The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'For enabling such pious and impoverished Brahmanas as have been robbed of their wealth (by thieves), as are engaged in the performance of sacrifices, as are well conversant with all the Vedas, and as are desirous of acquiring the merit of righteousness, to discharge their obligations to preceptors and the Pitris, and pass their days in reciting and studying the scriptures, wealth and knowledge, O Bharata, should be given. 1 Unto those Brahmanas that are not poor, only the Dakshina, 2 O best of the Bharatas, should be given. As regards those that have fallen away (in consequence of their sinful deeds) from the status of Brahman, uncooked food should be given to them outside the limits of the sacrificial altar. 3 The Brahmanas are the Vedas themselves and all the Sacrifices with large presents. Desirous of excelling one another, they always perform sacrifices, impelled by their virtuous inclinations. The king should, therefore, make presents of diverse kinds of valuable wealth unto them. That Brahmana who hath a sufficiency of stores for feeding his family for three or more years, deserves to drink the Soma. 4 If not withstanding the presence of a virtuous king on the throne, the sacrifice begun by anybody, especially by a Brahmana, cannot be completed for want of only a fourth part of the estimated expenses, then the king should, for the completion of that sacrifice, take away from his kinsmen the wealth of a Vaisya that is possessed of a large flock of cattle but that is averse from sacrifices and abstains from quaffing Soma. The Sudra has no competence for performing a sacrifice. The king should, therefore, take away (wealth for such a purpose) from a Sudra house of ours. 5 The king should also, without any scruple, take away from the kinsmen the wealth of him who does not perform sacrifices though possessed of a hundred kine and also of him who abstains from sacrifices though possessed of a thousand kine. The king should always publicly take away the wealth of such a person as does not practise charity, by acting in this way the king earns great merit. Listen again to me. That Brahmana who has been forced by want to go without six meals, 6 may take away without permission, according to the rule of a person that cares only for today without any thought of the morrow, only what is necessary for a single
meal, from the husking tub or the field or the garden or any other place of even a man of low pursuits. He should, however, whether asked or unasked, inform the king of his act. 1 If the king be conversant with duty he should not inflict any punishment upon such a Brahmana. He should remember that a Brahmana becomes afflicted with hunger only through the fault of the Kshatriya. 2 Having ascertained a Brahmana's learning and behaviour, the king should make a provision for him, and protect him as a father protects the son of his own loins. On the expiry of every year, one should perform the Vaisvanara sacrifice (if he is unable to perform any animal or Soma sacrifice). They who are conversant with religion say that the practice of an act laid down in the alternative, is not destructive of virtue. The Viswedevas, the Sadhyas, the Brahmanas, and great Rishis, fearing death in seasons of distress, do not scruple to have recourse to such provisions in the scriptures as have been laid down in the alternative. That man, however, who while able to live according to the primary provision, betakes himself to the alternative, comes to be regarded as a wicked person and never succeeds in winning any felicity in heaven. A Brahmana conversant with the Vedas should never speak of his energy and knowledge to the king. (It is the duty of the king to ascertain it himself.) Comparing again the energy of a Brahmana with that of the king, the former will always be found to be superior to the latter. For this reason the energy of the Brahmanas can scarcely be borne or resisted by a king. The Brahmana is said to be creator, ruler, ordainer, and god. No word of abuse, no dry speeches, should be addressed to a Brahmana. The Kshatriya should cross all his difficulties by the aid of the might of his arms. The Vaisya and the Sudra should conquer their difficulties by wealth; the Brahmana should do so by Mantras and homa. None of these, viz., a maiden, a youthful woman, a person unacquainted with mantras, an ignorant guy, or one that is impure, is competent to pour libations on the sacrificial fire. If any of these do so, he or she is sure to fall into hell, with him for whom they act. For this reason, none but a Brahmana, conversant with the Vedas and skilled in all sacrifices should become the pourer of sacrificial libations. They who are conversant with the scriptures say that the man who, having kindled the sacrificial fire, does not give away the dedicated food as Dakshina, is not the kindler of a sacrificial fire. A person should, with his senses under control, and with proper devotion, do all the acts of merit (indicated in the scriptures). One should never worship the deities in sacrifices in which no Dakshina is given. A sacrifice not completed with Dakshina, (instead of producing merit) brings about the destruction of one's children, animals, and heaven. Such a sacrifice destroys also the senses, the fame, the achievements and the very span of life, that one has. Those Brahmanas that lie with women in their season, or who never perform sacrifices, or whose families have no members conversant with the Vedas, are regarded as Sudras in act. That Brahmana who, having married a Sudra
girl, resides for twelve continuous years in a village has only a well for its water supply, becomes a Sudra in act. That Brahmana who summons to his bed an unmarried maiden, or suffers a Sudra, thinking him worthy of respect, to sit upon the same carpet with him, should sit on a bed of dry grass behind some Kshatriya or Vaisya and give him respect in that fashion. 1 It is in this manner that he can be cleansed. Listen, O king, to my words on this subject. The sin that a Brahmana commits in a single night by respectfully serving a member of a lower order or by sporting with him in the same spot or on the same bed, is cleansed by observing the practice of sitting behind a Kshatriya or a Vaisya on a bed of dry grass for three continuous years. A falsehood spoken in jest is not sinful; nor one that is spoken to a woman. O king, nor one that is spoken on an occasion of marriage; nor one spoken for benefiting one's preceptor; nor one spoken for saving one's own life. These five kinds of falsehood in speech, it has been said, are not sinful. One may acquire useful knowledge from even a person of low pursuits, with devotion and reverence. One may take up gold, without any scruple, from even an unclean place. A woman that is the ornament of her sex may be taken (for wife) from even a vile race. Amrita, if extracted from poison, may be quaffed; women, jewels and other valuables, and water, can never, according to the scriptures, be impure or unclean. For the benefit of Brahmanas and kine, and on occasions of transfusion of castes, even a Vaisya may take up weapons for his own safety. Drinking alcoholic liquors, killing a Brahmana, and the violation of the preceptor's bed, are sins that, if committed consciously, have no expiation. The only expiation laid down for them is death. The same may be said of stealing gold and the theft of a Brahmana's property. By drinking alcoholic liquors, by having congress with one with whom congress is prohibited, by mingling with a fallen person, and (a person of any of the other three orders) by having congress with a Brahmani, one becomes inevitably fallen. By mixing with a fallen person for one whole year in such matters as officiation in sacrifices and teaching sexual congress, one becomes fallen. One, however, does not become so by mixing with a fallen person in such matters as riding on the same vehicle, sitting on the same seat, and eating in the same line. Excluding the five grave sins that have been mentioned above, all other sins have expiations, provided for them. Expiating those sins according to the ordinances laid down for them, one should not again indulge in them. In the case of those who have been guilty of the first three of these five sins, (viz., drinking alcoholic liquors, killing a Brahmana, and violation of the preceptor's bed), there is no restriction for their (surviving) kinsmen about taking food and wearing ornaments, even if their funeral rites remain unperformed when they die. The surviving kinsmen should make no scruple about such things on such occasions. A virtuous man should, in the observance of his duties, discard his very friends and reverend seniors. In fact, until they perform expiation, they that are virtuous should not even talk with those sinners. A man that has
acted sinfully destroys his sin by acting virtuously afterwards and by penances. By calling a thief a thief, one incurs the sin of theft. By calling a person a thief who, however, is not a thief one incurs a sin just double the sin of theft. The maiden who suffers her virginity to be deflowered incurs three-fourths of the sin of Brahmanicide, while the man that deflowers her incurs a sin equal to a fourth part of that of Brahmanicide. By slandering Brahmanas or by striking them, one sinks in infamy for a hundred years. By killing a Brahmana one sinks into hell for a thousand years. No one, therefore, should speak ill of a Brahmana or slay him. If a person strikes a Brahmana with a weapon, he will have to live in hell for as many years as the grains of dust that are soaked by the blood flowing from the wounded. One guilty of foeticide becomes cleansed if he dies of wounds received in battle fought for the sake of kine and Brahmanas. He may also be cleansed by casting his person on a blazing fire. 1 A drinker of alcoholic liquors becomes cleansed by drinking hot alcohol. His body being burnt with that hot drink, he is cleansed through death in the other world. 2 A Brahmana stained by such a sin obtains regions of felicity by such a course and not by any other. For violating the bed of a preceptor, the wicked-souled and sinful wretch becomes cleansed by the death that results from embracing a heated female figure of iron. Or, cutting off his organ and testicles and bearing them in his hands, he should go on in a straight course towards the south-west and then cast off his life. Or, by meeting with death for the sake of benefiting a Brahmana, he may wash off his sin. Or, after performing a horse-sacrifice or a cow-sacrifice or an Agnishtoma, he may regain esteem both here and hereafter. The slayer of a Brahmana should practise the vow of Brahmacharya for twelve years and devoting himself to penances, wander, holding in his hands the skull of the slain all the time and proclaiming his sin unto all. He should even adopt such a course, devoted to penance and leading the life of an ascetic. Even such is the expiation provided for one who slays a woman quick with child, knowing her condition. The man who knowingly slays such a woman incurs double the sin that follows from Brahmanicide. A drinker of alcoholic liquor should live on frugal fare, practising Brahmacharya vows, and sleep on the bare ground, and perform, for more than three years the sacrifice next to the Agnishtoma. He should then make a present of a thousand kine with one bull (unto a good Brahmana). Doing all this, he would regain his purity. Having slain a Vaisya one should perform such a sacrifice for two years and make a present of a hundred kine with one bull. Having slain a Sudra, one should perform such a sacrifice for one year and make a present of a hundred kine with one bull. Having slain a dog or bear or camel, one should perform the
same penance that is laid down for the slaughter of a Sudra. For slaying a cat, a chasa, a frog, a crow, a reptile, or a rat, it has been said, one incurs the sin of animal slaughter, O king! I shall now tell thee of other kinds of expiations in their order. For all minor sins one should repent or practise some vow for one year. For congress with the wife of a Brahmana conversant with the Vedas, one should for three years practise the vow of Brahmacharya, taking a little food at the fourth part of the day. For congress with any other woman (who is not one's wife), one should practise similar penance for two years. For taking delight in a woman's company by sitting with her on the same spot or on the same seat, one should live only on water for three days. By doing this he may cleanse himself of his sin. The same is laid down for one who befouls a blazing fire (by throwing impure things on it). He who without adequate cause, casts off his sire or mother or preceptor, surely becomes fallen, O thou of Kuru's race, as the conclusion is of the scriptures. Only food and clothes should be given, as the injunction is, unto a wife guilty of adultery or one confined in a prison. Indeed, the vows that are laid down for a male person guilty of adultery should be caused to be observed by also a woman who is guilty of the same. That woman who abandoning a husband of a superior caste, has congress with a vile person (of a lower order), should be caused by the king to be devoured by dogs in a public place in the midst of a large concourse of spectators. 1 A wise king should cause the male person committing adultery under such circumstances to be placed upon a heated bed of iron and then, placing faggots underneath, burn the sinner thereon. The same punishment, O king, is provided for the woman that is guilty of adultery. The wicked sinner who does not perform expiation within a year of the commission of the sin incurs demerit that is double of what attaches to the original sin. One who associates with such a person for two years must wander over the earth, devoting himself to penances and living upon eleemosynary charity. One associating with a sinner for four years should adopt such a mode of life for five years. If a younger brother weds before his elder brother, then the younger brother, the elder brother and the woman that is married, all three, in consequence of such wedding, become fallen. All of them should observe the vows prescribed for a person who has neglected his sacrificial fire, or practise the vow of Chandrayana for a month, or some other painful vow, for cleansing themselves of their sin. The younger brother, wedding, should give his wife unto his unmarried elder brother. Afterwards, having obtained the permission of the elder brother, the younger brother may take back his wife. By such means may all three be cleansed of their sin. By slaying animals save a cow, the slayer is not stained. The learned know that man has dominion over all the lower animals. A sinner, holding in his hand a yak-tail and an earthen pot, should go about, proclaiming his sin. He should every day beg of only seven families, and live upon what may be thus obtained. By doing this for twelve days he may be cleansed of his sin. He who becomes
unable to bear in his hand the yak-tail while practising this vow, should observe the vow of mendicancy (as stated above) for one whole year. Amongst men such expiation is the best. For those that are able to practise charity, the practice of charity has been laid down in all such cases. Those who have faith and virtue may cleanse themselves by giving away only one cow. One who eats or drinks the flesh, ordure, or urine, of a dog, a boar, a man, a cock, or a camel must have his investiture of the sacred thread re-performed. If a Soma-drinking Brahmana inhales the scent of alcohol from the mouth of one that has drunk it, he should drink warm water for three days or warm milk for the same period. Or, drinking warm water for three days he should live for that period upon air alone. These are the eternal injunctions laid down for the expiation of sin, especially for a Brahmana who has committed these sins through ignorance and want of judgment.'"
356:1 In India, from the remotest times, preceptors are excluded from charging their pupils any fees for the instruction they give. No doubt, a final fee, called Gurudakshina, is demandable, but that is demandable after the pupil has completed his studies. To sell knowledge for money is a great sin. To this day in all the indigenous tols of the country, instruction is imparted free of all charges. In addition to this, the pupils are fed by their preceptors. The latter, in their turn, are supported by the charity of the whole country.
356:2 Dakshina is the present or gift made in sacrifices.
356:3 Vahirvyedichakrita, etc., is the correct reading.
356:4 i.e., such a person may perform a grand sacrifice in which Soma is offered to the gods and drunk by the sacrificer and the priests.
356:5 The Burdwan translator, misled by the particle nah, supposes that this verse contains an injunction against the spoliation of a Sudra. The fact is, the nah here is equal to 'ours'.
356:6 Who has fasted for three whole days.
357:1 Aswastanavidhana is the rule of providing only for today without thinking of the morrow.
357:2 The sense, of course, is that if a Brahmana starves, that is due to the king having neglected his duty of providing for him.
358:1 I follow Nilakantha in rendering abrahmanam manyamanah. It may also mean 'regarding himself to be a fallen Brahmana (for the time being)'.
359:1 It should be noted that the word foeticide used in such texts frequently means all sins that are regarded as equivalent to foeticide. Hence, killing a Brahmana is foeticide, etc.
359:2 There is a material difference of reading in this verse. Following the Bengal texts, the above version is given. The Bombay text runs as follows: 'upon his body being burnt therewith, or by death, he becomes cleansed.' The Bombay text seems to be vicious. Drinking is regarded as one of the five heinous sins. The severer injunction contained in the Bengal texts seems therefore, to be the correct reading.
360:1 The true reading is nigacchati and not niyacchati. The Burdwan translator has misunderstood the word papam in this verse.
Next: Section CLXVI