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======= Understanding Hinduism =======
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Addressing King Yudhishthira,
Bhishma said: Without doubt, Kshatriya energy loses its force upon a Brahman when it encounters him. Thinking that thou art a king, that thou art possessed of great power, and that thou hast affluence, do not, O Yudhishthira, enjoy thy affluence without giving anything unto the Brahmanas. Observing the duties of thy order, do thou worship the Brahmanas with whatever wealth thou hast, O sinless one, for purposes of adornment or sustaining thy power. Let the Brahmans live in whatever way they like. Thou shouldst always bend thy head unto them with reverence. Let them always rejoice in thee as thy children, living happily and according to their wishes. Who else than thou, O best of the Kurus, is competent to provide the means of subsistence for such Brahmanas as are endued with eternal contentment as are thy well-wishers, and as are gratified by only a little?
As women have one eternal duty, in this world, viz., dependence upon and obedient service to their husbands, and as such duty constitutes their only end, even so is the service to Brahmanas our eternal duty and end. If, at sight of cruelties and other sinful acts in Kshatriyas, the Brahmanas, O son, unhonoured by us, forsake us all, I say, of what use would life be to us, in the absence of all contact with the Brahmanas, especially as we shall then have to drag on our existence without being able to study the Vedas to perform sacrifices, to hope for worlds of bliss hereafter, and to achieve great feats?
I shall in this connection, tell thee what the eternal usage is. In days of yore. O king, the Kshatriyas used to serve the Brahmanas. The Vaisya in a similar manner used in those days to worship the royal order, and the Sudra to worship the Vaisya. Even this is what is heard. The Brahmana was like a blazing fire. Without being able to touch him or approach his presence, the Sudra used to serve the Brahmana from a distance. It was only the Kshatriya and the Vaisya, who could serve the Brahmana by touching his person or approaching his presence.
The Brahmanas are endued with a mild disposition. They are truthful in behaviour. They are followers of the true religion. When angry, they are snakes of virulent poison. Such being their nature, do thou, O Yudhishthira, serve and attend upon them with obedience and reverence. The Brahmanas are superior to even those that are higher than the high and the low. The energy and presence of even those Kshatriyas who blaze forth with energy and might, become powerless and neutralised when they come in contact with the Brahmanas.
My sire himself is not dearer to me than the Brahmanas. My mother is not dearer to me
than they. My grandsire, O king, is not dearer, my own self is not dearer, my life itself
is not dearer, O king, to me than the Brahmanas! On earth there is nothing, O
Yudhishthira, that is dearer to me than thou. But, O chief of Bharatas race, the
Brahmanas are dearer to me than even thou. I tell thee truly, O son of Pandu! I swear by
this truth, by which I hope to acquire all those regions of bliss that have been
Santanus. I behold those sacred regions with Brahma shining conspicuously before
them. I shall repair thither, O son, and reside in them for unending days. Beholding these
regions, O best of the Bharatas (with my spiritual eyes), I am filled with delight at the
thought of all these acts which I have done in aid and honour of the Brahmanas, O monarch!
From The Mahabharata
Yudhishthira said: unto which of two Brahmanas, when both happen to be equally pure in behaviour, equally possessed of learning and purity, of birth and blood, but differing from each other in only this, viz., the one solicits and the other does not, - I ask, O grandsire, unto which of these two would a gift be more meritorious?
Bhishma said: It has been said, O son of Pritha, that a gift made unto an unsoliciting person is productive of greater merit than one made to a person who solicits. One possessed of contentment is certainly more deserving than that person who is destitute of that virtue and is, therefore, helpless amidst the storms and buffets of the world. The firmness of a Kshatriya consists in the protection he gives to others. The firmness of a Brahmana consists in his refusal to solicit. The Brahmana possessed of steadiness and learning and contentment gladdens the deities. The wise have said that an act of solicitation on the part of a poor man is a great reproach. Those persons that solicit others are said to annoy the world like thieves and robbers. The person who solicits is said to meet with death. The giver, however, is said not to meet with death. The giver is said to grant life unto him who solicits. By an act of gift, O Yudhishthira, the giver is said to rescue his own self also.
Compassion is a very high virtue. Let people make gift from compassion unto those that solicit. Those, however, that do not beg, but are plunged into poverty and distress should be respectfully invited to receive assistance. If such Brahmanas, who must be regarded as the foremost of their order, live in thy kingdom, thou shouldst regard them as fire covered with ashes. Blazing with penances, they are capable of consuming the whole earth. Such persons, O son of Kurus race, though not generally worshipped, should still be regarded as deserving of worship in every way. Endued with knowledge and spiritual vision and penances and Yoga, such persons always deserve our worship. O scorcher of foes, do thou always offer worship unto such Brahmanas.
One should repair of ones own accord unto those foremost of Brahmanas that do not solicit anybody and make unto them gifts of diverse kinds of wealth in abundance. The merit that flows from properly pouring libations into the sacred fire every morning and evening is won by the person who makes gifts unto a Brahmana endued with learning, with the Vedas and with high and excellent vows. You shouldst, O son of Kunti, invite those foremost of Brahmanas who are cleansed by learning and the Vedas and vows, who live in independence, whose Vedic studies and penances are hidden without being proclaimed from the house-top, and who are observant of excellent vows, and honour them with gifts of well-constructed and delightful houses equipped with servitors and robes and furniture, and with all other articles of pleasure and enjoyment.
Conversant with all duties and possessed of minute vision, those foremost of Brahmanas, O Yuthishthira, may accept the gifts offered to them with devotion and respect, thinking that they should not refuse and disappoint the giver. Thou shouldst invite those Brahmanas whose wives wait for their return like tillers in expectation of rain. Having fed them well thou shouldst make gifts of additional food unto them so that upon their return home their expectant wives might be able to distribute that food among their children that had clamoured for food but that had been pacified with promises.
Brahmachains of restrained senses, O son, by eating at ones house in the forenoon, cause the three sacrificial fires to be gratified with the householder at whose house they eat. Let the sacrifice of gift proceed in thy house at midday, O son, and do thou also give away kine (cows) and gold and robes (unto thy guests after feeding them well). By conducting thyself in this way, thou art sure to gratify the chief of the celestials himself. That would constitute thy third sacrifice, O Yuthishthira, in which offerings are made unto the deities, the Pitris, and the Brahmanas.
By such sacrifice thou are sure to gratify the Vishwadevas. Let compassion unto all
creatures, giving unto all creatures what is due unto them, restraining the senses,
renunciation, steadiness, and truth, constitute the final bath of that sacrifice which is
constituted by gift. Even this is the sacrifice that is spread out for thee, - a sacrifice
that is sanctified by devotion and faith, and that has a large Dakshina attached to it.
This sacrifice which is constituted by gift is distinguished above all other sacrifices. O
son, let this sacrifice be always performed by thee.
Parsara said: If the Brahmana, pressed for a livng, betakes himself to the duties of
either the Kshatriya or the Vaisya, he does not fall off from righteousness. When,
however, the Brahmana betakes himself to the duties of the lowest order, then does he
certainly fall off. When the Sudra is unable to obtain his living by service of the three
other orders, then trade, rearing of cattle, and the practice of the mechanical arts are
lawful for him to follow.