The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Once on a time a king of Janaka's race, while ranging the uninhabited forests in pursuit of deer, saw a superior Brahmana or Rishi of Bhrigu's race. Bowing with his head unto the Rishi who was seated at his ease, king Vasuman took his seat near him and obtaining his permission put to him this question: O holy one, what is productive of the highest benefit, both here and hereafter, to man who is endued with an unstable body and who is the slave of his desires? Properly honoured by the king, and thus questioned, that high-souled Rishi possessed of ascetic merit then said these words unto him that were highly beneficial.
"The Rishi said, If thou desirest both here and hereafter what is agreeable to thy mind, do thou then, with restrained senses, abstain from doing what is disagreeable to all creatures. Righteousness is beneficial unto them that are good. Righteousness is the refuge of those that are good. From Righteousness have flowed the three worlds with their mobile and immobile creatures. O thou that art eagerly desirous of enjoying all agreeable objects, how is it that thou art not yet satiated with objects of desire? Thou seest the honey, O thou of little understanding, but art blind to the fall 1. As one desirous of earning the fruits of knowledge should set oneself to the acquisition of knowledge, even so one desirous of earning the fruits of Righteousness should set oneself to the acquisition of Righteousness. If a wicked man from desire of virtue, strives to accomplish an act
that is pure and stainless, the fulfilment of his desire becomes impossible. If, on the other hand, a good man, impelled by the desire of earning virtue, strives to accomplish an act that is even difficult, its accomplishment becomes easy for him. If, while residing in the woods, one acts in such a way as to enjoy all the pleasures of a residence amidst men in towns, one comes to be looked upon not as a forest recluse but as a denizen of towns. Similarly, if one, while residing in towns, acts in such a way as to enjoy the felicity that attaches to the life of a forest recluse, once comes to be looked upon not as a denizen of towns but as a forest recluse. Ascertaining the merits of the religion of Acts and that of Abstention from acts, do thou, with concentrated senses, be devoted to the practices of righteousness that appertain to thought, words, and deed. Judging of the propriety of time and place, purified by the observance of vows and other cleansing rites, and solicited (by them), do thou, without malice, make large gifts unto them that are good. 1 Acquiring wealth by righteous means, one should give it away unto those that are deserving. One should make gifts, casting off anger; and having made gifts one should never give way to sorrow nor proclaim those gifts with one's own mouth. The Brahmana who is full of compassion, who is observant of candour, and whose birth is pure, has been regarded as a person deserving of gifts. A person is said to be pure in birth when he is born of mother that has only one husband and that belongs to the same order to which her husband belongs. Indeed, such a Brahmana, conversant with the three Vedas, viz., Rich, Yajush, and Saman, possessed of learning, duly observant of the six duties (of sacrificing on his own account, officiating at the sacrifices of others, learning, teaching, making gifts, and receiving gifts), has been regarded as deserving of gifts. Righteousness becomes unrighteousness, and unrighteousness becomes righteousness, according to the character of the doer, of time, and of place. 2 Sin is cast off like the filth on one's body,--a little with a little exertion and a greater quantity when the exertion is greater. A person, after purging his bowels, should take ghee, which operates most beneficially on his system (as a healthy tonic). After the same manner, when one has cleansed oneself of all faults and sets oneself to the acquisition of righteousness, that righteousness, in the next world, proves to be productive of the highest happiness. Good and evil thoughts exist in the minds of all creatures. Withdrawing the mind from evil thoughts, it should always be directed towards good thoughts. One should always reverence the practices of one's own order. Do thou strive, therefore, to act in such a way that
thou mayst have faith in the practices of thy own order. O thou that art endued with an impatient soul, betake thyself to the practice of patience. O thou that art of a foolish understanding, seek thou to be possessed of intelligence! Destitute of tranquillity, seek thou to be tranquil, and bereft of wisdom as thou art, do thou seek to act wisely! He who moves in the companionship of the righteous succeeds, by his own energy, in acquiring the means of accomplishing what is beneficial for him both in this and the next world. Verily, the root of the benefit (which thus becomes his here and hereafter) is unwavering firmness. The royal sage Mahabhisha, through want of this firmness, fell from heaven. Yayati, also, though his merits had become exhausted (in consequence of his boastfulness and thought was hurled down from heaven) succeeded in regaining regions of felicity through his firmness. Thou art sure to attain to great intelligence, as also to what is for thy highest good, by paying court to virtuous and learned persons possessed of ascetic merit.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Hearing these words of the sage, king Vasuman, possessed of a good disposition, withdrawing his mind from the pursuits of desire, set it upon the acquisition of Righteousness.'"
32:1 This is a simile very often used for illustrating the danger of pursuing objects of the senses. Collectors of honey used to rove over mountains, guided by the sight of flying bees. These men frequently met with death from falls from precipices.
33:1 The Burdwan translator renders this verse incorrectly.
33:2 This has been repeatedly laid down in the Hindu scriptures. Gifts produce no merit unless made to deserving persons. If made to the undeserving, instead of ceasing to produce any merit, they become positively sinful. The considerations of time and place also are to be attended to. By failing to attend to them, sin is incurred where merit is expected. Truth becomes as sinful as a lie, under particular circumstances; and a falsehood becomes as meritorious as truth under circumstances. The Hindu scriptures make circumstance the test of acts.
Next: Section CCCXI