The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O thou that knowest the truths of religion, I wish to hear of the merits of compassion, and of the characteristics of devout men. Do thou, O sire, describe them to me.'
"Bhishma said, In this connection, this ancient legend, the story of Vasava and the high-minded Suka, is cited as an illustration. In the territories of the king of Kasi, a fowler, having poisoned arrows with him went out of his village on a hunting excursion in search of antelopes. Desirous of obtaining, meat, when in a big forest in pursuit of the chase, he discovered a drove of antelopes not far from him, and discharged his arrow at one of them. The arrows of that folder of irresistible arms,
discharged for the destruction of the antelope, missed its aim and pierced a mighty forest-tree. The tree, violently pierced with that arrow tipped with virulent poison, withered away, shedding its leaves and fruits. The tree having thus withered a parrot that had lived in a hollow of its trunk all his life, did not leave his nest out of affection for the lord of the forest. Motionless and without food silent and sorrowful, that grateful and virtuous parrot also withered away with the tree. The conqueror of Paka (Indra) was struck with wonder upon finding that high-souled, and generous-hearted bird thus uninfluenced by misery or happiness and possessing extraordinary resolution. Then the thought arose in Sakra's mind,--How could this bird come to possess humane and generous feelings which are impossible in one belonging to the world of lower animals? Perchance, there is nothing wonderful in the matter, for all creatures are seen to evince kindly and generous feelings towards others.--Assuming then the shape of a Brahmana, Sakra descended on the Earth and addressing the bird, said,--O Suka, O best of birds, the grand-daughter (Suki) of Daksha has become blessed (by having thee as her offspring). I ask thee, for what reason dost thou not leave this withered tree?--Thus questioned, the Suka bowed unto him and thus replied:--Welcome to thee O chief of the gods, I have recognised thee by the merit of my austere penances--Well-done, well-done!--exclaimed the thousand-eyed deity. Then the latter praised him in his mind, saying,--O, how wonderful is the knowledge which he possesses.--Although the destroyer of Vala knew that parrot to be of a highly virtuous character and meritorious in action, he still enquired of him about the reason of his affection for the tree. This tree is withered and it is without leaves and fruits and is unfit to be the refuge of birds. Why dost thou then cling to it? This forest, too, is vast and in this wilderness there are numerous other fine trees whose hollows are covered with leaves and which thou canst choose freely and to thy heart's content. O patient one exercising due discrimination in thy wisdom, do thou forsake this old tree that is dead and useless and shorn of all its leaves and no longer capable of any good.'"
"Bhishma said, 'The virtuous Suka, hearing these words of Sakra, heaved a deep sigh and sorrowfully replied unto him, saying--O consort of Sachi, and chief of the gods, the ordinances of the deities are always to be obeyed. Do thou listen to the reason of the matter in regard to which thou hast questioned me. Here, within this tree, was I born, and here in this tree have I acquired all the good traits of my character, and here in this tree was I protected in my infancy from the assaults of my enemies. O sinless one, why art thou, in thy kindness, tampering with the principle of my conduct in life? I am compassionate, and devoutly intent on virtue, and steadfast in conduct. Kindliness of feeling is the great test of virtue amongst the good, and this same compassionate and humane feeling is the source of perennial felicity to the virtuous. All the gods question thee to remove their doubts in religion, and for this reason, O lord, thou hast been placed in sovereignty over them all. It behoves
thee not, O thousand-eyed one, to advise me now to abandon this tree for ever. When it was capable of good, it supported my life. How can I forsake it now?--The virtuous destroyer of Paka, pleased with these well-meant words of the parrot, thus said to him:--I am gratified with thy humane and compassionate disposition. Do thou ask a boon of me.--At this, the compassionate parrot craved this boon of him, saying,--Let this tree revive.--Knowing the great attachment of the parrot to that tree and his high character, Indra, well-pleased, caused the tree to be quickly sprinkled over with nectar. Then that tree became replenished and attained to exquisite grandeur through the penances of the parrot, and the latter too, O great king, at the close of his life, obtained the companionship of Sakra by virtue of that act of compassion. Thus, O lord of men, by communion and companionship with the pious, people attain all the objects of their desire even as the tree die through its companionship with the parrot.'"
Next: Section VI