Mahābhārata – Episode 95 – The Eagle-Fox Conversation (Part 2)

This article is part 95 of 112 in the series Mahābhārata

The fox said, “A golden child! Listening to the words of this eagle, you’re on the verge of leaving this boy here and going away! Will love and sorrow go away just because you leave? If you abandon him here, later you will definitely feel terrible. Long time ago, Śrīrāma killed Śambhuka and brought a brāhmaṇa boy to life, haven’t you heard? And a dhārmika brought Śvetarāja’s son back to life, don’t you know? Similarly, some siddha or muni or deity might come here upon listening to your wails and shower his compassion.”

The eagle said, “You’re just making the corpse of the child dirty with all your tears; you’re just causing more pain by holding him up. Yama-dharmarāja has granted him a long sleep. The town of the spirit is the end of all friendships and attachments. Just because the fox says so, will the child come back to life? If a hundred such foxes continuosly utter words for a hundred years, even then the child will not come back to life. Do you think he will gain back his life if you sob inconsolably, heave sighs, and scream in sadness? This is a body that can barely be moved and ungainly in sight; what do you gain by continuosly weeping in front of it?”

The fox said, “Oh how ruthless is this world of mortals! All creatures must die here; one must make relationships with kinsmen and friends. The span of life is extremely short. And in that, falsehood, deceit, cheating, abuses! When one comes across a circumstance such as this, one that evokes pain and sorrow, he will say that he doesn’t want this mortal world even for a moment. Oh you humans! Listening to the words of this eagle, how do you get the heart to just leave this beautiful boy on the ground? Something tells me that this child will definitely live; heart of hearts I feel so. What does it even mean for such a child to die? The world consists of both joys and sorrows; just one of them alone will not be with us until the very end. Thus, knowing well that there is a possibility of joy coming after sorrow, why do you abandon this child here?”

The fox stayed in the cemetary and moved about only after it was dark. Therefore it spoke pleasant words with a view to keep all of them there until dark. “If you listen to the words of the fox, you will get destroyed,” said the eagle while the fox said, “If you listen to the words of the eagle, you will lose your child.” Thus they debated. The eagle desired that there be light in the sky; the fox was eagerly awaiting the darkness; both were hungry; and therefore, for their own base ends, they began a huge debate with the relatives of the dead boy, and began advising them with words of the scripture like they were learned scholars. Listening to their nectarine words, all the relatives would set out, ready to leave, and then return to the corpse. They left, they returned. Finally, overcome by sorrow and pity, they sat there crying, knowing not what to do. At this point, Śaṅkara appeared there and asked, “What boon do you desire?”

They all bowed to him and said, “We had just one son in our house; he was dear to all of us just as our very lives; you must breathe life into him again and grant this boon!” Śaṅkara sprinkled water on the boy and blessed him with the words, “May he live to be a hundred!” He satiated the hunger of the eagle and the fox. The Lord seeks the welfare of all creatures, doesn’t he! After that, everyone bowed down to him and feeling satisfied and fulfiled, returned to their homes.


Whatever be the difficulties one faces in life, a man should never become ungrateful or treacherous to a friend. Long ago, there lived a brāhmaṇa named Gautama. Once he was stranded in the forest. At that point, a crane by name Nāḻījaṅgha lit a fire to make him warm and brought him fish to roast and eat. By the time it was morning, the crane learnt about the brāhmaṇa’s poverty and sent him to his friend Virūpākṣa, a king of the rākṣasas. Having brought a lot of gold and wealth from the rākṣasa king, Gautama came back to the spot where the crane lived. Without the slightest feeling of gratitude for all the help he received from the bird, the next morning, he killed the bird and packed it for his lunch. When the rākṣasa king learnt of this, he had the brāhmaṇa killed. Eagles and crows too would not dare touch his filthy corpse. Finally, owing to the compassion of Indra, the crane came back to life, and owing to the compassion of the crane, Gautama was revived.

Greed is the cause of all this; avarice is the root of all pāpas. It is from avarice that all others take birth: anger, lust, attachment, intoxication, deceit, cruelty, and so forth. Those free from greed are the noble ones; they are rid of anger and desires; they have nothing to conceal. They are truly worthy of our trust.

Yudhiṣṭhira: When wealth or wife or children or parents go away from us, how to control that sorrow with wisdom?

Bhīṣma: Long back, when Senajit was weeping at the loss of his son, a brāhmaṇa had given him the following words of counsel:

Why are you such an idiot, man? Just a few days, and there will be others who will weep for you in this manner! What is the use of this? We all must return to where we came from. Each and every one of us has to experience the fruits of our karma. All our meetings and relationships in this world are akin to two twigs meeting in the great ocean. They come from somewhere and meet; and soon after move away from each other. Similarly, among all our friends and relatives, separation is definite; therefore one should not develop attachments and affections. Like the rotation of a wheel, joy comes after sorrow and sorrow comes after joy. All these days, there was joy and peace; now sorrow has appeared. In the future, there will be joy again. Sorrow is not eternal, neither are joys. One cannot give reasons such as: friends are the cause of joy, enemies are the cause of sorrow, intellect is the cause for utility, wealth is the cause for comfort, intelligence is the cause for wealth, and so forth. Because, be it a shrewd man or an imbecile, a courageous man or a coward, a dumb man or a poet, a strong man or a helpless one, joys and comforts come to man as per destiny. An utterly foolish man covers himself in a blanket and so is unable to see anything; there is no sorrow for him; wise people who have transcended joys and sorrows are free from it. But everyone else in between, must experience joys and sorrows! One should squarely face whatever comes, be it joy or sorrow, pleasant or unpleasant; one should puff one’s chest and face the reality. Just as a tortoise draws its limbs towards itself, if one is able to pull back all the anger and lust within, leaving nothing behind, he will attain peace and attain the wealth of the Self. He will see the Light but for that he has to let go of desires; it is not possible for the dull minds. It is something that remains ageless even as one grows old. It is like a disease that comes and stays on forever, without ever getting cured. It doesn’t leave you until the end!

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.

The original Kannada version of Vacanabhārata is available for free online reading here. To read other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri, click here.


Don't miss Prekshaa's annual book launch at 10 am on Sunday, 8 December at Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs, Bangalore.

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Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh


Hari is a writer, translator, editor, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in philosophy, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited 35+ books, mostly related to Indian culture. He serves on the advisory board of a few educational institutions.

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