Shanti Parva 6 - Dharma during adversity
During adversity, an enemy may become a friend, and a friend may become an enemy. An alliance with an enemy can be considered during such a situation. Bheeshma narrated the story of a cat that was trapped in a net. The rat who lived in the same tree as the cat was happy, but then saw a mongoose and an owl waiting to eat it. So, the rat proposed a pact with the cat and freed it from the net. The rat stayed under the cat's body and escaped from the mongoose and the owl. The two lived together in the same tree, one in the hole and the other on the top of the tree.
Once there was a terrible drought, and there was no food available. The sage Vishwamitra was hungry and had not eaten for months. He saw dog meat hung in front of a chandala's house and decided to steal it. The chandala was shocked to see the respected and mighty sage trying to steal dog's meat from his house.
Vishwamitra told the chandala that in times of famine, it was better to be alive than dead. He said that he could follow dharma only if he was alive and sought the chandala's permission to eat the meat. The chandala refused, saying that the effect of the sin being committed by the sage would be experienced by him. The sage went ahead and ate the meat. It then rained, and the drought ended. The sage purified himself by performing sacrifice.
Bheeshma then narrated the story of a hunter one day trapped in the forest because of a thunderstorm. In the tree was a bird waiting for its mate to return. Thinking its mate was dead, the bird decided to kill itself. The bird then saw that the hunter had trapped its mate in a cage. The female bird told its mate that the hunter was their guest and he should be treated well.
The bird then asked the hunter what he wanted. The hunter wanted warmth, and the bird arranged dry leaves and brought burning charcoal from somewhere to light a fire. The hunter then demanded food. With no food available, the bird decided to offer itself to the hunter and jumped into the fire.
The hunter was ashamed that because of him, the bird was dead. He realised he had committed a sin through hunting. He released the birds he had captured and decided to leave for the other world after giving up his life. The female bird, lamenting the death of its mate, also jumped into the fire and the two birds were united in heaven.
The hunter, meanwhile, stayed in the forest, fasting to perform austerities. A forest fire then spread, and the hunter entered the fire to free himself of his sin. The hunter then attained heaven. Even a sinner can attain heaven by performing austerities. Similarly, the bird that offered itself to keep a guest happy performed its dharma and achieved heaven.
Once a king named Janmejaya had killed a Brahmana. Severely afflicted by the results of the sin, the king went to the sage Shaunaka to seek redemption and promised never to harm Brahmanas again. Shaunaka then performed the Ashwamedha yajna and helped purify the king of his sins.
Bheeshma then told the story of a Shalmali tree that considered itself to be greater than the wind. Having challenged the wind, the tree was scared of what the wind would do and hence shook off its own branches and leaves. Seeing it in this condition, the wind laughed and said the tree had done unto itself what the wind would have done. When a weak person fights with a strong one, it is foolish. Intelligence is needed to defeat the enemy just like Arjuna, who headed a weaker army destroyed the Kauravas.
…. to be continued