Chapter 354

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Bhishma said, ‘In an excellent town called by the name of Mahapadmawhich was situate on the southern side of the river Ganga, there lived,

O, best of men, a Brahmana of concentrated soul. Born in the race ofAtri, he was endued with amiability. All his doubts had been dispelled(by faith and contemplation) and he was well conversant with the path hewas to follow. Ever observant of the religious duties, he had his angerunder perfect control. Always contented, he was the, complete master ofhis senses. Devoted to penances and study of the Vedas, he was honouredby all good men. He earned wealth by righteous means and his conduct inall things corresponded with the mode of life he led and the order towhich he belonged. The family to which he belonged was large andcelebrated. He had many kinsmen and relatives, and many children andspouses. His behaviour was always respectable and faultless. Observingthat he had many children, the Brahmana betook himself to theaccomplishment of religious acts on a large scale. His religiousobservances, O king, had reference to the customs of his ownfamily.[1926] The Brahmana reflected that three kinds of duties have beenlaid down for observances. There were first, the duties ordained in theVedas in respect of the order in which he was born and the mode of lifehe was leading (viz., a Brahmana in the observance of domesticity). Therewere secondly, the duties prescribed in the scriptures, viz., thoseespecially called the Dharmasastras. And, thirdly, there were thoseduties that eminent and revered men of former times have followed thoughnot occurring either in the Vedas or the scriptures.[1927] Which of theseduties should I follow? Which of them, again, followed by me, are likelyto lead to my benefit? Which, indeed, should be my refuge?–Thoughts likethese always troubled him. He could not solve his doubts. While troubledwith such reflections, a Brahmana of concentrated soul and observant of avery superior religion, came to his house as a guest. The house-holderduly honoured his guest according to those ordinances of worship that arelaid down in the scriptures. Beholding his guest refreshed and seated atease, the host addressed him in the following words.”

“The Brahmana said, ‘O sinless one, I have become exceedingly attached tothee in consequence of the sweetness of thy conversation. Thou hastbecome my friend. Listen to me, for I wish to say something unto thee. Oforemost of Brahmanas, after making over the duties of a householder tomy son, I wish to discharge the highest duties of man. What, O regenerateone, should be my path? Relying upon the Jiva soul, I wish to achieveexistence in the one (supreme) soul. Alas, bound up in the ties ofattachment, I have not the heart to actually set myself to theaccomplishment of that task.[1928] And since the best portion of my lifehas passed away in the observance of domesticity, I desire to devote theremnant of my life in earning the means of defraying the expenses of myjourney in respect of the time to come. The desire has arisen in my mindof crossing the ocean of the world. Alas, whence shall I get the raft ofreligion (with which to accomplish my purposes)? Hearing that even thevery deities are persecuted and made to endure the fruits of their acts,and beholding the rows of Yama’s standards and flags floating over theheads of all creatures, my heart fails to derive pleasure from thediverse objects of pleasure with which it comes into contact. Beholdingalso that the Yatis depend for their sustenance upon alms obtained incourse of their rounds of mendicancy, I have no respect for the religionof the Yatis as well. O my reverend guest, do thou, aided by thatreligion which is founded upon the basis of intelligence and reason, setme to the observance of a particular course of duties andobservance![1929]’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Endued with great wisdom, the guest, hearing thisspeech of his host which was consistent with righteousness, said thesesweet words in a melodious voice.’

“The guest said, ‘I myself also am confounded with respect to this topic.The same thought occupies my mind. I am unable to arrive at definiteconclusions. Heaven has many doors. There are some that applaudEmancipation. Some regenerate persons praise the fruits attainable by theperformance of sacrifices. Some there are that take refuge in the forestmode of life. Some, again, betake themselves to the domestic mode oflife. Some rely upon the merits attainable by an observance of the dutiesof kings. Some rely upon the fruits of that culture which consists inrestraining the soul. Some think that the merits resulting from a dutifulobedience to preceptors and seniors are efficacious. Some betakethemselves to restraints imposed on speech. Some by waiting dutifullyupon their mothers and fathers, have gone to heaven. Some have ascendedto heaven by practising the duty of compassion, and some by practisingTruth. Some rush to battle, and after laying down their lives, haveattained to heaven. Some, again, attaining to success by practising thevow called Unccha, have betaken themselves to the path of heaven. Somehave devoted themselves to the study of the Vedas. Endued withauspiciousness and wedded to such study, these men, possessed ofintelligence, with tranquil souls, and having their senses under completecontrol, attain to heaven. Others characterised by simplicity and truth,have been slain by men of wickedness. Endued with pure souls, such men oftruth and simplicity, have become honoured denizens of heaven. In thisworld, it is seen, that men betake themselves to heaven, through athousand doors of duty, all standing wide open. My understanding has beentroubled by thy question, like a fleecy cloud before the wind.'”

Chapter 355
Chapter 353
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