The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, how a poor man, desirous of achieving his own good, should bear himself after having acquired the status of humanity and come into this region of acts that is so difficult to attain. Tell me also what is the best of all gifts, and what should be given under what circumstances. Tell me, O son of Ganga, who art truly deserving of honour and worship. It behoveth thee to discourse to us on these mysteries.'
"Vaisampayana continued, 'Thus questioned by that famous monarch, viz., the son of Pandu, Bhishma explained (in these words) unto that king these high mysteries appertaining to duty.'
"Bhishma said, 'Listen to me with concentrated attention, O king, as I explain to thee, O Bharata, these mysteries appertaining to duties, after the same manner in which the holy Vyasa had explained them to me in
days of yore. This subject is a mystery to the very deities, O monarch. Yama of stainless deeds, with the aid of vows well-observed and Yoga meditation, had acquired the knowledge of these mysteries as the high fruits of his penances. 1 What pleases what deity, what pleases the Pitris, the Rishis, the Pramathas (associates of Mahadeva), the goddess Sri, Chitragupta (the recording assistant of Yama), and the mighty Elephants at the cardinal points of the compass, what constitutes the religion of the Rishis--the religion, which has many mysteries and which is productive of high fruits,--the merits of what are called great gifts, and the merits that attach to all the sacrifices, he who knows these, O sinless one, and knowing acts according to his knowledge, becomes freed from stains if he has stains and acquires the merits indicated. Equal to ten butchers is one oilman. Equal to ten oilmen is one drinker of alcohol. Equal to ten drinkers of alcohol is one courtezan. Equal to ten courtezans is a single (territorial) chief. 2 A great king is said to be equal to half of these all. Hence, one should not accept, gifts from these. On the other hand, one should attend to the science, that is sacred and that has righteousness for its indications, of the aggregate of three (viz., Religion, Wealth, and Pleasure). Amongst these, Wealth and Pleasure are naturally attractive. Hence, one should, with concentrated attention, listen to the sacred expositions of Religion (in particular), for the fruits are very great of listening to the mysteries of Religion. One should certainly hear every topic connected with Religion as ordained by the deities themselves. In it is contained the ritual in respect of the Sraddha in which have been declared the mysteries connected with the Pitris. The mysteries connected with all the deities have also been explained there. It comprehends the duties and practices, productive of great merit, of the Rishis also, together with the mysteries attaching to them. It contains an exposition of the merits o f great sacrifices and those that attach to all kinds of gifts. Those men who always read the scriptures bearing on these topics, those who bear them properly in their mind, and he who, having listened to them, follows them in practice, are all regarded to be as holy and sinless as the puissant Narayana himself. The merits that attach to the gift of kine, those that belong to the performance of ablutions in sacred waters, those that are won by the performance of sacrifices,--all these are acquired by that man who treats guests with reverence. They who listen to these scriptures, they
who are endued with faith, and they who have a pure heart, it is well-known, conquer many regions of happiness. Those righteous men who are endued with faith, become cleansed of all stains and no sin can touch them. Such men always increase in righteousness and succeed in attaining to heaven. Once on a time, a celestial messenger, coming to the court of Indra of his own accord, but remaining invisible, addressed the chief of the deities in these words, 'At the command of those two deities who are the foremost of all physicians, and who are endued with every desirable attribute, I have come to this place where I behold human beings and Pitris and the deities assembled together. Why, indeed, is sexual congress interdicted for the man who performs a Sraddha and for him also who eats at a Sraddha (for the particular day)? Why are three rice-balls offered separately at a Sraddha? Unto whom should the first of those balls be offered? Unto whom should the second one be offered? And whose has it been said is the third or remaining one? I desire to know all this.' After the celestial messenger had said these words connected with righteousness and duty, the deities who were seated towards the east, the Pitris also, applauding that ranger of the sky, began as follows.'
"The Pitris said, 'Welcome art thou, and blessings upon thee! Do thou listen, O best of all rangers of the sky! The question thou hast asked is a high one and fraught with deep meaning. The Pitris of that man who indulges in sexual congress on the day he performs a Sraddha, or eats at a Sraddha have to lie for the period of a whole month on his vital seed. As regards the classification of the rice-balls offered at a Sraddha, we shall explain what should be done with them one after another. The first rice-ball should be conceived as thrown into the waters. The second ball should be given to one of the wives to eat. The third ball should be cast into the blazing fire. Even this is the ordinance that has been declared in respect of the Sraddha. Even this is the ordinance that is followed in practice according to the rites of religion. The Pitris of that man who act according to this ordinance become gratified with him and remain always cheerful. The progeny of such a man increases and inexhaustible wealth always remains at his command.'
"The celestial messenger said, 'Thou hast explained the division of the rice-balls and their consignment one after another to the three (viz., water, the spouse, and the blazing fire), together with the reasons thereof. 1 Whom does that rice-tall which is consigned to the waters reach? How does it, by being so consigned, gratify the deities and how does it rescue the Pitris? The second ball is eaten by the spouse. That has been laid down in ordinance. How do the Pitris of that man (whose spouse eats the ball) become the eaters thereof? The last ball goes into the blazing fire. How does that ball succeed in finding its way to thee, or who is he unto whom it goes? I desire to bear this,--that is, what are the ends attained by
the rice-balls offered at Sraddhas when thus disposed of by being cast into the water, given to the spouse, and thrown into the blazing fire!
"The Pitris said, 'Great is this question which thou hast asked. It involves a mystery and is fraught with wonder. We have been exceedingly gratified with thee, O ranger of the sky! The very deities and the Munis applaud acts done in honour of the Pitris. Even they do not know what the certain conclusions are of the ordinances in respect of the acts done in honour of the Pitris. Excepting the high souled, immortal, and excellent Markandeya, that learned Brahmana of great fame, who is ever devoted to the Pitris, none amongst them is conversant with the mysteries of the ordinances in respect of the Pitris. Having heard from the holy Vyasa what the end is of the three rice-balls offered at the Sraddha, as explained by the Pitris themselves in reply to the question of the celestial messenger, I shall explain the same to thee. Do thou hear, O monarch, what the conclusions are with respect to the ordinances about the Sraddha. Listen with rapt attention, O Bharata, to me as I explain what the end is of the three rice-balls. That rice-ball which goes into water is regarded as gratifying the deity of the moon. That deity, thus gratified, O thou of great intelligence, gratifies in return the other deities and the Pitris also with them. It has been laid down that the second rice-ball should be eaten by the spouse (of the man that performs the Sraddha). The Pitris, who are ever desirous of progeny, confer children on the woman of the house. Listen now to me as I tell thee what becomes of the rice-ball that is cast into the blazing fire. With that ball the Pitris are gratified and as the result thereof they grant the fruition of all wishes unto the person offering it. I have thus told thee everything about the end of the three rice-balls offered at the Sraddha and consigned to the three (viz., water, the spouse, and the fire). That Brahmana who becomes the Ritwik at a Sraddha constitutes himself, by that act, the Pitri of the person performing the Sraddha. Hence, he should abstain that day from sexual intercourse with even his own spouse 1. O best of all rangers of the sky, the man who eats at Sraddha should bear himself with purity for that day. By acting otherwise, one surely incurs the faults I have indicated. It cannot be otherwise. Hence, the Brahmana who is invited to a Sraddha for eating the offerings should eat them after purifying himself by a bath and bear himself piously for that day by abstaining from every kind of injury or evil. The progeny of such a person multiply and he also who feeds him reaps the same reward.'
"Bhishma continued, 'After the Pitris said so, a Rishi of austere penances, named Vidyutprabha, whose form shone with splendour like
that of the sun, spoke. Having heard those mysteries of religion as propounded by the Pitris, he addressed Sakra, saying, 'Stupefied by folly, men slay numerous creatures born in the intermediate orders, such as worms and ants and snakes and sheep and deer and birds. Heavy is the measure of sin they incur by these acts. What, however, is the remedy? When this question was asked, all the gods and Rishis endued with wealth of penances and the highly blessed Pitris, applauded that ascetic.'
"Sakra said, 'Thinking in one's mind of Kurukshetra and Gaya and Ganga and Prabhasa and the lakes of Pushkara, one should dip one's head in water. By so doing one becomes cleansed of all one's sins like Chandramas freed from Rahu. One should bathe in this way for three days in succession and then fast for every day. Besides this, one should touch (after bathing) the back of a cow and bow one's head to her tail. Vidyutprabha, after this, once more addressing Vasava, said, 'I shall declare a rite that is more subtle. Listen to me, O thou of a hundred sacrifices. Rubbed with the astringent powder of the hanging roots of the banian and anointed with the oil of Priyangu, one should eat the Shashtika paddy mixed with milk. By so doing one becomes cleansed of all one's sins 1. Listen now to another mystery unknown to many but which was discovered by the Rishis with the aid of meditation. I heard it from Vrihaspati while he recited it in the presence of Mahadeva. O chief of the deities, do thou hear it with Rudra in thy company, O lord of Sachi! If a person, ascending a mountain, stands there on one foot, with arms upraised and joined together, and abstaining from food looks at a blazing fire, he acquires the merits of severe penances and obtains the rewards that attach to fasts. Heated by the rays of the sun, he becomes cleansed of all his sins. One who acts in this way in both the summer and the winter seasons, becomes freed from every sin. Cleansed of every sin, one acquires a splendour of complexion for all time. Such a man blazes with energy like the Sun or shines in beauty like the Moon!' After this, the chief of the deities, viz., he of a hundred sacrifices, seated in the midst of the gods, then sweetly addressed Vrihaspati, saying these excellent words, 'O holy one, do thou duly discourse on what those mysteries of religion are that are fraught with happiness to human beings, and what the faults are which they commit, together with the mysteries that attach to them!'
"Vrihaspati said, 'They who pass urine, facing the sun, they who do not show reverence for the wind, they who do not pour libations on the blazing fire, they who milk a cow whose calf is very young, moved by the desire of obtaining from her as much milk as possible, commit sins. I shall declare what those faults are, O lord of Sachi! Do thou listen to me.
[paragraph continues] The Sun, Wind, the bearer of sacrificial oblations, O Vasava, and kine who are the mothers of all creatures, were created by the Self born himself, for rescuing all the worlds, O Sakra! These are the deities of human beings. Listen all of ye to the conclusions of religion. Those wicked men and wicked women who pass urine facing the sun, live in great infamy for six and eighty years. That man, O Sakra, who cherishes no reverence for the wind, gets children that fall away prematurely from the womb of his spouse. Those men who do not pour libations on the blazing fire find that the fire, when they do ignite it for such rites as they wish to perform, refuses to eat their libations 1. Those men who drink the milk of kine whose calves are very young, never get children for perpetuating their races. 2 Such men see their children, die and their races shrink. Even these are the consequences of the acts referred to, as observed by regenerate persons venerable for age in their respective races. Hence, one should always avoid that which has been interdicted, and do only that which has been directed to be done, if one is desirous of achieving prosperity. This that I say unto thee is very true.' After the celestial preceptor had said this, the highly blessed deities, with the Maruts, and the highly blessed Rishis questioned the Pitris, saying, 'Ye Pitris, at what acts of human beings, who are generally endued with little understanding, do ye become gratified? What gifts, made in course of such rites as are gone through for improving the position of deceased persons in the other world, become inexhaustible in respect of their efficacy? 3 By performing what acts can men become freed from the debt they owe to the Pitris? We desire to hear this. Great is the curiosity we feel.'
"The Pitris said, 'Ye highly blessed ones, the doubt existing in your minds has been properly propounded. Listen as we declare what those acts are of righteous men that gratify us. Bulls endued with blue complexion should be set free. Gifts should be made to us, on the day of the new moon, of sesame seeds and water. In the season of rains, lamps should be lighted. By these acts of men, they can free themselves from the debt they owe to the Pitris. 4 Such gifts never become vain. On the other hand, they become inexhaustible and productive of high fruits. The gratification we derive from them is regarded to be inexhaustible. Those men who, endued with faith, beget offspring, rescue their deceased ancestors from miserable Hell'. Hearing these words of the Pitris, Vriddha-Gargya, possessed of wealth of penances and high energy, became filled with wonder so that the hair on his body stood erect. Addressing them he said, 'Ye that are all possessed of wealth of penances, tell us.
what the merits are that attach to the setting free of bulls endued with blue complexion. What merits, again, attach to the gift of lamps in the season of rains and the gift of water with sesame seeds?'
"The Pitris said, 'If a bull of blue complexion, upon being set free, raises a (small) quantity of water with its tail, the Pitris (of the person that has set that bull free) become gratified with that water for full sixty thousand years. The mud such a bull raises with its horns from the banks (of a river or lake), succeeds, without doubt, in sending the Pitris (of the person that sets the animal free) to the region of Soma. By giving lamps in the season of rains, one shines with effulgence like Soma himself. The man who gives lamps is never subject to the attribute of Darkness. Those men who make gifts, on the day of the new moon, of sesame seeds and water, mixed with honey and using a vessel of copper, O thou that art possessed of wealth of penances, are regarded as duly performing a Sraddha with all its mysteries. These men get children of sound health and cheerful minds. The merit acquired by the giver of the Pinda (to the Pitris) takes the form of the growth of his race. Verily, he who performs these acts with faith, becomes freed from the debt he owes to the Pitris. Even thus has been laid down the proper time for the performance of the Sraddha, the ordinance in respect of the rites to be observed, the proper person that should be fed at the Sraddha, and the merits that attach to it. I have declared everything to thee in due order.'
258:1 Yamena praptam is the sense, as explained by the commentator.
258:2 The sense is this; one should not accept gifts made by a butcher or slayer of animals. Ten butchers are equal to a single oilman. By accepting a gift from an oilman, therefore, one incurs ten times as much sin as by accepting a gift from a butcher. In this way, the measure of sin goes on increasing according to the ratio given. A Nripa, as explained by the commentator, means here a small chief. A small king is equal to ten thousand butchers. A great king, however, is equal to half of that, i.e., five thousand butchers, In other words, by accepting a gift from a great king, a man incurs as much sin as is a full five thousand times of the sin which is incurred by accepting a gift from a butcher.
259:1 The reason is the declarations in the scriptures to that effect.
260:1 The sense, as explained by the commentator, is this: the Brahmana who becomes the Ritwik and eats at a Sraddha becomes a Pitri of the person performing the Sraddha. Hence, when his identity has been changed, he should, on that day, abstain from sexual congress with even his own spouse. By indulging in such congress, he incurs the sin of adultery.
261:1 Batakashaya is explained by the commentator as substance that is named by pounding the hanging roots of the banian. The Priyangu here mentioned is not the Aglaia Roxburghiana but the seed called Rajasarshapa, i.e., Brassica juncea; Sinapis ramasa, Roxb. The Shashtika paddy is that which ripens in sixty days.
262:1 The sense seems to be that the libations, few and far between, of men who do not daily worship their fire are not borne by the fire to the destined places.
262:2 Kshirapah means those that depend on the lacteal sustenance, hence, little children.
262:3 Aurddhsadehikam danam means gifts made in course of Sraddhas and other rites that are observed for improving the position of a deceased person.
262:4 What is meant by the gift of lamps is the lighting of lamps in the sky. These are placed on long poles which are fastened to the tallest trees.
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