Mahabharata (abridged)

258,337 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata: one of the two major Sanskrit epics of India. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life". NOTE: this is a Summary Study (...

Ashramvasika Parva

Dhritarastra Attains Liberation

As explained previously, Vidura had quit his brother's palace because of Duryodhana's offenses. While traveling on pilgrimage, Vidura received knowledge of the destination of the self from the great sage Maitreya and then returned to Hastinapura. He returned some thirty six years after the Kurukshetra war. Vidura felt that he had become contaminated due to the association of Duryodhana, Shakuni and others. He, therefore, did not go directly to Lord Krishna for protection. He desired to first purify himself by traveling to different places of pilgrimage. After receiving transcendental knowledge from Maitreya, he came back to Hastinapura to try to save his elder brother, who was at the fag end of his life. When Vidura returned to his brother's palace, all the inhabitants such as Maharaja Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva, Dhritarastra, Satyaki, Sanjaya, Kripacharya, Kunti, Gandhari, Draupadi, Subhadra, Uttara, Kripi, many other wives of the Kauravas, and other ladies with children+all hurried to see him in great delight. It so appeared that they had regained their consciousness after a long period. They all offered their obeisances and welcomed each other with embraces. Due to anxieties and long separation, they all cried out of affection. King Yudhisthira then arranged to offer sitting accommodations and a reception. After Vidura ate sumptuously and took sufficient rest, he was comfortably seated. Then the King began to speak to him, and all who were present there listened. Maharaja Yudhisthira said, My uncle, do you remember how you always protected us, along with our mother, from all sorts of calamities? You partiality, like the wings of a bird, saved us from poisoning and arson. While traveling on the surface of the earth, how did you maintain your livelihood? At which holy places and pilgrimage sites did you render service? My lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage. My uncle, you must have visited Dvaraka. In that holy place our friends and well-wishers, the descendants of Yadu, are always rapt in the service of the Lord Sri Krishna. you might have seen them or heard about them. Are they all living happily in their abodes?

Thus being questioned by Maharaja Yudhisthira, Mahatma Vidura gradually described everything he had personally experienced, except news of the annihilation of the Yadu dynasty. Vidura was very compassionate and could not stand to see the Pandavas distressed at any time. Therefore he did not disclose this unpalatable and unbearable incident because calamities come of their own accord. Thus Mahatma Vidura, being treated just like a godly person by his kinsmen, remained there for a certain period just to rectify the mentality of his eldest brother and in this way bring happiness to all the others.

Insurmountable, eternal time imperceptibly overcomes those who are too much attached to family affairs and are always engrossed in their thought. Mahatma Vidura knew all this, and therefore he addressed Dhritarastra, saying, My dear King, please leave here immediately. Do not delay. Just see how fear has overtaken you. This frightful situation cannot be remedied by any person in this material world. My Lord, it is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as eternal time that has approached us all. Whoever is under the influence of Supreme kala must surrender his most dear life, and what to speak of other things, such as wealth, honor, children, land and home. Your father, brother, well-wishers and sons are all dead and passed away. You yourself have expended the major portion of your life, your body is now overtaken by invalidity, and you are living in the home of another. You have been blind from your very birth, and recently you have become hard of hearing. Your memory is shortened, and your intelligence is disturbed. your teeth are loose, you liver is defective, and you are coughing up mucus. Alas, how powerful are the hopes of a living being to continue his life. Verily, you are living just like a household dog and are eating the remnants of food given by Bhima. There is no need to live a degraded life and subsist on the charity of those whom you tried to kill by arson and poisoning. You also insulted one of their wives and usurped their kingdom and wealth. Despite your unwillingness to die and your desire to live even at the cost of honor and prestige, your miserly body will certainly dwindle and deteriorate like an old garment. He is called undisturbed who goes to an unknown, remote place and, freed from all obligations, quits his material body when it has become useless. He is certainly first-class man who awakens and understands, either by himself or from others, the falsity and misery of this material world and thus leaves home and depends fully on the Personality of Godhead residing within his heart. Please, therefore, leave for the North immediately, without letting your relatives know, for soon that time will approach which will diminish the good qualities of men.

Thus Maharaja Dhritarastra, the scion of the Kuru family, firmly convinced by introspective knowledge, broke at once the strong network of family affection by his resolute determination. Thus he immediately left home to set out on the path of liberation, as directed by his younger brother Vidura. He left in the middle of the night unnoticed by anyone. The gentle and chaste Gandhari, who was the daughter of King Subala of Gandhara, followed her husband, seeing that he was going to the Himalaya Mountains, which are the delight of those who have accepted the staff of the renounced order like fighters who have accepted a good lashing from the enemy.

Maharaja Yudhisthira, whose enemy was never born, performed his daily morning duties by praying, offering fire sacrifice to the sun-god, and offering obeisances, grains, cows land and gold to the brahmanas. He then entered the palace to pay respects to the elderly. However, he could not find his mother, uncles or aunt, the daughter of King Subala. Maharaja Yudhisthira, full of anxiety, turned to Sanjaya, who was sitting there, and said, O Sanjaya, where is my mother, who always gave us protection after the death of her husband. Where is our uncle, who is old and blind? Where is my well-wisher, uncle Vidura, and aunt Gandhari, who is very afflicted due to all her son's demise? My uncle Dhritarastra was also very mortified due to the death of all his sons and grandsons. Undoubtedly I am very ungrateful. Did he, therefore, take my offenses very seriously and, along with his wife, drown himself in the Ganges? When my father, Pandu, died, we were all small children, they were always our good well-wishers. Alas, where have they gone from here?

Because of compassion and mental agitation, Sanjaya, not having seen his own master, Dhritarastra, was aggrieved and could not properly reply to Maharaja Yudhisthira. First he slowly pacified his mind by intelligence, and wiping away his tears and thinking of the feet of his master, Dhritarastra, he began to reply to Maharaja Yudhisthira. My dear descendant of the Kuru dynasty, Sanjaya said, I have no information of your mother's determination or your two uncles or Gandhari. O King, I have been cheated by those great souls.

While Sanjaya was thus speaking, Sri Narada, the powerful devotee of the Lord, appeared on the scene carrying his tumburu. Maharaja Yudhisthira and his brothers received him properly by getting up from their seats and offering obeisances. Maharaja Yudhisthira said, O godly personality, I do not know where my mother and two uncles have gone. Nor can I find my ascetic aunt who is grief stricken by the loss of her sons. You are like a captain of a ship in a great ocean, and you can direct us to our destination.

Thus addressed, the godly personality, Devarshi Narada, greatest of the philosopher devotees, began to speak, O pious King, do not lament for anyone, for everyone is under the control of the Supreme Lord. Therefore all living beings and their leaders carry on worship to be well protected. It is He only who brings them together and disperses them. As a cow, bound through the nose by a long rope, is conditioned, so also human beings are bound by different Vedic injunctions and are conditioned to obey the orders of the Supreme. As a player sets up and disperses his playthings according to his own sweet will, so the supreme will of the Lord brings men together and separates them. O King, in all circumstances, whether you consider the soul to be an eternal principle, or the material body to be perishable, or everything to exist in the impersonal Absolute Truth, or everything to be an inexplicable combination of matter and spirit, feelings of separation are due to illusory affection and nothing more. Therefore, give up your anxiety due to ignorance of the self. You are now thinking of how they, who are helpless poor creatures, will exist without you. This gross material body made of five elements is already under the control of eternal time, action and the modes of material nature. How, then, can it, being already in the jaws of the serpent, protect others? Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another.

Therefore, O King, you should look to the Supreme Lord only, who is one without a second and who manifests Himself by different energies and is both within and without. That Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, in the guise of all-devouring time has now descended on the earth to eliminate the envious from the world. The Lord has already performed His duties to help the demigods, and He is awaiting the rest. You Pandavas may wait as long as the Lord is here on earth. O King, your mother Kunti, your uncle Dhritarastra, his brother Vidura and his wife Gandhari have gone to the southern side of the Himalaya mountains, which are shelters of the great sages. The place is called Saptasrota, because there the waters of the sacred Ganges were divided into seven branches. This was done for the satisfaction of the seven great rishis. On the banks of the Saptasrota, Dhritarastra is now engaged in beginning astanga-yoga by bathing three times daily, in the morning, noon and evening, by performing the Agni-hotra sacrifice with fire and by drinking only water. This helps one control the mind and the senses and frees one completely from thoughts of familial affection. One who has controlled the sitting postures and the breathing process can turn the senses toward the Absolute Personality of Godhead and thus become immune to the contaminations of the modes of material nature, namely mundane goodness, passion and ignorance. Dhritarastra will have to amalgamate his pure identity with intelligence and then merge into the Supreme Being with knowledge of his qualitative oneness, as a living entity, with the Supreme Brahman. Being freed from the blocked sky, he will have to rise to the spiritual sky. He will have to suspend all the actions of the senses, even from the outside, and will have to be impervious to interactions of the senses, which are influenced by the modes of material nature. After renouncing all material duties, he must become immovably established, beyond all sources of hindrances on the path. O King, he will quit his body, most probably on the fifth day from today. And his body will turn to ashes.

While outside observing her husband, who will burn in the fire of mystic power along with the thatched cottage, his chaste wife will enter the fire with rapt attention. Upon observing the forest area burning in flames, your mother Kunti will also enter into the fire to give up her life. Vidura, being affected with delight and grief, will then leave that place of sacred pilgrimage. He will travel to Prabhasa and leave his body in that holy place. Because he is always absorbed in thought of Lord Krishna, he will be received by the denizens of Pitriloka and installed in his original post. Having spoken thus, the great sage Narada, along with his vina, ascended into outer space. Yudhisthira kept his instruction in his heart and so was able to get rid of all lamentations.

Thus Ends the Ashramvasika Parva, entitled, Dhritarastra Attains Liberation.

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