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Chapter 40

Mahabharata English - SABHAKRIYA PARVA

‘Sisupala said,–‘Old and infamous wretch of thy race, art thou notashamed of affrighting all these monarchs with these numerous falseterrors! Thou art the foremost of the Kurus, and living as thou dost inthe third state (celibacy) it is but fit for thee that thou shouldst givesuch counsel that is so wide of morality.

Like a boat tied to anotherboat or the blind following the blind, are the Kurus who have thee fortheir guide. Thou hast once more simply pained our hearts by recitingparticularly the deeds of this one (Krishna), such as the slaying ofPutana and others. Arrogant and ignorant as thou art, and desirous ofpraising Kesava, why doth not this tongue of thine split up into ahundred parts? How dost thou, superior as thou art in knowledge, desireto praise that cow-boy in respect of whom even men of little intelligencemay address invectives? If Krishna in his infancy slew a vulture, what isthere remarkable in that, or in that other feat of his, O Bhishma, viz.,in his slaughter of Aswa and Vrishava, both of whom were unskilled inbattle? If this one threw drown by a kick an inanimate piece of wood,viz., a car, what is there, O Bhishma, wonderful in that? O Bhishma, whatis there remarkable in this one’s having supported for a week theGovardhan mount which is like an anthill? ‘While sporting on the top of amountain this one ate a large quantity of food,’–hearing these words ofthine many have wondered exceedingly. But, O thou who art conversant withthe rules of morality, is not this still more wrongful that that greatperson, viz., Kansa, whose food this one ate, hath been slain by him?Thou infamous one of the Kuru race, thou art ignorant of the rules ofmorality. Hast thou not ever heard, from wise men speaking unto thee,what I would now tell thee? The virtuous and the wise always instruct thehonest that weapons must never be made to descend upon women and kine andBrahmanas and upon those whose food hath been taken, as also upon thosewhose shelter hath been enjoyed. It seemeth, O Bhishma, that all theseteachings hath been thrown away by thee. O infamous one of the Kuru race,desiring to praise Kesava, thou describest him before me as great andsuperior in knowledge and in age, as if I knew nothing. If at thy word, OBhishma, one that hath slain women (meaning Putana) and kine beworshipped, then what is to become of this great lesson? How can one whois such, deserve praise, O Bhishma? ‘This one is the foremost of all wisemen,–‘This one is the lord of the universe’–hearing these words ofthine, Janarddana believeth that these are all true. But surely, they areall false. The verses that a chanter sings, even if he sings them often,produce no impression on him. And every creature acts according to hisdisposition, even like the bird Bhulinga (that picks the particles offlesh from between the lion’s teeth, though preaching against rashness).Assuredly thy disposition is very mean. There is not the least doubtabout it. And so also, it seemeth, that the sons of Pandu who regardKrishna as deserving of worship and who have thee for their guide, arepossessed of a sinful disposition. Possessing a knowledge of virtue, thouhast fallen off from the path of the wise. Therefore thou art sinful.Who, O Bhishma, knowing himself to be virtuous and superior in knowledge,will so act as thou hast done from motives of virtue? If thou knowest theways of the morality, if thy mind is guided by wisdom, blessed be thou.Why then, O Bhishma, was that virtuous girl Amva, who had set her heartupon another, carried off by thee, so proud of wisdom and virtue? Thybrother Vichitravirya conformably to the ways of the honest and thevirtuous, knowing that girl’s condition, did not marry her though broughtby thee. Boasting as thou dost of virtue, in thy very sight, upon thewidow of thy brother were sons begotten by another according to the waysof the honest. Where is thy virtue, O Bhishma? This thy celebacy, whichthou leadest either from ignorance or from impotence, is fruitless. Othou who art conversant with virtue, I do not behold thy well-being. Thouwho expoundest morality in this way dost not seem to have ever waitedupon the old. Worship, gift, study,–sacrifices distinguished by largegifts to the Brahmanas,–these all equal not in merit even one-sixteenthpart of that which is obtainable by the possession of a son. The merit, OBhishma, that is acquired by numberless vows and fasts assuredly becomesfruitless in the case of one that is childless. Thou art childless andold and the expounder of false morality. Like the swan in the story, thoushalt now die at the hands of thy relatives. Other men possessed ofknowledge have said this of old. I will presently recite it fully in thyhearing.

“There lived of yore an old swan on the sea-coast. Ever speaking ofmorality, but otherwise in his conduct, he used to instruct the featherytribe. Practise ye virtue and forego sin,–these were the words thatother truthful birds, O Bhishma, constantly heard him utter And the otheroviparous creatures ranging the sea, it hath been heard by us, O Bhishmause for virtue’s sake to bring him food. And, O Bhishma, all those otherbirds, keeping their eggs, with him, ranged and dived in the waters ofthe sea. And the sinful old swan, attentive to his own pursuits, used toeat up the eggs of all those birds that foolishly trusted in him. After awhile when the eggs were decreasing in number, a bird of great wisdom hadhis suspicions roused and he even witnessed (the affair) one day. Andhaving witnessed the sinful act of the old swan, that bird in greatsorrow spoke unto all the other birds. Then, O thou best of the Kurus,all those birds witnessing with their own eyes the act of the old swan,approached that wretch of false conduct and slew him.

“Thy behaviour, O Bhishma, is even like that of the old swan. These lordsof earth might slay thee in anger like those creatures of the featherytribe slaying the old swan. Persons conversant with the Puranas recite aproverb, O Bhishma, as regards this occurrence, I shall, O Bharata,repeat it to thee fully. It is even this: O thou that supportest thyselfon thy wings, though thy heart is affected (by the passions), thoupreachest yet (of virtue); but this thy sinful act of eating up the eggstransgresseth thy speech!”

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