The Mahabharata Home
"Saunaka said, 'I shall for these reasons discourse to thee of righteousness, to thee whose heart has been exceedingly agitated. Possessed of knowledge and great strength, and with a contented heart, thou seekest righteousness of thy own will. A king, first becoming exceedingly stern, then shows compassion and does good to all creatures by his acts. This is certainly very wonderful. People say that that king who commences with sternness burns the whole world. Thou wert stern before. But thou turnest thy eyes on righteousness now. Forsaking luxurious food and all articles of enjoyment, thou hast betaken thyself for a long time to rigid penances. All this, O Janamejaya, is certain to appear wonderful to those kings that are sunk in sin. That he who has affluence
should become liberal, or that he who is endued with wealth of asceticism should become reluctant to spend it, is not at all wonderful. It has been said that the one does not live at a distance from the other. 1 That which is ill-judged produces misery in abundance. That on the other hand, which is accomplished with the aid of sound judgment leads to excellent results. 2 Sacrifice, gift, compassions, the Vedas, and truth, O lord of the earth--these five--are cleansing. The sixth is penance well-performed. This last, O Janamejaya, is highly cleansing for kings. By betaking thyself to it properly, thou art certain to earn great merit and blessedness. Visiting sacred spots has also been said to be highly cleansing. In this connection are cited the following verses sung by Yayati: 'That mortal who would earn life and longevity should, after having performed sacrifices with devotion, renounce them (in old age) and practise penances.' The field of Kuru has been said to be sacred. The river Saraswati has been said to be more so. The tirthas of the Saraswati are more sacred than the Saraswati herself; and the tirtha called Prithudaka is more sacred than all the tirthas of the Saraswati. One that has bathed in Prithudaka. and drunk its waters will not have to grieve for a premature death. Thou shouldst go to Mahasaras, to all the tirthas designated by the name of Pushkara, to Prabhasa, to the northern lake Manasa, and to Kalodaka. Thou shalt then regain life and acquire longevity. Lake Manasa is on the spot where the Saraswati and the Drisadwati mingle with each other. A person possessed of Vedic knowledge should bathe in these places. Manu has said that liberality is the best of all duties and that renunciation is better than liberality. In this connection is cited the following verse composed by Satyavat. (One should act) as a child full of simplicity and destitute of either merit or sin. As regards all creatures there is in this would neither misery nor happiness. (That which is called misery and that which is called happiness are the results of a distraught imagination.) Even this is the true nature of all living creatures. Of all creatures, their lives are superior who have betaken themselves to renunciation and abstained from acts both meritorious and sinful. I shall now tell thee those acts which are best for a king. By putting forth thy might and liberality do thou conquer heaven, O king! That man who possesses the attributes of might and energy succeeds in attaining to righteousness. 3 Do thou rule the earth, O king, for the sake of the Brahmanas and for the sake of happiness. Thou usedst formerly to condemn the Brahmanas. Do thou gratify them now. Though they have cried fie on thee and though they have deserted thee, do thou still, guided by knowledge of self, solemnly pledge thyself never to injure them. Engaged in acts proper for thee, seek what is for thy highest good.
[paragraph continues] Amongst rulers some one becomes as cool as snow; some one, as fierce as fire; some one becomes like a plough (uprooting all enemies); and some one, again, becomes like a thunder-bolt (suddenly scorching his foes). He who wishes to prevent self-destruction should never mix with wicked wights for general or special reasons. From a sinful act committed only once, one may cleanse one's self by repenting of it. From a sinful act committed twice, one may cleanse one's self by vowing never to commit it again. From such an act committed thrice, one may cleanse one's self by the resolution to bear one's self righteously ever afterwards. By committing such an act repeatedly, one may cleanse one's self by a trip to sacred places. One who is desirous of obtaining prosperity should do all that results in blessedness. They who live amidst fragrant odours themselves become fragrant in consequence. They, on the other hand, who live in the midst of foul stench themselves become foul. One devoted to the practice of ascetic penances is soon cleansed of all one's sins. By worshipping the (homa) fire for a year, one stained by diverse sins becomes purified. One guilty of foeticide is cleansed by worshipping the fire for three years. One guilty of foeticide becomes cleansed at even a hundred Yojanas from Mahasaras, or the tirthas called Pushkara, or Prabhasa, or Manasa on the north, if only one gets out for any of them. 1 A slayer of creatures is cleansed of his sins by saying from imminent peril as many creatures of that particular species as have been slain by him. Manu has said that by diving in water after thrice reciting the Aghamarshana mantras, one reaps the fruits of the final bath in a Horse-sacrifice. 2 Such an act very soon cleanses one of all one's sins, and one regains in consequence the esteem of the world. All creatures become obedient to such a person like helpless idiots (obedient to those that surround them). The gods and Asuras, in days of yore, approaching the celestial preceptor Vrihaspati, O king, humbly enquired of him, saying, 'Thou knowest, O great Rishi, the fruits of virtue, as also the fruits of those other acts that lead to hell in the next world. Does not that person succeed in liberating himself from both merit and sin with whom the two (weal and woe) are equal? Tell us, O great Rishi, what the fruits of righteousness are, and how does a righteous person dispels his sins.'
"Vrihaspati answered, 'If having committed sin through folly, one does meritorious acts understanding their nature, one succeeds, by such righteousness, in cleansing one's self from sin even as a piece of dirty cloth is washed clean by means of some saline substance. One should not boast after having committed sin. By having recourse to faith and by freeing one's self from malice, one succeeds in obtaining blessedness. That person who covers the
faults, even when exposed, of good men, obtains blessedness even after committing faults. As the sun rising at morn dispels darkness, one dispels all ones sins by acting righteously.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Indrota, the son of Sunaka, having said these words unto king Janamejaya, assisted him, by his ministrations, in the performance of the horse-sacrifice. The king, cleansed of his sins and regaining blessedness, shone with splendour like a blazing fire, and that slayer of foes then entered his kingdom like Soma in his full form entering heaven.'"
333:1 The version of 5 is offered tentatively. That a person possessed of affluence should become charitable is not wonderful. An ascetic, again, is very unwilling to exercise his power. (Witness Agastya's unwillingness to create wealth for gratifying his spouse.) What is meant by these two persons not living at a distance from each other is that the same cause which makes an affluent person charitable operates to make an ascetic careful of the kind of wealth he has.
333:2 That which is asamikshitam is samagram karpanyam.
333:3 Nilakantha explains that vala here means patience (strength to bear) and ojas (energy) means restraints of the senses.
334:1 Both the vernacular translators nave rendered the second line of verse 25 wrongly. They seem to think that a person by setting out for any of the sacred waters from a distance of a hundred yojanas becomes cleansed. If this meaning be accepted then no man who lives within a hundred yojanas of any of them has any chance of being cleansed. The sense, of course, is that such is the efficacy of these tirthas that a man becomes cleansed by approaching even to a spot within a hundred yojanas of their several sites.
334:2 These mantras form a part of the morning, noon and evening prayer of every Brahmana. Aghamarshana was a Vedic Rishi of great sanctity.
Next: Section CLIII