In the past, Kāśyapa, the son of a certain riṣi was run over by a chariot that belonged to a vaiśya. The chariot hit him and Kāśyapa fell down. He was greatly pained because of the incident.
He thought – ‘What is the use of this helpless life? I’ll die right away, right at this spot!’. He greatly lamented for the troubles that had come his way.
Indra, who saw the state in which Kāśyapa was, came down to the earth in the guise of a fox and told him the following – “Oh dear! Everyone wishes to be born as a human being. You are born as a human, a brāhmaṇa and a śrotriya, moreover. Will anyone who has got such a privileged birth give away his life so easily? The veda-s say that we must be proud of what we possess. When such is the case, you have no pride in the handsome form that you a gifted with. Aha! How blessed are those who possess hands like yours! Just as you are desirous of money, so are we desirous of wealth. Is there a greater thing than having a set of skilful hands? Because we, foxes don’t have hands, we will not be able to pick out even a thorn that gets stuck to our bodies. You have hands and have ten fingers on them – you can so easily protect yourselves. O brahmana! We will not be able to shoo away the animals which stick to our body and constantly bite us. A person with hands can save himself from getting bitten by insects and protect himself from rain, cold and heat. He can experience comfort by donning clean clothes, sleeping on a nice bed and by eating cooked food that is tasty. He can also domesticate cattle and milk them. The cattle can be employed for his transportation and carrying load too. Lower animals suffer as they have no hands or a voice to speak. Are you an animal like us devoid of all privileges? You are fortunate not to be born as a fox, an insect, a mouse, a snake or a frog. You are not born as any of those lower animals. You must be glad that you are gifted with so many organs with great functionalities. Kāśyapa! This worm is eating me up. I would have plucked it off my body only if I had a set of hands like you do. My birth as a fox is the most helpless kind of birth possible. However, if I end my life by committing suicide by thinking thus, I don’t know what other birth I will be subject to in the future. Some are born in all prosperity but prosperity and happiness will not remain with us throughout our life. Where is the end for the craving for happiness? A person who is comfortable will desire to be the king in no time. Once he becomes the king, he will wish to be a devata; after becoming a devata, he will desire to be Devendra – the leader of the Gods. Thus, there is no end for his desires and he will never be satisfied. Will your desires rest in peace just because they have been fulfilled? If you put together more and more firewood, it will only kindle more and more fire. I understand that you are in pain currently, but keep in mind that you are an equal share of pleasure too. When you have both, why do you have to crib about? Many people don’t have hands. Even those who are blessed with hands become crippled with time. They might also get afflicted with various diseases. You have no handicap in your body and you are in good health. The society respects you. Thus, get up and perform your duties. Don’t compete with anyone. I was, apparently, a scholar of tarka (logic) in my previous birth and was a nāstika (a person who lacks trust in the vedas). I had no trust in anyone or anything and suspected the world too much. I was a fool. It is because of my character in my previous birth that I am born now as a fox. If I ever happen to be blessed with the life of a human in the future, I will make sure that I will perform austerities such as yajña, dāna and tapas. I will gain knowledge in the areas that go well with my innate nature and will keep away things that I am not supposed to be involved with."
Kāśyapa was surprised – “This fox seems to be very brainy, indeed! Where did it get its intelligence and maturity from?”
He then saw through the form of the fox with his eyes of wisdom and realised that it was Indra in disguise. He got up immediately and paid his respects to Indra. After seeking his permission, Kāśyapa returned home.
Yudhiṣṭhira – What is the purpose behind yajña, dāna, tapas and guruśuśrūṣā (service to a guru)?
Bhishma: People who are endowed with the qualities of śraddhā and bhakti are dānta (have their senses undercontrol) and sāttvika by nature. If they, by their very nature, perform good deeds and get to travel from one luxury to another, one sacred state to the next higher one and from one svarga to the next. Karma follows man like a shadow behind him. If he is upright, his shadow is upright too, if he sits down so does his shadow. The shadow runs behind a running man and sleeps next to a sleeping person. When the right time comes, it bears its fruits without any external motivation just as trees and plants bear fruits from time to time. Just as a calf identifies its mother even amidst a thousand cows, so does the karma of a person have its effects on the person it is associated with. Just as clothes get cleaned upon washing and all the accumulated dirt is removed, by performance of good deeds, pāpa fades away and a person’s wishes get fulfilled.
To be continued…
This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form.