"Bhishma said, 'One should always offer the most reverent worship unto the Brahmanas. They have Soma for their king, and they it is who confer happiness and misery upon others. They, O king, should always be cherished and protected as one cherishes and protects one's own sires and grandsires, and should be adored with bows and gifts of food and ornaments and other articles of enjoyment, as also with such things as they may desire. The peace and happiness of the kingdom flow from such respect shown to the Brahmanas even as the peace and happiness of all living creatures flow from Vasava, the chief of the celestials. Let Brahmanas of pure behaviour and Brahma-effulgence be born in a kingdom. Kshatriyas also that are splendid car-warriors and that are capable of scorching all foes, should be desired (amongst those that settle in a kingdom). This was said unto me by Narada. There is nothing higher, O king, than this, viz., the act of causing a Brahmana possessed of good birth, having a knowledge of morality and righteousness, and steadfast in the observance of excellent vows, to take up his residence in one's mansion. Such an act is productive of every kind of blessing. The sacrificial offerings given unto Brahmanas reach the very deities who accept them. Brahmanas are the sires of all creatures. There is nothing higher than a Brahmana. Aditya, Chandramas, Wind, Water, Earth, Sky and the points of the compass, all enter the body of the Brahmana and take what the Brahmana eats. 1 In that house where Brahmanas do not eat, the Pitris refuse to eat. The deities also never eat in the house of the wretch who hates the Brahmanas. When the Brahmanas are gratified, the Pitris also are gratified. There is no doubt in this. They that give away the sacrificial butter unto the Brahmanas become themselves gratified (in this and the other world). Such men never meet with destruction. Verily, they succeed in attaining to high ends. Those particular offerings in sacrifices with which one gratifies the Brahmanas go to gratify both the Pitris and the deities. The Brahmana is the cause of that sacrifice whence all created things have sprung. The Brahmana is acquainted with that from which this universe has sprung and unto which, when apparently destroyed, it returns. Indeed the Brahmana knows the path that leads to
[paragraph continues] Heaven and the other path that leads to the opposite place. The Brahmana is conversant with what has happened and what will happen. The Brahmana is the foremost of all two-legged beings. The Brahmana, O chief of the Bharatas, is fully conversant with the duties that have been laid down for his order. Those persons that follow the Brahmanas are never vanquished. Departing from this world, they never meet with destruction. Indeed victory is always theirs. Those high-souled persons,--indeed, those persons that have subdued their souls,--who accept the words that fall from the lips of the Brahmanas, are never vanquished. Victory always becomes theirs. 1 The energy and might of those Kshatriyas who scorch everything with their energy and might become neutralised when they encounter the Brahmanas. The Bhrigus conquered the Talajanghas. The son of Angiras conquered the Nipas. Bharadwaja conquered the Vitahavyas as also the Ailas. O chief of Bharata's race. Although all these Kshatriyas were capable of using diverse kinds of arms, yet the Brahmanas named, owning only black deer skins for their emblems, succeeded in conquering them effectually. Bestowing the Earth upon the Brahmanas and illuminating both the worlds by the splendour of such a deed, one should accomplish acts through which one may succeed in attaining to the end of all things. 2 Like fire concealed within wood, everything that is said or heard or read in this world, lies ensconced in the Brahmana. In this connection is cited the old history of the conversation between Vasudeva and the Earth, O chief of Bharata's race!'
"Vasudeva said, 'O mother of all creatures, O auspicious goddess, I desire to ask thee for a solution of this doubt of mine. By what act does a man leading the domestic mode of life succeed in cleansing all his sins?'
"The Earth said, 'One should serve the Brahmanas. This conduct is cleansing and excellent. All the impurities destroyed of that man who serves the Brahmanas with reverence. From this (conduct) arises prosperity. From this arises fame. From this springs forth intelligence or knowledge of the soul. A Kshatriya by this conduct, becomes a mighty car-warrior and a scorcher of foes and succeeds in acquiring great fame. Even this is what Narada said unto me, viz., that one should always revere a Brahmana that is well-born, of rigid vows and conversant with the scriptures, if one desires every kind of prosperity. That man really grows in prosperity who is applauded by the Brahmanas, who are higher than those that are regarded superior to all men high or low. That man who speaks ill of the Brahmanas soon meets with discomfiture, even as a clod of unbaked earth meets with destruction when cast into the sea. After the same manner, all acts that are hurtful to the Brahmanas are sure to bring about discomfiture and ruin. Behold the
dark spots on the Moon and the salt waters of the ocean. The great Indra had at one time been marked all over with a thousand sex-marks. It was through the power of the Brahmanas that those marks became altered into as so many eyes. Behold, O Mahadeva how all those things took place. Desiring fame and prosperity and diverse regions of beautitude in the next world, a person of pure behaviour and soul should, O slayer of Madhu, live in obedience to the dictates of the Brahmanas.' 1
"Bhishma continued, 'Hearing these words of the goddess Earth, the slayer of Madhu, O thou of Kuru's race, exclaimed,--Excellent, Excellent--and honoured the goddess in due form. Having heard this discourse between the goddess Earth and Madhava, do thou, O son of Pritha, always, with rapt soul, worship all superior Brahmanas. Doing this, thou shalt verily obtain what is highly beneficial for thee!"'
158:1 The argument, therefore, is that anything given to the Brahmana to eat and that is eaten by him apparently, is really eaten by these deities.
159:1 Bhutatmanah is explained by the commentator as Bhuta praptahvasikritahatma yaih.
159:2 The second line of verse 18 is a crux. The commentator explains that prakshipya means dattwa; Kun is the Earth. Van is diptim ukrvan, ubhaya-loke iti seshah. Para- This footnote appears to have been truncated, as the last line begins with a hyphenated word.--JBH.
160:1 The dark spots on the Moon were due to the curse of Daksha. The waters of the Ocean became saltish owing to the curse of a Rishi.