Mahabharata Anusasana Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section XXIX

"Bhishma said, 'Thus advised by Indra, Matanga, observant of vows, refused, to hear what he was bid. On the other hand, with regulated vows and cleansed soul, he practised austere penances by standing on one foot for a thousand years, and was deeply engaged in Yoga-meditation. After a thousand years had passed away, Sakra once more came to see him. Indeed, the slayer of Vala and Vritra said unto him the same words.'

'Matanga said, 'I have passed these thousand years, standing on one foot, in deep meditation, observing of the vow of Brahmacharyya. Why is it that I have not yet succeeded in acquiring the status of a Brahmana?'

'Sakra said, 'One born on a Chandala cannot, by any means acquire the status of a Brahmana. Do thou, therefore name some boon so that all this labour of thine may not prove fruitless--Thus addressed by the chief of the celestials, Matanga became filled with grief. He repaired to Prayaga, and passed there a hundred years, standing all the while on his toes. In consequence of the observance of such Yoga which was extremely difficult to bear, he became very much emaciated and his arteries and veins became swollen and visible. He was reduced to only skin and bones. Indeed, it has been heard by us that the righteous-souled Matanga, while practising those austerities at Gaya, dropped down on the ground from sheer exhaustion. The lord and giver of boons, engaged in the good of all creatures, viz., Vasava beholding him falling down, quickly came to that spot and held him fast.'

"Sakra said, 'It seems, O Matanga, that the status of a Brahmana which thou seekest is ill-suited to thee. That status is incapable of being attained by thee. Verily, in thy case, it is surrounded by many dangers. A person by worshipping a Brahmana obtains happiness; while by abstaining from such worship, he obtains grief and misery. The Brahmana is, with respect to all creatures, the giver of what they prize or covet and the protector of what they already have. It is through the Brahmanas that the Pitris and the deities become gratified. The Brahmana, O Matanga, is said to be foremost of all created Beings. The Brahmana grants all objects that are desired and in the way they are desired?  Wandering through innumerable orders of Being and undergoing repeated rebirths, one succeeds in some subsequent birth in acquiring the status of a Brahmana. That status is really incapable of being obtained by persons of uncleansed souls. Do thou, therefore, give up the idea. Do thou name some other boon. The particular boon which thou seekest is incapable of being granted to thee.'

"Matanga said, 'Afflicted as I am with grief, why, O Sakra, dost thou afflict me further (with such speeches as these)? Thou art striking one that is already dead, by this behaviour. I do not pity thee for having acquired the

status of a Brahmana thou now failest to retain it (for thou hast no compassion to show for one like me). O thou of a hundred sacrifices, the status of a Brahmana as thou sayest be really unattainable by any of the three other orders, yet, men that have succeeded in acquiring (through natural means) that high status do not adhere to it (for what sins do net even Brahmanas commit). Those who having acquired the status of a Brahmana that, like affluence, is so difficult to acquire, do not seek to keep it up (by practising the necessary duties), must be regarded to be the lowest of wretches in this world. Indeed, they are the most sinful of all creatures. Without doubt, the status of a Brahmana is exceedingly difficult to attain, and once being attained, it is difficult to maintain it. It is capable of dispelling every kind of grief. Alas, having attained to it, men do not always seek to keep it up (by practising righteousness and the other duties that attach to it). When even such persons are regarded as Brahmanas why is it that I, who am contented with my own self, who am above all couples of opposites, who am dissociated from all worldly objects, who am observant of the duty of compassion towards all creatures and of self-restraint of conduct, should not be regarded as deserving of that status.  How unfortunate I am, O Purandara, that through the fault of my mother I have been reduced to this condition, although I am not unrighteous in my behaviour? Without doubt, Destiny is incapable of being warded off or conquered by individual exertion, since, O lord, I am unable to acquire, notwithstanding these persistent efforts of mine, the object, upon the acquisition of which I have set my heart. When such is the case, O righteous one, it behoves thee to grant me some other boon if, indeed, I have become worthy of thy grace or if I have a little of merit.'

"Bhishma continued, 'The slayer of Vala and Vritra then said unto him,--Do thou name the boon.--Thus urged by the great Indra, Matanga said the following words:

"Matanga said, 'Let me be possessed of the power of assuming any form at will, and journeying through the skies and let me enjoy whatever pleasures I may set my heart upon. And let me also have the willing adorations of both Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. I bow to thee by bending my head, O god. It behoveth thee to do that also by which my fame, O Purandara, May live for ever in the world.'

"Sakra said, 'Thou shalt be celebrated as the deity of a particular measure of verse and thou shalt obtain the worship of all woman. Thy fame, O son, shall become unrivalled in the three worlds.'--Having granted him these boons, Vasava disappeared there and then. Matanga also, casting off his life-breaths, attained to a high place. Thou mayst thus see, O Bharata, that the status of a Brahmana is very high. That status is incapable of being acquired here (except in the natural way of birth) as said by the great Indra himself.'