“Yudhishthira said,–‘O grandsire, O thou of great wisdom, O thou thatart conversant with all branches of knowledge, I desire to hear theediscourse on topics connected with duty and Righteousness. Tell me truly,O chief of Bharata’s race, what the merits are of those persons thatgrant protection to living creatures of the four orders when these prayfor protection.’
“Bhishma said, ‘O Dharma’s son of great wisdom and widespread fame,listen to this old history touching the great merit of grantingprotection to others when protection is humbly sought. Once on a time, abeautiful pigeon, pursued by a hawk, dropped down from the skies andsought the protection of the highly-blessed king Vrishadarbha. Thepure-souled monarch, beholding the pigeon take refuge in his lap fromfear, comforted him, saying, Be comforted, O bird; do not fear, Whencehast thou taken such great fright? What hast thou done and where hastthou done it in consequence of which thou hast lost thy senses in fearand art more dead than alive? Thy colour, beautiful bird, is such as toresemble that which adorns a fresh-blown lotus of the blue variety. Thyeyes are of the hue of the pomegranate or the Asoka flower. Do not fear.I bid thee, be comforted. When thou hast sought refuge with me, know thatno one will have the courage to even think of seizing thee,–thee thathast such a protector to take care of thy person. I shall for thy sake,give up today the very kingdom of the Kasi and, if need be, my lice too.Be comforted, therefore, and let no fear be thine, O pigeon.’
“The hawk said, ‘This bird has been ordained to be my food. It behovesthee not, O king, to protect him from me. I have outcoursed this bird andhave got him. Verily, with great effort have I got at him at last. Hisflesh and blood and marrow and fat will be of great good to me. This birdwill be the means of gratifying me greatly. Do not, O king, place thyselfbetween him and me in this way. Fierce is the thirst that is afflictingme, and hunger is gnawing my bowels. Release the bird and cast him off. Iam unable to bear the pains of hunger any longer. I pursued him as myprey. Behold, his body is bruised and torn by me with my wings andtalons. Look, his breath has become very weak. It behoves thee not, Oking, to protect him from me. In the exercise of that power whichproperly belongs to thee, thou art, indeed competent to interfere inprotecting human beings when they are sought to be destroyed by humanbeings. Thou canst not, however, be admitted to have any power over asky-ranging bird afflicted with thirst. Thy power may extend over thyenemies, thy servants, thy relatives, the disputes that take placebetween thy subjects. Indeed, it may extend over every part of thydominions and over also thy own senses. Thy power, however, does notextend over the welkin. Displaying thy prowess over such foes as actagainst thy wishes, thou mayst establish thy rule over them. Thy rule,however, does not extend over the birds that range the sky. Indeed, ifthou hast been desirous of earning merit (by protecting this pigeon), itis thy duty to look at me also (and do what is proper for enabling me toappease my hunger and save my life)!
“Bhishma continued, ‘Hearing these words of the hawk, the royal sagebecame filled with wonder. Without disregarding these words of his, theking, desirous of attending to his comforts, replied unto him saying thefollowing words.’
“The king said, ‘Let a bovine bull or boar or deer or buffalo be dressedtoday for thy sake. Do thou appease thy hunger on such food today. Neverto desert one that has sought my protection in my firm vow. Behold, Obird, this bird does not leave my lap!’
“The hawk said, ‘I do not, O monarch, eat the flesh of the boar or the oxor of any of the diverse kinds of fowl. What need have I of food of thisor that kind? My concern is with that food which has been eternallyordained for beings of my order? Hawks feed on pigeons,–this is theeternal ordinance. O sinless, Usinara, if thou feelest such affection forthis pigeon, do thou then give me flesh from thy own body, of weightequal to that of this pigeon.’
“The king said, ‘Great is the favour thou showiest me today by speakingto me in this strain. Yes, I shall do what thou biddest. Having saidthis, that best of monarchs began to cut off his own flesh and weigh itin a balance against the pigeon. Meanwhile, in the inner apartments ofthe palace, the spouses of king, adorned with jewels and gems, hearingwhat was taking place, uttered exclamations of woe and came out, strickenwith grief. In consequence of those cries of the ladies, as also of theministers and servants, a noise deep as the roar of the clouds arose inthe palace. The sky that had been very clear became enveloped with thickclouds on every side. The Earth began to tremble, as the consequence ofthat act of truth which the monarch did. The king began to cut off theflesh from his flanks from the arms, and from his thighs, and quicklyfill one of the scales for weighing it against the pigeon. In spite ofall that, the pigeon continued to weigh heavier. When at last the kingbecame a skeleton of bones, without any flesh, and covered with blood, hedesired to give up his whole body and, therefore, ascended the scale inwhich he had placed the flesh that he had previously cut off. At thattime, the three worlds, with Indra at their head, came to that spot forbeholding him. Celestial kettle-drums and diverse drums were struck andplayed upon by invisible beings belonging to the firmament. KingVrishadarbha was bathed in a shower of nectar that was poured upon him.Garlands of celestial flowers, of delicious fragrance and touch, werealso showered upon him copiously and repeatedly. The deities andGandharvas and Apsaras in large bands began to sing and dance around himeven as they sing and dance around the Grandsire Brahma. The king thenascended a celestial car that surpassed (in grandeur and beauty) amansion made entirely of gold, that had arches made of gold and gems, andthat was adorned with columns made of lapis lazuli. Through the merit ofhis act, the royal sage Sivi proceeded to eternal Heaven. Do thou also, OYudhishthira, act in the same way towards those that seek thy protection.He who protects those that are devoted to him, those that are attached tohim from love and affection, and those that depend upon him, and who hascompassion for all creatures, succeeds in attaining to great felicityhereafter. That king who is of righteous behaviour and who is observantof honesty and integrity, succeeds by his acts of sincerity in acquiringevery valuable reward. The royal sage Sivi of pure soul and endued withgreat wisdom and unbaffled prowess, that ruler of the kingdom of Kasi,became celebrated over the three worlds for his deeds of righteousness.Anybody who would protect in the same way a seeker for protection, wouldcertainly attain (like Sivi himself) to the same happy end, O best of theBharatas. He who recites this history of the royal sage Vrishadarbha issure to become cleansed of every sin, and the person who hears thishistory recited by another is sure to attain to the same result.'”