On the final day a strange thing happened. While brahmins, relatives and friends, the blind and the lame all were noisily happy with the gifts received, a mongoose came out of a hole nearby. One side of its body was all gold. Its shout sounded like the thunder and it spoke like the humans. 'Hey kings! This yagna is not even equal to one seer of flour gifted by a brahmin who made a living by gleaning!'. People around were curious to know why it spoke this way. Here is the story:-
'In the past there lived a brahmin who survived by gleaning. (To gather grain left behind by reapers). His family consisted of his wife, son and daughter-in-law. Once there was a drought and he was unable to collect any grains and on that day the family went hungry. The next day , he was able to collect a bit of maize by afternoon. They ground the maize and cooked it and were about to eat after the afternoon rituals when an atithi, a unexpected visitor, dropped in. After receiving him with due formality, the brahmin served his portion of the food to the visitor. The visitor was still hungry. Then the portion meant for his wife was served and this way the visitor was satisfied only after all the portions meant for the family was served. While the brahmin was reluctant to give away the portions meant for his family, they were sure that the hungry guest was to be served till he was fully satisfied.'
'After the meal, the visitor spoke, 'Ayya! What you gave me was a pure gift. You got it in the right way and from practising dharma. Hence it is superior. Your forefathers all have reached a high status in heaven because of your gift. Devatas are pleased with the way you have performed your tapas. It is not easy to be hungry. Hunger makes you loose your mind, it affects your virtues, you will experience a loss of judgement and courage. For one who overcomes hunger, it is as if, he has attained heaven. Under severe circumstances of hunger, you did not bother about your own hunger, disregarded the love of your wife and children and only thought that it is your dharma to give. If you give, at the right time and to the one who is deserving, the gates of heaven will be opened. It is not written how much one should give, it could be hundred or a thousand, but what is important is the sincerity with which it is given. In the past Rantideva, who had nothing, just gave water with a pure heart and attained heaven. More than big and bigger gifts, the gift which is given should be obtained in the right manner. It is more pleasing to Dharma, if it is given faithfully. The gift you have given is superior to the many gifts that are given at the time of Rajasuya and Ashwamedha. You have attained brahmalokha with your small gift of one measure of flour. Look, a vimana has arrived to take you and your family.'
The mongoose, continues the story, 'I came out after they left. Due to the small amounts of flour scattered on the ground, half of my body turned to gold. When I heard about the Yagna Dharmaraja is performing, I came with the hope that the other half of my body will also turn to gold. But nothing happened. That was the reason why, I shouted that this yagna is not equal to the gift of one measure of flour!' and scampers away.
The parva concludes with what Vaishampayana tells Janamejaya: 'Crores
of Rishis have gone to heaven with just penance. Rishi Agastya pleased
Indra with Dhyana yagna. Because of this, rain, crops were in plenty.
Not hurting animals, being content, character, penance, uprightness,
self-restraint, truth and charity are all equal.
It is as though the author(s) anticipated my thoughts from my previous blog. I hope this story, narrated by a mongoose, is read by all those who plan to perform many rituals while they could do better by addressing more serious issues with the money they collect and spend. The fact that Ashwamedha is performed in the 21st century is beyond my comprehension.
In fact, I almost skipped reading this anecdote as I wanted to move on with the main story. The concluding chapters of Mahabharata remind me of the long lectures, the chief guest and other vip's give as they are asked to speak two words after a programme of music.
It is true that many illustrative stories are narrated making valid and valuable points. It was obviously the intention of Vyasa to draw lessons from the epic war and teach us. I just cannot imagine staying with the many thousands of couplets in the original. Even this abridged version is tough to keep up.
The author A.R Krishna Sastry, again decides not to include 'Vaishanva Dharma Parva' which he says is only seen in the southern Indian versions. My friend Raghu was looking forward to this part!
Notes from wikipedia: (I borrow from wikipedia, as it is easy to access. Hopefully they are resonably accurate and fair!)
Vaishampayana was the traditional narrator of the Mahabharata.
He was a pupil of Vyasa, from whom he learned the Jaya, the original 8,800 verses of the Mahabharata. He later expanded the Jaya to 24,000 verses under the name Bharata, which he recited to King Janamejaya at his sarpa satra (snake sacrifice).
Janamejaya was a Kuru king. He was the son of Parikshit and Madravati. He was the grandson of Abhimanyu and the great-grandson of Arjuna. He wanted to exterminate the race of Nagas, since Takshaka was
responsible for the death of his father Parikshit. Emperor Janamejaya
was responsible for the retelling of the famous epic Mahabharata a story of Janamejaya's ancestors from the time of Bharata up to the great Kurukhsetra war between his great grandfathers the Paandavas and their paternal cousins the Kauravas. The Mahabharata states that it was recited to Janamejaya at the sarpa satra (snake sacrifice) by the sage Vaishampayana to whom it had been imparted by his perceptor Vedavyasa.
The full 100,000 verses of the Mahabharata was not complete until several centuries later.