The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, "In this connection is cited the old history of the oaths (taken by many Rishis one after another) on the occasion of a sojourn to the sacred waters. O best of the Bharatas, the act of theft had been done by Indra, and the oaths were taken by many royal and regenerate Rishis. Once on a time, the Rishis, having assembled together, proceeded to the western Prabhasa. They held a consultation there which resulted in a resolve on their part to visit all the sacred waters on earth. There were Sakra and Angiras and Kavi of great learning and Agastya and Narada and Pravata; and Bhrigu and Vasishtha and Kasyapa and Gautama and Viswamitra and Jamadagni, O king! There were also the Rishi Galava, and Ashtaka and Bharadwaja and Arundhati and the Valakhilyas; and Sivi and Dilipa and Nahusha and Amvarisha and the royal Yayati and Dhundhumara and Puru. These foremost of men, placing the high-souled Satakratu, the slayer of Vritra, at their head, went to all the sacred waters one after another, and at last reached the highly sacred Kausiki on the day of the full moon in the month of Magha. Having cleansed themselves of all sins by ablutions performed in all the sacred waters, they at last proceeded to the very sacred Brahmasara. Bathing in that lake, those Rishis endued with energy like that of fire
began to gather and eat the stalks of the lotus. Amongst those Brahmanas, some had extracted the stalks of the lotus and some the stalks of the Nymphoea stellata. Soon they found that the stalks extracted by Agastya (and deposited on the bank) had been taken away by somebody. The foremost of Rishis, Agastya, addressing them all, said, 'Who has taken away the good stalks which I had extracted and deposited here? I suspect some one amongst you must have done the act. Let him who has taken them away give them back to me. It behoves you not thus to misappropriate my stalks! It is heard that Time assails the energy of Righteousness. That Time has come upon us. Hence, Righteousness is afflicted. It is meet that I should go to heaven for good, before unrighteousness assails the world and establishes itself here! 1 Before the time comes when Brahmanas, loudly uttering the fully Vedas, within the precincts of villages and inhabited places, cause the Sudras to hear them, before the time comes when kings often against the rules of Righteousness from motives of policy, I shall go to heaven for good! Before men cease to regard the distinctions between the lower, the middle, and the higher classes, I shall go to heaven for good. Before Ignorance assails the world and envelops all things in darkness, I shall go to heaven for good. 2 Before the time comes when the strong begin to lord it over the weak and treat them as slaves, I shall go to heaven for good. Indeed, I dare not remain on earth for witnessing these things.' The Rishis, much concerned at what he said, addressed that great ascetic and said, 'We have not stolen thy stalks! Thou shouldst not harbour these suspicions against us. O great Rishi, we shall take the most frightful oaths!' Having said these words, conscious of their own innocence, and desirous of upholding the cause of righteousness, those Rishis and sages of royal descent then began to swear, one after another, the following oaths.'"
"Bhrigu said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks censure when censured, assail when assailed, and eat the flesh that is attached to the back-bone of animals (slaughtered in sacrifice)!'" 3
"Vasishtha said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks neglect his Vedic studies, leash hounds, and having, taken himself to the mendicant order live in a city or town!' 4
"Kasyapa said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks sell all things in all places, misappropriate deposits, and give false evidence!'
"Gautama said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks live, displaying pride in all things, with an understanding that does not see all creatures with an equal eye, and always yielding himself to the influence of desire and wrath! Let him be a cultivator of the soil, and let him be inspired by malice!' 1
"Angiras said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be always impure! Let him be a censurable Brahmana (for his misdeeds). Let him leash hounds. Let him be guilty of Brahmanicide. Let him be averse to expiations after having committed transgressions!'"
"Dhundhumara said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be ungrateful to his friends! Let him take birth in a Sudra woman! Let him eat alone any good food (coming to the house), without sharing it with others!'" 2
"Dilipa said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks descend to those regions of misery and infamy which are reserved for that Brahmana who re-sides in a village having but one well and who has sexual congress with a Sudra woman!'" 3
"Puru said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks adopt the occupation of a physician! Let him be supported by the earnings of his wife! Let him draw his sustenance from his father-in-law!'"
"Sukra said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks eat the flesh of animals not slain in sacrifices! Let him have sexual congress at day-time! Let him be a servant of the king!'"
"Jamadagni said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks study the Vedas on forbidden days or occasions. Let him feed friends at Sraddhas performed by him! Let him eat at the Sraddha of a Sudra!'
"Sivi said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks die without having established a fire (for daily worship)! Let him be guilty of obstructing the performance of sacrifices by others! Let him quarrel with those that are observant of penances!'"
"Yayati said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be guilty of having sexual congress with his wife when she is not in her season and when he is himself in the observance of a vow and bears matted locks on his head! Let him also disregard the Vedas!'"
"Nahusha said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks live in domesticity after having betaken himself to the vow of mendicancy! Let him act in whatever way he pleases (and without restraint of any kind), after having undergone the initiatory rites in view of a sacrifice or some solemn observance! Let him take pecuniary gratification for prelections to disciples (on any branch of knowledge that the latter come to learn)!'
"Amvarisha said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be cruel and unrighteous in his behaviour towards women and kinsmen and kine! Let him be guilty also of Brahmanicide!'"
"Narada said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be one that identifies the body with the soul! Let him study the scriptures with a preceptor that is censurable! Let him chant the Vedas, offending at each step against the rules of orthoepy! Let him disregard all his seniors!'"
"Nabhaga said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks always speak false-hoods and quarrel with those that are righteous! Let him bestow his daughter in marriage after accepting a pecuniary gratification offered by his son-in-law!'"
"Kavi said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks he guilty of striking a cow with his foot. Let him make water, facing the sun! Let him cast off the person that seeks shelter at his hands!'"
"Viswamitra said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks become a servant that behaves with deceit towards his master! Let him be the priest of a king! Let him be the Ritwik of one that should not be assisted at his sacrifices!'"
"Parvata said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be the chief of a village! Let him make journeys on asses! Let him leash hounds for a living!'"
"Bharadwaja said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be guilty of all the demerits that become his who is cruel in his behaviour and untruthful in speech!'"
"Ashtaka said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be a king destitute of wisdom capricious and sinful in his behaviour, and disposed to rule the Earth unrighteously!'"
"Galava said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be more infamous than a sinful man! Let him be sinful in his acts towards his kinsmen and relatives! Let him proclaim the gifts he makes to others!'"
"Arundhati said, 'Let her who has stolen thy stalks speak ill of her mother-in-law! Let her feel disgust for her lord. Let her eat alone any good food that comes to her house!'"
"The Valakhilyas said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks stand on one foot at the entrance of a village (for earning his subsistence)! Let him. while knowing all duties, be guilty of every breach!'" 1
"Sunahsakha said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be a Brahmana that sleeps in happiness, having disregarded his daily Homa! Let him, after becoming a religious mendicant, behave in whatever way he pleases, without observing any restraint!'"
"Surabhi said, 'Let her who has stolen thy stalks be milked, with her (hind) legs bound with a rope of human hair, and with the aid of a calf
not her own, and, while milked, let her milk be held in a vessel of white brass!' 1
"Bhishma continued, 'After the Rishis and the royal sages had sworn these diverse oaths, O Kuru king, the thousand-eyed chief of the deities, filled with joy, cast his looks on the angered Rishi Agastya. Addressing the Rishi who was very angry at the disappearance of his lotus-stalks, Maghavat thus declared what was passing in his mind. Hear, O king, what the words were that Indra spoke in the midst of those regenerate and celestial Rishis and royal sages.'"
"Sakra said, 'Let him who has stolen thy stalks be possessed of the merit of him who bestows his daughter in marriage upon a Brahmana that has duly observed the vow of Brahmacharya or that has duly studied the Samans and the Yajuses! Let him also have the merit of one that undergoes the final bath after completing one's study of the Atharva Veda! Let him who has stolen thy stalks have the merit of having studied all the Vedas. Let him be observant of all duties and righteous in his behaviour! Indeed, let him go to the region of Brahman!'
"Agastya said, 'Thou hast, O slayer of Vala, uttered a benediction instead of a curse! (It is evident), thou hast taken my stalks!" Give them to me, for that is the eternal duty!'"
"Indra said, 'O holy one, I did not remove thy stalks, led by cupidity! Indeed, I removed them from desire of hearing this conclave recite what the duties are that we should observe. It behoveth thee not to give way to anger! Duties are the foremost of Srutis. Duties constitute the eternal path (for crossing the sea of the world)! I have listened to this discourse of the Rishis (on duties) that is eternal and immutable, and that transcends all change! 2 Do thou then, O foremost of learned Brahmanas, take back these stalks of thine! O holy one, it behoves thee to forgive my transgression, O thou that art free from every fault!'"
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by the chief of the deities, the ascetic, viz., Agastya, who had been very angry, took back his stalks. Endued with great intelligence, the Rishi became cheerful. After this, those denizens of the woods proceeded to diverse other sacred waters. Indeed, repairing to those sacred waters they performed their ablutions everywhere. The man who reads this narrative with close attention on every Parva day, will not have to become the progenitor of an ignorant and wicked son. He will never be destitute of learning. No calamity will ever touch him. He will, besides, be free from every kind of sorrow. Decrepitude and decay will never be his. Freed from stains and evil of
every kind, and endued with merit, he is sure to attain to Heaven. He who studies this Sastra observed by the Rishis, is sure, O prince of men, to attain to the eternal region of Brahman that is full of felicity!'" 1
167:1 The scriptures declare that Righteousness loses its strength as Time advances. In the Krita age, it exists in entirety. In the Treta, it loses a quarter. In the Dwapara, another quarter is lost. In the Kali age, full three quarters are lost and only a quarter is all that remains.
167:2 The Rishis think that the distinctions between the lower, the middling, and the higher classes of society are eternal, and nothing can be a greater calamity than the effacement of those distinctions. Equality of men, in their eyes, is an unmitigated evil.
167:3 Forgiveness is the duty of the Brahmana. To fall off from forgiveness is to fall off from duty. To censure when censured and assail the assailer, are grave transgressions in the case of a Brahmana. The idea of retaliation should never enter the Brahmana's heart; for the Brahmana is the friend of the universe. His behaviour to friend and foe should be equal. To eat the flesh that attaches itself to the back-bone of a slaughtered animal is also a grave transgression.
167:4 A religious mendicant should always wander over the Earth, sleeping where night overtakes him. For such a man to reside in a city or town is sinful.
168:1 To till the soil is a transgression for a Brahmana.
168:2 Good food should never be taken alone. It should always be shared with children and servants.
168:3 A village having only one well should be abandoned by a Brahmana, for he should not draw water from such a well which is used by all classes of the population.
169:1 The penance that is involved in standing on one foot should be practised, like all other penances, in the woods. To practise a penance on the way leading to a village so that people may be induced to make gifts, is a transgression of a grave kind.
170:1 Some kine that are vicious have their hind legs tied with a rope while they are milked. If the rope be made of human hair, the pain felt is supposed to be very great. To obtain the aid of a calf belonging to another cow is regarded as sinful. To the cow also, the process of sucking cannot be agreeable. If the milk is held in a vessel of white brass, it becomes unfit for gods and guests.
170:2 The discourse is called eternal and immutable because of its subject being so. Duties are eternal truths.
171:1 This discourse on duties delivered by the Rishis is called a Sastra. Literally, anything that governs men, i.e., regulates their behaviour, is called a Sastra. As such, the enumeration of duties occurring in this Lesson, although it has been made by a reference to their breaches, is therefore, a Sastra.
Next: Section XCV