Mahabharata

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KING Brihadyumna, a disciple of the sage Raibhya, performed a great sacrifice at which he requested his teacher to let his two sons Paravasu and Arvavasu officiate. With the permission of their father, both of them went joyfully to the capital of the king.

While arrangements were being made for the sacrifice, Paravasu desired one day to go and see his wife and, walking alone all night, he reached his hermitage before dawn. Near the hermitage, he saw in the twilight, what seemed to him a beast of prey crouching for a spring and, hurling his weapon at it, killed it.

But to his horror and grief, he discovered that he had killed his own father clad in skins, mistaking him for a wild denizen of the forest. He realised that the fatal mistake was the effect of the curse of Bharadwaja.

When he had hastily performed the funeral rites of his father, he went to Arvavasu and told him the doleful tale. He said: "But this mishap should not interfere with the sacrifice of the king. Please do the rites on my behalf in expiation of the sin I have unwittingly committed. There is, mercifully, atonement for sins committed in ignorance. If you can be my substitute here for undergoing the expiation I shall be able to go and assist in conducting the king's sacrifice. I can officiate unaided, which is a thing you cannot do as yet."

The virtuous brother agreed and said: "You may attend to the king's sacrifice. I shall do penance to free you from the terrible taint of having killed a father and a brahmana."

The virtuous Arvavasu, accordingly, took upon himself the expiatory rites on behalf of his brother. That done, he came to the court of the king to join his brother and assist in the sacrifice.

The sin of Paravasu was not washed off, since expiation cannot be by proxy. It tainted his mind with wicked designs.

Becoming jealous of the radiance on his brother's face, Paravasu decided to dishonor him by casting on him an unjustice as a person and accordingly, when Arvavasu entered the hall, Paravasu loudly exclaimed so that the king might hear:

"This man has committed the sin of killing a brahmana and how can he enter this holy sacrificial place?"

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Arvavasu indignantly denied the accusation but none heeded him, and he was ignominiously expelled from that hall of sacrifice by the orders of the king.

Arvavasu repeatedly protested his innocence. "It is my brother who has committed the sin and even then it was through a mistake. I have saved him by performing expiatory rites."

This made matters worse for him for nobody believed that the expiation he had undergone was not for his own crime and everyone thought that he was adding false accusation against a blameless brother, to his other sins.

The virtuous Arvavasu who, besides being falsely accused of a monstrous crime, was also slandered as a liar, retreated to the forest in despair of finding justice in the world and betook himself to rigorous austerities.

The gods were gracious and asked him: "O virtuous soul, what is the boon you seek?" High thinking and deep meditation had in the meantime cleansed his heart of all anger at his brother's conduct; and so, he only prayed that his father might be restored to life and that his brother might be freed from wickedness and the sins that he had committed.

Lomasa narrated this story to Yudhishthira at a place near Raibhya's hermitage and said: "O Pandavas, bathe here and wash off your passions in this holy river."

Arvavasu and Paravasu were both sons of a great scholar. Both of them learnt at his feet and became eminent scholars themselves.

But learning is one thing and virtue is quite another. It is true that one should know the difference between good and evil, if one is to seek good and shun evil. But this knowledge should soak into every thought and influence every act in one's life.

Then indeed knowledge becomes virtue. The knowledge that is merely so much undigested information crammed into the mind, cannot instill virtue.

It is just an outward show like our clothes and is no real part of us.