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Chapter 5

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘O thou that knowest the truths of religion, I wishto hear of the merits of compassion, and of the characteristics of devoutmen. Do thou, O sire, describe them to me.’

“Bhishma said, In this connection, this ancient legend, the story ofVasava and the high-minded Suka, is cited as an illustration. In theterritories of the king of Kasi, a fowler, having poisoned arrows withhim went out of his village on a hunting excursion in search ofantelopes. Desirous of obtaining, meat, when in a big forest in pursuitof the chase, he discovered a drove of antelopes not far from him, anddischarged his arrow at one of them. The arrows of that folder ofirresistible arms, discharged for the destruction of the antelope, missedits aim and pierced a mighty forest-tree. The tree, violently piercedwith that arrow tipped with virulent poison, withered away, shedding itsleaves and fruits. The tree having thus withered a parrot that had livedin a hollow of its trunk all his life, did not leave his nest out ofaffection for the lord of the forest. Motionless and without food silentand sorrowful, that grateful and virtuous parrot also withered away withthe tree. The conqueror of Paka (Indra) was struck with wonder uponfinding that high-souled, and generous-hearted bird thus uninfluenced bymisery or happiness and possessing extraordinary resolution. Then thethought arose in Sakra’s mind,–How could this bird come to possesshumane and generous feelings which are impossible in one belonging to theworld of lower animals? Perchance, there is nothing wonderful in thematter, for all creatures are seen to evince kindly and generous feelingstowards others.–Assuming then the shape of a Brahmana, Sakra descendedon the Earth and addressing the bird, said,–O Suka, O best of birds, thegrand-daughter (Suki) of Daksha has become blessed (by having thee as heroffspring). I ask thee, for what reason dost thou not leave this witheredtree?–Thus questioned, the Suka bowed unto him and thusreplied:–Welcome to thee O chief of the gods, I have recognised thee bythe merit of my austere penances–Well-done, well-done!–exclaimed thethousand-eyed deity. Then the latter praised him in his mind, saying,–O,how wonderful is the knowledge which he possesses.–Although thedestroyer of Vala knew that parrot to be of a highly virtuous characterand meritorious in action, he still enquired of him about the reason ofhis affection for the tree. This tree is withered and it is withoutleaves and fruits and is unfit to be the refuge of birds. Why dost thouthen cling to it? This forest, too, is vast and in this wilderness thereare numerous other fine trees whose hollows are covered with leaves andwhich thou canst choose freely and to thy heart’s content. O patient oneexercising due discrimination in thy wisdom, do thou forsake this oldtree that is dead and useless and shorn of all its leaves and no longercapable of any good.'”

“Bhishma said, ‘The virtuous Suka, hearing these words of Sakra, heaved adeep sigh and sorrowfully replied unto him, saying–O consort of Sachi,and chief of the gods, the ordinances of the deities are always to beobeyed. Do thou listen to the reason of the matter in regard to whichthou hast questioned me. Here, within this tree, was I born, and here inthis tree have I acquired all the good traits of my character, and herein this tree was I protected in my infancy from the assaults of myenemies. O sinless one, why art thou, in thy kindness, tampering with theprinciple of my conduct in life? I am compassionate, and devoutly intenton virtue, and steadfast in conduct. Kindliness of feeling is the greattest of virtue amongst the good, and this same compassionate and humanefeeling is the source of perennial felicity to the virtuous. All the godsquestion thee to remove their doubts in religion, and for this reason, Olord, thou hast been placed in sovereignty over them all. It behoves theenot, O thousand-eyed one, to advise me now to abandon this tree for ever.When it was capable of good, it supported my life. How can I forsake itnow?–The virtuous destroyer of Paka, pleased with these well-meant wordsof the parrot, thus said to him:–I am gratified with thy humane andcompassionate disposition. Do thou ask a boon of me.–At this, thecompassionate parrot craved this boon of him, saying,–Let this treerevive.–Knowing the great attachment of the parrot to that tree and hishigh character, Indra, well-pleased, caused the tree to be quicklysprinkled over with nectar. Then that tree became replenished andattained to exquisite grandeur through the penances of the parrot, andthe latter too, O great king, at the close of his life, obtained thecompanionship of Sakra by virtue of that act of compassion. Thus, O lordof men, by communion and companionship with the pious, people attain allthe objects of their desire even as the tree die through itscompanionship with the parrot.'”

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