The Mahabharata Home
Bhimasena said, "Thy understanding, O king, has become blind to the
truth, like that of a foolish and unintelligent reciter of the Veda in consequence of his repeated recitation of those scriptures. If censuring the duties of kings thou wouldst lead a life of idleness, then, O bull of Bharata's race, this destruction of the Dhartarashtras was perfectly uncalled for. Are forgiveness and compassion and pity and abstention from injury not to be found in anybody walking along the path of Kshatriya duties? If we Knew that this was thy intention, we would then have never taken up arms and slain a single creature. We would then have lived by mendicancy till the destruction of this body. This terrible battle between the rulers of the earth would also have never taken place. The learned have said this all that we see is food for the strong. Indeed, this mobile and immobile world is our object of enjoyment for the person that is strong. Wise men acquainted with Kshatriya duties have declared that they who stand in the way of the person taking the sovereignty of the earth, should be slain. Guilty of that fault, those that stood as enemies of our kingdom have all been slain by us. Having slain them, O Yudhishthira, righteously govern this earth. This our act (in refusing the kingdom) is like that of a person who having dug a well stops in his work before obtaining water and comes up smutted with mire. Or, this our act is like that of a person who having climbed up a tall tree and taken honey there from meets with death before tasting it. Or, it is like that of a person who having set out on a long way comes back in despair without having reached his destination. Or, it is like that of a person who having slain all his foes, O thou of Kuru's race, at last Falls by his own hand. Or, it is like that of a person afflicted with hunger, who having obtained food, refuses to take it, or of a person under the influence of desire, who having obtained a woman reciprocating his passion, refuses to meet with her. We have become objects of censure, O Bharata, because, O king, we follow thee that art of feeble understanding, in consequence of thyself being our eldest brother. We are possessed of mighty arms; we are accomplished in knowledge and endued with great energy. Yet we are obedient to the words of a eunuch as if we were entirely helpless. We are the refuge of all helpless persons. Yet, when people see us so, why would they not say that in respect of the acquisition of our objects we are entirely powerless? Reflect on this that I say. It has been laid down that (a life of) renunciation should be adopted, only in times of distress, by kings overcome with decrepitude or defeated by foes. Men of wisdom, therefore, do not applaud renunciation as the duty of a Kshatriya. On the other hand, they that are of clear sight think that the adoption of that course of life (by a Kshatriya) involves even the loss of virtue. How can those that have sprung from that order, that are devoted to the practices of that order, and that have refuge in them, censure those duties? Indeed, if those duties be censurable, then why should not the Supreme Ordainer be censured? 1 It is only those persons that are reft of prosperity and wealth and that are infidels in faith, that have promulgated this precept of the Vedas (about the propriety of a Kshatriya's adoption of
a life of renunciation) as the truth. In reality, however, it is never proper for a Kshatriya to do so. He who is competent to support life by prowess, he who can support himself by his own exertions, does not live, but really falls away from his duty, by the hypocritical externals of a life of renunciation. That man only is capable of leading a solitary life of happiness in the woods who is unable to support sons and grandsons and the deities and Rishis and guests and Pitris. As the deer and boars and birds (though they lead a forest life) cannot attain to heaven, even so those Kshatriyas that are not bereft of prowess yet not given to doing good turns cannot attain to heaven by leading only a forest life. They should acquire religious merit by other ways. If, O king, anybody were to obtain success from renunciation, then mountains and trees would surely obtain it! These latter are always seen to lead lives of renunciation. They do not injure any one. They are, again, always aloof from a life of worldliness and are all Brahmacharins. If it be the truth that a person's success depends upon his own lot in life and not upon that of other, then (as a person born in the Kshatriya order) thou shouldst betake thyself to action. He that is reft of action can never have success. If they that fill only their own stomachs could attain to success, then all aquatic creatures would obtain it, for these have none else to support save their own selves. Behold, the world moves on, with every creature on it employed in acts proper to its nature. Therefore, one should betake oneself to action. The man reft of action can never obtain success.'"
16:1 The sense is that as the Ordainer cannot be censured, therefore, that which He has ordained for the Kshatriyas cannot be deserving of censure.
Next: Section XI