"Yudhishthira said, 'Sons and grandsons and brothers and sires and
fathers-in-law and preceptors and maternal uncles and grandsires, many high-souled Kshatriyas, many relatives (by marriage), friends, companions, sister's sons, and kinsmen, O grandsire, and many foremost of men coming from diverse countries, have fallen. All these, O grandsire, have been caused to be slain by myself alone, from desire of kingdom. Having caused so many heroic kings who were always devoted to righteousness and all of whom had quaffed Soma in sacrifices, what end shall I attain, O great ascetic! Thinking that this earth has been bereft of many lions among kings, all of whom were in the enjoyment of great prosperity, I burn continually to this day. Having witnessed this slaughter of kinsmen and millions of other men, I burn with grief, O grandsire! Oh, what will be the plight of those foremost of ladies who have been deprived of sons, of husbands, and of brothers. Reproaching the Pandavas and the Vrishnis as cruel murderers, those ladies, with emaciated features and plunged in grief, will throw themselves on the earth! Not beholding their sires and brothers and husbands and sons, those ladies, through affliction, casting off their life-breath, will go to the abode of Yama, O foremost of Brahmanas! I have no doubt of this. The course of morality is very subtle. It is plain that we shall be stained with the guilt of slaughtering women for this. Having slain our kinsmen and friends and thereby committed an inexpiable sin, we shall have to fall into hell with heads downwards. O best of men, we shall, therefore, waste our limbs with the austerest of penances. Tell me, O grandsire, to what mode of life I should betake myself then.'"
Vaisampayana continued, "Hearing these words of Yudhishthira, the Island-born Rishi, having reflected keenly for some time, addressed the son of Pandu as follows:
"Vyasa said, 'Remembering the duties of a Kshatriya, O king, do not give way to grief. All those Kshatriyas, O bull among Kshatriyas, have fallen in the observance of their proper duties. In the pursuit of great prosperity and of great fame on earth, those foremost of men, all of whom were liable to death, 1 have perished through the influence of Time. Thou hast not been their slayer, nor this Bhima, nor Arjuna, nor the twins. It is Time that took away their life-breaths according to the great law of change. Time hath neither mother, nor father, nor anybody for whom he is disposed to show any favour. He is the witness of the acts of all creatures. By him have they been taken away. This battle, O bull of Bharata's race, was only an occasion ordained by him. He causes creatures to be slain through the instrumentality of creatures. This is the manner in which it puts forth its irresistible power. Know that Time (in his dealings with creatures) is dependent upon the bond of action and is the witness of all actions good and bad. It is Time that brings about the fruits, fraught with bliss or woe, of our actions. Think, O mighty-armed one, of the acts of those Kshatriyas that have fallen. Those acts were the causes of their destruction and it is in consequence of them that they have perished. Think also of thy own acts consisting of observances of vows with
restrained soul. And think also how thou hast been forced by the Supreme Ordainer to do such an act (as the slaughter of so many human beings). As a weapon made by a smith or carpenter is under the control of the person that is handling it, and moves as he moves it, similarly this universe, controlled by actions done in Time, moves as those actions move it. Seeing that the births and deaths of creatures take place without any (assignable) cause and in perfect wantonness, grief and joy are perfectly needless. Although this entanglement of thy heart is a mere delusion, still, if it pleaseth thee, O king, perform expiatory rites (for washing thyself free of thy so-called sin). It is heard, O Partha, that the gods and the Asuras fought against each other. The Asuras were the elder, and the gods the younger brothers. Covetous of prosperity, fierce was the battle fought between them. The fight lasted for two and thirty thousand years. Making the earth one vast expanse of blood, the gods slew the Daityas and gained possession of heaven. Having obtained possession of the earth, a (large) number of Brahmanas, conversant with the Vedas, armed themselves, stupefied with pride, with the Danavas for giving them help in the fight. They were known by the name of Salavrika and numbered eight and eighty thousand. All of them, however, were slain by the gods. Those wicked-souled persons who desire the extinction of virtue and who set sinfulness agoing deserve to be slain even as the furious Daityas were slain by the gods. If by slaying a single individual a family may be saved, or, if by slaying a single family the whole kingdom may be saved, such an act of slaughter will not be a transgression. Sin, O king, sometimes assumes the form of virtue, and virtue sometimes assumes the form of sin. They, however, that are learned, know which is which. Therefore, console thyself, O son of Pandu, for thou art well versed in the scriptures. Thou hast, O Bharata, only followed the path formerly trodden by the very gods. Men like yourselves never go to hell, O bull of Pandu's race! Comfort these thy brothers and all thy friends, O scorcher of foes! He who deliberately engages himself in sinful acts, and committing sinful acts feels no shame but continues the same as before, is called (in the scripture) a great sinner. There is no expiation for him and his sins know no diminution. Thou art born in noble race. Forced by the faults of others, thou hast most unwillingly done this, and having done this thou repentest of it. The Horse-sacrifice, that grand rite, has been indicated as an expiation for thee. Make preparations for that sacrifice, O monarch, and thou shalt be freed from thy sins. The divine chastiser of Paka, having vanquished his foes with the assistance of the Maruts, gradually performed a hundred sacrifices and became Satakratu. 1 Freed from sin, possessed of heaven, and having obtained many regions of bliss and great happiness and prosperity, Sakra, surrounded by the Maruts, is shining in beauty, and illuminating all the quarters with his splendour. The lord of Sachi is adored in the heavens by the Apsaras. The Rishis and the other gods all worship him with reverence. Thou hast got the earth through thy prowess. All the kings have been vanquished by thee, O sinless one, through thy prowess.
[paragraph continues] Proceeding with thy friends to their kingdom, O king, install their brothers, sons, or grandsons on their thrones. Behaving with kindness towards even the children in the womb, make thy subjects glad and happy, and rule the earth. Install on their thrones the daughters of those that have no sons. Women are fond of pleasure and power. Through this means they will castoff their sorrows and become happy. Having comforted the whole empire in this way, O Bharata, adore the gods in a Horse-sacrifice as the virtuous Indra did in days of old. It is not proper for us to grieve for those high-souled Kshatriyas, O bull of thy order (that have fallen in battle). Stupefied by the power of the destroyer, they have perished in the observance of the duties of their own order. Thou hast discharged the duties of a Kshatriya and obtained the earth without a thorn in it. Observe thy own duties, O son of Kunti, for then, O Bharata, thou shalt be able to obtain happiness in the other world.'"