The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Who deserve to be worshipped? Who are they unto whom we should bow? How, indeed, should we behave towards whom? What course of conduct, O grandsire, towards what classes of persons is regarded faultless?'
"Bhishma said, 'The humiliation of Brahmanas would humiliate the very deities. By bowing unto Brahmanas one does not, O Yudhishthira, incur any fault. They, deserve to be worshipped. They deserve to have
our Salutations. Thou shouldst behave towards them as if they are thy sons. Indeed, it is those men endued with great wisdom that uphold all the worlds. The Brahmanas are the great causeways of Righteousness in respect of all the worlds. Their happiness consists in renouncing all kinds of wealth. They are devoted to the vow of restraining speech. They are agreeable to all creatures, and observant of diverse excellent vows. They are the refuge of all creatures in the universe. They are the authors of all the regulations which govern the worlds. They are possessed of great fame Penances are always their great wealth. Their power consists in speech. Their energy flows from the duties they observe. Conversant with all duties, they are possessed of minute vision, so that they are cognizant of the subtlest considerations. They are of righteous desires. They live the observance of well-performed duties. They are the causeways of Righteousness. The four kinds of living creatures exist, depending upon them as their refuge. They are the path or road along which all should go. They are the guides of all. They are the eternal upholders of all the sacrifices. They always uphold the heavy burdens of sires and grandsires. They never droop under heavy weights even when passing along difficult-roads like strong cattle. They are attentive to the requirements of Piths and deities and guests. They are entitled to eat the first portions of Havya and Kavya. By the very food they eat, they rescue the three worlds from great fear. They are as it were, the Island (for refuge) for all worlds. They are the eyes of all persons endued with sight. The wealth they possess consists of all the branches of knowledge known by the name of Siksha and all the Srutis. Endued with great skill, they are conversant with the most subtle relations of things. They are well-acquainted with the end of all things, and their thoughts are always employed upon the science of the soul. They are endued with the knowledge of the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things, and they are persons in whom doubts no longer exist in consequence of feeling certain of their knowledge. They are fully aware of the distinctions between what is superior and what is inferior. They it is who attain to the highest end. Freed from all attachments, cleansed of all sins, transcending all pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, happiness and misery, etc.), they are unconnected with all worldly things. Deserving of every honour, they are always held in great esteem by persons endued with knowledge and high souls. They cast equal eyes on sandal-paste and filth or dirt, on what is food and what is not rood. They see with an equal eye their brown vestments of coarse cloth and fabrics of silk and animal skins. They would live for many days together without eating any food, and dry up their limbs by such abstention from all sustenance. They devote themselves earnestly to the study of the Vedas, restraining their senses. They would make gods of those that are not gods, and not gods of those that are gods. Enraged, they can create other worlds and other Regents of the worlds than those that exist. Through the course of those
high-souled ones, the ocean became so saline as to be undrinkable. The fire of their wrath yet burns in the forest of Dandaka, unquenched by time. They are the gods of the gods, and the cause of all cause. They are the authority of all authorities. What man of intelligence and wisdom is there that would seek to humiliate them? Amongst them the young and the old all deserve honours. They honour one another (not in consequence of distinctions of age but) in consequence of distinctions in respect of penances and knowledge. Even the Brahmana that is destitute of knowledge is a god and is a high instrument for cleansing others. He amongst them, then, that is possessed of knowledge is a much higher god and like unto the ocean when full (to the brim). Learned or unlearned, Brahmana is always a high deity. Sanctified or unsanctified (with the aid of Mantras), Fire is ever a great deity. A blazing fire even when it burns on a crematorium, is not regarded as tainted in consequence of the character of the spot whereon it burns. Clarified butter looks beautiful whether kept on the sacrificial altar or in a chamber. So, if a Brahmana be always engaged in evil acts, he is still to be regarded as deserving of honour. Indeed, know that the Brahmana is always a high deity.'"
Next: Section CLII