The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Which amongst these three persons, O grandsire, should be regarded as the best for making gifts unto, viz., one who is a thorough stranger, or one who is living with and who has been known to the giver for a long time, or one who presents himself before the giver, coming from a long distance?'
"Bhishma said, 'All these are equal. The eligibility of some consists in their soliciting alms for performing sacrifices or for paying the preceptor's fee or for maintaining their spouses and children. The eligibility of some for receiving gifts, consists in their following the vow of wandering over
the earth, never soliciting anything but receiving when given. We should also give unto one what one seeks. 1 We should, however, make gifts without afflicting those that depend upon us. Even this is what we have heard. By afflicting one's dependants, one afflicts one's own self. The stranger,--one, that is, who has come for the first time,--should be regarded as a proper object of gifts. He who is familiar and well-known and has been living with the giver, should be regarded in the same light. The learned know that he too who comes from a distant place should be regarded in an equal light.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'It is true that we should make gifts unto others without afflicting anyone and without doing violence to the ordinances of the scriptures. One should, however, correctly ascertain who the person is that should be regarded as a proper object for making gifts. He should be such that the gift itself, by being made over to him, may not grieve.' 2
"Bhishma said, 'If the Ritwik, the Purohita, the preceptor, the Acharya, the disciple, the relative (by marriage), and kinsmen, happen to be possessed of learning and free from malice, then should they be deemed worthy of respect and worship. Those persons that do not possess such qualifications cannot be regarded as worthy of gifts or hospitality. Hence, one should with deliberation examine persons with whom one comes into contact. Absence of wrath, truthfulness of speech, abstention from injury, sincerity, peacefulness of conduct, the absence of pride, modesty, renunciation, self-restraint, and tranquillity or contentment of soul, he in whom these occur by nature, and in whom there are no wicked acts, should be regarded as a proper object. Such a person deserves honours. Whether the person he one who is well-known and familiar, or one who has come newly, whether he has not been seen before, if he happens to possess these qualifications, he should be regarded as worthy of honours and hospitality. He who denies the authority of the Vedas, or strives to show that the scriptures should be disregarded, or approves of all breaches or restraint in society,--simply brings about his own ruin (and should not be regarded as worthy of gifts). That Brahmana who is vain of his learning, who speaks ill of the Vedas or who is devoted to the science of useless disputation, or who is desirous of gaining victory (in disputations) in assemblies of good men by disproving the reasons that exist for morality and religion and ascribing everything to chance, or who indulges in censuring and reproaching others or who reproves Brahmanas, or who is suspicious of all persons, or who is foolish and bereft of judgment, or who is bitter of speech, should be known to be as hateful as a dog. As a dog encounters others, barking the while and seeking to bite, such a person is
even so, for he spends his breath in vain and seeks to destroy the authority of all the scriptures. Those practices that support society, the duties of righteousness, and all those acts which are productive of benefit to one's own self, should be attended to. A person that lives, attending to these, grows in prosperity for everlasting time. By paying off the debt one owes to the deities by performing sacrifices, that to the Rishis by studying the Vedas, that to the Pitris by procreating children, that to the Brahmanas by making presents unto them and that to guests by feeding them, in due order, and with purity of intention, and properly attending to the ordinances of the scriptures, a householder does not fall away from righteousness.'" 1
3:1 I expand this verse. After kriya bhavati patratwam is understood. Kriya includes the diverse objects for which persons solicit alms or gifts. Upansuvratam is maunam parivrajyam.
3:2 It is said that food or other things, when given to an undeserving person, feels grief. What Yudhishthira asks is who the proper person is unto whom gifts may be made.
4:1 All these acts should be performed with purity of intention and according to the ordinances of the scriptures. For example, sacrifices should not be performed with vanity or pride. The Vedas should not be studied without faith. Children should not be procreated from lust, etc.
Next: Section XXXVIII