The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, 'Having bowed unto Hrishikesa, and saluted Bhishma, and taken the permission of all the seniors assembled there, Yudhishthira began to put questions unto Bhishma.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Persons conversant with duty and morality say that kingly duties constitute the highest science of duty. I also think that the burden of those duties is exceedingly onerous. Do thou, therefore, O king, discourse on those duties. O grandsire, do thou speak in detail on the duties
of kings. The science of kingly duties is the refuge of the whole world of life. O thou of Kuru's race, Morality, Profit, and Pleasure are dependent on kingly duties. It is also clear that the practices that lead to emancipation are equally dependent on them. As the reins are in respect of the steed or the iron hook in respect of the elephant, even so the science of kingly duties constitutes the reins for checking the world. If one becomes stupefied in respect of the duties observed by royal sages, disorder would set in on the earth and everything will become confused. As the Sun, rising, dispels inauspicious darkness, so this science destroys every kind of evil consequence in respect of the world. Therefore, O grandsire, do thou, for my sake, discourse on kingly duties in the first instance, for thou, O chief of the Bharatas, art the foremost of all persons conversant with duties. O scorcher of foes, Vasudeva regards thee as the first of all intelligent persons. Therefore, all of us expect the highest knowledge from thee.'
"Bhishma said, 'Bowing unto Dharma who is Supreme, unto Krishna who is Brahma in full, and unto the Brahmanas, I shall discourse on the eternal duties (of men). Hear from me, O Yudhishthira, with concentrated attention, the whole range of kingly duties described with accurate details, and other duties that you mayst desire to know. In the first place, O foremost one of Kuru's race, the king should, from desire of pleasing (his subjects), wait with humility upon the gods and the Brahmanas, always bearing himself agreeably to the ordinance. By worshipping the deities and the Brahmanas, O perpetuator of Kuru's race, the king pays off his debt to duty and morality, and receives the respect of his subjects. O son, thou shouldst always exert with promptitude, O Yudhishthira, for without promptitude of exertion mere destiny never accomplishes the objects cherished by kings. These two, viz., exertion and destiny, are equal (in their operation). Of them, I regard exertion to be superior, for destiny is ascertained from the results of what is begun with exertion. Do not indulge in grief if what is commenced ends disastrously, for thou shouldst then exert thyself in the same act with redoubled attention. This is the high duty of kings. There is nothing which contributes so much to the success of kings as Truth. The king who is devoted to Truth finds happiness both here and hereafter. As regards Rishis also, O king, Truth is their great wealth. Similarly, as regards kings, there is nothing that so much inspires confidence in them as Truth. The king that is possessed of every accomplishment and good behaviour, that is self-restrained, humble, and righteous, that has his passions under control, that is of handsome features and not too enquiring, 1 never loses prosperity. By administering justice, by attending to these three, viz., concealment of his own weaknesses, ascertainment of the weaknesses of foes, and keeping his own counsels, as also by the observance of conduct that is straightforward, the king, O delighter of the Kurus, obtains prosperity. If the king becomes mild, everybody disregards him On the other hand, if he becomes fierce, his subjects then become troubled.
Therefore, do thou observe both kinds of behaviour. O foremost of liberal men, the Brahmanas should never be punished by thee, for the Brahmana, O son of Pandu, is the foremost of beings on the Earth. The high-souled Manu, O king of kings, that sung two Slokas. In respect of thy duties, O thou of Kuru's race, thou shouldst always bear them in mind. Fire hath sprung from water, the Kshatriya from the Brahmana, and iron from stone. The three (viz., fire, Kshatriya and iron) can exert their force on every other thing, but coming into contact with their respective progenitors, their force becomes neutralised. When iron strikes stone, or fire battles with water, or Kshatriya cherishes enmity towards Brahmana, these three soon become weak. When this is so, O monarch, (you will see that) the Brahmanas are worthy of worship. They that are foremost among the Brahmanas are gods on earth. Duly worshipped, they uphold the Vedas and the Sacrifices. But they, O tiger among kings, that desire to have such honour however much they may be impediments to the three worlds, should ever be repressed by the might of thy arms. The great Rishi Usanas, O son, sang two Slokas in days of old. Listen to them, O king, with concentrated attention. The righteous Kshatriya, mindful of his duties, should chastise a Brahmana that may be a very master of the Vedas if he rushes to battle with an uplifted weapon. The Kshatriya, conversant with duties, that upholds righteousness when it is trespassed against, does not, by that act, become a sinner, for the wrath of the assailant justifies the wrath of the chastiser. Subject to these restrictions, O tiger among kings, the Brahmanas should be protected. If they become offenders, they should then be exiled beyond thy dominions. Even when deserving of punishment, thou shouldst, O kings, show them compassion. If a Brahmana becomes guilty of Brahmanicide, or of violating the bed of his preceptor or other revered senior, or of causing miscarriage, or of treason against the king, his punishment should be banishment from thy dominions. No corporal chastisement is laid down for them. Those persons that show respect towards the Brahmanas should be favoured by thee (with offices in the state). There is no treasure more valuable to kings than that which consists in the selection and assemblage of servants. Among the six kinds of citadels indicated in the scriptures, indeed among every kind of citadel, that which consists of (the ready service and the love of the) subjects is the most impregnable. Therefore, the king who is possessed of wisdom should always show compassion towards the four orders of his subjects. The king who is of righteous soul and truthful speech succeeds in gratifying his subjects. Thou must not, however, O son always behave with forgiveness towards everybody, for the king that is mild is regarded as the worst of his kind like an elephant that is reft of fierceness. In the scriptures composed by Vrihaspati, a Sloka was in days of old applicable to the present matter. Hear it, O king as I recite it. 'If the king happens to be always forgiving, the lowest of persons prevails over him, even as the driver who sits on the head of the elephant he guides.' The king, therefore, should not always be mild. Nor should he always be fierce. He should be like the vernal Sun, neither cold nor so hot as to produce perspiration. By the direct evidence of the senses, by conjecture, by comparisons, and by the canons,
of the scriptures O monarch, the king should Study friends and foes. O thou of great liberality, thou shouldst avoid all those evil practices that are called Vyasanas. It is not necessary that thou shouldst never indulge in them. What, however, is needed is that thou shouldst not be attached to them. He that is attached to those practices is prevailed over by everyone. The king who cherishes no love for his people inspires the latter with anxiety. The king should always bear himself towards his subjects as a mother towards the child of her womb. Hear, O monarch, the reason why this becomes desirable. As the mother, disregarding those objects that are most cherished by her, seeks the good of her child alone, even so, without doubt, should kings conduct themselves (towards their subjects). The king that is righteous, O foremost one of Kuru's race, should always behave in such a manner as to a old what is dear to him, for the sake of doing that which would benefit his people. Thou shouldst not ever, O son of Pandu, abandon fortitude. The king that is possessed of fortitude and who is known to inflict chastisement on wrong-doers, has no cause of fear. O foremost of speakers, thou shouldst not indulge in jests with thy servants. O tiger among kings, listen to the faults of such conduct. If the master mingles too freely with them, dependents begin to disregard him. They forget their own position and most truly transcend that of the master. Ordered to do a thing, they hesitate, and divulge the master's secrets. They ask for things that should not be asked for, and take the food that is intended for the master. They go to the length of displaying their wrath and seek to outshine the master. They even seek to predominate over the king, and accepting bribes and practising deceit, obstruct the business of the state. They cause the state to rot with abuses by falsifications and forgeries. They make love with the female guards of the palace and dress in the same style as their master. They become so shameless as to indulge in eructations and the like, and expectorate in the very presence of their master, O tiger among kings, and they do not fear to even speak of him with levity before others. If the king becomes mild and disposed to jest, his servants, disregarding him, ride on steeds and elephants and cars as good as the king's. 1 His counsellors, assembled in court, openly indulge in such speeches as: 'This is beyond thy power. This is a wicked attempt.' If the king becomes angry, they laugh; nor are they gladdened if favours be bestowed upon them, though they may express joy for other reasons. They disclose the secret counsels of their master and bruit his evil acts. Without the least anxiety they set at naught the king's commands. If the king's jewels, or food, or the necessaries of his bath, or unguents, be not forthcoming, the servants, in his very presence, do not show the least anxiety. They do not take what rightfully belongs to them. On the other hand, without being content with what has been assigned to them, they appropriate what belongs to the king. They wish to sport with the king as with a bird tied with a string, And always give the people to understand that the king is very intimate with them and loves them dearly. If the king becomes mild and disposed to jest, O Yudhishthira, these and many other
evils spring from it.'"
113:1 Literally,--'the eternal bridge of virtue.'
114:1 In the sense of being liberal. A king should not too minutely enquire into what is done with the things belonging to him.
116:1 Literally, 'worthy of being used by the king.'
Next: Section LVII