The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, it has been said that all pious men attain to the same region after death. Is it true, O Bharata, that there is difference of position or status among them?'
"Bhishma said, 'By different deeds, O son of Pritha, men attain to different regions. They who are righteous in conduct attain to regions of felicity, while they who are sinful attain to regions that are fraught with misery. In this connection is cited the old narrative of the discourse, O son, between the ascetic Gautama and Vasava. A certain Brahmana of the name of Gautama, mild and self-restrained and with all his senses under complete control, beheld an infant elephant that had lost his mother and that was exceedingly cheerless on that account. Full of compassion and steady in the observance of his vows, the ascetic nursed that infant animal. After a long time the little beast grew up into a large and mighty elephant. One day, Indra, assuming the form of king Dhritarashtra, seized that mighty elephant which was as huge as a hill and from whose rent temples the juice was trickling down. Beholding the elephant dragged away, the great ascetic Gautama of rigid vows addressed king Dhritarashtra and said, 'O ungrateful Dhritarashtra, do not rob me of this elephant.
[paragraph continues] It is looked upon by me as a son and I have reared it with much pain. It is said that between the righteous, friendship springs up if only they exchange seven words. 1 Thou shouldst see, O king, that the sin of injuring a friend does not touch thee! It behoveth thee not, O king, to take away by force this elephant that brings me my fuel and water, that protects my asylum when I am away, that exceedingly docile and obedient to his instructor, that is mindful of doing all the offices that his preceptor commands, that is mild and well-broken, and that is grateful and very dear to me! Indeed, thou shouldst not bear it away, disregarding my protestations and cries!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'I shall give thee a thousand kine, a hundred maid-servants, and five hundred pieces of gold. I shall also, O great Rishi, give thee diverse other kinds of wealth. What use can Brahmanas have with elephants?'
"Gautama said, Keep, O king, thy kine and maid-servants and coins of gold and various gems and diverse other kinds of wealth! What, O monarch, have Brahmanas to do with wealth?'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Brahmana, have no use for elephants. Verily, O learned Brahmana, elephants are meant for persons of the royal order. In taking away an animal, viz., this foremost of elephants, for my use as vehicle, I cannot be regarded as committing any sin. Do thou cease obstructing me in this way, O Gautama!'
"Gautama said, 'O illustrious king, repairing even to that region of Yama where the righteous live in joy and the sinful in grief, I shall take from thee this my elephant!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'They that are destitute of (religious) acts, they that have no faith and are atheists, they that are of sinful souls and are always engaged in gratifying their senses, only they have to go to the region of Yama and endure the misery he inflicts. Dhritarashtra shall go to a higher region, and not thither!'
"Gautama said, 'The region of Yama is such that men are there controlled. No untruth can be told there. Only truth prevails in that place. There the weak persecute the strong. Repairing. thither I shall force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Only those persons, that intoxicated with pride, conduct themselves towards their eldest sister and father and mother as towards foes, have to repair, O great ascetic, to such a region. I shall repair to a higher region. Indeed, Dhritarashtra shall not have to go thither!'
"Gautama said, 'The region, called Mandakini, of king Vaisravana is attained by those highly blessed persons for whom are every joy and comfort. There Gandharvas and Yakshas and Apsaras live (gladdening
all the denizens with enchanting dances and music). Repairing even thither, O king, I shall force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Those persons who regard hospitality to guests as a vow, who are observant of good vows (having other objects), who give shelter to Brahmanas, and who eat what remains after distribution among all those that are dependent upon them, adorn the region called Mandakini of Kuvera. (I shall not go thither, for a higher region is reserved for me)!'
"Gautama said, 'If thou repairest to those delightful woods decked with flowers, that stand on the summit of Meru, that echo with melodious voice of Kinnaris, and that are graced with beautiful Jamvus of wide-spreading branches, I shall proceed even thither and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
'Dhritarashtra said, 'Those Brahmanas that are endued with mild dispositions, that are devoted to truth, that are possessed of great learning in the scriptures, that are compassionate unto all creatures, that study the Puranas with all the histories, that pour libations on the sacred fire and make gifts of honey unto the Brahmanas, repair to such regions, O great Rishi! I shall repair to a region that is higher. Indeed Dhritarashtra shall not go thither. If thou art acquainted with any other well-known region of felicity, speak unto me, for I shall repair even thither!'
"Gautama said, 'If thou proceedest to the woods owned by Narada and held dear by him, that are adorned with flowers and that echo with the melodious songs of the prince of Kinnaras, and that are the eternal abode of Gandharvas and Apsaras, I shall follow thee thither and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'They who never solicit alms, they who cultivate music and dancing, and always rove about in joy, proceed to such regions. O great Rishi, I shall repair to a region that is higher. Indeed, Dhritarashtra shall not have to go thither!'
"Gautama said, 'If thou goest to that region where the Uttara-Kurus blaze in beauty and pass their days in gladness, O king, in the company of the very deities, where those beings that have their origin in fire, those that have their origin in water, and those having their origin in mountains, reside in happiness, and where Sakra raineth down the fruition of every wish, and where women live in perfect freedom, unrestrained by rules of any kind regulating their conduct of motions, and where there is no feeling of jealousy between the sexes,--if thou repairest thither, even thither shall I proceed and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Those men that are freed from desire with respect to all articles of enjoyment, that abstain from meat, that never take up the rod of chastisement, and never inflict the least harm on mobile and immobile creatures, that have constituted themselves the soul of all creatures, that are entirely freed from the idea of meum, that have cast off attachments of every kind, that regard gain and loss as also praise and blame as equal,--only those men, O great Rishi, repair to such regions.
[paragraph continues] I shall repair to a higher region. Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go thither!'
"Gautama said, 'Next to these blaze in beauty those eternal regions, redolent with excellent perfumes, that are free from passions of every kind and that are destitute of sorrow. These constitute the abode of the high-souled king Soma. If thou repairest thither, even thither shall I proceed and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Those men that always make gifts without receiving any gift, who never accept any service from others, who own nothing which they cannot give to a deserving person, who are hospitable to all creatures, who are inclined to show grace to every one, who are endued with forgiving dispositions, who never speak ill of others, who protect all creatures by throwing over them the shroud of compassion, and who are always righteous in their behaviour,--only those men, O great Rishi, proceed to such regions. I shall proceed to a higher region. Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go there!'
"Gautama said, 'Next to these blaze in beauty other regions that are eternal, free from passion and darkness and sorrow, and that lie at the foot of the high-souled deity of the Sun. If thou repairest thither, even thither shall I go and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Those men that are attentive to the study of the Vedas, that are devoted to the service of their preceptors, that are observant of penances and excellent vows, that are firm in truth, that never utter anything that smacks of disobedience or enmity to their preceptors, that are always alert, and ever ready in service of seniors and preceptors,--they repair, O great Rishi, to such regions, they that are pure (of mind and body), that are endued with cleansed souls, that are of restrained speech, that are firm in truth, and that are well-versed in the Vedas. I shall proceed to a higher region! Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go thither!'
"Gautama said, 'Next to those are the eternal regions that blaze in beauty, that are redolent with excellent perfumes, that are free from passion, and that are free from every sorrow. They constitute the abode of the high-souled king Varuna. If thou proceedest thither, even thither shall I go and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Those men who worship the deities by observing the vow called Chaturmasya, that perform a hundred and ten sacrifices, that pour libations every day on their sacred fire with devotion and faith for three years agreeably with the ordinances declared in the Vedas, that bear without flinching the burden of all duties, that walk steadily along the way trod by the righteous, that steadily sustain the course of conduct followed by the righteous-souled,--only they repair to such regions. I shall repair to a higher region. Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go thither!'
"Gautama said, 'Above them are the regions of Indra, free from passion and sorrow, that are difficult of access and coveted by all men. Proceeding even to the abode of Indra himself of mighty energy, I shall,
[paragraph continues] O king, force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'He who lives for a hundred years, who is endued with heroism, who studies the Vedas, and who performs sacrifices with devotion, verity, such men proceed to the region of Sakra. I shall repair to a higher region. Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go there!'
"Gautama said, 'Above the Heavens are the regions of the Prajapatis of superior felicity abounding in every happiness, and divested of sorrow. Belonging to those puissant ones from whom the creation has sprung, they are coveted by all persons. If thou repairest thither, even thither shall I go and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'Those kings that have bathed upon the completion of the Rajasuya sacrifice, that are endued with righteous souls, that have protected their subjects properly, and that have washed their limbs with sanctified water upon the completion of the horse-sacrifice, repair to such regions. Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go there!'
"Gautama said, 'Next to those, blaze in beauty those eternal regions, redolent with delicious perfumes, free from passion, and transcending all sorrow. Those are the regions of kine difficult of attainment where oppression can never be. If thou repairest thither, I shall proceed even thither and force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'He who, owning thousand kine, gives away a hundred kine every year, or owning a hundred kine gives away ten every year to the best of his might, or owning only ten or even five kine gives away therefrom one cow, and they who attain to a mature old age practising the vows of Brahmacharya all their days, who obey the declarations of the Vedas, and who, endued with energy of mind, betake themselves to pilgrimages to sacred waters and shrines, dwell in felicity in the region of kine. They who repair to Prabhasa and Manasa, the lakes of Pushkara, the large lake called Mahatsara, the sacred woods of Naimisha, Vahuda, Karatoya, Ganga, Gayasiras, Vipasa, Sthulavaluka, Krishna, the five rivers (of the Punjab), the extensive lake called Mahahrada, Gomati, Kausiki, Champa, Saraswati, Drisadwati, and Yamuna,--indeed, those illustrious Brahmanas, steady in the observance of vows, who go to these sacred waters,--repair to the regions of which thou speakest. Endued with celestial bodies and adorned with celestial garlands those blessed individuals, always emitting the most delightful perfumes, repair to those regions of joy and gladness. Verily, Dhritarashtra shall not go there!'
"Gautama said, 'Next to these are regions where there is no fear of the least cold or heat, no hunger, no thirst, no pain, no sorrow, no joy, no one that is agreeable or disagreeable, on friend, and on enemy: where decrepitude and death are not, and where there is neither righteousness nor sin. Proceeding even to that region which is freed from passion, which abounds with equable happiness, and where there is wisdom and the: tribute of Sattwa,--verily, proceeding to even that sacred abode of the self-born Brahman,--I shall force thee to yield up this elephant to me!'
"Dhritarashtra said, 'They who are freed from all attachments, who are possessed of cleansed souls, who are steady in the observance of the foremost vows, who are devoted to the Yoga that depends on tranquillising the mind, and who have (in this life) attained to the happiness of heaven,--those persons wedded to the attribute of Sattwa--attain to the sacred region of Brahman. O great ascetic, thou shalt not be able to discover Dhritarashtra there!'
"Gautama said, 'There where the foremost of Rathantaras is sung, where altars are strewn with the sacred Kusa blades, for the performance of Pundarika sacrifices, there where Soma-drinking Brahmanas go on vehicles drawn by excellent steeds, 1 proceeding even thither I shall force thee to yield up this elephant. I think, thou art the slayer of Vritra, viz., the deity that has performed a hundred sacrifices, engaged in roving through all the regions of the universe! I hope, I have not, through mental weakness (not recognising thee before) committed any fault by the words I have addressed thee!'
"The deity of a hundred sacrifices said, 'Yes, I am Maghavat. I came to the world of human beings, for seizing this elephant. I bow to thee. Do thou command me! I shall readily accomplish all that thou mayst be pleased to say!'
"Gautama said, 'Do thou give me, O chief of the deities, this elephant that is of white complexion and that is so young, for it is only ten years of age. I have brought it up as a child of my own. Dwelling in these woods, it has grown under my eye and has been to me a dear companion. Do thou set free this my child that thou hast seized and wishest to drag away!'
"The deity of a hundred sacrifices said, 'This elephant that has been a son to thee, O foremost of Brahmanas, cometh to thee looking wishfully at thee! Behold, it sniffs thy feet with its nostrils! My salutations to thee! Do thou pray for my welfare!'
"Gautama said, 'O chief of the deities, I do always think of thy good! I always offer thee worship! Do thou also, O Sakra, bestow thy blessings on me! Given by thee, I accept this elephant!'
"The deity of a hundred sacrifices said, 'Amongst all those high-souled and foremost of Rishis that firmly adhere to truth and that have the Vedas planted in their heart, thou alone hast been able to recognise me. For this reason I am exceedingly pleased with thee! Do thou, therefore, O Brahmana, come with me quickly, accompanied by this thy son! Thou deservest to attain to diverse regions of great felicity without the delay of even a single day!'
"Bhishma continued, 'Having said these words, the wielder of the thunderbolt, taking Gautama with him and placing him before, along with his
son, viz., that elephant, proceeded to heaven, that is difficult of attainment by even the righteous. He who would listen to this history every day or would recite it, restraining his senses the while, proceedeth (after death) to the region of Brahman even as Gautama himself.'"
187:1 Literally 'friendship is seven-word.' Sometimes the same expression is understood as meaning 'seven-paced,' The sense, of course, is that if the righteous meet and exchange seven words (or, walk with each other for only seven steps), they become friends.
191:1 The Bombay text has Somapithi and upavati instead of upayanti. The Bengal text reads Somavithi which seems to be inaccurate. The sense seems to be that of Somapithi or drinker of (sacrificial) soma.
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