The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'What, besides this, should be done by a king that is weak and procrastinating, that does not engage in battle from anxiety for the lives of his friends, that is always under the influence of fear, and that cannot keep his counsels secret? What, indeed, should that king do whose cities and kingdom have been partitioned and appropriated by foes, who is divested of wealth, who is incapable (through such poverty) of honouring his friends and attaching them to himself, whose ministers are disunited or bought over by his enemies, who is obliged to stand in the face of foes, whose army has dwindled away, and whose heart has been agitated by some strong enemy?'
"Bhishma said, 'If the invading enemy be of pure heart and if he be conversant with both morality and profit, a king of the kind you have indicated should, with no loss of time, make peace with the invader and bring about the restoration of those portions of the kingdom that have already been conquered. If, again, the invader be strong and sinful and seek to obtain victory by unrighteous means, the king should make peace with him, too, by abandoning a portion of his territories. If the invader be unwilling to make peace, the king
should then abandon his very capital and all his possessions for escaping from danger. If he can save his life he may hope for similar acquisitions in future. What man conversant with morality is there that would sacrifice his own self, which is a more valuable possession, for encountering that danger from which escape can be had by the abandonment of his treasury and army? A king should protect the ladies of his household. If these fall into the hands of the enemy, he should not show any compassion for them (by incurring the risk of his own arrest in delivering them). As long as it is in his power, he should never surrender his own self to the enemy.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'When his own people are dissatisfied with him, when he is oppressed by invaders, when his treasury is exhausted, and when his counsels are divulged, what should the king then do?'
"Bhishma said, 'A king, under such circumstances, should (if his enemy be righteous) seek to make peace with him. If the enemy be unrighteous, he should then put forth his valour. He should, by such means, seek to cause the foe to withdraw from his kingdom; or fighting bravely, he should lay down his life and ascend to heaven. A king can conquer the whole earth with the help of even a small force if that force be loyal, cheerful, and devoted to his good. If slain in battle, he is sure to ascend to heaven. If he succeeds in slaying (his enemies), he is sure to enjoy the earth. By laying down one's life in battle, one obtains the companionship of Indra himself.'"
Next: Section CXXXII