The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'The king, having entered that large forest, came upon an asylum of ascetics. Fatigued with the toil he had undergone, he sat himself down for rest. Beholding him armed with bow, worn out with toil, and hungry, the ascetics approached him and honoured him in due form. Accepting the honours offered by the Rishis, the king enquired of them about the progress and advancement of their penances. Having duly answered the enquiries of the king, those Rishis endued with wealth of asceticism asked that tiger among rulers about the reason that led his steps to that retreat. And they said, 'Blessed be thou, in pursuit of what delightful object hast thou, O king, come to this asylum, walking on foot and armed with sword and bow and arrows? We wish to hear whence thou art coming, O giver of honours. Tell us also in what race thou art born and what thy name is.' Thus addressed, O bull among men, the king proceeded to duly give unto all those Brahmanas an account of himself, O Bharata, saying, 'I am born in the race of the Haihayas. By name I am Sumitra, and I am the son of Mitra. I chase herds of deer, slaying them in thousands with my arrows. Accompanied by a large force and my ministers and the ladies of my household, I came out on a hunting expedition. I pierced a deer with an arrow, but the animal with the shaft sticking to his body ran with great speed. In chasing it I have, without a set purpose, arrived at this forest and find myself in your presence, shorn of splendour, toil-worn, and with hope disappointed. What can be more pitiable than this, viz., that I have arrived at this asylum, spent with fatigue, shorn of the signs of royalty, and disappointed of my hopes. I am not at all sorry, ye ascetics, at my being now shorn of the signs of royalty or at my being now at a distance from my capital. I feel, however, a poignant grief in consequence of my hope having been disappointed. The prince of mountains, viz., Himavat, and that vast receptacle of waters, viz., the ocean, cannot, for its vastness, measure the extent of the firmament. Ye ascetics, similarly, I also cannot discern the limit of hope. Ye that are endued with wealth of penances are omniscient. There is nothing unknown to you. You are also highly blessed. I therefore, solicit you for resolving my doubt. Hope as cherished by man, and the wide firmament, which of these two appears vaster to you? I desire to hear in detail what is so unconquerable to hope. If the topic be one upon which it is not improper for ye to discourse, then tell me all about it without delay. I do not wish, ye foremost of regenerate ones, to hear anything from You that may be a mystery improper to discourse upon. If again the discourse be injurious to your penances, I would not wish you to speak. If the question asked by me be a worthy topic of discourse, I would then wish to hear the cause in detail. Devoted to penances as ye are, do ye all instruct me on the subject.'"
Next: Section CXXVII