The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'I think, O grandsire, that thou art acquainted with everything, O thou that art conversant with duties. I desire to hear thee discourse to me, O sinless one, of the ordinances about conduct.'
"Bhishma said, 'They that are of bad conduct, of bad acts, of wicked understanding, and excessive rashness, are called evil or wicked men. They, however, that are called good are distinguished by purity of conduct and practices. They are good men who never answer calls of nature on the high roads, in cow-pens, or in fields overgrown with paddy. Having finished the necessary acts one should perform his ablutions in river-water and gratify the deities with oblations of water. This is said to be the duty of all men. Surya should be always worshipped. One should not sleep after sunrise. Morning and evening the prayers (ordained in the scriptures) should be said, sitting with face turned towards the east and towards the west respectively. Washing the five limbs, 1 one should eat silently with face turned towards the east. One should never disparage the food which one is to eat. One should eat food that is good to the taste. After eating one should wash one's hands and rise. 2 One should never go to sleep at night with wet feet. The celestial Rishi Narada said that these are indications of good conduct. One should every day circumambulate a sacred spot, a bull, a sacred image, a cow-pen, a place where four roads meet, a pious Brahmana, and sacred tree. One should not make distinctions between one's guests and attendants and kinsmen in matters of food. Equality (in this respect) with servants is applauded. Eating (twice a day) in the morning and evening is an ordinance of the gods. It is not laid down that one should eat (once more) at any intermediate period. He who eats according to this rule acquires the merit of a fast. 3 At the hours ordained for Homa one should pour libations on the sacred fire. Without seeking the companionship of other people's wives, the man of wisdom who seeks his own wife in her season acquires the merit of Brahmacharyya. The remnants of a Brahmana's dish are like ambrosia. They are like the lacteal sustenance that is yielded by the mother's breast. People highly prize those remnants. The good, by eating them attain to Brahma. He who pounds turf to clay (for making sacrificial altars), or he who cuts grass (for making sacrificial fuel), or he who uses his nails only (and not weapons of any kind) for eating (sanctified meat), or he who always subsists on the remnants of Brahmana's dishes, or he who acts, induced by desire for reward, has not to live long in the world. 4 One who has abstained from meat (under any vow) should not take meat even if it be sanctified with mantras from the Yajurveda. One should also avoid the flesh about the vertebral
column (of any animal) and the flesh of animals not slain in sacrifices. 1 Whether at one's own place or in a strange land, one should never cause one's guest to fast. Having obtained alms and other fruits of optional acts, one should offer them to one's seniors. One should offer seats to one's seniors and salute them with respect. By worshipping one's seniors, one obtains long life, fame, and prosperity. One should never behold the Sun at the moment of rising, nor should one turn one's gaze towards a naked woman that is another man's spouse. Congress with one's wife (in her season) is not sinful but it is an act that should always be done in privacy. The heart of all sacred spots and shrines is the Preceptor. The heart of all pure and cleansing things is Fire. All acts done by a good and pious person are good and laudable, including even the touching of the hair of a cow's tail. Every time one meets with another, one should make polite enquiries. The saluting of Brahmanas every morning and evening is ordained. In temples of gods, amid cows, in performing the rites of religion laid down for Brahmanas, in reading the Vedas, and in eating, the right hand should be raised. 2 The worship of Brahmanas, morning and evening, according to due rites, produces great merit. In consequence of such worship the stock-in-trade of the merchant, become abundant and the produce of the agriculturist. Great also becomes the yield of all kinds of corn and the supply of all articles that the senses can enjoy becomes copious. When giving eatables to another (seated at his dish), one should say, 'Is it sufficient?' When presenting drink, one should ask, 'Will it gratify,' and when giving sweetened milk and rice, or sugared gruel of barley, or milk with sesame or pease, one should ask 'Has it fallen?' 3 After shaving, after spitting, after bathing, and after eating, people should worship Brahmanas with reverence, Such worship is sure to bestow longevity on sickly men. One should not pass urine with face turned towards the sun, nor should one see one's own excreta. One should not lie on the same bed with a woman, nor eat with her. In addressing seniors one should never apply the pronoun you to them or take their names. Thouing or the taking of names is not censurable in addressing inferiors or equals in age. 4 The hearts of sinful men betray the sins committed by them. Those sinful men that conceal their conscious sins from good men meet with destruction. Only ignorant fools seek to conceal the sins which they commit consciously. It is true that human beings do not see those sins but the gods see them. A sin concealed by another sin leads to fresh sins. An act of merit, again, if concealed by an act of merit, increases the merit. The acts of a
virtuous man always follow in the wake of virtue. A man destitute of understanding never thinks of the sins committed by him. Those sins, however, overtake the doer that has fallen away from the scriptures. As Rahu comes to Chandra (at his proper time), those sinful acts come to the foolish man. 1 The objects that are stored with expectation are scarcely enjoyed. Such storing is never applauded by the wise, for death waits for no one (but snatches his prey whether the latter be ready or unready). The wise have said that the righteousness of all creatures is an attribute of the mind. For this reason, one should, in one's mind, do good to all. 2 One should practise virtue singly. In the practice of virtue one has no need for the help of others. If one obtains only the ordinances of the scriptures, what can an associate do? 3 Righteousness is the origin of mankind. Righteousness is the ambrosia of the gods. After death, men enjoy, through Righteousness, eternal happiness.'
43:1 The five limbs which should be washed before eating are the two feet, the two hands, and the face.
43:2 This may be a general direction for washing one's hand after eating; or, it may refer to the final Gandusha, i.e., the act of taking a little water in the right hand, raising it to the lips, and throwing it down, repeating a short formula.
43:3 The Burdwan translator has misunderstood this verse completely.
43:4 It is difficult to understand what this verse means. Nilakantha proposes two different kinds of interpretation. What then is Sankusuka or Sanku cuka? The above version is offered tentatively. The commentator imagines that the true sense of the verse is that it declares such men to be unable to attain to Mahadayu which is Brahma and not long life.
44:1 Prishtamangsa is explained by the commentator as 'the meat forming the remnant of a Sraddha offering.' I do not see the necessity of discarding the obvious meaning.
44:2 in the sense of being moved or used. The commentator adds that the sacred thread also should be wound round the thumb, as the Grihyasutras declare.
44:3 In every instance, the person who receives should say--'All-sufficient' 'Gratify to the fill', and 'Has fallen copiously' or words to that effect. Krisara or Kricara is food made of rice and pease, or rice and sesame; probably what is now called Khichree.
44:4 The polite form of address is Bhavan. It is in the third person singular. The second person is avoided, being too direct.
45:1 It is not plain in what way the sinful acts come to the sinner. The Hindu idea, of course, is that the consequences of those deeds visit the doer without fail. This verse, however, seems to say that the recollection of those sins forces itself upon the sinner and makes him miserable in spite of himself.
45:2 The Hindu moralist, in this verse, declares the same high morality that Christ himself preached. Merit or sin, according to him, does not depend on the overt act alone. Both depend on the mind. Hence the injunction against even mentally harming others.
45:3 The sense seems to be that if one succeeds in ascertaining the ordinances about virtue or Piety, but if the mind be sinful, no associate can be of any help. The mind alone is the cause of virtue and piety.
Next: Section CXCIV