“Yudhishthira said, ’Do thou discourse to me once again, O grandsire, upon the merits attaching to gifts of sesame and of lamps for lighting darkness, as also of food and robes.’
“Bhishma said, ’In this connection, O Yudhishthira, is recited the narrative of the discourse that took place in ancient times between a Brahmana and Yama. In the country lying between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, at the foot of the hills called Yamuna, there was a large town inhabited by Brahmanas. The town was celebrated under the name of Parnasala and was very delightful in appearance, O king. A large number of learned Brahmanas lived in it. One day, Yama, the ruler of the dead, commanded a messenger of his, who was clad in black, endued with blood-red eyes and hair standing erect, and possessed of feet, eyes, and nose all of which resembled those of a crow, saying, ’Go thou to the town inhabited by Brahmanas and bring hither the person known by the name of Sarmin and belonging by birth to the race of Agastya. He is intent on mental tranquillity and possessed of learning. He is a preceptor engaged in teaching the Vedas and his practices are well-known. Do not bring me another person belonging to the same race and living in the same neighbourhood. This other man is equal unto him I want, in virtues, study, and birth. With respect to children and conduct, this other resembles the intelligent Sarmin. Do thou bring the individual I have in view. He should be worshipped with respect (instead of being dragged hither with irreverence).’ The messenger having come to the place, did the very reverse of what he had been bidden to do. Attacking that person, he brought him who had been forbidden by Yama to be brought. Possessed of great energy, Yama rose up at the sight of the Brahmana and worshipped him duly. The king of the dead then commanded his messenger, saying, ’Let this one be taken back, and let the other one be brought to me.’ When the great judge of the dead said these words, that Brahmana addressed him and said, ’I have completed my study of the Vedas and am no longer attached to the world. Whatever period may yet remain of my mortal existence, I wish to pass, dwelling even here, O thou of unfading glory!
“Yama said, ’I cannot ascertain the exact period, ordained by Time, of one’s life, and hence, unurged by Time, I cannot allow one to take up one’s residence here. I take note of the acts of righteousness (or otherwise) that one does in the world. Do thou, O learned Brahmana of great splendour return immediately to thy abode. ’I ell me what also is in thy mind and what I can do for thee, O thou of unfading glory!’
“The Brahmana said, ’Do thou tell me what those acts are by accomplishing which one may earn great merit. O best of all beings, thou art the foremost of authorities (on the subject) even in the three worlds.’