The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell us, O king, what is that reward attached to the worship of Brahmanas, seeing which thou worshippest them, O thou of superior intelligence! Indeed, what is that success, flowing from their worship, guided by which thou worshippest them?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is cited this old narrative of a conversation between Pavana and Arjuna, O Bharata! Endued with a thousand arms and great beauty the mighty Kartavirya, in days of yore, became the lord of all the world. He had his capital in the city of Mahishmati. Of unbaffled prowess, that chief of the Haihaya race of Kshatriyas swayed the whole earth with her belt of seas, together with all her islands and all her precious mines of gold and gems. Keeping before him the duties of the Kshatriya order, as also humility and Vedic knowledge, the king made large gifts of wealth unto the Rishi Dattatreya. Indeed, the son of Kritavirya thus adored the great ascetic who, becoming pleased with him, asked him to solicit three boons. Thus requested by the Rishi in respect of boons, the king addressed him, saying, 'Let me become endued with a thousand arms when I am in the midst of my troops. While, however, I remain at home let me have, as usual only two arms! Indeed, let combatants, when engaged in battle, behold me possessed of a thousand arms, observant also of high vows, let me succeed in subjugating the whole
earth by dint of my prowess. Having acquired the earth righteously, let me sway her with vigilance. There is a fourth boon which, O foremost of regenerate persons, I solicit thee to grant. O faultless one, in consequence of the disposition to favour me, it behoveth thee to grant it to me. Dependent that I am on thee, whenever I may happen to go wrong, let the righteous come forth to instruct and set me right! Thus addressed, the Brahmana replied unto the king, saying, 'So let it be!' Even thus were those boons acquired by that king of blazing effulgence. Riding then on his car whose splendour resembled that of fire or the Sun, the monarch, blinded by his great prowess, said, 'Who, indeed, is there that can be regarded as my equal in patience and energy, in fame and heroism, in prowess and strength?' After he had uttered these words, an invisible voice in the welkin said, 'O ignorant wretch, dost thou not know that the Brahmana is superior to the Kshatriya? The Kshatriya, assisted by the Brahmana rules all creatures!'
"Arjuna said, 'When gratified, I am able to create many creatures. When angry, I am able to destroy all. In thought, word, and deed, I am the foremost. The Brahmana is certainly not above me!' The first proposition here is that the Brahmana is superior to the Kshatriya. The counter-proposition is that the Kshatriya is superior. Thou hast said, O invisible being that the two are united together (in the act upon which the Kshatriya's superiority is sought to be based). A distinction, however, is observable in this. It is seen that Brahmanas take refuge with Kshatriyas. The Kshatriyas never seek the refuge of Brahmanas. indeed, throughout the earth, the Brahmanas, accepting such refuge under the pretence of teaching the Vedas, draw their sustenance from the Kshatriyas. The duty of protecting all creatures is vested in Kshatriyas. It is from the Kshatriyas that the Brahmanas derive their sustenance. How then can the Brahmana be superior to the Kshatriyas? Well, I shall from today, bring under my subjection, your Brahmanas who are superior to all creatures but who have mendicancy for their occupation and who are so self-conceited! What the virgin Gayatri has said from the welkin is not true. Robed in skins, the Brahmanas move about in independence. I shall bring those independent wights under my subjection. Deity or man, there is none in the three worlds who can hurl me from the sovereignty I enjoy. Hence, I am certainly superior to the Brahmanas. This world that is now regarded as having Brahmanas for its foremost denizens shall soon be made such as to have Kshatriyas for its foremost denizens. There is none that is capable of bearing my might in battle! Hearing these words of Arjuna, the welkin-ranging goddess became agitated. Then the god of wind, addressing the king from the sky, said, 'Cast off this sinful attitude. Bow unto the Brahmanas. By injuring them thou wilt bring about troubles on thy kingdom. The Brahmanas will either slay thee, king though thou art, or, endued with great might that they are, they will drive thee away from
thy kingdom, despoiling thee of thy energy!' The king, hearing this speech, addressed the speaker, saying, Who, indeed, art thou?' The god of wind answered, 'I am the god of wind and the messenger of the deities! I say unto thee what is for thy benefit.'
"Arjuna said, 'Oh, I see that thou hast today shown thy devotion and attachment to the Brahmanas. Tell me now what kind of earthly creature is the Brahmana! Tell me, does a superior Brahmana resemble the Wind in any respect? Or, is he like Water, or Fire, or the Sun, or the Firmament?'"
Next: Section CLIII