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The Transmigration of the Seven Brahmans
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Pages (PDF): 17
Publication Date: 1932
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This is a short translation from the Harivamsa, a Sanskrit text which is technically Purana. This translation is notable because the translation is by Henry David Thoreau, the prominent 19th century American philosopher and writer.
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THE divine eye, which Santacoumara had given me, made me perceive the seven Brahmans, of whom he had spoken, unfaithful to their sacred rules, but yet attached to the worship of the Pitris. They bore names answering to their works: they were called Vagdouchta, Crodhana, Hinsa, Pisouna, Cavi, Swasrima and Pitrivarttin: they were sons of Cosica, and disciples of Gargya. Their father dying, they commenced the prescribed ceremonies under the direction of their master. By his order they guarded his foster cow, named Capila, who was accompanied by her calf already as large as herself. On the way, the sight of this magnificent cow, who supplied all the wants of Gargya, tempted them: hunger impelled them, their reason was blinded; they conceived the cruel and mad project of slaying her. Cavi and Swasrima endeavored to prevent them from it. What could they against the others? But Pitrivarttin, that one among them who was always occupied with the sraddha, having his mind then on the duty the thought of which possessed him, said to his wondering brothers with anger:
"Since we have a sacrifice to make to the Pitris, let this cow be sacrificed by us with devotion, and her death will profit us. Let us honor the Pitris and no reproach can be made to us." "Well," said they all, and the cow was sacrificed in honor of the Pitris. They told their master afterwards: "Your cow has been slain by a tiger, but here is her calf." The Brahman, without suspecting evil, took the calf which they delivered to him.
But they failed in the respect which they owed to their master; and when Time came to take them all together from this world, for having been cruel and wicked, for having rendered themselves guilty of impiety toward their preceptor, they all seven reappeared in life in the family of a hunter, of the country of Dasarna. However, as in sacrificing the cow of their master, they had rendered homage to the Pitris, these brothers, filled with force and intelligence, preserved in this existence the remembrance of the past: they showed themselves attached to their duties, performing their functions with zeal, and abstaining from every act of cupidity and injustice: now holding in their breath as long a time as endured the recitation of a mantra, now plunging themselves into profound meditations on their destiny.
These were the names of these pious hunters: Nirvera, Nirvriti, Kchanta, Nirmanyou, Criti, Veghasa, and Matrivarttin. Thus these same men who had formerly loved evil and injustice, were now so changed that they honored their mother bent under the weight of age and rejoiced the heart of their father. When death had taken away their parents, then leaving their bow, they fixed themselves in the forest, where soon after, they themselves also surrendered their souls.
As a recompense for their good conduct they retained still in their following life the remembrance of the past: they were born upon the agreeable mountain Calandyara, under the form of stags with high arching horns, by turns experiencing and inspiring fear. Their names were then Ounmoukha, Nityavitrasta, Stabdacarna, Vilotchana, Pandita, Ghasmara and Nadin. Thus going over in memory their ancient actions, they wandered in the woods, detached from every sentiment, from every affection, submitting with resignation to the duties which they had to fulfill, and in their solitude delivering themselves to the exercises of the Yoga.
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