Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section LXXV

"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, that conduct by which a king succeeds in aggrandising his subjects and earning regions of felicity in the other world.'

"Bhishma said, 'The king should be liberal and should perform sacrifices, O Bharata! He should be observant of vows and penances, and should be devoted to the duty of protecting his subjects. Righteously protecting all his subjects, he should honour all righteous persons by standing up when they come and by making gifts unto them. If the king regards it, righteousness becomes regarded everywhere. Whatever acts and things are liked by the king are liked by his subjects. Unto his foes the king should always be like Death, with the rod of chastisement uplifted in his hands. He should exterminate robbers everywhere in his kingdom and never pardon any one from caprice. The king, O Bharata, earns a fourth part of the merit that his subjects earn under his protection. By only protecting his subjects the king acquires a fourth part of the merit that his subjects acquire by study, by gifts, by pouring libations, and by worshipping the gods. The king acquires a fourth part also of the sin that his subjects commit in consequence of any distress in the kingdom arising from the king's neglect in discharging the duty of protection. Some say that the king earns a moiety, and some say the full measure, of whatever sin is caused by his becoming cruel and untruthful in speech. Listen now to the means by which the king may be cleansed of such sins. If the king fails to restore to a subject the wealth that has been stolen away by thieves, he should then compensate the injured from his own treasury, or, in case of inability, with wealth obtained from his dependents. All the orders should protect the wealth of a Brahmana even as they should the Brahmana's boy or life. The person that offends against Brahmanas should be exiled from the kingdom. Everything is protected by protecting the Brahmana's wealth. Through the grace of the Brahmana, which may thus be secured, the king becomes crowned with success. Men seek the protection of a competent king like creatures seeking relief from the clouds or birds seeking refuge in a large tree. A cruel and covetous king, with lustful soul and ever seeking the gratification of his desire never succeeds in protecting his subjects.'

"Yudhishthira, said, 'I do not, for a moment, desire the happiness that sovereignty bestows or sovereignty itself for its own sake. I desire it, however, for the sake of the merit one may acquire from it. It seems to me that no merit is attached to it. No need for sovereignty then by which no merit can be acquired. I shall, therefore, retire into the woods from desire of earning merit. Laying aside the rod of chastisement, and subduing my senses, I shall go to the woods which are sacred and seek to acquire the merit of righteousness by becoming an ascetic subsisting upon fruit and roots.'

"Bhishma said, 'I know, O Yudhishthira, what the nature of thy heart is, and how inoffensive is thy disposition. Thou wilt not, however, by inoffensiveness alone, succeed in ruling thy kingdom. Thy heart is inclined to mildness, thou art compassionate, and thou art exceedingly righteous. Thou art without energy, and thou art virtuous and full of mercy. People, therefore, do not regard thee much. Follow the conduct of thy sire and grandsire. Kings should never adopt that conduct which thou desirest to adopt. Never be touched by such anxiety (after doing thy duty), and never adopt such inoffensiveness of conduct. By becoming so, thou wouldst not succeed in earning that merit of righteousness which arises from protecting subjects. The behaviour thou wishest to adopt, impelled by thy own intelligence and wisdom, is not consistent with those blessings which thy sire Pandu or thy mother Kunti used to solicit for thee. Thy sire always solicited for thee courage, might, and truth. Kunti always solicited for thee high-mindedness and liberality. The offerings with Swaha and Swadha in Sraddhas and sacrifices are always asked from children by the Pitris and the deities. Whether gifts and study and sacrifices and the protection of subjects be meritorious or sinful, thou hast been born to practise and perform them. The fame, O son of Kunti, is never tarnished of men that even fail in bearing the burdens which are placed on them and unto which they are yoked in life. Even a horse, if properly trained, succeeds in bearing, without falling down, a burden. (What need then be said of thee that art a human being?) One incurs no censure if only one's acts and words be proper, for success is said to depend upon acts (and words). No person, be he a man virtuously following the domestic mode of life, or be he a king, or be he a Brahmacharin, has ever succeeded in conducting himself without tripping. It is better to do an act which is good and in which there is small merit than to totally abstain from all acts, for total abstention from acts is very sinful. When a high-born and righteous person succeeds in obtaining affluence, the king then succeeds in obtaining prosperity in all his affairs. A virtuous king, having obtained a kingdom, should seek to subdue some by gifts, some by force, and some by sweet words. There is no one more virtuous than he upon whom high-born and learned persons rely from fear of losing their means of sustenance and depending upon whom they live in contentment.

"Yudhishthira said, 'What acts, O sire, are conductive to heaven? What is the nature of the great felicity that is derived from them? What also is the high prosperity that may be obtained thence? Tell me all this, if thou knowest.,

"Bhishma said, 'That man from whom a person afflicted with fear obtains relief even for a moment, is the most worthy of heaven amongst us. This that I tell thee is very true. Be thou cheerfully the king of the Kurus, O foremost one of Kuru's race, acquire heaven, protect the good and slay the wicked. Let thy friends, together with all honest men, derive their support from thee, like all creatures from the deity of the clouds and like birds from a large tree with delicious fruits. Men seek the protection of that person who is dignified, courageous, capable of smiting, compassionate, with senses under control, affectionate towards all, and equitable, and just.'"