The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Having cast off the status of a worm and taken birth as a Kshatriya of great energy, the person (of whom I am speaking), remembering his previous transformations, O monarch, began to undergo severe austerities. Beholding those severe austerities of the Kshatriya who was well-conversant with religion and wealth, the Island-born Krishna, that foremost of Brahmanas, went to him.'
"Vyasa said, The penances that appertain, O worm, to the Kshatriya order consist of the protection of all creatures. Do thou regard these duties of the Kshatriya order to be the penances laid down for thee. Thou shalt then attain to the status of a Brahmana. Ascertaining what is right and what is wrong, and cleansing thy soul, do thou duly cherish and protect all creatures, judiciously gratifying all good desires and correcting all that is unholy. Be thou of cleansed soul, be thou contented and be thou devoted to the practice of righteousness. Conducting thyself in this way, thou wilt then, when thou castest off thy life-breaths, become a Brahmana!'
"Bhishma continued, 'Although he had retired into the woods, yet, O Yudhishthira, having heard the words of the great Rishi he began to cherish and protect his subjects righteously. Soon, O best of kings, that worm, in consequence of the due discharge of the duty of protecting his subjects, became a Brahmana after casting off his Kshatriya body. Beholding him transformed into a Brahmana, the celebrated Rishi, viz., the Island-born Krishna of great wisdom, came to him.'
"Vyasa said, 'O chief of Brahmanas, O blessed one, be not troubled (through fear of death)! He who acts righteously attains to respectable birth. He, on the other hand, who acts unrighteously attains to a low and vile birth, O thou that art conversant with righteousness, one attains to misery agreeably the measure of one's sin. Therefore, O worm, do not be troubled through fear of death. The only fear thou shouldst entertain is about the loss of righteousness. Do thou, therefore, go on practising righteousness.'
"The worm said, 'Through thy grace, O holy one, I have attained from
happy to happier positions! Having obtained such prosperity as has its roots in righteousness, I think, my demerits have been lost.'
"Bhishma said, 'The worm having, at the command of the holy Rishi, attained to the status of a Brahmana that is so difficult to attain, caused the earth to be marked with a thousand sacrificial stakes. That foremost of all persons conversant with Brahma then obtained a residence in the region of Brahman himself. Indeed, O son of Pritha, the worm attained to the highest status, viz., that of eternal Brahma, as the result of his own acts done in obedience to the counsels of Vyasa. Those bulls among Kshatriyas, also, who have cast off their life-breaths (on the field of Kurukshetra) exerting their energy the while, have all attained to a meritorious end. Therefore O king, do not mourn on their account.'"
Next: Section CXX