The Mahabharata Home
"The king said, 'I am a king called by the name of Viradyumna. My fame has spread in all directions. My son Bhuridyumna hath been lost. It is in quest of him that I have come to this forest. Ye foremost of Brahmanas, that child was my only son and, ye sinless ones, he is of very tender years. He cannot, however, be found here. I am wandering everywhere for finding him out.'
"Rishabha continued, 'After the king had said these words, the ascetic Tanu hung down his head. He remained perfectly silent, without uttering a single word in answer. In former days that Brahmana had not been much honoured by the king. In disappointment, O monarch, he had for that reason practised austere penances for a longtime, resolving in his mind that he should never accept anything in gift from either kings or members of any other order. And he said to himself, 'Hope agitates every man of foolish understanding. I shall drive away hope from my mind.' Even such had been his determination. Viradyumna once more questioned that foremost of ascetics in these words:
"The king said, 'What is the measure of the thinness of Hope? What on earth is exceedingly difficult of acquisition? Tell me this, O holy one, for thou art well conversant with morality and profit."
"Rishabha continued, 'Himself recollecting all the past incidents (about his own disregard at the hands of the king) and calling them back to the recollection
of the king also, that holy Brahmana of emaciated body addressed the king and said the following words:
"The sage said, 'There is nothing, O king, that equals Hope in slenderness. I had solicited many kings and found that nothing is so difficult of acquisition as an image that Hope sets before the mind.'
"The king said, 'At thy words, O Brahmana, I understand what is slender and what is not so. 1 I understand also how difficult of acquisition are the images set by Hope before the mind. I regard these words of thine as utterances of Sruti. O thou of great wisdom, one doubt, however, has arisen in my-mind. It behoveth thee, O sage, to explain it in detail unto me that ask thee. What is more slender than thy body? Tell me this, O holy one, if, of course, O best of sages, the topic be one which may be discoursed upon without impropriety.'
"The emaciated sage said, 'A contented applicant is exceedingly difficult to meet with. Perhaps, there is none such in the world. Something rarer still, O sire, is the person that never disregards an applicant. The hope that rests upon such persons as do not, after passing their promises, do good to others according to the best of their powers and according as the applicants deserve, is slenderer than even my body. 2 The hope that rests upon an ungrateful man, or upon one that is cruel, or one that is idle, or one that injures others, is slenderer than even my body. 2 The hope cherished by a sire that has but one son, of once more seeing that son after he has been lost or missed, is slenderer than even my body. The hope that old women entertain of bringing forth sons, O king, and that is cherished by rich men, is slenderer than even my body. The hope that springs up in the hearts of grown up maidens of marriage when they hear anybody only talk of it in their presence, is slenderer than even my body.' 3 Hearing these words, O monarch, king Viradyumna, and the ladies of his household, prostrated themselves before that bull among Brahmanas and touched his feet with their bent heads.'
"The king said, 'I beg thy grace, O holy one! I wish to meet with my child. What thou hast said, O best of Brahmanas, is very true. There is no doubt of the truth of thy utterances.'
"Rishabha continued, 'The holy Tanu, that foremost of virtuous persons, smiling, caused, by means of his learning and his penances the king's son to be brought to that spot. Having caused the prince to be brought thither, the sage rebuked the king (his father). 4 That foremost of virtuous persons then displayed himself to be the god of righteousness. Indeed, having displayed his own wonderful and celestial form, he entered an adjacent forest, with heart freed from wrath and the desire of revenge. I saw all this, O king, and heard the words I have said. Drive off thy hope, that is even slenderer (than any of
those which the sage indicated).'
"Bhishma continued 'Thus addressed, O monarch, by the high-souled Rishabha, king Sumitra speedily cast off the hope that was in his heart and which was slenderer (than any of the kinds of hope indicated by the emaciated Rishi). Do thou also, O son of Kunti, hearing these words of mine, be calm and collected like Himavat. Overcome with distress, 1 thou hast questioned me and heard my answer. Having heard it. O monarch, it behoves thee to dispel these regrets of thine!'
278:1 i.e., Hope is slender; while things unconnected with Hope are the reverse.
278:2 The sense is that such persons should always be distrusted. Yet there are men who hope for good from them. Such hope, the sage says, is slenderer than his slender body.
278:3 The word maya repeated in verses 14 to 18 is explained by Nilakantha as having the sense of mattah. The meaning, of course, is very plain. Yet the Burdwan translator has strangely misunderstood it. K.P. Singha, of course, gives an accurate version.
278:4 For the king's disregard of the sage in former days.
279:1 The distress, which Yudhishthira felt at the thought of the slaughter in battle.
Next: Section CXXIX