The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'This that I have told thee constitutes the first means. Listen now, O Bharata to the second means. That man who seeks to advance the interests of the king should always be protected by the king. If a person, O Yudhishthira, that is paid or unpaid, comes to thee for telling thee of the damage done to thy treasury when its resources are being embezzled by a minister, thou shouldst grant him an audience in private and protect him also from the (impeached) minister. The ministers guilty of peculation seek, O Bharata, to slay such informants. They who plunder the royal treasury combine together for opposing the person who seeks to protect it, and if the latter be left unprotected, he is sure to be ruined. In this connection also an old story is cited of what the sage Kalakavrikshiya had said unto the king of Kosala. It hath been heard by us that once on a time the sage Kalakavrikshiya came to Kshemadarsin who had ascended the throne of the kingdom of Kosala. Desirous of examining the conduct of all the officers of Kshemadarsin, the sage, with a crow kept within a cage in his hand, repeatedly travelled through every part of that king's dominions. And he spoke unto all the men and said, 'Study, ye the corvine science. The crows tell me the present, the
past, and the future.' Proclaiming this in the kingdom, the sage, accompanied by a large number of men, began to observe the misdeeds of all the officers of the king. Having ascertained all the affairs in respect of that kingdom, and having learnt that all the officers appointed by the king were guilty of malversation, the sage, with his crow, came to see the king. Of rigid vows, he said unto the king, 'I know everything (about thy kingdom).' Arrived at the presence of the king, he said unto his minister adorned with the insignia of his office that he had been informed by his crow that the minister had done such a misdeed in such a place, and that such and such persons know that he had plundered the royal treasury. 'My crow tells me this. Admit or prove the falsehood of the accusation quickly.' The sage then proclaimed the names of other officers who had similarly been guilty of embezzlement, adding, 'My crow never says anything that is false.' Thus accused and injured by the sage, all the officers of the king, O thou of Kuru's race, (united together and) pierced his crow, while the sage slept, at night. Beholding his crow pierced with a shaft within the cage, the regenerate Rishi, repairing to Kshemadarsin in the morning said unto him, 'O king, I seek thy protection. Thou art all-powerful and thou art the master of the lives and wealth of all. If I receive thy command I can then say what is for thy good. Grieved on account of thee whom I regard as a friend have come to thee, impelled by my devotion and ready to serve thee with my whole heart. Thou art being robbed of thy wealth, I have come to thee for disclosing it without showing any consideration for the robbers. Like a driver that urges a good steed, I have come hither for awakening thee whom I regard as a friend. A friend who is alive to his own interests and desirous of his own prosperity and aggrandisement, should forgive a friend that intrudes himself forcibly, impelled by devotion and wrath, for doing what is beneficial.' The king replied unto him, saying, 'Why should I not bear anything thou wilt say, since I am not blind to what is for my good? I grant thee permission, O regenerate one! Tell me what thou pleasest, I shall certainly obey the instructions thou wilt give me, O Brahman,'
"The sage said, 'Ascertaining the merits and faults of thy servants, as also the: dangers thou incurrest at their hands, I have come to thee, impelled by my devotion, for representing everything to thee. The teachers (of mankind) have of old declared what the curses are, O king, of those that serve others. The lot of those that serve the king is very painful and wretched. He who has any connection with kings is to have connection with snakes of virulent poison. Kings have many friends as also many enemies. They that serve kings have to fear all of them. Every moment, again, they have fear from the king himself, O monarch. A person serving the king cannot (with impunity) be guilty of heedlessness in doing the king's work. Indeed, a servant who desires to win prosperity should never display heedlessness in the discharge of his duties. His heedlessness may move the king to wrath, and such wrath may bring down destruction (on the servant). Carefully learning how to behave himself, one should sit in the presence of the king as he should in the presence of a blazing fire. Prepared to lay down life itself at every moment, one should serve the king attentively, for the king is all-powerful and master
of the lives and the wealth of all, and therefore, like unto a snake of virulent poison. He should always fear to indulge in evil speeches before the king, or to sit cheerlessly or in irreverent postures, or to wait in attitudes of disrespect or to walk disdainfully or display insolent gestures and disrespectful motions of the limbs. If the king becomes gratified, he can shower prosperity like god. If he becomes enraged, he can consume to the very roots like a blazing fire. This, O king, was said by Yama. Its truth is seen in the affairs of the world. I shall now (acting according to these precepts) do that which would enhance thy prosperity. Friends like ourselves can give unto friends like thee the aid of their intelligence in seasons of peril. This crow of mine, O king, has been slain for doing thy business. I cannot, however, blame thee for this. Thou art not loved by those (that have slain this bird). Ascertain who are thy friends and who thy foes. Do everything thyself without surrendering thy intelligence to others. They who are on thy establishment are all peculators. They do not desire the good of thy subjects. I have incurred their hostility. Conspiring with those servants that have constant access to thee they covet the kingdom after thee by compassing thy destruction. Their plans, however, do not succeed in consequence of unforeseen circumstances. Through fear of those men, O king, I shall leave this kingdom for some other asylum. I have no worldly desire, yet those persons of deceitful intentions have shot this shaft at my crow, and have, O lord, despatched the bird to Yama's abode. I have seen this, O king, with eyes whose vision has been improved by penances. With the assistance of this single crow I have crossed this kingdom of thine that is like a river abounding with alligators and sharks and crocodiles and whales. Indeed, with the assistance of that bird, I have passed through thy dominions like unto a Himalayan valley, impenetrable and inaccessible in consequence of trunks of (fallen) trees and scattered rocks and thorny shrubs and lions and tigers and other beasts of prey. The learned say that a region inaccessible in consequence of gloom can be passed through with the aid of a light, and a river that is unfordable can be crossed by means of a boat. No means, however, exist for penetrating or passing through the labyrinth of kingly affairs. Thy kingdom is like an inaccessible forest enveloped with gloom. Thou (that art the lord of it) canst not trust it. How then can I? Good and evil are regarded here in the same light. Residence here cannot, therefore, be safe. Here a person of righteous deeds meets with death, while one of unrighteous deeds incurs no danger. According to the requirements of justice, a person of unrighteous deeds should be slain but never one who is righteous in his acts. It is not proper, therefore, for one to stay in this kingdom long. A man of sense should leave this country soon. There is a river, O king, of the name of Sita. Boats sink in it. This thy kingdom is like that river. An all-destructive net seems to have been cast around it. Thou art like the fall that awaits collectors of honey, or like attractive food containing poison. Thy nature now resembles that of dishonest men and not that of the good. Thou art like a pit, O king, abounding with snakes of virulent poison. Thou resemblest, O king, a river full of sweet water but exceedingly difficult of access, With steep banks overgrown with Kariras and thorny canes. Thou art like a
swan in the midst of dogs, vultures and jackals. Grassy parasites, deriving their sustenance from a mighty tree, swell into luxuriant growth, and at last covering the tree itself overshadow it completely. A forest conflagration sets in, and catching those grassy plants first, consumes the lordly tree with them. Thy ministers, O king, resemble those grassy parasites of which I speak. Do thou check and correct them. They have been nourished by thee. But conspiring against thee, they are destroying thy prosperity. Concealing (from thee) the faults of thy servants, I am living in thy abode in constant dread of danger, even like a person living in a room with a snake within it or like the lover of a hero's wife. My object is to ascertain the behaviour of the king who is my fellow-lodger. I wish to know whether the king has his passions under control, whether his servants are obedient to him, whether he is loved by them, and whether he loves his subjects. For the object of ascertaining all these points, O best of kings, I have come to thee. Like food to a hungry person, thou hast become dear to me. I dislike thy ministers, however, as a person whose thirst has been slaked dislikes drink. They have found fault with me because I seek thy good. I have no doubt that there is no other cause for that hostility of theirs to me. I do not cherish any hostile intentions towards them. I am engaged in only marking their faults. As one should fear a wounded snake, every one should fear a foe of wicked heart!' 1
"The king said, 'Reside in my palace, O Brahmana! I shall always treat thee with respect and honour, and always worship thee. They that will dislike thee shall not dwell with me. Do thou thyself do what should be done next unto those persons (of whom thou hast spoken). Do thou see, O holy one, that the rod of chastisement is wielded properly and that everything is done well in my kingdom. Reflecting upon everything, do thou guide me in such a way that I may obtain prosperity.'
"The sage said, 'Shutting thy eyes in the first instance to this offence of theirs (viz., the slaughter of the crow), do thou weaken them one by one. Prove their faults then and strike them one after another. When many persons become guilty of the same offence, they can, by acting together, soften the very points of thorns. Lest thy ministers (being suspected, act against thee and) disclose thy secret counsels, I advise thee to proceed with such caution. As regards ourselves, we are Brahmanas, naturally compassionate and unwilling to give pain to any one. We desire thy good as also the good of others, even as we wish the good of ourselves. I speak of myself, O king! I am thy friend. I am known as the sage Kalakavrikshiya. I always adhere to truth. Thy sire regarded me lovingly as his friend. When distress overtook this kingdom during the region of thy sire, O king, I performed many penances (for driving it off), abandoning every other business. From my affection for thee I say this unto thee so that thou mayst not again commit the fault (of reposing confidence on undeserving persons). Thou hast obtained a kingdom without
trouble. Reflect upon everything connected with its weal and woe. Thou hast ministers in thy kingdom. But why, O king, shouldst thou be guilty of heedlessness?' After this, the king of Kosala took a minister from the Kshatriya order, and appointed that bull among Brahmanas (viz., the sage Kalakavrikshiya) as his Purohita. After these changes had been effected, the king of Kosala subjugated the whole earth and acquired great fame. The sage Kalakavrikshiya worshipped the gods in many grand sacrifices performed for the king. Having listened to his beneficial counsels, the king of Kosala conquered the whole earth and conducted himself in every respect as the sage directed.'"
180:1 The belief is still current that a wounded snake is certain to seek vengeance even if the person that has wounded it places miles of distance between himself and the reptile. The people of this country, therefore, always kill a snake outright and burn it in fire if they ever take it.
Next: Section LXXXIII