The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'Endued with great energy, the delighter of the Kurus (viz., Bhishma), said, 'I shall discourse on the subject of duty. My speech and mind have become steady, through thy grace, O Govinda, since thou art the eternal soul of every being. Let the righteous-souled Yudhishthira question me about morality and duty. I shall then be much gratified and shall speak of all duties. Let the son of Pandu, that royal sage of virtuous and great soul, upon whose birth all the Vrishnis were filled with joy, question me. Let the son of Pandu, who has no equal among all the Kurus, among all persons of righteous behaviour, and among men of great celebrity, put questions to me. Let the son of Pandu, in whom are intelligence, self-restraint, Brahmacharya, forgiveness, righteousness, mental vigour and energy, put questions to me. Let the son of Pandu, who always by his good offices honours his relatives and guests and servants and others that are dependent on him, put questions to me. Let the son of Pandu, in whom are truth and charity and penances, heroism, peacefulness, cleverness, and fearlessness, put questions to me. Let the righteous-souled son of Pandu, who would never commit a sin influenced by desire of Pleasure or Profit or from fear put questions to me. Let the son of Pandu, who is ever devoted to truth, to forgiveness, to knowledge and to guests, and who always makes gifts unto the righteous, put questions to me. Let the son of Pandu, who is ever engaged in sacrifices and study of the Vedas and the practice of morality and duty who is ever peaceful
and who has heard all mysteries, put questions to me.'
"Vasudeva said, 'King Yudhishthira the just, overcome with great shame and fearful of (thy) curse, does not venture to approach thee. That lord of earth, O monarch, having caused a great slaughter, ventures not to approach thee from fear of (thy) curse. Having pierced with shafts those that deserved his worship, those that were devoted to him, those that were his preceptors, those that were his relatives and kinsmen and those that were worthy of his highest regard, he ventures not to approach thee.'
"Bhishma said, 'As the duty of the Brahmanas consists of the practice of charity, study, and penances, so the duty of Kshatriyas is to cast away their bodies, O Krishna, in battle. A Kshatriya should stay sires and grandsires and brothers and preceptors and relatives and kinsmen that may engage with him in unjust battle. This is their declared duty. That Kshatriya, O Kesava, is said to be acquainted with his duty who slays in battle his very preceptors if they happen to be sinful and covetous and disregardful of restraints and vows. That Kshatriya is said to be acquainted with his duty who slays in battle the person that from covetousness disregards the eternal barriers of virtue. 1 That Kshatriya is said to be acquainted with duty who in battle makes the earth a lake of blood, having the hair of slain warriors for the grass and straw floating on it, and having elephants for its rocks, and standards for the trees on its banks. A Kshatriya, when challenged, should always fight in battle, since Manu has said that a righteous battle (in the case of a Kshatriya) leads to both heaven and fame on earth.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'After Bhishma had spoken thus, Dharma's son Yudhishthira, with great humility, approached the Kuru hero and stood in his sight. He seized the feet of Bhishma who in return gladdened him with affectionate words. Smelling his head, Bhishma asked Yudhishthira to take his seat. Then Ganga's son, that foremost of bowmen, addressed Yudhishthira, saying, 'Do not fear, O best of the Kurus! Ask me, O child, without any anxiety.'"
Next: Section LVI