The Mahabharata Home
"Vamadeva continued, 'When the king, who is powerful, acts unrighteously towards the weak, they who take their birth in his race imitate the same conduct. Others, again, imitate that wretch who sets sin agoing. Such imitation of the man ungoverned by restraints soon brings destruction upon the kingdom. The conduct of a king who is observant of his proper duties, is accepted by men in general as a model for imitation. The conduct, however, of a king who falls away from his duties, is not tolerated by his very kinsfolk. That rash king who, disregarding the injunctions laid down in the scriptures, acts with highhandedness in his kingdom, very soon meets with destruction. That Kshatriya who does not follow the conduct observed from days of old by other Kshatriyas. conquered or unconquered, is said to fall away from Kshatriya duties. Having seized in battle a royal foe that did some good to the conqueror on a former occasion, that king who does not, actuated by malice, pay him honours, is said to fall away from Kshatriya duties. The king should display his power, live cheerfully, and do what is necessary in seasons of danger. Such a ruler becomes the beloved of all creatures and never falls away from prosperity. If thou doest disservice to any person, thou shouldst, when the turn comes, do him service. One who is not loved becomes an object of love, if he does what is agreeable. Untruthful speeches should be avoided. Thou shouldst do good to others without being solicited. Thou shouldst never abandon righteousness from lust or wrath or malice. Do not give harsh answers when questioned by anybody. Do not utter undignified speeches. Never be in a hurry to do anything. Never indulge in malice. By such means is a foe won over. Do not give way to exclusive joy when anything agreeable occurs, nor suffer thyself to be overwhelmed with sorrow when anything disagreeable occurs. Never indulge in grief when thy pecuniary resources are exhausted, and always remember the duty of doing good to thy subjects. That king who always does what is agreeable by virtue of his disposition achieves success in all his measures and is never shorn of prosperity. The king should always, with heedfulness, cherish that devoted servant who abstains from doing what is injurious to his master and who always does what is for his good. He should appoint in all great affairs persons that have subjugated their senses,
that are devotedly loyal and of pure behaviour, and that are possessed of ability. That person, who by the possession of such qualifications pleases the king and who is never heedless in taking care of the interests of his master should be appointed by the king in the affairs of his kingdom. On the other hand, the king becomes divested of prosperity by appointing to important offices men that are fools and slaves of their senses, that are covetous and of disrespectable conduct, that are deceitful and hypocritical, that are malicious, wicked-souled, and ignorant, that are low-minded, and addicted to drink, gambling, women, and hunting. That king, who, first protecting his own self, protects others that deserve protection, feels the satisfaction of finding his subjects growing in prosperity. Such a king succeeds also in obtaining greatness. A king should, by secret agents that are devoted to him, watch the conduct and acts of other kings. By such means can he obtain superiority. Having injured a powerful king, one should not comfort himself with the thought that he (the injurer) lives at a great distance from the injured. Such a king when injured falls upon the injurer like the hawk swooping down upon its prey, in moments of heedlessness. A king whose power has been consolidated and who is confident of his own strength, should assail a neighbour who is weaker than himself but never one that is stronger. A king who is devoted to virtue, having acquired the sovereignty of the earth by prowess, should protect his subjects righteously and slaughter foes in battle. Everything belonging to this world is destined to destruction. Nothing here is durable. For this reason, the king, adhering to righteousness, should protect his subjects righteously. The defence of forts, battle, administration of justice, consultations on questions of policy, and keeping the subjects in happiness, these five acts contribute to enlarge the dominions of a king. That king who takes proper care of these is regarded to be the best of kings. By always attending to these, a king succeeds in protecting his kingdom. It is impossible, however, for one man to supervise all these matters at all times. Making over such supervision to his ministers, a King may govern the earth for ever. 1 The people make such a person their king who is liberal, who shares all objects of enjoyment with others, who is possessed of a mild disposition, who is of pure behaviour, and who will never abandon his subjects. He is obeyed in the world who, having listened to counsels of wisdom, accepts them, abandoning his own opinions. That king who does not tolerate the counsels of a well-wisher in consequence of their opposition to his own views, who listens with inattention to what is said unto him in opposition to his views, and who does not always follow the conduct of high and noble persons conquered or unconquered, is said to fall away from the duties of Kshatriyas. From ministers that have once been chastised, from women in especial, from mountains and inaccessible regions, from elephants and horses and reptiles, the king should always, with heedfulness, protect his own self. 2 That king who, abandoning his chief ministers, makes favourites
of low persons, soon falls into distress, and never succeeds in compassing the (intended) ends of his measures. That king of infirm soul, who, yielding to the influence of wrath and malice, does not love and honour those amongst his kinsmen that are possessed of good qualities, is said to live on the very verge of destruction. That king, who attaches to himself accomplished persons by doing good to them even though he may not like them at heart, succeeds in enjoying fame for ever. Thou shouldst never impose taxes unseasonably. Thou shouldst not be grieved at the occurrence of anything disagreeable, nor rejoice exceedingly at anything agreeable. Thou shouldst always set thyself to the accomplishment of good acts. Who amongst the dependent kings is truly devoted to thee, and who is loyal to thee from fear, and who amongst them has faults, should always be ascertained by thee. The king, even if he be powerful, should trust them that are weak, for in moments of heedlessness the weak may assail the powerful like a flock of vultures seizing their prey. A man of sinful soul seeks to injure his master even if the latter be sweet-speeched and possessed of every accomplishment. Do not, therefore, place thy confidence upon such men. Nahusha's son Yayati, in declaring the mysteries of king-craft, said that a person engaged in ruling men should slay even foes that are contemptible.'"
204:1 Teshu i.e., unto the ministers already spoken of.
204:2 The sense of the passage is that the king should not ride vicious elephants and horses, should guard himself against poisonous reptiles and the arts of women, and should take p. 206 particular care while ascending mountains or entering inaccessible regions such as forests and woody valleys.
Next: Section XCIV