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Chapter 117

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Desiring to die or desiring to live, many personsgive up their lives in the great sacrifice (of battle). Tell me, Ograndsire, what is the end that these attain to. To throw away life inbattle is fraught with sorrow for men. O thou of great wisdom, thouknowest that to give up life is difficult for men whether they are inprosperity, or adversity, in felicity or calamity. In my opinion, thouart possessed of omniscience. Do thou tell me the reason of this.’

“Bhishma said, ‘In prosperity or adversity, in happiness or woe, livingcreatures, O lord of the earth, coming into this world, live according toa particular tenor. Listen to me as I explain the reason to thee. Thequestion thou hast asked me is excellent, O Yudhishthira! In thisconnection, O king, I shall explain to thee the old narrative of thediscourse that took place in former times between the Island-born Rishiand a crawling worm. In days of old, when that learned Brahmana, viz.,the Island-born Krishna, having identified himself with Brahma, roamedover the world, he beheld, on a road over which cars used to pass, a wormmoving speedily. The Rishi was conversant with the course of everycreature and the language of every animal. Possessed of omniscience, headdressed the worm he saw in these words.’

“Vyasa said, ‘O worm, thou seemest to be exceedingly alarmed, and to bein great haste. Tell me, whither dost thou run, and whence hast thou beenafraid.’

“The worm said, ‘Hearing the rattle of yonder large car I am filled withfear. O thou of great intelligence, fierce is the roar it makes. It isalmost come! The sound is heard. Will it not kill me? It is for this thatI am flying away. The sound, as it is heard from a near point, I catch,of the bulls I hear. They are breathing hard under the whip of thedriver, as they are drawing the heavy burden. I hear also the diversesounds made by the men who are driving the bulls. Such sounds areincapable of being heard by a creature that like us has taken his birthin the order of worms. It is for this reason that I am flying from thissituation of great fright. Death is felt by all creatures to be fraughtwith pain. Life is an acquisition difficult to make. Hence, I fly away infear, I do not wish to pass from a state of happiness to one of woe.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Thus addressed, the Island-born Vyasa said, ‘O worm,whence can be thy happiness? Thou belongest to the inter-mediate order ofbeing. I think, death would be fraught with happiness to thee! Sound,touch, taste, scent, and diverse kinds of excellent enjoyments areunknown to thee, O worm! I think, death will prove a benefit to thee!’

“The worm said, ‘A living creature, in whatever situation he may beplaced, becomes attached to it. In even this order of being I am happy, Ithink, O thou of great wisdom! It is for this that I wish to live. Ineven this condition, every object of enjoyment exists for me according tothe needs of my body. Human beings and those creatures that spring fromimmobile objects have different enjoyments. In my former life I was ahuman being. O puissant one, I was a Sudra possessed of great wealth. Iwas not devoted to the Brahmanas. I was cruel, vile in conduct, and ausurer. I was harsh in speech. I regard cunning as wisdom. I hated allcreatures. Taking advantage of pretexts in compacts made between myselfand others. I was always given to taking away what belonged to others.Without feeding servants and guests arrived at my house, I used to fill,when hungry, my own stomach, under the impulse of pride, covetous of goodfood. Greedy I was of wealth, I never dedicated, with faith andreverence, any food to the deities and the Pitris although duty requiredme to dedicate food unto them. Those men that came to me, moved by fear,for seeking my protection, I sent adrift without giving them anyprotection. I did not extend my protection to those that came to me withprayers for dispelling their fear. I used to feel unreasonable envy atseeing other people’s wealth, and corn, and spouses held dear by them,and articles of drink, and good mansions. Beholding the happiness ofothers, I was filled with envy and I always wished them poverty,Following that course of conduct which promised to crown my own wisheswith fruition, I sought to destroy the virtue, wealth, and pleasures ofother people. In that past life of mine, I committed diverse deedslargely fraught with cruelty and such other passions. Recollecting thoseacts I am filled with repentance and grief even as one is filled withgrief at the loss of one’s dear son. In consequence of these acts of mineI do not know what the fruits are of good deeds. I, however, worshippedmy old mother and on one occasion worshipped a Brahmana. Endued withbirth and accomplishments, that Brahmana, in course of his wanderings,came to my house once as a guest. I received him with reverenthospitality. In consequence of the merit attaching to that act, my memoryhas not forsaken me. I think that in consequence of that act I shall oncemore succeed in regaining happiness. O thou of ascetic wealth, thouknowest everything. Do thou in kindness tell me what is for my good.”

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