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Chapter 181

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell me, O grandsire, if gifts, sacrifices,penances, and dutiful services returned to preceptors, are productive ofwisdom and high felicity.'[543]

‘Bhishma said, ‘If the mind becomes affected by desire, wrath and otherevil passions, it then runs towards sin. If one’s acts are stained bysin, one is obliged to dwell in painful regions. Sinful men take birth inindigent circumstances and repeatedly suffer the pangs of famine, woe,fear, and death. Those that are virtuous in their acts, and possessed offaith, and that have their senses under control, become born as affluentmen and repeatedly sport in festivities and heaven and happiness.Unbelievers, with their arms manacled, are sent to regions renderedinaccessible by carnivorous beasts and elephants and full of terrors inconsequence of snakes and robbers. What more need be said of them? They,on the other hand, who have reverence for gods and guests, who areliberal, who are fond of good and honest men, go, in consequence of theiracts of charity, along that happy way which belongs to persons ofcleansed souls. They that have no reverence for virtue are as vile amongmen as seedless grains among corn or the gnat among birds. That which isordained in consequence of the acts of a past life pursues the actor evenif the latter strives his best for leaving it behind.[544] It sleeps whenhe sleeps and does whatever else he does.[545] Like his shadow it restswhen he rests, proceeds when he proceeds, and acts when he acts. Whateveracts a man does he has certainly to obtain the fruits thereof. Death isdragging all creatures who are surely destined to fall (into orders ofexistence they deserve) and who are surely ‘liable to enjoy or sufferthat which has been ordained as the consequence of their acts. The actsof a past life develop their consequences in their own proper time evenas flowers and fruits, without extraneous efforts of any kind, never failto appear when their proper time comes. After the consequences, asordained, of the acts of a past life, have been exhausted (by enjoymentor sufferings), honour and disgrace, gain and loss, decay and growth, nolonger flow or appear in respect of any one. This happensrepeatedly.[546] A creature while still in the mother’s womb enjoys orsuffers the happiness or the misery that has been ordained for him inconsequence of his own acts. In childhood or youth or old age, atwhatever period of life one does an act good or bad, the consequencesthereof are sure to visit him in his next life at precisely the sameperiod. As a calf recognises and approaches its parent in the midst ofeven a thousand kine, even so the acts of a past life recognise and visitthe doer in his new life. Washed in water a (dirty) piece of clothbecomes clean. Similarly, men burning in repentance obtain endlesshappiness by proper penances.[547] Those that can take up their residencein the woods and by performing austerities for a long period can washthemselves of their sins, succeed in obtaining the objects on which theyset their hearts. As no one can mark the track of birds in the sky or offishes in the water, similarly, the track of persons whose souls havebeen cleansed by knowledge cannot be marked by any.[548] There is no needof any more eloquence or any more reference to sinful acts. Suffice it tosay that one should, with proper judgment and as befits one best, do whatis for one’s good. This is the means by which wisdom and high felicitymay be achieved.'”

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