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Chapter 272

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Amongst the diverse kinds of sacrifices, all ofwhich, of course, are regarded to have but one object (viz., thecleansing of the heart or the glory of God), tell me, O grandsire, whatthat sacrifice is which has been ordained for the sake only of virtue andnot for the acquisition of either heaven or wealth!'[1283]

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection I shall relate to thee the history,formerly recited by Narada, of a Brahmana who for performing sacrifices,lived according to the unchha mode.’

“Narada said, ‘In one of the foremost of kingdoms that was distinguishedagain for virtue, there lived a Brahmana. Devoted to penances and livingaccording to the unchha mode, that Brahmana was earnestly engaged inadoring Vishnu in sacrifices.[1284] He had Syamaka for his food, as alsoSuryaparni and Suvarchala and other kinds of potherbs that were bitterand disagreeable to the taste. In consequence, however, of his penances,all these tasted sweet.[1285] Abstaining from injuring any creature, andleading the life of a forest recluse, he attained to ascetic success.With roots and fruits, O scorcher of foes, he used to adore Vishnu insacrifices that were intended to confer heaven upon him.[1286] TheBrahmana, whose name was Satya, had a wife named Pushkaradharini. She waspure-minded, and had emaciated herself by the observance of many austerevows. (Herself having been of a benevolent disposition, and her husbandbeing thus addicted to sacrifices that were cruel), she did not approveof the conduct of her lord. Summoned, however, to take her seat by hisside as his spouse (for the performance of a sacrifice), she feared toincur his curse and, therefore, comforted herself with his conduct. Thegarments that invested her body consisted of the (cast off) plumes ofpeacocks. Although unwilling, she still performed that sacrifice at thecommand of her lord who had become its Hotri. In that forest, near to theBrahmana’s asylum, lived a neighbour of his, viz., the virtuous Parnadaof Sukra’s race, having assumed the form of a deer. He addressed thatBrahmana, whose name was Satya, in articulate speech and said unto himthese words, ‘Thou wouldst be acting very improperly,[1287] if thissacrifice of thine were accomplished in such a manner as to be defectivein mantras and other particulars of ritual. I, therefore, ask thee toslay and cut me in pieces for making libations therewith on thysacrificial fire. Do this and becoming blameless ascend to heaven.’ Thenthe presiding goddess of the solar disc, viz., Savitri, came to thatsacrifice in her own embodied form and insisted upon that Brahmana indoing what he desired by that deer to do. Unto that goddess, however, whothus insisted, the Brahmana replied, saying, ‘I shall not slay this deerwho lives with me in this same neighbourhood.'[1288] Thus addressed bythe Brahmana, the goddess Savitri desisted and entered the sacrificialfire from desire of surveying the nether world, and wishing to avoid thesight of (other) defects in that sacrifice.[1289] The deer, then, withjoined hands, once more begged of Satya (to be cut in pieces and pouredinto the sacrificial fire). Satya, however, embraced him in friendshipand dismissed him, saying, ‘Go!'[1290] At this, the deer seemed to leavethat place. But after he had gone eight steps he returned, and said,’Verily, do thou slay me. Truly do I say, slain by thee I am sure toattain to a righteous end. I give thee (spiritual) vision. Behold thecelestial Apsaras and the beautiful vehicles of the high-souledGandharvas.’ Beholding (that sight) for a protracted space of time, withlonging eyes, and seeing the deer (solicitous of sacrifice), and thinkingthat residence in heaven is attainable by only slaughter, he approved (ofthe counsels the deer had given). It was Dharma himself who had become adeer that lived in those woods for many years. (Seeing the Brahmanatempted by the prospect he beheld), Dharma provided for his salvation andcounselled him, saying, ‘This (viz., slaughter of living creatures) isnot conformable to the ordinances about Sacrifices.[1291] The penances,which had been of very large measure, of that Brahmana whose mind hadentertained the desire of slaying the deer, diminished greatly inconsequence of that thought itself. The injuring of living creatures,therefore, forms no part of sacrifice.[1292] Then the illustrious Dharma(having assumed his real form), himself assisted that Brahmana, bydischarging the priestly office, to perform a sacrifice. The Brahmana,after this, in consequence of his (renewed) penances, attained to thatstate of mind which was his spouse’s.[1293] Abstention from injury isthat religion which is complete in respect of its rewards. The religion,however, of cruelty is only thus far beneficial that it leads to heaven(which has a termination). I have spoken to thee of that religion ofTruth which, indeed, is the religion of those that are utterers ofBrahma.'”[1294]

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