The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Unto which of two Brahmanas, when both happen to be equally pure in behaviour, equally possessed of learning and purity, of birth and blood, but differing from each other in only this, viz., the one solicits and the other does not,--I ask, O grandsire, unto which of these two would a gift be more meritorious?"
"Bhishma said, 'It has been said. O son of Pritha, that a gift made unto an unsoliciting person is productive of greater merit than one made to a person who solicits. One possessed of contentment is certainly more deserving
than that person who is destitute of that virtue and is, therefore, helpless amidst the storms and buffets of the world. The firmness of a Kshatriya consists in the protection he gives to others. The firmness of a Brahmana consists in his refusal to solicit. The Brahmana possessed of steadiness and learning and contentment gladdens the deities. The wise have said that an act of solicitation on the part of a poor man is a great reproach. Those persons that solicit others are said to annoy the world like thieves and robbers. 1 The person who solicits is said to meet with death. The giver, however, is said not to meet with death. The giver is said to grant life unto him who solicits. By an act of gift, O Yudhishthira, the giver is said to rescue his own self also. Compassion is a very high virtue. Let people make gift from compassion unto those that solicit. Those, however, that do not beg, but are plunged into poverty and distress should be respectfully invited to receive assistance. If such Brahmanas, who must be regarded as the foremost of their order, live in thy kingdom, thou shouldst regard them as fire covered with ashes. Blazing with penances, they are capable of consuming the whole earth. Such persons, O son of Kuru's race, though not generally worshipped, should still be regarded as deserving of worship in every way. Endued with knowledge and spiritual vision and penances and Yoga, such persons always deserve our worship. O scorcher of foes, do thou always offer worship unto such Brahmanas. One should repair of one's own accord unto those foremost of Brahmanas that do not solicit anybody and make unto them gifts of diverse kinds of wealth in abundance. The merit that flows from properly pouring libations into the sacred fire every morning and evening is won by the person who makes gifts unto a Brahmana endued with learning, with the Vedas and with high and excellent vows. Thou shouldst, O son of Kunti, invite those foremost of Brahmanas who are cleansed by learning and the Vedas and vows, who live in independence, whose Vedic studies and penances are hidden without being proclaimed from the house-top, and who are observant of excellent vows, and honour them with gifts of well-constructed and delightful houses equipped with servitors and robes and furniture, and with all other articles of pleasure and enjoyment. Conversant with all duties and possessed of minute vision, those foremost of Brahmanas, O Yudhishthira, may accept the gifts offered to them with devotion and respect, thinking that they should not refuse and disappoint the giver. Thou shouldst invite those Brahmanas whose wives wait for their return like tillers in expectation of rain. Having fed them well thou shouldst make gifts of additional food unto them so that upon their return home their expectant wives might be able to distribute that food among their children that had clamoured for food but that had been pacified with
promises Brahmacharins of restrained senses, O son, by eating at one's house in the forenoon, cause the three sacrificial fires to be gratified with the householder at whose house they eat. Let the sacrifice of gift proceed in thy house at midday, O son, and do thou also give away kine and gold and robes (unto thy guests after feeding them well). By conducting thyself, in this way, thou art sure to gratify the chief of the celestials himself. That would constitute thy third sacrifice, O Yudhishthira, in which offerings are made unto the deities, the Pitris, and the Brahmanas. By such sacrifice thou art sure to gratify the Viswedevas. Let compassion unto all creatures, giving unto all creatures what is due unto them, restraining the senses, renunciation, steadiness, and truth, constitute the final bath of that sacrifice which is constituted by gift. Even this is the sacrifice that is spread out for thee,--a sacrifice that is sanctified by devotion and faith, and that has a large Dakshina attached to it. This sacrifice which is constituted by gift is distinguished above all other sacrifices, O son, let this sacrifice be always performed by thee.'"
64:1 Yachyam is yachanarupamkarma, Anisasya is daridrasya. Abhiharam is tirashkaram. Yachanti bhutani means those who beg or solicit. In the Santi Parva, Bhishma in one place directs beggars to be driven away from towns and cities as annoyers of respectable people. This, however, applies to professional beggars, and not persons in real distress.
Next: Section LXI