The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'I have heard, O sire, of the merits of the different kinds of gift upon which thou hast discoursed to me. I understand, O Bharata, that the gift of food is especially laudable and superior. What however, are the great merits of making gifts of drink. I desire to hear of this in detail, O grandsire!'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall, O chief of Bharata's race, discourse to thee upon this subject. Listen to me, O thou of unbaffled prowess, as I speak to thee. I shall, O sinless one, discourse unto thee of gifts beginning with that of drink. The merit that a man acquires by making gifts of food and drink is such that the like of it, I think, is incapable of being acquired through any other gift. There is no gift, therefore, that is superior to that of either food or drink. It is no food that all living creatures are able to exist. For this reason, food is regarded as a very superior object in all the worlds. From food the strength and energy of living creatures constantly increases. Hence, the lord of all creatures has himself said that the gift of food is a very superior gift. Thou hast heard, O son of Kunti, what the auspicious words are of Savitri herself (on the subject of the gift of food). Thou knowest for what reason those words were said, what those words were, and how they were said in course of the sacred Mantras, O thou of great intelligence. A man, by making a gift of food, really makes a gift of life itself. There is no gift in this world that is superior to the gift of life. Thou art not unacquainted with this saying of Lomasa, O thou of mighty arms! The end that was attained in former days by king Sivi in consequence of his having granted life to the pigeon is acquired by him,
[paragraph continues] O monarch, who makes a gift of food unto a Brahmana. Hence, it has been heard by us that they that give life attain to very superior regions of felicity in after life. Food, O best of the Kurus, may or may not be superior to drink. Nothing can exist without the aid of what springs from water. The very lord of all the planets, viz., the illustrious Soma, has sprung from water. Amrita and Sudha and Swadha and milk as also every kind of food, the deciduous herbs, O monarch, and creepers (medicinal and of other virtues), spring from water. From these, O king, the life-breath of all living creatures flows. The deities have nectar for their food. The Nagas have Sudha. The Pitris have Swadha for theirs. The animals have herbs and plants for their food. The wise have said that rice, etc., constitute the food of human beings. All these, O chief of men, spring from water. Hence, there is nothing superior to the gift of water or drink. If a person wishes to secure prosperity for himself, he should always make gifts of drink. The gift of water is regarded as very praiseworthy. It leads to great fame and bestows long life on the giver. The giver of water, O son of Kunti, always stays over the heads of his enemies. Such a person obtains the fruition of all his wishes and earns everlasting fame. The giver, O chief of men, becomes cleansed of every sin and obtains unending felicity hereafter as he proceeds to heaven, O thou of great splendour. Mann himself has said that such a person earns regions of inexhaustible bliss in the other world.'"
Next: Section LXVIII