The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Who are deserving of worship? Who are they unto whom one may bow? Who are they, O Bharata, unto whom thou wouldst bend thy head? Who, again, are they whom thou likest? Tell me all this, O prince. What is that upon which thy mind dwells when affliction overwhelms thee? Do thou discourse to me on what is beneficial here, that is, in this region of human beings, as also hereafter.'" 1
"Bhishma said, 'I like those regenerate persons whose highest wealth is Brahman, whose heaven consists in the knowledge of the soul, and whose penances are constituted by their diligent study of the Vedas. My heart yearns after those in whose race persons, young and old diligently bear the ancestral burthens without languishing under them. Brahmanas well-trained in several branches of knowledge, self-controlled, mild-speeched, conversant with the scriptures, well-behaved, possessed of the knowledge of Brahman and righteous in conduct, discourse in respectable assemblies like flights of swans. 2 Auspicious, agreeable, excellent, and well-pronounced are the words, O Yudhishthira, which they utter with a voice as deep as that of the clouds. Fraught with happiness both temporal and spiritual, such words are uttered by them in the courts of monarchs, themselves being received with honour and attention and served with reverence by those rulers of men. Indeed, my heart yearns after them who listen to the words uttered in assemblies or the courts of kings by persons endued with knowledge and all desirable attributes, and are respected by others. My heart, O monarch, always yearns after them who, for the gratification of Brahmanas, O Yudhishthira, give unto them, with devotion, food that is well-cooked and clean and wholesome. It is easy to fight in battle, but not so to make a gift without pride or vanity. In this world, O Yudhishthira, there are brave men and heroes by hundreds. While counting them, he that is a hero in gifts should be regarded as superior, O amiable one, if I had been even a vulgar Brahmana, I would have regarded myself as very great, not to speak of one born in a good Brahmana family endued with righteousness of conduct, and devoted to penances and learning. There is no one, O son of Pandu, in this world that is dearer to me than thou, O chief of Bharata's race but dearer to me than thou are the Brahmanas. And since, O best of the Kurus, the Brahmanas are very much dearer to me than thou, it is by that truth that I hope to go to all those regions of felicity
which have been acquired by my sire Santanu. Neither my sire, nor my sire's sire, nor any one else connected with me by blood, is dearer to me than the Brahmanas. I do not expect any fruit, small or great, from my worship of the Brahmanas (for I worship them as deities because they are deserving of such worship). 1 In consequence of what I have done to the Brahmanas in thought, word, and deed, I do not feel any pain now (even though I am lying on a bed of arrows). People used to call me as one devoted to the Brahmanas. This style of address always pleased me highly. To do good to the Brahmanas is the most sacred of all sacred acts. I behold many regions of beautitude waiting for me that have reverentially walked behind the Brahmanas. Very soon shall I repair to those regions for everlasting time, O son. In this world, O Yudhishthira, the duties of women have reference to and depend upon their husbands. To a woman, verily, the husband is the deity and he is the highest end after which she should strive. As the husband is to the wife, even so are the Brahmanas unto Kshatriyas. If there be a Kshatriya of full hundred years of age and a good Brahmana child of only ten years, the latter should be regarded as a father and the former as a son, for among the two, verily, the Brahmana is superior. A woman in the absence of her husband, takes his younger brother for her lord; even so the Earth, not having obtained the: Brahmana, made the Kshatriya her lord. The Brahmanas should be protected like sons and worshipped like sires or preceptors. Indeed, O best of the Kurus, they should be waited upon with reverence even as people wait with reverence upon their sacrificial or Homa fires. The Brahmanas are endued with simplicity and righteousness. They are devoted to truth. They are always engaged in the good of every creature. Yet when angry they are like snakes of virulent poison. They should, for these reasons, be always waited upon and served with reverence and humility. One should, O Yudhishthira, always fear these two, viz. Energy and Penances. Both these should be avoided or kept at a distance. The effects of both are speedy. There is the superiority, however, of Penances, viz., that Brahmanas endued with Penances, O monarch, can, if angry, slay the object of their wrath (regardless of the measure of Energy with which that object may be endued). Energy and Penances, each of the largest measure, become neutralised if applied against a Brahmana that has conquered wrath. If the two,--that is, Energy and Penances,--be set against each other, then destruction would overtake both but not destruction without, a remnant, for while Energy, applied against Penances, is sure to be destroyed without leaving a remnant. Penances applied against Energy cannot be destroyed completely. 2 As the herdsman, stick in hand, protects
the herd, even so should the Kshatriya always protect the Vedas and the Brahmanas. Indeed, the Kshatriya should protect all righteous Brahmanas even as a sire protects his sons. He should always have his eye upon the house of the Brahmanas for seeing that their means of subsistence may not be wanting.'"
21:1 The commentator explains that hitam tad vada are understood in the last line.
21:2 The commentator explains that the allusion here is to the adage that swans in drinking milk mixed with water always drink the milk leaving out the water. Learned Brahmanas are like swans for in discoursing upon even the topics of the world they select what is good and instructive but reject what is evil and sinful, or, as the Commentator puts it, they know the difference between what is soul and what is not soul.
22:1 Vrijinam is explained by the commentator as 'Sankatam, phalasa iti yavat' etc.
22:2 i.e., one should keep oneself aloof from both Energy and Penances, for both these can consume, if troubled or interfered with. By 'Energy' is meant both physical and mental force. It belongs to the Kshatriya as Penances belong to the Brahmana.
Next: Section IX