"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, thou art possessed of great wisdom. Indeed, thou art fully conversant with every branch of learning. In our great race thou art the only individual that swellest with all the sciences. I desire to hear from thee discourses that are interwoven with Religion and Profit, that lead to felicity hereafter, and that are fraught with wonder unto all creatures. The time that has come is fraught with great distress. The like of it does not generally come to kinsmen and friends. Indeed, save thee, O foremost of men, we have now none else that can take the place of an instructor. If, O sinless one, I with my brothers deserve the favour, it behoveth thee to answer the question I desire to ask thee. This one is Narayana who is endued with every prosperity and is honoured by all the kings. Even he waits upon thee, showing thee every indulgence and honouring thee greatly. It behoveth thee to discourse unto me, through affection, for my benefit as also for that of my brothers, in the presence of Vasudeva himself and of all these kings.'"
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Hearing these words of king Yudhishthira, Bhishma, the son of the river called after Bhagiratha, filled with joy in consequence of his affection for the monarch and his brothers, said what follows.' 1
"Bhishma said, 'I shall certainly recite to thee discourses that are delightful, on the subject, O king, of the puissance of this Vishnu as displayed in days of yore and as I have heard (from my preceptors). Listen to me also as I describe the puissance of that great god who has a bull for his device. Listen to me as I narrate also the doubt that filled the mind of the spouse of Rudra and that of Rudra himself. Once on a time the righteous souled Krishna observed a vow extending for ten and two years. For beholding him who had gone through the rite of initiation for the observance of his great vow, there came to that place Narada and Parvata, and the Island-born Krishna, and Dhaumya, that foremost of silent reciters, and Devala, and Kasyapa, and Hastikasyapa. Other Rishis also, endued with Diksha and self-restraint, followed by their disciples and accompanied by many Siddhas and many ascetics of great merit, came there. The son of Devaki offered them such honours of hospitality as are deserving of the highest praise and as are offered unto the gods alone. Those great Rishis sat themselves down upon seats some of which were green and some endued with the colour of gold and some that were fraught with the plumes of the peacock and some that were perfectly new and fresh. Thus seated, they began to converse sweetly with one another on subjects connected with Religion and duty as also with many royal sages and deities. At that time the energy, in the form of fire, Narayana, rising from the fuel that consisted of the rigid observance of his vow, issued out of the mouth of Krishna of wonderful feats. That fire began to consume those mountains with their trees and creepers and little plants, as also with their birds and deer and beasts of prey and reptiles. Soon the summit of that mountain presented a distressing and pitiful appearance, Inhabited by animals of diverse kinds which began to utter cries of woe and pain, the summit soon became bereft of every living creature. That fire of mighty flames, having consumed everything without leaving a remnant at last came back to Vishnu and touched his feet like a docile disciple. That crusher of foes, viz., Krishna, beholding that mountain burnt, cast a benignant look upon it and thereby brought it back to its former condition. That mountain thereupon once more became adorned with flowering trees and creepers, and once more echoed with the notes and cries of birds and deer and animals of prey and reptiles. Seeing that wonderful and inconceivable sight, all the ascetics became amazed. Their hairs stood on end and their vision was blurred with tears. That foremost of speakers, Narayana, beholding those Rishis thus filled with wonder,
addressed them in these sweet and refreshing words, 'Why, indeed, has wonder filled the hearts of this assemblage of Rishis, these ascetics that are always free from attachment of every kind, that are divested of the idea of meum, and that are fully conversant with every sacred science? It behoveth these Rishis possessed of wealth of penances and freed from every stain to explain to me truly this doubt that has arisen in my mind.'"
"The Rishis said, 'It is thou that createst all the worlds, and it is thou that destroyest them again. It is thou that art Winter, it is thou that art Summer, and it is thou that art the season of rains. Of all the creatures, mobile and immobile, that are found on the earth, thou art the father, thou art the mother, thou art the master, and thou art the origin! Even this, O slayer of Madhu, is a matter of wonder and doubt with us. O source of all auspiciousness, it behoveth Thee to resolve to us that doubt, viz., the issue of fire from Thy mouth. Our fears being dispelled we shall then, O Hari, recite to thee what we have heard and seen.'"
"Vasudeva said, 'The fire that issued from my mouth and that resembles the all-consuming Yuga-fire in splendour, and by which this mountain has been crushed and scorched, is nothing else than the energy of Vishnu. Ye Rishis, ye are persons that have subjugated wrath, that have brought your senses under complete control, that are endued with wealth of penances, and that are very gods in puissance. Yet ye have suffered yourselves to be agitated and distressed! I am now engaged wholly with the observances relating to rigid vow. Verily, in consequence of my observing the vows of an ascetic, a fire issued from my mouth. It behoves you not to suffer yourselves to be agitated. It is for observing a rigid vow that I came to this delightful and auspicious mountain. The object that has brought me here is to acquire by the aid of penances a son that would be my equal in energy. In consequence of my penances, the Soul existing in my body became transformed into fire and issued out of my mouth. That fire had repaired to behold the boon-giving Grandsire of all the universe. The Grandsire, ye foremost of ascetics, told my soul that half the energy of the great god having the bull for his device would take birth as my son. That fire returning from its mission, has come back to me and approached my feet like a disciple desirous of serving me dutifully. Indeed, casting off its fury it has come back to me to its own proper nature. I have thus told you, in brief, a mystery appertaining to Him who has the lotus for his origin and who is endued with great intelligence. Ye Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, ye should not give way to fear! Ye are endued with far-reaching vision. Ye can proceed to every place without any impediment. Blazing with vows observed by ascetics, ye are adorned with knowledge and science. I now ask you to tell me something that is highly wonderful which you have heard of or seen on earth or in heaven. I feel an eager desire to taste the honey of that speech which will drop from your lips, the honey that will, I am sure, be as sweet as a jet of nectar itself. If I behold anything on earth or in heaven, which is
highly delightful and of wonderful aspect but which is unknown to all of you, ye Rishis that look like so many gods, I say that that is in consequence of my own Supreme Nature which is incapable of being obstructed by anything. Anything wonderful whose knowledge dwelleth in me or is acquired by my own inspiration ceases to appear wonderful to me. Anything, however, that is recited by pious persons and that is heard from those that are good, deserves to be accepted with respect and faith. Such discourses exist on earth for a long time and are as durable as characters engraved on rocks. I desire, therefore, to hear, at this meeting something dropping from the lips of persons that are good and that cannot fail to be productive of good to men.' Hearing these words of Krishna all those ascetics became filled with surprise. They began to gaze at Janardana with those eyes of theirs that were as beautiful and large as the petals of the lotus. Some of them began to glorify him and some began to worship him with reverence. Indeed, all of them then hymned the praises of the slayer of Madhu with words whose meanings were adorned with the eternal Riks. All those ascetics then appointed Narada, that foremost of all persons conversant with speech, to gratify the request of Vasudeva.'
"The ascetics said, 'It behoveth thee, O Narada, to describe, in full, from the beginning, unto Hrishikesa, that wonderful and inconceivable incident which occurred, O puissant one, on the mountains of Himavat and which, O ascetic, was witnessed by those of us that had proceeded thither in course of our pilgrimage to the sacred waters. Verily, for the benefit of all the Rishis here assembled, it behoveth thee to recite that incident.' Thus addressed by those ascetics, the celestial Rishi, viz., the divine Narada, then recited the following story whose incidents had occurred some time before.'"
283:1 Sambhrama here means, probably, joy, or that gratification which shows itself in horripilation. It may also mean alacrity.