The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited the old story of a robber who
having in this would been observant of restraints did not meet with destruction in the next. There was a robber of the name of Kayavya, born of a Kshatriya father and a Nishada mother. Kayavya was a practiser of Kshatriya duties. Capable of smiting, possessed of intelligence and courage, conversant with the scriptures, destitute of cruelty, devoted to the Brahmanas, and worshipping his seniors and preceptors with reverence, he protected the ascetics in the observance of their practices. Though a robber, he still succeeded in winning felicity in heaven. Morning and evening he used to excite the wrath of the deer by chasing them. He was well conversant with all the practices of the Nishadas as also of all animals living in the forest. Well acquainted with the requirements of time and place, he roved over the mountains. Acquainted as he was with the habits of all animals, his arrows never missed their aim, and his weapons were strong. Alone, he could vanquish many hundreds of troops. He worshipped his old, blind, and deaf parents in the forest every day. With honey and flesh and fruits and roots and other kinds of excellent food, he hospitably entertained all persons deserving of honour and did them many good offices. He showed great respect for those Brahmanas that had retired from the world for taking up their residence in the woods. Killing the deer, he often took flesh to them. As regards those that were unwilling, from fear of others, to accept gifts from him because of the profession he followed, he used to go to their abodes before dawn and leave flesh at their doors. 1 One day many thousands of robbers, destitute of compassion in their conduct and regardless of all restraints, desired to elect him as their leader.'
"The robbers said, 'Thou art acquainted with the requirements of place and time. Thou hast wisdom and courage. Thy firmness also is great in everything thou undertakest. Be thou our foremost of leaders, respected by us all, We will do as thou wilt direct. Protect us duly, even as a father or mother.'
"Kayavya said, 'Never kill ye a woman, or one that from fear keeps away from the fight, or one that is a child, or one that is an ascetic. One that abstains from fight should never be slain, nor should women be seized or brought away with force. None of you should ever slay a woman amongst all creatures. Let Brahmanas be always blessed and you should always fight for their good. Truth should never be sacrificed. The marriages of men should never be obstructed. No injury should be inflicted on those houses in which the deities, the Pitris, and guests are worshipped. Amongst creatures, Brahmanas deserve to be exempted by you in your plundering excursions. By giving away even your all, you should worship them. He who incurs the wrath of the Brahmanas, he for whose discomfiture they wish, fails to find a rescuer in the three worlds. He who speaks ill of the Brahmanas and wishes for their destruction, himself meets with destruction like darkness at sunrise. Residing here, ye shall acquire the fruits of your valour. Troops shall be sent against those that will refuse to give us our dues. The rod of chastisement is intended for the wicked. It is not intended for self-aggrandisement. They who oppress the god deserve death, it is said. They who seek to aggrandise their fortunes by afflicting kingdoms in
unscrupulous ways, very soon come to be regarded as vermin in a dead body. Those robbers again that would conduct themselves by conforming to these restraints of the scriptures, would soon win salvation although leading a plundering life.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Those robbers, thus addressed, obeyed all the commands of Kayavya. By desisting from sin, they obtained great prosperity. By behaving himself in such a way by thus doing good to the honest and by thus restraining the robbers from bad practices, Kayavya won great success (in the next world). He who always thinks of this narrative of Kayavya will not have any fear from the denizens of the forest, in fact, from any earthly creature. Such a man will have no fear from any creature, O Bharata! He will have no fear from wicked men. If such a man goes to the forest, he will be able to live there with the security of a king.'"
289:1 It is always reproachful to accept gifts from persons of questionable character.
Next: Section CXXXVI