The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hadst referred to the dispute between Time, Mrityu, Yama, Ikshvaku, and a Brahmana. It behoveth thee to narrate the story in full.'
"Bhishma said, 'In connection with this subject that I am discoursing upon, is cited the old history of what transpired between Surya's son Ikshvaku and a certain Brahmana, and Time and Mrityu. Listen to me as to what occurred, and what was the conversation that took place between them, and the place where it happened. There was a certain Brahmana of great fame and pious behaviour. He was a Reciter. Possessed of great wisdom, he was conversant with the six Angas (of the Vedas). He was of the Kusika race and son of Pippalada. 2 He acquired (by his austerities) spiritual insight into the Angas. 3 Residing at the foot of Himavat, he was devoted to the Vedas. Silently reciting the Gayatri composition, he practised severe austerities for attaining to Brahma. A thousand years passed over his head while he was engaged in the observance of vows and fasts. The goddess (of Gayatri or Savitri) showed herself to him and said, 'I am gratified with thee.' Continuing to recite the sacred mantra, the Brahmana remained silent and spoke not a word to the goddess. The goddess felt compassion for him and became highly gratified. Then that progenitrix of the Vedas applaud that recitation in which the Brahmana had been engaged. After finishing his recitation (for that day) the Brahmana stood up and, bending his head, prostrated himself before the goddess's feet. The righteous-souled Reciter, addressing the goddess, said, 'By good luck, O goddess, thou hast been gratified with me and shown thyself to me. If, indeed, thou art gratified with me, the boon I ask is that my heart
may take pleasure in act of recitation.'
"Savitri said, 'What dost thou ask, O regenerate Rishi? What wish of thine shall I accomplish? Tell me, O foremost of Reciters, everything will be as thou wishest.' Thus addressed by the goddess, the Brahmana, conversant with duties, replied, saying, 'Let my wish about continuing my recitations go on increasing every moment. Let also, O auspicious goddess, the absorption of my mind into Samadhi be more complete.' The goddess sweetly said, 'Let it be as thou wishest.' Desiring to do good to the Brahmana, the goddess once again addressed him, saying, 'Thou shalt not have to go to hell, i.e., thither where great Brahmanas go. Thou shalt go into the region of Brahma which is uncreate and free from every fault. I go hence, but that which thou hast asked me shall happen. 1 Go on reciting with restrained soul and rapt attention. The god Dharma will in person come to thee. Time, Mrityu. and Yama also will all approach thy presence. There will be a dispute here between them and thee on a question of morality.'
'Bhishma continued, 'Having said these words, the goddess went back to her own abode. The Brahmana. continued engaged in recitation for a thousand celestial years. Restraining wrath, and always controlling self, he passed his time, firmly devoting himself to truth and freed from malice. Upon the completion of his observance by the intelligent Brahmana, Dharma, gratified with him, showed his person unto that regenerate individual.'
'Dharma said, 'O regenerate one, behold me who am Dharma. I have come here for seeing thee. Thou hast won the reward of this recitation in which thou hadst been engaged. Listen to ma as to what that reward is. Thou hast won all the regions of felicity which appertain to either gods or men. O good man, thou shalt ascend above all the abodes of the deities. O ascetic, cast off thy vital breaths then, and go unto whatever regions thou pleasest. By casting off thy body thou wilt win many regions of felicity.'
"The Brahmana said, 'What business have I with those regions of felicity of which thou speakest? O Dharma, go whithersoever thou pleasest. I will not, O puissant lord, cast off this body which is subject to much happiness and misery.'
"Dharma said, 'Thy body, O foremost of ascetics, should certainly be cast off. Do thou ascend to heaven, O Brahmana! Or, tell us what else should please thee, O sinless one!'
"The Brahmana said, 'I do not, O puissant lord, wish to reside in heaven itself without this body of mine. Leave me, O Dharma! I have no desire to go to heaven itself without my own body.'
"Dharma said, 'Without (thus) setting thy heart on thy body, cast it off and be happy Go into regions that are free from the attribute of Passion. Indeed, going thither, thou shalt never have to feel any misery.'
"The Brahmana said, 'O highly-blessed one, I take great pleasure in recitation. What need have I for those eternal regions of which thou
speakest? Indeed, O puissant lord, I do not desire to go to heaven with even this body of mine.'
"Dharma said, 'If thou dost not wish to cast off thy body, behold, O regenerate one, there is Time, and there is Mrityu, and there is Yama, who are all approaching thee!'
'Bhishma continued, 'After Dharma had said this, Vivaswat's son (Yama), Time, and Mrityu,--the trio (who snatch away all creatures from the earth), approached that Brahmana, O blessed king, and addressed him thus.'
"Yama said, 'I am Yama. I say unto thee that a high reward awaits thee for these well-performed penances of thine, and for this pious conduct that thou hast observed.'
"Time said, 'Thou hast won a high reward which is, indeed, commensurate with this course of recitation that thou hast finished. The time is come for thee to ascend to heaven.. I am Time and I have come to thee.'
"Mrityu said, 'O thou that art conversant with righteousness, know me for Mrityu herself in her proper form. I have come to thee in person, urged by Time, for bearing thee hence, O Brahmana.'
"The Brahmana said, 'Welcome to Surya's son, to Time possessed of high soul, to Mrityu, and to Dharma! What shall I accomplish for you all.
"Bhishma continued, 'In that meeting, the Brahmana gave them water to wash their feet, and the usual articles of the Arghya. Highly gratified, he then addressed them, saying, 'What shall I do for you all by exerting my own might?' Just at that time, 01 monarch, (king) Ikshvaku, who had set out on a sojourn to holy waters and shrines, came to that spot where those deities had been assembled together. 'The royal sage Ikshvaku bowed his head and worshipped them all. That best of kings then enquired after the welfare of all of them. The Brahmana gave the king a seat, as also water to wash his feet, and the usual Arghya. Having next made the usual enquiries of courtesy, he said, 'Thou art welcome, O great monarch! Tell me all this thy wishes! Let thy noble self tell me what I shall have to accomplish for thee by putting forth my might.'
"The king said, 'I am a king. Thou art a Brahmana in the observance of the six well-known duties. (1 cannot ask), I will give thee some wealth. That is well-known. Tell me how much I shall give thee.'
"The Brahmana said, 'There are two kinds of Brahmanas, O monarch! Morality of righteousness also is of two kinds; addiction to work, and abstention from work. As regards myself, I have abstained from acceptance of gifts. Give presents unto them, O, king, that are addicted to the duty of work and acceptance. I shall not, therefore, accept anything in gift. On the other hand, I ask thee, what is for thy good? What, indeed, shall I give thee? Tell me, O foremost of kings, and I shall accomplish it with the aid of my penances.'
"The king said, 'I am a Kshatriya. I do not know how to say the word 'Give.' The only thing, O best of regenerate persons, that we can say (by way of asking) is Give (us) battle.'
"The Brahmana said, 'Thou art content with the observance of the duties of thy order. Similarly, I am content with the duties of mine, O king! There
is, therefore, little difference between us. Do as thou pleasest!'
"The king said, 'Thou saidst these words first, viz., 'I shall give thee according to my might.' I, therefore, solicit thee, O regenerate one. Give me the fruits of this recitation (which thou hast gone through).'
"The Brahmana said, 'Thou wert boasting that thy utterances always solicit battle. Why then dost thou not solicit battle with me?'
"The king said, 'It has been said that Brahmanas are armed with the thunder of speech, and that Kshatriyas have might of arms. Hence, learned Brahmana, this wordy warfare has set in between thee and me.'
"The Brahmana said, 'As regards myself, even that is my resolution today. What shall I give thee according to my might? Tell me, O king of kings, and I shall give thee, having wealth of my own. Do not tarry.'
"The king said, 'If, indeed, thou desirest to give me anything, then give me the fruits thou hast earned by practising recitation for these thousand years.'
"The Brahmana said, 'Take the highest fruit of the recitations I have gone through. Indeed, take half, without any scruple, of that fruit. Or, O king, if thou wishest, take without any scruple the entire fruits of my recitations.'
"The king said, 'Blessed be thou, I have no need for the fruits of thy recitations which I solicited. Blessings on thy head. I am about to leave thee. Tell me, however, what those fruits are (of thy recitations).'
"The Brahmana said, 'I have no knowledge of the fruits I have won. I have, however, given thee those fruits that I have acquired by recitation. These, viz., Dharma and Time, and Yama, and Mrityu, are witnesses (of the act of gift).'
"The king said, 'What will the fruits, that are unknown, of these thy observances, do for me? If thou dost not tell me what the fruits are of thy recitations, let those fruits be thine, for without doubt I do not wish for them.'
"The Brahmana said, 'I will not accept any other utterance (from thee). I have given thee the fruits of my recitations. Let, O royal sage, both thy words and mine become true. As regards my recitations, I never cherished any specific desire to accomplish. How then, O tiger among kings, should I have any knowledge of what the fruits are of those recitations? Thou saidst, 'Give!' I said 'I give!' I shall not falsify these words. Keep the truth. Be calm! If thou request to keep my word, O king, great will be thy sin due to falsehood. O chastiser of foes, it does not become thee to utter what is untrue. Similarly, I dare not falsify what I have uttered. I have, before this, unhesitatingly said, 'I give!' If, therefore, thou art firm in truth, accept my gift. Coming here, O king, thou didst solicit of me the fruits of my recitations. Therefore, take what I have given away, if, indeed, thou art firm in truth. He who is addicted to falsehood had neither this world nor the next. Such a person fails to rescue his (deceased) ancestors. How again shall he succeed in doing good to his (unborn) progeny? The rewards of sacrifices and gifts, as also of fasts and religious observances, are not so efficacious in rescuing (a person from evil and hell) as Truth, O bull among men, in both this and the next world. All the penances that have been undergone by thee and all those that thou wilt undergo in the future for hundreds and thousands of years
do not possess efficacy greater than that of Truth. Truth is one un deteriorating Brahma. Truth is the one undeteriorating Penance. Truth is the one undeteriorating sacrifice. Truth is the one undeteriorating Veda. Truth is awake in the Vedas. The fruits attached to Truth have been said to be the highest. From Truth arise Righteousness and Self-restraint. Everything rests on Truth. Truth is the Vedas and their branches. Truth is Knowledge. Truth is the Ordinance. Truth is the observance of vows and fasts. Truth is the Primeval Word Om. Truth is the origin of creatures. Truth is their progeny. It is by Truth that the Wind moves. It is by Truth that the Sun gives heat. It is by Truth that Fire burns. It is on Truth that Heaven rests. Truth is Sacrifice, Penance, Vedas, the utterance of Samans, Mantras, and Saraswati. It hath been heard by us that once on a time Truth and all religious observances were placed on a pair of scales. When both were weighed, that scale on which Truth was, seen to be heavier. There is Truth where Righteousness is. Everything increaseth through Truth. Why, O king, dost thou wish to do an act that is stained with falsehood? Be firm in Truth. Do not act falsely, O monarch! Why wouldst thou falsify thy words 'Give (me),' which thou hast uttered? If thou refusest, O monarch, to accept the fruits that I have given thee of my recitations, thou shalt then have to wander over the world, fallen away from Righteousness! That person who does not give after having promised, and he also that does not accept after having solicited, are both stained with falsehood. It behoveth thee, therefore, not to falsify thy own words.'
"The king said, 'To fight and protect (subjects) are the duties of Kshatriyas. It is said that Kshatriyas are givers (of presents). How then shall I take anything from thee (in gift)?'
"The Brahmana said, 'I never insisted on thee, O king (for accepting anything from me in the first instance). I did not seek thy house. Thyself, coming here, didst solicit me. Why then dost thou not take?'
"Dharma said, 'Know ye both that I am Dharma himself. Let there be no dispute between you. Let the Brahmana become endued with the reward attaching to gift, and let the monarch also obtain the merit of Truth.'
"Heaven said, 'Know, O great king, that I am Heaven's self in my embodied form, come hither in person. Let this dispute between you cease. You are both equal in respect of the merit or rewards earned.'
"The king said, 'I have no use with Heaven. Go, O Heaven, to the place you have come from. If this learned Brahmana desires to repair to thee, let him take the rewards that I have won (by my acts in life).'
"The Brahmana said, 'In my younger days I had, through ignorance, stretched my hand (for acceptance of gifts). At present, however, I recite the Gayatri, observing the duty of abstention. 1 Why dost thou, O king, tempt me thus, me who have for a long time observed the duty of abstention? I shall myself do what my duty is. I do not wish to have any share of the rewards won by thee, O monarch! I am devoted to penances and to study of the
[paragraph continues] Vedas, and I have abstained from acceptance.'
"The king said, 'If, O Brahmana, thou art really to give me the excellent reward of thy recitation, then let half that reward be mine, thyself taking at the same time half the reward that I myself have won by my acts. Brahmanas are engaged in the duty of acceptance. Persons born in the royal order are engaged in the duty of giving. If thou art not unaware of the duties (laid down for both the orders), let our fruits be equal (according to the suggestion I have made). Or, if thou dost not wish to be my equal in respect of our rewards, take then the whole of the rewards that I may have won. Do take the merit I have won, if thou wishest to show me grace.'
"Bhishma continued, 'At this time, two individuals of very ungainly aspect came there. Each had his arm upon the other's shoulder; both were ill-dressed. They said these words, 'Thou owest me nothing. I really owe thee. If we dispute in this way, here is the king who ruleth individuals. I say truly, thou owest me nothing! Thou speakest falsely. I do owe thee a debt. Both of them, waxing very hot in dispute, then addressed the king, saying, 'See, O monarch, that none of us may become stained with sin.'
"Virupa said, 'I woe my companion, Vikrita, O monarch, the merits of the gift of a cow. I am willing to pay off that debt. This Vikrita, however, refuses to take repayment.' 1
"Vikrita said, 'This Virupa, O monarch, oweth me nothing. He speaks a falsehood with the appearance of truth, O king.'
"The king said, "Tell me, O Virupa, what is that which thou owest thy friend here. It is my resolution to hear thee and then do what is proper.'
"Virupa said, 'Hear attentively, O king, all the circumstances in detail, about how I owe my companion, viz., this Vikrita, O ruler of men. This Vikrita had, in bygone days, for the sake of winning merit, O sinless one, given away an auspicious cow, O royal sage, unto a Brahmana devoted to penances as the study of the Vedas. Going unto him, O king, I begged of him the reward of that act. With a pure heart, Vikrita made a gift to me of that reward. I then, for my purification, did some good acts. I also purchased two kapila cows with calves, both of which used to yield large quantities of milk. I then made a present, according to due rites and with proper devotion, of those two cows unto a poor Brahmana living by the Unchha 2 method. Having formerly accepted the gift from my companion, I desire, O lord, even here, to give him return twice the reward! 3 The circumstances being such, O tiger among men, who amongst us two shall be innocent and who guilty (according to your judgment)? Disputing with each other about this, we have both come to thee, O monarch! Whether thou judgest rightly or wrongly, establish both of us in peace. If this my companion does not wish to take
from me in return a gift equal to what he gave me, thou shalt have to judge patiently and set us both on the right track.'
"The king said, 'Why do you not accept payment that is sought to be made of the debt that is owing to thee? Do not delay, but accept payment of what thou knowest is thy due.'
"Vikrita said, 'This one says that he owes me. I say unto him that what I gave I gave away. He doth not, therefore, owe me anything. Let him go whithersoever he wishes.'
"The king said, 'He is ready to give thee. Thou., however, art unwilling to take. This does not seem proper to me. I think that thou deservest punishment for this. There is little doubt in this.'
"Vikrita said, 'I made a gift to him, O royal sage! How can I take it back? If I am guilty in this, do thou pronounce the punishment, O puissant one.'
"Virupa said, 'If thou refusest to take when I am ready to give, this king will certainly punish thee, for he is an upholder of justice.'
"Vikrita said, 'Solicited by him I gave him what was my own. How shall I now retake that? Thou mayst go away. Thou hast my leave.'
"The Brahmana said, 'Thou hast heard, O king, the words of these two. Do thou take without scruple that which I have pledged myself to give thee.'
"The king said, 'This matter is, indeed, as deep (in importance) as an unfathomable pit. How will the pertinacity of this Reciter end? If I do not accept what has been given by this Brahmana, how shall I avoid being stained with a great sin?' The royal sage then said unto the two disputants, 'Go ye both, having won your respective objects. I should see that kingly duties, vested in me, may not become futile. It is settled that kings should observe the duties laid down for them. To my misfortune, however, the course of duties prescribed for Brahmanas has possessed my wretched self.' 1
"The Brahmana said, 'Accept, O king! I owe thee. Thou didst solicit it, and I also have become pledged (to give thee). If, however, thou refuse to take, O monarch, I shall without doubt curse thee.'
"The king said, 'Fie on kingly duties, the settled conclusion about the operation of which is even such. I should, however, take what thou givest, for only this reason, viz., rendering the two courses of duty exactly equal. 2 This is my hand, that was never before (stretched forth for acceptance of gifts),
is now stretched forth (for acceptance as also) for giving away. Give me what thou owest me.'
"The Brahmana said, 'If I have won any fruits by reciting the Gayatri, accept them all.'
"The king said, 'These drops of water, behold, O foremost of Brahmanas, have fallen upon my hand. I also desire to give thee. Accept my gift. Let there be equality between us (through thy accepting my gift as I have accepted thine).'
"Virupa said, 'Know, O king, that we two are Desire and Wrath. It hath been by us that thou hast been induced to act in this way. Thou hast made a gift in return to the Brahmana. Let there be equality between thee and this regenerate person in respect of regions--of felicity in the next world. This Vikrita really does not owe me anything. We appealed to thee for thy own sake. Time, Dharma, Mrityu, and we two, have examined everything about thee, here in thy very presence, by producing this friction between thee and that Brahmana. Go now, as thou choosest, to those regions of felicity which thou hast won by means of thy deeds.'
"Bhishma continued, 'I have now told thee how Reciters obtain the fruits (of their recitation) and what, indeed, is their end, what the spot, and what the regions, that a Reciter may win. A Reciter of Gayatri goes to the supreme god Brahman, or repairs to Agni or enters the region of Surya. If he sports there in his (new) energetic form, then stupefied by such attachment, he catches the attributes of those particular regions. 1 The same becomes the case with him if he goes to Soma, or Vayu, or Earth, or Space. The fact is, he dwells in all these, with attachment, and displays the attributes peculiar to those regions. If, however, he goes to those regions after having freed himself from attachments, and feels a. mistrust (respecting the felicity he enjoys) and wishes for That Which is Supreme and Immutable, he then enters even That. In that case he attains to the ambrosia of ambrosia, to a state free from desire and destitute of separate consciousness. He becomes Brahma's self freed from the influence of opposites, happy, tranquil, and without pain. 2 Indeed, he attains to, that condition which is free from pain, which is tranquillity's self, which is; called Brahma, whence there is no return, and which is styled the One and Immutable. He becomes freed from the four means of apprehension, 3 the six conditions, and also the other six and ten attributes. 4 Transcending the Creator (Brahman), he attains to absorption into the One Supreme Soul. Or, if under the influence of attachments, he wishes not for such absorption, but desires to have a separate existence as dependent on that Supreme Cause of everything, then obtains the fruition of everything for which he cherishes a wish. Or, if he looks (with aversion) upon all regions of felicity, which have been (as previously stated)
called hells, he then, driving off desire and freed from everything, enjoys supreme felicity even in those very regions. 1 Thus, O monarch, I have discoursed to thee about the end attained by Reciters. I have told thee everything. What else thou wishest to hear?'"
56:1 For there no forms exist to become the objects of such functions. All is pure knowledge there, independent of those ordinary operations that help created beings to acquire knowledge.
56:2 The six Angas are Siksha, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Chhandas, Jyotish.
56:3 i.e., an insight not obtained in the ordinary way but by intuition.
57:1 K.P. Singha mistranslates the word sadhaye. It means 'I go', and not 'I will strive etc.' The Burdwan translator is correct.
60:1 Work and Abstention from work are the two courses of duty prescribed or followed.
61:1 It seems that Vikrita had given away a cow. He had then made a gift to Virupa of the merit he had won by that righteous act.
61:2 Picking solitary grains from the crevices in the fields after the crops have been gathered and taken away.
61:3 He gave me the merit he won by giving away one cow. I wish to give him in return the merit I have won by giving away two cows.
62:1 Verses 107 and 108 are rather obscure. What the king says in 107 seems to be that you two have referred your dispute to me who am a king. I cannot shirk my duty, but am bound to judge fairly between you. I should see that kingly duties should not, so far as I am concerned, become futile. In 108 he says, being a king I should discharge the duties of a king, i.e., I should judge disputes, and give, if need be, but never take. Unfortunately, the situation is such that I am obliged to act as a Brahmana by taking what this particular Brahmana is desirous of offering.
62:2 This verse also seems to be very obscure. The king's natural inclination, it seems, prompts him to oblige the Brahmana by accepting his gift. The ordinances about kingly duties restrain him. Hence his condemnation of those duties. In the second line, he seems to say that he is morally bound to accept the gift, and intends to make a gift of his own merits in return. The result of this act, he thinks, will be to make both courses of duty (viz., the Kshatriya, and the Brahmana's) produce the same kind of rewards in the next world.
63:1 This is not Emancipation, but merely terminable felicity.
63:2 Attains to Emancipation or Absorption in-to the essence of Brahma.
63:3 These are Direct knowledge (through the senses), Revelation, Inference, and Intuition.
63:4 The first six are Hunger, Thirst, Grief, Delusion, Disease, and Death. The other sixteen are the five breaths, the ten senses, and the mind.
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