The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Having acquired great power and great wealth, and having obtained a long period of life, how may one succeed in avoiding death? By which of these means, viz., penances, or the accomplishment of the diverse acts (laid down in the Vedas), or by knowledge of the Srutis, or the application of medicines, can one succeed in avoiding decrepitude and death?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the old narrative of Panchasikha who was a Bhikshu in his practices and Janaka. Once on a time Janaka, the ruler of the Videhas, questioned the great Rishi Panchasikha, who was the foremost of all persons conversant with the Vedas and who had all his doubts removed in respect of the purpose and import of all duties. The King said,--By what conduct, O holy one may one transcend decrepitude and death? It is by penances, or by the understanding, or by religious acts (like sacrifices, and vows), or by study and knowledge of the scriptures?--Thus addressed by the ruler of the Vedas the learned Panchasikha, conversant with all invisible things, answered, saying,--There is no prevention of these two (viz., decrepitude and death); nor is it true that cannot be prevented under any circumstances. Neither days, nor nights, nor months, cease to go on. Only that man, who, though transitory, betakes himself to the eternal path (of the religion of Nivritti or abstention from all acts) succeeds in avoiding birth and death. Destruction overtakes, all creatures. All creatures seem to be ceaselessly borne along the infinite current of time. Those that are borne along the infinite current of time which is without a raft (to rescue) and which is infested by those two mighty alligators, viz., decrepitude and death, sink down without anybody coming to their assistance. As one is swept along that current, one fails to find any friend for help and one fails to be inspired with interest for any one else. One meets with spouses and other friends only on one's road. One had never before enjoyed this kind of companionship with any one for any length of time. Creatures, as they are borne along the current of time, become repeatedly attracted towards one another like masses of clouds moved by the wind meeting one another with loud sound. Decrepitude and death are devourers of all creatures, like wolves. Indeed, they devour the strong and the weak, the short and the tall. Among creatures, therefore, which are all so transitory, only the Soul exists eternally. Why should he, then, rejoice when creatures are born and why should he grieve when they die? Whence have I come. Who am I? Whither shall I go? Whose am I? Before what do I rest? What shall I be? For what reason then dost thou grieve for what? Who else then thou wilt behold heaven or hell (for what thou doest)? Hence, without throwing aside the scriptures, one should make gifts and perform sacrifices!--"
Next: Section CCCXXI