“Bhishma said, ‘The chief of the deities, Indra, after the Pitri hasceased to speak, addressed the puissant Hari, saying, ‘O Lord, what arethose acts by which thou becomest gratified? How, indeed, do men succeedin gratifying thee?’
“Vishnu said, “That which I greatly hate is the detraction of Brahmanas;without doubt, if the Brahmanas are worshipped, I regard myselfworshipped. All superior Brahmanas should always be saluted withreverence, after feeding them with hospitality. One should reverenceone’s own feet also (in the evening). I am gratified with men who act inthis way, as also with those who worship and make offerings to the whirlthat is noticeable on cowdung (when it first drops from the cow).They who behold a Brahmana that is a dwarf in stature, or a boar that hasjust risen from water and that bears on his head a quantity of mud takenup from the bank, have never to meet with any evil. They become freedfrom every sin. That man who worships every day the Aswattha (Ficusreligiosa) and the substance called Gorochana and the cow, is regarded asworshipping the whole universe with the deities and Asuras and humanbeings. Verily, staying within these, I accept, in my own form, theworship that is offered to them. The worship that is offered to these isthe worship offered to me. This has been so as long as the worlds havebeen created. Those men of little understanding that worship me in adifferent way worship me in vain, for the worship of that kind I neveraccept. Verily, the worship of other kinds is not at all gratifying tome.’
“Indra said, ‘Why dost thou applaud the circular marks on cowdung, thefeet, the boar, the Brahmana that is a dwarf in stature, and mud raisedup from the soil? It is thou who createst and it is thou who destroyestthem. Thou art the eternal nature of all mortal or transitory things:’
“Bhishma continued, ‘Hearing these words of Indra. Vishnu smiled a littleand then said, ‘It was with my circular disc that the Daityas were slain.It was with my two feet that the world was covered. Assuming the form ofa boar I slew Hiranyaksha. Assuming the form of a dwarf I conquered (theAsura) king Vali. Those high-souled men who worship these gratify me.Verily, they who worship me in these forms never meet with discomfiture.If one beholding a Brahmana leading the Brahmacharya mode of life arrivedat one’s house, offers unto him the first portion of one’s food thatbelongs as of right to a Brahmana, and eats what remains thereafter, oneis regarded as eating Amrita. If one, after adoring the morning twilight,stands with face directed towards the sun, one reaps the merit thatattaches to the performance of ablutions in all tirthas and becomescleansed of all sins. Ye Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, I havetold you in details what constitutes a great mystery. On what else shallI discourse unto you? Tell me your doubts.’
“Baladeva said, ‘Listen now to another great mystery that is fraught withhappiness to men. Ignorant persons, unacquainted with it, meet with muchdistress at the hands of other creatures. That man who, rising at earlydawn, touches a cow, ghee, and curds, as also mustard seeds and thelarger variety thereof called Priyangu, becomes cleansed of all sins. Asregards Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, they always avoid allcreatures both before and behind, as also all that is impure whileperforming Sraddhas.
“The deities said, ‘If a person, taking a vessel of copper, filling itwith water, and facing the east, resolves upon a fast or the observanceof a particular vow, the deities become gratified with him and all hiswishes become crowned with success. By observing fasts, or vows in anyother way, men of little understandings gain nothing. In utteringthe resolution about the observance of fasts and in making offerings tothe deities, the use of a vessel of copper is preferable. In presentingthe offerings to the deities, in (giving and accepting) alms, inpresenting the ingredients of the Arghya and in offering oblations ofwater mixed with sesame seeds to the Pitris, a vessel of copper should beused. By doing these acts in any other way, one acquires little merit.Even these mysteries have been laid down relating to how the deities aregratified.’
“Dharma said, ‘The offerings made in all rites in honour of the deitiesand in those in honour of the Pitris should never be given away to aBrahmana that has accepted service under the king, or that rings the bellor attends to subsidiary duties in acts of worship or at Sraddhas, orthat keeps kine, or that is engaged in trade, or that follows some art asa profession, or that is an actor, or that quarrels with friends or thatis destitute of Vedic studies, or that marries a Sudra woman. Theperformer of the Sraddha who gives away such offerings unto such aBrahmana falls away from prosperity and multiplies not his race. Hefails, again, to gratify his Pitris by doing such an act. From the houseof that person whence a guest returns unsatisfied, the Pitris, thedeities, and the sacred fires, all return disappointed in consequence ofsuch treatment of the guest. That man who does not discharge the dutiesof hospitality towards the guest arrived at his abode, comes to beregarded as equally sinful with those that are slayers of women or ofkine, that are ungrateful towards benefactors, that are slayers ofBrahmanas, or that are violators of the beds of their preceptors.’
“Agni said, ‘Listen ye with concentrated attention. I shall recite thedemerits of that man of wicked understanding who lifts up his feet forstriking therewith a cow or a highly blessed Brahmana or a blazing fire.The infamy of such a man spreads throughout the world and touches theconfines of heaven itself. His Pitris become filled with fear. Thedeities also become highly dissatisfied on his account. Endued with greatenergy, Fire refuses to accept the libations poured by him. For a hundredlives he has to rot in hell. He is never rescued at any time. One should,therefore, never touch a cow with one’s feet, or a Brahmana of highenergy, or a blazing fire, if one is endued with faith and desires one’sown good. These are the demerits declared by me of one who lifts up one’sfeet towards these three.’
“Viswamitra said, ‘Listen to a high mystery that is unknown to thegenerality of men and that is connected with religion. He who offers thePitris rice boiled in sugared milk, sitting with face directed to thesouth at noontide in the shade caused by an elephant’s body, in the monthof Bhadrapada, under the constellation Magha, acquires great merits.Listen to what those merits are. The man who makes such an offering tothe Pitris under such circumstances, is regarded as performing a greatSraddha each year for thirteen years in succession.'
“The kine said, ‘That man becomes cleansed of all his sins who adores acow with these Mantras, viz., ‘O Vahula, O Samanga, O thou that artfearless everywhere, O thou that art forgiving and full ofauspiciousness, O friend, O source of all plenty, in the region ofBrahman, in days of yore, thou wert present with thy calf in thesacrifice of Indra, the wielder of the thunderbolt. Thou tookest thystation in the firmament and in the path of Agni. The deities with Naradaamong them adored thee on that occasion by calling thee Sarvamsaha. Suchman attains to the region of Purandara. He acquires, besides, the meritsthat attach to kine, and the splendour of Chandramas also. Such a manbecomes freed from every sin, every fear, every grief. At the end, heobtains residence in the happy region of the Thousand-eyed Indra!’
“Bhishma continued, ‘After this, the highly blessed and celebrated sevenRishis, with Vasishtha at their head, rose and circumambulating theLotus-born Brahman, stood around him with hands joined in reverence.Vasishtha, that foremost of all persons conversant with Brahma, becametheir spokesman and asked this question that is beneficial to everycreature, but especially so to Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, ‘By doing whatacts may men of righteous conduct who are, however, destitute of the goodof this world, succeed in acquiring merits attaching to sacrifices?’Hearing this question of theirs, the Grandsire Brahman began to say whatfollows.’
“Brahman said, ‘Excellent is this question, ye highly blessed ones! It isat once auspicious and high and fraught with a mystery. This questionthat ye have put is subtil and is fraught with high benefit to mankind.Ye Rishis possessed of wealth of penances, I shall recite everything toyou in detail. Do ye listen with attention to what I say as to how menacquire the merits attaching to sacrifices (even when they are unable toperform them through poverty.) In the lighted fortnight of the month ofPausha, when the constellation Rohini is in conjunction, if one,purifying oneself by a bath, lies under the cope of heaven, clad in asingle piece of raiment, with faith and concentrated attention, anddrinks the rays of the moon, one acquires the merits that attach to theperformance of great sacrifices. Ye foremost of regenerate persons, thisis a high mystery that I declare unto you in reply to your questions, yethat are possessed of insight into the subtil truths of all topics ofenquiry.'”