Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


"Yudhishthira said, 'Amongst the diverse kinds of sacrifices, all of which, of course, are regarded to have but one object (viz., the cleansing of the heart or the glory of God), tell me, O grandsire, what that sacrifice is which has been ordained for the sake only of virtue and not for the acquisition of either heaven or wealth!' 

"Bhishma said, 'In this connection I shall relate to thee the history, formerly

recited by Narada, of a Brahmana who for performing sacrifices, lived according to the unchha mode.'

"Narada said, 'In one of the foremost of kingdoms that was distinguished again for virtue, there lived a Brahmana. Devoted to penances and living according to the unchha mode, that Brahmana was earnestly engaged in adoring Vishnu in sacrifices.  He had Syamaka for his food, as also Suryaparni and Suvarchala and other kinds of potherbs that were bitter and disagreeable to the taste. In consequence, however, of his penances, all these tasted sweet.  Abstaining from injuring any creature, and leading the life of a forest recluse, he attained to ascetic success. With roots and fruits, O scorcher of foes, he used to adore Vishnu in sacrifices that were intended to confer heaven upon him.  The Brahmana, whose name was Satya, had a wife named Pushkaradharini. She was pure-minded, and had emaciated herself by the observance of many austere vows. (Herself having been of a benevolent disposition, and her husband being thus addicted to sacrifices that were cruel), she did not approve of the conduct of her lord. Summoned, however, to take her seat by his side as his spouse (for the performance of a sacrifice), she feared to incur his curse and, therefore, comforted herself with his conduct. The garments that invested her body consisted of the (cast off) plumes of peacocks. Although unwilling, she still performed that sacrifice at the command of her lord who had become its Hotri. In that forest, near to the Brahmana's asylum, lived a neighbour of his, viz., the virtuous Parnada of Sukra's race, having assumed the form of a deer. He addressed that Brahmana, whose name was Satya, in articulate speech and said unto him these words, 'Thou wouldst be acting very improperly,  if this sacrifice of thine were accomplished in such a manner as to be defective in mantras and other particulars of ritual. I, therefore, ask thee to slay and cut me in pieces for making libations therewith on thy sacrificial fire. Do this and becoming blameless ascend to heaven.' Then the presiding goddess of the solar disc, viz., Savitri, came to that sacrifice in her own embodied form and insisted upon that Brahmana in

doing what he desired by that deer to do. Unto that goddess, however, who thus insisted, the Brahmana replied, saying, 'I shall not slay this deer who lives with me in this same neighbourhood.'  Thus addressed by the Brahmana, the goddess Savitri desisted and entered the sacrificial fire from desire of surveying the nether world, and wishing to avoid the sight of (other) defects in that sacrifice.  The deer, then, with joined hands, once more begged of Satya (to be cut in pieces and poured into the sacrificial fire). Satya, however, embraced him in friendship and dismissed him, saying, 'Go!'  At this, the deer seemed to leave that place. But after he had gone eight steps he returned, and said, 'Verily, do thou slay me. Truly do I say, slain by thee I am sure to attain to a righteous end. I give thee (spiritual) vision. Behold the celestial Apsaras and the beautiful vehicles of the high-souled Gandharvas.' Beholding (that sight) for a protracted space of time, with longing eyes, and seeing the deer (solicitous of sacrifice), and thinking that residence in heaven is attainable by only slaughter, he approved (of the counsels the deer had given). It was Dharma himself who had become a deer that lived in those woods for many years. (Seeing the Brahmana tempted by the prospect he beheld), Dharma provided for his salvation and counselled him, saying, 'This (viz., slaughter of living creatures) is not conformable to the ordinances about Sacrifices.  The penances, which had been of very large measure, of that Brahmana whose mind had entertained the desire of slaying the deer, diminished greatly in consequence of that thought itself. The injuring of living creatures, therefore, forms no part of sacrifice.  Then the illustrious Dharma (having assumed his real form), himself assisted that Brahmana, by discharging the priestly office, to perform a sacrifice. The Brahmana, after this, in consequence of his (renewed) penances, attained to that state of mind which was his spouse's.  Abstention from injury is that religion which is complete in respect of its rewards. The religion, however, of cruelty is only thus far beneficial that it leads to heaven (which has a termination). I have spoken

to thee of that religion of Truth which, indeed, is the religion of those that are utterers of Brahma.'"