“Yudhishthira said, ‘Where do those foolish, wretched, and sinful men go,O chief of men, that steal or misappropriate such articles as belong toBrahmanas?’
“Bhishma said, ‘I shall, in this connection, O Bharata, recite to theethe old narrative of a conversation between a Chandala and a lowKshatriya.'
“The person of the royal order said, ‘Thou seemest, O Chandala, to be oldin years, but thy conduct seems to be like that of a boy! Thy body isbesmeared with the dust raised by dogs and asses, but without mindingthat dust thou art anxious about the little drops of vine milk that havefallen upon thy body! It is plain that such acts as are censured by thepious are ordained for the Chandala. Why, indeed, dost thou seek to washoff the spots of milk from thy body?'
“The Chandala said, ‘Formerly, O king, certain kine belonging to Brahmanawere stolen. While they were being carried away, some milk from theirudders fell upon a number of Soma plants that grew by the roadside. ThoseBrahmanas that drank the juice of the plants thus bedewed with milk, asalso the king who performed the sacrifice in which that Soma was drunk,had to sink in hell. Indeed, for having thus appropriated some thing thathad belonged to a Brahmana, the king with all the Brahmanas that hadassisted him had to go to hell. All those men also, Brahmanas andKshatriyas, that drank milk or ghee or curds, in the palace of the kingwho had stolen the Brahmana’s kine, had to fall into hell. The stolenkine also, shaking their bodies, slew with their milk the sons andgrandsons of those that had stolen them, as also the king and the queenalthough the latter treated the animals with great care and attention. Asregards myself, O king, I used to live in the observance of the vow ofBrahmacharya in that place where these kine were placed after they hadbeen stolen away. The food I had obtained by begging became sprinkledover with the milk of those kine. Having taken that food, O thou of theroyal order, I have, in this life, become a Chandala. The king who hadstolen the kine belonging to a Brahmana obtained an infamous end. Hence,one should never steal or appropriate anything that belongs to aBrahmana. Behold to what state I am reduced in consequence of my havingeaten food that had been sprinkled over with milk belonging to aBrahmana! It is for this reason that Soma plants become unsaleable by aperson possessed of wisdom. They who sell the Soma plant are censured bythe wise. Indeed, O son, they who purchase Soma and they who sell it,both sink in the hell called Raurava when, departing from this world,they repair to the region of Yama. That man who, possessing a knowledgeof the Vedas, duly sells Soma, becomes in his next life a usurer andquickly meets with destruction. For three hundred times he has to sinkinto hell and become transformed into an animal that subsists upon humanordure. Serving a person that is vile and low, pride, and rape upon afriend’s wife, if weighed against one another in a balance, would showthat pride, which transcends all restraints, is the heaviest. Behold thisdog, so sinful and disagreeably pale and lean! (He was a human being inhis former life). It is through pride that living creatures attain tosuch a miserable end. As regards myself, I was born in a large family, ina former birth of mine. O lord, and I was a thorough master of allbranches of knowledge and all the sciences. I knew the gravity of allthese faults, but influenced by pride, I became blinded and ate the meatattached to the vertebral columns of animals. In consequence of suchconduct and such food, I have come to this state. Behold the reversesbrought about by Time! Like a person whose cloth has taken fire at oneend, or who is pursued by bees, behold, I am running, penetrated withfear, and smeared with dust! They that lead the domestic mode of life arerescued from all sins by a study of the Vedas, as also by gifts of otherkinds, as declared by the wise. O thou of the royal order, aBrahmana that is sinful in conduct, becomes rescued from all his sins bythe study of the Vedas if he betakes himself to the forest mode of lifeand abstains from attachment of every kind. O chief of Kshatriyas, I amin this life, born in a sinful older! I fail to see clearly how I maysucceed in cleansing myself from all sins. In consequence of somemeritorious act of a former life, I have not lost the memory of myprevious lives. O king, I throw myself on the mercy! I ask thee! Do thouresolve my doubt. By what auspicious course of conduct should I wish toachieve my emancipation? O foremost of men, by what means shall I succeedin getting rid of my status as a Chandala?’
“The person of the royal order said, ‘Know, O Chandala, the means bywhich thou mayst be able to attain to emancipation. By casting off thylife-breaths for the sake of a Brahmana thou mayst attain a desirableend! By throwing thy body on the fire of battle as a libation to thebeasts and birds of prey for the sake of a Brahmana, indeed, by castingoff thy life-breaths thus, thou mayst achieve emancipation! By no othermeans wilt thou succeed in achieving it!’
“Bhishma continued, ‘Thus addressed, that Chandala, O scorcher of foes,poured his life-breaths as a libation on the fire of battle for the sakeof protecting a Brahmana’s wealth and as the consequence of that actattained to a very desirable end. Hence, O son, thou shouldst alwaysprotect the property of the Brahmanas, if, O chief of Bharata’s race,thou desirest, O thou of mighty arms, an end that is eternal felicity!'”