"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, what is that which is the most sacred of all sacred things in the world, other than that which has been already mentioned, and which is the highest of all sanctifying objects.'
"Bhishma said, 'Kine are the foremost of all objects. They are highly sacred and they rescue men (from all kinds of sin and distress). With their milk and with the Havi manufactured therefrom, kine uphold all creatures in the universe. O best of the Bharatas, there is nothing that is more sacred than kine. The foremost of all things in the three worlds, kine are themselves sacred and capable of cleansing others, Kine reside in a region that is even higher than the region of the deities. When given away, they rescue their givers. Men of wisdom succeed in attaining to Heaven by making gifts of kine. Yuvanaswa's son Mandhatri, Yayati, and (his sire) Nahusha, used always to give away kine in thousands. As the reward of those gifts, they have attained to such regions as are unattainable by the very deities. There is, in this connection, O sinless one, a discourse delivered of old. I shall recite it to thee. Once on a time, the intelligent Suka, having finished his morning rites, approached with a restrained mind his sire, that foremost of Rishis, viz., the Island-born Krishna, who is acquainted with the distinction between that which is superior and that which is inferior, and saluting him, said, 'What is that sacrifice which appears to thee as the foremost of all sacrifices? What is that act by doing which men of wisdom succeed in attaining to the highest region? What is that sacred act by which the deities enjoy the felicity of Heaven? What constitutes the character of sacrifice as sacrifice? What is that upon which sacrifice rests? What is that which is regarded as the best by the deities? What is that sacrifice which transcends the sacrifices of this world? Do thou also tell me, O sire, what is that which is the most sacred of all things. Having heard these words of his son, O chief of Bharata's race, Vyasa, the foremost of all persons conversant with duties, discoursed as follows unto him.'
"Vyasa said, 'Kine constitute the stay of all creatures. Kine are the refuge of all creatures. Kine are the embodiment of merit. Kine are sacred, and kine are sanctifiers of all. Formerly kine were hornless as it has been heard by us. For obtaining horns they adored the eternal and puissant Brahmana. The puissant, Brahmana, seeing the kine paying their adorations to him and sitting in praya, granted unto each of them what each desired. Thereafter their horns grew and each got what each desired. Of diverse colours, and endued with horns, they began to shine in beauty, O son! Favoured by Brahman himself with boons, kine are auspicious and yielders of Havya and Kavya. They are the embodiments of merit. They are sacred and blessed. They are possessed of excellent form and attributes. Kine constitute high and highly excellent energy. The gift of kine is very much applauded. Those good men who, freed from pride, make gifts of kine,
are regarded as doers of righteous deeds and as givers of all articles. Such men, O sinless one, attain to the highly sacred region of kine. The trees there produce sweet fruits. Indeed, those trees are always adorned with excellent flowers and fruits. Those flowers, O best of regenerate persons, are endued with celestial fragrance. The entire soil of that region is made of gems. The sands there are all gold. The climate there is such that the excellencies of every season are felt. There is no more mire, no dust. It is, indeed, highly auspicious. The streams that run there shine in resplendence for the red lotuses blooming upon their bosoms, and for the jewels and gems and gold that occur in their banks and that display the effulgence of the morning Sun. There are many lakes also in that region on whose breasts are many lotuses, mixed here and there with Nymphoea stellata, and having their petals made of costly gems, and their filaments adorned with a complexion like that of gold. They are also adorned with flowering forests of the Nerium odorum with thousands of beautiful creepers twining round them, as also with forests of Santanakas bearing their flowery burdens. There are rivers whose banks are variegated with many bright pearls and resplendent gems and shining gold. Portions of those regions are covered with excellent trees that are decked with jewels and gems of every kind. Some of them are made of gold and some display the splendour of fire. There stand many mountains made of gold, and many hills and eminences made of jewels and gems. These shine in beauty in consequence of their tall summits which are composed of all kinds of gems. The trees that adorn those regions always put forth flowers and fruits, and are always covered with dense foliage. The flowers always emit a celestial fragrance and the fruits are exceedingly sweet, O chief of Bharata's race. Those persons that are of righteous deeds, O Yudhishthira, always sport there in joy. Freed from grief and wrath, they pass their time there, crowned with the fruition of every wish. Persons of righteous deeds, possessed of fame, sport there in happiness, moving from place to place, O Bharata, on delightful vehicles of great beauty. Auspicious deed, bands of Apsaras always amuse them there, with music and dance. Indeed O Yudhishthira, a person goes to such regions as the reward of his making gifts of kine. Those regions which have for their lords Pushan, and the Maruts of great puissance, are attained to by givers of kine. In affluence the royal Varuna is regarded as pre-eminent. The giver of kine attains to affluence like that of Varuna himself. One should, with the steadiness of a vow, daily recite these Mantras declared by Prajapati himself (in respect of kine). Viswarupa and viz.,--Yugandharah, Surupah, Vahurupah, and Matara. 1--He who serves kine with reverence and who follows them with
humility, succeeds in obtaining many invaluable boons from kine who become gratified with him. One should never, in even one's heart, do an injury to kine. One should, indeed, always confer happiness on them. One should, always reverence kine and worship them, with bends of one's head. He who does this, restraining his senses the while and filled with cheerfulness, succeeds in attaining to that felicity which is enjoyed by kine (and which kine alone can confer). One should for three days drink the hot urine of the cow. For the next three days one should drink the hot milk of the cow. Having thus drunk for three days hot milk, one should next drink hot ghee for three days. Having in this way drunk hot ghee for three days, one should subsist for the next three days on air only. That sacred thing by whose aid the deities enjoy regions of felicity, that which is the most sacred of all sacred things, viz., ghee should then be borne on the head. 1 With the aid of ghee one should pour libations on the sacred fire. By making gifts of ghee, one should cause the Brahman to utter benedictions on oneself. One should eat ghee and make gifts of ghee. As the reward of this conduct, one may then attain to that prosperity which belongs to kine. That man who, for a month, subsists upon the gruel of barley picked up every day from cow dung becomes cleansed of sins as grave as the slaughter of a Brahman. After their defeat at the hands of the Daityas, the deities practised this expiation. It was in consequence of this expiation that they succeeded in regaining their position as deities. Verily, it was through this that they regained their strength and became crowned with success. Kine are sacred. They are embodiments of merit. They are high and most efficacious cleansers of all. By making gifts of kine unto the Brahmanas one attains to Heaven. Living in a pure state, in the midst of kine, one should mentally recite those sacred Mantras that are known by the name of Gomati, after touching pure water. By doing this, one becomes purified and cleansed (of all sins). Brahmanas of righteous deeds, who have been cleansed by knowledge, study of the Vedas, and observance of vows, should, only in the midst of sacred fires or kine or assemblies of Brahmanas, impart unto their disciples a knowledge of the Gomati Mantras which are every way like unto a sacrifice (for the merit they produce). One should observe a fast for three nights for receiving the boon constituted by a knowledge of the import of the Gomati Mantras. The man who is desirous of obtaining a son may obtain one by adoring these Mantras. He who desires the possession of wealth may have his desire gratified by adoring these Mantras. The girl desirous of having a good husband may have her wish fulfilled by the same means. In fact, one may acquire the fruition of every wish one may cherish, by adoring these sacred Mantras. When kine are gratified with the service one renders them, they are, without doubt, capable of granting the fruition
of every wish. Even so, kine are highly blessed. They are the essential requisites of sacrifices. They are grantors of every wish. Know that there is nothing superior to kine.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by his high-souled sire, Suka, endued with great energy, began from that time to worship kine every day. Do thou also, O son, conduct thyself in the same way.'"
119:1 These are the several names by which kine are known. The first is probably derived from kine bearing the plough and thus assisting the tillage of the soil. The second implies beauty of form. The third is derived from the cow being regarded as the origin of all things in the universe: all things, therefore, are only so many forms of the cow. Viswarupa implies the same thing. Matara implies mothers, kine being regarded as the mothers of all.
120:1 Ghee is regarded so sacred because of its use in sacrifices. It is with the aid of ghee that the deities have become what they are. Itself sacred, it is also cleansing at the same time.