Narrative of the conversation of Tuladhara with Jalali
Bhishma said: In this connection is cited the old narrative of the conversation of Tuladhara with Jalali on the topic of righteousness.
There was once a Brahmana of the name of Jalali who lived in a certain forest, practising the ways of a forest recluse. Of austere penances, he proceeded on a certain occasion towards the sea-shore, and having arrived there began to practise the most severe penances. Observing many vows and restraints, his food regulated by many rules of fast, his body clad in rags and skins, bearing matted locks on his head his entire person smeared with filth and clay, that Brahmana possessed of intelligence passed many years there, suspending speech (and engaged in Yoga meditation).
Possessed of great energy, that regenerate ascetic, O monarch, while living within the waters (of the sea), roamed through all the worlds with the speed of the mind, desirous of seeing all things.
[Note: His gross body was within the water. Nevertheless, by Yoga power, he was able to rove over the world in his subtle body and beheld everything he wished to see.]
Having beheld the whole earth bounded by the ocean and adorned with rivers and lakes and woods, the ascetic one day, while siting under the water, began to think in this strain. "In this world of mobile and immobile creatures there is none equal to me. Who can roam with me among the stars and planets in the firmament and dwell again within the waters."
Unseen by the Rakshasas (demons) while he repeated this to himself, the Pisachas (wandering ghost) said unto him, "It behoves thee not to say so. There is a man, named Tuladhara, possessed of great fame and engaged in the business of buying and selling. Even he, O best of regenerate persons, is not worthy of saying such words as thou sayest."
Thus addressed by those beings, Jalali of austere penances replied unto them, saying, "I shall see that famous Tuladhara who is possessed of such wisdom."
When the Rishi said those words, those super-human beings raised from the sea, and said unto him, "O best of regenerate persons, go thou along this road."
Thus addressed by those beings, Jalali proceeded onwards with a cheerless heart. Arriving at Varanasi, he met Tuladhara whom he addressed saying the following words’
Yudhishthira said, ‘What, O sire, are those difficult feats that Jalali had performed before in consequence of which he had acquired such high success? It behoveth thee to describe them to me’.
Bhishma said, ‘Jalali had become engaged in penances of the severest austerities. He used to perform ablutions morning and evening. Carefully tending his fires, he was devoted to the study of the Vedas. Well-conversant with the duties laid down for forest recluses, Jalali (in consequence of his practices) seemed to blaze with effulgence. He continued to live in the woods, engaged all the while in penances. But he never regarded himself as one that had acquired any merit by his acts. In the season of the rains he slept under the open sky. In autumn he sat in water. In summer he exposed himself to the sun and the wind. Still he never regarded himself as one that had acquired any merit through such acts. He used to sleep on diverse kinds of painful beds and also on the bare earth.
Once upon a time, that ascetic, while standing under the sky in the rainy season, received on his head repeated downpours from the clouds. He had to pass through the woods repeatedly. What with exposure to the rains and what with the filth they caught, the locks of that sinless Rishi became entangled and intertwined with one another. On one occasion, that great ascetic, abstaining entirely from food and living upon air only, stood in the forest like a wooden pole. Unmoved at heart, he stood there, without once stirring an inch. While he stood there like a wooden post, perfectly immovable, O Bharata, a pair of Kulinga birds, O king, built their nest on his head.
Filled with compassion, the great Rishi suffered that feathery couple in building their nest among his matted locks with shreds of grass. And as the ascetic stood there like a wooden post, the two birds lived happily and with confidence on his head. The rains passed away and autumn came. The couple, urged by desire, approached each other according to the law of the Creator, and in complete confidence laid their eggs, O king, on the head of that Rishi. Of rigid vows and possessed of energy, the ascetic knew it. Knowing what the bird had done, Jalali moved not. Firmly resolved to acquire merit, no act that involved the slightest injury to others could recommend itself to him. The feathery couple going away and moving every day from and to his head, happily and confidently lived there, O puissant king!
When in the progress of time the eggs became mature and young ones came out, they began to grow up in that nest, for Jalali moved not in the least. Firm in the observance of his vows, the righteous-souled Rishi continued to hold and protect those eggs by standing on that very spot perfectly motionless and rapt in Yoga meditation. In the course of time the young ones grew and became equipped with wings. The Muni (Rishi) knew that the young Kulingas had attained to that stage of development. That foremost of intelligent men, steady in the observance of vows, beheld those young ones and became filled with pleasure. The parent birds, seeing their young ones equipped with wings, became very happy and continued to dwell in the Rishi’s head with them in perfect safety.
The learned Jalali saw that when the young birds became equipped with wings they took to the air every day and returned to his head without having proceeded far. He still stood motionlesss on that spot. Sometimes, after he saw that, left by their parents, they went out by themselves and returned again by themselves. Jalali still moved not. A little while after, the young birds, going away in the morning passed the whole day out of his sight, but came back in the evening for dwelling in the nest. Sometimes, after that, leaving their nest for five days at a stretch, they returned on the sixth day. Jalali still moved not. Subsequently, when their strength became fully developed they left him and returned not at all even after many days. At last, on one occasion, leaving him, they came not even after a month. Then, O king, Jalali left that spot.
When they had thus gone away for good, Jalali wondered much, and thought that he had achieved ascetic success Then pride entered his heart. Firm in the observance of vows, the great ascetic, seeing the birds thus leave him after having been reared on his head, thought highly of himself, and became filled with delight. He then bathed in a stream and poured libations on the sacred fire, and paid his adorations to the rising Sun, indeed, having thus caused those Chataka birds to grow on his head, Jalali, that foremost of ascetics, began to slap his armpits and proclaim loudly through the sky, ‘I have won great merit’.
Then an invisible voice arose in the sky and Jalali heard these words, ‘Thou art not equal, O Jalai, to Tuladhara in point of righteousness. Possessed of great wisdom, that Tuladhara lives at Varanasi. Even he is not fit to say what thou sayest, O regenerate one’.
Hearing these words, Jalali became filled with wrath, and desirous of meeting Tuladhara, O monarch, began to roam over the whole earth, observing the vow of silence and passing the night at that spot where evening overtook him..
[Note: this was a new vow that Jalali began to observe, the vow, viz., of travelling over the entire earth, sleeping there where evening overtook him.]
After a considerable time he reached the city of Varanasi, and saw Tuladhara engaged in selling miscellaneous articles. As soon as the shopkeeper Tuladhara beheld the Brahmana arrived at his place, he cheerfully stood up and worshipped the guest with proper salutations.
Tuladhara said, ‘Without doubt, O Brahmana, it is known to me that you have come to me. Listen, however, O foremost of regenerate persons, to what I say. Living on a low land near the seashore you underwent very austere penances. But you had no consciousness of having achieved righteousness or merit. When you did at last attain to ascetic success, certain birds were born on your head. You took great care of the little creatures.
When at last those birds became equipped with wings and when they began to leave your head for going here and there in search of food, it was then that, in consequence of having thus assisted at the birth of those Chataka birds, you began to feel the impulse of pride, O Brahmana, thinking you had achieved great merit. Then, O foremost of regenerate persons, you heard in the sky a voice that referred to me. The words you did hear filled you with wrath, and as the consequence thereof you are here. Tell me, what wish of yours I shall accomplish, O best of Brahmanas!’
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