The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Hearing thy words I become stupefied, O grandsire! Reflecting that the earth is now destitute of a very large number of kings all of whom were possessed of great prosperity, my heart becomes filled with grief. Having conquered the earth and acquired kingdoms numbered by hundreds, O Bharata, I turn with grief, O Grandsire, at the thought of the millions of men I have slaughtered. Alas, what will be the plight of those foremost ladies who have been deprived by us of husbands and sons and maternal uncles and brothers? Having slain those Kurus--our kinsmen, that is, our friends and well-wishers,--we shall have to sink in hell, beads (hanging) downwards. There is no doubt of this. I desire, O Bharata, to address my body to severe penances. With that end in view, O king, I wish to receive instructions from thee.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'The high-souled Bhishma, hearing these words of Yudhishthira, reflected upon them acutely with the aid of his understanding, and addressed Yudhishthira in reply.'
"Bhishma said, 'Hear what I say unto thee. It is exceedingly wonderful, and constitutes a great mystery. The topic is the object that creatures
obtain after death as the rewards of particular acts or courses of conduct they follow. One attains to Heaven by penances. By penances one attains to fame. By penances, O puissant king, one attains to length of life and all articles of enjoyment. By penances one attains to knowledge, to science, to health and freedom from disease, beauty of person, prosperity, and blessedness, O chief of Bharata's race. By penances one attains to wealth. By observing the vow of taciturnity one succeeds in bringing the whole world under one's sway. By making gifts one acquires all kinds of enjoyable articles. By observing the right of Diksha one acquires birth in a good and high family. Those that spend their lives subsisting only upon fruits and roots (and avoiding cooked food) succeed in obtaining kingdom and sovereignty. Those that live upon the leaves of plants and trees as their food succeed in attaining to heaven. One that subsists upon water only attains to heaven. By making gifts one simply increases one's wealth. By serving with reverence one's preceptor one acquires learning. By performing Sraddhas every day in honour of one's Pitris (manes), one acquires a large number of children. By observing Diksha upon potherbs and vegetables, one acquires a large number of kine. Those that subsist upon grass and straw succeed in attaining to heaven. By bathing thrice every day with the necessary rites one acquires a large number of spouses. By drinking water alone one acquires residence in the regions of Prajapati. The Brahmana, who bathes every day and recites sacred Mantras in the twilights, becomes possessed of the status of Daksha himself. By worshipping the deities in a wilderness or desert, one acquires a kingdom or sovereignty, and by observing the vow of casting off the body by a long fast, one ascends to Heaven. One possessed of the wealth of penances and always passing his days in Yoga obtains good beds and seats and vehicles. Casting off the body by entering a blazing fire, one becomes an object of reverence in the region of Brahman. Those that lie on the hard and bare ground acquire houses and beds. Those that clothe themselves in rags and barks obtain good robes and ornaments. By avoiding the several agreeable tastes one succeeds in acquiring great prosperity. By abstaining from meat and fish, one gets long-lived children. One who passes some time in that mode of life which is called Udavasa, becomes the very lord of Heaven. The man who speaks the truth, O best of men, succeeds in sporting happily with the deities themselves. By making gifts one acquires great fame in consequence of one's high achievements. By abstention from cruelty one acquires health and freedom from disease. By serving Brahmanas with reverence one attains to kingdom and sovereignty, and the high status of a Brahmana. By making gifts of water and other drinks, one acquires eternal fame in consequence of high achievements. By making gifts of food one acquires diverse articles of enjoyment. One who gives peace unto all creatures (by refraining from doing them any injury), becomes freed from every region. By serving the deities one obtains a kingdom and celestial beauty. By presenting lights at places which are dark and frequented by men, one acquires a good vision. By giving away
good and beautiful objects one acquires a good memory and understanding. By giving away scents and garlands, one acquires fame that spreads over a large area. Those who abstain from shaving off their hair and beards succeed in obtaining excellent children.. By observing fasts and Diksha and baths, O Bharata, for twelve years (according to the ordinance), one acquires a region that is superior to that attainable by unreturning heroes. By bestowing one's daughter on an eligible bridegroom according to the Brahma form, one obtains, O best of men, male and female slaves and ornaments and fields and houses. By performing sacrifices and observing fasts, one ascends to Heaven, O Bharata. The man who gives away fruits and flowers succeeds in acquiring auspicious knowledge. The man who gives a thousand kine with horns adorned with gold, succeeds in acquiring heaven. Even this has been said by the very deities in a conclave in heaven. One who gives away a Kapila cow with her calf, with a brazen pot of milking with horns adorned with gold, and possessed of diverse other accomplishments, obtains the fruition of all his wishes from that cow. Such a person, in consequence of that act of gift, resides in heaven for as many years as there are hairs on the body of the cow and rescues in the next world (from the misery of hell) his sons and grandsons and all his race to the seventh degree. 1 The regions of the Vasus become attainable to that man who gives away a cow with horns beautifully decorated with gold, accompanied with a brazen jar for milking, along with a piece of cloth embroidered with gold, a measure of sesame and a sum of money as Dakshina. A gift of kine rescues the giver in the next world then he finds himself falling into the deep darkness of hell and restrained by his own acts in this world, like a boat with sails that have caught the air rescuing a person from being drowned in the sea. He who bestows a daughter according to the Brahma form upon an eligible person, or who makes a gift of land unto a Brahmana, or who gives food (to a Brahmana) according to due rites, succeeds in attaining to the region of Purandara. That man who makes a gift of a house, equipped with every kind of furniture, unto a Brahmana given to Vedic studies and possessed of every accomplishment and good behaviour, acquires residence in the country of the Uttara-Kurus. By making gifts of draft bullocks, a person acquires the region of the Vasus. Gifts of gold lead to heaven. Gifts of pure gold lead to greater merit still. By making a gift of an umbrella one acquires a palatial mansion. By making a gift of a pair of sandals or shoes one acquires good vehicles. The reward attached to a gift of cloths is personal beauty, and by making gifts of scents one becomes a fragrant person in one's next life. One who gives flowers and fruits and plants and trees unto a Brahmana, acquires, without any labour, palatial mansion equipped with beautiful women and full of plenty of wealth. The giver of food and drink of different tastes and of other articles of enjoyment succeeds in acquiring a copious supply of such articles. The giver, again, of houses and cloths
gets articles of a similar kind. There is no doubt about it. That person who makes gifts of garlands and incense and scents and unguents and the articles needed by men after a bath, and floral wreaths, unto Brahmanas, becomes freed from every disease and possessed of personal beauty, sports in joy in the region reserved for great kings. The man, O king, who makes unto a Brahmana the gift of a house that is stored with grain, furnished with beds full of much wealth, auspicious, and delightful, acquires a palatial residence. He who gives unto a Brahmana a good bed perfumed with fragrant scents, overlaid with an excellent sheet, and equipped with pillows, wins without any effort on his part a beautiful wife, belonging to a high family and of agreeable manners. The man who takes to a hero's bed on the field of battle becomes the equal of the Grandsire Brahman himself. There is no end higher than this. Even this is what the great Rishis have declared.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Hearing these words of his grandfather, Yudhishthira, the delighter of the Kurus, became desirous of the end that is reserved for heroes and no longer expressed any disgust at leading a householder's mode of life. Then, O foremost of men, Yudhishthira, addressing all the other sons of Pandu, said unto them, 'Let the words which our grandfather has said command your faith.' At this, all the Pandavas with the famous Draupadi amongst them, applauded the words of Yudhishthira and said, 'Yes'.'"
57:1 By ancestors to the seventh degree also descendants to the same degree are meant.
Next: Section LVIII