Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Mahabharata  Index  Previous  Next 


"Vaisampayana said, 'After Krishna, the son of Devaki, had said these words, Yudhishthira once more asked Bhishma the son of Santanu, saying, 'O thou of great intelligence; O foremost of all persons conversant with duties, which, indeed, of the two, direct perception and the scriptures, is to be regarded as authority for arriving at a conclusion?'

"Bhishma said, 'I think, there is no doubt in this. Listen to me, O thou of great wisdom! I shall answer thee. The question thou hast asked is certainly proper. It is easy to cherish doubt. But the solution of that doubt is difficult. Innumerable are the instances, in respect of both direct perception and audition (or the scriptures), in which doubts may arise. Certain persons, who delight in the name of logicians, verily imagining themselves to be possessed of superior wisdom, affirm that direct perception is the only authority. They assert that nothing, however true, is existent which is not directly perceivable; or, at least they doubt the existence of those objects. Indeed, such assertions involve an absurdity and they who make them are of foolish understanding, whatever may be their pride of learning. If, on the other hand, thou doubtest as to how the one (indivisible Brahman) could be the cause, I answer that one would understand it only after a long course of years and with the assistance of Yoga practised without idleness. Indeed, O Bharata, one that lives according to such means as present themselves (without, i.e., one's being wedded to this or that settled mode of life), and one that is devoted (to the solution of the question), would be capable of understanding it. None else, truly, is competent for comprehending it. When one attains to the very end of reasons (or reasoning processes), one then attains to that excellent and all comprehending knowledge--that vast mass of effulgence which illumines all the universe (called Brahma). That knowledge, O king, which is derived from reason (or inferences) can scarcely be said to be knowledge. Such knowledge should be rejected. It should be noted that it is not defined or comprehended by the word. It should, therefore, be rejected!'" 2

p. 381

"Yudhisthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, which among these (four) is most authoritative, viz., direct perception, inference from observation, the science of Agama or scriptures, and diverse kinds of practices that distinguish the good.'

"Bhishma said, 'While Righteousness is sought to be destroyed by wicked persons possessed of great might, it is capable of being protected for the time being by those that are good exerting themselves with care and earnestness. Such protection, however, avails not in the long run, for destruction does overtake Righteousness at the end. Then, again, Righteousness often proves a mask for covering Unrighteousness, like grass and straw covering the mouth of a deep pit and concealing it from the view. Hear, again, O Yudhisthira! In consequence of this, the practices of the good are interfered with and destroyed by the wicked. Those persons who are of evil conduct, who discard the Srutis--indeed, those wicked wights who are haters of Righteousness,--destroy that good course of conduct (which could otherwise be set up as a standard). Hence, doubts attach to direct perception, inference, and good conduct. 1 Those, therefore, among the good that are possessed of understanding born of (or cleansed by) the scriptures and that are ever contented, are to be regarded as the foremost. Let those that are anxious and deprived of tranquillity of soul, approach these. Indeed, O Yudhishthira., do thou pay court to them and seek of them the solutions of thy doubt! 2 Disregarding both pleasure and wealth which always follow cupidity and awakened into the belief that only Righteousness should be sought, do thou, O Yudhishthira, wait upon and ask those persons (for enlightening thyself). The conduct of those persons never

p. 382

goes wrong or meets with destruction, as also their sacrifices and Vedic study and rites. Indeed, these three, viz., conduct as consisting of overt acts, behaviour in respect of (mental) purity, and the Vedas together constitute Righteousness.'

"Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, my understanding is once more stupefied by doubt. I am on this side the ocean, employed in searching after the means of crossing it. I do not, however, behold the other shore of the ocean! If these three, viz., the Vedas, direct perception (or acts that are seen), and behaviour (or, mental purity) together constitute what is to be regarded as authority, it can be alleged that there is difference between them. Righteousness then becomes really of three kinds, although it is one and indivisible.'

"Bhishma said, 'Righteousness is sometimes seen to be destroyed by wicked wights of great power. If thou thinkest, O king, that Righteousness should really be of three kinds, my reply is that thy conclusion is warranted by reason. The truth is that Righteousness is one and indivisible, although it is capable of being viewed from three different points. The paths (indications) of those three that constitute the foundation of Righteousness have each been laid down. Do thou act according to the instructions laid down. Thou shouldst never wrangle about Righteousness and then seek to have those doubts solved into which thou mayst arrive. O chief of the Bharatas, let no doubts like these ever take possession of thy mind! Do thou obey what I say without scruple of any kind. Follow me like a blind man or like one who, without being possessed of sense himself, has to depend upon that of another. Abstention from injury, truth, absence of wrath (or forgiveness), and liberality of gifts,--these four, O king, that hast no foe, do thou practise, for these four constitute eternal Righteousness! Do thou also, O mighty-armed prince, pursue that conduct towards the Brahmanas which is consistent with what has been observed towards them by thy sires and grandsires. These are the principal indications of Righteousness. That man of little intelligence who would destroy the weight of authority by denying that to be a standard which has always been accepted as such would himself fail to become an authority among men. Such a man becomes the cause of much grief in the world. Do thou reverence the Brahmanas and treat them with hospitality. Do thou always serve them in this way. The universe rests on them. Do thou understand them to be such!'

"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, what the respective ends are of those that hate Righteousness and of those that adore and observe it!'

"Bhishma said, 'Those men that hate Righteousness are said to have their hearts overwhelmed by the attributes of passion and darkness. Such men have always to go to Hell. Those men, on the other hand, O monarch, who always adore and observe Righteousness, those men

p. 383

who are devoted to truth and sincerity, are called good. They always enjoy the pleasures or felicity of heaven. In consequence of their waiting upon their preceptors with reverence their hearts always turn towards Righteousness. Verily, they who adore Righteousness attain to the regions of the deities. Those individuals, whether human beings or deities who divest themselves of cupidity and malice and who emaciate or afflict their bodies by the observance of austerities, succeed, in consequence of the Righteousness which then becomes theirs to attain to great felicity. Those that are gifted with wisdom have said that the Brahmanas, who are the eldest sons of Brahmana, represent Righteousness. They that are righteous always worship them, their hearts regarding them with as much love and affection as a hungry man's stomach entertains for ripe and delicious fruits.'

"Yudhishthira said, 'What is the appearance presented by those that are wicked, and what are those acts which they that are called good are to do? Explain to me this, O holy one! Indeed, tell me what the indications are of the good and the wicked.'

"Bhishma said, 'They that are wicked are evil in their practices, ungovernable or incapable of being kept within the restraints of rules, and foul mouthed. They, on the other hand, they are good, are always good in their acts. Verily, the acts these men do are regarded as the indications of that course of conduct which is called good. They that are good or righteous, O monarch, never answer the two calls of nature on the public road, or in the midst of a cow-pen, or on a field of paddy, After feeding the five they take their own food. 1 They never talk while eating, and never go to sleep with wet hands (i.e., without rubbing them dry with towels or napkins). Whenever they see any of the following, they circumambulate them for showing them reverence, viz., a blazing fire, a bull, the image of a deity, a cow-pen, a place where four roads meet, and an old and virtuous Brahmana. They give the way, themselves standing aside, unto those that are old, those that are afflicted with burdens, ladies, those that hold high appointments in the village or town administration, Brahmanas, kine, and kings. The righteous or good man is he that protects his guests, servants and other dependents, his own relatives, and all those that seek his protection. Such a man always welcomes these with the usual enquiries of politeness. Two times have been appointed by the deities for human beings to take their food, viz., morning and evening. During the interval one should not eat anything. By following this rule about eating, one is said to observe a fast. As the sacred fire waits for libations to be poured upon it when the hour for Homa arrives, even so a woman, when her functional period is over, expects an act of congress with her husband. One that

p. 384

never approaches one's spouses at any other time save after the functional period, is said to observe the vow of Brahmacharya. Amrita (nectar), Brahmanas, and kine,--these three are regarded as equal. Hence, one should always worship, with due rites, Brahmanas and kine. One does not incur any fault or stain by eating the meat of animals slain in sacrifices with the aid of Tantras from the Yajur Veda. The flesh of the back-bone, or that of animals not slain in sacrifice, should be avoided even as one avoids the flesh of one's own son. One should never cause one's guest to go without food whether when one resides in one's own country or in a foreign land. After completing one's study one should present the Dakshina unto one's preceptor. When one sees one's preceptor, one should congratulate him with reverence and worshipping him present him a seat. By worshipping one's preceptor, one increases the period of one's life as also one's fame and prosperity. One should never censure the old, nor send them on any business 1. One should never be seated when any one that is old is standing. By acting in this way one protects the duration of one's life. One should never cast one's eyes on a naked woman, nor a naked man. One should never indulge in sexual congress except in privacy. One should eat also without being seen by others. Preceptors are the foremost of Tirthas; the heart is the foremost of all sacred objects; knowledge is the foremost of all objects of search; and contentment is the foremost of all happiness. Morning and evening one should listen to the grave counsels of those that are aged. One attains to wisdom by constant waiting upon those that are venerable for years. While reading the Vedas or employed in eating, one should use one's right hand. One should always keep one's speech and mind under thorough control, as also one's senses. With well-cooked frumenty, Yavaka, Krisara, and Havi (clarified butter), one should worship the Pitris and the deities in the Sraddha called Ashtaka. The same should be used in worshipping the Planets. One should not undergo a shave without calling down a blessing upon oneself. If one sneezes, one should be blessed by those present. All that are ill or afflicted with disease, should be blessed. The extension of their lives should be prayed for. 2 One should never address an eminent person familiarly (by using the word Twam). Under even the great difficulties one should never do this. To address such a person as Twam and to slay him are equal, persons of learning are degraded by such a style of address. Unto those that are inferior, or equal, or unto disciples, such a word can be used. The heart of the

p. 385

sinful man always proclaims the sins he has committed. Those men who have deliberately committed sins meet with destruction by seeking to conceal them from the good. Indeed, they that are confirmed sinners seek to conceal their sinful acts from others. 1 Such persons think that their sins are witnessed by neither men nor the deities. The sinful man, overwhelmed by his sins, takes birth in a miserable order of being. The sins of such a man continually grow, even as the interest the usurer charge (on the loans he grants) increase from day to day. If, having committed a sin, one seeks to have it covered by righteousness, that sin becomes destroyed and leads to righteousness instead of other sins. 2 If a quantity of water be poured upon salt, the latter immediately dissolves away. Even so when expiation is performed, sin dissolves away. For these reasons one should never conceal a sin. Concealed, it is certain to increase. Having committed a sin, one should confess it in the presence of those that are good. They would destroy it immediately. If one does not enjoy in good time what one has stored with hope, the consequence is that the stored wealth finds another owner after the death of him who has stored it. The wise have said that the mind of every creature is the true test of Righteousness. Hence, all creatures in the world have an innate tendency to achieve Righteousness. One should achieve Righteousness alone or single-handed. Verily, one should not proclaim oneself Righteous and walk with the standard of Righteousness borne aloft for purpose of exhibition. They are said to be traders in Righteousness who practise it for enjoying the fruits it brings about. One should adore the deities without giving way to sentiments of pride. Similarly, one should serve one's preceptor without deceit. One should make arrangements for securing to oneself invaluable wealth in the hereafter which consists in gifts made here to deserving persons.'"


380:2 Verses 4 to 9 are extremely difficult. They represent so many surceases. Nilakantha, however, has shown great ingenuity in expounding them. In the first line of 4, p. 381 drishtam refers to pratyaksham, and srutam to sruti or agama. Hence, what is meant by the first line is,--Innumerable are the cases of both direct perception and scriptural assertion in which the scriptures are regarded as more authoritative, and those is which direct perception is regarded as more authoritative. In 5, the speaker refers to the atomic and other theories of the creation derived from Reason. Bhishma declares it as his opinion that all such theories are untenable or groundless. In the first line of 6, the word Ekam implies Brahma. The sense is, if thou thinkest that Brahma alone is the cause of the universe and in thinking so becomest landed on doubt. The reply to this is that Yoga for a long course of years will enable thee to comprehend the sufficiency of unassisted Brahma to evolve the universe. In 7, anekam pranayatram kalpamanena refers to one who without leading any particular or settled mode of life lives just as it suits him to live, that is, who leads the life of a religious mendicant never thinking of the morrow. In 9, anihaddham vacha implies what is not defined or indicated by the words of the Vedas or scriptures. The Burdwan Pundits have made a mess of the whole passage, or, rather, of nearly the whole of this section.

381:1 Teshu is equivalent to praryakshanumanachareshu. The sense, therefore, is that the three, viz., direct perception, inference, and good conduct being, for these reasons, fallible, the only infallible standard that remain, is audition or the scriptures, or, as verse 14 puts it, men with understandings born of the scriptures.

381:2 Atripyantah are men who like Yudhishthira are filled with anxiety: as to what they should do. Seekers after the right are so called.

383:1 The five who must be first fed are the deities, the Pitris, the guests, diverse creatures included under the word Bhutus, and lastly relatives.

384:1 Some texts read nabhibhavet, meaning one should never vanquish an old man (i.e., assert one's superiority over him).

384:2 In his excellent work on the Curiosities of Literature Mr. D'Israeli attempts to trace the origin of the custom of uttering a blessing on people who sneeze. The custom seems, however, to be very ancient and widespread. It exists to this day in India, among the Hindus at any rate, as it existed in the days of the Mahabharata.

385:1 It seems that the author is of opinion that one lightens one's sins by admissions before the wise. To conceal a sin after having committed it proves the confirmed sinner.

385:2 'Covered by righteousness' implies 'if, having once tripped, the sinner restrains himself and engages to do acts of righteousness.'

Next: Section CLXIII