न स्विदेतेऽप्युच्छिष्टा इति न वा अजीविष्यमिमानखादन्निति होवाच कामो म उदपानमिति ॥ १.१०.४ ॥
na svidete’pyucchiṣṭā iti na vā ajīviṣyamimānakhādanniti hovāca kāmo ma udapānamiti || 1.10.4 ||
4. The elephant-driver asked, ‘Aren’t the pulses also unclean?’ Uṣasti replied: ‘I would die if I did not have these grains to eat. As regards drinking water, [it is not that important]. I can get it when I like’.
Svit ete api na ucchiṣṭāḥ iti, [the driver said, by the same token] aren’t these [pulses] also unclean; ha uvāca, [Uṣasti] replied; imān, these [pulses]; akhādan, [if I] do not eat; na vai ajīviṣyam iti, I will not survive; udapānam, drinking water [on the other hand]; me kāmaḥ iti, is left to me.
Normally a person should not eat or drink, anything unclean (ucchiṣṭa)—that is, something which someone else has already eaten or drunk a part of. But when it is a question of survival, the scriptures condone such eating or drinking. Uṣasti was aware of the injunctions of the scriptures in this respect, and he knew they would permit his eating the unclean pulses, but not his drinking the unclean water. Clean water was easily available, so he would not have died if he refrained from drinking it.
The scriptures take much pains to point out when eating or drinking unclean things is permissible. In this connection, the reader’s attention is drawn to sūtra 3.4.28 of the Brahma Sūtras.