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Chapter 161

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Bhishma said, ‘They that are possessed of knowledge say that everythinghas penance for its root. That foolish person who has not undergonepenances does not meet with the rewards of even his own acts. Thepuissant Creator created all this universe with the aid of penances.After the same manner, the Rishis acquired the Vedas through the power ofpenances. It was by the aid of penances that the Grandsire created food,fruit and roots. It is by penances that persons crowned with asceticsuccess behold the three worlds, with rapt souls. Medicines and allantidotes to injurious substances, and the diverse acts (seen here),produce their intended results through the aid of penance. Theaccomplishment of all purposes depends upon penance. Whatever thingsthere are that are apparently unattainable are sure to be won by the aidof penance. Without doubt, the Rishis obtained their sixfold divineattributes through penance. A person that drinks alcoholic stimulants,one that appropriates the possessions of others without their consent,one guilty of foeticide, one that violates one’s preceptor’s bed, are allcleansed by penance properly practised. Penances are of many kinds. Theyexhibit themselves through various outlets. Of all kinds of penances,however, that one may Practise after abstaining from pleasure andenjoyment, abstention from food Is the highest and best. The penanceinvolved in abstention from food is superior, O king, to even compassion,truthfulness of speech, gifts, and restraining the senses. There is noact more difficult to accomplish than gift. There is no mode of life thatis superior to serving one’s mother. There is no creature superior tothose that are conversant with the three Vedas. Similarly, Renunciationconstitutes the highest penance. People keep their senses under controlfor taking care of their virtue and heaven. In respect of such controlover the senses as also in the acquisition of virtue, there is no penancehigher than abstention from food. The Rishis, the gods, human beings,beasts, birds, and whatever other creatures there are, mobile orimmobile, are all devoted to penances, and whatever success they win iswon through penance. Thus it was through penance that the gods acquiredtheir superiority These (luminaries in the firmament) that have got theirshares of felicity, are always the results of penance. Without doubt,through penance the very status of godhead may be acquired.'”

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Chapter 162
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