The Mahabharata Home
"The blessed and holy one said, 'In days of yore, a blessed woman was created by Brahman, called Tilottama, by culling grains of beauty from every beautiful object in the universe. One day, that lady of beautiful face, unrivalled in the universe for beauty of form, came to me, O goddess, for circumambulating me but really impelled by the desire of tempting me. In whatever direction that lady of beautiful teeth turned, a new face of mine instantly appeared (so eager did I become to see her). All those faces of mine became agreeable to look at. Thus, in consequence of the desire of beholding her, I became four-faced, through Yoga-puissance, Thus, I showed my high Yoga-power in becoming four-faced. With that face of mine which is turned towards the east, I exercise the sovereignty of the universe, With that face of mine which is turned towards the north, I sport with thee, O thou of faultless features! That face of mine which is turned towards the west is agreeable and auspicious. With it I ordain the happiness of all creatures. That face of mine which is turned towards the south is terrible. With it I destroy all creatures. I live as a Brahmacharin with matted locks on my head, impelled by the desire of doing good to all creatures. The bow Pinaka is always in my hand for accomplishing the purposes of the deities. In days of yore, Indra, desirous of acquiring my prosperity, had hurled his thunderbolt at me. With that weapon my throat was scorched. For this reason I have become blue-throated.'
"Uma said, 'When, O foremost of all creatures, there are so many excellent vehicles endued with great beauty, why is it that thou hast selected a bovine bull for thy vehicle?'
"Maheswara said, 'In the days of yore, the Grandsire Brahma created the celestial cow Surabhi yielding abundant milk. After her creation there sprang from her a large number of kine all of which yielded copious quantities of milk sweet as nectar. Once on a time a quantity of froth fell from the mouth of one of her calves on my body. I was enraged at this and my wrath scorched all the kine which thereupon became diversified in hue. I was then pacified by the Master of all the worlds, viz., Brahma, conversant with all topics. It was he who gave me this bull both as a vehicle for bearing me and as a device on my banner.'
"Uma said, 'Thou hast many abodes in heaven, of diverse forms and possessed of every comfort and luxury. Why, O holy one, dost thou reside in the crematorium, abandoning all those delightful mansions? The crematorium is full of the hair and bones (of the dead), abounds with vulture and jackals, and is strewn with hundreds of funeral pyres. Full of carrion and muddy with fat and blood, with entrails and bones strewn all over it, and always echoing with the howls of jackals, it is certainly an unclean place.'
"Maheswara said, 'I always wander over the whole earth in search of
a sacred spot. I do not, however, see any spot that is more sacred than the crematorium. Hence, of all abodes, the crematorium pleases my heart most, shaded that it generally is by branches of the banian and adorned with torn garlands of flowers. O thou of sweet smiles, the multitudes of ghostly beings that are my companions love to reside in such spots. I do not like, O goddess, to reside anywhere without those ghostly creatures being by my side. Hence, the crematorium is a sacred abode to me. Indeed, O auspicious lady, it seems to me to be the very heaven. Highly sacred and possessed of great merit, the crematorium is much applauded by persons desirous of having holy abodes.'
"Uma said, 'O holy one, O lord of all creatures, O foremost of all observers of duties and religious rites, I have a great doubt, O wielder of Pinaka, O giver of boons. These ascetics, O puissant lord, have undergone diverse kinds of austerities. In the world are seen ascetics wandering everywhere under diverse forms and clad in diverse kinds of attire. For benefiting this large assemblage of Rishis, as also myself, do thou kindly resolve, O chastiser of all foes, this doubt of mine. What indications has Religion or Duty been said to possess? How, indeed, do men become unacquainted with the details of Religion or Duty to succeed in observing them? O puissant lord, O thou that art conversant with Religion, do thou tell me this.'
"Narada continued, 'When the daughter of Himavat put this question, conclave of Rishis there present worshipped the goddess and adored her with words adorned with Riks and with hymns fraught with deep import.'
"Maheswara said, 'Abstention from injury, truthfulness of speech, compassion towards all beings, tranquillity of soul, and the making of gifts to the best of one's power, are the foremost duties of the householder. Abstention from sexual congress with the spouses of other men, protection of the wealth and the woman committed to one's charge, unwillingness to appropriate what is not given to one, and avoidance of honey and meat,--these are the five chief duties. Indeed, Religion or Duty has many branches all of which are fraught with happiness. Even these are the duties which these embodied creatures who regard duty as superior should observe and practise. Even these are the sources of merit.'
"Uma said, O holy one, I wish to ask thee another question about which I have great doubts. It behoveth thee to answer it and dispel my doubts. What are the meritorious duties of the four several orders? What duties appertain to the Brahmana? What to the Kshatriya? What are the indications of those duties that appertain to the Vaisya? And what kind of duties appertain to the Sudra?'
"The holy one said, 'O highly blessed lady, the question thou hast asked is a very proper one. Those persons that belong to the regenerate order are regarded as highly blessed, and are, indeed, gods on earth.
[paragraph continues] Without doubt, the observance of fasts (i.e., subjugation of the senses) is always the duty of the Brahmana. When the Brahmana succeeds in properly observing all his duties, he attains to identity with Brahma. 1 The proper observance of the duties of Brahmacharya, O goddess, are his ritual. The observance of vows and the investiture with the sacred thread are his other duties. It is by these that he becomes truly regenerate. He becomes a Brahmana for worshipping his preceptors and other seniors as also the deities. Verily, that religion which has for its soul the study of the Vedas is the source of all piety. Even that is the religion which those embodied creatures who are devoted to piety and duty should observe and practise.'
"Uma said, 'O holy one, my doubts have not been dispelled. It behoveth thee to explain in detail what the duties are of the four respective orders of men.'
"Maheswara said, 'Listening to the mysteries of religion and duty, observance of the vows indicated in the Vedas, attention to the sacred fire, and accomplishment of the business of the preceptor, leading a mendicant life, always bearing the sacred thread, constant recitation of the Vedas, and rigid observance of the duties of Brahmacharya, are the duties of the Brahmana. After the period of study is over, the Brahmana, receiving the command of his preceptor, should leave his preceptor's abode for returning to his father's house. Upon his return he should duly wed a wife that is fit for him. Another duty of the Brahmana consists in avoiding the food prepared by the Sudra. Walking along the path of righteousness, always observing fasts and the practices of Brahmacharya, are his other duties. 2 The householder should keep up his domestic fire for daily worship. He should study the Vedas. He should pour libations in honour of the Pitris and the deities. He should keep his senses under proper control. He should eat what remains after serving gods and guests and all his dependants. He should be abstemious in food, truthful in speech, and pure both externally and internally. Attending to guests is another duty of the householder, as also the keeping up of the three sacrificial fires. The householder should also attend to the ordinary sacrifices that go by the name of Ishti and should also dedicate animals to the deities according to the ordinances. Indeed, the performance of sacrifices is his highest duty as also a complete abstention from injury to all creatures. Never to eat before serving the deities and guests and dependants is another duty of the householder. The food that remains after serving gods and guests and dependants is called Vighasa. The householder should eat Vighasa. Indeed, to eat after the members of one's
family including servants and other dependants, is regarded as one of the special duties of the regenerate householder, who should, be conversant with the Vedas. The conduct of husband and wife, in the case of householder, should be equal. He should every day make offerings of flowers and other articles unto those deities that preside over domesticity. The householder should take care that his house is every day properly rubbed (with cowdung and water). He should also observe fasts every day. Well-cleaned and well-rubbed, his house should also be every day fumigated with the smoke of clarified butter poured on his sacred fire in honour of the deities and the Pitris. Even these are the duties appertaining to the householder's mode of life as observable by a regenerate person. Those duties really uphold the world. Verily, those duties always and eternally flow from those righteous persons among the Brahmanas that lead a life of domesticity. Do thou listen to me with concentrated attention, O goddess, for I shall now tell thee what the duties are which appertain to the Kshatriya and about which thou hast asked me. From the beginning it has been said that the duty of the Kshatriya is to protect all creatures. The king is the acquirer of a fixed share of the merits earned by his subjects. By that means the king becomes endued with righteousness. That ruler of men who rules and protects his subjects righteously, acquires, by virtue of the protection he offers to others, many regions of felicity in the world to come. The other duties of a person of the kingly order consist of self-restraint and Vedic study, the pouring of libations on the sacred fire, the making of gifts, study, the bearing of the sacred thread, sacrifices, the performance of religious rites, the support of servants and dependants, and perseverance in acts that have been begun. Another duty of his is to award punishments according to the offences committed. It is also his duty to perform sacrifices and other religious rites according to the ordinances laid down in the Vedas. Adherence to the practice of properly judging the disputes of litigants before him, and a devotion to truthfulness of speech, and interference for aiding the distressed, are the other duties by discharging which the king acquires great glory both here and hereafter. He should also lay down his life on the field of battle, having displayed great prowess on behalf of kine and Brahmanas. Such a king acquires in Heaven such regions of felicity as are capable of being won by the performance of Horse-sacrifices. The duties of the Vaisya always consist of the keeping of cattle and agriculture, the pouring of libations on the sacred fire, the making of gifts, and study. Trade, walking in the path of righteousness, hospitality, peacefulness, self-restraint, welcoming of Brahmanas, and renouncing things (in favour of Brahmanas), are the other eternal duties of the Vaisya. The Vaisya, engaged in trade and walking in the path of righteousness, should never sell sesame and perfumery and juices or liquid substances. He should discharge the duties of hospitality towards all. He is at liberty to pursue religion and wealth and pleasure according
to his means and as much as is judicious for him. The service of the three regenerate classes constitutes the high duty of the Sudra. That Sudra who is truthful in speech and who has subdued his senses is regarded as having acquired meritorious penances. Verily, the Sudra, who having got a guest, discharges the duties of hospitality towards him, is regarded as acquiring the merit of high penances. That intelligent Sudra whose conduct is righteous and who worships the deities and Brahmanas, becomes endued with the desirable rewards of righteousness. O beautiful lady, I have thus recited to thee what the duties are of the four orders. Indeed, O blessed lady, I have told thee what their respective duties are. What else dost thou wish to hear?'
"Uma said, 'Thou has recited to me what the respective duties are of the four orders, auspicious and beneficial for them. Do thou now tell me, O holy one, what the common duties are of all the orders.'
"Maheswara said, 'The foremost of all beings in the universe viz., the Creator Brahma, ever desirous of righteous accomplishments, created the Brahmanas for rescuing all the worlds. Among all created beings, they are, verily, gods on earth. I shall at the outset tell thee what the religious acts are which they should do and what the rewards are which they win through them. That religion which has been ordained for the Brahmanas is the foremost of all religions. For the sake of the righteousness of the world, three religions were created by the Self-born One. Whenever the world is created (or re-created), those religions are created by the Grandsire. Do thou listen. These are the three eternal religions. The religion that is propounded in the Vedas is the highest; that which is propounded in the Smritis is the next in the order of importance; the third in importance is that which is based upon the practices of those who are regarded as righteous. The Brahmans possessed of learning should have the three Vedas. He should never make the study of the Vedas (or recitation of the scriptures) the means of his living. 1 He should devote himself to the three well-known acts (of making gifts, studying the Vedas, and performing sacrifices). He should transcend' the three (viz., lust, wrath, and covetousness). He should be the friend of all creatures. A person that possesses these attributes is called a Brahmans. The lord of the universe declared these six acts for the observance of Brahmanas. Listen to those eternal duties. The performance of sacrifices, officiating at the sacrifices of others, the making of gifts, the acceptance of gifts, teaching, and study, are the six acts by accomplishing which a Brahmans wins religious merit. Verily, the daily study of the Vedas is a duty. Sacrifice is (another) eternal duty. The making of gifts according to the measure of his power and agreeable to the ordinance, is, in his case, much applauded. Tranquillity of mind is a high duty that has always been current among them that are righteous. Householders of pure mind are capable of earning very
great merit. Indeed, he who cleanses his soul by the performance of the five sacrifices, who is truthful in speech, who is free from malice, who makes gifts, who treats with hospitality and honour all regenerate guests, who lives in well-cleaned abodes, who is free from pride, who is always sincere in his dealings, who uses sweet and assuring words towards others, who takes pleasure in serving guests and others arrived at his abode, and who eats the food that remains after the requirements have been gratified of all the members of his family and dependants, wins great merit. That man who offers water to his guests for washing their feet and hands, who presents the Arghya for honouring the recipient, who duly gives seats, and beds, and lamps for lighting the darkness, and shelter to those that come to his abode, is regarded as highly righteous. That householder who rises at dawn and washes his mouth and 'face and serves food to his guests, and having honoured them duly dismisses them from his abode and follows them (as a mark of honour) for a little distance, acquires eternal merit. Hospitality towards all, and the pursuit of the aggregate of three, are the duties of the householder. The duties of the Sudra consist in the pursuit of the aggregate of three. The Religion ordained for the householder is said to have Pravritti for its chief indication. Auspicious, and beneficial to all creatures, I shall expound it to thee. The householder should always make gifts according to the measure of his power. He should also perform sacrifices frequently after the same manner. Indeed, he who wishes to achieve his own good should always achieve meritorious acts. The householder, should acquire wealth by righteous means. The wealth thus acquired should be carefully divided into three portions, keeping the requirements of righteousness in view. With one of those portions he should accomplish all acts of righteousness. With another he should seek to gratify his cravings for pleasure. The third portion he should lay out for increasing. The Religion of Nivritti is different. It exists for emancipation (from re-birth by absorption into Brahman). I shall tell thee the conduct that constitutes it. Listen to me in detail, O goddess. One of the duties inculcated by that religion is compassion towards all creatures. The man that follows it should not reside in one place for more than one day. Desirous of achieving emancipation, the followers of this Religion free themselves from the bonds of hope (or desire). They have no attachment to habitation, to the Kamandalu they bear for keeping water, to the robes that cover their loins, or the seat whereupon they rest, or the triple stick they bear in their hands, or the bed they sleep on, or the fire they want, or the chamber that houses them. A follower of this Religion sets his heart upon the workings of his soul. His mind is devoted to Supreme Brahman. He is filled with the idea of attaining to Brahman. He is always devoted to Yoga and the Sankhya Philosophy. He desires no other shelter than the foot of a tree. He houses himself in empty abodes of men. He sleeps on the banks of rivers. He takes pleasure in staying by such banks. He
is freed from every attachment, and from every tie of affection. He merges the existence of his own soul into the Supreme Soul. Standing like a stake of wood, and abstaining from all food he does only such acts as point to Emancipation. Or, he may wander about, devoted to Yoga. Even these are the eternal duties of a follower of the Religion of Nivritti. He lives aloof from his species. He is freed from all attachments. He never resides in the same place for more than a day. Freed from all bonds he roves over the world. Emancipated from all ties, he never sleeps on even the same river-bank for more than a day. Even this is the religion of persons conversant with Emancipation as declared in the Vedas. Even this is the righteous path that is trodden by the righteous. He who follows in this track leaves no vestige behind. Bhikshus (or followers of the religion of Emancipation) are of four kinds. They are Kutichakas, Vahudakas, Hansas, and Paramahansas. The second is superior to the first, the third to the second, and the fourth to the third. There is nothing superior to the Paramahansa; nor is there anything inferior to it or beside it or before it. It is a condition that is divested of sorrow and happiness; that is auspicious and freed from decrepitude and death and that knows no change.' 1
"Uma said, 'Thou halt recited the religion of the householders, that of Emancipation, and that which is based upon the observances of the righteous. These paths are high and exceedingly beneficial to the world of living creatures. O thou that art conversant with every religion, I desire now to hear what is the high religion of the Rishis. I always have a liking for those that dwell in ascetic retreats. The perfume that emanates from the smoke of the libations of clarified butter poured on the sacred fire seems to pervade the entire retreats and make them delightful. Marking this, O great god, my heart becomes always filled with delight. O puissant deity, I have doubts regarding the religion of the ascetics. Thou art conversant with the details of all religions. Do thou enlighten me, O god of gods, in detail, respecting this topic truly about which I have asked thee, O great deity!'
"The blessed and holy one said, 'Yes, I shall recite to thee the high and excellent religion of the ascetics. By following the dictates of that religion, O auspicious lady, the ascetics attain to success through the severe penances they practise. O highly blessed one, do thou hear, from the beginning, what the duties are of those righteous Rishis that are conversant with every duty and that are known by the name of Phenapas. The Grandsire Brahma (during the days he devoted to the observance of penances) drank some nectar (in the form of water). That water had flowed in heaven from a great sacrifice. The froth of that water is highly
auspicious and (in consequence of Brahma's having drunk it) it partook of His own nature. Those Rishis that subsist upon the measure of froth that thus issued (from the water indicated) are called Phenapas (Froth-eaters). Even this is the conduct of those pure-souled Rishis, O lady, possessed of wealth of penances! Listen now to me as I explain to thee who the Valkhilyas are. The Valkhilyas are ascetics that have won success by their penances. They reside in the solar disc. Adopting the means of subsistence that is followed by the birds, those Rishis, conversant with every duty of righteousness, live according to the Unchha mode. Their attire consists of deer-skins or barks of trees. Freed from every pair of opposites, the Valkhilyas, possessed of wealth of penances, walk in this track of righteousness. They are as big as a digit of the thumb. Distributed into classes, each class lives in the practice of the duties assigned to it. They desire only to practise penance. The merits they win by their righteous conduct are very high. They are regarded as having attained to an equality with the gods and exist for the accomplishment of the purposes of the gods. Having burnt off all their sins by severe penances, they blaze forth in effulgence, illuminating all the points of the compass. Others, called Chakracharas, are endued with cleansed souls and devoted to the practice of compassion. Righteous in their conduct and possessed of great sanctity, they live in the region of Soma. Thus residing near enough to the region of the Pitris, they duly subsist by drinking the rays of Soma. There are others called Samprakshalas and Asmkuttas and Dantolukhalas. 1 These live near the Soma-drinking deities and others that drink flames of fire. With their wedded spouses, and with passions under complete control, they too subsist upon the rays of Soma. They pour libations of clarified butter on the sacred fire, and adore the Pitris under proper forms. They also perform the well-known sacrifices. Even this is said to constitute their religion. The religion of the Rishis, O goddess, is always observed by those who are houseless and who are free to rove through every region including that of the gods. There are, again, other classes about whom I shall speak presently. Do thou listen. It is necessary that they who observe the different religions of the Rishis, should subjugate their passions and know the Soul. Indeed, in my opinion, lust and wrath should be completely conquered. With corn (wealth) acquired by the Unchha mode, they should discharge the following duties, viz., the pouring of libations on the sacred fire, occupying a fixed seat employing oneself the while in the sacrifice called Dharmaratri, performance of she Soma-sacrifice, acquisition of especial knowledge, the giving of sacrificial presents which forms the fifth, the daily performance of sacrifices, devotion to the worship of the Pitris and
the deities, hospitality towards all. Abstention from all luxurious viands prepared from cow's milk, taking a pleasure in tranquillity of heart, lying on bare rocks or the earth, devotion to Yoga, eating potherbs and leaves of trees, and subsisting upon fruits and roots and wind and water and moss, are some of the practices of the Rishis by which they attain to the end that belongs to persons unsubjugated (by the world). When the smoke has ceased to curl upwards from a house, when the husking machine has ceased to ply, when the hearth-fire has been extinguished, when all the inmates have taken their food, when dishes are no longer carried from room to room, when mendicants have ceased to walk the streets, it is then that the man who is devoted to the religion of truth and tranquillity of soul, desiring to have a guest (but finding his desire ungratified), should eat what remnant of food may still occur in the house. By acting in this way, one becomes a practiser of the religion of the Munis. One should not be arrogant, nor proud, nor cheerless and discontented; nor should one wonder at anything. Indeed, one should behave equally towards friends and foes. Verily, one who is the foremost of all persons conversant with duties should also be friendly towards all creatures."
291:1 Upavasa here, as explained by the commentator, is used for Indriyajaya or subjugation of the senses.
291:2 He who takes his meals at the proper hours is said to observe fasts. He who avoids sexual congress with other women and associates with only his wedded spouse and that at her season, is said to observe Brahmacharya.
293:1 To sell the Vedas or any kind of knowledge is a great sin.
295:1 The correct reading of the latter half of the first line is nabaram natirogratah. The commentator explains, this means that 'there is nothing inferior to it or beside it or before it.' In the first part of the first line it has been said that there is nothing superior to it. The sense is that it includes all, being as comprehensive as Brahman.
296:1 Samprakshalas are those Rishis who wash all their utensils daily so that nothing is stored for them for the next day. Asmakuttas are those that use only two pieces of stone for husking their grain. Dantolukhalas are those that use their teeth for purposes of husking the grain they eat.
Next: Section CXLII