The Mahabharata Home
"Vyasa said, 'By penances, religious rites, and gifts, O Bharata, a man may wash off his sins if he does not commit them again. By subsisting upon only one meal a day, and that procured by mendicancy, by doing all his acts himself (without relying on the aid of a servant), by making his round of mendicancy with a human skull in one hand and a khattanga in another, by becoming a Brahmacharin and always ready for exertion, by casting off all malice, by sleeping on the bare ground, by publishing his offence to the world, by doing all this for full twelve years, a person can cleanse himself from the sin of having slain a Brahmana. By perishing upon the weapon of a person living by the use of arms, of one's own will and upon the advice of persons learned in the scriptures, or by throwing one's self down, for three times, with head downwards, upon a blazing fire, or by walking a hundred Yojanas all the while reciting the Vedas, or by giving away one's whole property to a Brahmana conversant with the Vedas, or at least so much as would secure to him a competence for life, or a house properly furnished, and by protecting kine and Brahmanas, one may be cleansed of the sin of having slain a Brahmana. By living upon the scantiest meal every day for a space of six years, a person may be cleansed of that sin. 2 By observing a harder vow with regard to food one may be cleansed in three years. 3 By living upon one meal a month, one may be cleansed in course of only a year. By observing, again, an absolute fast, one may be cleansed within a very short time. There is no doubt again that: one is cleansed by a Horse-sacrifice. Men that have been guilty of having slain
a Brahmana and that have succeeded in taking the final bath at the completion of the Horse-sacrifice, become cleansed of all their sins. This is an injunction of great authority in the Srutis. One again, by slaying down his life in a battle undertaken for the sake of a Brahmana, becomes cleansed of the sin of having slain a Brahmana. By giving away a hundred thousand kine unto persons deserving of gifts, one becomes cleansed of the sin of having slain a Brahmana as also, indeed, of all his sins. One that gives away five and twenty thousand kine of the Kapila species and while all of them have calved, becomes cleansed of all his sins. One who, at the point of death, gives away a thousand kine with calves unto poor but deserving persons, becomes freed from sin. That man, O king, who gives away a hundred steeds of the Kamvoja breed unto Brahmanas of regulated behaviour, becomes freed from sin. That man. O Bharata, who gives unto even one person all that he asks for, and who, having given it, does not speak of his act to any one, becomes freed from sin. If a person who has once taken alcohol drinks (as expiation) hot liquor, he sanctifies himself both here and hereafter. By falling from the summit of a mountain or entering a blazing fire, or by going on an everlasting journey after renouncing the world, one is freed from all sins. By performing the sacrifice laid down by Vrihaspati, a Brahmana who drinks alcoholic liquors may succeed in attaining to the region of Brahman. This has been said by Brahman himself. If a person, after having drunk alcoholic liquor, becomes humble and makes a gift of land, and abstains from it ever afterwards, he becomes sanctified and cleansed. The person that has violated his preceptor's bed, should lie down on a sheet of iron having heated it, and having cut off the emblem of his sex should leave the world for a life in the woods, with eyes always turned upwards. By casting off one's body, one becomes cleansed of all his evil acts. Women, by leading a regulated life for one year, become cleansed of all their sins. The person who observes a very rigid vow, or gives away the whole of his wealth, or perishes in a battle fought for the sake of his preceptor, becomes cleansed of all his sins. One who uses falsehood before one's preceptor or acts in opposition to him, becomes cleansed of that sin by doing something agreeable to one's preceptor. One who has fallen off from the vow (of Brahmacharya ), may become cleansed of that sin by wearing the hide of a cow for six months and observing the penances laid down in the case of the slaughter of a Brahmana. One who has been guilty of adultery, or of theft, may become cleansed by observing rigid vows for a year. When one steals another's property, one should, by every means in his power, return to that other property of the value of what has been stolen. One may then be cleansed of the sin (of theft). The younger brother who has married before the marriage of the elder brother, as also the elder brother whose Younger brother has married before him, becomes cleansed by observing a rigid vow, with collected soul, for twelve nights. The younger brother, however, should wed again for rescuing his deceased ancestors. Upon such second wedding, the first wife becomes cleansed and her husband himself would not incur sin by taking her. Men conversant with the scriptures declare that women may be cleansed of even the greatest sins by observing the vow of chaturmasya,
all the while living upon scanty and cleansing food. Persons conversant with the scriptures do not take into account the sins that women may commit at heart. Whatever their sins (of this description), they are cleansed by their menstrual course like a metallic plate that is scoured with ashes. Plates (made of the alloy of brass and copper) stained by a Sudra eating off it, or a vessel of the same metal that has been smelt by a cow, or stained by a Brahmana's Gandusha, may be cleansed by means of the ten purifying substances. 1 It has been laid down that a Brahmana should acquire and practise the full measure of virtue. For a person at the kingly order it has been laid down that he should acquire and practise a measure of virtue less by a fourth part. So, a Vaisya should acquire a measure less (than a Kshatriya's) by a fourth and a Sudra less (than a Vaisya's) by a fourth. The heaviness or lightness of sins (for purposes of expiation) of each of the four orders, should be determined upon this principle. Having slain a bird or an animal, or cut down living trees, a person should publish his sin and fast for three nights. By having intercourse with one with whom intercourse is prohibited, the expiation for one is wandering in wet clothes and sleeping on a bed of ashes. These, O king, are the expiations for sinful acts, according to precedent and reason and scriptures and the ordinances. A Brahmana may be cleansed of all sins by reciting the Gayatri in a sacred place, all the while living upon frugal fare, casting off malice, abandoning wrath and hate, unmoved by praise and blame, and abstaining from speech. He should during the day-time be under shelter of the sky and should lie down at night even at such a place. Thrice during the day, and thrice during the night, he should also plunge with his clothes into a stream or lake for performing his ablutions. Observant of rigid vows, he should abstain from speech with women, Sudras, and fallen persons. A Brahmana by observing such regulations may be cleansed of all sins unconsciously committed by him. A person obtains in the other world the fruits, good or bad, of his acts here which are all witnessed by the elements. Be it virtue or be it vice, according to the true measure that one acquires of either, one enjoys or suffers the consequences (even here). By knowledge, by penances, and by righteous acts, therefore, one enhances his weal (even here). One, therefore may similarly enhance his misery by committing unrighteous acts. One should, therefore, always achieve acts that are righteous and abstain altogether from those that are unrighteous. I have now indicated what the expiations are of the sins that have been mentioned. There is expiation for every sin except those that are called Mahapatakas (highly heinous sins). As regards sins in respect of unclean food and the like, and improper speeches, etc., they are of two classes, viz., those committed consciously and those that are committed unconsciously. All sins that are committed consciously are grave, while those that are committed unconsciously are trivial or light. There is expiation for both. Indeed sin is capable of being washed away by (observance of) the ordinances spoken of. Those ordinances, however, have been laid down only for believers (in God) and those that have faith. They
are not for atheists or those that have no faith, or those in whom pride and malice predominate. A person, O tiger among men, that is desirous of weal both here and hereafter, should, O foremost of virtuous men, have recourse to righteous behaviour, to (the counsels of) men that are righteous, and to the duties that have been ordained for him. Therefore, for the reasons already advanced (by me), thou, O king, shalt be cleansed of all thy sins for thou hast slain thy foes in the discharge of thy duties as a king and for the protection of thy life-breath and thy inheritance. Or, if not withstanding this, thou still regardest thyself to be sinful, perform expiation. Do not cast away thy life in consequence of such grief that is not becoming a wise man.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus addressed by the holy Rishi, king Yudhishthira the just, having reflected for a short while, said these words unto the sage.'"
72:2 The rule laid down is that he should eat in the morning for the first three days, in the evening for the second three days, eat nothing but what is got without soliciting, for the next three days, and fast altogether for the three days that follow. This is called Krischara-bhojana. Observing this rule for six years, one may be cleansed of the sin of slaying a Brahmana.
72:3 The harder rule referred to is eating in the morning for seven days; in the evening for the next seven days; eating what is got without soliciting, for the next seven days; and fasting altogether for the next seven.
74:1 These are the five products of the cow, besides earth, water, ashes, acids and fire.
Next: Section XXXVII