The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me O bull of Bharata's race, how a king, without the usual aids, having obtained a kingdom that is so precious a possession, behave himself towards a powerful foe.'
"Bhishma said, In this connection is cited the old story of the discourse between the Ocean and the Rivers. In days of old, eternal Ocean, that lord of Rivers, that refuge of the foes of the celestials, asked all the Rivers for resolving this doubt that had arisen in his mind.'
"The Ocean said, 'Ye Rivers, I see that all of you, with your full currents, bring away trees of large trunks, tearing them off with their roots and branches. Ye do not, however, ever bring to me a cane. The canes that grow on your banks are of mean stems and destitute of strength. Do you refuse to wash them down through contempt, or are they of any use to you? I desire, therefore, to hear what the motive is that inspires all of you. Indeed, why is it that canes are not washed down by any of you, uprooted from the banks where they grow?' Thus addressed, the River Ganga, replied unto Ocean, that lord of all Rivers, in these words of grave import, fraught with reason, and, therefore, acceptable to all.'
"Ganga said, 'Trees stand in one and the same place and are unyielding in respect of the spot where they stand. In consequence of this disposition of theirs to resist our currents, they are obliged to leave the place of their growth. Canes, however, act differently. The cane, beholding the advancing current, bends to it. The others do not act in that way. After the current has passed away, the cane resumes its former posture. The cane knows the virtues of Time and opportunity. It is docile and obedient. It is yielding, without being stiff. For these reasons, it stands where it grows, without having to come with us. Those plants, trees, and creepers that bend and rise before the force of wind and water, have never to suffer discomfiture (by being taken up by the roots).'
"Bhishma continued, 'That person who does not yield to the power of a foe that has advanced in might and that is competent to imprison or kill, soon meets with destruction. 1 That man of wisdom who acts after ascertaining fully the strength and weakness, the might and energy, of himself and his foe, has never to suffer discomfiture. An intelligent man, therefore, when he sees his enemy to be more powerful than himself, should adopt the behaviour of the cane. That is an indication of wisdom.'"
248:1 The true policy, therefore, is to wait for the time when the foe becomes weak.
Next: Section CXIV