The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Of whose wealth, O bull of Bharata's race, is the king regarded to be the lord? And what conduct also should the king adopt? Discourse to me on this, O grandsire.'
"Bhishma said, 'The Vedas declare that the king is the lord of the wealth that belongs to all persons except Brahmanas, as also of those Brahmanas that are not observant of their proper duties. The king should not spare those Brahmanas that are not observant of their duties. The righteous say that this is the ancient custom of kings. That king, O monarch, in whose dominion a Brahmana becomes a thief, is regarded to be the author of that misdeed. It is the king that becomes sinful on that account. In consequence of such a circumstance, kings regard themselves to be worthy of reproach. All righteous kings, therefore, provide Brahmanas with the means of support. In this connection is cited the old narrative of the speech made by the king of the Kaikeyas unto a Rakshasa while the latter was about to abduct him away. Of rigid vows and possessed of Vedic lore, the king of the Kaikeyas, O monarch, while living in the woods, was forcibly seized on a certain occasion by a Rakshasa.'
"The king said, 'There is no thief in my territories, nor any person of wicked behaviour, nor any one that drinks alcohol. There is no one in my dominions who has not his sacred fire or who does not perform sacrifices. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? There is no Brahmana in my dominions who is not possessed of learning or who is not observant of vows or who has not drunk Soma. There is no one who has not his sacred fire or who does not perform sacrifices. How then hast thou been able to possess my soul? In my dominions no sacrifice has been performed without completing it by Dakshina. No one in my dominions studies the Vedas who is not observant of vows. How then hast thou been able to possess my soul? The Brahmanas in my kingdom teach, study, sacrifice, officiate at other's sacrifices, give, and receive gifts. All of them are observant of those six acts. The Brahmanas in my kingdom are all devoted to the performance of the duties of their order. Worshipped and provided for, they are mild, and truthful in speech. How then hast thou been able to possess my soul? The Kshatriyas in my kingdom are all devoted to the duties or their order. They never beg
but give, and are conversant with truth and virtue. They never teach but study, and perform sacrifices but never officiate at the sacrifices of others. They protect the Brahmanas and never fly from battle. How then hast thou been able to possess my soul? The Vaisyas in my dominion are all observant of the duties of their order. With simplicity and without deceit they derive their sustenance from agriculture, cattle-keeping, and trade. They are all heedful, observant of religious rites and excellent vows, and truthful in speech. They give to guests what is their due, and self-restrained, and pure, and attached to their relative and kinsmen. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? The Sudras in my kingdom, observant of the duties of their order, humbly and duly serve and wait upon the other three orders without entertaining any malice towards them. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? I support the helpless and the old, the weak, the ill, and women (without guardians), by supplying them with all their necessaries. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? I am never an exterminator of the special customs of families and of countries existing duly from days of old. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? The ascetics in my kingdom are protected and worshipped. They are always honoured and entertained with food. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? I never eat without feeding others from my dishes. I never go to other people's wives. I never sport or recreate alone. How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? No one in my kingdom who is not a Brahmacharin begs his food, and no one who leads the Bhikshu mode of life desires to be a Brahmacharin. No one who is not a Ritwij pours libations (of clarified butter) upon the sacrificial fire. How then hast thou been able to possess my soul? I never disregard the learned or the old or those that are engaged in penances. When the whole population sleeps, I keep myself awake (for watching and protecting). How then hast thou been able to possess my heart? My priest possesses knowledge of self. He is given to penances, and is conversant with all duties. Possessed of great intelligence, he has the fullest power over my kingdom. By gifts I desire to acquire knowledge, and by truth and the protection of Brahmanas, I desire to attain regions of blessedness in heaven. By service I attach myself to my preceptors, I have no fear of Rakshasas. In my kingdom there are no widows, no wicked Brahmanas, no Brahmana that has fallen away from his duties, no deceitful person, no thief, no Brahmana that officiates in the sacrifices of people for whom he should never officiate, and no perpetrator of sinful deeds. I have no fear of Rakshasas. There is no space in my body, of even two fingers' breadth, that does not bear the scar of a weapon-wound. I always fight for the sake of righteousness. How hast thou been able to possess my heart? The people of my kingdom always invoke blessings upon me in order that I may always be able to protect kine and Brahmanas and perform sacrifices. How then hast thou been able to possess me?'
"The Rakshasa said, 'Since thou art observant of the duties under all circumstances, therefore, O king of the Kaikeyas, go back to thy abode. Blessed be thou, I leave thee. They, O king of the Kaikeyas, who protect kine and
[paragraph continues] Brahmanas and all their subjects, have nothing to fear from Rakshasas, and much less from sinful persons. Those kings that give the lead to Brahmanas and whose might depends upon that of the Brahmanas, and whose subjects discharge the duties of hospitality, always succeeds in acquiring heaven.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thou shouldst, therefore, protect the Brahmanas. Protected by thee, they will protect thee in return. Their blessings, O king, would surely descend upon kings of righteous behaviour. For the sake of righteousness, those Brahmanas that are not observant of the duties of their order should be chastised and separated (into a distinct class) from their superiors. A king who conducts himself in this way towards the people of his city and the provinces, obtains prosperity here and residence in heaven with Indra.'"
Next: Section LXXVIII