The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'The most trifling act, O grandsire, cannot be accomplished by any man if unaided. What then need be said of the king (who has to govern a kingdom)? What should be the behaviour and what the acts of the king's minister? Upon whom should the king repose confidence and upon whom should he not?'
"Bhishma said, 'Kings, O monarch, have four kinds of friends. They are he that has the same object, he that is devoted, he that is related by birth, and he that has been won over (by gifts and kindness). A person of righteous soul, who would serve one and not both sides, is the fifth in the enumeration of the king's friends. Such a person adopts that side on which righteousness is, and accordingly acts righteously. With respect to such a person, the king should never disclose such purposes of his as would not enlist his sympathy.
[paragraph continues] Kings desirous of success are obliged to adopt both kinds of paths, righteous and unrighteous. Of the four kinds of friends, the second and the third are superior, while the first and the fourth should ever be regarded with suspicion. In view, however, of those acts which the king should do in person, he should always regard with suspicion all the four. The king should never act heedlessly in the matter of watching his friends. A king that is heedless is always overpowered by others. A wicked man assumes the garb of honesty, and he that is honest becomes otherwise. A foe may become a friend and a friend may become a foe. A man cannot always be of the same mind. Who is there that would trust him completely? All the chief acts, therefore, of a king he should accomplish in his own presence. A complete reliance (on his ministers) is destructive of both morality and profit. A want of trust again in respect of all is worse than death. Trustfulness is premature death. One incurs danger by truthfulness. If one trusts another completely, he is said to live by the sufferance of the trusted person. For this reason every one should be trusted as also mistrusted. This eternal rule of policy, O sire, should be kept in view. One should always mistrust that person who would, upon one's desire, obtain one's wealth. The wise declare such a person to be one's enemy. A person whose joy knows no bounds upon beholding the aggrandisement of the king and who feels miserable upon seeing the king's decay, furnishes the indications of one of the best friends of the king. He whose fall would be brought about by thy fall, should be trusted by thee completely even as thou shouldst trust thy sire. Thou shouldst, to the best of thy power, aggrandise him as thou winnest aggrandisement for thyself. One who, in even thy religious rites, seeks to rescue thee from harm, would seek to rescue thee from harm's way in every other business. Such a one should be regarded as thy best friend. They, on the other hand, that wish one harm are one's foes. That friend is said to be like thy own self who is inspired with fear when calamity overtakes thee and with joy when prosperity shines on thee. A person possessed of beauty, fair complexion, excellent voice, liberality, benevolence, and good birth, cannot be such a friend. That person who is possessed of intelligence and memory, who is clever in the transaction of business, who is naturally averse from cruelty, who never indulges in wrath, and who, whether regarded or disregarded is never dissatisfied, be he thy priest or preceptor or honoured friend should always receive thy worship if he accepts the office of thy counsellor and resides in thy abode. Such a person may be informed of thy most secret counsels and the true state of all thy affairs religious or pertaining to matters of profit. Thou mayst confide in him as in thy own sire. One person should be appointed to one task, and not two or three. Those may not tolerate each other. It is always seen that several persons, if set to one task, disagree with one another. That person who achieves celebrity, who observes all restraints, who never feels jealous of others that are able and competent, who never does any evil act, who never abandons righteousness from lust or fear or covetousness or wrath, who is clever in the transaction of business, and who is possessed of wise and weighty speech, should be thy foremost of ministers. Persons possessed of good birth and good behaviour,
who are liberal and who never indulge in brag, who are brave and respectable, and learned and full of resources, should be appointed as ministers for supervising all thy affairs. Honoured by thee and gratified with wealth, they would act for thy good and be of great help to thee. Appointed to offices connected with profit and other important matters they always bring about great prosperity. Moved by a feeling of healthy rivalry, they discharge all duties connected with profit, holding consultations with one another when necessary. Thou shouldst fear thy kinsmen as thou shouldst death itself. A kinsman can never bear a kinsman's prosperity even as a feudatory chief cannot bear to see the prosperity of his overlord. None but a kinsman can feel joy at the destruction of a kinsman adorned with sincerity, mildness, liberality, modesty, and truthfulness of speech. They, again, that have no kinsmen, cannot be happy. No men can be more contemptible than they that are destitute of kinsmen. A person that has no kinsmen is easily overridden by foes. Kinsmen constitute the refuge of one that is afflicted by other men, for kinsmen can never bear to see a kinsman afflicted by other people. When a kinsman is persecuted by even his friends, every kinsman of the persecuted regards the injury to be inflicted upon himself. In kinsmen, therefore, there are both merits and faults. A person destitute of kinsmen never shows favours to any one nor humbles himself to any one. In kinsmen, therefore both merit and demerit may be marked. One should, for this reason, always honour and worship his kinsmen in words and acts, and do them agreeable offices without injuring them at any time. Mistrusting them at heart, one should behave towards them as if he trusted them completely. Reflecting upon their nature, it seems that they have neither faults nor merits. A person who heedfully conducts himself in this way finds his very foes disarmed of hostility and converted into friends. One who always conducts himself in this way amid kinsmen and relatives and bears himself thus towards friends and foes, succeeds in winning everlasting fame.'"
Next: Section LXXXI