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p. 329


"Bhishma said, 'The fowler, O king, happened to see that pair while seated on their celestial car. Beholding the couple he became filled with sorrow (at the thought of his own misfortune) and began to reflect upon the means of obtaining the same end. And he said to himself, 'I must, by austerities like those of the pigeon, attain to such a high end!' Having formed this resolution, the fowler, who had lived by the slaughter of birds, set out on an unreturning journey. Without any endeavour (for obtaining food) and living upon air alone, he cast off all affections from desire of acquiring heaven. After he had proceeded for some distance, he saw an extensive and delightful lake full of cool and pure water, and adorned with lotuses and teeming with diverse kinds of water-fowl. Without doubt, the very sight of such a lake is capable of slaking the desire for drink of a thirsty person. Emaciated with fasts, the fowler, however, O king, without casting his eyes upon it, gladly penetrated a forest inhabited by beasts of prey, having ascertained previously its wide extent. After he had entered the forest he became much afflicted by sharp pointed thorns. Lacerated and torn by prickles, and covered all over with blood, he began to wander in that forest destitute of men but abounding with animals of diverse species. Sometime after, inconsequence of the friction of some mighty trees caused by a powerful wind, a widespread bush fire arose. The raging element, displaying a splendour like to what it assumes at the end of the Yuga, began to consume that large forest teeming with tall trees and thick bushes and creepers. Indeed, with flames fanned by the wind and myriads of sparks flying about in all directions, the all-consuming deity began to burn that dense forest abounding with birds and beasts. The fowler, desirous of casting off his body, ran with a delighted heart towards that spreading conflagration. Consumed by that fire the fowler became cleansed of all his sins and attained, O best of the Bharatas, to high success. The fever of his heart dispelled, he at last beheld himself in heaven, shining in splendour like Indra in the midst of Yakshas and Gandharvas and persons crowned with ascetic success. Thus, indeed, the pigeon and his devoted spouse, with the fowler, ascended to heaven for their meritorious acts, The woman who thus follows her lord speedily ascends to heaven and shines in splendour there like the she-pigeon of whom I have spoken. Even this is the old history of the high-souled fowler and the pigeon. Even thus did they earn a highly meritorious end by their righteous acts. No evil befalls the persons who listens every day to this story or who recites it every day, even if error invades his mind. 1 O Yudhisthira, O foremost of all righteous persons, the protection of a suppliant is truly a high act of merit. Even the slayer of a cow, by practising this duty, maybe cleansed of sin. That man, however, will never be cleansed who slays a suppliant. By listening to this sacred and sin-cleansing story one becomes freed from distress and

p. 330

attains to heaven at last.'"


329:1 The theory is that all distresses arise originally from mental error which clouds the understanding. Vide Bhagavadgita.

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