Lord Indra and a parrot!
(Anushasana Parva- Mahabharata)
King Yudhishthira very humbly asked, ‘O Pitamaha! You are intelligent and you know the truth of Dharma. I am very much eager to know the merits of compassion and the characteristics of devout men. O Sire, tell me about that.’
Pitamaha Bhishma said, ‘O son, there is a legend regarding this- The story of Vasava and the high-souled Shuka (a parrot). Listen to this story. Thus, Bhishma began the story————-
There lived a fowler in the territory of the king of Kashi. Once, he set out to hunt antelope with his arrows tipped with virulent poison. He was desirous of obtaining meat. After a while, he saw a group of antelopes not far from him. Desirous of killing, he discharged his arrow which was already tipped with poison, aiming at one of them. But, unfortunately, he missed the target, instead, it pierced a mighty forest tree. Being stuck with virulent poison, the tree withered away shedding its leaves and fruits. A parrot who had lived inside the hollow of that tree trunk all his life did not abandon that tree out of affection for the tree. Its heart filled with sorrow and without food that grateful and virtuous parrot also withered away with the tree.
Beholding the compassion of that virtuous-minded parrot for that tree, Lord Indra was struck with wonder thinking how could the bird be uninfluenced by misery or happiness? Thus, Lord Indra thought, ‘How come this bird could possess such humane and generous feelings which is impossible to find in lower animals.’
Thus, Lord Indra took the form of a Brahmana descended on earth and addressing the bird said, ‘O Shuka, your ancestors are blessed having you as their offspring! I am surprised that you have not left this tree until now. It is already withered away!’
‘Welcome to you, O Lord of lords! I have recognized you by the merit of my severe penances.’
Then, Lord Indra praised him in his mind for his excellent knowledge! He knew that the parrot was highly virtuous-minded, yet he asked him about the reason for his affection for that tree for which he had not left that place till then. He said, ‘Behold O Suka! This tree is withered away shedding its leaves and fruits. It is no longer fit to be a refuge for any birds. Why are you so eager to stay here? This forest is so vast. There are numerous fine trees whose hollows are covered with leaves. You can choose any of them and live happily. Forsake this old tree which is no more capable of doing any good.’
Hearing the cruel words of Indra, the high-souled Shuka took a deep sigh and in a choked voice said, ‘O the king of Gods, the ordinances of the deities are always to be obeyed. O Lord, listen to me for why I have not abandoned this. Here, within this tree I was born, this is the place where I learned all the good traits of character and this is the place where I was protected from my enemies. And, O Lord, why are you asking me to deviate from my morality? I am compassionate and devoted to virtue. O sinless one! Compassion and generosity are the true source of felicity to the virtuous. All the gods seek your help to remove their doubts about religion. So, it is not a proper act of yours to advise me to forsake this tree forever. O Lord, when it was capable of good, it supported my life fully. How can I abandon it now when it is suffering?’
Lord Indra was pleased hearing the noble words of the parrot and said, ‘O Suka, I am gratified! Ask me a boon whatever you wish.’
Out of sheer happiness, the parrot said, ‘ O lord, let this tree revive.’ Lord Indra sprinkled the nectar upon the tree which once again got back its life and filled with leaves and fruits like before through the penances of the parrot.
Thus, by communion and companionship with the pious, people obtain their desirous objects just like the dead tree revived again through its friendship with the parrot!