu knows that the wretched Karna is incapable of being borne by any one else in the world (save thee). It was for this, O Partha, that the king in great wrath said those harsh words to thy face. The stake in the game of today's battle has been made to lie in the ever alert and always unbearable Karna. That Karna being slain, the Kauravas would necessarily be vanquished. Even this is what the royal son of Dharma had thought. For this the son of Dharma does not deserve death. Thy vow also, O Arjuna, should be kept. Listen now to my counsels that will be agreeable to thee, to counsels in consequence of which Yudhishthira without being actually deprived of life may yet be dead. As long as one that is deserving of respect continues to receive respect, one is said to live in the world of men. When, however, such a person meets with disrespect, he is spoken of as one that is dead though alive. This king hath always been respected by thee and by Bhima and the twins, as also by all heroes and all persons in the world that are venerable for years. In some trifle then show him disrespect. Therefore, O Partha, address this Yudhishthira as 'thou' when his usual form of address is 'your honour.' A superior, O Bharata, by being addressed as 'thou,' is killed though not deprived of life. Bear thyself thus, O son of Kunti, towards king Yudhishthira, the just. Adopt this censurable behaviour, O perpetuator of Kuru's race! This best audition of all auditions, hath been declared by both Atharvan and Angiras. Men desiring good should always act in this way without scruples of any kind. Without being deprived of life a superior is yet said to be killed if that venerable one is addressed as 'thou.' Conversant with duty as thou art, address king Yudhishthira the just, in the manner I have indicated. This death, O son of Pandu, at thy hands, king Yudhishthira will never regard as an offence committed by thee. Having addressed him in this way, thou mayst then worship his feet and speak words of respect unto this son of Pritha and soothe his wounded honour. Thy brother is wise. The royal son of Pandu, therefore, will never be angry with thee. Freed from falsehood as also from fratricide, thou wilt then, O Partha, cheerfully slay the Suta's son Karna!"'"
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