The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'O mighty-armed one, listen now to me, O thou of prowess incapable of being baffled, as I mention the names of the four modes of life and the duties in respect of each. The four modes are Vanaprastha, Bhaikshya, Garhasthya of great merit, and Brahmacharya which is adopted by Brahmanas. Undergoing the purificatory rite in respect of bearing matted locks, after having gone through the rite of regeneration and performed for some time the rites in respect of the sacred fire and studied the Vedas, one should, with cleansed soul and senses under restraint, having first carefully performed all the duties of the mode called Garhasthya, proceed, with or without his wife, to the woods for adoption of the mode called Vanaprastha. Having studied the scriptures called Aranyakas, having drawn up his vital fluid and having retired from all worldly affairs, the virtuous recluse may then attain to an absorption with the eternal Soul knowing no decay. These are the indications of Munis that have drawn up their vital fluid. A learned Brahmana, O king, should first practise and perform them. The Brahmana, O king, that is desirous of emancipation, it is well known, is competent to adopt the Bhaikshya mode after having gone through the mode called Brahmacharya. Sleeping at that place (in the course of the
wanderings) where evening overtakes him, without desire of bettering his situation, without a home, subsisting on whatever food is obtained (in charity), given to contemplation, practising self-restraint, with the senses under control, without desire, regarding all creatures equally, without enjoyments, without dislike to anything, the Brahmana possessed of learning, by adopting this mode of life, attains to absorption with the eternal Soul that knows no decay. The person leading the Garhasthya mode of life should, after studying the Vedas, accomplish all the religious acts laid down for him. He should beget children and enjoy pleasures and comforts. With careful attention he should accomplish all the duties of this mode of life that is applauded by ascetics and that is extremely difficult to go through (without transgressions). He should be satisfied with his own wedded wife and should never approach her except her season. He should observe the ordinances of the scriptures, should not be cunning and deceitful. He should be abstemious in diet, devoted to the gods, grateful, mild, destitute of cruelty, and forgiving. He should be of a tranquil heart, tractable and attentive in making offerings to the gods and the Pitris. He should always be hospitable to the Brahmanas. He should be without pride, and his charity should not be confined to any one sect. He should also be always devoted to the performance of the Vedic rites. In this connection, the illustrious and great Rishis cite a verse sung by Narayana himself, of grave import and endued with high ascetic merit. Listen to me as I repeat it.--'By truth, simplicity, worship of guests, acquisition of morality and profit, and enjoyment of one's own wedded wives, one should enjoy diverse kinds of happiness both here and hereafter.' The great Rishis have said that support of sons and wives, and study of the Vedas, form the duties of those that lead this high mode of life. That Brahmana who, always engaged in the performance of sacrifices, duly goes through this mode of life and properly discharges all its duties, obtains blessed rewards in heaven. Upon his death, the rewards desired by him became deathless. Indeed, these wait upon him for eternity like menials ever on the alert to execute the commands of their master. 1 Always attending to the Vedas, silently reciting the mantras obtained from his preceptor, worshipping all the deities, O Yudhishthira, dutifully waiting upon and serving his preceptor with his own body smeared with clay and filth, the person leading the Brahmacharya mode of life should always observe rigid vows and, with senses under control, should always pay attention to the instructions he has received. Reflecting on the Vedas and discharging all the duties (in respect of contemplation and overt acts), he should live, dutifully waiting upon his preceptor and always bowing unto him. Unengaged in the six kinds of work (such as officiating in the sacrifices of others), and never engaged with attachment to any kind of acts, never showing favour or disfavour to any one, doing good even unto his enemies, these, O sire, are the duties laid down for a Brahmacharin!'
134:1 Literally, 'with eyes, head, and face on all sides.'
Next: Section LXII