"Yudhishthira said, 'What, O grandsire, should be the acts and what the behaviour of persons employed as priests in our sacrifices? What sort of persons should they be, O king? Tell me all this, O foremost of speakers.'
"Bhishma said, 'It is laid down from those Brahmanas that are eligible as priests that they should be conversant with the Chhandas including the Samans, and all the rites inculcated in the Srutis, and that they should be able to perform all such religious acts as lead to the prosperity of the king. They should be devotedly loyal and utter agreeable speeches in addressing kings. They should also be friendly towards one another, and cast equal eyes on all. They should be devoid of cruelty, and truthful in speech. They should never be usurers, and should always be simple and sincere. One that is peaceful in temper, destitute of vanity, modest, charitable, self-restrained, and contented, possessed of intelligence, truthful, observant of vows, and harmless to all creatures, without lust and malice, and endued with the three excellent qualities, devoid of envy and possessed of knowledge, deserves the seat of Brahman himself. Persons with such qualities, O sire, are the best of priests and deserve every respect.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'There are Vedic texts about the gift of Dakshina in sacrifices. There is no ordinance, however, which lays down that so much should be given. This ordinance (about the gift of Dakshina) has not proceeded from motives connected with the distribution of wealth. The command of the ordinance, in consequence of the provision in cases of incapacity, is terrible. That command is blind to the competence of the sacrificer. 1 The audition occurs in the Vedas that a person should, with devotion, perform a sacrifice. But what can devotion do when the sacrificer is stained by falsehood? 2
"Bhishma said, 'No man acquires blessedness or merit by disregarding the Vedas or by deceit or falsehood. Never think that it is otherwise. Dakshina constitutes one of the limbs of sacrifice and conduces to the nourishment of the Vedas. A sacrifice without Dakshina can never lead to salvation. The efficacy, however, of a single Purnapatra is equal to that of any Dakshina, however rich. Therefore, O sire, everyone belonging to the three orders should perform sacrifices. 3 The Vedas have settled that Soma is as the king himself
to the Brahmanas. Yet they desire to sell it for the sake of performing sacrifices, though they never wish to sell it for gaining a livelihood. Rishis of righteous behaviour have declared, agreeably to the dictates of morality, that a sacrifice performed with the proceeds of the sale of Soma serves to extend sacrifices. 1 These three, viz., a person, a sacrifice and Soma, must be of good character. A person that is of bad character is neither for this nor for the other world. This audition has been heard by us that the sacrifice which high-souled Brahmanas perform by wealth earned by excessive physical labour, is not productive of great merit. There is a declaration in the Vedas that penances are higher than sacrifices. I shall now speak to thee of penances. O learned prince, listen to me. Abstention from injury, truthfulness of speech, benevolence, compassion,--these are regarded as penances by the wise and not the emaciation of the body. Disregard of the Vedas, disobedience to the dictates of the scriptures, and violation of all wholesome restraints, are productive of self-destruction. Listen, O son of Pritha, to what has been laid down by those that pour ten libations upon the fire at ten times of the day.--For them that perform the sacrifice of penance, the Yoga they endeavour to effect with Brahma is their ladle; the heart is their clarified butter; and high knowledge constitutes their Pavitra. 2 All kinds of crookedness mean death, and all kinds of sincerity are called Brahma. This constitutes the subject of knowledge. The rhapsodies of system-builders cannot affect this.--'"
172:1 Idam sastram pratidhanam na is thus explained by Nilakantha. In cases of incapacity, again, to give the prescribed Dakshina, the sacrificer is directed to give away all he has. This direction or command is certainly terrible, for who can make up his mind to part with all his wealth for completing a sacrifice?
172:2 The falsehood consists in finding substitutes for the Dakshina actually laid down. They are morsels of cooked food for a living cow, a grain of barley for a piece of cloth; a copper coin for gold; etc.
172:3 The fact is that although the sacrificer may not be able to give the Dakshina actually laid down in the Vedas, yet by giving its substitute he does not lose any merit, for a single Purnapatra (256 handfuls of rice) is as efficacious if given away with devotion, as the richest Dakshina.
173:1 i.e., such a sacrifice, instead of producing no merit, becomes the means of extending the cause of sacrifices. In other words, such a sacrifice is fraught with merit.
173:2 A Pavitra is made by a couple of Kusa blades for sprinkling clarified butter upon the sacrificial fire.