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Chapter 90

Mahabharata English - ADI PARVA

“Ashtaka said, ‘Capable of assuming any form at will, thou hast lived fora million years in the gardens of Nandana. For what cause, O foremost ofthose that flourished in the Krita age, hast thou been compelled to leavethat region and come hither?’

Yayati answered, ‘As kinsmen, friends, andrelatives forsake, in this world, those whose wealth disappears so, inthe other world, the celestials with Indra as their chief, forsake himwho hath lost his righteousness.’ Ashtaka said, ‘I am extremely anxiousto know how in the other world men can lose virtue. Tell me also, O king,what regions are attainable by what courses of action. Thou artacquainted, I know, with the acts and sayings of great beings.”

“Yayati answered, ‘O pious one, they that speak of their own merits aredoomed to suffer the hell called Bhauma. Though really emaciated andlean, they appear to grow on Earth (in the shape of their sons andgrandsons) only to become food for vultures, dogs, and jackals.Therefore, O king, this highly censurable and wicked vice should berepressed. I have now, O king, told thee all. Tell me what more I shallsay.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘When life is destroyed with age, vultures, peacocks,insects, and worms eat up the human body. Where doth man then reside? Howdoth he also come back to life? I have never heard of any hell calledBhauma on Earth!’

“Yayati answered, ‘After the dissolution of the body, man, according tohis acts, re-entereth the womb of his mother and stayeth there in anindistinct form, and soon after assuming a distinct and visible shapereappeareth in the world and walketh on its surface. This is thatEarth-hell (Bhauma) where he falleth, for he beholdeth not thetermination of his existence and acteth not towards his emancipation.Some dwell for sixty thousand years, some, for eighty-thousand years inheaven, and then they fall. And as they fall, they are attacked bycertain Rakshasas in the form of sons, grandsons, and other relatives,that withdraw their hearts from acting for their own emancipation.’

“Ashtaka asked, ‘For what sin are beings, when they fall from heaven,attacked by these fierce and sharp-toothed Rakshasas? Why are they notreduced to annihilation? How do they again enter the womb, furnished withsenses?’

“Yayati answered, ‘After falling from heaven, the being becometh asubtile substance living in water. This water becometh the semen whenceis the seed of vitality. Thence entering the mother’s womb in the womanlyseason, it developeth into the embryo and next into visible life like thefruit from the flower. Entering trees, plants, and other vegetablesubstances, water, air, earth, and space, that same watery seed of lifeassumeth the quadrupedal or bipedal form. This is the case with allcreatures that you see.’

“Ashtaka said, ‘O tell me, I ask thee because I have my doubts. Doth abeing that hath received a human form enter the womb in its own shape orin some other? How doth it also acquire its distinct and visible shape,eyes and ears and consciousness as well? Questioned by me, O, explain itall! Thou art, O father, one acquainted with the acts and sayings ofgreat beings.’ Yayati answered, ‘According to the merits of one’s acts,the being that in a subtile form co-inheres in the seed that is droppedinto the womb is attracted by the atmospheric force for purposes ofre-birth. It then developeth there in course of time; first it becomesthe embryo, and is next provided with the visible physical organism.Coming out of the womb in due course of time, it becometh conscious ofits existence as man, and with his ears becometh sensible of sound; withhis eyes, of colour and form; with his nose, of scent; with his tongue,of taste; by his whole body, of touch; and by his mind, of ideas. It isthus, O Ashtaka, that the gross and visible body developeth from thesubtile essence.’

“Ashtaka asked, ‘After death, the body is burnt, or otherwise destroyed.Reduced to nothing upon such dissolution, by what principle is onerevived?’ Yayati said, ‘O lion among kings, the person that dies assumesa subtil form; and retaining consciousness of all his acts as in a dream,he enters some other form with a speed quicker than that of air itself.The virtuous attain to a superior, and the vicious to an inferior form ofexistence. The vicious become worms and insects. I have nothing more tosay, O thou of great and pure soul! I have told thee how beings are born,after development of embryonic forms, as four-footed, six-footedcreatures and others with more feet. What more wilt thou ask me?’

“Ashtaka said, ‘How, O father, do men attain to those superior regionswhence there is no return to earthly life? Is it by asceticism or byknowledge? How also can one gradually attain to felicitous regions? Askedby me, O answer it in full.’

“Yayati answered, ‘The wise say that for men there are seven gatesthrough which admission may be gained into Heaven. There are asceticism,benevolence, tranquillity of mind, self-command, modesty, simplicity, andkindness to all creatures. The wise also say that a person loseth allthese in consequence of vanity. That man who having acquired knowledgeregardeth himself as learned, and with his learning destroyed thereputation of others, never attaineth to regions of indestructiblefelicity. That knowledge also doth not make its possessor competent toattain to Brahma. Study, taciturnity, worship before fire, andsacrifices, these four remove all fear. When, however, these are mixedwith vanity, instead of removing it, they cause fear. The wise shouldnever exult at (receiving) honours nor should they grieve at insults. Forit is the wise alone that honour the wise; the wicked never act like thevirtuous. I have given away so much–I have performed so manysacrifices,–I have studied so much,–I have observed these vows,–suchvanity is the root of fear. Therefore, thou must not indulge in suchfeelings. Those learned men who accept as their support the unchangeable,inconceivable Brahma alone that ever showereth blessings on personsvirtuous like thee, enjoy perfect peace here and hereafter.'”

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