19. The Unique Treasures of Mankind

 

It is said that during the Kurukshetra battle which lasted for 18 days, Vyâsa had his mind torn with contrition, for, the contestants were both of his lineage. So, he could not cast his eyes on the fratricidal carnage! One day, he was so overcome by remorse that he hastened beyond the blood-soaked plain, where another day's holocaust was about to begin. Hurrying along, he saw a spider scurrying forward on the ground! "Why so fast?" inquired the sage; the spider ran off the road, climbed up an ant hill by its side and from that eminence, it replied, "Know you not that the war chariot of Arjuna is about to pass this way! If I am caught under its wheels, I am done". Vyâsa laughed at this reply, he said, "No eye gets wet when you die! The world suffers no loss when you are killed! You leave no vacuum when you disappear".
The spider was touched to the quick by this insult. It was shaking with rage. It ejaculated, "How is that? You are a bloated sage! You feel that if you die, it will be a great loss, whereas I will not be missed at all. I too have a wife and children whom I love. I too have a home and a store of food. I too cling to life with as much tenacity as you folk. I have hunger, thirst, grief, pain, joy, delight and the agony of separation from kith and kin. The world is as much in me and for me, as in and for human beings and other."

Vyâsa hung his head and moved on in silence, muttering the line, Saamaanyam ethath pasubhir naraani; for man and beast and insect and worm, these things are common, but, he told himself, "Inquiry into the Ultimate, yearning for Beauty, Truth and Goodness, Awareness of the underlying Unity, these attributes of Wisdom are the unique treasures of mankind", and went his way.