(Last Updated on : 04/10/2010)
The story of Brahmin Jajali
is one of the many fables in the Mahabharata
which have a certain moralistic end to them. The story goes such that the Brahman Jajali lived as a hermit in the forest, and gave himself up to the most frightful austerities. Clothed in rags and skins, stiff with it, he wandered through the forest in rain and storm undertook severe fasts and defied every kind of inclement weather.
Once he stood in the forest, deep in Yoga
, like a wooden post without moving. There a pair of birds came flying towards him and in the hair of his head, which was dishevelled by the storm and matted with the dirt and rain, they built a nest. When the Yogin noticed this he did not stir but remained standing immovable as a pillar till the female bird had laid eggs in the nest on his head and the eggs were hatched and the young birds were fledged and had flown away. After this mighty feat of asceticism Jajali was filled with pride. He shouted exultingly into the forest, "I have reached the essence of all devotion." Then a heavenly voice answered him out of the regions of the air, "In devotion thou art not even equal to Tuladhara, O Jajali, and not even this very wise Tuladhara, who dwells in Benaras, may speak of himself as thou speakest." After hearing this, Jajali was disheartened and went to Varanasi
to meet Tuladhara, to see in what manner the latter had advanced in devotion.
Tuladhara, however, was a peddler in Varanasi. He used to maintain an open shop and sell all kinds of spices, healing herbs and so on. To the enquiry of the Brahmin Jajali as to whereof his renowned devotion consists, he replied in a long speech upon morality.
The speech on ethics is followed by a long explanation of Ahimsa
, the commandment of non-violence. It is said that there is no higher law than forbearance towards all living beings. Therefore, the breeding of cattle is cruel because it involves the torturing and killing of animals. Equally cruel is the keeping of slaves and traffic in living creatures. Even agriculture is full of sin for the plough wounds the earth and kills many innocent animals. To this point, Jajali objects and says that without agriculture and cattle-breeding people could not exist and could not find food and that sacrifices, too, would be impossible if animals might not be killed and plants not be destroyed. Thereupon Tuladhara replies with a long discourse upon the true sacrifice which should be offered without the desire for reward, without priestly deception and without the killing of living beings.
Finally Tuladhara calls on the birds which had nested in the hair of Jajali's head as witnesses for his doctrine, and they, too, confirm that the true religion consists in forbearance towards all human beings.