The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "Hearing these words of Yajnasena's daughter, Arjuna once more spoke, showing proper regard for his mighty-armed eldest brother of unfading glory.
"Arjuna said, 'The man armed with the rod of chastisement governs all subjects and protects them. The rod of chastisement is awake when all else is sleep. For this, the wise have characterised the rod of chastisement to be Righteousness itself. The rod of chastisement protects Righteousness and Profit. It protects also, O king! For this, the rod of chastisement is identified with the triple objects of life. Corn and wealth are both protected by the rod of chastisement. Knowing this, O thou that art possessed of learning, take up the rod of chastisement and observe the course of the world. One class of sinful men desist from sin through fear of the rod of chastisement in the king's bands. Another class desist from similar acts through fear of Yama's rod, and yet another from fear of the next world. Another class of persons desist from sinful acts through fear of society. Thus, O king, in this world, whose course is such, everything is, dependent on the rod of chastisement. There is a class of persons who are restrained by only the rod of chastisement from devouring one another. If the rod of chastisement did not protect people, they would have sunk in the darkness of hell. The rod of chastisement (danda) has been so named by the wise because it restrains the ungovernable and punishes the wicked, The chastisement of Brahmanas should be by word of mouth; of Kshatriyas, by giving them only that much of food as would suffice for the support of life; of Vaisyas, by the imposition of fines and forfeitures of property, while for Sudras there is no punishment. 1 For keeping men awake (to their duties) and for the protection of property, ordinances, O king, have been established in the world, under the name of chastisement (or punitive legislation). Thither where chastisement, of dark complexion and red eyes, stands in an attitude of readiness (to grapple with every offender) and the king is of righteous vision, the subjects never forget themselves. The Brahmacharin and the house-holder, the recluse in the forest and the religious mendicant, all these walk in their respective ways through fear of chastisement alone. He
that is without any fear, O king, never performs a sacrifice. He that is without fear never giveth away. The man that is without any fear never desires to adhere to any engagement or compact. Without piercing the vitals of others, without achieving the most difficult feats and without staying creatures like a fisherman (slaying fish), no person can obtain great prosperity. 1 Without slaughter, no man has been able to achieve fame in this world or acquire wealth or subjects. Indra himself, by the slaughter of Vritra, became the great Indra. Those amongst the gods that are given to slaughtering others are adored much more by men. Rudra, Skanda, Sakra, Agni, Varuna, are all slaughterers. Kala and Mrityu and Vayu and Kuvera and Surya, the Vasus, the Maruts, the Sadhyas, and the Viswadevas, O Bharata, are all slaughterers. Humbled by their prowess, all people bend to those gods, but not to Brahman or Dhatri or Pushan at any time. Only a few men that are noble of disposition adore in all their acts those among the gods that are equally disposed towards all creatures and that are self-restrained and peaceful. I do not behold the creature in this world that supports life without doing any act of injury to others. Animals live upon animals, the stronger upon the weaker. The mongoose devours mice; the cat devours the mongoose; the dog devours the cat; the dog again is devoured by the spotted leopard. Behold all things again are devoured by the Destroyer when he comes! This mobile and immobile universe is food for living creatures. This has, been ordained by the gods. The man of knowledge, therefore, is never stupefied at it. It behoveth thee, O great king, to become that which thou art by birth. Foolish (Kshatriyas) alone, restraining wrath and joy take refuge in the woods. The very ascetics cannot support their lives without killing creatures. In water, on earth, and fruits, there are innumerable creatures. It is not true that one does not slaughter them. What higher duty is there than supporting one's life? 2 There are many creatures that are so minute that their existence can only be inferred. With the failing of the eyelids alone, they are destroyed. There are men who subduing wrath and pride betake themselves to ascetic courses of life and leaving village and towns repair to the woods. Arrived there, those men may be seen to be so stupefied as to adopt the domestic mode of life once more. Others may be seen, who (in the observance of domesticity) tilling the soil, uprooting herbs, cutting off trees and killing birds and animals, perform sacrifices and at last attain to heaven. O son of Kunti, I have no doubt in this that the acts of all creatures become crowned with success only when the policy of chastisement is properly applied. If chastisement were abolished from the world, creatures wood soon be destroyed. Like fishes in the water, stronger animals prey on the weaker. This truth was formerly spoken by Brahmana himself, viz., that chastisement, properly applied upholds creatures. Behold, the very fires, when extinguished, blaze up again, in fright, when blown. This is due to the fear of force or chastisement. If there were no chastisement in the world distinguishing the good from the bad, then the whole world would have been
enveloped in utter darkness and all things would have been confounded. Even they that are breakers of rules, that are atheists and scoffers of the Vedas, afflicted by chastisement, soon become disposed to observe rules and restrictions. 1 Everyone in this world is kept straight by chastisement. A person naturally pure and righteous is scarce. Yielding to the fear of chastisement, man becomes disposed to observe rules and restraints. Chastisement was ordained by the Creator himself for protecting religion and profit, for the happiness of all the four orders, and for making them righteous and modest. If chastisement could not inspire fear, then ravens and beasts of prey would have eaten up all other animals and men and the clarified butter intended for sacrifice. If chastisement did not uphold and protect, then nobody would have studied the Vedas, nobody would have milked a milch cow, and no maiden would have married. 2 If chastisement did not uphold and protect, then ravage and confusion would have set in on every side, and all barriers would have been swept away, and the idea of property would have disappeared. If chastisement did not uphold and protect, people could never duly perform annual sacrifices with large presents. If chastisement did not uphold and protect, no one, to whatever mode of life he might belong, would observe the duties of that mode as declared (in the scriptures), and no one would have succeeded in acquiring knowledge. 3 Neither camels, nor oxen, nor horses, nor mules, nor asses, would, even if yoked thereto, drag cars and carriages, if chastisement did not uphold and protect. Upon chastisement depend all creatures. The learned, therefore, say that chastisement is the root of everything. Upon chastisement rests the heaven that men desire, and upon it rests this world also. Thither where foe-destroying chastisement is well applied, no sin, no deception, and no wickedness, is to be seen. If the rod of 'chastisement be not uplifted, the dog will lick the sacrificial butter. The crow also would take away the first (sacrificial) offering, if that rod were not kept uplifted. Righteously or unrighteously, this kingdom hath now become ours. Our duty now is to abandon grief. Do thou, therefore, enjoy it and perform sacrifices. Men that are fortunate, living with their dear wives (and children), eat good food, wear excellent clothes, and cheerfully acquire virtue. All our acts, without doubt, are dependent on wealth; that wealth again is dependent on chastisement. Behold, therefore, the importance of chastisement. Duties have been declared for only the maintenance of the relations of the world. There are two things here, viz., abstention from injury and injury prompted by righteous motives. Of these, two, that is superior by which righteousness may be acquired. 4 There is no act that is wholly meritorious, nor any that is wholly
wicked. Right or wrong, in all acts, something of both is seen. Subjecting animals to castration, their horns again are cut off. They are then made to bear weights, are tethered, and chastised. In this world that is unsubstantial and rotten with abuses and rendered painful, O monarch, do thou practise the ancient customs of men, following the rules and analogies cited above. Perform sacrifices, give alms, protect thy subjects, and practise righteousness. Slay thy foes, O son of Kunti, and protect thy friends. Let no cheerlessness be thine. O king, while slaying foes. He that does it, O Bharata, does not incur the slightest sin. He that takes up a weapon and slays an armed foe advancing against him, does not incur the sin of killing a foetus, for it is the wrath of the advancing foe that provokes the wrath of the slayer. The inner soul of every creature is incapable of being slain. When the soul is incapable of being slain, how then can one be slain by another? As a person enters a new house, even so a creature enters successive bodies. Abandoning forms that are worn out, a creature acquires new forms. People capable of seeing the truth regard this transformation to be death.'"
25:1 Censure is the only punishment for a Brahmana offender. A Kshatriya may be punished by taking away all property, but care should be taken to give him food sufficient for maintaining life. A Vaisya should be punished by forfeiture of possessions. There is practically no punishment for a Sudra, for being unable to possess wealth, dispossession of wealth cannot be a punishment in his case; again, service being his duty, the imposition of labour on him cannot be a punishment. For all that, hard work may be imposed upon him.
26:1 A fisherman who would not slay fish would go without food.
26:2 The sense is that if in supporting life one kills these creatures, he does not in any way commits sin.
27:1 Bhoga is explained by Nilakantha as Palanaya (maryyadaya).
27:2 The meaning seems to be that the milch cow suffers herself to be milked, only through fear of chastisement, and maidens also marry, without practising free love, through fear of chastisement by the king, society, or Yama in the next world.
27:3 If this does not come up to the grossness of the doctrine--spare the rod and ruin the child,--it at least is plain that the fear of being regarded a dunce and a fool and incurring the ridicule or displeasure of the tutor and class-mates, induces one to acquire knowledge.
27:4 The illustration used by the commentator is that it is better to kill the tiger that has invaded the fold that remain quiet for fear of injuring that beast of prey and commit sin. For that p. 28 slaughter there is merit, for if not slaughtered, the beast will slaughter the kine before the spectator's eyes and the latter would incur sin by passively witnessing the sight. At any rate, to be more general, it is better to injure, says Arjuna, from righteous motives than not to injure from fear of sin.
Next: Section XVI