The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'I desire, O bull of Bharata's race, to hear in detail the source from which sin proceeds and the foundation upon which it rests.'
"Bhishma said, 'Hear, O King, what the foundation is of sin. Covetousness alone is a great destroyer (of merit and goodness). From covetousness proceeds sin. It is from this source that sin and irreligiousness flow, together with great misery. This covetousness is the spring of also all the cunning and hypocrisy in the world. It is covetousness that makes men commit sin. From covetousness proceeds wrath; from covetousness flows lust, and it is from covetousness that loss of judgment, deception, pride, arrogance, and malice, as also vindictiveness, shamelessness, loss of prosperity, loss of virtue, anxiety, and infamy spring, miserliness, cupidity, desire for every kind of improper act, pride of birth, pride of learning, pride of beauty, pride of wealth, pitilessness for all creatures, malevolence towards all, mistrust in respect of all, insincerity towards all, appropriation of other people's wealth, ravishment of other people's wives, harshness of speech, anxiety, propensity to speak ill of others, violent craving for the indulgence of lust, gluttony, liability to premature death, violent propensity towards malice, irresistible liking for falsehood, unconquerable appetite for indulging in the passions, insatiable desire for indulging the ear, evil-speaking, boastfulness, arrogance, non-doing of duties, rashness, and perpetration of every kind of evil act,--all these proceed from covetousness. In life, men are unable, whether infants or youth or adults, to abandon covetousness. Such is the nature of covetousness that it never decays even with the decay of life. Like the ocean that can never be filled by the constant discharge of even innumerable rivers of immeasurable depths, covetousness is incapable of being gratified by acquisitions to any extent. The covetousness, however, which is never gratified by acquisitions and satiated by the accomplishment of desires, that which is not known in its real nature by the gods, the Gandharvas, the Asuras, the great snakes, and, in fact, by all classes of beings, that irresistible passion, along with that folly which invites the heart to the unrealities of the world, should ever be conquered by a person of cleansed soul. Pride, malice, slander, crookedness, and incapacity to hear other people's good, are vices, O descendant of Kuru, that are to be seen in persons of uncleansed soul under the domination of covetousness. Even persons of great learning who bear in their minds all the voluminous scriptures, and who are competent to dispel the doubts of others, show themselves in this respect to be of weak understanding and feel great misery in consequence of this passion. Covetous men are wedded to envy and anger. They are outside the pale of good behaviour. Of crooked hearts, the speeches they utter are sweet. They resemble, therefore, dark pits whose mouths are covered with grass. They attire themselves in the hypocritical cloak of religion. Of low minds, they rob the world, setting up (if need be) the standard of religion and virtue. Relying upon the strength of apparent reasons, they create diverse kinds of schisms in religion. Intent upon accomplishing the purposes of cupidity, they destroy the ways of righteousness. When wicked-souled persons under the domination of covetousness apparently practise the duties of righteousness, the consequence that results is that the desecrations committed by them soon become current among men. Pride, anger, arrogance, insensibility, paroxysms of joy and sorrow, and self-importance, all these, O descendant of Kuru, are
to be seen in persons swayed by covetousness. Know that they who are always under the influence of covetousness are wicked. I shall now tell thee of those about whom thou askest, viz., those who are called good and whose practices are pure. They who have no fear of an obligation to return to this world (after death), they who have no fear of the next world, they who are not addicted to animal food and who have no liking for what is agreeable and no dislike for what is otherwise, they to whom good behaviour is ever dear, they in whom there is self-restraint, they to whom pleasure and pain are equal, they who have truth for their high refuge, they who give but not take, they who have compassion, they who worship Pitris, gods and guests, they who are always ready to exert themselves (for the good of others), they who are universal benefactors, they who are possessed of great courage (of mind), they who observe all the duties laid down in the scriptures, they who are devoted to the good of all, they who can give their all and lay down their very lives for others, are regarded as good and virtuous, O Bharata! Those promoters of righteousness are incapable of being forced away from the path of virtue. Their conduct, conformable to the model set by the righteous men of old, can never be otherwise. They are perfectly fearless, they are tranquil, they are mild, and they always adhere to the right path. Full of compassion, they are always worshipped by the good. They are free from lust and anger. They are not attached to any worldly object. They have no pride. They are observant of excellent vows. They are always objects of regard. Do thou, therefore, always wait upon them and seek instruction from them. They never acquire virtue, O Yudhishthira, for the, sake of wealth or of fame. They acquire it on the other hand, because it is a duty like that of cherishing the body. Fear, wrath, restlessness, and sorrow do not dwell in them. There is not the outward garb of religion for misleading their fellowmen. There is no mystery with them. They are perfectly contented. There is no error of judgment arising from covetousness. They are always devoted to truth and sincerity. Their hearts never fall from righteousness. Thou shouldst show thy regard for them always, O son of Kunti! They are never delighted at any acquisition or pained at any loss. Without attachment to anything, and freed from pride, they are wedded to the quality of goodness, and they cast an equal eye on all. Gain and loss, weal and woe, the agreeable and the disagreeable, life and death, are equal in the eyes of those men of firm tread, engaged in the pursuit of (divine) knowledge, and devoted to the path of tranquillity and righteousness. Keeping thy senses under restraint and without yielding to heedlessness, thou shouldst always worship those high-souled persons who bear such love for virtue. O blessed one, one's words become productive of good only through the favour of the gods. Under other circumstances, words produce evil consequence." 1'
347:1 This is how Nilakantha seems to explain the line, Bhishma is anxious about the effect of his instructions. He says that those instructions would bear fruit if the gods will it; otherwise, his words would go for nothing, however carefully he might speak.
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