The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, O thou that art possessed of great wisdom, I shall ask thee a question. It behoveth thee, O enhancer of the happiness of the Kurus, to discourse to me fully upon it. What kind of men are said to be of gentle disposition? With whom may the most delightful friendship exist? Tell us also who are able to do good in the present time and in the end. I am of opinion that neither swelling wealth, nor relatives, nor kinsmen, occupy that place which well-wishing friends occupy. A friend capable of listening to beneficial counsels, and also of doing good, is exceedingly rare. It behoveth thee, O foremost of virtuous men, to discourse fully on these topics.'
"Bhishma said, 'Listen to me, O Yudhishthira, as I speak to thee, in detail, of those men with whom friendships may be formed and those with whom friendships may not be formed. One that is covetous, one that is pitiless, one that has renounced the duties of his order, one that is dishonest, one that is a knave, one that is mean, one that is of sinful practices, one that is suspicious of all, one that is idle, one that is procrastinating, one that is of a crooked disposition, one that is an object of universal obloquy, one that dishonours the life of his preceptor, one that is addicted to the seven well-known vices, one that casts off distressed friends, one possessed of a wicked soul, one that is shameless, one whose sight is ever directed towards sin, one that is an atheist, one that is a slanderer of the Vedas, one whose senses are not restrained, one that gives free indulgence to lust, one that is untruthful, one that is deserted by all, one that transgresses all restraints, one that is deceitful, one that is destitute of wisdom, one that is envious, one that is wedded to sin, one whose conduct is bad, one whose soul has not been cleansed, one that is cruel, one that is a gambler, one that always seeks to injure friends, one that covets wealth belonging to others, that wicked-souled wight who never expresses satisfaction with what another may give him according to the extent of his means, one that is never pleased with his friends, O bull among men, one that becomes angry on
occasions that do not justify anger, one that is of restless mind, one that quarrels without cause, that sinful bloke who feels no scruple in deserting well-meaning friends, that wretch who is always mindful of his own interests and who, O king, quarrels with friends when those do him a very slight injury or inflict on him a wrong unconsciously, one who acts like a foe but speaks like a friend, one who is of perverse perceptions, one who is blind (to his own good), one who never takes delight in what is good for himself or others, should be avoided. One who drinks alcoholic liquors, one who hates others, one who is wrathful, one who is destitute of compassion, one who is pained at the sights of other's happiness, one who injures friends, one who is always engaged in taking the lives of living creatures, one who is ungrateful, one who is vile, should be avoided. Alliances (of friendship) should never be formed with any of them. Similarly, no alliance (of friendship) should be formed with him who is ever intent upon marking the faults of others. Listen now to me as I indicate the persons with whom alliances (of friendship) may be formed. They that are well-born, they that are possessed of eloquence and politeness of speech, they that are endued with knowledge and science, they that are possessed of merit and other accomplishments, they that are free from covetousness, they that are never exhausted by labour, they that are good to their friends, they that are grateful, they that are possessed of varied information and knowledge, they that are destitute of avarice, they that are possessed of agreeable qualities, they that are firm in truth, they that have subdued their senses, they that are devoted to athletic and other exercises, they that are of good families, they that are perpetuators of their races, 1 they that are destitute of faults, they that are possessed of fame, should be accepted by kings for forming alliances (of friendship) with them, They, again, O monarch, who become pleased and contented if one behaves with them according to the best of one's powers, they who never get angry on occasions that do not justify anger, they who never become displeased without sufficient cause, those persons who are well conversant with the science of Profit and who, even when annoyed, succeed in keeping their minds tranquil, they who devote themselves to the service of friends at personal sacrifice, they who are never estranged from friends but who continue unchanged (in their attachment) like a red blanket made of wool (which does not easily change its colour), 2 they who never disregard, from anger, those that are poor, they who never dishonour youthful women by yielding to lust and loss of judgment, they who never point out wrong paths to friends, they who are trustworthy, they who are devoted to the practice of righteousness, they who regard gold and brick-bats with an equal eye, they that adhere with firmness to friends and well-wishers, they who muster their own people and seek the accomplishment of the business of friends regardless of their own dignity and casting off all the marks of their own respectability, should be regarded as persons with whom alliances (of
friendship) should be made. Indeed, the dominions of that king spread on every direction, like the light of the lord of the stars, who makes alliances of friendship with such superior men. Alliances should be formed with men that are well-practised in weapons, that have completely subdued their anger, that are always strong in battle and possessed of high birth, good behaviour, and varied accomplishments. Amongst those vicious men, O sinless one, that I have mentioned, the vilest, O king, are those that are ungrateful and that injure friends. Those persons of wicked behaviour should be avoided by all. This, indeed, is a settled conclusion.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'I desire to hear in detail this description. Tell me who they are that are called injurers of friends and ungrateful persons.'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall recite to thee an old story whose incidents occurred in the country, O monarch, of the Mlecchas that lies to the north. There was a certain Brahmana belonging to the middle country. He was destitute of Vedic learning. (One day), beholding a prosperous village, the man entered it from desire of obtaining charity.' 1 In that village lived a robber possessed of great wealth, conversant with the distinctive features of all the orders (of men), devoted to the Brahmanas, firm in truth, and always engaged in my king gifts. Repairing to the abode of that robber, the Brahmana begged for a alms. Indeed, he solicited a house to live in and such necessaries of life as would last for one year. Thus solicited by the Brahmana, the robber gave him a piece of new cloth with its ends complete, 2 and a widowed woman possessed of youth. Obtaining all those things from the robber, the Brahmana became filled with delight. Indeed, Gautama began to live happily in that commodious house which the robber assigned to him. He began to hold the relatives and kinsmen of the female slave he had got from the robber chief. In this way he lived for many years in that prosperous village of hunters. He began to practise with great devotion the art of archery. Every day, like the other robbers residing there, Gautama, O king, went into the woods and slaughtered wild cranes in abundance. Always engaged in slaughtering living creatures, he became well-skilled in that act and soon bade farewell to compassion. In consequence of his intimacy with robbers he became like one of them. As he lived happily in that robber village for many months, large was the number of wild cranes that he slew. One day another Brahmana came to that village. He was dressed in rags and deer-skins and bore matted locks on his head. Of highly pure behaviour, he was devoted to the study of the Vedas. Of a humble disposition, frugal in fare, devoted to the Brahmanas, thoroughly conversant with the Vedas, and observant of Brahmacharya vows, that Brahmana had been a dear friend of Gautama and belonged to that part of the country from which Gautama had emigrated. In course of his wanderings, as already said, the Brahmana came to that robber village where Gautama had taken up his abode. He never accepted any food if given by a Sudra and, therefore, began to search
for the house of a Brahmana there (for accepting the duties of hospitality). 1 Accordingly he wandered in every direction in that village teeming with robber-families. At last that foremost of Brahmanas came to the house owned by Gautama. It so happened that just at that time Gautama also, returning from the woods, was entering his abode. The two friends met. Armed with bow and sword, he bore on shoulders a load of slaughtered cranes, and his body was smeared with the blood that trickled down from the bag on his shoulders. Beholding that man who then resembled a cannibal and who had fallen away from the pure practices of the order of his birth, entering his house, the newly-arrived guest, recognising him, O king, said these words: 'What is this that thou art doing here through folly? Thou art a Brahmana, and the perpetuator of a Brahmana family. Born in a respectable family belonging to the Middle country, how is it that thou becomest like a robber in thy practices? Recollect, O regenerate one, thy famous kinsmen of former times, all of whom were well-versed in the Vedas. Born in their race, alas, thou hast become a stigma to it. Awake thyself by thy own exertions. Recollecting the energy, the behaviour, the learning, the self-restraint, the compassion (that are thine by the order of thy birth), leave this thy present abode, O regenerate one!' Thus addressed by that well-meaning friend of his, O king, Gautama answered him in great affliction of heart, saying, O foremost of regenerate ones, I am poor. I am destitute also of a knowledge of the Vedas. Know, O best of Brahmanas, that I have taken up my abode here for the sake of wealth alone. At thy sight, however, I am blest today. We shall together set out of this place tomorrow. Do thou pass the night here with me. Thus addressed, the newly-arrived Brahmana, full of compassion as he was, passed the night there, refraining to touch anything. Indeed, though hungry and requested repeatedly the guest refused to touch any food in that house.'"
370:1 i.e., they that have wives and have procreated children.
370:2 Raktamivavikam and not Raktamivadhikam, is the correct reading. The Burdwan translator accepts the incorrect reading.
371:1 The true reading is Brahmavarjitah and not that word in the accusative. Both the Bengali versions have adhered to the incorrect reading of the Bengal texts.
371:2 i.e., it was not a piece torn off from a full piece, but both its dasas or ends were there.
372:1 To this day there are many Brahmanas in India who are asudra-pratigrahins, i.e., who accept no gift, however rich, from a Sudra.
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