The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection, persons acquainted with the scriptures declare this text in respect of duty, viz., for a Kshatriya possessed of intelligence and knowledge, (the earning of) religious merit and (the acquisition of) wealth, constitute his obvious duties. He should not, by subtle discussions on duty and unseen consequences in respect of a future world, abstain from accomplishing those two duties. As it is useless to argue, upon seeing certain foot-prints on the ground, whether they are wolf's or not, even so is all discussion upon the
nature of righteousness and the reverse. Nobody in this world ever sees the fruits of righteousness and unrighteousness. A Kshatriya, therefore, should seek the acquisition of power. He that is powerful is master of everything. Wealth leads to the possession of an army. He that is powerful 1 obtains intelligent advisers. He that is without wealth is truly fallen. A little (of anything in the world) is regarded as the dirty remnant of a feast. 2 If a strong man does even many bad acts, nobody, through fear, says or does anything (for censuring or checking him). If righteousness and Power be associated with Truth, they can then rescue men from great perils. If, however, the two be compared, Power will appear to be superior to Righteousness. It is from Power that Righteousness springs. Righteousness rests upon Power as all immobile things upon the earth. As smoke depends upon the wind (for its motion), even so Righteousness depends upon Power. Righteousness which is the weaker of the two depends for its support upon a tree. Righteousness is dependent on them that are powerful even as pleasure is dependent upon them that are given to enjoyment. There is nothing that powerful men cannot do. Everything is pure with them that are powerful. A powerless man, by committing evil acts can never escape. Men feel alarmed at his conduct even as they are alarmed at the appearance of a wolf. One fallen away from a state of affluence leads a life of humiliation and sorrow. A life of humiliation and reproach is like death itself The learned have said that when in consequence of one's sinful conduct one is cast off by friends and companions, one is pierced repeatedly by the wordy darts of others and one has to burn with grief on that account. Professors of scriptures have said with respect to the expiation of sinfulness that one should (if stained with sinfulness) study the three Vedas, wait upon and worship the Brahmanas, gratify all men by looks, words, and acts, cast off all meanness, marry in high families, proclaim the praises of others while confessing one's own worthlessness, recite mantras, perform the usual water-rites, assume a mildness of behaviour, and abstain from speaking much, and perform austere penances, seek the refuge of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. Indeed, one who has committed many evil acts, should do all this, without being angry at the reproaches uttered by men. By conducting one's self in this way, one may soon become cleansed of all his sins and regain the regard of the world. Indeed, one wins great respect in this world and great rewards in the next, and enjoys diverse kinds of happiness here by following such conduct and by sharing his wealth with others.'"
288:1 i.e., 'he that has wealth and forces.'
288:2 The sense seems to be that a poor man can have only a little of all earthly things. That little, however, is like the remnant of a strong man's dinner.
Next: Section CXXXV