BY: SUN STAFF
Yudhishthira and Brothers ask Bhishma for Permission to Fight
Mughal, c. 1617
The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (published between 1883 and 1896)
Jan 18, 2011 CANADA (SUN) Santi Parva, Book 12, Part One - Mokshadharma Parva - Section 231 - Part One.
Yudhishthira said, 'What, indeed, is good for a man that is sunk in dire distress, when loss of friends or loss of kingdom, O monarch has occurred? In this world, O bull of Bharata's race, thou art the foremost of our instructors. I ask thee this. It behoveth thee to tell me what I ask.'
Bhishma said, 'For one that has been deprived of sons and wives and pleasures of every kind and wealth, and that has been plunged into dire distress, fortitude is of the highest good, O king! The body is never emaciated of one that is always possessed of fortitude. Grieflessness bears happiness within it, and also health that is a superior possession. In consequence again of this health of body, once may again acquire prosperity. That wise man, O sire, who adheres to a course of righteous conduct (while afflicted by distress) succeeds in acquiring prosperity, patience, and perseverance in the accomplishment of all his objects. In this connection is once more cited the old narrative of the discourse between Vali and Vasava, O Yudhishthira!
After the battle between the gods and the Asuras, in which a large number of Daityas and Danavas fell, had come to an end. Vali became king. He was deceived by Vishnu who once more established his sway over all the worlds. He, of a hundred sacrifices was once more invested with the sovereignty of the deities. After the rule of the deities had thus been re-established, and the four orders of men had been re-established in the practice of their respective courses of duty, the three worlds once more swelled with prosperity, and the Self-born became glad at heart. At that time, accompanied by the Rudras, the Vasus, the Adityas, the Aswins, the celestial Rishis, the Gandharvas, the Siddhas, and other superior orders of beings, the puissant Sakra, seated in splendour on his four-tusked prince of elephants, called Airavata, made a progress through all the worlds.
One day, while thus engaged, the wielder of the thunderbolt beheld Virochana's son Vali within a certain mountain cave on the sea-shore. Seeing the prince of Danavas, he approached him. Beholding the chief of the deities, viz., Indra, thus seated on the back of Airavata and surrounded by the several orders of the celestials, the prince of the Daityas showed no signs of sorrow or agitation. Indra also, seeing Vali staying unmoved and fearless, addressed him from the back of his foremost of elephants, saying, 'How is it, O Daitya, that thou art so unmoved? Is it due to thy heroism or thy having waited with reverence upon aged persons? Is it due to thy mind having been cleansed by penances?
To whatever cause it may be due, this frame of mind is certainly very difficult of attainment. Hurled from a position that was certainly the highest, thou art now divested of all thy possessions, and thou hast been brought under the sway of thy foes. O son of Virochana, what is that by having recourse to which thou dost not grieve although the occasion is for grief? Formerly, when thou wert invested with the sovereignty of thy own order, unrivalled pleasures were thine. Now, however, thou art divested of thy wealth and jewels and sovereignty. Tell us why thou art so unmoved.
Thou wert before this a god, seated on the throne of thy sire and grandsires. Beholding thyself stripped today by thy foes, why dost thou not grieve? Thou art bound in Varuna's noose and hast been struck with my thunderbolt. Thy wives have been taken away and thy wealth also. Tell us why thou dost not indulge in grief. Divested of prosperity and fallen away from affluence, thou indulgest not in grief. This, indeed, is something that is very remarkable. Who else, O Vali, than one like thee, could venture to bear the burthen of existence after being shorn of the sovereignty of the three worlds?' Hearing without any pain these and other cutting speeches that Indra addressed to him, asserting the while his own superiority over him, Vali, the son of Virochana, fearlessly answered his interrogator, saying the following words.'
Vali said, 'When calamities have oppressed me, O Sakra, what dost thou gain by such brag now? Today I behold thee, O Purandara, stand before me with the thunderbolt upraised in thy hand! Formerly, however, thou couldst not bear thyself so. Now thou hast by some means gained that power. Indeed, who else than thou could utter such cruel speeches? That person who, though able to punish, shows compassion towards a heroic foe vanquished and brought under his sway, is truly a very superior individual. When two persons fight, victory in the battle is certainly dubious. One of the two certainly becomes victorious, and the other becomes vanquished. O chief of the deities, let not thy disposition be such! Do not imagine that thou hast become the sovereign of all creatures after having conquered all with thy might and prowess! That we have become so is not, O Sakra, the result of any act of ours. That thou hast become so, O wielder of the thunderbolt, is not the result of any act of thine. What I am now thou wilt be in the future. Do not disregard me, thinking that thou hast done an exceedingly difficult feat. A person obtains happiness and misery one after another in course of Time.
Thou hast, O Sakra, obtained the sovereignty of the universe in course of Time but not in consequence of any especial merit in thee. It is Time that leads me on in his course. That same Time leads thee also onward. It is for this that I am not what thou art today, and thou also art not what we are! Dutiful services done to parents, reverential worship of deities, due practice of any good quality,--none of these can bestow happiness on any one. Neither knowledge, nor penances, nor gifts, nor friends, nor kinsmen can rescue one that is afflicted by Time. Men are incapable of averting, by even a thousand means, an impending calamity. Intelligence and strength go for nothing in such cases. There is no rescuer of men that are afflicted by Time's course.
That thou, O Sakra, regarded thyself as the actor lies at the root of all sorrow. If the ostensible doer of an act is the real actor thereof, that doer then would not himself be the work of some one else (viz., the Supreme Being). Hence, because the ostensible doer is himself the product of another, that another is the Supreme Being above whom there is nothing higher. Aided by Time I had vanquished thee. Aided by Time thou hast vanquished me. It is Time that is the mover of all beings that move. It is Time that destroys all beings. O Indra, in consequence of thy intelligence being of the vulgar species thou seest not that destruction awaits all things. Some, indeed, regard thee highly as one that has acquired by his own acts the sovereignty of the universe.
For all that, how can one like us that know the course of the world, indulge in grief in consequence of having been afflicted by Time, or suffer our understanding to be stupefied, or yield to the influence of error? Shall my understanding or that of one like me, even when we are overwhelmed by Time, coming in contact with a calamity, suffer itself to be destroyed like a wrecked vessel at sea? Myself, thyself, and all those who will in future become the chiefs of the deities, shall have, O Sakra, to go the way along which hundreds of Indras have gone before thee. When thy hour matures itself, Time will surely destroy thee like me,--thee that art now so invincible and that now blazest with unrivalled splendour. In Time's course many thousands of Indras and of deities have been swept off yuga after yuga. Time, indeed, is irresistible.
Having attained to thy present position, thou regardest thyself very highly, even as the Creator of all beings, the divine and eternal Brahman. This position of thine had been attained by many before thee. With none did it prove stable or unending. In consequence, however, of a foolish understanding, thou alone regardest it to be immutable and eternal. Thou trustest in that which is not deserving of trust. Thou deemest that to be eternal which is not eternal. O chief of the deities, one that is overwhelmed and stupefied by Time really regards oneself after this manner. Led by folly thou regardest thy present regal prosperity to be thine. Know, however, that it is never stable in respect of either thee or me or others. It had belonged to innumerable persons before thee. Passing over them, it has now become thine. It will stay with thee, O Vasava, for some time and then prove its instability. Like a cow abandoning one drinking ditch for another, it will surely desert thee for somebody else.
So many sovereigns have gone before thee that I venture not to make an enumeration. In the future also, O Purandara, innumerable sovereigns will rise after thee. I do not behold those rulers now that had formerly enjoyed this earth with her trees and plants and gems and living creatures and waters and mines. Prithu, Aila, Maya, Bhima, Naraka, Samvara, Aswagriva, Puloman, Swarbhanu, whose standard was of immeasurable height, Prahlada, Namuchi, Daksha, Vipprachitti, Virochana, Hrinisheva, Suhotra, Bhurihan, Pushavat, Vrisha, Satyepsu, Rishava, Vahu, Kapilaswa, Virupaka, Vana, Kartaswara, Vahni, Viswadanshtra, Nairiti, Sankocha, Varitaksha, Varaha, Aswa, Ruchiprabha, Viswajit, Pratirupa, Vrishanda, Vishkara, Madhu, Hiranyakasipu, the Danava Kaitabha, and many others that were Daityas and Danavas and Rakshasas, these and many more unnamed, belonging to remote and remoter ages, great Daityas and foremost of Danavas, whose names we have heard,--indeed, many foremost of Daityas of former times,--having gone away, leaving the Earth.
All of them were afflicted by Time. Time proved stronger than all of them. All of them had worshipped the Creator in hundreds of sacrifices. Thou art not the one person that hast done so. All of them were devoted to righteousness and all of them always performed great sacrifices. All of them were capable of roaming through the skies, and all were heroes that never showed their backs in battle. All of them had very strong frames and all had arms that resembled heavy bludgeons. All of them were masters of hundreds of illusions, and all could assume any form they wished. We have never heard that having engaged themselves in battle any of them had ever sustained a defeat. All were firm observers of the vow of truth, and all of them sported as they wished. Devoted to the Vedas and Vedic rites, all of them were possessors of great learning. Possessed of great might, all of them had acquired the highest prosperity and affluence.
But none of those high-souled sovereigns had the least tincture of pride in consequence of sovereignty. All of them were liberal, giving unto each what each deserved. All of them behaved properly and duly towards all creatures. All of them were the offspring of Daksha's daughters. Endued with great strength, all were lords of the creation. Scorching all things with the energy all of them blazed with splendour. Yet all of them were swept off by time. As regards thee, O Sakra, it is evident that when thou shalt have, after enjoying the earth, to leave her, thou wilt not be able to control thy grief. Cast off this desire that thou cherishest for objects of affection and enjoyment. Cast off this pride that is born of prosperity.
Thus ends section 231 of the Mokshadharma Parva of Santi Parva of Sri Mahabharata.