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"Markandeya said, 'When, O Yudhishthira, all this mystery of salvation was explained to that Brahmana, he was highly pleased and he said addressing the fowler, 'All this that thou hast explained, is rational, and it seems to me that there is nothing in connection with the mysteries of religion which thou dost not know.' The fowler replied, 'O good and great Brahmana, thou shalt perceive with thine own eyes, all the virtue that I lay claim to, and by reason of which I have attained this blissful state. Rise, worshipful sir, and quickly enter this inner apartment. O virtuous man, it is proper that thou shouldst see my father and my mother.' Markandeya continued, 'Thus addressed the Brahmana went in, and beheld a fine beautiful mansion. It was a magnificent house divided in four suites of rooms, admired by gods and looking like one of their palaces; it was also furnished with seats and beds, and redolent of excellent perfumes. His revered parents clad in white robes, having finished their meals, were seated at ease. The fowler, beholding them, prostrated himself before them with his head at their feet. His aged parents then addressed him thus, 'Rise, O man of piety, rise, may righteousness shield thee; we are much pleased with thee for thy piety; mayst thou

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be blessed with a long life, and with knowledge, high intelligence, and fulfilment of thy desires. Thou art a good and dutiful son, for, we are constantly and reasonably looked after by thee, and even amongst the celestials thou hast not another divinity to worship. By constantly subduing thyself, thou hast become endowed with the self-restraining power of Brahmanas and all thy grandsires and ancestors are constantly pleased with thee for thy self-restraining virtues and for thy piety towards us. In thought, word or deed thy attention to us never flags, and it seems that at present thou hast no other thought in thy mind (save as to how to please us). As Rama, the son of Jamadagni, laboured to please his aged parents, so hast thou, O Son, done to please us, and even more. Then the fowler introduced the Brahmana to his parents and they received him with the usual salutation of welcome, and the Brahmana accepting their welcome, enquired if they, with their children and servants, were all right at home, and if they were always enjoying good health at that time (of life). The aged couple replied, 'At home, O Brahmana, we are all right, with all our servants. Hast thou, adorable sir, reached this place without any difficulty?' Markandeya continued, "The Brahmana replied, 'Yes, I have.' Then the fowler addressing himself to the Brahmana said to him, 'These my parents, worshipful sir, are the idols that I worship; whatever is due to the gods, I do unto them. As the thirty-three gods with Indra at their head are worshipped by men, so are these aged parents of mine worshipped by me. As Brahmanas exert themselves for the purpose of procuring offering for their gods, so do I act with diligence for these two (idols of mine). These my father and mother, O Brahmana, are my supreme gods, and I seek to please them always with offering of flowers, fruits and gems. To me they are like the three sacred fires mentioned by the learned; and, O Brahmana, they seem to me to be as good as sacrifices or the four Vedas. My five life-giving airs, my wife and children and friends are all for them (dedicated to their service). And with my wife and children I always attend on them. O good Brahmana, with my own hands I assist them in bathing and also wash their feet and give them food and I say to them only what is agreeable, leaving out what is unpleasant. I consider it to be my highest duty to do what is agreeable to them even though it be not strictly justifiable. And, O Brahmana, I am always diligent in attending on them. The two parents, the sacred fire, the soul and the spiritual preceptor, these five, O good Brahmana, are worthy of the highest reverence from a person who seeks prosperity. By serving them properly, one acquires the merit of perpetually keeping up the sacred fire. And it is the eternal and invariable duty of all householders."

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