It is not difficult to imagine how boring it was for the Pandavas, holed up in a place full of rishis and brahmins. Luckily it was not all that bad as many of the brahmins were good story tellers. They knew many stories from the puranas which were entertaining. But this one about a housewife and a hunter teaching a brahmin is different. The story is from Vachana Bharata.
Once upon a time a brahmin named Kaushika sat under a tree reciting veda. A crane which was perching on the tree did what the birds do! The brahmin looked up and stared at the bird with terrible anger and the bird dropped down dead. Feeling guilty and full of remorse at his uncontrolled anger, he got up went about the town begging for alms. As he stood at a door, the lady of the house came out and asked him to wait. In the meantime her husband came home tired and hungry and the lady taking care of her husband forgot all about the brahmin. She later remembered him and feeling embarrassed to have made him wait apologised. The brahmin very upset, showed his displeasure for having made him wait. She again apologised politely and said as her husband had come home hungry and she had to take care of him.
This apology does not mollify the still angry brahmin and he castigates her with 'You arrogant woman! Is your husband more important than a brahmin? How can you insult a brahmin by ignoring him in this way? Have you not heard from elders that a brahmin is like the veritable fire capable of destroying the whole world?'
The reply from the lady stuns the angry brahmin. 'Sir, I am aware that you have just killed a crane by the power of your anger. Brahmins are as divine as the gods and I would never show contempt towards them. Please forgive me! I treat my husband as my god and hence had to take care of him!' And she adds 'Anger is like the enemy within you! Hence please do not be angry. A man who can control his senses, who does not retaliate a wrong, who treats the world as he would treat himself is a brahmin. It seems while you have the knowledge, you have not fully understood dharma. If you are keen to learn, please go to Mithila and meet a hunter who resides there. Please forgive me if you think I was not attentive to you. Anyway you should not kill a woman!'
The brahmin cools down and curious goes to Mithila to meet the hunter who practices dharma and finds him in a butchers shop. He waits for the hunter, who is attending to customers who buy the meat of deer, buffaloes and other animals and approaches him when the customers leave. The hunter greets him with 'Did the housewife send you? I know why you have come here!'.
The brahmin is pleased with this second miracle. The hunter suggests they go home to talk. The brahmin is treated with hospitality and the brahmin feeling compassionate tells the hunter 'It seems the work you do is not suitable for you. I feel sad that you do this dreadful job!'.
The hunter replies that he was born into this situation due to his karma and he is performing his work accordingly. And that it is his dharma and he follows it. In addition he says he is serving his parents well, is truthful, has no envy and gives to charity to the extent possible. 'I do not blame anyone, not do I treat elders with contempt. I do not kill animals even if I sell their meat and I do not eat meat. In some ways there is no one in the world, who has not illtreated animals.'
He then analyses concept of dharma in detail and says dharma is not visible easily, it is hidden like the water in a lake covered by hyacinth. One has to probe deeper to understand dharma and there are not many who do this!
Kaushika, the brahmin tells the hunter with admiration that he agrees with him and happy that he has achieved fulfilment in dharma. The hunter then takes him in to meet his parents and tells Kaushika 'They are my gods, whatever seva one does for the gods, I do it for them. Taking care of them is my penance (tapas), In the same way the housewife does her tapas by taking care of her husband and her family. If you want me to give any advice, it is this. Go home and take care of your parents, they are very unhappy, Go quickly and make them happy. There is no better dharma than this.' With this advice the hunter bids farewell to Kaushika.