The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "Thus addressed by Arjuna of curly hair, the Kuru king born of Kunti remained speechless. Then the island-born (Vyasa) said these words.
"Vyasa said, 'The words of Arjuna, O amiable Yudhishthira, are true. The highest religion, as declared by the scriptures, depends on the duties of domesticity. Thou art acquainted with all duties. Do thou then duly practise the duties prescribed for thee (viz., the duties of domesticity). A life of retirement in the woods, casting off the duties of domesticity, has not been laid down for thee. The gods, Pitris, guests, and servants, all depend (for their sustenance) upon the person leading a life of domesticity. Do thou then support all these, O lord of the earth! Birds and animals and various other creatures, O ruler of men, are supported by men leading domestic lives. He, therefore, that belongs to that mode of life is superior (to all others). A life of domesticity is the most difficult of all the four modes of life. Do thou practise that mode of life then, O Partha, which is difficult of being practised by persons of unrestrained sense. Thou hast a good knowledge of all the Vedas. Thou hast earned great ascetic merit. It behoveth thee, therefore, to bear like an ox the burthen of thy ancestral kingdom. Penances, sacrifices, forgiveness, learning, mendicancy, keeping the senses under control, contemplation, living in solitude, contentment, and knowledge (of Brahma), should, O king, be striven after by Brahmanas to the best of their ability for the attainment of success. I shall now tell thee the duties of Kshatriyas. They are not unknown to thee. Sacrifice, learning, exertion, ambition, 1 wielding 'the rod of punishment,' fierceness, protection of subjects., knowledge of the Vedas, practise of all kinds of penances, goodness of conduct, acquisition of wealth, and gifts to deserving persons,--these, O king, well performed and acquired by persons of the royal order, secure for them both this world and the next, as heard by us. Amongst these, O son of Kunti, wielding the rod of chastisement has been said to be the foremost. Strength must always reside in a Kshatriya, and upon strength depends chastisement. Those duties that I have mentioned are, O king, the principal ones for Kshatriyas and contribute greatly to their success. Vrihaspati, in this connection, sang this verse: 'Like a snake devouring a mouse, the Earth devours a king that is inclined to peace and a Brahmana that is exceedingly attached to a life of domesticity.' It is heard
again that the royal sage Sudyumna, only by wielding the rod of chastisement, obtained the highest success, like Daksha himself, the son of Prachetas.'
Yudhishthira said, 'O holy one, by what acts did Sudyumna, that lord of the earth, obtain the highest success? I desire to hear the history of that king!'
"Vyasa said, 'In this connection is cited this old history. There were two brothers, viz., Sankha and Likhita, of rigid vows. The two brothers had two separate dwellings both of which were beautiful. Situate by the bank of the stream called Vahuda, both of those residences were adorned with trees that were always burthened with flowers and fruits. Once on a time Likhita came to the residence of his brother Sankha. At that time, however, Sankha had gone out of his asylum on no fixed purpose. Arrived at the asylum of his brother, Likhita plucked many ripe fruits. Obtaining them the regenerate Likhita began to eat them without any qualms of conscience. While still employed in the act of eating, Sankha came back to his retreat. Beholding him eating, Sankha addressed his brother, saying, 'Whence have these fruits been obtained and for what reason art thou eating them?' Approaching his elder brother and saluting him, Likhita smilingly replied, saying, 'I have taken them even from this retreat.' Filled with great rage, Sankha said unto him, 'Thou hast committed theft by thyself taking these fruits. Go and approaching the king confess to him what thou hast done. Tell him, O best of kings, I have committed the offence of approaching what was not given to me. Knowing me for a thief and observing the duty of thy order, do thou soon inflict upon me, O ruler of men, the punishment of a thief.' Thus addressed, the highly blessed Likhita of rigid vows, at the command of his brother, proceeded to king Sudyumna. Hearing from his gate-keepers that Likhita had come, king Sudyumna, with his counsellors, advanced (for receiving the sage). Meeting him, the king addressed that foremost of all persons conversant with duties, saying, 'Tell me, O revered one, the reason of thy coming. Regard it as already accomplished.' Thus questioned, that regenerate sage said unto Sudyumna, 'Do thou promise first that thou wilt achieve it. It will then behove thee, after hearing me, to accomplish that promise. O bull among men, I ate some fruits that had not been given me by my elder brother. Do thou, O monarch, punish me for it without delay.' Sudyumna answered, 'If the king be regarded as competent to wield the rod of chastisement, he should be regarded, O bull among Brahmanas, as equally competent to pardon. Purified in respect of thy act, O thou of high vows, consider thyself as pardoned. Tell me now what other wishes thou hast. I shall certainly accomplish those commands of thine!'
"Vyasa continued, 'Thus honoured by the high-souled king, the regenerate sage Likhita, however, did not solicit him for any other favour. Then that ruler of the earth caused the two hands of the high-souled Likhita to be cut off, whereupon the latter, bearing the punishment, went away. Returning to his brother Sankha, Likhita, in great affection, said, 'It behoveth thee now to pardon this wretch that hath been duly punished (for what he did).' Sankha said, I am not angry with thee, nor hast thou injured me, O foremost
of all persons conversant with duties. Thy virtue, however, had suffered a shock. I have rescued thee from that plight. Proceed without delay to the river Vahuda and gratify duly, with oblations of water, the gods, Rishis and the Pitris, and never again set thy heart on sin.' Hearing these words of Sankha, Likhita performed his ablutions in the sacred stream and set about for commencing the water-rite. Upon this, two hands, resembling two lotuses, appeared at the extremities of his stumps. Filled with wonder he came back to his brother and showed him the two hands. Sankha said unto him, 'All this has been accomplished by me through my penances. Do not be surprised at it. Providence hath been the instrument here.' Likhita answered, 'O thou of great splendour, why didst thou not purify me at first, when, O best of regenerate ones, such was the energy of thy penances?' Sankha, said, 'I should not have acted otherwise. I am not thy chastiser. The ruler (who has punished thee) has been himself purified, as also thyself, along with the Pitris!'
"Vyasa continued, 'That king, O eldest son of Pandu, became eminent by this act and obtained the highest success like the lord Daksha himself! Even this is the duty of Kshatriyas, viz., the ruling of subjects. Any other, O monarch, would be regarded as a wrong path for them. Do not give way to grief. O best of all persons conversant with duty, listen to the beneficial words of this thy brother. Wielding the rod of chastisement, O king, is the duty of kings and not the shaving of the head.'"
40:1 Literally, the absence of contentment with present prosperity.
Next: Section XXIV