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Chapter 29

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Bhishma said, ‘Thus advised by Indra, Matanga, observant of vows,refused, to hear what he was bid. On the other hand, with regulated vowsand cleansed soul, he practised austere penances by standing on one footfor a thousand years, and was deeply engaged in Yoga-meditation. After athousand years had passed away, Sakra once more came to see him. Indeed,the slayer of Vala and Vritra said unto him the same words.’

‘Matanga said, ‘I have passed these thousand years, standing on one foot,in deep meditation, observing of the vow of Brahmacharyya. Why is it thatI have not yet succeeded in acquiring the status of a Brahmana?’

‘Sakra said, ‘One born on a Chandala cannot, by any means acquire thestatus of a Brahmana. Do thou, therefore name some boon so that all thislabour of thine may not prove fruitless–Thus addressed by the chief ofthe celestials, Matanga became filled with grief. He repaired to Prayaga,and passed there a hundred years, standing all the while on his toes. Inconsequence of the observance of such Yoga which was extremely difficultto bear, he became very much emaciated and his arteries and veins becameswollen and visible. He was reduced to only skin and bones. Indeed, ithas been heard by us that the righteous-souled Matanga, while practisingthose austerities at Gaya, dropped down on the ground from sheerexhaustion. The lord and giver of boons, engaged in the good of allcreatures, viz., Vasava beholding him falling down, quickly came to thatspot and held him fast.’

“Sakra said, ‘It seems, O Matanga, that the status of a Brahmana whichthou seekest is ill-suited to thee. That status is incapable of beingattained by thee. Verily, in thy case, it is surrounded by many dangers.A person by worshipping a Brahmana obtains happiness; while by abstainingfrom such worship, he obtains grief and misery. The Brahmana is, withrespect to all creatures, the giver of what they prize or covet and theprotector of what they already have. It is through the Brahmanas that thePitris and the deities become gratified. The Brahmana, O Matanga, is saidto be foremost of all created Beings. The Brahmana grants all objectsthat are desired and in the way they are desired?[248] Wandering throughinnumerable orders of Being and undergoing repeated rebirths, onesucceeds in some subsequent birth in acquiring the status of a Brahmana.That status is really incapable of being obtained by persons ofuncleansed souls. Do thou, therefore, give up the idea. Do thou name someother boon. The particular boon which thou seekest is incapable of beinggranted to thee.’

“Matanga said, ‘Afflicted as I am with grief, why, O Sakra, dost thouafflict me further (with such speeches as these)? Thou art striking onethat is already dead, by this behaviour. I do not pity thee for havingacquired the status of a Brahmana thou now failest to retain it (for thouhast no compassion to show for one like me). O thou of a hundredsacrifices, the status of a Brahmana as thou sayest be reallyunattainable by any of the three other orders, yet, men that havesucceeded in acquiring (through natural means) that high status do notadhere to it (for what sins do net even Brahmanas commit). Those whohaving acquired the status of a Brahmana that, like affluence, is sodifficult to acquire, do not seek to keep it up (by practising thenecessary duties), must be regarded to be the lowest of wretches in thisworld. Indeed, they are the most sinful of all creatures. Without doubt,the status of a Brahmana is exceedingly difficult to attain, and oncebeing attained, it is difficult to maintain it. It is capable ofdispelling every kind of grief. Alas, having attained to it, men do notalways seek to keep it up (by practising righteousness and the otherduties that attach to it). When even such persons are regarded asBrahmanas why is it that I, who am contented with my own self, who amabove all couples of opposites, who am dissociated from all worldlyobjects, who am observant of the duty of compassion towards all creaturesand of self-restraint of conduct, should not be regarded as deserving ofthat status.[249] How unfortunate I am, O Purandara, that through thefault of my mother I have been reduced to this condition, although I amnot unrighteous in my behaviour? Without doubt, Destiny is incapable ofbeing warded off or conquered by individual exertion, since, O lord, I amunable to acquire, notwithstanding these persistent efforts of mine, theobject, upon the acquisition of which I have set my heart. When such isthe case, O righteous one, it behoves thee to grant me some other boonif, indeed, I have become worthy of thy grace or if I have a little ofmerit.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘The slayer of Vala and Vritra then said untohim,–Do thou name the boon.–Thus urged by the great Indra, Matanga saidthe following words:

“Matanga said, ‘Let me be possessed of the power of assuming any form atwill, and journeying through the skies and let me enjoy whateverpleasures I may set my heart upon. And let me also have the willingadorations of both Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. I bow to thee by bending myhead, O god. It behoveth thee to do that also by which my fame, OPurandara, May live for ever in the world.’

“Sakra said, ‘Thou shalt be celebrated as the deity of a particularmeasure of verse and thou shalt obtain the worship of all woman. Thyfame, O son, shall become unrivalled in the three worlds.’–Havinggranted him these boons, Vasava disappeared there and then. Matanga also,casting off his life-breaths, attained to a high place. Thou mayst thussee, O Bharata, that the status of a Brahmana is very high. That statusis incapable of being acquired here (except in the natural way of birth)as said by the great Indra himself.’

Chapter 28
Chapter 30
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