The Mahabharata Home
Vaisampayana said, "After this, Yudhishthira, saluted his grandsire, viz. the son of Ganga, and with joined hands and concentrated attention, once more asked him, saying, 'What are the general duties of the four orders of men, and what the special duties of each order? What mode of life should be adopted by which order? What duties are especially called the duties of kings? By what means does a kingdom grow, and what are those means by which the king himself grows? How also, O bull of Bharata's race, do the citizens and the servants of the king grow? What sorts of treasuries, punishments, forts, allies, counsellors, priests, and preceptors, should a king avoid? 1 Whom should the king trust in what kinds of distress and danger? From what evils should the king guard himself firmly? Tell me all this, O grandsire!'
"Bhishma said, 'I bow down to Dharma who is great, and to Krishna who is Brahma. Having bowed down also unto the Brahmanas (assembled here), I shall discourse on duties that are eternal. The suppression of wrath, truthfulness of speech, justice, forgiveness, begetting children upon one's own wedded wives, purity of conduct, avoidance of quarrel, simplicity, and maintenance of dependants, these nine duties belong to all the four orders (equally). Those duties, however, which belong exclusively to Brahmanas, I shall now tell thee. Self-restraint, O king, has been declared to be the first duty of Brahmanas. Study of the Vedas, and patience in undergoing austerities, (are also their other duties). By practising these two, all their acts are
accomplished. If while engaged in the observance of his own duties, without doing any improper act, wealth comes to a peaceful Brahmana possessed of knowledge, he should then marry and seek to beget children and should also practise charity and perform sacrifices. It has been declared by the wise that wealth thus obtained should be enjoyed by distributing it (among deserving persons and relatives). By his study of the Vedas all the pious acts (laid down for the Brahmana) are accomplished. Whether he does or does not achieve anything else, if he devotes himself to the study of the Vedas, he becomes (by that) known as a Brahmana or the friend of all creatures. I shall also tell thee, O Bharata, what the duties are of a Kshatriya. A Kshatriya, O king, should give but not beg, should himself perform sacrifices but not officiate as a priest in the sacrifices of others. He should never teach (the Vedas) but study (them with a Brahmana preceptor). He should protect the people. Always exerting himself for the destruction of robbers and wicked people, he should put forth his prowess in battle. Those among Kshatriya rulers who perform great sacrifices, who are possessed of a knowledge of the Vedas, and who gain victories in battle, become foremost of those that acquire many blessed regions hereafter by their merit. Persons conversant with the old scriptures do not applaud that Kshatriya who returns unwounded from battle. This has been declared to be the conduct of a wretched Kshatriya. 1 There is no higher duty for him than the suppression of robbers. Gifts, study, and sacrifices, bring prosperity to kings. Therefore, a king who desires to acquire religious merit should engage in battle. 2 Establishing all his subjects in the observance of their respective duties, it king should cause all of them to do everything according to the dictates of righteousness. Whether he does or does not do any other act, if only he protects his subjects, he is regarded to accomplish all religious acts and is called a Kshatriya and the foremost of men. I shall now tell thee, O Yudhishthira, what the eternal duties of the Vaisya are. A Vaisya should make gifts, study the Vedas, perform sacrifices, and acquire wealth by fair means. With proper attention he should also protect and rear all (domestic) animals as a sire protecting his sons. Anything else that he will do will be regarded as improper for him. By protecting the (domestic) animals, he would obtain great happiness. The Creator, having created the (domestic) animals, bestowed their care upon the Vaisya. Upon the Brahmana and the Kshatriya he conferred (the care of) all creatures. I shall tell thee what the Vaisya's profession is and how he is to earn the means of his sustenance. If he keeps (for others) six kine, he may take the milk of one cow as his remuneration; and if he keeps (for others) a hundred kine, he may take a single pair as such fee. If he trades with other's wealth, he may take a seventh part of the profits (as his share). A seventh also is his share in the profits arising from the trade in horns, but he should take a sixteenth if the trade
be in hoofs. If he engages in cultivation with seeds supplied by others, he may take a seventh part of the yield. This should be his annual remuneration. A Vaisya should never desire that he should not tend cattle. If a Vaisya desires to tend cattle, no one else should be employed in that task. I should tell thee, O Bharata, what the duties of a Sudra are. The Creator intended the Sudra to become the servant of the other three orders. For this, the service of the three other classes is the duty of Sudra. By such service of the other three, a Sudra may obtain great happiness. He should wait upon the three other classes according to their order of seniority. A Sudra should never amass wealth, lest, by his wealth, he makes the members of the three superior classes obedient to him. By this he would incur sin. With the king's permission, however, a Sudra, for performing religious acts, may earn wealth. I shall now tell thee the profession he should follow and the means by which he may earn his livelihood. It is said that Sudras should certainly be maintained by the (three) other orders. Worn-out umbrellas, turbans, beds and seats, shoes, and fans, should be given to the Sudra servants. 1 Torn clothes which are no longer fit for wear, should be given away by the regenerate classes unto the Sudra. These are the latter's lawful acquisitions. Men conversant with morality say that if the Sudra approaches any one belonging to the three regenerate orders from desire of doing menial service, the latter should assign him proper work. Unto the sonless Sudra his master should offer the funeral cake. The weak and the old amongst them should be maintained. 2 The Sudra should never abandon his master, whatever the nature or degree of the distress into which the latter may fall. If the master loses his wealth, he should with excessive zeal be supported by the Sudra servant. A Sudra cannot have any wealth that is his own. Whatever he possesses belongs lawfully to his master. 3 Sacrifice has been laid down as a duty of the three other orders. It has been ordained for the Sudra also, O Bharata! A Sudra, however, is not competent to titter swaha and swadha or any other Vedic mantra. For this reason, the Sudra, without observing the vows laid down in the Vedas, should worship the gods in minor sacrifices called Paka-yajnas. The gift called Purna-patra is declared to be the Dakshina of such sacrifices. 4 It has been heard by us that in days of old a Sudra of the name of Paijavana gave a Dakshina (in one of his sacrifices) consisting of a hundred thousand
[paragraph continues] Purnapatras, according to the ordinance called Aindragni. 1 Sacrifice (as has been already said), is as much laid down for the Sudra as for the three other classes. Of all sacrifices, devotion has been laid down to be the foremost. 2 Devotion is a high deity. It cleanses all sacrificers. Then again Brahmanas are the foremost of gods unto their respective Sudra attendants. They worship the gods in sacrifices, for obtaining the fruition of various wishes. The members of the three other classes have all sprung from the Brahmanas. 3 The Brahmanas are the gods of the very gods. Whatever they would say would be for thy great good. Therefore, all kinds of sacrifices naturally appertain to all the four orders. The obligation is not one whose discharge is optional. The Brahmana, who is conversant with Richs, Yajuses, and Samans, should always be worshipped as a god. The Sudra, who is without Richs and Yajuses and Samans, has Prajapati for his god. 4 Mental sacrifice. O sire, is laid down for all the orders, O Bharata! It is not true that the gods and other (Superior) persons do not manifest a desire to share the offerings in such sacrifices of even the Sudra. 5 For, this reason, the sacrifice that consists in devotion is laid down for all the classes. 6 The Brahmana is the foremost of gods. It is not true that they that belong to that order do not perform the sacrifices of the other orders. The fire called Vitana, though procured from Vaisyas and inspired with mantras, is still inferior. 7 The Brahmana is the performer or the sacrifices of the three other orders. For this reason all the four orders are holy. All the orders bear towards one another to relation of consanguinity, through the intermediate classes. They have all sprung from Brahmanas. In ascertaining (the priority or subsequence of men in respect of their creation) it will appear that amongst all the orders the Brahmana was created first. Originally Saman
was one; Yajus was one, and Rich was one. 1 In this connection, persons conversant with ancient histories cite a verse, O king, sung in praise of sacrifice by the Vaikhanasa Munis on the occasion of performing a sacrifice of theirs. Before or after sunrise a person of subdued senses, with heart filled with devotion, poureth libations on the (sacrificial) fire according to the ordinance. Devotion is a mighty agent. With regard to homas again, that variety which is called skanna is the initial one, while that which is called askanna is the last (but foremost in point of merit). Sacrifices are multifarious. Their rites and fruits again are multifarious. The Brahmana possessed of devotion who, endued with scriptural learning, who is acquainted with them all, is competent to perform sacrifices. That person who desires to perform a sacrifice is regarded as righteous even if he happens to be a thief, a sinner, or the worst of sinners. The Rishis applaud such a man. Without doubt they are right. This then is the conclusion that all the orders should always and by every means in their power perform sacrifices. There is nothing in the three worlds equal to sacrifice. Therefore, it has been said that every one with heart free from malice, should perform sacrifices, aided by devotion which is sacred, to the best of his power and according as he pleases.'"
129:1 The difference between a Ritwija and a Purohita is that the former is engaged on special occasions, while the services of the latter are permanent and constant.
130:1 viz., returning unwounded from battle.
130:2 For without battle, he cannot extend his kingdom and acquire wealth to give away and meet the expenses of sacrifices.
131:1 A Beshtana is literally a cloth tied round (the head); hence, a turban or pagree. The word Ousira is applied to both beds and seats. The Hindu Upanaha had wooden soles.
131:2 The Burdwan Pundits understand this verse to mean that the Sudra should offer the funeral cake unto his sonless master and support masters if old and weak. There can be little doubt that they are wrong.
131:3 Atirekena evidently means 'with excessive zeal.' Nilakantha explains it as 'with greater zeal than that which is shown in supporting his own relations.' It cannot mean, as K.P. Sinha puts it, 'with the surplus left after supporting his own relations.'
131:4 A Paka-yajna is a minor sacrifice, such as the propitiation of a planet foreboding evil, or worship offered to the inferior deities called Viswadevas. A Purnapatra is literally a large dish or basket full of rice. It should consist of 256 handfuls. Beyond a Purnapatra, the Sudra should not give any other Dakshina in any sacrifice of his.
132:1 This ordinance lays down that the Dakshina should be a hundred thousand animals such as kine or horses. In the case of this particular Sudra, that ordinance (without its mantras) was followed, and a hundred thousand Purnapatras were substituted for kine or horses of that number.
132:2 Hence the Sudra, by devotion to the members of the three other classes, may earn the merit of sacrifices though he is not competent to utter mantras.
132:3 For this reason the Sudra earns the merit of the sacrifices performed by their Brahmana masters and progenitors.
132:4 The Brahmana conversant with the Vedas is himself a god. The Sudra, though incompetent to read the Vedas and utter Vedic mantras, has Prajapati for his god whom he can worship with rites other than those laid down in the Vedas. The Brahmanas have Agni for their god, and the Kshatriyas, Indra. Upadravah means a servant or attendant, hence, a Sudra.
132:5 Sacrifices are performed by the body, by words, and by the mind. The Brahmana can perform sacrifices by all the three. The Kshatriya and the Vaisya cannot perform sacrifices by means of their bodies. They must employ Brahmanas in their sacrifices. These two orders, however, can utter mantras and perform mental sacrifices. The Sudra alone cannot employ his body or utter mantras in sacrifices. The holy sacrifice in his case is the mental sacrifice. A mental sacrifice is a resolve to give away in honour of the gods or unto the gods without the aid of the Vedic ritual. The resolve must be followed by actual gifts.
132:6 i.e.. for the Sudras also.
132:7 All sacrificial fires, as a rule, are procured front the houses of Vaisyas. The sacrificial fire of the Sudra is called Vitana.
133:1 Though originally one, the Vedas have become diverse. Similarly, from the Brahmana, who created first, all the rest have sprung.
Next: Section LXI