"Yudhishthira said, 'The Vedas, O Bharata, discourse of Religion. Profit, and Pleasure. Tell me, however, O grandsire, the attainment of which (amongst these three) is regarded as superior.'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall, in this connection, recite to thee the ancient narrative of the benefit that Kundadhara in days of old had conferred upon one who was devoted to him. Once on a time a Brahmana destitute of wealth sought to acquire virtue, induced by the desire of fruit. He continually set his heart upon wealth for employing it in the celebration of sacrifices. For achieving his purpose he set himself to the practice of the austerest penances. Resolved to accomplish his purpose, he began to worship the deities with great devotion. But he failed to obtain wealth by such worship of the deities. He thereupon began to reflect, saying unto himself, 'What is that deity, hitherto unadored by men, who may be favourably disposed towards me without delay?' While reflecting in this strain with a cool mind, he beheld stationed before him that retainer of the deities, viz., the Cloud called Kundadhara. As soon as he beheld that mighty-armed being, the Brahmana's feelings of devotion were excited, and he said unto himself, 'This one will surely bestow prosperity upon me. Indeed, his form indicates as much. He lives in close proximity to the deities. He has not as yet been adored by other men. He will verily give me abundant wealth without any delay.' The Brahmana, then, having concluded thus, worshipped that Cloud with dhupas and perfumes and garlands of flowers of the most superior kind, and with diverse kinds of offerings. Thus worshipped, the Cloud became very soon pleased with his worshipper and uttered these words fraught with benefit to that Brahmana, 'The wise have ordained expiation for one guilty of Brahmanicide, or of drinking alcohol or of stealing, or of neglecting all meritorious vows.
[paragraph continues] There is no expiation, however, for one that is ungrateful. 1 Expectation hath a child named Iniquity. Ire, again, is regarded to be a child of Envy. Cupidity is the child of Deceit. Ingratitude, however, is barren (and hath no offspring). After this, that Brahmana, stretched on a bed of Kusa grass, and penetrated with the energy of Kundadhara, beheld all living beings in a dream. Indeed, in consequence of his absence of passion, penances, and devotion, that Brahmana of cleansed soul, standing aloof from all (carnal) enjoyments, beheld in the night that effect of his devotion to Kundadhara. Indeed, O Yudhishthira, he beheld the high-souled Manibhadra of great effulgence stationed in the midst of the deities, employed in giving his orders. There the gods seemed to be engaged in bestowing kingdoms and riches upon men, induced by their good deeds, and in taking them away when men fell off from goodness. 2 Then, O bull of Bharata's race, Kundadhara of great effulgence, bending himself low, prostrated himself on the ground before the gods in the presence of all the Yakshas. At the command of the gods the high-souled Manibhadra addressed the prostrate Kundadhara and said, 'What does Kundadhara want?' Thereupon Kundadhara replied, 'If, indeed, the gods are pleased with me, there, that Brahmana reverences me greatly. I pray for some favour being shown to him, something, that is, that may bring him happiness.' Hearing this, Manibhadra, commanded by the gods, once more said unto Kundadhara of great intelligence these words, 'Rise, rise up, O Kundadhara! Thy suit is successful. Be thou happy. If this Brahmana be desirous of wealth, let wealth be given to him, that is, as much wealth as this thy friend desires. At the command of the gods I shall give him untold wealth.' Kundadhara, then, reflecting upon the fleeting and unreal character of the status of humanity, set his heart, O Yudhishthira, upon inclining the Brahmana to penances. Indeed, Kundadhara said, 'I do not, O giver of wealth, beg for wealth on behalf of this Brahmana. I desire the bestowal of another favour upon him. I do not solicit for this devotee of mine mountains of pearls and gems or even. the whole earth with all her riches. I desire, however, that he should be virtuous. Let his heart find pleasure in virtue. Let him have virtue for his stay. Let virtue be the foremost of all objects with him. Even this is the favour that meets with my approval.' Manibhadra said, 'The fruits of virtue are always sovereignty and happiness of diverse kinds. Let this one enjoy those fruits, always freed from physical pain of every kind.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed, Kundadhara, however, of great celebrity, repeatedly solicited virtue alone for that Brahmana. The gods were highly pleased at it. Then Manibhadra said, 'The gods are all pleased with thee as also with this Brahmana. This one shall become a virtuous-souled person. He shall devote his mind to virtue.' The Cloud, Kundadhara, became delighted, O Yudhishthira, at thus having been successful in obtaining
his wish. The boon that he had got was one that was unattainable by anybody else. The Brahmana then beheld scattered around him many delicate fabrics of cloth. Without minding them at all (although so costly), the Brahmana came to disrelish the world.'
"The Brahmana said, 'When this one doth not set any value upon good deeds, who else will? I had better go to the woods for leading a life of righteousness.' 1
"Bhishma continued, 'Cherishing a distaste for the world, and through the grace also of the gods, that foremost of Brahmanas entered the woods and commenced to undergo the austerest of penances. Subsisting upon Such fruits and roots as remained after serving the deities and guests, the mind of that regenerate person, O monarch, was firmly set upon virtue. Gradually, the Brahmana, renouncing fruits and roots, betook himself to leaves of trees as his food. Then renouncing leaves, he took to water only as his subsistence. After that he passed many years by subsisting upon air alone. All the while, his strength did not diminish. This seemed exceedingly marvellous. Devoted to virtue and engaged in the practice of the severest austerities, after a long time he acquired spiritual vision. He then reflected, saying unto himself, 'If, being gratified with anybody, I give him wealth, my speech would never be untrue.' 2 With a face lighted up by smiles, he once more began to undergo severer austerities. And once more, having won (higher) success, he thought that he could, by a fiat of the will, then create the very highest objects. 'If, gratified with any person whatsoever I give him even sovereignty, he will immediately become a king, for my words will never be untrue.' While he was thinking in this way, Kundadhara, induced by his friendship for the Brahmana and no less by the ascetic success which the Brahmana had achieved, showed himself, O Bharata (unto his friend and devotee). Meeting with him the Brahmana offered him worship according to the observances ordained. The Brahmana, however, felt some surprise, O king. Then Kundadhara addressed the Brahmana, saying, 'Thou hast now got an excellent and spiritual eye. Behold with this vision of thine the end that is attained by kings, and survey all the worlds besides.' The Brahmana then, with his spiritual vision, beheld from a distance thousands of kings sunk in hell.'
"Kundadhara said, 'After having worshipped me with devotion thou didst get sorrow for thy share, what then would have been the good done to thee by me, and what the value of my favour? Look, look for what end men
desire the gratification of carnal enjoyments. The door of heaven is closed unto men.'
"Bhishma continued, 'The Brahmana then beheld many men living in this world, embracing lust, and wrath, and cupidity, and fear, and pride, and sleep and procrastination, and inactivity.'
"Kundadhara said, 'With these (vices) all human beings are enchained. The gods are afraid of men. These vices, at the command of the gods, mar and disconcert on every side. 1 No man can become virtuous unless permitted by the gods. (In consequence of their permission) thou hast become competent to give away kingdoms and wealth through thy penances.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed, the righteous-souled Brahmana, bending his head unto that Cloud, prostrated himself on the ground, and said, 'Thou hast, indeed, done me a great favour. Unconscious of the great affection shown by thee towards me, I had through the influence of desire and cupidity, failed to display good will towards thee.' Then Kundadhara said unto that foremost of regenerate persons, 'I have forgiven thee,' and having embraced him with his arms disappeared there and then. The Brahmana then roamed through all the worlds, having attained to ascetic success through the grace of Kundadhara. Through the puissance gained from virtue and penances, one acquires competence to sail through the skies and to fructify all one's wishes and purposes, and finally attain to the highest end. The gods and Brahmanas and Yakshas and all good men and Charanas always adore those that are virtuous but never those that are rich or given up to the indulgence of their desires. The gods are truly propitious to thee since thy mind is devoted to virtue. In wealth there may be a very little happiness but in virtue the measure of happiness is very great.'"