(Sambhava Parva continued)
"Vaisampayana said, 'After the death of that deer, king Pandu with his wives was deeply afflicted and wept bitterly. And he exclaimed, 'The wicked, even if born in virtuous families, deluded by their own passions, become overwhelmed with misery as the fruit of their own deeds. I have heard that my father, though begotten by Santanu of virtuous soul, was cut off while still a youth, only because he had become a slave to his lust. In the soil of that lustful king, the illustrious Rishi Krishna-Dwaipayana himself, of truthful speech, begot me. A son though I am of such a being, with my wicked heart wedded to vice, I am yet leading a wandering life in the woods in the chase of the deer. Oh, the very gods have forsaken me! I shall seek salvation now. The great impediments to salvation are the desire to beget children, and other concerns of the world. I shall now adopt the Brahmacharya mode of life and follow in the imperishable wake of my father. I shall certainly bring my passions under complete control by severe ascetic penances. Forsaking my wives and other relatives and shaving my head, alone shall I wander over the earth, begging for my subsistence from each of these trees standing here. Forsaking every object of affection and aversion, and covering my body with dust, I shall make the shelter of trees or deserted houses my home. I shall never yield to influence of sorrow or joy, and I shall regard slander and eulogy in the same light. I shall not seek benedictions or bows. I shall be at peace with all, and shall not accept gifts. I shall not mock anybody, nor shall I knit my brows at any one, but shall be ever cheerful and devoted to the good of all creatures. I shall not harm any of the four orders of life gifted with power of locomotion or otherwise, viz., oviparous and viviparous creatures and worms and vegetables. But on the contrary, preserve an equality of behaviour towards all, as if they were, my own children. Once a day shall I beg of five or ten families at the most, and if I do not succeed in obtaining alms, I shall then go without food. I shall rather stint myself than beg more than once of the same person. If I do not obtain anything after completing my round of seven or ten houses, moved by covetousness, I shall not enlarge my round. Whether I obtain or fail to obtain alms. I shall be equally unmoved like a great ascetic. One lopping off an arm of mine with a hatchet, and one smearing another arm with sandal-paste, shall be regarded by me equally. I shall not wish prosperity to the one or misery to the other. I shall not be pleased with life or displeased with death. I shall neither desire to live nor to die. Washing my heart of all sins, I shall certainly transcend those sacred rites productive of happiness, that men perform in auspicious moments, days, and periods. I shall also abstain from all acts of religion and profit and also those that lead to the gratification of the senses. Freed from all sins and snares of the world, I shall be like the wind subject to none. Following the path of fearlessness and bearing myself in this way I shall at last lay down my life. Destitute of the power of begetting children, firmly adhering to the line of duty I shall not certainly deviate therefrom in order to tread in the vile path of the world that is so full of misery. Whether respected or disrespected in the world that man who from covetousness casteth on others a begging look, certainly behaveth like a dog. (Destitute as I am of the power of procreation, I should not certainly, from desire of offspring, solicit others to give me children).'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'The king, having thus wept in sorrow, with a sigh looked at his two wives Kunti and Madri, and addressing them said, 'Let the princess of Kosala (my mother), Vidura, the king with our friends, the venerable Satyavati, Bhishma, the priests of our family, illustrious Soma-drinking Brahmanas of rigid vows and all elderly citizens depending on us be informed, after being prepared for it, that Pandu hath retired into the woods to lead a life of asceticism.' Hearing these words of their lord who had set his heart on a life of asceticism in the woods, both Kunti and Madri addressed him in these proper words, 'O bull of Bharata's race, there are many other modes of life which thou canst adopt and in which thou canst undergo the severest penances along with us, thy wedded wives--in which for the salvation of thy body (freedom from re-birth), thou mayest obtain heaven. We also, in the company of our lord, and for his benefit, controlling our passions and bidding adieu to all luxuries, shall subject ourselves to the severest austerities. O king, O thou of great wisdom, if thou abandonest us, we shall then this very day truly depart from this world.'
Pandu replied, 'If, indeed, this your resolve springeth from virtue, then with you both I shall follow the imperishable path of my fathers. Abandoning the luxuries of cities and towns, clad in barks of trees, and living on fruits and roots, I shall wander in deep woods, practising the severest penances. Bathing morning and evening, I shall perform the homa. I shall reduce my body by eating very sparingly and shall wear rags and skins and knotted locks on my head. Exposing myself to heat and cold and disregarding hunger and thirst, I shall reduce my body by severe ascetic penances, I shall live in solitude and I shall give myself up to contemplation; I shall eat fruit, ripe or green, that I may find. I shall offer oblations to the Pitris (manes) and the gods with speech, water and the fruits of the wilderness. I shall not see, far less harm, any of the denizens of the woods, or any of my relatives, or any of the residents of cities and towns. Until I lay down this body, I shall thus practise the severe ordinances of the Vanaprastha scriptures, always searching for severer ones that they may contain.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'The Kuru king, having said this unto his wives, gave away to Brahmanas the big jewel in his diadem, his necklace of precious gold, his bracelets, his large ear-rings, his valuable robes and all the ornaments of his wives. Then summoning his attendants, he commended them, saying, 'Return ye to Hastinapura and proclaim unto all that Pandu with his wives hath gone into the woods, foregoing wealth, desire, happiness, and even sexual appetite.' Then those followers and attendants, hearing these and other soft words of the king, set up a loud wail, uttering, 'Oh, we are undone!' Then with hot tears trickling down their cheeks they left the monarch and returned to Hastinapura with speed carrying that wealth with them (that was to be distributed in charity). Then Dhritarashtra, that first of men, hearing from them everything that had happened in the woods, wept for his brother. He brooded over his affliction continually, little relishing the comfort of beds and seats and dishes.
"Meanwhile, the Kuru prince Pandu (after sending away his attendants) accompanied by his two wives and eating fruits and roots went to the mountains of Nagasata. He next went to Chaitraratha, and then crossed the Kalakuta, and finally, crossing the Himavat, he arrived at Gandhamadana. Protected by Mahabhutas, Siddhas, and great Rishis, Pandu lived, O king, sometimes on level ground and sometimes on mountain slopes. He then journeyed on to the lake of Indradyumna, whence crossing the mountains of Hansakuta, he went to the mountain of hundred peaks (Sata-sringa) and there continued to practise ascetic austerities.'"