“Yudhishthira said, ‘Whom do the eternal Brahmanas strictly observingreligious rites call a proper object of gifts? Is a Brahmana that bearsthe symbols of the order of life he follows to be regarded as such or onewho does not bear such indications is to be so regarded?'
“Bhishma said, ‘O monarch, it has been said that gifts should be madeunto a Brahmana that adheres to the duties of his own order, whether, hebears the indications of a Brahmachari or not, for both are faultless,viz., he that bears such indications and he that is divested of them.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘What fault does an uncleansed person incur, if hemakes gifts of sacrificial butter or food with great devotion untopersons of the regenerate order?’
“Bhishma said, ‘Even one that is most destitute of self-restraintbecomes, without doubt, cleansed by devotion. Such a man, O thou of greatsplendour, becomes cleansed in respect of every act (and not withreference to gift alone).’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘It has been said that a Brahmana that is sought tobe employed in an act having reference to the deities, should never beexamined. The learned, however, say that with respect to such acts ashave reference to the Pitris, the Brahmana that is sought to be employed,should be examined (in the matter of both his conduct and competence).’
“Bhishma said, ‘As regards acts that have reference to the deities, thesefructify not in consequence of the Brahmana that is employed in doing therites but through the grace of the deities themselves. Without doubt,those persons that perform sacrifice obtain the merit attached to thoseacts, through the grace of the deities. The Brahmanas, O chief ofthe Bharatas, are always devoted of Brahman. The Rishi Markandeya, one ofthe greatest Rishis endued with intelligence in all the worlds, said thisin days of yore.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘Why, O grandsire, are there five viz., he that is astranger, he that is endued with learning (connected with the duties ofhis order), he that is connected by marriage, he that is endued withpenances, and he that adheres to the performance of sacrifices, regardedas proper persons?'
“Bhishma said, ‘The first three, viz., strangers, relatives, andascetics, when possessed of these attributes, viz., purity of birth,devotion to religious acts, learning, compassion, modesty, sincerity, andtruthfulness, are regarded as proper persons. The other two, viz., men oflearning and those devoted to sacrifices, when endued with five of theseattributes, viz., purity of birth, compassion, modesty, sincerity,truthfulness, are also regarded as proper persons. Listen now to me, Oson of Pritha, as I recite to thee the opinions of these four persons ofmighty energy, viz., the goddess Earth, the Rishi Kasyapa, Agni (thedeity of fire) and the ascetic Markandeya.’
“The Earth said, ‘As a clod of mud, when thrown into the great oceanquickly dissolves away, even so every kind of sin disappears in the threehigh attributes viz., officiation at sacrifices, teaching and receivingof gifts.
“Kasyapa said, ‘The Vedas with their six branches, the Sankhyaphilosophy, the Puranas, and high birth, these fail to rescue aregenerate person if he falls away from good conduct.'
“Agni said, ‘That Brahmana who, engaged in study and regarding himselflearned, seeks with the aid of his learning to destroy the reputation ofothers, falls away from righteousness, and comes to be regarded asdissociated from truth. Verily regions of felicity herein-after are neverattained to by such a person of destructive genius.’
“Markandeya said, ‘If a thousand Horse-sacrifices and Truth were weighedin the balance, I do not know whether the former would weigh even half asheavy as the latter.’
“Bhishma continued, ‘Having spoken these words, those four persons, eachof whom is endued with immeasurable energy, viz., the goddess Earth,Kasyapa, Agni, and Bhrigu’s son armed with weapons, quickly went away.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘If Brahmanas observant of the vow of Brahmacharyyain this world solicit the offerings one makes (unto one’s deceasedancestors in Sraddhas) I ask, can the Sraddha be regarded well-performed,if the performer actually makes over those offerings unto such Brahmanas.
“Bhishma said, ‘If, having practised the vow of Brahmacharyya for theprescribed period (of twelve years) and acquired proficiency in the Vedasand their branches, a Brahmana himself solicits the offering made inSraddhas and eats the same, he is regarded to fall away from his vow. TheSraddha, however, is not regarded as stained in any way.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘The wise have said that duty of righteousness hasmany ends and numerous doors. Tell me, O grandsire, what however are thesettled conclusions in this matter.'
Bhishma said, ‘Abstention from injury to others, truthfulness, theabsence of wrath (forgiveness), compassion, self-restraint, and sincerityor candour, O monarch, are the indications of Righteousness. There arepersons who wander over the earth, praising righteousness but withoutpractising what they preach and engaged all the while in sin. O king, Hewho gives unto such persons gold or gems or steeds, has to sink in helland to subsist there for ten years, eating the while the faeces of suchpersons as live upon the flesh of dead kine and buffalos, of men calledPukkasas, of others that live in the outskirts of cities and villages,and of men that publish, under the influence of wrath and folly, the actsand the ommissions of others. Those foolish men who do give unto aBrahmana observant of the vow of Brahmacharyya the offerings made inSraddhas (unto one’s deceased ancestors), have to go, O monarch intoregions of great misery.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell me, O grandsire, what is superior toBrahmacharyya? What is the highest indication of virtue? What is thehighest kind of purity?’
“Bhishma said,–‘I tell thee, O son, that abstention from honey and meatis even superior to Brahmacharyya. Righteousness consists in keepingwithin boundaries or in self-restraint, the best indication ofRighteousness is Renunciation (which is also the highest kind ofpurity).
“Yudhishthira said, ‘In what time should one practise Righteousness? Inwhat time should wealth be sought? In what time should pleasure beenjoyed? O grandsire, do tell me this.’
“Bhishma said,–‘One should earn wealth in the first part of one’s life.Then should one earn Righteousness, and then enjoy pleasure. One shouldnot, however, attach oneself to any of these. One should regard theBrahmanas, worship one’s preceptor and seniors, show compassion for allcreatures, be of mild disposition and agreeable speech. To utterfalse-hood in a court of justice, to behave deceitfully towards the king,to act falsely towards preceptors and seniors, are regarded as equivalent(in heinousness) to Brahmanicide. One should never do an act of violenceto the king’s person. Nor should one ever strike a cow. Both theseoffences are equivalent to the sin of foeticide. One should never abandonone’s (homa) fire. One should also never cast off one’s study of theVedas. One should never assail a Brahmana by words or acts. All theseoffences are equivalent to Brahmanicide.’
“Yudhishthira said,–‘What kind of Brahmanas should be regarded as good?By making presents unto (what kind of) Brahmanas one may acquire greatmerit? What kind of Brahmanas are they whom one should feed? Tell me allthis, O grandsire!’
“Bhishma said, ‘Those Brahmanas that are freed from wrath, that aredevoted to acts of righteousness, that are firm in Truth, and thatpractise self-restraint are regarded as good. By making gifts unto themone acquires great merit. One wins great merit by making presents untosuch Brahmanas as are free from pride, capable of bearing everything,firm in the pursuit of their objects, endued with mastery over theirsenses, devoted to the good of all creatures, and disposed to be friendlytowards all. One earns great merit by making gifts unto such Brahmanas asare free from cupidity, as are pure of heart and conduct, possessed oflearning and modesty, truthful in speech and observant of their ownduties as laid down in the scriptures. The Rishis have declared thatBrahmana to be a deserving object of gifts who studies the four Vedaswith all their branches and is devoted to the six well-known duties (laiddown in the scriptures). One acquires great merit by making gifts untoBrahmanas possessed of such qualifications. The man who makes gifts untoa deserving Brahmana multiplies his merit a thousand-fold. A singlerighteous Brahmana possessed of wisdom and Vedic lore, observant of theduties laid down in the scriptures, distinguished by purity of behaviour,is competent to rescue a whole race. One should make gifts of kineand horses and wealth and food and other kinds of articles unto aBrahmana that is possessed of such qualifications. By making such giftsunto such persons one earns great happiness in the next world. As I havealready told thee even one such Brahmana is fully competent to rescue theentire race to which the giver belongs. What need I say, therefore, Odear son, of the merit of making gifts unto many Brahmanas of suchqualifications? In making gifts, therefore one should always select theobject to whom the gifts are to be made. Hearing of a Brahmana possessedof proper qualifications and regarded with respect by all good people,one should invite him even if he resides at a distance and welcome himwhen he arrives and one should worship him by all means in his power.'”