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Dhritarashtra quits home.
While traveling on pilgrimage, Vidura received as much transcendental knowledge as he desired from Maitreya Rishi, and then returned to Hastinapura. Upon Vidura’s arrival at the royal palace, the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, Kunti, Kripa, and many others hurried to greet him, and due to their great delight, it appeared as if they had regained their consciousness after a long period. While offering obeisances or embracing Vidura, according to their relationship, everyone shed tears of affection, due to relief from the anxiety of a long separation.
After Vidura had been sumptuously fed and he had rested sufficiently, Maharaja Yudhisthira had him comfortably seated and then inquired, “My dear uncle, do you remember how your partiality, like the wings of a bird, saved us, along with our mother from all sorts of calamities? While traveling to holy places of pilgrimage, how did you maintain yourself? Devotees like your good self are truly holy places personified. Because you always carry the Supreme Lord within your heart, wherever you travel becomes sanctified. You must have visited Dvaraka, and so please tell us how the members of the Yadu dynasty are faring.”
In reply, Vidura described his various experiences, but he did not disclose the news of the annihilation of the Yadu dynasty, for he could not bear to see the Pandavas distressed at any time. Vidura was actually Yamaraja, who had been cursed by Mandavya Muni to be born as a shudra. During Yamaraja’s one hundred years’ absence, Aryama, who is one of the twelve Adityas, took over his post and thus punished those who performed sinful acts. The real purpose of Vidura’s return to Hastinapura, after having adopted the renounced order of life, was to rectify the mentality of his misguided elder brother, Dhritarashtra. Vidura was treated like a godly person by his relatives, and when he sat down to instruct Dhritarashtra, all of the palace residents, including the Pandavas and their mother gathered around to hear him, for such spiritual discourses are equally beneficial for all.
Insurmountable, eternal time had imperceptibly overcome Dhritarashtra, so that he had become overly engrossed in, and attached to family affairs. Vidura sarcastically addressed Dhritarashtra as “king” and then warned, “Please get out of here immediately, for fear has already overtaken you. This frightful situation cannot be remedied by anyone in this material world, for it is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as kala who has approached us all. Whoever is under the influence of eternal time must surrender his most dear life, and so what to speak of other things such as wealth, honor, family, home and property.”
“My dear brother, your sons, friends and well-wishers have all passed away and you have now reached the fag-end of your own life. Your body has been overcome by invalidity, and you are living in the home of another. You have been blind from birth and recently you have become hard of hearing. Your memory has become feeble, your teeth are loose, your liver is defective, and you are constantly coughing up mucus.”
“And yet, because every conditioned soul has powerful hopes of continuing his life, you are also maintaining yourself just like a household dog, by eating the remnants of food given by Bhima. There is no need to live a degraded life of subsisting upon charity given by those whom you had formerly tried to kill by arson and poisoning. In spite of your unwillingness to die, and your hope to continue living at the cost of your honor, your body will certainly dwindle and deteriorate just like an old garment.”
“One who leaves home secretly and then gives up his body in an unknown and remote place, undisturbed by material conditions, is called ‘dhira’. Better still is the ‘narottama’, or best among men, who after realizing the falsity and misery of material existence, leaves home so that he can fully depend upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Who is residing within his heart.”
“My dear brother, the age of Kali is soon approaching and it will diminish all the good qualities of men. You should therefore leave for the North immediately, without informing your relatives.”
Although blind from birth, and thus disqualified, Dhritarashtra had always aspired to become the king. After the death of Pandu, this desire deepened and, as a result, Dhritarashtra had sanctioned numerous wicked plans, hoping that the kingdom might fall into the hands of his own sons. All such evil attempts failed, however, for that was the will of the Lord. And yet, even after the death of his one hundred sons, because Yudhisthira respectfully treated Dhritarashtra as the king, he wanted to pass his remaining days in this illusion, surrounded by royal comforts. But, after hearing Vidura’s instructions, Dhritarashtra became firmly convinced about the value of spiritual life, and so he at once broke off the strong time of family affection by his resolute determination. That night, he left home unannounced and set out on the path of liberation As Dhritarashtra travelled to the north, his wife, Gandhari followed, even though he was no longer attached to her.
After arising the next morning, Maharaja Yudhisthira performed his religious duties, which consisted of daily prayers, offering sacrifice to the sun-god, and distributing charity to the brahmanas. Then, when he entered the palace to offer respects to his superiors, Maharaja Yudhisthira found that his old aunt and uncles were missing.
Becoming filled with anxiety, the King turned to Sanjaya and questioned, “Where is our old, blind uncle? Where is my well-wisher Vidura, and my mother Gandhari? Although they were both highly mortified by the death of their sons, I have no doubt been most ungrateful. Having taken my offenses seriously, did they drown themselves in the Ganga?”
Due to the grief and mental agitation caused by the disappearance of his master, Sanjaya could not properly reply at first. Then, after pacifying his disturbed mind by means of intelligence, and wiping away the tears from his eyes, Sanjaya said, “I do not know anything about your two uncles and Gandhari, for I have been cheated by those great souls.”
While Sanjaya was thus speaking, Narada Muni suddenly appeared, and so the Pandavas hastily got up from their seats to welcome him and offer their obeisances. Yudhisthira then said, “My dear Narada, I do not know where my two uncles and aunt have gone. O Devarshi, you are like the captain of the ship and so I request you to guide us so that we may reach our proper destination.”
Being so addressed, Narada explained, “My dear King, there is no cause for lamentation, for everyone is under the control of the Supreme Lord. It is He alone who brings persons together and then disperses them, like a player who arranges and then re-arranges his playthings.”
“As a cow is controlled by a rope through its nose, so humanity is conditioned to obey the orders of the Lord by being trained to follow the Vedic injunctions. Feelings of separation are due to illusory affection and nothing else, and thus you should give up your anxiety, which is due to ignorance of the eternal self. You are simply thinking, ‘How will these poor, helpless creatures continue to exist without me?’ One’s gross material body is under the control of kala, karma and the three gunas. Since it is already in the jaws of the serpent, so to speak; how can it give protection to others?”
“The nature of material life is that it is a hard struggle for existence wherein the weaker beings are devoured by the stronger ones. Therefore, you should turn your undiverted attention toward the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna. He has already completed His mission on behalf of the demigods by removing the burden of the earth. As long as the Lord is present here, you should carry on with your duties, but after His disappearance, you should also be prepared to leave this mortal world.”
“Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and Vidura have gone to Saptashrota, on the southern side of the Himalayas, where the Ganga had been divided into seven parts for the satisfaction of the sapta-rishis. On the banks of the river, Dhritarashtra is now beginning the practice of ashtanga-yoga by bathing three times daily, performing agnihotra sacrifices, and maintaining his life on water alone.”
“In this way, Dhritarashtra will realize his qualitative oneness with the Lord and thus become impervious to all material influences. Most likely, on the fifth day from today, Dhritarashtra will quit his body by burning it to ashes in a fire created from his mystic power. When the chaste Gandhari sees her husband burning along with his thatched cottage, she will enter into the fire with rapt attention. After witnessing this, Vidura will leave that place, overcome by mixed feelings of delight and grief. He will be amazed to see how his brother had become a liberated yogi, but at the same time he will regret that he had not been able to convert him into a pure devotee of the Lord.”
After saying this, Narada departed through the airways, and by taking the rishi’s instructions to heart, Yudhisthira was able to free himself from all lamentation.