The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O foremost of kings, what is that method by which a king ruling his subjects may, in consequence of it, obtain great blessedness and eternal fame?'
"Bhishma said, 'A king of cleansed soul and attentive to the duty of protecting his subjects earns merit and fame, both here and hereafter, by conducting himself righteously.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'With whom should the king behave in what way? Asked by me, O thou of great wisdom, it behoveth thee to tell me everything duly. Those virtues of which thou hast already spoken with respect to a person, cannot, it is my belief, be found to exist in any single individual.'
"Bhishma said, 'Thou art endued with great intelligence, O Yudhishthira! It is even so as thou sayest. The person is very rare who is possessed of all those good qualities. To be brief, conduct like this (viz., the presence of all the virtues spoken of), is very difficult to be met with even upon careful search. I shall, however, tell thee what kinds of ministers should be appointed by thee. Four Brahmanas, learned in the Vedas, possessed of a sense of dignity, belonging to the Snataka order, and of pure behaviour, and eight Kshatriyas, all of whom should be possessed of physical strength and capable of wielding weapons, and one and twenty Vaisyas, all of whom should be possessed of
wealth, and three Sudras, everyone of whom should be humble and of pure conduct and devoted to his daily duties, and one man of the Suta caste, possessed of a knowledge of the Puranas and the eight cardinal virtues, should be thy ministers. Every one of them should be fifty years of age, possessed of a sense of dignity, free from envy, conversant with the Srutis and the Smritis, humble, impartial, competent to readily decide in the midst of disputants urging different courses of action, free from covetousness, and from the seven dreadful vices called Vyasanas. The king should consult with those eight ministers and hold the lead among them. He should then publish in his kingdom, for the information of his subjects, the results of such deliberation. Thou shouldst always, adopting such a conduct, watch over thy people. Thou shouldst never confiscate what is deposited with thee or appropriate as thine the thing about whose ownership two persons may dispute. Conduct such as this would spoil the administration of justice. If the administration of justice be thus injured, sin will afflict thee, and afflict thy kingdom as well, and inspire thy people with fear as little birds at the sight of the hawk. Thy kingdom will then melt away like a boat wrecked on the sea. If a king governs his subjects with unrighteousness, fear takes possession of his heart and the door of heaven is closed against him. A kingdom, O bull among men, has its root in righteousness. That minister, or king's son, who acts unrighteously, occupying the seat of justice, and those officers who having accepted the charge of affairs, act unjustly, moved by self-interest, all sink in hell along with the king himself. Those helpless men who are oppressed by the powerful and who indulge on that account in piteous and copious lamentations, have their protector in the king. In cases of dispute between two parties the decision should be based upon the evidence of witnesses. If one of the disputants has no witnesses and is helpless, the king should give the case his best consideration. The king should cause chastisement to be meted out to offenders according to the measure of their offences. They that are wealthy should be punished with fines and confiscations; they that are poor, with loss of liberty. Those that are of very wicked conduct should be chastised by the king with even corporal inflictions. The king should cherish all good men with agreeable speeches and gifts of wealth. He who seeks to compass the death of the king should be punished with death to be effected by diverse means. The same should be the punishment of one who becomes guilty of arson or theft or such co-habitation with women as may lead to a confusion of castes. A king, O monarch, who inflicts punishments duly and conformably to the dictates of the science of chastisement, incurs no sin by the act. On the other hand, he earns merit that is eternal. That foolish king who inflicts punishments capriciously, earns infamy here and sinks into hell hereafter. One should not be punished for the fault of another, Reflecting well upon the (criminal) code, a person should be convicted or acquitted. A king should never slay an envoy under any circumstances. That king who slays art envoy sinks into hell with all his ministers. That king observant of Kshatriya practices who slays an envoy that faithfully utters the message with which he is charged, causes the manes of his deceased ancestors to be stained with the sin of killing a foetus. An envoy should possess these seven
accomplishments, viz., he should be high-born, of a good family, eloquent, clever, sweet-speeched, faithful in delivering the message with which he is charged, and endued with a good memory. The aid-de-camp of the king that protects his person should be endued with similar qualities. The officer also that guards his capital or citadel should possess the same accomplishments. The king's minister should be conversant with the conclusions of the scriptures and competent in directing wars and making treaties. He should, further, be intelligent, possessed of courage, modest, and capable of keeping secrets. He should also be of high birth endued with strength of mind, and pure in conduct. If possessed of these qualities, he should be regarded worthy. The commander of the king's forces should be possessed of similar accomplishments. He should also be conversant with the different kinds of battle array and with the uses of engines and weapons. He should be able to bear exposure to rain, cold, heat, and wind, and watchful of the laches of foes. The king, O monarch, should be able to lull his foes into a sense of security. He should not, however, himself trust anyone. The reposing of confidence on even his own son is not to be approved of. I have now, O sinless one, declared to thee what the conclusions of the scriptures are. Refusal to trust anyone has been said to be one of the highest mysteries of king-craft.'"
Next: Section LXXXVI