The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhisthira said, 'O grandsire, O thou of great splendour, what do those men become who, through stupefaction of intellect, do not make gifts unto Brahmanas after having promised to make those gifts? O thou that art the foremost of all righteous persons, do tell me what the duties are in this respect. Indeed, what becomes the end of those wicked wights that do not give after having promised to give.'"
"Bhishma said, 'The person that, after having promised, does not give, be it little or much, has the mortification to see his hopes (in every direction) become fruitless like the hopes of a eunuch in respect of progeny. Whatever good acts such a person does between the day of his birth and that of his death, O Bharata, whatever libations he pours on the sacrificial fire, whatever gifts he makes, O chief of Bharata's race, and whatever penances he performs all become fruitless. They that are conversant with the scriptures declare this as their opinion, arriving at it, O chief of the Bharatas, with the aid of a well-ordered understanding. Persons conversant with the scriptures are also of opinion that such a man may be cleansed by giving away a thousand horses with ears of a dark hue. In this connection is cited the old narrative of the discourse between a jackal and an ape. While both were human beings, O scorcher of foes, they were intimate friends. After death one of them became a jackal and the other an ape. Beholding the jackal one day eating an animal carcase in the midst of a crematorium, the ape, remembering his own and his friend's former birth as human beings, addressed him, saying,--Verily, what terrible sin didst thou perpetrate in thy former birth in consequence of which thou art obliged in this birth to feed in a crematorium upon such repulsive fare as the putrid carcase of an animal?--Thus addressed, the jackal replied unto the ape, saying,--Having promised to give unto a Brahmana I did not make him the gift. It is for that sin, O ape, that I have fallen into this wretched order of existence. It is for that reason that, when hungry, I am obliged to eat such food.'
"Bhishma continued, 'The jackal then, O best of men, addressed the ape and said,--What sin didst thou commit for which thou hast become an ape?'
"The ape said, 'In my former life I used to appropriate the fruits belonging to Brahmanas. Hence have I become an ape. Hence it is clear that one possessed of intelligence and learning should never appropriate what belongs to Brahmanas. Verily, as one should abstain from this, one should avoid also all disputes with Brahmanas. Having promised, one should certainly make the promised gift unto them.'
"Bhishma continued, 'I heard this, O king, from my preceptor while he was engaged in discoursing upon the subject of Brahmanas. I heard this from that righteous person when he recited the old and sacred declaration on this topic. I heard this from Krishna also, O king, while he was engaged in discoursing, O son of Pandu, upon Brahmanas. 1 The property of a Brahmana should never be appropriated. They should always be let alone. Poor, or miserly, or young in years, they should never be disregarded. The Brahmanas have always taught me this. Having promised to make them a gift, the gift should be made. A superior Brahmana should never be disappointed in the matter of his expectations. A Brahmana, O king, in whom an expectation has been raised, has, O king, been said to be like a blazing fire. 2 That man upon whom a Brahmana with raised expectations casts his eye, is sure, O monarch, to be consumed even as a heap of straw is capable of being consumed by a blazing fire. 3 When the Brahmana, gratified (with honours and gifts) by the king addresses the king in delightful and affectionate words, he becomes, O Bharata, a source of great benefit to the king, for he continues to live in the kingdom like a physician combating against diverse ills of the body. 4 Such a Brahmana is sure to maintain by his puissance and good wishes, the sons and grandsons and animals and relatives and ministers and other officers and the city and the provinces of the king. 5 Even such is the energy, so great, of the Brahmana like unto that of the thousand-rayed Surya himself, on the Earth. There-fore, O Yudhishthira, if one wishes to attain to a respectable or happy order of being in one's next birth, one should, having passed the promise to a Brahmana, certainly keep it by actually making the gift to him. By making gifts to a Brahmana one is sure to attain to the highest heaven. Verily, the making of gifts is the highest of acts that one can achieve. By the gifts one makes to a Brahmana, the deities and the pitris are supported. Hence one possessed of knowledge should ever make gifts
unto the Brahmanas. O chief of the Bharatas, the Brahmana is regarded as the highest object unto whom gifts should be made. At no time should a Brahmana be received without being properly worshipped."
24:1 The commentator thinks that by Krishna, the Island-born Krishna or Vyasa is meant.
24:2 The sense is that such a Brahmana, if his expectation be not gratified, is competent to consume the person that has falsely raised that expectation.
24:3 Akshyayyam is fire, because it is fire that eats the food offered to the Pitris and makes it inexhaustible.
24:4 The sense is that as a physician cures diverse ailments of the body, after the same manner, a gratified Brahmana cures diverse faults of the kingdom in which he continues to live honoured and gratified by the king.
24:5 Santirishta is the rishti or benefits caused by santi. The commentator cites Medini for explaining that 'rishti' is 'kshema'.
Next: Section X