The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Why, O bull of Bharata's race, have the Brahmanas said that the king, that ruler of men, is a god?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection, is cited the old story, O Bharata, of the discourse of Vrihaspati unto Vasumanas. There was a king of Kosala possessed of great intelligence, named Vasumanas. On a certain occasion he questioned the great sage Vrihaspati of much wisdom. Conversant with the requirements of humility, king Vasumanas, ever devoted to the welfare of all, having observed the proper humilities and having circumambulated the great sage and bowed unto him duly, enquired of the virtuous Vrihaspati about the ordinances in respect of a kingdom, moved by the desire of securing the happiness of men.'
"Vasumanas said, 'By what means do creatures grow and by what are they destroyed? O thou of great wisdom, by adoring whom do they succeed in obtaining eternal happiness?' Thus questioned by the Kosala king of immeasurable energy, Vrihaspati of great wisdom discoursed unto him coolly about the respect that should be paid to kings.
"Vrihaspati said, 'The duties of all men, O thou of great wisdom, may be seen to have their root in the king. It is through fear of the king only that men do not devour one another. It is the king that brings peace on earth, through due observance of duties, by checking all disregard for wholesome restraints and all kinds of lust. Achieving this, he shines in glory. As, O king,
all creatures become unable to see one another and sink in utter darkness if the sun and the moon do not rise, as fishes in shallow water and birds in a spot safe from danger dart and rove as they please (for a time) and repeatedly attack and grind one another with force and then meet with certain destruction even so men sink in utter darkness and meet with destruction if they have no king to protect them, like a herd of cattle without the herdsman to look after them. If the king did not exercise the duty of protection, the strong would forcibly appropriate the possessions of the weak, and if the latter refused to surrender them with ease, their very lives would be taken. Nobody then, with reference to any article in his possession, would be able to say 'This is mine.' Wives, sons, food, and other kinds of property, would not then exist. Ruin would overtake everything if the king did not exercise the duty of protection. Wicked men would forcibly appropriate the vehicles and robes and ornaments and precious stones and other kinds of property belonging to others, if the king did not protect. In the absence of protection by the king, diverse kinds of weapons would fall upon those that are righteous in their practices, and unrighteousness would be adopted by all. In the absence of royal protection men would disregard or even injure their very mothers and fathers if aged, their very preceptors and guests and seniors. If the king did not protect, all persons possessed of wealth would have to encounter death, confinement, and persecution, and the very idea of property would disappear. If the king did not protect, everything would be exterminated prematurely, and every part of the country would be overrun by robbers, and everybody would fall into terrible hell. If the king did not protect, all restrictions about marriage and intercourse (due to consanguinity and other kinds of relationship) would cease; all affairs relating to agricultures and trade would fall into confusion, morality would sink and be lost; and the three Vedas would disappear. Sacrifices, duly completed with presents according to the ordinance, would no longer be performed; no marriage would take place; society itself would cease to exist, if the king did not exercise the duty of protection. The very bulls would not cover cows and milk-jars would not be churned, and men living by rearing kine would meet with destruction, if the king did not exercise the duty of protection. In the absence of royal protection, all things, inspired with fear and anxiety and becoming senseless and uttering cries of woe, would meet with destruction in no time. No sacrifices extending for a year and completed with presents according to the ordinances would occur if the king did not exercise the duty of protection. In the absence of royal protection Brahmanas would never study the four Vedas or undergo austerities or be cleansed by knowledge and rigid vows. In the absence of royal protection, the slayer of a person guilty of the slaughter of a Brahmana would not obtain any reward; on the other hand the person guilty of Brahmanicide would enjoy perfect immunity. In the absence of royal protection, men would snatch other people's wealth from their very hands, and all wholesome barriers would be swept away, and everybody, inspired with fear, would seek safety in flight. In the absence of royal protection, all kinds of injustice would set in; an intermixture of castes would take place; and famine would ravage the kingdom.
[paragraph continues] In consequence again of royal protection, men can everywhere sleep fearlessly and at their case without shutting their houses and doors with bolts and bars. Nobody would hear the evil speeches of others, far less actual assaults, if the king did not righteously protect the earth. 1 If the king exercises the duty of protection, women decked with ornament may fearlessly wander everywhere without male relatives to attend upon them. Men become righteous and without injuring serve one another because the king exercises the duty of protection. In consequence of royal protection the members of the three orders are enabled to perform high sacrifices and devote themselves to the acquisition of learning with attention, The world depends upon agriculture and trade and is protected by the Vedas. All these again are duly protected by the king exercising his principal duty. Since the king, taking a heavy load upon himself, protects his subjects with the aid of a mighty force, it is for this that the people are able to live in happiness. Who is there that will not worship him in whose existence the people exist and in whose destruction the people are destroyed? That person who does what is agreeable and beneficial to the king and who bears (a share of) the burden of kingly duties that strike every caste with fear, conquers both this and the other world. 2 That man who even thinks of doing an injury to the king, without doubt meets with grief here and goes to hell hereafter. No one should disregard the king by taking him for a man, for he is really a high divinity in human form. The king assumes five different forms according to five different occasions. He becomes Agni, Aditya, Mrityu, Vaisravana, and Yama. When the king, deceived by falsehood, burns with his fierce energy the sinful offenders before him, he is then said to assume the form of Agni. When he observes through his spies the acts of all persons and does what is for the general good, he is then said to assume the form of Aditya. When he destroys in wrath hundreds of wicked men with their sons, grandsons, and relatives, he is then said to assume the form of the Destroyer. When he restrains the wicked by inflicting upon them severe punishments and favours the righteous by bestowing rewards upon them, he is then said to assume the form of Yama. When he gratifies with profuse gifts of wealth those that have rendered him valuable services, and snatches away the wealth and precious stones of those that have offended him, indeed, when he bestows prosperity upon some and takes it away from others, he is then, O king, said to assume the form of Kuvera on earth. No person who is possessed of cleverness, who is capable of work, who desires the acquisition of virtue, and who is free from malice, should ever spread evil reports about the king. No man, by acting against the king, can ever make himself happy, even if he happens to be the king's son or brother or companion or one whom the king regards as his second self. Fire, having the wind for his urger, blazing forth (among articles that are inflammable),
may leave a remnant. 1 The wrath of the king, however, leaves not anything to the person that incurs it. Whatever belongs to the king should be avoided from distance. 2 One should turn away from what belongs to the king as he would from death itself. A person by appropriating what belongs to the king speedily meets with destruction like a deer upon touching poison. The man of intelligence should protect as his own what belongs to the kin.. They that appropriate wealth belonging to the king sink senseless into a deep hell of eternal gloom and infamy. Who is there that will not worship the king who is adored by such terms as delighter of the people, giver of happiness, possessor of prosperity, the foremost of all, healer of injuries, lord of earth, and protector of men? That man, therefore, who desires his own prosperity, who observes all wholesome restraints, who has his soul under control, who is the master of his passions, who is possessed of intelligence and memory, and who is clever (in the transaction of business), should always be attached to the king. The king should duly honour the minister who is grateful, endued with wisdom, large-hearted, loyal, possessed of mastery over his senses, virtuous, and observant of the dictates of policy. The king should entertain the man who is loyal, grateful, virtuous, possessed of self-control, brave, magnanimous in his acts, and competent to accomplish tasks without the assistance of others. Knowledge makes men proud. The king makes men humble. The man who is afflicted by the king can never obtain happiness. On the other hand, the man who is favoured by the king becomes happy. The king is the heart of his people; he is their great refuge; he is their glory; and he is their highest happiness. Those men, O monarch, who are attached to the king, succeed in conquering both this and the other world. Having governed the earth with the aid of the qualities of self-restraint, truth, and friendship, and having adored the gods by great sacrifices, the king, earning great glory, obtains an eternal abode in heaven.' That best of monarchs, viz., the heroic Vasumanas, ruler of Kosala, thus instructed by Vrihaspati the son of Angiras, began thenceforth to protect his subjects."
149:1 The sense seems to be that men patiently bear the injuries inflicted upon them by others, without seeking to right themselves by force, because they can invoke the king to punish the offenders. If there were no kings, immediate vengeance for even the slightest injuries would be the universal practice.
149:2 i.e., becoming foremost and happy here, attains to blessedness hereafter.
150:1 The Wind is said to be the charioteer of Fire, because whenever there is a conflagration, the Wind, appearing aids in extending it.
150:2 i.e., no one should covet the possessions of the king.
Next: Section LXIX