The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "After Yudhishthira had stopped, the great ascetic Devasthana, possessed of eloquence, said these words, fraught with reason, unto the king."
"Devasthana said, 'Phalguna has told thee that there is nothing superior to wealth. I shall discourse to thee on that subject. Listen to me with undivided
attention, O Ajatasatru, thou hast righteously won the earth. Having won her, it behoves thee not, O king, to abandon her without cause. Four modes of life are indicated in the Vedas. Do thou, O king, duly pass through them, one after another. At present thou shouldst, therefore, perform great sacrifices with profuse presents. Amongst the very Rishis, some are engaged in the sacrifice represented by Vedic study, and some in that presented by knowledge. Therefore, O Bharata, thou must know that the very ascetics also are addicted to action. The Vaikhanasas, however, are said to preach that he who does not seek for wealth is superior to him that seeks for it. 1 I think that he who would follow that precept would incur many faults. Men collect together diverse things (for the performance of sacrifices) simply because of the (Vedic) ordinance. He who, tainted by his own understanding, giveth away wealth to an undeserving person without giving it to the deserving, doth not know that he incurs the sin of killing a foetus. 2 The exercise of the duty of charity after discriminating the deserving from the undeserving is not easy. The Supreme Ordainer created wealth for sacrifice, and He created man also for taking care of that wealth and for performing sacrifice. For this reason the whole of one's wealth should be applied to sacrifice. Pleasure would follow from it as a natural consequence. Possessed of abundant energy, Indra, by the performance of diverse sacrifices with profuse gifts of valuables, surpassed all the gods. Having got their chiefship by that means, he shineth in heaven. Therefore, everything should be applied to sacrifices. Clad in deer-skins, the high-souled Mahadeva, having poured his own self as a libation in the sacrifice called Sarva, became the first of gods, and surpassing all creatures in the universe and prevailing over them by means of that achievement, shines in resplendence. King Marutta, the son of Avikshit, by the profusion of his wealth, vanquished Sakra himself, the chief of the gods. In the great sacrifice he performed, all the vessels were of gold, and Sree herself came in person. Thou hast heard that the great king Harischandra, having performed sacrifices, earned great merit and great happiness. Though a man, he nevertheless vanquished Sakra by his wealth. For this reason everything should be applied to sacrifice.'"
37:1 The sense is that instead of performing sacrifices after acquisition of wealth, it is better not to perform sacrifices if they cannot be performed without wealth. Nilakantha, by interpreting Dhanahetu as sacrifices which have wealth for the means of their accomplishment, would come to this meaning directly.
37:2 Atmanam is explained by Nilakantha as meaning something that is regarded as dear as self, i.e., wealth. Such a person incurs the sin of killing a foetus, because that sin proceeds from killing one's own self. Improper use of wealth is, of course, regarded as killing one's ownself.
Next: Section XXI