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Chapter 143

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Uma said, ‘O holy one, O thou that didst tear off the eyes of Bhaga andthe teeth of Pushan, O destroyer of the sacrifice of Daksha, O three-eyeddeity, I have a great doubt. In days of yore, the Self-born One createdthe four orders. Through the evil consequence of what acts cloth a Vaisyabecome a Sudra? Through what acts doth a Kshatriya become a Vaisya and aregenerate person (Brahmana) becomes a Kshatriya? By what means may suchdegradation of castes be prevented? Through what acts does a Brahmanatake birth in his next life, in the Sudra order? Through what acts, Opuissant deity, does a Kshatriya also descend to the status of Sudra? Osinless one, O lord of all created beings, do thou, O illustrious one,dispel this doubt of mine. How, again, can the three other ordersnaturally succeed in attaining to the status of Brahmanhood?’

“The illustrious one said, ‘The status of a Brahmana, O goddess, isexceedingly difficult to attain. O auspicious lady, one becomes aBrahmana through original creation or birth. After the same manner theKshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra, all become so through originalcreation. Even this is my opinion[569]. He, however, that is born aBrahmana falls away from his status through his own evil acts. Hence, theBrahmana, after having attained to the status of the first order, shouldalways protect it (by his acts). If one, who is a Kshatriya or Vaisya,lives in the practice of those duties that are assigned to the Brahmana,after the manner of a Brahmana he becomes (in his next life) a Brahmana.That Brahmana who casts off the duties of his order for following thoseassigned for the Kshatriya, is regarded as one that has fallen away fromthe status of a Brahmana and that has become a Kshatriya. That Brahmanaof little understanding, who, impelled by cupidity and folly, follows thepractices assigned to Vaisyas forgetful of his status as a Brahmana thatis exceedingly difficult to attain, comes to be regarded as one that hasbecome a Vaisya. Similarly, one that is a Vaisya by birth may, byfollowing the practices of a Sudra, become a Sudra. Indeed, a Brahmana,falling away from the duties of his own order, may descend to the statusof even a Sudra, Such a Brahmana, falling away from the order of hisbirth and turned out of it, without attaining to the region of Brahmana(which is his goal if he duly observes his own duties), sinks into Helland in his next birth becomes born as a Sudra. A highly blessed Kshatriyaor a Vaisya, that abandons those practices of his that are consistentwith the duties laid down for his order, and follows the practices laiddown for the Sudra, falls away from his own order and becomes a person ofmixed caste. It is in this way that a Brahmana. or a Kshatriya, or aVaisya, sinks into the status of a Sudra. That man who has attained toclearness of vision through practice of the duties of his own order, whois endued with knowledge and science, who is pure (in body and mind), whois conversant with every duty and devoted to the practice of all hisduties, is sure to enjoy the rewards of righteousness. I shall now reciteto thee, O goddess, a saying uttered by Brahma (the Self-born) on thissubject. Those that are righteous and desirous of acquiring merit alwayspursue with firmness the culture of the soul. The food that comes fromcruel and fierce persons is censurable. So also is the food that has beencooked for serving a large number of persons. The same is said of thefood that is cooked in view of the first Sraddha of a deceased person. Soalso is the food that is stained in consequence of the usual faults andthe food that is supplied by a Sudra. These should never be taken by aBrahmana at any time[570]. The food of a Sudra, O goddess, is alwaysdisapproved of by the high-souled deities. Even this, I think, is theauthority enunciated by the Grandsire with his own mouth. If a Brahmana,who has set up the sacred fire and who performs sacrifices, were to diewith any portion of a Sudra’s food remaining undigested in his stomach,he is sure to take birth in his next life as a Sudra. In consequence ofthose remains of a Sudra’s food in his stomach, he falls away from thestatus of a Brahmana. Such a Brahmana becomes invested with the status ofa Sudra. There is no doubt in this. This Brahmana in his next lifebecomes invested with the status of that order upon whose food hesubsists through life or with the undigested portion of whose food in hisstomach he breathes his last.[571] That man who, having attained to theauspicious status of a Brahmana which is so difficult to acquire,disregards it and eats interdicted food, falls away from his high status.That Brahmana who drinks alcohol, who becomes guilty of Brahmanicide ormean in his behaviour, or a thief, or who breaks his vows, or becomesimpure, or unmindful of his Vedic studies, or sinful, or characterised bycupidity, or guilty of cunning or cheating, or who does not observe vows,or who weds a Sudra woman, or who derives his subsistence by pandering tothe lusts of other people or who sells the Soma plant, or who serves aperson of an order below his, falls away from his status ofBrahmanahood.[572] That Brahmana who violates the bed of his preceptor,or who cherishes malice towards him, or who takes pleasure in speakingill of him, falls away from the status of Brahmanahood even if he beconversant with Brahman. By these good acts, again, O goddess, whenperformed, a Sudra becomes a Brahmana, and a Vaisya becomes a Kshatriya.The Sudra should perform all the duties laid down for him, properly andaccording to the ordinance. He should always wait, with obedience andhumility, upon person of the three other orders and serve them with care.Always adhering to the path of righteousness, the Sudra should cheerfullydo all this. He should honour the deities and persons of the regenerateorders. He should observe the vow of hospitality to all persons. Withsenses kept under subjection and becoming abstemious in food, he shouldnever approach his wife except in her season. He should ever search afterpersons that are holy and pure. As regards food, he should eat that whichremains after the needs of all persons have been satisfied. If, indeed,the Sudra desires to be a Vaisya (in his next life), he should alsoabstain from meat of animals not slain in sacrifices. If a Vaisya wishesto be a Brahmana (in his next life), he should observe even these duties.He should be truthful in speech, and free from pride or arrogance. Heshould rise superior to all pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold,joy and sorrow, etc.) He should be observant of the duties of peace andtranquillity. He should adore the deities in sacrifices, attend withdevotion to the study and recitation of the Vedas, and become pure inbody and mind. He should keep his senses under subjection, honour theBrahmanas, and seek the welfare of all the orders. Leading the domesticmode of life and eating only twice a day at the prescribed hours heshould gratify his hunger with only such food as remains after the needshave been satisfied of all the members of his family with dependants andguests. He should be abstemious in food, and act without being impelledby the desire of reward. He should be free from egotism. He should adorethe deities in the Agnihotra and pour libations according to theordinance. Observing the duties of hospitality towards all persons, heshould, as already said, eat the food that remains after serving allothers for whom it has been cooked. He should, according to the ordinancelaid down, worship the three fires. Such a Vaisya of pure conduct takesbirth in his next life in a high Kshatriya family.[573] If a Vaisya,after having taken birth as a Kshatriya, goes through the usualpurificatory rites, becomes invested with the sacred thread, and betakeshimself to the observance of vows, he becomes, in his next life, anhonoured Brahmana. Indeed, after his birth as a Kshatriya, he should makepresents, adore the deities in great sacrifices with plentiful Dakshinas,study the Vedas, and desirous of attaining to Heaven should worship thethree fires. He should interfere for dispelling the sorrows of thedistressed, and should always righteously cherish and protect thosesubjects that own his sway. He should be truthful, and do all acts thathave truth in them, and seek happiness in conduct like this. He shouldaward punishments that are righteous, without laying aside the rod ofchastisement for good. He should induce men to do righteous deeds. Guidedby considerations of policy (in the matter of swaying his people), heshould take a sixth of the produce of the fields.[574] He should neverindulge in sexual pleasure, but live cheerfully and in independence,well-conversant with the science of Wealth or Profit. Of righteous soul,he should seek his wedded spouse only in her season. He should alwaysobserve fasts, keep his soul under control, devote himself to the studyof the Vedas, and be pure in body and mind. He should sleep on blades ofKusa grass spread out in his fire, chamber. He should pursue theaggregate of Three (viz., Righteousness, Wealth, and Pleasure), and bealways cheerful. Unto Sudras desirous of food, he should always answerthat it is ready. He should never desire any thing from motives of gainor pleasure. He should worship the Pitris and gods and guests. In his ownhouse he should live the life of a mendicant. He should duly adore thedeities in his Agnihotra, morning, noon, and evening every day, bypouring libations agreeably to the ordinance. With his face turnedtowards the foe, he should cast off his life-breath in battle fought forthe benefit of kine and Brahmanas. Or he may enter the triple firessanctified with Mantras and cast off his body. By pursuing this line ofconduct he takes birth in his next life as a Brahmana. Endued withknowledge and science, purified from all dross, and fully conversant withthe Vedas, a pious Kshatriya, by his own acts, becomes a Brahmana. It iswith the aid of these acts, O goddess, that a person who has sprung froma degraded order, viz., a Sudra, may become a Brahmana refined of allstains and possessed of Vedic lore, One that is a Brahmana, when hebecomes wicked in conduct and observes no distinction in respect of food,falls away from the status of Brahmanahood and becomes a Sudra. Even aSudra, O goddess, that has purified his soul by pure deeds and that hassubjugated all his senses, deserves to be waited upon and served withreverence as a Brahmana. This has been said by the Self-born Brahmanahimself. When a pious nature and pious deeds are noticeable in even aSudra, he should, according to my opinion, be held superior to a personof the three regenerate classes. Neither birth, nor the purificatoryrites, nor learning, nor offspring, can be regarded as grounds forconferring upon one the regenerate status. Verily, conduct is the onlyground. All Brahmanas in this world are Brahmanas in consequence ofconduct. A Sudra, if he is established on good conduct, is regarded aspossessed of the status of a Brahmana. The status of Brahma, O auspiciouslady, is equal wherever it exists. Even this is my opinion. He, indeed,is a Brahmana in whom the status of Brahma exists,–that condition whichis bereft of attributes and which has no stain attached to it. Theboon-giving Brahma, while he created all creatures, himself said that thedistribution of human beings into the four orders dependent on birth isonly for purposes of classification. The Brahmana is a great field inthis world,–a field equipped with feet for it moves from place to place.He who plants seeds in that field, O beautiful lady, reaps the crop inthe next world. That Brahmana who wishes to achieve his own good shouldalways live upon the remains of the food that may be there in his houseafter gratifying the needs of all others. He should always adhere to thepath of righteousness. Indeed, he should tread along the path thatbelongs to Brahma. He should live engaged in the study of the Samhitasand remaining at home he should discharge all the duties of ahouseholder. He should always be devoted to the study of the Vedas, buthe should never derive the means of subsistence from such study. ThatBrahmana who always conducts himself thus, adhering to the path ofrighteousness, worshipping his sacred fire, and engaged in the study ofthe Vedas, comes to be regarded as Brahma. The status of a Brahmana oncegained, it should always be protected with care, O thou of sweet smiles,by avoiding the stain of contact with persons born in inferior orders,and by abstaining from the acceptance of gifts. I have thus told thee amystery, viz., the manner in which a Sudra may become a Brahmana, or thatby which a Brahmana falls away from his own pure status and becomes aSudra.”

Chapter 142
Chapter 144

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