The Mahabharata Home
"Janamejaya said, 'O puissant Rishi, kings are attached to sacrifices. The great Rishis are attached to penances. Learned Brahmanas are observant of tranquillity of mind, peacefulness of behaviour, and self-restraint. Hence it seems that nothing can be seen in this world which can compare with the fruits of sacrifices. Even this is my conviction. That conviction, again, seems to be undoubtedly correct. Innumerable kings, O best of regenerate persons, having worshipped the deities in sacrifices, earned high fame here and obtained Heaven hereafter. Endued with great energy, the puissant chief of the deities viz., Indra of a thousand eyes, obtained the sovereignty over the deities through the many sacrifices he performed with gifts in profusion and attained to the fruition of all his wishes. When king Yudhishthira, with Bhima and Arjuna by him, resembled the chief of the deities himself in prosperity and prowess, why then did that mongoose depreciate that great Horse-sacrifice of the high-souled monarch?'
"Vaisampayana said, 'Do thou listen to me, O king, as I discourse to thee duly, O Bharata, on the excellent ordinances relating to sacrifice and the fruits also, O ruler of men, that sacrifice yields. Formerly, on one occasion Sakra performed a particular sacrifice. While the limbs of the sacrifice were spread out, the Ritwijas became busy in accomplishing the diverse rites ordained in the scriptures. The pourer of libations, possessed of every qualification,
became engaged in pouring libations of clarified butter. The great Rishis were seated around. The deities were summoned one by one by contented Brahmanas of great learning uttering scriptural Mantras in sweet voices. Those foremost of Adhwaryyus, not fatigued with what they did, recited the Mantras of the Yajurveda in soft accents. The time came for slaughtering the animals. When the animals selected for sacrifice were seized, the great Rishis, O king, felt compassion for them. Beholding that the animals had all become cheerless, those Rishis, endued with wealth of penances, approached Sakra and said unto him, 'This method of sacrifice is not auspicious. Desirous of acquiring great merit as thou art, this is verily an indication of thy unacquaintance with sacrifice. O Purandara, animals have not been ordained to be slaughtered in sacrifices. O puissant one, these preparations of thine are destructive of merit. This sacrifice is not consistent with righteousness. The destruction of creatures can never be said to be an act of righteousness. If thou wishest it, let thy priests perform thy sacrifice according to the Agama. By performing a sacrifice according to the (true import of the) scriptural ordinances, great will be the merit achieved by thee. O thou of a hundred eyes, do thou perform the sacrifice with seeds of grain that have been kept for three years. Even this, O Sakra, would be fraught with great righteousness and productive of fruits of high efficacy.' The deity of a hundred sacrifices, however, influenced by pride and overwhelmed by stupefaction, did not accept these words uttered by the Rishis. Then, O Bharata, a great dispute arose in that sacrifice of Sakra between the ascetics as to how sacrifices should be performed, that is, should they be performed with mobile creatures or with immobile objects. All of them were worn out with disputation. The Rishis then, those beholders of truth, having made an understanding with Sakra (about referring the matter to arbitration) asked king Vasu, 'O highly blessed one, what is the Vedic declaration about sacrifices? Is it preferable to perform sacrifices with animals or with steeds and juices? Hearing the question, king Vasu, without all judging of the strength or weakness of the arguments on the two sides, at once answered, saying, 'Sacrifices may be performed with whichever of the two kinds of objects is ready.' Having answered the question thus, he had to enter the nether regions. Indeed the puissant ruler of the Chedis had to undergo that misery for having answered falsely. Therefore, when a doubt arises, no person, however wise, should singly decide the matter, unless he be the puissant and self-born Lord himself of creatures. Gifts made by a sinner with an impure understanding, even when they are very large, become lost. Such gifts go for nothing. By the gifts made by a person of unrighteous conduct,--one, that is, who is of sinful soul and who is a destroyer, just fame is never acquired either here or hereafter. That person of little intelligence who, from desire of acquiring merit, performs sacrifices with wealth acquired by unrighteous means, never succeeds in earning merit. That low wretch of sinful soul, who hypocritically assuming a garb of righteousness mikes gifts unto Brahmanas, only creates the conviction in men about his own righteousness (without earning true merit). That Brahmana of uncontrolled conduct, who acquires wealth by sinful acts, over
overwhelmed by passion and stupefaction, attains at last to the goal of the sinful. Someone, overwhelmed by cupidity and stupefaction, becomes bent on strong wealth. He is seen to persecute all creatures, urged by a sinful and impure understanding. He who, having acquired wealth by such means, makes gifts or performs sacrifices therewith, never enjoys the fruits of those gifts or sacrifices in the other world in consequence of the wealth having been earned by unrighteous means. Men endued with wealth of penances, by giving away, to the best of their power, grains of corn picked up from the fields or roots or fruits or pot-herbs or water or leaves, acquire great merit and proceed to Heaven. Even such gifts, as also compassion to all creatures, and Brahmacharyya, truthfulness of speech and kindness, and fortitude, and forgiveness, constitute the eternal foundations of Righteousness which itself is eternal. We hear of Visvamitra and other kings of ancient times. Indeed, Visvamitra, and Asita, and king Janaka, and Kakshasena and Arshtisena, and king Sindhudwipa,--these and many other kings, endued with wealth of penances, having made gifts of articles acquired lawfully, have attained to high success. Those amongst Brahmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaisyas and Sudras who betake themselves to penances, O Bharata, and who purify themselves by gifts and other acts of righteousness, proceed to Heaven."
Next: Section XCII