The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited an old narrative of what was recited by king Vichakhy through compassion for all creatures. Beholding the mangled body of a bull, and hearing the exceedingly painful groans of the kine in a cow-slaying sacrifice, and observing the cruel Brahmanas that gathered there for assisting at the ceremonies, that king 2 uttered these words, 'Prosperity to all the kine in the world.' When the slaughter had commenced, these words expressive of a blessing (to those helpless animals) were pronounced. And the monarch further said, 'Only those that are transgressors of defined limits, that are destitute of intelligence, that are atheists and sceptics, and that desire the acquisition of celebrity through sacrifices and religious rites speak highly of the slaughter of animals in sacrifices. 3 The righteous-souled Manu has applauded (the observance of) harmlessness in all (religious) acts. Indeed, men slaughter animals in sacrifices, urged by only the desire of fruit. 4 Hence, guided by authority (in respect of slaughter and abstention from slaughter or harmlessness) one conversant (with the scriptures) should practise the true course of duty which is exceedingly subtile. Harmlessness to all creatures is the highest of all duties. Living in the vicinity of an inhabited place and injuring oneself to the observance of rigid vows, and disregarding the fruits indicated of Vedic acts, one should give up domesticity, adopting a life of Renunciation. Only they that are mean are urged by the desire of
fruit. 1 Reverentially mentioning sacrifices and trees and sacrificial stakes, men do not eat tainted meat. This practice, however, is not worthy of applause. 2 Wine, fish, honey, meat, alcohol, and preparations of rice and sesame seeds, have been introduced by knaves. The use of these (in sacrifices) is not laid down in the Vedas. The hankering after these arises from pride, error of judgment, and cupidity. They that are true Brahmanas realise the presence of Vishnu in every sacrifice. His worship, it has been laid down, should be made with agreeable Payasa. (The leaves and flowers of) such trees as have been indicated in the Vedas, whatever act is regarded as worthy and whatever else is held as pure by persons of pure hearts and cleansed natures and those eminent for knowledge and holiness, are all worthy of being offered to the Supreme Deity and not unworthy of His acceptance.' 3
"Yudhishthira said, 'The body and all sorts of dangers and calamities are continually at war with each other. How, therefore, will a person who is totally free from the desire of harming and who on this account will not be able to act, succeed in keeping up his body?' 4
"Bhishma said, 'One should, when able, acquire merit and act in such a way that one's body may not languish and suffer pain, and that death may not come.'" 5
245:2 Gograhe is explained by the commentator as 'a sacrifice in which kine are stain.' Yajnavatasya is an instance of the genitive for the accusative. It means Yajnavatsthan nirdayan Brahmanan. The expression may also mean 'in the cow-pen within the sacrificial enclosure.'
245:3 Avyaktaih is explained by the commentator as Yajnadi-dwaraiva khyatimichchhadbhih.
245:4 Kamakara may also mean recklessness, Vahirvedyam is 'on the outer Vedi or altar.' The actual slaughter takes place on this vedi. The Burdwan translator misunderstands the word.
246:1 Upasya, is explained by the commentator as 'living near an inhabited place.' Vedakritah Srutih are the fruits indicated in the Vedas of the acts laid, down in them. Acharah has reference to the duties of the domestic mode of life. Acharah should be made anacharah, i.e., should not be followed. The Sannyasa mode of life is thus recommended.
246:2 The meaning is this: ordinary men abstain from tainted meat, regarding all meat as tainted which is obtained from animals that are not killed in sacrifices and in course of religious acts. The speaker, however, holds that this practise is not worthy of applause, for all meat is tainted, including that of animals slain in sacrifices. K.P. Singha gives the sense correctly though his rendering is not literal. The Burdwan translator, misunderstanding text and commentary, jumbles them together and gives an incorrect rendering.
246:3 Hence there is no need for sacrifices with slaughter of animals, and alcohol, etc.
246:4 The sense is this: dangers are always seeking to destroy the body. The body is always seeking to destroy those destroyers. This perpetual war or struggle implies the desire to injure. How then, asks Yudhishthira, is it possible for any man to lead a perfectly harmless life, harm being implied in the very fact of continued existence?
246:5 The sense, of course, is that one should acquire religious merit without wasting one's body; one should not, that is, cause one's body to be destroyed for the sake of earning merit.
Next: Section CCLXVI