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MAHABHARATA: BOOK 18. THE ENTRY INTO HEAVEN, by                    
First Line: "to narayen, lord of lords, be glory given"
Last Line: "waiting to greet him, gladdening and glad"
Subject(s): Heaven;hinduism;india;religion; Paradise;theology

To Narayen, Lord of lords, be glory given,
To Queen Saraswati be praise in heaven;
Unto Vyása pay the reverence due,—
So may this story its high course pursue.

Then Janmejaya said: "I am fain to learn
How it befell with my great forefathers,
The Pandu chiefs and Dhritarashtra's sons,
Being to heaven ascended. If thou know'st,—
And thou know'st all, whom wise Vyâsa taught,—
Tell me, how fared it with those mighty souls?"

Answered the Sage: "Hear of thy forefathers—
Great Yudhishthira and the Pandu lords—
How it befell. When thus the blameless king
Was entered into heaven, there he beheld
Duryodhana, his foe, throned as a god
Amid the gods; splendidly sate that prince,
Peaceful and proud, the radiance of his brows
Far-shining like the sun's; and round him thronged
Spirits of light, with Sádhyas,—companies
Goodly to see. But when the king beheld
Duryodhana in bliss, and not his own,—
Not Draupadí, nor Bhíma, nor the rest,—
With quick-averted face and angry eyes
The monarch spake: 'Keep heaven for such as these
If these come here! I do not wish to dwell
Where he is, whom I hated rightfully,
Being a covetous and witless prince,
Whose deed it was that in wild fields of war
Brothers and friends by mutual slaughter fell,
While our swords smote, sharpened so wrathfully
By all those wrongs borne wandering in the woods:
But Draupadí's the deepest wrong, for he—
He who sits there—haled her before the court,
Seizing that sweet and virtuous lady—he!—
With grievous hand wound in her tresses. Gods,
I can not look upon him! Sith 'tis so,
Where are my brothers? Thither will I go!'

"Smiling, bright Narada, the Sage, replied:
'Speak thou not rashly! Say not this, oh, King!
Those who come here lay enmities aside.
Oh, Yudhishthira, long-armed monarch, hear!
Duryodhana is cleansed of sin; he sits
Worshipful as the saints, worshiped by saints
And kings who lived and died in virtue's path,
Attaining to the joys which heroes gain
Who yield their breath in battle. Even so
He that did wrong thee, knowing not thy worth,
Hath won before thee hither, raised to bliss
For lordliness, and valor free of fear.
Ah, well-belovèd Prince! ponder thou not
The memory of that gaming, nor the griefs
Of Draupadí, nor any vanished hurt
Wrought in the passing shows of life by craft
Or wasteful war. Throne happy at the side
Of this thy happy foeman,—wiser now;
For here is Paradise, thou chief of men!
And in its holy air hatreds are dead.'

"Thus by such lips addressed the Pandu king
Answered uncomforted: 'Duryodhana,
If he attains, attains; yet not the less
Evil he lived and ill he died,—a heart
Impious and harmful, bringing woes to all,
To friends and foes. His was the crime which cost
Our land its warriors, horses, elephants;
His the black sin that set us in the field,
Burning for rightful vengeance. Ye are gods,
And just; and ye have granted heaven to him.
Show me the regions, therefore, where they dwell,
My brothers, those, the noble-souled, the loyal,
Who kept the sacred laws, who swerved no step
From virtue's path, who spake the truth, and lived
Foremost of warriors. Where is Kunti's son,
The hero-hearted Karna? Where are gone
Sátyaki, Dhrishtadyumna, with their sons?
And where those famous chiefs who fought for me,
Dying a splendid death? I see them not.
Oh, Narada, I see them not! No King
Draupada! no Viráta! no glad face
Of Dhrishtaketu! no Shikandina,
Prince of Panchála, nor his princely boys!
Nor Abhimanyu the unconquerable!
President Gods of heaven! I see not here
Radha's bright son, nor Yudhamanyu,
Nor Uttamanjaso, his brother dear!
Where are those noble Maharashtra lords,
Rajahs and rajpoots, slain for love of me?
Dwell they in glory elsewhere, not yet seen?
If they be here, high Gods! and those with them
For whose sweet sakes I lived, here will I live,
Meek-hearted; but if such be not adjudged
Worthy, I am not worthy, nor my soul
Willing to rest without them. Ah, I burn,
Now in glad heaven, with grief, bethinking me
Of those my mother's words, what time I poured
Death-water for my dead at Kurkshetra,—
"Pour for Prince Karna, Son!" but I wist not
His feet were as my mother's feet, his blood
Her blood, my blood. Oh, Gods! I did not know,—
Albeit Sakra's self had failed to break
Our battle, where he stood. I crave to see
Surya's child, that glorious chief who fell
By Saryasáchi's hand, unknown of me;
And Bhíma! ah, my Bhíma! dearer far
Than life to me; Arjuna, like a god,
Nakla and Sahadev, twin lords of war,
With tenderest Draupadí! Show me those souls!
I can not tarry where I have them not.
Bliss is not blissful, just and mighty Ones!
Save if I rest beside them. Heaven is there
Where Love and Faith make heaven. Let me go!'

"And answer made the hearkening heavenly Ones:
'Go, if it seemeth good to thee, dear Son!
The King of gods commands we do thy will.'

"So saying [the Bard went on] Dharma's own voice
Gave ordinance, and from the shining bands
A golden Deva glided, taking hest
To guide the king there where his kinsmen were.
So wended these, the holy angel first,
And in his steps the king, close following.
Together passed they through the gates of pearl,
Together heard them close; then to the left
Descending, by a path evil and dark,
Hard to be traversed, rugged, entered they
The 'SINNERS' ROAD.' The tread of sinful feet
Matted the thick thorns carpeting its slope:
The smell of sin hung foul on them; the mire
About their roots was trampled filth of flesh
Horrid with rottenness, and splashed with gore
Curding in crimson puddles; where there buzzed
And sucked and settled creatures of the swamp,
Hideous in wing and sting, gnat-clouds and flies,
With moths, toads, newts, and snakes red-gulleted,
And livid, loathsome worms, writhing in slime
Forth from skull-holes and scalps and tumbled bones
A burning forest shut the roadside in
On either hand, and 'mid its crackling boughs
Perched ghastly birds, or flapped amongst the flames,
Vultures and kites and crows,—with brazen plumes
And beaks of iron; and these grisly fowl
Screamed to the shrieks of Prets, lean, famished ghosts,
Featureless, eyeless, having pin-point mouths,
Hungering, but hard to fill,—all swooping down
To gorge upon the meat of wicked ones;
Whereof the limbs disparted, trunks and heads,
Offal and marrow, littered all the way.
By such a path the king passed, sore afeared,
If he had known of fear, for the air stank
With carrion stench, sickly to breathe; and lo!
Presently 'thwart the pathway foamed a flood
Of boiling waves, rolling down corpses. This
They crossed, and then the Asipatra wood
Spread black in sight, whereof the undergrowth
Was sword-blades, spitting, every blade, some wretch;
All around poison trees; and next to this,
Strewn deep with fiery sands, and awful waste,
Wherethrough the wicked toiled with blistering feet,
'Midst rocks of brass, red hot, which scorched, and pools
Of bubbling pitch that gulfed them. Last the gorge
Of Kutashála Mali,—frightful gate
Of utmost Hell, with utmost horrors filled.
Deadly and nameless were the plagues seen there;
Which when the monarch reached, nigh overborne
By terrors and the wreck of tortured flesh,
Unto the angel spake he: 'Whither goes
This hateful road, and where be they I seek,
Yet find not?' Answer made the heavenly One:
'Hither, great King, it was commanded me
To bring thy steps. If thou be'st overborne,
It is commanded that I lead thee back
To where the Gods wait. Wilt thou turn and mount?
"Then (Oh, thou Son of Bhârat!) Yudhishthira
Turned heavenward his face, so was he moved
With horror and the hanging stench, and spent
By toil of that black travel. But his feet
Scarce one stride measured, when about the place
Pitiful accents rang: 'Alas, sweet King!—
Ah, saintly Lord!—Ah, Thou that hast attained
Place with the Blessèd, Pandu's offspring!—pause
A little while, for love of us who cry!
Nought can harm thee in all this baneful place;
But at thy coming there 'gan blow a breeze
Balmy and soothing, bringing us relief.
Oh, Pritha's son, mightiest of men! we breathe
Glad breath again to see thee; we have peace
One moment in our agonies. Stay here
One moment more, Bhárata's child! Go not,
Thou Victor of the Kurus! Being here,
Hell softens and our bitter pains relax.'

"These pleadings, wailing all around the place,
Heard the King Yudhishthira,—words of woe
Humble and eager; and compassion seized
His lordly mind. 'Poor souls unknown!' he sighed,
And hellwards turned anew: for what those were,
Whence such beseeching voices, and of whom,
That son of Pandu wist not,—only wist
That all the noxious murk was filled with forms
Shadowy, in anguish, crying grace of him.
Wherefore he called aloud, 'Who speaks with me;
What do ye here, and what things suffer ye?'
Then from the black depth piteously there came
Answers of whispered suffering: 'Karna I,
Oh, King!' and yet another, oh, my Liege,
Thy Bhíma speaks!' and then a voice again,
'I am Arjuna, Brother!' and again,
'Nakla is here and Sahadev!' and last
A moan of music from the darkness sighed,
'Draupadí cries to thee!' Thereat broke forth
The monarch's spirit,—knowing so the sound
Of each familiar voice,—'What doom is this?
What have my well-belovèd wrought to earn
Death with the damned, or life loathlier than death
In Narak's midst? Hath Karna erred so deep,
Bhíma, Arjuna, or the glorious twins,
Or she, the slender-waisted, sweetest, best,
My princes,—that Duryodhana should sit
Peaceful in Paradise with all his crew,
Throned by Mahendra and the shining gods?
How should these fail of bliss, and he attain?
What were their sins to his, their splendid faults?
For if they slipped, it was in virtue's way
Serving good laws, performing holy rites,
Boundless in gifts and faithful to the death.
These be their well-known voices! Are ye here,
Souls I loved best? Dream I, belike, asleep,
Or rave I, maddened with accursèd sights
And death-reeks of this hellish air?

For pity and for pain the king waxed wroth.
That soul fear could not shake, nor trials tire,
Burned terrible with tenderness, the while
His eyes searched all the gloom, his planted feet
Stood fast in the mid horrors. Well-nigh, then,
He cursed the gods; well-nigh that steadfast mind
Broke from its faith in virtue. But he stayed
Th' indignant passion, softly speaking this
Unto the angel: 'Go to those thou serv'st;
Tell them I come not thither. Say I stand
Here in the throat of hell, and here will bide—
Nay, if I perish—while my well-belov'd
Win ease and peace by any pains of mine.'

"Whereupon, nought replied the shining One,
But straight repaired unto the upper light,
Where Sákra sate above the gods, and spake
Before the gods the message of the king."

"Afterward what befell?" the prince inquired.

"Afterward, Princely One!" replied the Sage,
"At hearing and at knowing that high deed
(Great Yudhishthira braving hell for love),
The Presences of Paradise uprose,
Each Splendor in his place,—god Sákra chief;
Together rose they, and together stepped
Down from their thrones, treading the nether road
Where Yudhishthira tarried. Sákra led
The shining van, and Dharma, Lord of laws,
Paced glorious next. Oh, Son of Bhárata,
While that celestial company came down—
Pure as the white stars sweeping through the sky,
And brighter than their brilliance—look! Hell's shades
Melted before them; warm gleams drowned the gloom;
Soft, lovely scenes, rolled over the ill sights;
Peace calmed the cries of torment; in its bed
The boiling river shrank, quiet and clear;
The Asipatra Vana—awful wood—
Blossomed with colors; all those cruel blades,
And dreadful rocks, and piteous scattered wreck
Of writhing bodies, where the king had passed.
Vanished as dreams fade. Cool and fragrant went
A wind before their faces, as these Gods
Drew radiant to the presence of the king,—
Maruts; and Vasus eight, who shine and serve
Round Indra; Rudras; Aswins; and those Six
Immortal Lords of light beyond our light,
Th' Adityas; Saddhyas; Siddhyas,—those were there,
With angels, saints, and habitants of heaven.
Smiling resplendent round the steadfast prince.

"Then spake the God of gods these gracious words
To Yudhishthira, standing in that place:—
"'King Yudhishthira! oh, thou long-armed Lord,
This is enough! All heaven is glad of thee.
It is enough! Come, thou most blessèd one,
Unto thy peace, well gained. Lay now aside
Thy loving wrath, and hear the speech of Heaven.
It is appointed that all kings see hell.
The reckonings for the life of men are twain
Of each man's righteous deeds a tally true,
A tally true of each man's evil deeds.
Who hath wrought little right, to him is paid
A little bliss in Swarga, then the woe [him
Which purges; who much right hath wrought, from
The little ill by lighter pains is cleansed,
And then the joys. Sweet is peace after pain,
And bitter pain which follows peace; yet they,
Who sorely sin, taste of the heaven they miss,
And they that suffer quit their debt at last.
Lo! We have loved thee, laying hard on thee
Grievous assaults of soul, and this black road.
Bethink thee: by a semblance once, dear Son!
Drona thou didst beguile; and once, dear Son!
Semblance of hell hath so thy sin assoiled,
Which passeth with these shadows. Even thus
Thy Bhíma came a little space t' account,
Draupadí, Krishna,—all whom thou didst love,
Never again to lose! Come, First of Men!
These be delivered and their quittance made
Also the princes, son of Bhárata!
Who fell beside thee fighting, have attained.
Come thou to see! Karna, whom thou didst mourn,—
That mightiest archer, master in all wars,—
He hath attained, shining as doth the sun;
Come thou and see! Grieve no more, King of Men.
Whose love helped them and thee, and hath its meed
Rajahs and maharajahs, warriors, aids,—
All thine are thine forever. Krishna waits
To greet thee coming, companied by gods,
Seated in heaven, from toils and conflicts saved.
Son! there is golden fruit of noble deeds,
Of prayer, alms, sacrifice. The most just Gods
Keep thee thy place above the highest saints,
Where thou shalt sit, divine, compassed about
With royal souls in bliss, as Hari sits;
Seeing Mándháta crowned, and Bhagirath,
Daushyanti, Bhárata, with all thy line.
Now therefore wash thee in this holy stream,
Gunga's pure fount, whereof the bright waves bless
All the Three Worlds. It will so change thy flesh
To likeness of th' immortal, thou shalt leave
Passions and aches and tears behind thee there.

"And when the awful Sákra thus had said,
Lo! Dharma spake,—th' embodied Lord of Right:

"'Bho! bho! I am well pleased! Hail to thee, Chief!
Worthy, and wise, and firm. Thy faith is full,
Thy virtue, and thy patience, and thy truth,
And thy self-mastery. Thrice I put thee, King!
Unto the trial. In the Dwaita wood,
The day of sacrifice,—then thou stood'st fast;
Next, on thy brethren's death and Draupadí's,
When, as a dog, I followed thee, and found
Thy spirit constant to the meanest friend.
Here was the third and sorest touchstone. Son!
That thou shouldst hear thy brothers cry in hell,
And yet abide to help them. Pritha's child,
We love thee! Thou art fortunate and pure,
Past trials now. Thou art approved, and they
Thou lov'st have tasted hell only a space,
Not meriting to suffer more than when
An evil dream doth come, and Indra's beam
Ends it with radiance—as this vision ends.
It is appointed that all flesh see death,
And therefore thou hast borne the passing pangs,
Briefest for thee, and brief for those of thine,—
Bhíma the faithful, and the valiant twins
Nakla and Sahadev, and those great hearts
Karna, Arjuna, with thy princess dear,
Draupadí. Come, thou best-belovèd Son,
Blessed of all thy line! Bathe in this stream,—
It is great Gunga, flowing through Three Worlds.'

"Thus high-accosted, the rejoicing king
(Thy ancestor, oh, Liege!) proceeded straight
Unto that river's brink which floweth pure
Through the Three Worlds, mighty, and sweet, and praised.
There, being bathed, the body of the king
Put off its mortal, coming up arrayed
In grace celestial, washed from soils of sin,
From passion, pain, and change. So, hand in hand
With brother-gods, glorious went Yudhishthir,
Lauded by softest minstrelsy, and songs
Of unknown music, where those heroes stood—
The princes of the Pandavas, his kin—
And lotus-eyed and loveliest Draupadí,
Waiting to greet him, gladdening and glad.

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