The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Let not such trees as yield edible fruits be cut down in thy dominions. Fruits and roots constitute the property of the Brahmanas. The sages have declared this to be an ordinance of religion. The surplus, after supporting the Brahmanas, should go to the support of other people. Nobody should take anything by doing an injury to the Brahmanas. 2 If a Brahmana, afflicted for want of support, desires to abandon a kingdom for obtaining livelihood (elsewhere), the king, O monarch, should, with affection and respect, assign unto him the means of sustenance. If he does not still abstain (from leaving the kingdom), the king should repair to an assembly of Brahmanas and say, 'Such a Brahmana is leaving the kingdom. In whom shall my people then find an authority for guiding them?' 3 If after this, he does not give up his intention of leaving, and says anything, the king should say unto him, 'Forget the past.' This, O son of Kunti, is the eternal way of royal duty. 4 The king should further say unto him, 'Indeed, O Brahmana, people say that that only should be assigned to a Brahmana which would be just sufficient for maintaining him. I, however, do not accept that opinion. On the other hand, I think that if a Brahmana seeks to leave a kingdom for the king's neglect in providing him with means of support, such means should be assigned to him, and, further, if he intends to take that step for procuring the means of luxury, he should still be requested to stay and supplied with ever
those means. 1 Agriculture, cattle-rearing, and trade, provide all men with the means of living. A knowledge of the Vedas, however, provide them with the means of obtaining heaven. They, therefore, that obstruct the study of the Vedas and the cause of Vedic practices, are to be regarded as enemies of society. 2 It is for the extermination of these that Brahman created Kshatriyas. Subdue thy foes, protect thy subjects, worship the deities in sacrifices, and fight battles with courage, O delighter of the Kurus! A king should protect those that deserve protection. The king who does this is the best of rulers. Those kings that do not exercise the duty of protection live a vain life. For the benefit of all his subjects the king should always seek to ascertain the acts and thoughts of all, O Yudhishthira; and for that reason fie should set spies and secret agents. 3 Protecting others from thy own, and thy own from others, as also others from others, and thy own from thy own, do thou always cherish thy people. Protecting his own self first from every one, the king should protect the earth. Men of knowledge have said that everything has its root in self. The king should always reflect upon these, viz., What are his laches, to what evil habits he is addicted, what are the sources of his weakness, and what are the sources of his faults. The king should cause secret and trusted agents to wander through the kingdom for ascertaining whether his conduct as displayed on the previous day has or has not met with the approbation of the people. Indeed, he should ascertain whether his conduct is or is not generally praised, or, is or is not acceptable to the people of the provinces, and whether he has or has not succeeded in earning a good name in his kingdom. Amongst those that are virtuous and possessed of wisdom, those that never retreat from battle, and those that do not reside in thy kingdom, those that are dependent on thee, and those that are thy ministers, as well as those that are independent of party, they that praise or blame thee should never be objects of disregard with thee, O Yudhishthira! 4 No man, O sire, can succeed in earning the good opinion of all persons in the world. All persons have friends, foes, and neutrals, O Bharata!'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Among persons all of whom are equal in might of arms and accomplishments, whence does one acquire superiority over all the rest, and whence does that one succeed in ruling over them?'
"Bhishma said, 'Creatures that are mobile devour things that are immobile; animals again that have teeth devour those that have no teeth; wrathful snakes of virulent poison devour smaller ones of their own species. (Upon this principle), among human beings also, the king, who is strong, preys upon those that are weak. The king, O Yudhishthira, should always be heedful of his subjects as also of his foes. If he becomes heedless, they fall upon him like
vultures (on carrion). Take care, O king, that the traders in thy kingdom who purchase articles at prices high and low (for sale), and who in course of their journeys have to sleep or take rest in forest and inaccessible regions, 1 be not afflicted by the imposition of heavy taxes. Let not the agriculturists in thy kingdom leave it through oppression; they, who bear the burthens of the king, support the other residents also of the kingdom. 2 The gifts made by thee in this world support the gods, Pitris, men, Nagas, Rakshasas, birds, and animals. These, O Bharata, are the means of governing a kingdom and protecting its rulers. I shall again discourse to thee on the subject, O son of Pandu!'"
194:2 i.e., before the Brahmanas get their fill.
194:3 The Brahmanas are authorities for guiding other men. When, therefore, a particular Brahmana leaves the kingdom, the people lose in him a friend, teacher, and guide.
194:4 The king should dissuade in the manner indicated in verse 4. If that does not suffice, and if the person intending to leave refers to the king's previous neglect, the king should ask forgiveness and, of course, assign to him the means of maintenance.
195:1 The original is elliptical in construction. The etat of the first line has been supplied in the translation. In rendering the second line, the second half should come first. The Burdwan version, as usual, is erroneous. K.P. Singh's also is incomplete and inaccurate.
195:2 The word used is Dasyus, literally, robbers; here, enemies of society and order.
195:3 Some texts read Yoddhyavyam for Boddhyavyam, and bhunjita for yunjita.
195:4 i.e., thou shouldst care for such opinion, without being angry with those that censure or blame thee.
196:1 i.e., they who have to undergo such privations in carrying on their useful occupation should not be taxed heavily.
196:2 The correct reading is bharanti. Taranti also may give the same meaning. K. P. Singh has erroneously rendered the second line.
Next: Section XC