The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'The chief of the deities, Indra, after the Pitri has ceased to speak, addressed the puissant Hari, saying, 'O Lord, what are those acts by which thou becomest gratified? How, indeed, do men succeed in gratifying thee?'
"Vishnu said, "That which I greatly hate is the detraction of Brahmanas; without doubt, if the Brahmanas are worshipped, I regard myself worshipped. All superior Brahmanas should always be saluted with reverence, after feeding them with hospitality. One should reverence one's own feet also (in the evening). I am gratified with men who act in this way, as also with those who worship and make offerings to the whirl that is noticeable on cowdung (when it first drops from the cow) 1. They who behold a Brahmana that is a dwarf in stature, or a boar that has just risen from water and that bears on his head a quantity of mud taken up from the bank, have never to meet with any evil. They become freed from
every sin. That man who worships every day the Aswattha (Ficus religiosa) and the substance called Gorochana and the cow, is regarded as worshipping the whole universe with the deities and Asuras and human beings. Verily, staying within these, I accept, in my own form, the worship that is offered to them. The worship that is offered to these is the worship offered to me. This has been so as long as the worlds have been created. Those men of little understanding that worship me in a different way worship me in vain, for the worship of that kind I never accept. Verily, the worship of other kinds is not at all gratifying to me.'
"Indra said, 'Why dost thou applaud the circular marks on cowdung, the feet, the boar, the Brahmana that is a dwarf in stature, and mud raised up from the soil? It is thou who createst and it is thou who destroyest them. Thou art the eternal nature of all mortal or transitory things:'
"Bhishma continued, 'Hearing these words of Indra. Vishnu smiled a little and then said, 'It was with my circular disc that the Daityas were slain. It was with my two feet that the world was covered. Assuming the form of a boar I slew Hiranyaksha. Assuming the form of a dwarf I conquered (the Asura) king Vali. Those high-souled men who worship these gratify me. Verily, they who worship me in these forms never meet with discomfiture. If one beholding a Brahmana leading the Brahmacharya mode of life arrived at one's house, offers unto him the first portion of one's food that belongs as of right to a Brahmana, and eats what remains thereafter, one is regarded as eating Amrita. If one, after adoring the morning twilight, stands with face directed towards the sun, one reaps the merit that attaches to the performance of ablutions in all tirthas and becomes cleansed of all sins. Ye Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, I have told you in details what constitutes a great mystery. On what else shall I discourse unto you? Tell me your doubts.'
"Baladeva said, 'Listen now to another great mystery that is fraught with happiness to men. Ignorant persons, unacquainted with it, meet with much distress at the hands of other creatures. That man who, rising at early dawn, touches a cow, ghee, and curds, as also mustard seeds and the larger variety thereof called Priyangu, becomes cleansed of all sins. As regards Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, they always avoid all creatures both before and behind, as also all that is impure while performing Sraddhas. 1
"The deities said, 'If a person, taking a vessel of copper, filling it with water, and facing the east, resolves upon a fast or the observance of a particular vow, the deities become gratified with him and all his wishes become crowned with success. By observing fasts, or vows in any other
way, men of little understandings gain nothing. 1 In uttering the resolution about the observance of fasts and in making offerings to the deities, the use of a vessel of copper is preferable. In presenting the offerings to the deities, in (giving and accepting) alms, in presenting the ingredients of the Arghya and in offering oblations of water mixed with sesame seeds to the Pitris, a vessel of copper should be used. By doing these acts in any other way, one acquires little merit. Even these mysteries have been laid down relating to how the deities are gratified.'
"Dharma said, 'The offerings made in all rites in honour of the deities and in those in honour of the Pitris should never be given away to a Brahmana that has accepted service under the king, or that rings the bell or attends to subsidiary duties in acts of worship or at Sraddhas, or that keeps kine, or that is engaged in trade, or that follows some art as a profession, or that is an actor, or that quarrels with friends or that is destitute of Vedic studies, or that marries a Sudra woman 2. The performer of the Sraddha who gives away such offerings unto such a Brahmana falls away from prosperity and multiplies not his race. He fails, again, to gratify his Pitris by doing such an act. From the house of that person whence a guest returns unsatisfied, the Pitris, the deities, and the sacred fires, all return disappointed in consequence of such treatment of the guest. That man who does not discharge the duties of hospitality towards the guest arrived at his abode, comes to be regarded as equally sinful with those that are slayers of women or of kine, that are ungrateful towards benefactors, that are slayers of Brahmanas, or that are violators of the beds of their preceptors.'
"Agni said, 'Listen ye with concentrated attention. I shall recite the demerits of that man of wicked understanding who lifts up his feet for striking therewith a cow or a highly blessed Brahmana or a blazing fire. The infamy of such a man spreads throughout the world and touches the confines of heaven itself. His Pitris become filled with fear. The deities also become highly dissatisfied on his account. Endued with great energy, Fire refuses to accept the libations poured by him. For a hundred lives he has to rot in hell. He is never rescued at any time. One should, therefore, never touch a cow with one's feet, or a Brahmana of high energy, or a blazing fire, if one is endued with faith and desires one's own good. These are the demerits declared by me of one who lifts up one's feet towards these three.'
"Viswamitra said, 'Listen to a high mystery that is unknown to the generality of men and that is connected with religion. He who offers the Pitris rice boiled in sugared milk, sitting with face directed to the south at noontide in the shade caused by an elephant's body, in the month of Bhadrapada, under the constellation Magha, acquires great merits. Listen
to what those merits are. The man who makes such an offering to the Pitris under such circumstances, is regarded as performing a great Sraddha each year for thirteen years in succession.' 1
"The kine said, 'That man becomes cleansed of all his sins who adores a cow with these Mantras, viz., 'O Vahula, O Samanga, O thou that art fearless everywhere, O thou that art forgiving and full of auspiciousness, O friend, O source of all plenty, in the region of Brahman, in days of yore, thou wert present with thy calf in the sacrifice of Indra, the wielder of the thunderbolt. Thou tookest thy station in the firmament and in the path of Agni. The deities with Narada among them adored thee on that occasion by calling thee Sarvamsaha. Such man attains to the region of Purandara. He acquires, besides, the merits that attach to kine, and the splendour of Chandramas also. Such a man becomes freed from every sin, every fear, every grief. At the end, he obtains residence in the happy region of the Thousand-eyed Indra!'
"Bhishma continued, 'After this, the highly blessed and celebrated seven Rishis, with Vasishtha at their head, rose and circumambulating the Lotus-born Brahman, stood around him with hands joined in reverence. Vasishtha, that foremost of all persons conversant with Brahma, became their spokesman and asked this question that is beneficial to every creature, but especially so to Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, 'By doing what acts may men of righteous conduct who are, however, destitute of the good of this world, succeed in acquiring merits attaching to sacrifices?' Hearing this question of theirs, the Grandsire Brahman began to say what follows.'
"Brahman said, 'Excellent is this question, ye highly blessed ones! It is at once auspicious and high and fraught with a mystery. This question that ye have put is subtil and is fraught with high benefit to mankind. Ye Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, I shall recite everything to you in detail. Do ye listen with attention to what I say as to how men acquire the merits attaching to sacrifices (even when they are unable to perform them through poverty.) In the lighted fortnight of the month of Pausha, when the constellation Rohini is in conjunction, if one, purifying oneself by a bath, lies under the cope of heaven, clad in a single piece of raiment, with faith and concentrated attention, and drinks the rays of the moon, one acquires the merits that attach to the performance of great sacrifices. Ye foremost of regenerate persons, this is a high mystery that I declare unto you in reply to your questions, ye that are possessed of insight into the subtil truths of all topics of enquiry.'"
263:1 The commentator explains that when evening comes, one should respectfully salute one's own feet. This custom has certainly died out in Bengal. A whirl is certainly observable on cowdung when it first drops from the cow; but the practice of making offering to it has also died out.
264:1 The second line seems to be unintelligible The reading I take is Sraddheshu and not Schidreshu.
265:1 p. 264 Vows and fasts, &c., should be observed after the Sankalpa or Resolution to that effect has been formally enunciated. Even a plunge in a piece of sacred water cannel be productive of merit unless the Sankalpa has been formally enunciated. The Sankalpa is the enunciation of the purpose for which the act is performed as also of the act that is intended to be performed.
265:2 Vrishalipati literally means the husband of a Sudra woman. By actually marrying a woman of the lowest order, by marrying before the elder brother, by marrying a girl that has attained to puberty, and by certain other acts, a Brahmana comes to be regarded as a Vrishalipati.
266:1 Kutapa is the hour about noontide. The shade of the elephant's body implies a particular instant of time that is regarded as very favourable for the Sraddha. The man that performs such a Sraddha is regarded as acquiring the merits attaching to Sraddhas regularly performed for thirteen years.
Next: Section CXXVII