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Chapter 54

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Janamejaya said, ‘When that tiger among men, of righteous soul and greatenergy, firmly adhering to truth and with passions under completecontrol, viz., the son of Santanu and Ganga, named Devavrata or Bhishmaof unfading glory, lay on a hero’s bed with the sons of Pandu sittingaround him, tell me, O great sage, what converse ensued in that meetingof heroes after the slaughter of the troops.’

“Vaisampayana said, ‘When Bhishma that chief of the Kurus, lay on his bedof arrows, many Rishis and Siddhas, O king, headed by Narada, came tothat spot. The unslain remnant of the (assembled) kings with Yudhishthiraat their head, and Dhritarashtra and Krishna and Bhima and Arjuna and thetwins also came there. Those high-souled persons, approaching thegrandsire of the Bharatas who looked like the Sun himself dropped fromthe firmament, indulged in lamentations for him. Then Narada of godlikefeatures reflecting for a short while, addressed all the Pandavas and theunslain remnant of the kings saying, ‘The time, I think, has come for youto question Bhishma (on subject of morality and religion), for Ganga’sson is about to expire like the Sun that is on the point of setting. Heis about to cast off his life-breaths. Do you all, therefore, solicit himto discourse to you? He is acquainted with the varied duties of all thefour orders. Old in years, after abandoning his body he will obtain highregions of bliss. Solicit him, therefore, without delay, to clear thedoubts that exists in your minds.’ Thus addressed by Narada, thoseprinces approached Bhishma, but unable to ask him anything, looked at oneanother. Then Yudhishthira the son of Pandu, addressing Hrishikesa said,”There is no one else than Devaki’s son that can question the grandsire.O foremost one of Yadu’s race, do thou, therefore, O slayer of Madhu,speak first. Thou, O sire, art the foremost of us all and thou artconversant with every duty and practice.” Thus addressed by the son ofPandu, the illustrious Kesava of unfading glory, approaching theunconquerable Bhishma, spoke unto him as follows.’

“Vasudeva said, ‘Hast thou, O best of kings, passed the night happily?Has thy understanding become unclouded? Does thy knowledge, O sinlessone, shine in thee by inward light? I hope thy heart no longer feels painand thy mind is no longer agitated.’

“Bhishma said, ‘Burning, stupefaction, fatigue, exhaustion, illness, andpain, through thy grace, O thou of Vrishni’s race, have all left me in asingle day. O thou of incomparable splendour, all that is past, all thatis future, and all that is present, I behold as clearly as a fruit placedin my hands. All the duties declared in the Vedas, all those laid down inthe Vedantas, I behold clearly, O thou of unfading glory, in consequenceof the boon thou hast granted to me. The duties that have been declaredby persons of learning and righteous behaviour, dwell in my remembrance.I am conversant also, O Janardana, with the duties and practicesprevailing in particular countries and among particular tribes andfamilies. Everything relating again to the four modes of life has comeback to my recollection. I am acquainted also, O Kesava, with the dutiesthat relate to king-craft. Whatever should at whatever time be said, Iwould say, O Janardana! Through thy grace, I have acquired an auspiciousunderstanding. Strengthened by meditation on thee, feel as if I havebecome a young man again. Through thy favour, O Janardana, I have becomecompetent to discourse on what is beneficial (for the world). Why,however, O holy one, dost thou not thyself discourse to Pandu’s son uponall that is good? What explanation hast thou to give in respect of this?Tell me quickly, O Madhava!’

“Vasudeva said, ‘Know, O thou of Kuru’s race, that I am the root of fameand of everything that leads to good. All things, good or bad, proceedfrom me. Who on earth will wonder if the moon be said to be of cool rays?Similarly, who will wonder if I were described as one possessed of thefull measure of fame?[159] I have, however, resolved to enhance thy fame,O thou of great splendour! It is for this, O Bhishma, that I have justinspired thee with great intelligence. As long, O lord of earth, as theearth will last, so long will thy fame travel with undiminished lustrethrough all the worlds. Whatever, O Bhishma, thou wilt say unto theinquiring son of Pandu, will be regarded on earth to be as authoritativeas the declarations of that Vedas. That person who will conduct himselfhere according to the authority of thy declarations, will obtainhereafter the reward of every meritorious act. For this reason, OBhishma, I have imparted to thee celestial understanding so that thy famemaybe enhanced on earth. As long as a man’s fame lasts in the world, solong are his achievements said to live. The unslain remnant of the(assembled) kings are sitting around thee, desirous of listening to thydiscourses on morality and duty. Do thou speak unto them, O Bharata! Thouart old in years and thy behaviour is consistent with the ordinance ofthe Srutis. Thou art well conversant with the duties of kings and withevery other science of duty. No one has ever noticed the slightesttransgression in thee from thy every birth. All the kings know thee to beconversant with all the sciences of morality and duty. Like a sire untohis sons do thou, therefore, O king, discourse unto them of highmorality. Thou hast always worshipped the Rishis and the gods. It isobligatory on thee to discourse on these subjects in detail unto personsdesirous of listening to discourse on morality and duty. A learnedperson, especially when solicited by the righteous, should discourse onthe same. The sages have declared this to be a duty. O puissant one, ifthou dost not speak on such subjects, thou wilt incur sin. Therefore,questioned by thy sons and grandsons, O learned one, about the eternalduties (of men), do thou, O bull among the Bharatas, discourse upon themon the subject.'”

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