SKANDHA VI. CHAP. 1-3.
Râjâ Parikshit asked how men could avoid Naraka.
SUKA replied: — It is by Prâyaschitta (expiation) that men can avoid Naraka. But it is not Vedic Prâyaschitta, not fasting by Chândrâyana and other Vratas. These Vedic performances cannot root out vicious tendencies, for the performer is seen again to indulge in vices. They do not purify the mind. They simply counteract the Kârmic effect of the act for which Prâyaschitta is performed. The real Prâyaschitta is devotion to Vishnu.
Ajâmila was the son of a Brâhmana. He was dutiful, virtuous, modest, truthful, and regular in the performance of Vedic injunctions. One day in obedience to his father he went into the forests and there collected fruits, flowers, sacrificial wood and Kusa — on returning he saw a Sudra in company with a slave-girl. He tried much to subdue his passions but did not succeed. He spent the whole of his patrimony to win the love of that girl. He gave up his own wife and kept company with that slave girl. He had by her several sons of whom the youngest was Nârâyana. Ajâmila lost all his good qualities in low company and he forgot his daily practices. To support the woman and her children, he had recourse to all sorts of vicious and unlawful acts. Nârâyana was the favorite among his sons. He caressed him always. At last his end approached. He thought even then of his youngest son who was playing at a distance. Three fierce-looking messengers of Yâma appeared, with ropes in hand. Terrified at the sight Ajâmila cried out “Nârâyana, Nârâyana.” Instantly the Messengers of Vishnu appeared. At the time when the servants of Yâma were drawing out the Jiva from the heart of Ajâmila, the attendants of Vishnu stopped them with a strong voice. “But who are you” said they “to interfere with the just sway of Yâma.” The bright attendants of Vishnu only smiled and asked: “What is Dharma? Does your lord Yâma hold the sceptre of punishment against all who perform Karma? Is there no distinction made?”
The astral messengers replied: — “The performance of Vedic Injunctions is Dharma and their disregard is Adharma. This Ajâmila in his earlier days duly respected the Vedas. But in company with the slave-girl, he lost his Brahmânism, disregarded the Vedas and did things which a Brâhmana should not do. He justly comes for punishment to Yama.”
The attendants of Vishnu expressed wonder at these words. “And you are servants of him, who is called the king of Dharma, and you do not know that there is something above the Vedas too. This Ajâmila consciously or unconsciously took the name of Nârâyana and that saved him from your clutches. It is in the nature of fire to consume fuel and so it is in the nature of Vishnu’s name to destroy all sins. If one unconsciously takes some powerful medicine, does it not have effect? It matters not whether Ajâmila meant his youngest son or not but still he took the name of Nârâyana. So you must retire.”
Wonder-struck the servants of Yâma left their hold over Ajâmila. They went away and complained to their Master. “There must be one law and one dispenser of that law. Otherwise some will be punished and others not. Why should there be this difference? We know Thee to be the sole dispenser of the Law for the vicious. But just now the attendants of Vishnu came and wrested from our hands a transgressor against the Vedas.”
“True my sons”, replied Yâma, “there is some one above me and it is Vishnu. His ways are mysterious.
“The whole Universe is in Him. His attendants always save His votaries. Only twelve of us know his Dharma, which is Bhâgavata and no one else. These twelve are Brahmâ, Śiva, Sanat Kumâra, Nârada, Kapila, Manu, Prahlâda, Janaka, Bhishma, Bali, Suka and myself.”
Ajâmila heard the conversation between the messengers of Yâma and Vishnu. He became sorely penitent (the repentance is strongly described). He overcame his attachments, left the house and went to Haridvâra. There he meditated on Vishnu with concentrated mind. The former attendants of Vishnu appeared once more and took him on a chariot to Vishnu Loka.