The Mahabharata Home
Vaishampayana said, "In that tirtha lived in days of yore a Rishi of virtuous soul, named Asita-Devala, observant of the duties of Domesticity. Devoted to virtue, he led a life of purity and self-restraint. Possessed of great ascetic merit, he was compassionate unto all creatures and never injured anyone. In word, deed, and thought, he maintained an equal behaviour towards all creatures. Without wrath, O monarch, censure and praise were equal to him. Of equal attitude towards the agreeable and the disagreeable, he was, like Yama himself, thoroughly impartial. The great ascetic looked with an equal eye upon gold and a heap of pebbles. He daily worshipped the gods and guests, and Brahmanas (that came to him). Ever devoted to righteousness, he always practised the vow of brahmacarya. Once upon a time, an intelligent ascetic, O monarch, of the name of Jaigishavya, devoted to Yoga and rapt in meditation and leading the life of a mendicant, came to Devala's asylum. Possessed of great splendour, that great ascetic, ever devoted to Yoga, O monarch, while residing in Devala's asylum, became crowned with ascetic success. Indeed, while the great Muni Jaigishavya resided there, Devala kept his eyes on him, never neglecting him at any time. Thus, O monarch, a long time was passed by the two in days of yore. On one occasion, Devala lost sight of Jaigishavya, that foremost of ascetics. At the hour, however, of dinner, O Janamejaya, the intelligent and righteous ascetic, leading a life of mendicancy, approached Devala for soliciting alms. Beholding that great ascetic re-appear in the guise of a mendicant, Devala showed him great honour and expressed much gratification. And Devala worshipped his guest, O Bharata, according to the measure of his abilities, after the rites laid down by the Rishis and with great attention for many years. One day, however, O king, in the sight of that great Muni, a deep anxiety perturbed the heart of the highsouled Devala. The latter thought within himself, 'Many years have I passed in worshipping this ascetic. This idle mendicant, however, hath not yet spoken to me a single word!' Having thought of this, the blessed Devala proceeded to the shores of the ocean, journeying through the welkin and bearing his earthen jug with him. Arrived at the coast of the Ocean, that lord of rivers, O Bharata, the righteous-souled Devala saw Jaigishavya arrived there before him. The lord Asita, at this sight, became filled with wonder and thought within himself, 'How could the mendicant come to the ocean and perform his ablutions even before my arrival?' Thus thought the great Rishi Asita. Duly performing his ablutions there and purifying himself thereby, he then began to silently recite the sacred mantras. Having finished his ablutions and silent prayers, the blessed Devala returned to his asylum, O Janamejaya, bearing with him his earthen vessel filled with water. As the ascetic, however, entered his own asylum, he saw Jaigishavya seated there. The great ascetic Jaigishavya never spoke a word to Devala, but lived in the latter's asylum as if he were a piece of wood. Having beheld that ascetic, who was an ocean of austerities, plunged in the waters of the sea (before his own arrival there), Asita now saw him returned to his hermitage before his own return. Witnessing this power, derived through Yoga, of Jaigishavya's penances, Asita Devala, O king, endued with great intelligence, began to reflect upon the matter. Indeed that best of ascetics, O monarch, wondered much, saying, 'How could this one be seen in the ocean and again in my hermitage?' While absorbed in such thoughts, the ascetic Devala, conversant with mantras, then soared aloft, O monarch, from his hermitage into the sky, for ascertaining who Jaigishavya, wedded to a life of mendicancy, really was. Devala saw crowds of sky-ranging Siddhas rapt in meditation, and he saw Jaigishavya reverentially worshipped by those Siddhas. Firm in the observance of his vows and persevering (in his efforts), Devala became filled with wrath at the sight. He then saw Jaigishavya set out for heaven. He next beheld him proceed to the region of the Pitris. Devala saw him then proceed to the region of Yama. From Yama's region the great ascetic Jaigishavya was then seen to soar aloft and proceed to the abode of Soma. He was then seen to proceed to the blessed regions (one after another) of the performers of certain rigid sacrifices. Thence he proceeded to the regions of the Agnihotris and thence to the region of those ascetics that perform the Darsa and the Paurnamasa sacrifices. The intelligent Devala then saw him proceed from those regions of persons performing sacrifices by killing animals to that pure region which is worshipped by the very gods. Devala next saw the mendicant proceed to the place of those ascetics that perform the sacrifice called Chaturmasya and diverse others of the same kind. Thence he proceeded to the region belonging to the performers of the Agnishtoma sacrifice. Devala then saw his guest repair to the place of those ascetics that perform the sacrifice called Agnishutta. Indeed, Devala next saw him in the regions of those highly wise men that perform the foremost of sacrifices, Vajapeya, and that other sacrifice in which a profusion of gold is necessary. Then he saw Jaigishavya in the region of those that perform the Rajasuya and the Pundarika. He then saw him in the regions of those foremost of men that perform the horse-sacrifice and the sacrifice in which human beings are slaughtered. Indeed, Devala saw Jaigishavya in the regions also of those that perform the sacrifice called Sautramani and that other in which the flesh, so difficult to procure, of all living animals, is required. Jaigishavya was then seen in the regions of those that perform the sacrifice called Dadasaha and diverse others of similar character. Asita next saw his guest sojourning in the region of Mitravaruna and then in that of the Adityas. Asita then saw his guest pass through the regions of the Rudras, the Vasus and Brihaspati. Having soared next into the blessed region called Goloka, Jaigishavya was next seen to pass into these of the Brahmasatris. Having by his energy passed through three other regions, he was seen to proceed to those regions that are reserved for women that are chaste and devoted to their husbands. Asita, however, at this point, O chastiser of foes, lost sight of Jaigishavya, that foremost of ascetics, who, rapt in yoga, vanished from his sight. The highly blessed Devala then reflected upon the power of Jaigishavya and the excellence of his vows as also upon the unrivalled success of his yoga. Then the self-restrained Asita, with joined hands and in a reverential spirit, enquired of those foremost of Siddhas in the regions of the Brahmasatris, saying, 'I do not see Jaigishavya! Tell me where that ascetic of great energy is. I desire to hear this, for great is my curiosity.'
"The Siddhis said, 'Listen, O Devala of rigid vows, as we speak to thee the truth. Jaigishavya hath gone to the eternal region of Brahman.'"
Vaishampayana continued, "Hearing these words of those Siddhas residing in the regions of the Brahmasatris, Asita endeavoured to soar aloft but he soon fell down. The Siddhas then, once more addressing Devala, said unto him, 'Thou, O Devala, art not competent to proceed thither, to the abode of Brahman, whither Jaigishavya hath gone!'"
Vaishampayana continued, "Hearing those words of the Siddhas, Devala came down, descending from one region to another in due order. Indeed, he repaired to his own sacred asylum very quickly, like a winged insect. As soon as he entered his abode he beheld Jaigishavya seated there. Then Devala, beholding the power derived through Yoga of Jaigishavya's penances, reflected upon it with his righteous understanding and approaching that great ascetic, O king, with humility, addressed the high-souled Jaigishavya, saying, 'I desire, O adorable one, to adopt the religion of Moksha (Emancipation)! Hearing these words of his, Jaigishavya gave him lessons. And he also taught him the ordinances of Yoga and the supreme and eternal duties and their reverse. The great ascetic, seeing him firmly resolved, performed all the acts (for his admission into that religion) according to the rites ordained for that end. Then all creatures, with the Pitris, beholding Devala resolved to adopt the religion of Moksha, began to weep, saying, 'Alas, who will henceforth give us food!' Hearing these lamentations of all creatures that resounded through the ten points, Devala set his heart upon renouncing the religion of Moksha. Then all kinds of sacred fruits and roots, O Bharata, and flowers and deciduous herbs, in thousands, began to weep, saying, 'The wicked-hearted and mean Devala will, without doubt, once more pluck and cut us! Alas, having once assured all creatures of his perfect harmlessness, he sees not the wrong that he meditates to do!' At this, that best of ascetics began to reflect with the aid of his understanding, saying, 'Which amongst these two, the religion of Moksha or that of Domesticity, will be the better for me? Reflecting upon this, Devala, O best of kings, abandoned the religion of Domesticity and adopted that of Moksha. Having indulged in those reflections, Devala, in consequence of that resolve obtained the highest success, O Bharata, and the highest Yoga. The celestials then, headed by Brihaspati, applauded Jaigishavya and the penances of that ascetic. Then that foremost of ascetics, Narada, addressing the gods, said, 'There is no ascetic penance in Jaigishavya since he filled Asita with wonder!' The denizens of heaven then, addressing Narada who said such frightful words, said, 'Do not say so about the great ascetic Jaigishavya! There is no one superior or even equal to this high-souled one in force of energy and penance and Yoga!' Even such was the power of Jaigishavya as also of Asita. This is the place of those two, and this the tirtha of those two high-souled persons. Bathing there and giving away wealth unto the Brahmanas, the high-souled wielder of the plough, of noble deeds, earned great merit and then proceeded to the tirtha of Soma."
Next: Section 51