The Mahabharata Home
"Vyasa said, 'It is in consequence of a meritorious act, O worm, that thou, though born in the intermediate order of being, art not stupefied. That act is mine, O worm, in consequence of which thou art not stupefied. 1 In consequence of the puissance of my penances, I am able to rescue a being of demerit by granting him a sight only of my person. There is no stronger might than the might that attaches to penances, I know, O worm, that thou hast taken birth in the order of worms through the evil acts of thy past life. If, however, thou thinkest of attaining to righteousness and merit, thou mayst again attain to it. Deities as well as beings crowned with ascetic success, enjoy or endure the consequence of acts done by them in this field of action. Amongst men also, when acts of merit are performed, they are performed from desire of fruit (and not with disregard for fruit). The very accomplishment that one seeks to acquire are sought from desire of the happiness they will bring. 2 Learned or ignorant (in a former life) the creature that is, in this life, destitute of speech and understanding and hands and feet, is really destitute of everything. 3 He that becomes a superior Brahmana adores,
while alive, the deities of the sun and the moon, uttering diverse sacred Mantras. O worm, thou shalt attain to that state of existence. Attaining to that status, thou wilt enjoy all the elements converted into articles of enjoyment. When thou hast attained to that state, I shall impart to thee Brahma. Or, if thou wishest, I may place thee in any other status!' The worm, agreeing to the words of Vyasa, did not leave the road, but remained on it. Meanwhile, the large vehicle which was coming in that direction came to that spot. 1 Torn to pieces by the assault of the wheels, the worm gave up his life-breath. Born at last in the Kshatriya order through the grace of Vyasa of immeasurable puissance, he proceeded to see the great Rishi. He had, before becoming a Kshatriya, to pass through diverse orders of being, such as hedgehog and Iguana and boar and deer and bird, and Chandala and Sudra and Vaisya. Having given an account of his various transformations unto the truth-telling Rishi, and remembering the Rishi's kindness for him, the worm (now transformed into a Kshatriya) with joined palms fell at the Rishi's feet and touched them with his head.'
"The worm said, 'My present status is that high one which is coveted by all and which is attainable by the possession of the ten well-known attributes. Indeed, I who was formerly a worm have thus attained to the status of a prince. Elephants of great strength, decked with golden chains, bear me on their backs. Unto my cars are yoked Kamvoja steeds of high mettle. Numerous vehicles, unto which are attached camels and mules, bear me. With all my relatives and friends I now eat food rich with meat. Worshipped by all, sleep, O highly blessed one, on costly beds in delightful rooms into which disagreeable winds cannot blow. Towards the small hours of every night, Sutas and Magadhas and encomiasts utter my praises even as the deities utter the agreeable praises of Indra, their chief. Through the grace of thyself that art firm in truth and endued with immeasurable energy, I who was before a worm have now become a person of the royal order. I bow my head to thee, O thou of great wisdom. Do thou command me as to what I should do now. Ordained by the puissance of thy penances, even this happy status hath now become mine!'
"Vyasa said, 'I have today been worshipped by thee, O king, with diverse words expressive of reverence. Transformed into a worm, thy memory had become clouded. That memory has again appeared. The sin thou committed in a former life has not yet been destroyed,--that sin, viz., which was earned by thee while thou wert a Sudra covetous of wealth and cruel in behaviour and hostile to the Brahmanas. Thou wert able to obtain a sight of my person. That was an act of merit to thee while thou wert a worm. In consequence of thy having saluted and worshipped me thou shalt rise higher, for, from the Kshatriya order thou shalt rise to the status of a Brahmana, if only thou castest off thy life-breaths on the
field of battle for the sake of kine or Brahmanas. O prince, enjoying much felicity and performing many sacrifices with copious presents, thou shalt attain to heaven and transformed into eternal Brahma, thou wilt have perfect beatitude. Those that take birth in the intermediate order (of animals) become (when they rise) Sudras. The Sudra rises to the status of the Vaisya; and the Vaisya to that of the Kshatriya. The Kshatriya who takes pride in the discharge of the duties of his order, succeeds in attaining to the status of a Brahmana. The Brahmana, by following a righteous conduct, attains to heaven that is fraught with great felicity.'"
246:1 What the sage says is that the fact of the worm's being able to recollect the incidents of his past life is due to some meritorious act. That meritorious act is the very sight of the sage which the worm has been fortunate to obtain.
246:2 The sense is that among human beings also, acts are done with the intention of securing happiness. In other words, human beings also enjoy the fruits of their good acts and endure those of their evil ones.
246:3 Literally, the verse runs,--what is that which would forsake a creature that is destitute of etc.,' meaning that such a creature has been already forsaken by everything. Hence, 'the worm that is destitute of speech, etc.' is destitute of everything. Its condition is really fraught with great misery.
247:1 Jugupsita smritih jata is the paraphrase.
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