The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Who are those persons, O Bharata, from whom a Brahmana in this world may accept his food? From whom may a Kshatriya, a Vaisya, and a Sudra take their food respectively?'
"Bhishma said, 'A Brahmana may take his food from another Brahmana or from a Kshatriya or a Vaisya, but he must never accept food from a Sudra. A Kshatriya may take his food from a Brahmana, a Kshatriya or a Vaisya. He must, however, eschew food given by Sudras who are addicted to evil ways and who partake of all manner of food without any scruple. Brahmanas and Kshatriyas can partake of food given by such Vaisyas as tend the sacred fire every day, as are faultless in character, and as perform the vow of Chaturmasya. But the man who takes food from a Sudra, swallows the very abomination of the earth, and drinks the excretions of the human body, and partakes of the filth of all the world. He partakes of the very filth of the earth who takes his food thus from a Sudra. Verily, those Brahmanas that take their food from Sudras, take the dirt of the earth. If one engages in the service of a Sudra, one is doomed to perdition though one may duly perform all the rites of one's order. A Brahmana, a Kshatriya, or a Vaisya, so engaging, is doomed, although devoted to the due performance of religious rites. It is said that a Brahmana's duty consists in studying the Vedas and seeking the welfare of the human race; that a Kshatriya's duty consists in protecting men, and that a Vaisya's in promoting their material prosperity. A Vaisya lives by distributing the fruits of his own acts and agriculture. The breeding of kine and trade are the legitimate work in which a Vaisya may engage without fear of censure. The man who abandons his own proper occupation and betakes himself to that of a Sudra, should be considered as a Sudra and on no account should any food be accepted from him. Professors of the healing art, mercenary soldiers, the priest who acts as warder of the house, and persons who
devote a whole year to study without any profit, are all to be considered as Sudras. And those who impudently partake of food offered at ceremonials in a Sudra's house are afflicted with a terrible calamity. In consequence of partaking such forbidden food they lose their family, strength, and energy, and attain to the status of animals, descending to the position of dogs, fallen in virtue and devoid of all religious observances. He who takes food from a physician takes that which is no better than excrement; the food of a harlot is like urine; that of a skilled mechanic is like blood. If a Brahmana approved by the good, takes the food of one who lives by his learning, he is regarded as taking the food of a Sudra. All good men should forego such food. The food of a person who is censured by all is said to be like a draught from a pool of blood. The acceptance of food from a wicked person is considered as reprehensible as the slaying of a Brahmana. One should not accept food if one is slighted and not received with due honours by the giver. A Brahmana, who does so, is soon overtaken by disease, and his race soon becomes extinct. By accepting food from the warder of a city, one descends to the status of the lowest outcaste. If a Brahmana accepts food from one who is guilty of killing either a cow or a Brahmana or from one who has committed adultery with his preceptor's wife or from a drunkard, he helps to promote the race of Rakshasas. By accepting food from a eunuch, or from an ungrateful person, or from one who has misappropriated wealth entrusted to his charge, one is born in the country of the Savaras situated beyond the precincts of the middle country. I have thus duly recited to thee the persons from whom food may be accepted and from whom it may not. Now tell me, O son of Kunti, what else thou wishest to hear from me today.'"
Next: Section CXXXVI