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Chapter 20

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Bhishma said, ‘Thus commanded, the lady said,–Be it so. She thenbrought oil (for rubbing the Rishi’s body therewith) and a piece of clothfor his wear during the ablutions. Permitted by the ascetic, she rubbedevery part of his body with the fragrant oil she had brought for him.Gently was the Rishi rubbed, and when the process of rubbing was over, heproceeded to the room set apart for the performance of ablutions. Therehe sat upon a new and excellent seat of great splendour.[198] After theRishi had taken his seat upon it, the old lady began to wash his personwith her own soft hands whose touch was exceedingly agreeable. One afteranother in due order, the lady rendered the most agreeable services tothe Rishi in the matter of his ablutions. Between the lukewarm water withwhich he was washed, and the soft hands that were employed in washinghim, the Rishi of rigid vows failed to understand that the whole nighthad passed away in the process. Rising from the bath the Rishi becamehighly surprised. He saw the Sun risen above the horizon on the East. Hewas amazed at this and asked himself,–Was it really so or was it anerror of the understanding?–The Rishi then duly worshipped the god of athousand rays. This done, he asked the lady as to what he should do. Theold lady prepared some food for the Rishi that was as delicious to thetaste as Amrita itself. In consequence of the delicious character of thatfood the Rishi could not take much. In taking that little, however, theday passed away and evening came. The old lady then asked the Rishi to goto bed and sleep. An excellent bed was assigned to the Rishi and anotherwas occupied by herself. The Rishi and the old lady occupied differentbeds at first but when it was midnight, the lady left her own bed forcoming to that of the Rishi.’

“Ashtavakra said, ‘O blessed lady, my mind turns away from sexualcongress with one who is the spouse of another. Leave my bed, O goodlady. Blessed be thou, do thou desist from this of thy own accord.'[199]

“Bhishma continued, ‘Thus dissuaded by that Brahmana with the aid of hisself-restraint, the lady answered him, saying,–I am my own mistress. Inaccepting me thou wilt incur no sin.’

“Ashtavakra said, ‘Women can never be their own mistresses. This is theopinion of the Creator himself, viz., that a woman never deserves to beindependent.’

“The lady said, ‘O learned Brahmana, I am tortured by desire. Mark mydevotion to thee. Thou incurrest sin by refusing to accost me lovingly.’

“Ashtavakra said, ‘Diverse faults, drag away the man that acts as helikes. As regards myself, I am able to control my inclinations byself-restraint. O good lady, do thou return to thy own bed.’

“The lady said, ‘I bow to thee, bending my head. It behoves thee to showme thy grace. O sinless one, I prostrate myself before thee, do thoubecome my refuge. If indeed, thou seest such sin in congress with onethat is not thy spouse, I yield myself unto thee. Do thou, O regenerateone, accept my hand in marriage. Thou wilt incur no sin. I tell theetruly. Know that I am my own mistress. If there by any sin in this, letit be mine alone. My heart is devoted to thee. I am my own mistress. Dothou accept me.’

“Ashtavakra said, ‘How is it, O good lady, that thou art thy ownmistress. Tell me the reason of this. There is not a single woman in thethree worlds that deserves to be regarded as the mistress of her ownself. The father protects her while she is a maiden. The husband protectsher while she is in youth. Sons protect her when she is aged. Women cannever be independent as long as they live!’

“The lady said, ‘I have since my maidenhood, adopted the vow ofBrahmacharyya. Do not doubt it. I am still a maid. Do thou make me thywife. O Brahmana, do not kill this devotion of mine to thee.’

“Ashtavakra said, ‘As thou art inclined to me, so I am inclined to thee.There is this question, however, that should be settled. Is it true thatby yielding to my inclinations I shall not be regarded as acting inopposition to what the Rishi (Vadanya) wishes. This is very wonderful.Will this lead to what is beneficial? Here is a maiden adorned withexcellent ornaments and robes. She is exceedingly beautiful. Why diddecrepitude cover her beauty so long? At present she looks like abeautiful maiden. There is no knowing what form she may takehereafter.[200] I shall never swerve from that restraint which I haveover desire and the other passions or from contentment with what I havealready got. Such swerving does not seem to be good. I shall keep myselfunited with truth!'[201]

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