The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Do thou, O foremost one of Kuru's race, discourse unto me once again of the excellent ordinance regarding gifts, with especial reference, O thou of great wisdom, to the gift of earth. A Kshatriya should make gifts of earth unto a Brahmana of righteous deeds. Such a Brahmana should accept the gift with due rites. None else, however, than a Kshatriya is competent to make gifts of earth. It behoves thee now to tell me what these objects are that persons of all classes are free to bestow if moved by the desire of earning merit. Thou shouldst also tell me what has been said in the Vedas on this subject.'
"Bhishma said, 'There are three gifts that go by the same name and that are productive of equal merits. Indeed, these three confer the fruition of every wish. The three objects whose gifts are of such a character are kine, earth, and knowledge. 1 That person who tells his disciple words of righteous import drawn from the Vedas acquires merit equal to that which is won by making gifts of earth and kine. Similarly are kine praised (as objects of gifts). There is no object of gift higher than they. Kine are supposed to confer merit immediately. They are also, O Yudhishthira, such that a gift of them cannot but lead to great merit. Kine are the mothers of all creatures. They bestow every kind of happiness. The person that desires his own prosperity should always make gifts of kine. No one should kick at kine or proceed through the midst of kine. Kine are goddesses and homes of auspiciousness. For this reason, they always deserve worship. Formerly, the deities, while tilling the earth whereon they performed a sacrifice, used the goad for striking the bullocks yoked to the plough. Hence, in tilling earth for such a purpose, one may, without incurring censure or sin, apply the goad to bullocks. In other acts, however, bullocks should never be struck with the goad or the whip When kine are grazing or lying down no one should annoy them in any way. When the cows are thirsty and they do not get water (in consequence of any one obstructing their access to the pool or tank or river), they, by merely looking at such a person, can destroy him with all his relatives and friends. What creatures can be more sacred than kine when with the very dung of kine altars whereon Sraddhas are performed in honour of the Pitris, or those whereon the deities are worshipped, are cleansed and sanctified? That man, who, before eating himself gives every day, for a year, only a handful of grass unto a cow belonging to another, is regarded as undergoing a vow or observance which bestows the fruition of every wish. Such a person ac-quires children and fame and wealth and prosperity, and dispels all evils and dreams.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'What should be the indications of those kine that deserve to be given away? What are those kine that should be passed over in the matter of gifts? What should be the character of those persons unto whom kine should be given? Who, again, are those unto whom kine should
not be given?
"Bhishma said, 'A cow should never be given unto one that is not righteous in behaviour, or one that is sinful, or one that is covetous or one that is untruthful in speech, or one that does not make offerings unto the Pitris and deities. A person, by making a gift of ten kine unto a Brahmana learned in the Vedas, poor in earthly wealth, possessed of many children, and owning a domestic are, attains to numerous regions of great felicity. When a man performs any act that is fraught with merit assisted by what he has got in gift from another, a portion of the merit attaching to that act becomes always his with whose wealth the act has been accomplished. He that procreates a person, he that rescues a person, and he that assigns the means of sustenance to a person are regarded as the three sires. Services dutifully rendered to the preceptor destroys sin. Pride destroys even great fame. The possession of three children destroys the reproach of childlessness, and the possession of ten kine dispels the reproach of poverty. Unto one that is devoted to the Vedanta, that is endued with great learning, that has been filled with wisdom, that has a complete control over his senses, that is observant of the restraints laid down in the scriptures, that has withdrawn himself from all worldly attachments, unto him that says agreeable words unto all creatures, unto him that would never do an evil act even when impelled by hunger, unto one that is mild or possessed of a peaceful disposition, unto one that is hospitable to all guests,--verily unto such a Brahmana should a man, possessed of similar conduct and owning children and wives, assign the means of sustenance. The measure of merit that attaches to the gift of kine unto a deserving person is exactly the measure of the sin that attaches to the act of robbing a Brahmana of what belongs to him. Under all circumstances should the spoliation of what belongs to a Brahmana be avoided, and his spouses kept at a distance.'"
88:1 Of equal name, because the word go means cow, earth, and speech.
Next: Section LXX