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Chapter 71

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

”Yudhishthira said, V sinless one, do thou discourse to me more indetail upon the merits that are attainable by making gifts of kine. Othou of mighty arms, I am never satiated with thy words!’

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is recited the old history of thediscourse between the Rishi Uddalaki and his son called Nachiketa. Onceon a time the Rishi Uddalaki endued with great intelligence, approachinghis son Nachiketa, said unto him, ‘Do thou wait upon and serve me.’ Uponthe completion of the vow he had observed the great Rishi once more saidunto his son, ‘Engaged in performing my ablutions and deeply taken upwith my Vedic study, I have forgotten to bring with me the firewood, theKusa blades, the flowers, the water jar, and the potherbs I had gathered.Do thou bring me those things from the riverside.’ The son proceeded tothe spot indicated, but saw that all the articles had been washed away bythe current. Coming back to his father, he said, ‘I do not see thethings!’ Afflicted as he then was with hunger, thirst, and fatigue, theRishi Uddalaki of high ascetic merit, in a sudden wrath, cursed his son,saying, ‘Do thou meet with Yama today!’ Thus struck by his sire with thethunder of his speech, the son, with joined palms, said, ‘Be appeasedwith me!’ Soon, however, he fell down on the earth, deprived of life.Beholding Nachiketa prostrated upon the earth, his sire became deprivedof his senses through grief. He, too, exclaiming, ‘Alas, what have Idone,’ fell down on the earth. Filled with grief, as he indulged inlamentations for his son, the rest or that day passed away and nightcame. Then Nachiketa, O son of Kuru’s race, drenched by the tears of hisfather, gave signs of returning life as he lay on a mat of Kusa grass.His restoration to life under the tears of his sire resembled thesprouting forth of seeds when drenched with auspicious showers. The sonjust restored to consciousness was still weak. His body was smeared withfragrant unguents and he looked like one just awaking from a deepslumber. The Rishi asked him, saying, ‘Hast thou, O son, acquiredauspicious regions by thy own acts? By good luck, thou hast been restoredto me! Thy body does not seem to be human!’ Thus asked by high-souledfather, Nachiketa who had seen every thing with his own eyes, made thefollowing answer unto him in the midst of the Rishis, ‘In obedience tothy command I proceeded to the extensive region of Yama which ispossessed of a delightful effulgence. There I beheld a palatial mansionwhich extended for thousands of Yojanas and emitted a golden splendourfrom every part. As soon as Yama beheld me approaching with face towardshim, he commanded his attendants saying, ‘Give him a good seat, verily,the king of the dead, for thy sake worshipped we with the Arghya and theother ingredients.’ Thus worshipped by Yama and seated in the midst ofhis counsellors, I then said mildly, ‘I have come to thy abode, O judgeof the dead! Do thou assign me those regions which I deserve for myacts!’ Yama then answered me, saying, ‘Thou art not dead, O amiable one!’Endued with penances, thy father said unto thee, ‘Do thou meet with Yama!The energy of thy sire is like that of a blazing fire. I could notpossibly falsify that speech of his. Thou hast seen me. Do thou go hence,O child! The author of thy body is indulging in lamentations for thee.Thou art my dear guest. What wish of thine cherished by thee in thy heartshall I grant thee? Solicit the fruition of whatever desire thou maystcherish.’ Thus addressed by him, I replied unto the king of the dead,saying, ‘I have arrived within thy dominions from which no traveller everreturns. If I really be an object deserving of thy attentions, I desire,O king of the dead, to have a sight of those regions of high prosperityand happiness that have been reserved for doers of righteous deeds.’ Thusaddressed by me, Yama caused me to be mounted upon a vehicle of splendouras effulgent as that of the sun and unto which were harnessed manyexcellent steeds. Bearing me on that vehicle, he showed me, O foremost ofregenerate persons, all those delightful regions that are reserved forthe righteous. I beheld in those regions many mansions of greatresplendence intended for high-souled persons. Those mansions are ofdiverse forms and are adorned with every kind of gem. Bright as the discof the moon, they are ornamented with rows of tinkling bells. Hundredsamong them are of many storeys. Within them are pleasant groves and woodsand transparent bodies of water. Possessed of the effulgence of lapislazuli and the sun, and made of silver and gold, their complexionresembles the colour of the morning sun. Some of them are immovable andsome movable. Within them are many hills of viands and enjoyable articlesand robes and beds in abundance. Within them are many trees capable ofgranting the fruition of every wish. There are also many rivers and roadsand spacious halls and lakes and large tanks. Thousands of cars withrattling wheels may be seen there, having excellent steeds harnessed untothem. Many rivers that run milk, many hills of ghee, and large bodies oftransparent water occur there. Verily, I beheld many such regions, neverseen by me before of happiness and joy, approved by the king of the dead.Beholding all those objects, I addressed the ancient and puissant judgeof the dead, saying, ‘For whose use and enjoyment have these rivers witheternal currents of milk and ghee been ordained?’ Yama answered mesaying, ‘These streams of milk and ghee, know thou, are for the enjoymentof those righteous persons, that make gifts in the world of men. Othereternal worlds there are which are filled with such mansions free fromsorrow of every kind. These are reserved for those persons that areengaged in making gifts of kine.[353] The mere gift of kine is not worthyof praise. There are considerations of propriety or otherwise about theperson unto whom kine should be given, the time for making those gifts,the kind of kine that should form the object of gifts, and the rites thatshould be observed in making the gifts. Gifts of kine should be madeafter ascertaining the distinctive qualifications of both Brahmanas (whoare to receive them) and the kine themselves (which are to be givenaway). Kine should not be given unto one in whose abode they are likelyto suffer from fire or the sun. That Brahmana who is possessed of Vediclore, who is of austere penances, and who performs sacrifices, isregarded as worthy of receiving kine in gift. Those kine that have beenrescued from distress situation, or that have been given by poorhouseholders from want of sufficient means to feed and cherish them, are,for these reasons, reckoned as of high value.[354] Abstaining from allfood and living upon water alone for three nights and sleeping the whileon the bare earth, one should, having properly fed the kine one intendsto give away, give them unto Brahmanas after having gratified them also(with other gifts). The kine given away should be accompanied by theircalves. They should, again, be such as to bring forth good calves, at theproper seasons. They should be accompanied with other articles so givenaway. Having completed the gift, the giver should live for three days ononly milk and forbearing from food of every other kind. He, who gives acow that is not vicious, that brings forth good calves at properintervals, and that does not fly away from the owners’ house, andaccompanies such gift with a vessel of white brass for milking her,enjoys the felicity of heaven for as many years as are measured by thenumber of hairs on the animal’s body. He, who gives unto a Brahmana abull well-broken and capable of bearing burdens, possessed of strengthand young in years, disinclined to do any mischief, large-sized andendued with energy, enjoys those regions, that are reserved for givers ofkine. He is regarded as a proper person for receiving a cow in gift whois known to be mild towards kine, who takes kine for his refuge, who isgrateful, and who has no means of subsistence assigned unto him. When anold man becomes ill, or when a Brahmana intends to perform a sacrifice,or when one wishes to till for agriculture, or when one gets a sonthrough the efficacy of a Homa performed for the purpose, or for the useof one’s preceptor, or for the sustenance of a child (born in the usualway), one should give away a beloved cow. Even these are theconsiderations that are applauded (in the matter of making gifts of kine)in respect of place and time. The kine that deserve to be given away arethose that yield copious measures of milk, or those that are well-known(for their docility and other virtues). or those that have been purchasedfor a price, or those that have been acquired as honoraria for learning,or those that have been obtained in exchange by offering other livingcreatures (such as sheep and goats, etc.), or those that have been won byprowess of arms, or those that have been gained as marriage-dower (fromfathers-in-law and other relations of the wife).’

“Nachiketa continued, ‘Hearing these words of Vaivaswata, I once moreaddressed him, saying, ‘What are those objects by giving which, when kineare not procurable, givers may yet go to regions reserved for men makinggifts of kine?’ Questioned by me, the wise Yama answered, explainingfurther what the end is that is attainable by making gifts of kine. Hesaid, ‘In the absence of kine, a person by making gifts of what has beenregarded as the substitute of kine, wins the merit of making gifts ofkine. If, in the absence of kine, one makes a gift of a cow made of ghee,observant of a vow the while, one gets for one’s use these rivers of gheeall of which approach one like an affectionate mother approaching herbeloved child. If, in the absence of even a cow made of ghee, one makes agift of a cow made of sesame seeds, observing a cow the while, onesucceeds with the assistance of that cow to get over all calamities inthis world and to enjoy great happiness hereafter from these rivers ofmilk that thou beholdest! If in the absence of a cow made of sesameseeds, one makes a gift of a cow made of water one succeeds in coming tothese happy regions and enjoying this river of cool and transparentwater, that is, besides capable of granting the fruition of every wish.’The king of the dead explained to me all this while I was his guest, and,O thou of unfading glory, great was the joy that I felt at sight of allthe wonders he showed me. I shall now tell thee what would certainly beagreeable to thee. I have now got a great sacrifice whose performancedoes not require much wealth. That sacrifice (constituted by gifts ofkine) may be said to flow from me, O sire! Others will obtain it also. Itis not inconsistent with the ordinances of the Vedas. The curse that thouhadst pronounced upon me was no curse but was in reality a blessing,since it enabled me to have a sight of the great king of the dead. ThereI have beheld what the rewards are that attach to gifts. I shall,henceforth, O thou of great soul, practise the duty of gift without anydoubt lurking in my mind respecting its rewards. And, O great Rishi, therighteous Yama, filled with joy, repeatedly told me, ‘One, who, by makingfrequent gifts, has succeeded in acquiring purity of mind should thenmake gifts of kine specially. This topic (about gifts) is fraught withsanctity. Do thou never disregard the duties in respect of gifts. Gifts,again, should be made unto deserving persons, when time and place aresuitable. Do thou, therefore, always make gifts of kine. Never entertainany doubts in this respect. Devoted to the path of gifts, manyhigh-souled persons in days of yore used to make gifts of kine. Fearingto practise austere penances, they made gifts according to the extent oftheir power. In time they cast off all sentiments of pride and vanity,and purified their souls. Engaged in performing Sraddhas in honour of thePitris and in all acts of righteousness, they used to make, according tothe extent of their power, gifts of kine, and as the reward of those actsthey have attained to heaven and are shining in effulgence for suchrighteousness. One should, on the eighth day of the moon that is known bythe name of Kamyashtami, make gifts of kine, properly won, unto theBrahmanas after ascertaining the eligibility of the recipients (by theordinances already laid down). After making the gift, one should thensubsist for ten days together upon only the milk of kine, their dung andtheir urine (abstaining from all other food the while). The merit thatone acquires by making a gift of a bull is equal to that which attachesto the divine vow. By making a gift of a couple of kine one acquires, asthe reward thereof, a mastery of the Vedas. By making a gift of cars andvehicles with kine yoked thereto, one acquires the merit of baths insacred waters. By making a gift of a cow of the Kapila species, onebecomes cleansed of all one’s sins. Verily, by giving away even a singlecow of the Kapila species that has been acquired by legitimate means, onebecomes cleansed of all the sins one may have committed. There is nothinghigher (in point of tastes) than the milk which is yielded by kine. Thegift of a cow is truly regarded as a very superior gift. Kine by yieldingmilk, rescue all the worlds from calamity. It is kine, again, thatproduce the food upon which creatures subsist. One, who, knowing theextent of the service that kine do, does not entertain in one’s heartaffection for kine, is a sinner that is certain to sink in hell.[355] Ifone gives a thousand or a hundred or ten or five kine, verily, if onegives unto a righteous Brahmana even a single cow which brings forth goodcalves at proper intervals, one is sure to see that cow approach one inheaven in the form of a river of sacred water capable of granting thefruition of every wish. In respect of the prosperity and the growth thatkine confer, in the matter also of the protection that kine grant untoall creatures of the earth, kine are equal to the very rays of the sunthat fall on the earth.[356] The word that signifies the cow stands alsofor the rays of the sun. The giver of a cow becomes the progenitor of avery large race that extends over a large part of the earth. Hence, hethat gives a cow shines like a second sun in resplendence. The discipleshould, in the matter of making gifts of kine, select his preceptor. Sucha disciple is sure to go to heaven. The selection of a preceptor (in thematter of the performance of pious deeds) is regarded as a high duty bypersons conversant with the ordinances. This is, indeed, the initialordinance. All other ordinances (respecting the gift of kine) depend uponit.[357] Selecting, after examination, an eligible person among theBrahmanas, one should make unto him the gift of a cow that has beenacquired by legitimate means, and having made the gift cause him toaccept it. The deities and men and ourselves also, in wishing good toother, say, ‘Let the merits attaching to gifts be thine in consequence ofthy righteousness!’ Even thus did the judge of the dead speak unto me, Oregenerate Rishi. I then bowed my head unto the righteous Yama. Obtaininghis permission I left his dominions and have now come to the sole of thyfeet.'”



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