The Mahabharata Home
"Parasara said, 'The lowest order, it is proper, should derive their sustenance from the three other orders. Such service, rendered with affection and reverence, makes them righteous. 2 If the ancestors of any Sudra were not engaged in service, he should not still engage himself in any other occupation (than service). Truly, he should apply himself to service as his occupation. In my opinion, it is proper for them to associate, under all circumstances, with good men devoted to righteousness, but never with those that are wicked. As in the Eastern hills, jewels and metals blaze with greater splendour in consequence of their adjacence to the Sun, even so the lowest order blazes with splendour in consequence of their association with the good. A piece of white cloth assumes that hue with which it is dyed. Even such is the case with Sudras. 3 Hence also, one should attach oneself to all good qualities but never to qualities that are evil. The life of human beings in this world is fleeting and transitory. That wise man who, in happiness as also in misery, achieves only what is good, is regarded as a true observer of the scriptures. That man who is endued with intelligence would never do an act which is dissociated from virtue, however high may the advantages be of that act. Indeed, such an act is not regarded as truly beneficial. That lawless
king who, snatching thousands of kine from their lawful owners, gives them away (unto deserving persons), acquires no fruit (from that act of giving) beyond an empty sound (expressive of the act he does). On the other hand, he incurs the sin of theft. The Self-born at first created the Being called Dhatri held in universal respect. Dhatri created a son who was engaged in upholding all the worlds. 1 Worshipping that deity, the Vaisya employs himself, for the means of his support, in agriculture and the rearing of cattle. The Kshatriyas should employ themselves in the task of protecting all the other classes. The Brahmanas should only enjoy. As regards the Sudras, they should engage themselves in the task of humbly and honestly collecting together the articles that are to be offered in sacrifices, and in cleaning altars and other places where sacrifices are to be performed. If each order acts in this way, righteousness would not suffer any diminution. If righteousness is preserved in its entirety, all creatures inhabiting the earth would be happy. Beholding the happiness of all creatures on earth, the deities in heaven become filled with gladness. Hence, that king who, agreeably to the duties laid down for his order, protects the other classes, becomes worthy of respect. Similarly, the Brahmana that is employed in studying the scriptures, the Vaisya that is engaged in earning wealth, and the Sudra that is always engaged in serving the three other classes with concentrated attention, become objects of respect. By conducting themselves in the other ways, O chief of men, each order is said to fall away from virtue. Keeping aside gifts by thousands, even twenty cowries that one may give painfully, having earned them righteously, will be productive of the great benefit. Those persons, O king, who make gifts unto Brahmanas after reverencing them duly, reap excellent fruits commensurate with those gifts. That gift is highly prized which the donor makes after seeking out the donee and honouring him properly. That gift is middling which the donor makes upon solicitation. That gift, however, which is made contemptuously and without any reverence, is said to be very inferior (in point of merit). Even this is what those utterers of the truth, viz., the sages, say. While sinking in this ocean of life, man should always seek to cross that ocean by various means. Indeed, he should so exert himself that he might be freed from the bonds of this world. The Brahmana shines by self restraint; the Kshatriya by victory; the Vaisya by wealth; while the Sudra always shines in glory through cleverness in serving (the three other orders).'"
352:2 Nirdishta refers to Seva.
352:3 i.e., they take the hues of the society they keep. Hence, it is very desirable for them to live with the good.
353:1 This son of Dhatri is the god of the clouds.
Next: Section CCXCV