The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Without doubt, O Sanjaya, it is true that righteous deeds are the foremost of all our acts, as thou sayest. Thou shouldst, however, ensure me having first ascertained whether it is virtue or vice that I practise. When vice assumes the aspects of virtue and virtue itself wholly seems as vice, and virtue, again, appears in its native form, they that are learned should discriminate it by means of their reason. So, again, virtue and vice, which are both eternal and absolute, exchange their aspects during seasons of distress. One should follow without deviation the duties prescribed for the order to which he belongs by birth. Know, O Sanjaya, that duties in seasons of distress are otherwise. When his means of living are totally gone, the man, that is destitute should certainly desire those other means by which he may be able to discharge the sanctioned duties of his order. One that is not destitute of his means of living, as also one that is in distress, are, O Sanjaya, both to be blamed, if they act as if the state of each were otherwise. When the Creator hath ordained expiation for those Brahmanas, who, without wishing for self-destruction, betake themselves to acts not sanctioned for them, this proves that people may, in season of distress, betake to acts not ordained for the orders to which they belong. And, O Sanjaya, thou shouldst regard them as worthy that adhere to the practices of their own order in usual times as also those that do not adhere to them in season of distress; thou shouldst censure them that act otherwise in usual times while adhering to their ordained practices during times of distress. As regards men desiring to bring their minds under control, when they endeavour to acquire a knowledge of self, the practices that are ordained for the best, viz., the Brahmanas, are equally ordained for them. As regards those, however, that are not Brahmanas and that do not endeavour to acquire knowledge of self, those practices should be followed by them that are ordained for their respective orders in seasons of distress or otherwise. Even that is the path followed by our fathers and grandfathers before us and those also that had lived before them. As regards those that are desirous of knowledge and avoiding to act, even these also hold the same view and regard themselves as orthodox. I do not, therefore, think that there is any other path. Whatsoever wealth there may be in this earth, whatsoever there may be among the gods, or whatsoever there may be unattainable by them,--the region of the Prajapati, or heaven or the region of Brahma himself, I would not, O Sanjaya, seek it by unrighteous means. Here is Krishna, the giver of virtue's fruits, who is clever, politic, intelligent, who has waited upon the Brahmanas, who knows everything' and counsels various mighty kings. Let the celebrated Krishna say whether I would be censurable if I dismiss all idea of peace, of whether if I fight, I should be abandoning the duties of my caste, for Krishna seeketh the welfare of both sides. This Satyaki, these Chedis, the Andhakas, the
[paragraph continues] Vrishnis, the Bhojas, the Kukuras, the Srinjayas, adopting the counsels of Krishna, slay their foes and delight their friends. The Vrishnis and the Andhakas, at whose head stands Ugrasena, led by Krishna, have become like Indra, high-spirited, devoted to truth, mighty, and happy. Vabhru, the king of Kasi, having obtained Krishna, that fructifier of wishes, as his brother, and upon whom Krishna showers all the blessings of life, as the clouds upon all earthly creatures, when the hot season is over, hath attained the highest prosperity, O sire, so great is this Krishna! Him you must know as the great judge of the propriety or otherwise of all acts. Krishna is dear to us, and is the most illustrious of men. I never disregard what Krishna sayeth.'"
Next: Section XXIX