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Chapter 133

Mahabharata English - ARANYAKA PARVA

“Ashtavakra said, ‘When no Brahmana is met with on the way, the waybelongeth to the blind, the deaf, the women, carriers of burden, and theking respectively. But when a Brahmana is met with on the way, itbelongeth to him alone.’ Thereupon the king said, ‘I give the privilegeto enter. Do thou, therefore, go in by whatever way thou likest. No fireever so small is to be slighted. Even Indra himself boweth unto theBrahmanas.’ At this Ashtavakra said, ‘We have come, O ruler of men, towitness thy sacrificial ceremony and our curiosity, O king, is verygreat. And we have come here as guests. We want the permission of thyorder (to enter). And, O son of Indradyumna, we have come, desirous ofseeing the sacrifice, and to meet king Janaka and speak to him. But thywarder obstructs us and for this our anger burneth us like fever.’ Thewarder said, ‘We carry out the orders of Vandin. Listen to what I have tosay. Lads are not permitted to enter here and it is only the learned oldBrahmanas that are allowed to enter.’ Ashtavakra said. ‘If this be thecondition, O warder, that the door is open to those only that are old,then we have a right to enter. We are old and we have observed sacredvows and are in possession of energy proceeding from the Vedic lore. Andwe have served our superiors and subdued our passions–and have also wonproficiency in knowledge. It is said that even boys are not to beslighted,–for a fire, small though it be, burneth on being touched.’ Thewarder replied, ‘O young Brahmana, I consider you a boy, and thereforerecite, if you know, the verse demonstrating the existence of the SupremeBeing, and adored by the divine sages, and which, although composed ofone letter, is yet multifarious. Make no vain boast. Learned men arereally very rare.’ Ashtavakra said, ‘True growth cannot be inferred fromthe mere development of the body, as the growth of the knots of theSalmali tree cannot signify its age. That tree is called full-grown whichalthough slender and short, beareth fruits. But that which doth not bearfruits, is not considered as grown.’ The warder said, ‘Boys receiveinstruction from the old and they also in time grow old. Knowledgecertainly is not attainable in a short time. “Wherefore then being achild, dost thou talk like an old man?’ Then Ashtavakra said, ‘One is notold because his head is gray. But the gods regard him as old who,although a child in years, is yet possessed of knowledge. The sages havenot laid down that a man’s merit consists in years, or gray hair, orwealth, or friends. To us he is great who is versed in the Vedas. I havecome here, O porter, desirous of seeing Vandin in the court. Go andinform king Janaka, who hath a garland of lotuses on his neck, that I amhere. Thou shalt to-day see me enter into a dispute with the learned men,and defeat Vandin in a controversy. And when others have been silenced,the Brahmanas of matured learning and the king also with his principalpriests, bear witness to the superior or the inferior quality of myattainments.’ The warder said, ‘How canst thou, who art but in thy tenthyear, hope to enter into this sacrifice, into which learned and educatedmen only are admitted? I shall, however, try some means for thyadmittance. Do thou also try thyself’. Ashtavakra then addressing theking said, ‘O king, O foremost of Janaka’s race, thou art the paramountsovereign and all power reposeth in thee. In times of old, king Yayatiwas the celebrator of sacrifices. And in the present age, thou it is thatart performer thereof. We have heard that the learned Vandin, afterdefeating (in controversy) men expert in discussion, causeth them to bedrowned by faithful servants employed by thee. Hearing this, I have comebefore these Brahmanas, to expound the doctrine of the unity of theSupreme Being. Where is now Vandin? Tell me so that I may approach him,and destroy him, even as the sun destroyeth the stars. Thereupon the kingsaid, ‘Thou hopest, O Brahmana, to defeat Vandin, not knowing his powerof speech. Can those who are familiar with his power, speak as thou dost?He hath been sounded by Brahmanas versed in the Vedas. Thou hopest todefeat Vandin, only because thou knowest not his powers (of speech). Manya Brahmana hath waned before him, even as the stars before the sun.Desirous of defeating him, people proud of their learning, have losttheir glory on appearing before him, and have retired from his presence,without even venturing to speak with the members of the assembly.’Ashtavakra said, ‘Vandin hath never entered into disputation with a manlike myself, and it is for this only that he looketh upon himself as alion, and goeth about roaring like one. But to-day meeting me he will liedown dead, even like a cart on the highway, of which the wheels have beenderanged.’ The king said, ‘He alone is a truly learned man whounderstandeth the significance of the thing that hath thirty divisions,twelve parts twentyfour joints, and three hundred and sixty spokes.’Ashtavakra said, ‘May that ever-moving wheel that hath twentyfour joints,six naves, twelve peripheries, and sixty spokes protect thee![19]’ Theking said, ‘Who amongst the gods beareth those two which go together liketwo mares (yoked to a car), and sweep like a hawk, and to what also dothey give birth?’ Ashtavakra said, ‘May God, O king, forfend the presenceof these two[20] in thy house; aye, even in the house of thine enemies.He who appeareth, having for his charioteer the wind,[21] begetteth them,and they also produce him.’ Thereupon the king said, ‘What is that dothnot close its eyes even while sleeping; what is it that doth not move,even when born; what is it that hath no heart; and what doth increaseeven in its own speed?’ Ashtavakra said, ‘It is a fish[22] that doth notclose its eye-lids, while sleeping; and it is an a egg[23] that doth notmove when produced; it is stone[24] that hath no heart; and it is ariver[25] that increase in its own speed.’

“The king said, ‘It seemeth, O possessor of divine energy, that thou artno human being. I consider thee not a boy, but a matured man; there is noother man who can compare with thee in the art of speech. I thereforegive thee admittance. There is Vandin.'”

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