The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell his those duties in respect of persons like ourselves which are auspicious, productive of happiness in the future, benevolent, approved by all, pleasant, and agreeable.'
"Bhishma said, 'The four modes of life, O puissant one, have been laid down for the Brahmana. The other three orders do not adopt them, O best of the Bharatas! Many acts, O king, leading to heaven and especially fit for the kingly order, have already been declared. Those, however, cannot be referred to in reply to thy present query, for all of them have been duly laid down for such Kshatriyas as are not disinclined to pitilessness. The Brahmana who is addicted to the practices of Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras, incurs censure in this world as a person of wicked soul and goes to hell in the next world. Those names which are applied among men to slaves and dogs and wolves and (other) beasts, are applied, O son of Pandu, to the Brahmana who is engaged in pursuits that are improper for him. That Brahmana who, in all the four modes of life. is duly engaged in the six-fold acts (of regulating the breath, contemplation, etc.), who performs all his duties, who is not restless, who has his passions under control, whose heart is pure and who is ever engaged in penances, who has no desire of bettering his prospects, and who is charitable, has inexhaustible regions of bliss in the other world. Everyone derives his own nature from the nature of his acts, in respect of their circumstances, place, and means and motives. Thou shouldst, therefore, O king, regard the study of the Vedas, which is fraught with such high merit, to be equal with the exertion of kingly power, or the pursuits of agriculture, trade, and hunting. The world is set agoing by Time. Its operations are settled by the course of Time. Man does all his acts, good, bad, and indifferent, entirely influenced by Time. 1 Those amongst the good acts of a man's past life that exert the greatest influence on the next, are liable to be exhausted. Men, however, are always engaged in those acts to which their propensities lead. Those propensities, again, lead a living being to every direction.'" 2
135:1 The sense seems to be that influenced by past acts everyone acts in subsequent lives. If he is a hunter in this life, it is because the influence of many cruel acts of a past life pursues him even in this.
135:2 Men, therefore, have not always balances of good acts to their credit. These are, however, free agents; the new acts they do determine the character of their next lives.
Next: Section LXIII