The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'The king should, by drawing wealth from his own kingdom as also from the kingdoms of his foes, fill his treasury. From the treasury springs his religious merit, O son of Kunti, and it is in consequence of the treasury that the roots of his kingdom extend. For these reasons the treasury must be filled; and when filled; it should be carefully protected (by putting a stop to all useless expenditure), and even sought to be increased. This is the eternal practice. The treasury cannot be filled by (acting with) purity and righteousness, nor by (acting with) heartless cruelty. It should be filled by adopting a middle course. How can a weak king have a treasury? How again can a king who has no treasury have strength? How can a weak man have kingdom? Whence again can one without a kingdom obtain prosperity? For a person of high rank, adversity is like death. For this reason the king should always increase his treasury, and army, and allies and friends. All men disregard a king with an empty treasury. Without being gratified with the little that such a king can give, his servants never express any alacrity in his business. In consequence of his affluence, the king succeeds in obtaining great honours. Indeed, affluence conceals his very sins, like robes concealing such parts of a feminine form as should not be exposed to the view. Those with whom the king has formerly quarrelled become filled with grief at the sight of his new affluence. Like dogs they once more take service under him, and though they wait only for an opportunity to slay him, he takes to them as if nothing has happened. How, O Bharata, can such a king obtain happiness? The king should always exert for acquiring greatness. He should never bend down in humility. 2 Exertion is manliness. He should rather break at an unfavourable opportunity than bend before any one. He should rather repair to the forest and live therewith the wild animals. But he should not still live in the midst of ministers and officers who have like robbers broken through all restraints.
[paragraph continues] Even the robbers of the forest may furnish a large number of soldiers for the accomplishment of the fiercest of deeds. O Bharata! If the king transgresses all wholesome restraints, all people become filled with alarm. The very robbers who know not what compassion is, dread such a king. 1 For this reason, the king: should always establish rules and restraints for gladdening the hearts of his people. Rules in respect of even very trivial matters are hailed with delight by the people. There are men who think that this world is nothing and the future also is a myth. He that is an atheist of this type, though his heart is agitated by secret fears, should never be trusted. If the robbers of the forest, while observing other virtues, commit depredations in respect only of property, those depredations may be regarded as harmless. The lives of thousands of creatures are protected in consequence of robbers observing such restraints. Slaying an enemy who is flying away from battle, ravishment of wives, ingratitude, plundering the property of a Brahmana, depriving a person of the whole of his property, violation of maidens, continued occupation of villages and towns as their lawful lords, and adulterous congress with other people's wives--these are regarded as wicked acts among even robbers, and robbers should always abstain from them. It is again certain that those kings who strive (by making peace) to inspire confidence upon themselves in the hearts of the robbers, succeed, after watching all their ins and outs, in exterminating them. For this reason, in dealing with robbers, it is necessary that they should not be exterminated outright. 2 They should be sought to be brought under the king's way. The king should never behave with cruelty towards them, thinking that he is more powerful than they. Those kings that do not exterminate them outright have no fear of extermination to themselves. They, however, that do exterminate them have always to live in fear in consequence of that act.'"
286:2 i.e., yield with ease.
287:1 Grammatically, the last line may mean,--'The very robbers dread a king destitute of compassion.'
287:2 Their wives and children ought to be saved, and their habitations and wearing apparel and domestic utensils, etc., should not be destroyed.
Next: Section CXXXIV