Chapter 277

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Time, that is fraught, with terror unto allcreatures, is running his course. What is that source of good after whichone should strive? Tell me this, O grandsire!’

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is cited the old narrative of adiscourse between a sire and a son. Listen to it, O Yudhishthira! Once ona time, O son of Pritha, a regenerate person devoted only to the study ofthe Vedas had a very intelligent son who was known by the name ofMedhavin. Himself conversant with the religion of Emancipation, the, sonone day asked his father who was not conversant with that religion andwho was engaged in following the precepts of the Vedas, this question.’

“The son said, ‘What should a man of intelligence do, O sire, knowingthat the period of existence allotted to men runs fast away? Tell me thistruly and in proper order, O father, so that, guided by thy instructionsI may set myself to the acquisition of virtue.’

“The sire said, ‘Having studied the Vedas all the while observing theduties of Brahmacharya, O son, one should then desire for offspring forthe sake of rescuing one’s sires. Having established one’s fire then andperforming the sacrifices that are ordained, one should then retire intothe woods and (having lived as a forest-recluse) one should then become aMuni (by casting off everything and calmly waiting for dissolution).’

“The son said, ‘When the world is thus assailed and thus besieged on allsides, and when such irresistible (bolts) are falling in every direction,how can you speak so calmly?’

“The sire said, ‘How is the world assailed? By what is it besieged? Whatare those irresistible bolts that are falling on every side? Dost thoufrighten me with thy words?’

“The son said, ‘The world is assailed by Death. It is besieged by what isit besieged? What are those irresistible bolts that are falling on everyside? Dost thou frighten me with thy words?’

“The son said, ‘The world is assailed by Death. It is besieged byDecrepitude. Days and Nights are continually falling (like bolts). Why doyou not take heed of these? When I know that Death does not wait here forany one (but snatches all away suddenly and without notice), how can Ipossibly wait (for his coming) thus enveloped in a coat of Ignorance and(heedlessly) attending to my concerns? When as each night passes away theperiod of every one’s life wears away with it, when, indeed, one’sposition is similar to that of a fish in a piece of shallow water, whocan feel happy? Death encounters one in the very midst of one’s concerns,before the attainment of one’s objects, finding one as unmindful as aperson while engaged in plucking flowers.[1323] That which is kept forbeing done tomorrow should be done today; and that which one thinks ofdoing in the afternoon should be done in the forenoon. Death does notwait, mindful of one’s having done or not done one’s acts. Do today whatis for thy good (without keeping it for tomorrow). See that Death, who isirresistible, may not overcome thee (before you accomplish thy acts). Whoknows that Death will not come to one this very day? Before one’s actsare completed, Death drags one away. One should, therefore, commence topractise virtue while one is still young (without waiting for one’s oldage). for life is uncertain. By acquiring virtue one is sure to eternalhappiness both here and hereafter. Overpowered by folly one girds upone’s loins for acting on behalf of one’s sons and wives. Byaccomplishing acts foul or fair, one gratifies these (relatives). Himpossessed of sons and animals, and with mind devotedly attached to them,Death seizes and runs away like a tiger bearing away a sleepingdeer.[1324] While one is still engaged in winning diverse objects ofdesire, and while still unsatiated with one’s enjoyment, Death seizes oneand runs away like a she-wolf seizing a sheep and running away with it.’This has been done’,–‘this remains to be done’,–‘this other is halfdone’,–one may say thus to oneself; but Death, unmindful of one’s desireto finish one’s unfinished acts, seizes and drags one away. One that hasnot yet obtained the fruit of what one has already done, amongst thoseattached to action, one busied with one’s field or shop or house, Deathseizes and carries away. The weak, the strong; the wise, the brave, theidiotic, the learned, or him that has not yet obtained the gratificationof any of his desires, Death seizes and bears away. Death, decrepitude,disease, sorrow, and many things of a similar kind, are incapable ofbeing avoided by mortals. How, then, O father, canst thou sit so at thyease? As soon as a creature is born, Decrepitude and Death come andpossess him for his destruction. All these forms of existence mobile andimmobile, are possessed by these two (viz., Decrepitude and Death). Whenthe soldiers that compose Death’s army are on their march, nothing canresist them, except that one thing, viz., the power of Truth, for inTruth alone Immortality dwells. The delight that one feels of residing inthe midst of men is the abode of Death. The Sruti declares that thatwhich is called the forest is the true fold for the Devas, while thedelight one feels in dwelling in the midst of men is, as it were, thecord for binding the dweller (and making him helpless).[1325] Therighteous cut it and escape. The sinful do not succeed in cutting it (andfreeing themselves). He who does not injure other creatures in thought,word and deed, and who never injures others by taking away their means ofsustenance, is never injured by any creature.[1326] For these reasons,one should practise the vow of truth, be steadily devoted to the vow oftruth, and should desire nothing but the truth. Restraining all one’ssenses and looking upon all creatures with an equal eye, one shouldvanquish Death with the aid of Truth. Both Immortality and Death areplanted in the body. Death is encountered from folly, and Immortality iswon by Truth. Transcending desire and wrath, and abstaining from injury,I shall adopt Truth and happily achieving what is for my good, avoidDeath like an Immortal. Engaged in the Sacrifice that is constituted byPeace, and employed also in the Sacrifice of Brahma, and restraining mysenses, the Sacrifices I shall perform are those of speech, mind, andacts, when the sun enters his northerly course.[1327] How can one like meperform an Animal Sacrifice which is fraught with cruelty? How can onelike me, that is possessed of wisdom, perform like a cruel Pisacha, aSacrifice of Slaughter after the manner of what is laid down for theKshatriyas,–a Sacrifice that is, besides, endued with rewards that areterminable? In myself have I been begotten by my own self. O father,without seeking to procreate offspring, I shall rest myself on my ownself. I shall perform the Sacrifice of Self, I need no offspring torescue me.[1328] He whose words and thoughts are always well-restrained,he who has Penances and Renunciation, and Yoga, is sure to attain toeverything through these. There is no eye equal to Knowledge. There is noreward equal to Knowledge. There is no sorrow equal to attachment. Thereis no happiness equal to Renunciation. For a Brahmana there can be nowealth like residence in solitude, an equal regard for all creatures,truthfulness of speech, steady observance of good conduct, the totalabandonment of the rod (of chastisement), simplicity, and the gradualabstention from all acts.[1329] What need hast thou with wealth and whatneed with relatives and friends, and what with spouses? Thou art aBrahmana and thou hast death to encounter. Search thy own Self that isconcealed in a cave. Whither have thy grandsires gone and whither thysire too?'[1330]

“Bhishma said, ‘Hearing these words of his son, the sire acted in the waythat was pointed out, O king! Do thou also act in the same way, devotedto the religion of Truth.'”

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Chapter 278
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