(1) S'rî Parîkchit said: 'O great devotee, in the beginning [in the second canto] you described how, following the path of finding liberation by renunciation [nivritti mârga], one with the spirit of the Absolute ['with Brahmâ'] in the process of yoga gradually puts an end to the cycle of rebirth. (2) With one's attention focussed on the three modes of nature o sage, one time and again is caught in the clutches of the material world where there is a constant renewal of forms. (3) The hells belonging to the different sorts of impiety were by you described [in the fifth canto] as also the period of the first Manu, the son of Brahmâ, Svâyambhuva [in the fourth canto]. (4-5) You described the character and the dynasties of Priyavrata and Uttânapâda as also the different realms [dvîpas], regions [varshas], oceans, mountains, rivers, gardens and trees of the earthly sphere and the characteristics and measurements of the luminaries and the lower worlds created by the Almighty Lord. (6) Please explain to me now o man of great fortune, what a human being must do in this world in order not to undergo all these sorts of terrible conditions of heavily suffering in hell.'
(7) S'rî S'uka said: 'When someone in this life does not take the necessary countermeasures, when one is not of proper atonement after having engaged wrongly in the mind, in one's expressions and with one's body [one's 'hands' or with one's marriage], such a person after having died, undoubtedly will end up in [one of] the different types of hell of terrible suffering I formerly described. (8) Therefore, before one has died and before one's body is too old and decrepit, one should in this world as soon as possible endeavor to atone for one's sins with a proper estimate of their gravity, just like an experienced physician determines the cause in order to treat a disease.'
(9) The king said: 'What is the value of atonement when one can't control oneself, despite of hearing and seeing about it and knowing how harmful to oneself [and others] it is to act badly? (10) Sometimes ceasing with the sin, sometimes engaging in it again, I consider the process of atonement quite useless. It is like with an elephant covering itself with dust after coming out of the water.'
(11) The son of Vyâsa said: 'By countering one [fruitive] deed with another [with compensating] there is indeed no end to that action when there is a lack of [self-]knowledge. Sins are only atoned for after [self-]searching, after investigation [also: discussions, confessions or psychotherapy; vimars'ana]. (12) Those who eat the right food will not be plagued by all kinds of diseases, similarly he who manages to discipline himself o King, more and more qualifies for well-being and happiness. (13-14) By means of voluntary penance and chastity, by equal-mindedness and sense control, by sacrificing [charity] and truthfulness, by inner and outer cleanliness, refraining from violence and abuse and by selfrestraint [by means of mantra meditation e.g.] they who endowed with faith and knowledge of dharma are calm and steady in their actions, words and intelligence, put an end to all kinds of sin, however great and abominable, just the way a fire consumes a bamboo forest. (15) Some who rely on nothing but unalloyed devotion [*] unto Vâsudeva, manage to destroy all their badness completely, just like the sun dissipates fog. (16) A man full of sin, o King is certainly not as much purified by penance and such as the devotee is who surrendered his life to Krishna in dedicated service unto the person [the representative] of God [in particular the âcârya]. (17) In this world the most appropriate path is the safe path that free from fear is followed by the well-behaved and auspicious devotees who are of full surrender to Nârâyana. (18) All the atonement well performed by someone who is not devoted to Nârâyana will not purify o King, the same way as the water of all rivers can't purify a liquor jar. (19) Once the mind is of full surrender to the two lotus feet of Lord Krishna one is of the right atonement; one will, attached to His qualities, then never encounter in this world or even in one's dreams Yamarâja and his servants carrying the noose [compare B.G. 18: 66]. (20) Concerning this the example is given of a very old story of a discussion between the servants of Vishnu and Yamarâja. Please let me tell you about it.
(21) Once in the city of Kânyakubja there was a brahmin named Ajâmila who as the husband of a maidservant got corrupted in association with her services and hence no longer endeavored for the truth. (22) Having resorted to reprehensible activities as robbery, fraud and theft, he maintained his family in a most sinful way and gave others a lot of trouble. (23) With the care for her sons thus managing his existence o King, the great lapse of time passed of eighty-eight years of his life. (24) He as an old man, had ten sons and the youngest of them, a small child held very dear by the father and mother, was addressed by the name of Nârâyana. (25) The little one was very near to his heart. The old man enjoyed it very much to see its prattling and playing. (26) As he ate, drank and chewed he, controlled by his affection, also fed the child and gave it something to drink, but foolish as he was he didn't notice that his life drew to a close. (27) When the time of his death had arrived he, who had lived as an ignoramus, thus had a mind fixed on the little son who carried the name of Nârâyana. (28-29) He saw how three characters approached him with fearful features, twisted faces and their hairs standing on end, who with the noose in their hands were ready to take him away. Terrified and with tears in his eyes he thus loudly called for his nearby playing child named Nârâyana. (30) As soon as Vishnu's servants heard the name of the Lord their master from the mouth of the dying man o King, they came immediately. (31) At the moment the messengers of death were pulling away Ajâmila from the heart of the maidservant's husband, the Vishnudûtas forbade it with resounding voices. (32) The messengers of Yama thus being thwarted replied: 'Who do you all think you are to oppose the authority of the King of Dharma? (33) Whose servants are you, where are you from and why have you come here? Why do you stop us in this? Do you belong to the demigods, the lesser gods or to the perfected ones? (34-36) You all, with your lotuslike eyes, yellow garments, helmets, glittering earrings and lotus flower garlands; you all, looking so young and beautiful with your four arms, bow, quiver of arrows and the decoration of a sword, club, conch, disc and lotus flower, in all directions dissipate the darkness with the effulgence of the light emanating from you. For what reason do you deny us, the servants of the Maintainer of Dharma?'
(37) S'uka said: 'Thus being addressed by the Yamadûtas they who followed the word of Vâsudeva replied with a smile, saying the following with voices resounding like rumbling clouds. (38) The Vishnudûtas said: 'If you indeed are all the servants of the King of Dharma, then just tell us what the principles of dharma as also what the characteristics of adharma are. (39) In what way [and to whom] should punishment be administered, what would be the condition qualifying for it and are all or only some human beings who do evil and oppress punishable?'
(40) The Yamadûtas said: 'Dharma is what is prescribed in the Vedas, adharma is the opposite. The Vedas are Nârâyana Himself, the self-born one [from whom they originated], so we've heard. (41) All that manifested with its specific qualities, names, activities and forms has by Him, from His position in heaven, been created through the operation of the material modes of passion, goodness and slowness. (42) All [the divinity of] the sun, the fire, the sky, the air, the gods, the moon, the evening, the day and the night, the directions, the water and the land bears witness to [or structures] the personal dharma [the very nature] of the embodied living entity [see also B.G. 8: 4]. (43) Adharma [in the sense of going against nature] with all these [witnessing divinities] is recognized as the mental condition qualifying for the retribution that is acknowledged as valid for the karma of the offenders deserving punishment. (44) They who under the influence of the natural modes are engaged in actions motivated for results, can be of good, pious deeds as well as of deeds directly opposite to that o pure souls, but no embodied soul can exist without engaging in action. (45) The extent to which someone in this life is of certain righteous or bad deeds, assures him in his next life of the enjoyment or suffering that is their result [compare B.G. 14: 18]. (46) The way one in this life among the living beings o best of the demigods, experiences the different effects of the natural modes in the form of their three attributes [viz. knowledge, movement and inertia], one may having landed elsewhere [in a next life] expect to have a similar experience. (47) Just as the present time carries the characteristics of what was and what will become, someone's present birth likewise is indicative of the dharma and adharma of what one did and will be doing. (48) The godhead [of Yamarâja] is a great Lord as good as Brahmâ; he in his abode sees before his mind's eye the form one previously had and then concludes to the future one will have. (49) Just like someone who with what he projects in his sleep has lost the awareness of what precedes or follows that dream, one is equally unaware of a life before or after this [present] birth. (50) With the five working senses, the five senses of perception and their five objects engaged in pursuing his goals, he with his mind as the sixteenth element is of awareness, but he himself as the one [soul] constitutes the seventeenth element in enjoying the threefold nature of reality [see also B.G. 3: 42-43]. (51) With that sixteen part subtle body [the linga] as a result of the three forces of our greater nature, the living entity is subjected to a [difficult to overcome] repeated series of births [transmigration or samsriti] in which it experiences jubilation, lamentation, fear and misery. (52) The embodied soul who lacks in awareness for not being in control of his senses and mind, against his will is lead to actions for the sake of his own material interests; thus bewildered he like a silkworm weaves himself in[to the cocoon of] his own karma. (53) No one can exist but for a moment without doing something. One is by the three modes automatically forced to perform the fruitive activities belonging to one's nature. (54) On the basis of the imperceptible, unknown cause of that so very powerful personal nature, from womb and seed the gross and subtle body finds its existence to the likeness of the mother and the father [see also B.G. 8: 6]. (55) Because of this association with material nature the position of a living entity has turned into an awkward one of forgetfulness, but if one but for a short while manages to enjoy the association of the Lord, that problem is overcome.
(56-57) This man [Ajâmila] well versed in the Vedas, of a good character and good conduct was [initially] a reservoir of good qualities. He conscientiously mild, controlled and truthful kept to his vows and knew his mantras. He was neat and clean, of the greatest esteem in service of the guru, the fire god, his guests and members of the household and was free from false pride, friendly to all, faultless, non-envious and of the finest choice of words. (58-60) Some day this brahmin following the orders of his father, went into the forest to collect there fruits, flowers, samit and kus'a [types of grass]. On his way back he saw some s'ûdra being very lusty together with a promiscuous maidservant who drunken because of maireya nectar [a drink made from the soma flower] intoxicated rolled her eyes to and fro. Under the influence her dress had slackened and he, unashamed having fallen from proper conduct, stood close to her singing and laughing having a good time with her. (61) When Ajâmila saw her with the with turmeric decorated arm of the lusty s'ûdra around her, he thus all of a sudden with a heart full of lust fell victim to bewilderment. (62) From within trying to regain control, he reminded himself of what was taught, but agitated as he was by Cupid he failed to restrain his mind. (63) Provoked by the sight he, who in his bewilderment stood senseless, resembled a planet in eclipse. With his attention focussed on her he [that very moment] gave up his dharma completely. (64) Her, so he had decided, he would please as far as the money he had from his father allowed it and thus he to make her happy catered to every desire she thought pleasurable. (65) His youthful wife, the brahmin daughter of a respectable family he had married, he in his sin abandoned directly after his mind was caught by the looks of the unchaste woman. (66) He whatever way possible in his weakness acquired properly or else improperly the money he needed to take care of the family consisting of her and her many children. (67) Because this man acted so irresponsibly and broke with all the rules of the s'âstra, he is condemned. Far too long he sinfully passed his time impure with filthy practices. (68) Because he didn't atone for his perpetual sinning, we will take him to the presence of the Lord of Punishment where being punished he will find purification.'