We have all heard about the Bhagvad Purana being told to King Parikshit in the seven days preceding his foretold time of death by snake bite. It is said that even after the sixth day of listening to Shukadeva’s discourse, Parikshit was still scared of death and attached to his mortal frame.
Then Shukadeva told him a story. This is how it goes – A king once got lost in a forest while he was out hunting. Night fell and the sounds of wild animals growling and barking scared the wits out of him. He came across a shabby looking hut from which emanated some light from a rusted old oil lamp. The man in the hut was incapacitated and could only crawl a little from here to there. The flesh of some dead animals hung from the ceiling which he had half eaten earlier. In a corner of the hut was a space which he had designated to answer the call of nature. The stench that emanated from the hut was so foul and obnoxious that the king could not breathe.
But if he went out, he would surely fall prey to the carnivores of the jungle. So he somehow brought himself to ask the man to allow him to spend the night in the hut that was nothing short of a hell-hole. The man said, “Who so ever I allow staying for a night, refuses to go away in the morning. They create hue and cry, and they want to stay for longer. I cannot keep you here.
The King pleaded and finally the man agreed after repeating again very firmly, that the king must leave, first thing in the morning.
Strangely, the smell emanating from the dead animals and human refuse had a terribly intoxicating effect on the king and he slept extremely well that night. It was well past dawn when the king was rudely woken up by the angry man, who ordered him to vacate his hut. The king was so well rested and relaxed that he forgot the purpose of his stay and begged the man to allow him to stay a few more nights. A heated exchange of words ensued. Both were adamant and argued and hurled abuses at the other.
Here Shukhadeva paused and asked, “Oh king Parikshit, do you think the king was being wise and prudent in begging to stay longer in the hut?”
Parikshit said, “Absolutely not! What a fool the king was to ask to stay in that hell hole full of stench and decay? How foolish of him, to forget the purpose of his stay in the hut! Had it been for me, I would have run away at the first break of dawn. Who would want to sleep in a place that stinks of faecal matter, urine and the flesh of dead animals?”
Shukhadeva said softly, “Your majesty, that foolish king is you! The time allotted to you is getting over tomorrow. You have forgotten the purpose for which you were given this birth. You are intoxicated by this body that is nothing short of a hell hole. It is time for you to stop making such a ruckus and cut the ties that bind and proceed to the abode of the Lord, from where you have come.”
With these words, Parikshit understood the meaning of life and finally started preparing for death.
One of the most valuable messages the scriptures convey is this: Carry on your legitimate duties, discharge your obligations, and live up to your rights; but do not allow attachment to grow. Be like a trustee so far as family, riches, reputation, knowledge and skills are concerned. Leave them gladly aside, when the call of death comes.