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Concepts of a Kingdom - From Mahabharat

 

Introduction:

Immediately after the Mahabharat war, Yudhishtira visits Bheeshma who was on the bed of arrows. Bheeshma learnt from Lord Krishna that Yudhishtira was unclear of what to do next and how to rule the New Kingdom. Bheeshma after congratulating Yudhishtira for his victory in the war of righteousness, explains the duties of a king and how a nation should be ruled.

 

CHAPTER 11

TALKS ON THE DHARMA OF A KING

Yudhishthira asked: "It has been said by the wise that kingly duties constitute the highest science. Please tell me about the duties of a king."

Bheeshma was immensely pleased with the humility and eagerness of Yudhishthira. He smiled at him and said: "My child, I am only too eager to tell you all that you want to know. A king's first duty is to worship the gods and the Brahmins. A king should essentially be a man of action. You might have heard from many that destiny rules a king. It is a fallacy in reasoning if you think so. Destiny does play a part. I grant that. But without action a king can never help destiny to play her part. Destiny is powerful but action is equally powerful. Both are potent. But to me, it seems that action is the more potent of the two. It is action that shapes the destiny.

'The next or rather the next equally important duty of a king, is Truth. If you want to inspire confidence in the minds of your subjects, you should always be truthful.

'All accomplishments find a home in a king. His behavior should be above reproach. Self-restraint, humility and righteousness are qualities which you have to look for in a king if he has to be successful He should have his passions under perfect control.

'Justice should be the second nature of a king. There are three more things, which a king should cultivate. He should know how to conceal his own weaknesses carefully. By weakness is meant the weaknesses in his kingdom. He should take the trouble to find out the weaknesses in his enemies and he should be very careful to be secretive about his plans.

'A king's conduct should be straightforward. Another danger for a king is mildness. He should not be too mild. He will then be disregarded. The subjects will not have enough respect for him and for his words. Again, he should avoid the other extreme. He should not be too fierce because then the subjects will be afraid of him, and that is not a happy state of affairs.

'A king should know the art of choosing servants. He should have compassion as part of his mental make-up. But he should guard against too forgiving a nature. The lowest of men will take advantage of him and his nature if they are considered weak.

'Alertness is a great necessity for a king. He should 'study his foes and his friends too, incessantly.

'A king must consider that his first duty is to his subjects. He should guard them as a mother guards the child in her womb. Will any mother have thoughts of pleasing herself when her child is in her womb? All her thoughts will be bent only on the child and its welfare. Even so, a king should 'subordinate his desires and wishes to those of his subjects. Their welfare should be his only concern.

'A king should he careful not to place implicit confidence in any one. His innermost thoughts must be concealed from even his nearest and dearest and he should not tell anyone about his decisions.

'A king should be wise in dealing with six problems.

1) The first is making peace with a foe who is stronger.

2)The next consideration is making war on one who is equal to him in strength.

3) Invading the country of one who is weaker in his next problem. He should use his discrimination when he makes a decision about these things.

4) He should be prepared to seek protection in his fort if his position is weak.

5) The most important work of a king is to cause dissension among the chief office-bearers in his enemy's country.

6) He should have clever spies at his sentence and find out the secrets of the enemy. He should bribe and cajole the officers of the enemy and win them over to his side.

'A king should be pleasant in speech. He should have about him men who are all like him in nature and in noble qualities. The only difference between the king and his officers should be the white umbrella.

'The best king is one whose subjects live in freedom and happiness as they do in their father's house. Peace will be theirs and contentment. There will then be no wickedness, no pretense, no dishonesty and no envy.

'The very core of a king's duty is the protection of his subjects and their happiness. It is not easy. To secure the happiness of his people he should use diverse methods.

'A king should be proficient in the art of choosing honest men to hold important offices. Skill, cleverness and truth are all three necessary in a king. He should renovate old and fallen buildings and living-houses if he has to win the good opinion of his subjects. He should know how to use his powers in inflicting corporal punishments and fines on miscreants.

'The king should remember that his treasury should always be full. The king should do himself supervision of the work of all his officers himself. He should never trust the guardians of the city or fort implicitly.

'He must produce disloyalty among the people in a hostile country and he must have friends and allies there.

'He should amass troops, and this should be done in secret. A king can never protect his kingdom by candor and by simplicity. A king should be both candid and crooked. He must employ crookedness and wrong acts when he wants to subdue the enemy. All these things should he concealed behind candid and open exterior.

  

 Q1) Yudhishthira: "How did the word 'RAJAN' come into use when a king is addressed? A king is like any other human being on the earth. His body and limbs are like those of anyone else. His understanding, his senses, are similar to those of many others. He has the same joy and grieves, the same number of years to live on the earth, like anybody else. How then did it happen that he is considered different? This world is made up of men who are far superior to him in intelligence, bravery and all accomplishments. And yet, this one man rules the others: though they are superior to him. Why should it be the rule that one man is worshipped by all the others?"

Bheeshma: "I will tell you. In the beginning there was no king. There was no punishment. These two were not needed then. Men were all righteous and each man protected the other. As time passed on, however, the hearts of men began to be invaded by errors. Once error enters the heart, the mind gets clouded and the sense of right and wrong begins to wane. It was even so with the men of distant times.

'Covetousness was the first guest in their hearts. When covetousness came into life, men began to want things that did not belong to them. The next passion to he born was lust. Lust can never exist alone. It has to have a companion and so wrath came into existence. As soon as these terrible passions found places in the hearts of men, righteousness had to beat a hasty retreat. Along with this confusion, happened another great calamity. The Vedas disappeared. Righteousness was completely lost to the world. The gods were then overcome with fear. They went to Brahma Pitamaha and said: 'look on the world you have created, my lord! It is threatened with destruction. Please save it and save us!'

'Brahma assured them that he would find a way. He then composed a treatise composed of a hundred thousand lessons. He treated of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. He dealt with them in great detail. He formulated the rules for chastisement. The main features of this treatise on chastisement dealt with punishment of two kinds: open and secret punishment. It treated of conservation of wealth by traders and merchants, growth of penance of the ascetics, destruction of thieves and wicked men. There was a branch dealing with all the religious observances, and another dealt with the extensive subject of legislation and the behavior that is expected of counselors, of spies, of secret agents, envoys, and conciliation. All the many ways and means by which men may he prevented from deviating from the path of righteousness and honesty were described in it.

'After composing it Brahma said: 'For the good of the world and for the establishment and propagation of Dharma, Artha and Kama I have composed this. Assisted by chastisement this will protect the world. Men are mostly led by 'chastisement and so this treatise will be called "Dandaneeti".

'It was studied and abridged by several of the gods, the first of them being Sankara. Finally, when it was to he given to the world, Sukra of great wisdom thought of the brevity of the life of men on earth and made the work much shorter. It contained just a thousand lessons. The gods then appeared before Vishnu and said: "Lord! indicate to us a man on the world who deserves to he superior to the rest'

'Narayana said: 'I will enter the body of one man and he, as well as all those who are born in his line, will be lords of the world'.

'There was a king called Vena. From his right arm was born a man who was like a second Indra in his looks and godliness. He was born with a coat of mail and all the weapons. He was proficient in all the arts and the Vedas. The rishis made him the ruler of the world. Sukra was his priest. There was current among men the feeling that he was the eighth son of Vishnu himself.

'His name was Prithu. He made the surface of the earth level. Vishnu and the deities assembled to crown Prithu king. The earth took a form and came to him with tributes of gems and jewels. Prithu milked the earth in the form of a cow and made her yield seven kinds of crops for the food of all living creatures. He made all men regard Dharma as the foremost of all things.

'Because he pleased all the people he was called 'RAJAN'. Because he healed the wounds of afflicted people he was called 'KSHATRIYA'. And again, because the earth became celebrated for the prevalence of virtue during his reign, she was called 'PRITHIVI'.

'Vishnu entered the body of that monarch. A pure man, when his punya becomes exhausted, descends from heaven to earth and is born as a king. Such a person is indeed great and is a portion of Vishnu on earth. He has a heritage of divine intelligence and he is superior to all the others. He is established by the gods and he is not to be slighted. This is the reason why the world cannot command him but he can command the world. This is why the multitude has to obey his words of command though he is like anybody else."

 

Q2) Yudhishthira: "what are the principal duties of the subjects?"

Bheeshma: 'Their first duty is to elect a king and perform his coronation. For the sake of the treasury, the subjects should give one-fiftieth (2%) of their animals and precious metals and a tenth part (10%) of their grains. From among them they should choose those who are proficient in the use of weapons and help the king in the maintenance of the army. A fourth part of the merits of the people will go to the king and a fourth part of their evil also. A disciple behaves with humility in the presence of his preceptor. Even so a subject should humble himself before his king. A king who is honored by his subjects will naturally be respected and feared by his foes.'

 

Q3) Yudhishthira: "What other special duties should a king discharge?"

Bheeshma: "A king should first know how to bring himself under subjugation. When he has achieved this he should then try to subdue his foes. The conquest of the five senses is considered to be the greatest victory. It is only such a king that is capable of conquering his enemies.

'A king should have an immense number of soldiers in his fort, cities, frontiers and all important spots.

'A king's thoughts, actions, decisions and spies should be kept secret from everyone, specially the enemy. His spies should look like imbeciles. Or they should seem as though they are blind and deaf. They should be capable and they should be wise. The king should ascertain that before employing them. They should be hardy able to bear privations like cold, heat and hunger. The king should set spies on his counselors, on his friends and even on his sons. His spies should be strangers to each other. The moment a king realizes that his foe is stronger, he should strive to make peace. If he is sure of his strength, he should collect a large army and march against the person who has no allies and friends or who is engaged in war against another. The king should know how to take them by surprise. He should not hesitate to afflict the kingdom of the enemy with weapons, fire and poison.

'The king should take a sixth (16% income tax) of the income of his subjects. This is for the maintenance of the army for their protection. A king's subjects are his children. But he should guard against compassion while punishing them for their wrong behavior.

'Honest men who are absolutely trustworthy should be appointed to administer justice. The state has her strong foundation only upon the proper administration of justice.

'There need be no doubt whatever about the truth that it is the king that makes the age and not the age that makes the king. When a king rules relying entirely and strictly on the science of chastisement, Kritayuga or Satyayuga, the foremost of ages, is said to set in. Righteousness is prevalent during Kritayuga. Unrighteousness does net even exist then. The earth yields crops without even waiting to be tilled. Herbs and plants grow luxuriantly and in abundance. Diseases are not found at all and all men live long. The seasons are all delightful. There is peace and nothing but peace on earth. When the king relies on three of the four parts of this Dandaneeti, Tretayuga sets in. A fourth part of Dharma is gone and an equal portion of Adharma sets in. The earth does yield crops but she waits for the tillage. The herbs and plants need to be nurtured. The yield is not spontaneous. When the king follows the Dandaneeti only by half, the age that sets in is Dwapara. Righteousness is diminished by half and the void is filled up by Unrighteousness. The earth, even when tilled, yields only half her crop. When the king ignores the edict of Brahma and begins to oppress his people, the age is Kali. Unrighteousness becomes rampant and nothing of righteousness is seen. The world becomes the home of anarchy. Diseases appear and men die prematurely. The clouds do not rain in season and the crops fail. The king is the cause of the yugas."

 

Q4) Yudhishthira: "Of whose wealth is the king said to be the lord?'

Bheeshma: 'The Vedas have declared that the wealth of all persons belongs to the king, with the exception of the Brahmins. The king's duty is to support all the Brahmins.'

 

Q5) Yudhishthira: 'Nothing, not even the smallest act, can be accomplished by a single man. He has to have assistance. This is all the more true when one thinks of ruling a kingdom. So much of it depends on the minister of the king. Tell me, what are the characteristics of a minister and his duties? Which kind of man deserves the king's entire confidence?"

Bheeshma: 'A king has friends and these can be classified into four types. The first is the man whose object coincides with that of the king. The second is the man who is devoted to the king. The third is one related to the king by birth. The fourth is one whom the king has placated by gifts. There is a fifth and that is a righteous man who firmly serves one and not both sides. He belongs to the side where there is righteousness. To this man the king should never confide plans which are in danger of being disapproved. A king who wants to be successful has to be righteous and unrighteous too according to circumstances. And so, he cannot be too careful in regard to these friends. A wicked man may appear to be honest and an honest man is likely to become dishonest. No man can always be of the same mind all the time. No one should be trusted completely. Entire reliance on the ministers is not wise. And again, a want of trust is also wrong. A king's policy, therefore, should be trust as well as mistrust.

'A king should fear his kinsmen as he would death himself. A kinsman can never bear to see the prosperity of the king. At the same time, a king without kinsmen is unfortunate indeed. The policy is: mistrusting them at heart, but behaving with them as though he trusts them completely."

 

Q6) Yudhishthira: "What should be the characteristics of the legislators, the ministers of war, the courtier, and the counselors of a king?"

Bheeshma: "The legislators should be men who are modest, self restrained, truthful and sincere, and they should have the courage to speak what is proper. The ministers for war should be those who are always by the side of the king. They should be very brave. They should belong to the higher caste, and be learned and affectionate to a fault as far as the king is concerned. A courtier should be of high lineage. The king should always honor him. He should be a man who has the king's interests always at heart. He should never abandon the king whatever the circumstances may be.

'The officers of the army should again be of high lineage, born in the country of the king; possessed of wisdom, great learning, and beauty of form and features. They should be of excellent behavior, and they should be devoted to the king.

'Four Brahmins learned in the Vedas, possessed of great dignity and belonging to the Snataka order and of pure unblemished behavior: eight kshatriyas all of whom should be very strong physically and proficient in the use of all the weapons: twenty one vaisyas all of whom should be wealthy: three sudras all of whom should possess humility and pure conduct: and one man of the suta caste: these should be the ministers of the king. Every one of them should be fifty or more years old.

'Punishment should be given to offenders according to the immensity of the offense. The wealthy should be fined and their property should be confiscated while loss of liberty should be the punishment for the poor offender. Wicked conduct should be punished by inflicting corporal punishment.

'The king should levy taxes, but they should never be so high as to hurt the subjects. He should know how to milk his kingdom. He should be like a bee gathering honey from the flowers. He should be a leech, which draws blood mildly without the victim being conscious of it. He should behave like a tigress with her cubs while handling his subjects: she catches them with her teeth and yet never hurts them."

 

Q7) Yudhishthira: "How should a king behave?"

Bheeshma: 'Righteousness is the watchword of a king. Nothing is greater than that in this world. A righteous king can easily conquer the entire world. His counselors should all be pure in heart and pure in mind. Malice should have no place in the heart of a king. His senses should be perfectly under control. He should use his intelligence and he will then be glorious: swelling in greatness like the ocean fed with the waters of a thousand rivers."

 

Q8) Yudhishthira: "The path of duty is very long. It has a hundred branches. Tell me, what are the duties that have to be practiced?"

Bheeshma: 'The worship of mother, father and preceptor: these are the most important duties. Attending to this duty fits a king to acquire great fame and the heavens. These three should be worshipped and their commands should he obeyed implicitly. They are like the three fires that have to be worshipped daily. Serving the father helps one to cross this world. Serving the mother transports him to the heavens. Serving the preceptor one attains the region of Brahma.

 

Q9) Yudhishthira: "I want to know about Dharma, Artha and Kama. The course of life proceeds onwards. Which of these three helps to steady that course in the right direction?"

Bheeshma: 'The three exist together, side by side, when a man amasses wealth always taking care to walk in the path of Dharma. Wealth has its root in virtue, and pleasure is said to be the fruit of wealth. All of these again, are firmly planted in Will. Objects exist in this world for the gratification of the senses, and Will is concerned with these objects. The sum total of the three depends on these. Entire abstraction from all objects of pleasure is called Emancipation. Virtue is desirable for the protection of the body, and wealth for acquiring virtue. Pleasure is, after all, only for gratifying the senses. All three, however, have one quality in common: passion. The pursuit of these three for the sake of themselves, with a desire to enjoy their fruits, makes the rewards remote. However, if the pursuit is spurred by a desire for knowledge, the knowledge of self, when they become the means for an end which is noble, the realization of self, then the reward is immense. Virtue is to be acquired for the purification of the soul. Wealth should be acquired so that it may be spent without any desire for the fruits. Pleasure is to be pursued just for supporting the body and not for gratifying it. Hence it is said that all three of them have their roots in Will.

Dharma, Artha and Kama are not ends in themselves, but are just means to an end, and that end is Moksha. These three should be abandoned when one has freed oneself by ascetic penance. Emancipation is the only goal of man."

 

Q10) Yudhishthira: "Intelligence, they say, is superior to everything else: intelligence which helps one to plan the future and provide for it: which can meet with any kind of emergency. Tell me about intelligence, particularly when a king has a difficult task to perform: as for instance when he is assailed by many foes. How will intelligence help him to protect himself?"

Bheeshma: 'I will tell you about the duties of a king when in distress. A foe then becomes a friend, and a friend will most probably turn out to be a foe. Circumstances will so conspire that the course of human actions becomes uncertain. This is where intelligence comes to one's rescue. It helps you to decide whether one should make war on the foe or make peace with him. It all depends on the time and place, and, at times, it is even necessary to make friends with the enemy. You should make friends with intelligent men who are desirous of your welfare. If your life cannot otherwise he saved, then you should certainly make peace with the enemy. If you are foolish enough not to consider this, then you will never succeed in achieving things for which everyone strives so hard. A king, who makes a truce with the enemy, and quarrels with his erstwhile friends after considering the situation to the utmost, its pros and its cons, will certainly he able to succeed.

"Friends should be examined to the utmost before accepting them as friends. Foes should he well studied and their strength and weakness known. Friends appear as foes, and foes assume the guise of friends. When friendly compacts are undertaken, it is not possible to be sure if the feelings of the other are really friendly or if it is just selfishness, which prompts him to accept the pact. The words 'friend' and 'foe' are, after all, relative terms. A man considers another to be his friend so long as he is assured that his interests are safe so long as he is sure that it is profitable for him to do so. If he is sure that this state of things will continue as long as the other man is alive, he allows the friendship to continue for life.

'Self-interest is the most powerful factor in the life of everyone. The entire world is pivoted round only this one factor and it ever revolves around it. No one is dear to another unless there is some gain involved. No affection is evident unless there is a motive of self-interest. Ore man is popular because he is very liberal minded, another because he speaks sweetly and a third because he is very religious. Generally it is the rule rather than the exception that a man is dear because of the purpose he serves: nothing more. The friendship terminates as soon as the reason for the friendship dies.

'An intelligent man should know when to make peace with a foe. Remember, when two persons who were once enemies become friends it is obvious that each is only hiding his time when he can get the better of the other. The wiser of the two will necessarily succeed. The policy is that, while you are afraid of the other man, you should appear as though you are not. You should appear as though you trust him implicitly and, all the time, you should he mistrusting him. When the time demands it you should make peace with your foe and at the earliest opportunity you must wage war. This rule should apply even for a friend."

 

Q11) Yudhishthira: "Tell me, what is the source of sin? Where does it proceed from and what is the foundation on which it is built?"

Bheeshma: "Covetousness is the one root of all sin. It destroys all merit and all goodness. From it proceeds the river of sin. It is from this single source that many of the sins flow. Covetousness is the eternal spring of cunningness and hypocrisy. Wrath is born of covetousness, lust is horn of covetousness and several of the terrible maladies of the mind spring from covetousness: loss of judgment, deception, pride, arrogance, malice, vindictiveness, shamelessness, loss of virtue, anxiety and infamy. These are some of the many children of covetousness. Let me recount to you the names of some more of them. Miserliness, cupidity, desire for every kind of improper behavior, pride of birth, pride of learning, pride of beauty, pride of wealth, pitilessness, malevolence, insincerity, appropriation of another's wealth, harshness of speech, talking ill of others, gluttony, a love of falsehood, and a love of every kind of evil act. In life no man has ever been able to give up covetousness. Life may decay, but this will never wane in its power. Even men of great learning, whose minds are the very treasury of all the scriptures, who have the intelligence to clear all the many doubts of others, are found to be incompetent to manage their own affairs. They are spineless and weak, and it is because they are slaves of this dread disease: covetousness."

 

Q12) Yudhishthira: "Tell me about ignorance."

Bheeshma: "Ignorance, my child, again has its origin in this covetousness. As covetousness grows, ignorance grows with it. The root of covetousness is but loss of clear thinking, loss of judgment, and so ignorance is an inseparable companion of covetousness."

 

Q13) Yudhishthira: "What are the duties which should be preferred to all others?"

Bheeshma: "The highest duty is self restraint. Just as the great sin covetousness leads to all sins, self-restraint leads a man to the highest glory. It has a number of good qualities born of it: forgiveness, patience, abstaining from injuring others, impartiality, truth, sincerity, modesty, steadiness. Liberality, freedom from wrath, contentment, sweetness of speech, benevolence, freedom from malice. A man who is self-restrained will never be a slave to the attachments of the earth. He attains emancipation. He is almost on the threshold of it when he becomes self restrained."

 

Q14) Yudhishthira: "I desire to hear about truth."

Bheeshma: "Truth is the duty of every human being. It is an eternal duty. Truth is the highest refuge. Truth is the greatest penance. Truth is the highest yoga and Truth is the Eternal Brahman. It is the sacrifice, which is greater than all other sacrifices. All the three worlds rest on Truth and nothing else. Truth is of thirteen kinds. Impartiality, self control, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, goodness, renunciation, contemplation, dignity, fortitude, compassion and abstinence from injury. All these are aspects of Truth. Truth is immutable, eternal, and unchangeable.

 

Q15) Yudhishthira: "What is that good thing which one should strive for?"

Bheeshma: 'This world is ever threatened by death. The nights, which come and go do but lessen the span of one's life. Death waits for no man. It is nearing every creature every moment. Its progress is imperceptible but it is ever steady. With the passage of each day, man's life is shortened. Death comes before man's desires have been fulfilled. When he is busy plucking the flowers, death snatches a man away like a beast of prey carrying away a ram. What you have planned to do tomorrow must be done today. What you have planned to do in the afternoon must be done in the forenoon. Death is ruthless. It will never wait and see if all your acts have been carried out. Man should hurry and practice virtue in the prime of life. Life is so uncertain and only death is certain. It may come now or it may come years later. The readiness is important. Virtue will grant you fame in this world and happiness in the next.

'Man is plagued with a thousand desires in this world. He becomes attached to many things and many people. His work, his lands, his children, his home: all these have woven a web of attachment from which he is torn away by death. Nothing can resist the force of this web of attachment except truth. Knowledge of the true values of things makes a man realize the transitoriness of the things of the world, and to such a man death has no terrors. Truth is immortality. In the same body can be found the germs of death as well as immortality. It is all in your hands whether you nurture the one or the other. Earthly bondage is so easily formed. It is easy for anyone to nurture the plant of attachment, which is, but another name for death.

'The wise man, however, restrains his senses. He rises above the grasping hands of desire and wrath. He will know how to treat pleasure and pain alike. Tranquillity becomes his for the asking, and he attains immortality. His words, his thoughts, his renunciation and his yoga rest on the eternal, the Brahman, and he escapes death.

'The eye of knowledge is the keenest eye. Truth is the greatest penance. Attachment is the most terrible of all sorrows. Renunciation is the source of the greatest happiness.

'We are born from Brahman through Brahman. Devoting oneself to Brahman one can return to Brahman. Seek the self which is concealed in a cave."

 

Q16) Yudhishthira: "Describe to me the man who is dear to all. 'Who is said to be perfectly accomplished, to be endowed with all the merits that the world speaks about?"

Bheeshma: "Such a man as you describe will be learned. He will be good and pious. Pride will never heat his blood. Discontent and wrath will not be found in him. His senses will never lead him astray, and he will always have peace born of the realization of the Supreme Truth."

 

Q17) Yudhishthira: "What makes a man a sinner and what makes him virtuous? What helps him to achieve renunciation? How does he attain emancipation?"

Bheeshma: "Desire is responsible for making a man a sinner. When it sees an object of the sense, desire seeks it. For the sake of getting what he wants man begins to strive for it. The objects of the senses appear so agreeable that man tries his best to get them. Attachment follows in the wake of desire. Immediately follow aversion, greed and error of judgment. The mind becomes confused, clouded, and man does not any more follow the path of virtue. Assuring a virtue, which he does not possess, is now the policy of man, and he becomes a hypocrite. Acquiring wealth with the help of hypocrisy is easy for a man who has begun the downward path to sin. In spite of the advice of well wishers and elders, man begins to act in a sinful manner. There is no more hope of salvation for a confirmed sinner like the man just described.

'The man who is righteous seeks the good of others, and so he wins good for himself. He is wise and knows how to avoid the pitfalls called the senses. He is wise as to the real nature of happiness and sorrow. Man attains mastery over the senses, and that is called virtue. But still he is discontented. He will not rest until he has mastered the art of renunciation. Knowledge helps him to be free of desire. Finally, realizing that the world is but a passing pageant, that it will be destroyed any time, he tries to cast off virtue with its rewards in the form of heaven and happiness, and tries to attain emancipation."

 

Q18) Yudhishthira: "What are the attributes that are necessary for a man if he wants to be free from attachment and attain emancipation?"

Bheeshma: "The man fit for emancipation has passed far beyond the ken of the world of the senses. Hunger and thirst do not bother him nor is he affected by other states of the physical body. His mind is untrammeled by wrath, cupidity and error. Folly never makes him forget himself. To such a man, a hovel built of bamboo and reeds is the same as the palace of a king. Pleasure and pain do not touch him since he is fully conscious of their birth in delusion. To him, the world is just the consequence of the five primal elements combining all together. This truth is always present in his mind when he looks on the world. Pleasure and pain. Gain and loss, victory and defeat, are equal in his eyes. Fear is not in him nor is there place for anxiety in his heart. He knows fully well that king after king possessed of great power and greater glory abode in this world for a while and then has departed.

All things of this earth are transitory: that is the first truth he has realized. Experiences of the world and true knowledge have waked in him the truth about the world, and he views everything as insubstantial. Equipped as he is with so much wisdom, a man attains emancipation wherever he is: whether in domestic life or in the forest."

 

Q19) Yudhishthira: "Your statement intrigues me. Without abandoning domesticity, without adopting life in the forest, how can man attain emancipation?"

Bheeshma: "A king need not give up his kingdom at all for attaining emancipation. You should be free of all attachment. If you are unmoved by companionship of any kind, if you can fix your thought on the Eternal Brahman, you can be emancipated. Renunciation is the keynote for this path. It is the highest means. Renunciation follows where knowledge guides the mind. Knowledge leads the mind towards yoga and through yoga man attains to the Brahmic state. A man leading domestic life can certainly attain emancipation if he can claim to have acquired Yama and Niyama equal to a Sanyasin."

 

Q20) Yudhishthira: "Where does the Goddess of prosperity reside?"

Bheeshma: "An eloquent person, an active person, an attentive person, is ever the home of prosperity. Free of wrath, he should have his passions under control, and he should be high-minded. She spurns a man of little energy. So also one who is diffident and who is wrathful. Brahmins who are devoted to the study of the Vedas, Kshatriyas who are devoted to righteousness, Vaisyas who are devoted to cultivation and Sudras who have devotion in their hearts: all these are the dwelling places of the Goddess of prosperity."

 

Q21) Yudhishthira: "What are the duties of a man who has hopes of passing through this world pleasantly and who has hopes of reaching the next world?"

Bheeshma: "The three acts of the body,

should be avoided by a man who aspires for all that you say. He should avoid the four acts that are possible with speech: evil conversation, harsh words, publishing other people's fallacies and falsehood. One should avoid the three acts of the mind: coveting the possessions of others, injuring others and disbelief in the ordinances of the Vedas. If these ten acts are avoided, man will be assured of a pleasant passage through this world and a place in the next world."

 

Q22) Yudhishthira: "Is there anything which is superior to the practice of Brahmacharya? I want also to know the highest indication of virtue and the highest kind of purity."

Bheeshma: "Abstaining from wine and meat is even superior to Brahmacharya. The best indication of virtue is righteousness and it is also the highest kind of purity."

 

Q23) Yudhishthira: "When should one practice Dharma? When should one acquire Artha? When should Kama he indulged in?"

Bheeshma: "The first part of one's life is the time when wealth should be earned. Righteousness should then be practiced and the enjoyment of pleasure comes later. All this with the special observance that one should not attach oneself to any of these. The end and aim of man should he Moksha."

 

Q24) Yudhishthira: "Which is the Teertha of the greatest purity?"

Bheeshma: "There is no doubt that all teerthas are capable of purifying man. But the best of all teerthas which is capable of purifying man is - TRUTH. One should bathe in the teertha called the mind that cannot be fathomed, which has no stain and which is pure. This teertha has TRUTH for its waters and the lake of the mind is made up of understanding. Once a man bathes in this Manasa Sarovara, he becomes heir to sincerity gentleness, truthfulness, compassion, self-restraint and tranquillity."

 

Q25) Yudhishthira: 'Who is the true friend of man? Is it his father or mother or son or preceptor or kinsmen or friend? When one dies, his body has to be abandoned like a piece of wood or like a clod of earth. Who is the friend who follows him to the next world?"

Bheeshma: "Man is born alone and he dies alone. Alone he comes into this beautiful world and alone he must go when he leaves this world. He has not a single companion in his march through this incident called life. All those you spoke about, the father, the mother, son, kinsmen, friends, or the preceptor, turn away from you once you are dead. Leaving the dead form of you like a piece of wood or a clod of earth after mourning for a few moments, they turn away from you and go on with their work. They have no more interest in your body that is all that is left of you. Only Dharma, righteousness, follows the body that has been abandoned by all. That is the only friend of man and that is the one thing that should he sought by man."

 

Q26) Yudhishthira: "Who is the One God in the world? The One Object which is our Sole Refuge? By worshipping whom does one obtain all that one desires? Which is the One Religion that is the foremost of all religions? What is the mantra, reciting which, man becomes freed from the bondage of birth?"

Bheeshma: "Krishna is the Lord of the Universe. He is the God of Gods. He is the foremost of all beings. By him is pervaded this universe. Meditating on him and on his many names man can transcend all sorrow. The foremost of all religions is Krishna. He is the highest Energy. He is the highest penance. He is the highest refuge. He is the holiest of holies. He is the beginning of all creation and the end of all creation. Krishna is the Eternal Brahman. Surrender yourself to him and you will he one with Him: with Krishna the Lord of the past, the present and the future: the Supreme Soul."

The days of instruction were over. Bheeshma said: "My child, I have taught you all that you wanted to learn. go back to your kingdom and begin your rule. The people will be as happy as they were when the great kings Nahusha, Harischandra and Yayati ruled this world. You carry my blessinigs with you. Go, my child, and come to me when Uttarayana comes on. I have been waiting for that. I will see you once again then"

Yudhishthira took tender leave of him and they all went back to Hastinapura.


For copies of Mahabharata by Kamala Subramanyam, write to

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