King Yudhisthira performed a great sacrifice (Yajna) after the battle of Kurukshetra was over. He gave very rich presents to the priests and to the poor. All were greatly astonished at the grandeur of this magnanimous sacrifice. They exclaimed with great joy: “We have never seen in our life time such a splendid sacrifice. There had never been such a glorious Yajna in the annals of the world’s history. Glory to King Yudhisthira! Glory to Arjuna! Glory to the Pandavas and Draupadi!”
A small mongoose appeared on the scene. Half of his body was golden and the other half was brown. He rolled on the ground where the Yajna was performed. He then exclaimed with sorrow: “This is no Yajna at all. Why do you praise this sacrifice in such glowing terms? You are all hypocrites and liars.” The people replied: “What! You silly mongoose! Have you not realised the glory of this Maha Yajna? Thousands of poor people have become very rich. Millions of people have been sumptuously fed. Jewels and clothes have been distributed in abundance. The world has never witnessed such wonderful sacrifice. Get thee gone, O miserable wretch, O foolish mongoose!”
The mongoose replied: “My dear sirs, do not be annoyed with me unnecessarily. Just hear my words with patience. There was a poor Brahmin in a small village. He lived in a small hut with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. There was a great famine. The whole family suffered for months. They were starving for days together. One day the poor man brought some rice and dhal. When they were ready to take their meals, they heard a voice at their door. The Brahmin opened the door and found a guest. He said: ‘O venerable guest, come inside. Take your seat and your food.’ He gave his portion of the food to the guest. The guest said: ‘Sir, my hunger is not satisfied. I am starving for the last fifteen days.’ The wife said to her husband: ‘My lord, here is my share. Kindly give him this portion of food. I am thy Ardhangini. It is my duty to share with you the weal and woe of life. The Sastras and Smritis declare like this emphatically.’ The guest ate this portion also, but still his hunger was not appeased. The son said: ‘Dear father, I must do my duty to you, otherwise people will criticise me. I must please you in the fulfilment of your holy wish. Give him my share also.’ The guest ate this and yet he remained unsatisfied. The wife of the son said: ‘O venerable father-in-law, you have all performed the greatest self-sacrifice. I must also join in this Yajna. Kindly give him my portion too.’ The guest ate this portion and was fully satisfied. He then blessed the poor Brahmin and his family and departed in great joy. These four persons died of starvation the same day. A few grains of rice were found on the ground. I rolled myself on those particles. Half of my body became golden. Since then I have been travelling all over the world to find out another Yajna like that. Nowhere have I found one. Nowhere have I been able to convert the other half of my body into gold. This sacrifice of Yudhisthira has not turned the other half of the body into gold. That is the reason why I say that this is no sacrifice at all. Have you understood my point well. Do not become angry. Truth can never hurt the feeling of others.” The priests and others who enjoyed the Yajna of Raja Yudhisthira were put to shame. They hung down their heads in shame. They realised now what true sacrifice was, that it should be free from pride and vanity.
Mark here the glory of the poor Brahmin and his remarkable spirit of self-sacrifice! He was an ideal householder. He was an ideal Karma Yogi. He reached the same state of Kaivalya as that of a Brahma Jnani or a Raja Yogi. May you all shine as this poor Brahmin!