The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'The duties in respect of all the four modes of life, those of yatis, O son of Pandu, and the customs relating to the conduct of men in general, are all included in kingly duties. All these acts, O chief of the Bharatas, occur in Kshatriya duties. If the functions of royalty are disturbed, all creatures are overtaken by evil. The duties of men are not obvious. They have, again, many outlets. 1 Led by many (false) systems, their eternal nature is sometimes offended against. Others who pin their faith to the conclusions arrived at by men, without really knowing anything about the truths of duties (as declared in the scriptures), find themselves at last landed and confounded on faiths whose ultimate ends are unknown. The duties imposed upon Kshatriyas are plain, productive of great happiness, evident in respect of their results, free from deceit, and beneficial to the whole world. As the duties of the three orders, as also of Brahmanas and of those that have retired from the world, O Yudhishthira, have before this been said to be all included within those of that sacred mode of life (called Garhasthya), even so, the whole world, with all good actions, are subject to kingly duties. I have told thee, O monarch, how many brave kings had, in days of old, repaired to that lord of all creatures, viz., the divine and puissant Vishnu of great prowess, for resolving their doubts about the science of chastisement. Those kings, mindful of the declarations of the scriptures enforced by examples, waited in days of old upon Narayana, after having weighed each of their acts against the duties of each of the modes of life. 2 Those deities, viz., the Sadhyas, the Vasus, the Aswins, the Rudras, the Viswas, the Maruts, and the Siddhas, created in days of old by the first of gods, are all observant of Kshatriya duties. I shall now recite to thee a history fraught with the conclusions of both morality and profit. In days of old when the Danavas had multiplied and swept away all barriers and distinctions 3 the powerful Mandhatri, O monarch, became
king. That ruler of the earth, viz., king Mandhatri, performed a great sacrifice from desire of beholding the puissant Narayana, that god of gods, without beginning, middle, and end. In that sacrifice he worshipped with humility the great Vishnu. 1 The Supreme Lord, assuming the form of Indra, showed himself unto him. Accompanied by many good kings he offered his adorations to that puissant deity. The high discourse took place between that lion among kings and that illustrious god in the form of Indra, touching Vishnu of great effulgence.'
"Indra said, 'What is your object, O foremost of virtuous persons, in thus seeking to behold that Ancient and First of gods, viz., Narayana, of inconceivable energy, and infinite illusions? Neither myself, nor Brahman himself, can obtain a sight of that god of universal form. I shall grant thee what other objects may be in thy heart, for thou art the foremost of mortals. Thy soul abides in peace; thou art devoted to righteousness; thou hast thy senses under control; and thou art possessed of heroism. Thou seekest unflinchingly to do what is agreeable to the gods. For the sake also of thy intelligence, devotion, and high faith, I shall grant thee whatsoever boons may be desired by thee.'
"Mandhatri said, I bend my head for gratifying thee. Without doubt, however, I desire to see the first of gods. O divine Lord! Casting off all (earthly) desires, I wish to earn religious merit, and to lead the foremost mode of life, that path of the good, highly regarded by all. By exercising the high duties of a Kshatriya, I have earned many regions of inexhaustible merit in the other world, and I have also, through those duties, spread my fame. I do not, however, know how to discharge those duties, the foremost in the world, that have flowed from the first of gods.'
"Indra said, 'They that are not kings, however observant they may be of their duties, cannot easily attain the highest rewards of duty. Kingly duties first flowed from the original god. Other duties flowed afterwards from his body. Infinite were the other duties, with those of the Vanaprastha mode of life, that were created afterwards. The fruits of all those are exhaustible. Kingly duties, however, are distinguished above them. In them are included all other duties. For this reason Kshatriya duties are said to be the foremost of all. In days of old, Vishnu, by acting according to Kshatriya duties, forcibly suppressed and destroyed his foes and thereby afforded relief to the gods and the Rishis of immeasurable energy. If the divine Vishnu of inconceivable energy had not slain all his foes among the Asuras, then the Brahmanas, and (Brahman) the Creator of the worlds and Kshatriya duties, and the duties that first flowed from the Supreme deity, would all have been destroyed. If that first and foremost of gods had not, by putting forth his prowess, subjugated the earth with all her Asuras, then all the duties, of the four orders and all the duties in respect of the four modes of life would all have been destroyed in consequence of the destruction of Brahmanas. The eternal
duties (of men) had all suffered destruction. It was by the exercise of Kshatriya duties that they were revived. 1 In every Yuga, the duties of Brahmanas in respect of attaining to Brahma first set in. These, however, are all protected by kingly duties. The latter, on this account, are regarded as the foremost. Casting away life in battle, compassion for all creatures, knowledge of the affairs of the world, protection of men, rescuing them from danger, relieving the distressed and the oppressed, all these occur among Kshatriya duties practised by Kings. Persons that do not regard wholesome restraints and that are governed by lust and wrath, do not commit overt acts of sin from fear of kings. Others that are docile and of righteous behaviour succeed, in consequence of the same influence, in performing all their duties. For this reason Kshatriya duties are regarded to be righteous. Without doubt, all creatures live happily in the world, protected by kings exercising Kshatriya duties like children protected by their parents. Kshatriya duties are the foremost of all duties. Those eternal duties, regarded as the first in the world, embrace the protection of every creature. Themselves eternal, they lead to eternal emancipation.'"
138:1 i.e., for ascertaining whether kingly duties are superior to those laid down for the several modes of life.
138:2 Probably, in the sense of there being exceptions and limitations in respect to them.
138:3 i.e., 'spread confusion on earth.'
139:1 The sense seems to be that having failed, after such comparison, to resolve their doubts, they waited upon Vishnu.
140:1 The Bengal reading satwatah seems to be an error. The Bombay text has saswatah.
Next: Section LXV