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Chapter 131

Mahabharata English - ARANYAKA PARVA

“The hawk said, ‘All the kings of the earth represent thee as a piousruler. Wherefore, O prince, has thou then stopped to perpetrate a deednot sanctioned by the ordinance? I have been sore afflicted with hunger.Do thou not withhold from me that which hath been appointed by the Deityfor my food,–under the impression that thereby thou servest theinterests of virtue, whereas in reality, thou wilt forsake it, (bycommitting thyself to this act). Thereupon, the king said, ‘O best of thefeathered race, afflicted with fear of thee, and desirous of escapingfrom thy hands, this bird, all in a hurry, hath come up to me asking forlife. When this pigeon hath in such a manner sought my protection, whydost thou not see that the highest merit is even in my not surrenderingit unto thee? And it is trembling with fear, and is agitated, and isseeking its life from me. It is therefore certainly blameworthy toforsake it. He that slayeth a Brahmana, he that slaughtered a cow–thecommon mother of all the worlds–and he that forsaketh one seeking forprotection are equally sinful.’ Thereat the hawk replied, ‘O lord ofearth, it is from food that all beings derive their life, and it is foodalso that nourisheth and sustaineth them. A man can live long even afterforsaking what is dearest to him, but he cannot do so, after abstainingfrom food. Being deprived of food, my life, O ruler of men, will surelyleave this body, and will attain to regions unknown to such troubles. Butat my death, O pious king, my wife and children will surely perish, andby protecting this single pigeon. O prince, thou dost not protect manylives. The virtue that standeth in the way of another virtue, iscertainly no virtue at all, but in reality is unrighteousness. But Oking, whose prowess consisteth in truth, that virtue is worthy of thename, which is not conflicting. After instituting a comparison betweenopposing virtues, and weighing their comparative merits, one, O greatprince, ought to espouse that which is not opposing. Do thou, therefore,O king, striking a balance between virtues, adopt that whichpreponderates.’ At this the king said, ‘O best of birds, as thou speakestwords fraught with much good, I suspect thee to be Suparna, the monarchof birds. I have not the least hesitation to declare that thou art fullyconversant with the ways of virtue. As thou speakest wonders aboutvirtue, I think that there is nothing connected with it, that is unknownto thee. How canst thou then consider the forsaking of one, seeking forhelp, as virtuous? Thy efforts in this matter, O ranger of the skies,have been in quest of food. Thou canst, however, appease thy hunger withsome other sort of food, even more copious. I am perfectly willing toprocure for thee any sort of food that to thee may seem most tasteful,even if it be an ox, or a boar, or a deer, or a buffalo.’ Thereupon thehawk said, ‘O great king, I am not desirous of eating (the flesh of) aboar or an ox or the various species of beasts. What have I to do withany other sort of food? Therefore, O bull among the Kshatriyas, leave tome this pigeon, whom Heaven hath today ordained for my food, O ruler ofearth, that hawks eat pigeons is the eternal provision. O prince, do notfor support embrace a plantain tree, not knowing its want of strength.’The king said, ‘Ranger of the skies, I am willing to bestow on thee thisrich province of my race, or any other thing that to thee may seemdesirable. With the sole exception of this pigeon, which hath approachedme craving my protection, I shall be glad to give unto thee anything thatthou mayst like. Let me know what I shall have to do for the deliveranceof this bird. But this I shall not return to thee on any conditionwhatever.'”

“The hawk said, ‘O great ruler of men, if thou hast conceived anaffection for this pigeon, then cut off a portion of thine own flesh, andweigh it in a balance, against this pigeon. And when thou hast found itequal (in weight) to the pigeon, then do thou give it unto me, and thatwill be to my satisfaction.’ Then the king replied, This request ofthine, O hawk, I consider as a favour unto me, and, therefore, I willgive unto thee even my own flesh, after weighing it in a balance.’

“Lomasa said, ‘Saying this, O mighty son of Kunti, the highly virtuousking cut off a portion of his own flesh, and placed it in a balance,against the pigeon. But when he found that pigeon exceeded his flesh inweight, he once more cut off another portion of his flesh, and added itto the former. When portion after portion had been repeatedly added toweigh against the pigeon, and no more flesh was left on his body, hemounted the scale himself, utterly devoid of flesh.

“The hawk then said, ‘I am Indra, O virtuous king, and this pigeon isAgni, the carrier of the sacrificial clarified butter. We had come untothy sacrificial ground, desirous of testing thy merit. Since thou hastcut off thy own flesh from thy body, thy glory shall be resplendent, andshall surpass that of all others in the world. As long as men, O king,shall speak of thee, so long shall thy glory endure, and thou shaltinhabit the holy regions.’ Saying this to the king, Indra ascended toheaven. And the virtuous king Usinara, after having filled heaven andearth with the merit of his pious deeds, ascended to heaven in a radiantshape. Behold, O king, the residence of that noble-hearted monarch. Here,O king, are seen holy sages and gods, together with virtuous andhighsouled Brahmanas.”

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