The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast, O scorcher of foes, described the course of duties, the general conduct, the means of livelihood, with their results, of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras. Thou hast discoursed also on the duties of kings, the subject of their treasuries, the means of filling them, and the topic of conquest and victory. Thou hast spoken also of the characteristics of ministers, the measures, that lead to the advancement of the subjects, the characteristics of the sixfold limbs of a kingdom, the qualities of armies, the means of distinguishing the wicked, and the marks of those that are good, the attributes of those that are equal, those that are inferior, and those that are superior, the behaviour which a king desirous of advancement should adopt towards the masses, and the manner in which the weak should be protected and cherished. Thou hast discoursed on all these subjects, O Bharata, laying down instructions that are plain according to what has been inculcated hi sacred treatise. Thou hast spoken also of the behaviour that should be adopted by kings desirous of conquering their foes. I desire now, O foremost of intelligent men, to listen to the behaviour that one should observe towards the multitude of courageous men that assemble round a king! 1 I desire to hear how these may grow, how they may be attached to the king, O Bharata, how may they succeed in subjugating their foes and in acquiring friends. It seems to me that disunion alone can bring about their destruction. I think it is always difficult to keep counsels secret when many are concerned. I desire to hear all this in detail, O scorcher of foes! Tell me also, O king, the means by which they may be prevented from falling out with the king.'
"Bhishma said, 'Between the aristocracy on the one side and the kings on the other, avarice and wrath, O monarch, are the causes that produce enmity. 2 One of these parties (viz., the king,) yields to avarice. As a consequence, wrath takes possession of the other (the aristocracy). Each intent upon weakening and wasting the other, they both meet with destruction. By employing spies, contrivances of policy, and physical force, and adopting the arts of conciliation, gifts, and disunion and applying other methods for producing weakness, waste, and fear, the parties assail each other. The aristocracy of a kingdom, having the characteristics of a compact body, become dissociated from
the king if the latter seeks to take too much from them. Dissociated from the king, all of them become dissatisfied, and acting from fear, side with the enemies of their ruler. If again the aristocracy of a kingdom be disunited amongst themselves, they meet with destruction. Disunited, they fall an easy prey to foes. The nobles, therefore, should always act in concert. If they be united together, they may earn acquisitions of value by means of their strength and prowess. Indeed, when they are thus united, many outsiders seek their alliance. Men of knowledge applaud those nobles that art united with one another in bonds of love. If united in purpose, all of them can be happy. They can (by their example) establish righteous courses of conduct. By behaving properly, they advance in prosperity. By restraining their sons and brothers and teaching them their duties, and by behaving kindly towards all persons whose pride has been quelled by knowledge, 1 the aristocracy advance in prosperity. By always attending to the duties of setting spies and devising means of policy, as also to the matter of filling their treasuries, the aristocracy, O thou of mighty arms, advance in prosperity. By showing proper reverence for them that are possessed of wisdom and courage and perseverance and that display steady prowess in all kinds of work, the aristocracy advance in prosperity. Possessed of wealth and resources, of knowledge of the scriptures and all arts and sciences, the aristocracy rescue the ignorant masses from every kind of distress and danger. Wrath (on the of part the king), rupture, 2 terror, chastisement, persecution, oppression, and executions, O chief of the Bharatas, speedily cause the aristocracy to fall away from the king and side with the king's enemies. They, therefore, that are the leaders of the aristocracy should be honoured by the king. The affairs of the kingdom, O king, depend to a great extent upon them. Consultations should be held with only those that are the leaders of the aristocracy, and secret agents should be placed, O crusher of foes, with them only. The king should not, O Bharata, consult with every member of the aristocracy. The king, acting in concert with the leaders, should do what is for the good of the whole order. When, however, the aristocracy becomes separated and disunited and destitute of leaders, other courses of action should be followed. If the members of the aristocracy quarrel with one another and act, each according to his own resources, without combination, their prosperity dwindles away and diverse kinds of evil occur. Those amongst them that are possessed of learning and wisdom should tread down a dispute as soon as it happens. Indeed, if the seniors of a race look on with indifference, quarrels break out amongst the members. Such quarrels bring about the destruction of a race and produce disunion among the (entire order of the) nobles. Protect thyself, O king, from all fears that arise from within. Fears, however, that arise from outside are of little consequence. The first kind of fear, O king, may cut thy roots in a single day. Persons that are equal to one another in family and blood, influenced by wrath or folly or covetousness arising from their very
natures, cease to speak with one another. This is an indication of defeat. It is not by courage, nor by intelligence, nor by beauty, nor by wealth, that enemies succeed in destroying the aristocracy. It is only by disunion and gifts that it can be reduced to subjugation. For this reason, combination has been said to be the great refuge of the aristocracy.'" 1
233:1 The word is Gana. it literally means an assemblage. There can be no doubt that throughout this lesson the word has been employed to denote the aristocracy of wealth and blood that surround a throne.
233:2 If the king, moved by avarice, taxes them heavily, the aristocracy resent it and seek to pull down the king.
234:1 i.e., learned men of humility.
234:2 Probably, with the king.
235:1 The Burdwan Pundits make a mess of the last two verses. In 31, there is an incorrect reading in the Bengal texts. It is Pradhanaccha for pradanaccha. The Burdwan version repeats the error. K.P. Singha, of course, avoids it, but his version is rather incomplete.
Next: Section CVIII