The Mahabharata Home
"Bhishma said, 'The Rishis there assembled, together with the Pitris and the deities, then, with concentrated attention, questioned Arundhati (the spouse of Vasishtha) who was endued with great ascetic merit. Possessed of abundant wealth of penances, Arundhati was equal to her husband, the high-souled Vasishtha in energy for in both vows and conduct she was her husband's equal. Addressing her they said, 'We desire to hear from thee the mysteries of duty and religion. It behoveth thee, O amiable lady, to tell us what thou regardest as a high mystery.'
"Arundhati said, 'The great progress I have been able to achieve in penances is due to your consideration for me in thus remembering my poor self. With your gracious permission I shall now discourse on duties that are eternal, on duties that are high mysteries. I shall discourse thereon with the causes on which they depend. Listen to me as I discourse to you elaborately. A knowledge of these should be imparted unto him only that is possessed of faith or that has a pure heart. These four,
viz., he that is bereft of faith, he that is full of pride, he that is guilty of Brahmanicide, and he that violates the bed of his preceptor, should never be talked to. Religion and duty should never be communicated unto them. The merits acquired by a person who gives away a Kapila cow every day for a period of two and ten years, or by a person who adores the deities every month in a sacrifice, or by him who gives away hundreds of thousands of kine in the great Pushkara, do not come up to those that are his with whom a guest is gratified. Listen now to another duty whose observance is fraught with happiness to mankind. It should be observed with its secret ritual by a person endued with faith, Its merits are certainly high. Listen to what they are. If a person, rising at early dawn and taking with him a quantity of water and a few blades of Kusa grass, proceeds into a cow-pen and arriving there washes a cow's horns by sprinkling thereon that water with those blades of Kusa grass and then causes the water to drip down on his own head, he is regarded, in consequence of such a bath, as one that has performed his ablutions in all the sacred waters that the wise have heard to exist in the three worlds and that are honoured and resorted to by Siddhas and Charanas.' After Arundhati had said these words, all the deities and Pitris applauded her, saying, 'Excellent, Excellent,' Indeed, all the beings there were highly gratified and all of them worshipped Arundhati.'
"Brahman said, 'O highly blessed one, excellent is the duty that thou hast enunciated, together with its secret ritual. Praise be to thee! I grant thee this boon, viz., that thy penances will continually increase!'
"Yams said, 'I have heard from thee an excellent and agreeable discourse. Listen now to what Chitragupta has said and what is agreeable to me. Those words relate to duty with its secret ritual, and are worthy of being heard by the great Rishis, as also by men endued with faith and desirous of achieving their own good. Nothing is lost of either piety or sin that is committed by creatures. On days of the full moon and the new moon, those acts are conveyed to the sun where they rest. When a mortal goes into the region of the dead, the deity of the sun bears witness to all his acts. He that is righteous acquires the fruits of his righteousness there. I shall now tell you of some auspicious duties that are approved by Chitragupta. Water for drink, and lamps for lighting darkness, should always be given, as also sandals and umbrellas and Kapila kine with due rites. In Pushkara especially should one make the gift of a Kapila cow unto a Brahmana conversant with the Vedas. One should also always maintain one's Agnihotra with great care. Here is another duty which was proclaimed by Chitragupta. It behoveth them that are the best of creatures to listen to what the merits are of that duty separately. In course of time, every creature is destined to undergo dissolution. They that are of little understanding meet with great distress in the regions of the dead, for they become afflicted by hunger and thirst. Indeed, they have to rot there, burning in pain. There is no escape for them from such
calamity. They have to enter into a thick darkness. I shall now tell you of those duties by performing which one may succeed in crossing such calamity. The performance of those duties costs very little but is fraught with great merit. Indeed, such performance is productive of great happiness in the other world. The merits that attach to the gift of water for drink are excellent. In the next world in especial, those merits are very high. For them that make gifts of water for drink there is ordained in the other world a large river full of excellent water. Indeed, the water contained in that river is inexhaustible and cool and sweet as nectar. He who makes gifts of water in this world drinks from that stream in the world hereafter when he goes thither. Listen now to the abundant merits that attach to the giving of lamps. The man who gives lamps in this world has never to even behold the thick darkness (of Hell). Soma and Surya and the deity of fire always give him their light when he repairs to the other world. The deities ordain that on every side of such a person there should be blazing light. Verily, when the giver of lights repairs to the world of the dead, he himself blazes forth in pure effulgence like a second Surya. Hence, one should give lights while here and water for drink in especial. Listen now to what the merits are of the person who makes the gift of a Kapila cow to a Brahmana conversant with the Vedas, especially if the gift be made in Pushkara. Such a man is regarded as having made a gift of a hundred kine with a bull, a gift that is productive of eternal merit. The gift of a single Kapila cow is capable of cleansing whatever sins the giver may be guilty of even if those sins be as grave. Brahmanicide, for the gift of a single Kapila cow is regarded as equal in point of merit to that of a hundred kine. Hence, one should give away a Kapila cow at that Pushkara which is regarded as the senior (of the two Tirthas known by that name) on the day of the full moon in the month of Karttika. Men that succeed in making such a gift have never to encounter distress of any kind, or sorrow, or thorns giving pain. That man who gives away a pair of sandals unto a superior Brahmana that is deserving of the gift, attains to similar merits. By giving away an umbrella a person obtains comfortable shade in the next world. (He will not have to be exposed to the sun). A gift made to a deserving person is never lost. It is certain to produce agreeable consequences to the giver.' Hearing these opinions of Chitragupta, Surya's hairs stood on their ends. Endued with great splendour, he addressed all the deities and the Pitris, saying 'Ye have heard the mysteries relating to duty, as propounded by the high-souled Chitragupta. Those human beings who, endued with faith, make these gifts unto high-souled Brahmanas, become freed from fear of every kind. These five kinds of men, stained with vicious deeds, have no escape. Verily, of sinful behaviour and regarded as the worst of men, they should never be talked to. Indeed they should always be avoided. Those five are he who is the slayer of a Brahmana, he who is the slayer of a cow, he who is addicted to sexual congress with other people's wives, he who is bereft of
faith (in the Vedas), and he who derives his sustenance by selling the virtue of his wife. These men of sinful conduct, when they repair to the region of the dead, rot in hell like worms that live upon pus and blood. These five are avoided by the Pitris, the deities, the Snataka Brahmanas, and other regenerate persons that are devoted to the practice of penances.'"
Next: Section CXXXI