(1) Sûta said: "While going home the king thought that what he had done was something abominable and he was very depressed saying to himself: 'Alas, it was uncivilized and evil what I did to the faultless, grave and powerful brahmin. (2) I will no doubt because of going against the injunctions very soon meet with a very troublesome calamity. I certainly hope that that will happen as soon as possible so that I'll be relieved of my sins and never do something like that again. (3) May I, on this very day, burn with my kingdom, strength and wealth of riches in the fire ignited by the brahmin community, so that the inauspiciousness of sinning against the Lord, the culture and the cows may not return to me.' (4) Thus pondering the message reached him of the curse of death pronounced by the sage's son. That curse in the form of the fire of a snake bird he accepted as something auspicious because that expected happening would be the logical consequence of the indifference of an all too attached person. (5) He decided to give up on this world as also on the next, for he already had concluded that both worlds were inferior compared to a life of service at the feet of Krishna. So he sat down at the bank of the transcendental river [the Ganges] in order to fast. That was to his opinion the best thing he could do. (6) That river, always flowing mixed with tulasî leaves [a plant used in worship], consists of the auspicious water carrying the dust from the feet of Lord Krishna that sanctifies both the worlds inside and outside and even the Lord of Destruction [Lord S'iva]. What person destined to die would not turn to that river? (7) With that decision he, the worthy descendant of the Pândavas, with his sitting down at the river which flows from the feet of Vishnu, surrendered himself to the mercy of Mukunda till he died. He, free from all kinds of material attachment, would complete his fasting without deviating from the spirit of the vows respected by the sages.
(8) All the great minds and thinkers who together with their pupils are capable of elevating the entire world, then came to gather there on the plea of a pilgrimage. It is because of their personal presence that the holy places enjoy their status of sanctity. (9-10) Atri, Cyavana, S'aradvân, Arishthanemi, Bhrigu, Vasishthha, Parâs'ara, Vis'vâmitra, Angirâ, Paras'urâma, Uthathya, Indrapramada, Idhmavâhu, Medhâtithi, Devala, Ârshthisena, Bhâradvâja, Gautama, Pippalâda, Maitreya, Aurva, Kavasha, Kumbhayoni, Dvaipâyana and the great personality Nârada arrived. (11) Also many other divine personalities, saintly brahmins, the best saintly advisors of the most prominent nobles and many other sages like Aruna appeared to the occasion. All the heads of the dynasties of sages assembling there were respectfully welcomed by the emperor bowing his head. (12) When all of them were seated comfortably he, with folded hands present before them as someone whose mind is detached from worldly affairs, after again having offered them his obeisances, thereupon humbly spoke about his decision to fast. (13) The king said: 'We are truly grateful to be the most fortunate of all the kings who are trained to be receptive to the favors granted by the greatest of souls, because at the feet of the brahmins the royal orders because of their reprehensible actions are but refuse to be kept at a distance. (14) Because of my sins the Controller of the transcendental and mundane worlds pronounced a curse against me via that brahmin, I who out of attachment always thought of family matters. Having assumed that form He, inspiring with fear, very soon will overtake my mundane attachment. (15) Therefore o brahmins, just accept me as someone who with the Lord in his heart in surrender has taken to the divine mother Ganges. Let the snakebird, or whatever magical thing the twice-born called for, bite me forthwith. You please continue reciting the deeds of Lord Vishnu. (16) And, again, let it be so that wherever that I in relation to the Supreme, Unlimited Lord and the association He attracts in the material world may take birth, I will find friendly relations everywhere in obeisance to the twice-born.'
(17) And so it came to pass that the king, with the same perseverance as he had shown before, fully self-controlled seated himself on kus'a grass laid to the east, while facing the north from the southern bank of the wife of the sea [the Ganges]. The charge of his administration he had handed over to his son. (18) To that occasion the gods, who from the sky had seen that the king would fast until his end, all in praise scattered the earth with flowers, continually beating celestial drums in pleasure. (19) All the great sages who had assembled there praised him for the wisdom he had thus shown and in approval said from the power of their goodness for the living beings, a goodness that in its quality is as beautiful as the divine praised in the scriptures: (20) 'It is not astonishing that this saintly king, the chief of all of us who strictly follow Krishna, being seated on the throne that is decorated with the helmets of kings, immediately gave up his life out of his desire to achieve association with the Fortunate One. (21) We all will stay at this place as long as it takes the king to give up his body and return to the world of the Supreme, where this foremost devotee will be completely free from worldly concerns and lamentation.'
(22) After having heard the assembled sages speak thus impartially, sweet to hear, grave and perfectly true, Parîkchit complimented them all with their appropriate show of respect and said, desirous to hear about the activities of Vishnu: (23) 'You all have assembled here as the representatives of the One above the three worlds [Brahmâ], with no other intention in this world or a world hereafter but to act for the good of others according to your innate nature. (24) Therefore I beg you to tell me now, as trustworthy Vedic men of learning, after due deliberation, what of all the different duties of each and especially of those who are about to die, to your opinion would be the proper and befitting conduct.'
(25) At that moment, as if called for, the powerful son of Vyâsa, S'ukadeva Gosvâmî appeared. He, looking like a mendicant, satisfied in self-realization freely traveled around in the company of children without any concern about material comforts or an identity. (26) He, only sixteen years old, had a body with delicate legs, hands, thighs, arms, shoulders and forehead. His eyes were beautifully wide in a face with a high nose, similar ears, nice eyebrows and a neck as shapely as a conch shell. (27) With a fleshy collarbone, a broad chest and a deep navel he had nice folds in his abdomen. Stark naked with curly, scattered hair and long arms he had the hue of the best among the gods [Krishna; a dark complexion]. (28) Even though he covered his nakedness the sages, who had a keen eye for physiognomy, recognized the symptoms of the blackish skin, the beauty of his tender age and the attraction for the fair sex with his beautiful smiles. And so they all stood up from their seats. (29) To welcome the new guest, he who is always protected by Vishnu [Parîkchit] bowed before him and offered his obeisances, whereupon his less educated following of boys and women withdrew the moment he took his exalted seat in regard of the respect shown. (30) Surrounded there by the greatest of the great saints among the brahmins, the kings and the godly ones, S'ukadeva as the greatest lord shone as resplendent as the moon surrounded by the planets, heavenly bodies and stars. (31) Calm, intelligent and self-assured sitting down the sage was approached by the great devotee, the king, who properly bowing down with folded hands asked him questions in a polite and friendly manner.
(32) Parîkchit said: 'O brahmin, what a blessing it is for us from the ruling class today to be chosen as a servant of the devotee, by your mercy of being our guest to be considered worthy the visit of all these relations of your good self. (33) When we think of your person that immediately purifies all the places we inhabit, not to mention what it means to see you, touch you, wash your feet and offer you a seat. (34) Through your presence, o great mystic, our gravest sins are immediately vanquished, even as the nonbelievers are by the presence of Vishnu. (35) Finally Krishna, the Supreme Lord so dear to the sons of Pându, is of mercy for me and has, for the satisfaction of His cousins and brothers, accepted me, their descendant, as one of theirs. (36) How else could it be possible that you, out of your own free will, specially for someone in his last hours before death have appeared here to meet us, while you normally, all-perfect as you are, cannot be found among the common people? (37) Therefore I beg you as the supreme spiritual master of all ascetics, to tell what for a person in this life would be the perfection, the final beatitude, and what for someone about to die all would be the duty. (38) Please explain what the people in general, o master, should attend to and chant about, what they should do, what they should remember and share, as also what would be against the principle. (39) This I ask because, o supreme devotee, in the house of the householders one rarely sees you staying for longer than the exact time of milking a cow.' "
(40) Sûta said: "Thus pleasantly being addressed and questioned by the king, the supreme son of Vyâsadeva who was so well versed in the knowledge of what is one's actual duty, began his reply."