The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Thus addressed by Vyasa, Maitreya, who was a worshipper of acts, who had been born in a race endued with great prosperity, who was wise and possessed of great learning said unto him these words'.
"Maitreya said, 'O thou of great wisdom, without doubt it is as thou hast said, O puissant one, with thy permission I desire to say something.'
"Vyasa said, 'Whatever thou wishest to say, O Maitreya, do thou say, O man of great wisdom, for I wish to hear thee.
"Maitreya said. 'Thy words on the subject of Gift are faultless and pure. Without doubt, thy soul has been cleansed by knowledge and penances. In consequence of thy soul being cleansed, even this is the great advantage I reap from it. With the aid of my understanding I see that thou art endued with high penances. As regards ourselves we succeed in acquiring prosperity through only a sight of personages like thee I think, that is due to thy grace and flows from the nature of my own acts. 1 Penances, knowledge of the Vedas, and birth in a pure race,--these are the causes of the status which one acquires of a Brahmana. When one has these three attributes, then does he come to be called a regenerate person. If the Brahmana be gratified, the Pitris and the deities are also gratified. There is nothing superior to a Brahmana possessed of Vedic lore. Without the Brahmana, all would be darkness. Nothing would be known. The four orders would not exist. The distinction between Righteousness and Unrighteousness. Truth and Falsehood, would cease. On a well-tilled field, an abundant harvest can be reaped. Even so, one may reap great merit by making gifts unto a Brahmana possessed of great learning. If there were no Brahmanas endued with Vedic lore and good conduct for accepting gifts, the wealth possessed by wealthy people would be
useless. The ignorant Brahmana, by eating the food that is offered to him, destroys what he eats (for it produces no merit to him who gives it). The food that is eaten also destroys the eater (for the eater incurs sin by eating what is offered to him). That ought to be properly termed an eatable which is given away to a deserving man, in all other cases, he that takes it makes the donor's gift thrown away and the receiver is likewise ruined for his improperly accepting it. The Brahmana possessed of learning becomes the subjugator of the food that he eats. Having eaten it, he begets other food. The ignorant who eats the food offered to him loses his right to the children he begets, for the latter become his whose food has enabled the progenitor to beget them. Even this is the subtle fault that attaches to persons eating other people's food when they have not the puissance to win that food. The merit which the giver acquires by making the gift, is equal to what the taker acquires by accepting the food. Both the giver and the acceptor depend equally upon each other. Even this is what the Rishis have said. There where Brahmanas exist, possessed of Vedic lore and conduct, people are enabled to earn the sacred fruits of gifts and to enjoy them both here and hereafter. Those men who are of pure lineage, who are exceedingly devoted to penances, and who make gifts, and study the Vedas, are regarded as worthy of the most reverent worship. It is those good men that have chalked out the path by treading on which one does not become stupefied. It is those men that are the leaders of others to heaven. They are the men who bear on their shoulders the burden of sacrifices and live for eternity."
251:1 To obtain a sight of thee is the reward or result of my own acts. A sight of thy person leads to prosperity, through the kindness thou cherishest for us.
Next: Section CXXII