The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'Thus addressed, the holy one replied unto Maitreya, saying 'by good luck, thou art endued with knowledge. By good luck, thy understanding is of this kind! They that are good highly applaud all righteous attributes. That personal beauty and youth and prosperity do not succeed in overwhelming thee is due to good luck. This favour done to thee is due to the kindness of the deities. Listen to me as I discourse to thee upon what is even superior (in efficacy) to gift. Whatever scriptures and religious treatises there are, whatever (righteous) inclinations are observable in the world, they have flowed in their due order, agreeably with the lead of the Vedas, according to their due order. Following them I applaud gift. Thou praisest penances and Vedic lore. Penances are sacred. Penances are the means by which one may acquire the Vedas and heaven also. With the aid of penances and of knowledge, one attains to the highest fruits, we have heard. It is by penances that one destroys one's sins and all else that is evil. It has been heard by us that with whatever purpose in view one undergoes penances, one attains the fruition thereof in consequence of those penances. The same may be said of knowledge.
[paragraph continues] Whatever is difficult to accomplish, whatever is difficult to conquer, what is difficult to attain, and whatever is difficult to cross, can all be achieved with the aid of penances. Of all things, penances are possessed of very superior might. The man who drinks alcohol, or he that takes by force what belongs to others, or he that is guilty of foeticide, or he that violates the bed of his preceptor, succeeds in crossing with the aid of penances. Indeed, one becomes cleansed of all these sins through penances. One possessed of all knowledge and, therefore, having true vision, and an ascetic of whatever kind, are equal. One should always bow unto these two 1. All men who have the Vedas for their wealth should be worshipped. Similarly, all men endued with penances deserve to be worshipped. Those who make gifts obtain happiness hereafter and much prosperity here. Righteous men of this world, by making gifts of food obtain both this world and that of Brahman himself with many other regions of superior felicity. Those men who are adored by all, themselves adore him who makes gifts. Those men that are honoured everywhere themselves honour him who make gifts. Wherever the giver goes, he bears himself praised, He who does acts and he who omits to do them gets each what is proportionate to his acts and omissions. Whether one dwells in the upper regions or in the nether, one always attains to those places to which one becomes entitled by one's acts. As regards thyself, thou wilt certainly obtain whatever food and drink thou mayst covet, Tot thou art endued with intelligence, good birth, Vedic lore, and compassion! Thou art possessed of youth, O Maitreya! Thou art observant of vows. Be thou devoted to Righteousness. Do thou take instructions from me regarding those duties which thou shouldst first follow,--the duties, viz., of householders. In that house in which the husband is gratified with his wedded wife, and the wife gratified with her husband, all auspicious results ensue. As filth is washed away from the body with water, as darkness is dispelled by the splendour of fire even so is sin washed off by gifts and penances. Bless thee, O Maitreya, let mansions be thine! I depart hence in peace. Do thou keep in mind what I have said. Thou shalt then be able to reap many advantages! Maitreya then walked round his illustrious guest and bowed his head unto him, and joining his hands in reverence said, 'Let blessing be to thee also, O holy one!"
253:1 The sense is that an ascetic observant of penances, in whatever stage, and a man possessed of omniscience, are regarded as equal.
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