The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast spoken to me about the four modes of human life. I desire to know more of-them. Do thou discourse on them in detail.'
"Bhishma said, 'O Yudhishthira of mighty arms, all the duties that are practised in this world by the righteous are known to thee as they are known to me. O foremost of virtuous persons, listen now to me about what thou askest, viz. the merit (that a king acquires) in consequence of the duties practised
by others leading other modes of life. 1 All the merits, O son of Kunti, that belong to persons practising the duties of the four modes of life, attach, O foremost of men, to righteous kings. A king who is not governed by lust and hate, who rules with the aid of the science of chastisement, and who looks equally on all creatures, O Yudhishthira, attains to the object of the Bhaikshya mode of life. 2 That king who is possessed of knowledge, who makes gifts to deserving persons on proper occasions, who knows how to favour and punish, who conducts himself in all things according to the injunctions of the scriptures, and who has tranquillity of soul, attains to the object of the Garhasthya mode of life. That king who always worships those that are deserving of worship by giving them their due, completely attains, O son of Kunti, to the object of the Bhaikshya mode of life. That king, O Yudhishthira, who rescues from distress, to the best of his power, his kinsmen and relatives and friends, attains to the object of the Vanaprashtha mode of life. That king who on every occasion honours those that are foremost among men and those that are foremost among Yatis, attains, O son of Kunti, to the object of the Vanaprashtha mode of life. That king, O Partha, who daily makes offerings unto the Pitris and large offerings unto all living creatures including men, attains to the object of the same mode of life. That king, O tiger among men, who grinds the kingdoms of others for protecting the righteous, attains to the object of the same mode of life. In consequence of the protection of all creatures as also of the proper protection of his own kingdom, a king earns the merit of as many sacrifices as the number of creatures protected, and accordingly attains to the object of the Sannyasa mode of life. Study of the Vedas every day, forgiveness, and worship of preceptors, and services rendered to one's own teacher, lead to the attainment of the object of Brahmacharya. That king who silently recites his mantras every day and who always worships the gods according to the ordinance, attains, O tiger among men, to the object of the Garhasthya mode of life. That king who engages in battle with the resolve of protecting his kingdom or meeting with death, attains to the object of the Vanaprastha mode of life. That king who gives unto persons leading a Vanaprastha mode of life and unto Brahmanas versed in the three Vedas attains to the object of the Vanaprastha mode of life. That king who displays compassion towards all creatures and abstains entirely from cruelty, attains to the objects of all the modes of life. That king, O Yudhishthira, who shows compassion to the young and the old, O son of Kunti, under every circumstance, attains to the objects of every mode of life. That king, O perpetuator of Kuru's race, who affords relief to all oppressed people that seek his protection, attains to the object of the Garhasthya mode of life. That king who protects all creatures mobile and immobile, and honours them is they deserve, attains to the object of the Garhasthya mode of life. Bestowing favours and inflicting
punishments upon the wives and brothers, elder and younger, and upon their sons and grandsons, are the domestic duties of a king and these constitute his best penances. By honouring those that are righteous and deserving of worship and protecting those that have (by their penances) acquired it knowledge of self, a king, O tiger among men, attains to the object of the Garhasthya mode of life. Inviting to this home, O Bharata, persons that have betaken themselves to that Vanaprastha and other modes of life, and treating them with food, constitute the domestic duties of a king. That king who duly adheres to the duties laid down by the Creator, obtains the blessed merits of all the modes of life. That king, O son of Kunti, in whom no virtue is wanting, that foremost of men, O Yudhishthira, is said by the learned to be a person in the observance of the Vanaprastha and all the other modes of life. That king who duly honours the office or rank which deserves honour, the race or family which deserves honour, and those old men that deserve honour is said, O Yudhishthira, to live in all the modes of life. 1 A king, O son of Kunti, by observing the duties of his country and those of his family, acquires, O tiger among men, the merits of all the modes of life. That king who at proper seasons bestows upon righteous persons affluence or gifts of value, earns the merits, O king, of all the modes of life. That king, O son of Kunti, who while overcome with danger and fear still keeps his eye on the duties of all men, 2 earns the merits of all the modes of life. The king obtains a share of the merits earned under his protection by righteous people in his dominions. On the other hand, if kings, O tiger among men, do not protect the righteous people within their dominions, they then take the sins of the latter (of omission and commission). Those men also, O Yudhishthira. who assist kings (in protecting their subjects), become equally entitled, O sinless one, to a share of the merits earned by others (in consequence of that protection). The learned say that the Garhasthya, which we have adopted, is superior to all the other modes of life. The conclusions in respect of it are very clear. It is certainly sacred, O tiger among men. That man who regards all creatures to be like his own self, who never does any harm and has his wrath under control, obtains great happiness both here and hereafter. 3 A king can easily cross the ocean of the world, with kingly duties as his boat passed of great speed, urged on by the breeze of gifts, having the scriptures for its tackle and intelligence for the strength of its helmsman, and kept afloat by the power of righteousness. When the principle of desire in his heart is withdrawn from every earthly object, he is then regarded as one resting on his understanding alone. In this state he soon attains to Brahma. 4 Becoming cheerful by meditation and by restraining desire and other passions of the heart, O tiger among men, it
king, engaged in discharging the dully of protection, succeeds in obtaining great merit. Do thou, therefore, O Yudhishthira, exert thyself carefully in protecting Brahmanas of pious deeds and devoted to the study of the Vedas, as also all other men. By exercising the duty of protection only, O Bharata, the king earns merit that is a hundred times greater than what is earned by recluses in their asylums within the wood.'
"I have now described, O eldest son of Pandu, the diverse duties of men. Do thou adhere to kingly duties that are eternal and that have been practised by great men since days of old. If thou employest thyself with concentrated attention to the duty of protecting (thy subjects), O tiger among men, thou mayst then, O son of Pandu, obtain the merits of all the four modes of life and of all the four orders of men!"
143:1 Nilakantha thinks that Lingantargatam means omniscient. He is for taking this verse to mean--'Listen now to those duties about which thou askest my omniscient self.' Bhishma having acquired omniscience through Krishna's boon, refers to it here. The interpretation seems to be very far-fetched.
143:2 That object is Brahma.
144:1 i.e.. such a man acquires the merits of all the modes of life.
144:2 Dasadharmagatam is explained by Nilakantha as 'overcome with fear, etc." Keeps his eye on the duties of all men,' i.e., protects all men in the discharge of their duties.
144:3 If this verse has a reference to kings, nyastadandah would mean one who punishes without wrath.
144:4 In this and the preceding verse, Sattwa, without being taken as used for intelligence, may be taken to mean 'the quality of goodness' as well.
Next: Section LXVII