The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'O blessed king, Brahmana, by birth alone, becomes an object of adoration with all creatures and are entitled, as guests, to eat the first portion of all cooked food. 2 From them flow all the great objects of life (viz., Righteousness and Wealth and Pleasure and Emancipation). They are the friends of all creatures in the universe. They are again the mouths of the deities (for food poured into their mouths is eaten by the deities). Worshipped with reverence, they wish us prosperity by uttering words fraught with auspiciousness. Disregarded by our foes, let them be enraged with these, and let them wish evil unto those detractors of theirs, uttering words fraught with severe curses. In this connection, persons conversant with ancient history repeat the following verses sung of old respecting how in ancient times the Creator, after having created the Brahmanas, ordained their duties.--A Brahmana should never do anything else than what has been ordained for him. Protected, they should protect others. By conducting themselves in this way, they are sure to attain to what is mightily advantageous for them. By doing those acts that are ordained for them, they are sure to obtain Brahma-prosperity. Ye shall become the exemplars of all creatures, and reins for restraining them. A Brahmana possessed of learning should never do that which is laid down
for the Sudras. By doing such acts, a Brahmana loses merit 1. By Vedic study he is sure to obtain prosperity and intelligence and energy and puissance competent to scorch all things, as also glory of the most exalted kind. By offering oblations of clarified butter unto the deities, the Brahmanas attain to high blessedness and become worthy of taking the precedence of even children in the matter of all kinds of cooked food, and endued with Brahma-prosperity. 2 Endued with faith that is fraught with compassion towards all creatures, and devoted to self-restraint and the study of the Vedas, ye shall attain to the fruition of all your wishes. Whatever things exist in the world of men, whatever things occur in the region of the deities, can all be achieved acquired with the aid of penances and knowledge and the observance of vows and restraints. I have thus recited to thee, O sinless one, the verses that were sung by Brahma himself. Endued with supreme intelligence and wisdom, the Creator himself ordained this, through compassion for the Brahmanas. The puissance of those among them that are devoted to penances is equal to the might of kings. They are verily irresistible, fierce, possessed of the speed of lightning, and exceedingly quick in what they do. There are amongst them those that are possessed of the might of lions and those that are possessed of the might of tigers. Some of them are endued with the might of boars, some with that of the deer, and some with that of crocodiles. Some there are amongst them whose touch resembles that of snakes of virulent poison, and some whose bite resembles that of sharks. Some amongst them are capable of compassing by speech alone the destruction of those that are opposed to them; and some are competent to destroy by a glance only of their eyes. Some, amongst them, as already said, are like snakes of virulent poison, and some of them are possessed of very mild dispositions. The dispositions, O Yudhisthira, of the Brahmanas, are of diverse kinds. The Mekalas, the Dravidas, the Lathas, the Paundras, the Konwasiras, the Saundikas, the Daradas, the Darvas, the Chauras, the Savaras, the Varvaras, the Kiratas, the Yavanas, and numerous other tribes of Kshatriyas, have become degraded into the status of Sudras through the wrath of Brahmanas. In consequence of having disregarded the Brahmanas, the Asuras have been obliged to take refuge in the depths of the ocean. Through the grace of the Brahmanas, the deities have become denizens of the happy regions of Heaven. The element of space or ether is incapable of being touched. The Himavat mountains are incapable of being moved from their site. The current of Ganga is incapable of being resisted by a dam. The Brahmanas are incapable of being subjugated. Kshatriyas are incapable
of ruling the Earth without cultivating the good will of the Brahmanas. The Brahmanas are high-souled beings. They are the deities of the very deities. Do thou always worship them with gifts and obedient services: if, indeed, thou wishest to enjoy the sovereignty of the whole Earth with her belt of seas. The energy and might of Brahmanas, O sinless one, become abated in consequence of the acceptance of gift. Thou shouldst protect thy race. O king, from those Brahmanas that do not desire to accept gifts!'" 1
(Anusasana Parva Continued in Volume XI)
160:2 The sense is that one becomes a Brahmana by birth alone, without the aid of those purificatory rites that have been laid down in the scriptures. When food is cooked, none else than a Brahmana is entitled in the first portion thereof.
161:1 The commentator thinks that saudram karma has especial reference to the service of others. Hence what is interdicted for the Brahmanas is the service of others.
161:2 In this country to this day, when food is prepared in view of guests invited to a house, no portion of such food can be offered to any one before it is dedicated to the deities and placed before those for whom it is intended. An exception, however, is made for children. What is stated here is that a good Brahmana can take the precedence of even children in the matter of such food.
162:1 What is stated here is that those Brahmanas that do not accept gifts are very superior. Their energy and might are great. Bhishma directs Yudhishthira to be always careful of how he would treat such superior Brahmanas. After rakshyam, the words swakulam are understood. The Burdwan translator misunderstands the second line of the verse.