“Yudhishthira said, ‘Amongst all those gifts that are mentioned in thetreatises other than the Vedas, which gift, O chief of Kuru’s race, isthe most distinguished in thy opinion? O puissant one, great is thecuriosity I feel with respect to this matter. Do thou discourse to mealso of that gift which follows the giver into the next world.'
“Bhishma said, ‘An assurance unto all creatures of love and affection andabstention from every kind of injury, acts of kindness and favour done toa person in distress, gifts of articles made unto one that solicits withthirst and agreeable to the solicitor’s wishes, and whatever gifts aremade without the giver’s ever thinking of them as gifts made by him,constitute, O chief of Bharata’s race, the highest and best of gifts.Gift of gold, gift of kine, and gift of earth,–these are regarded assin-cleansing. They rescue the giver from his evil acts. O chief of men,do thou always make such gifts unto those that are righteous. Withoutdoubt, gifts rescue the giver from all his sins. That person who wishesto make his gifts eternal should always give unto persons possessed ofthe requisite qualifications whatever articles are desired by all andwhatever things are the best in his house. The man who makes gifts ofagreeable things and who does to others what is agreeable to others,always succeeds in obtaining things that are agreeable to himself. Such aperson certainly becomes agreeable unto all, both here and hereafter.That man, O Yudhishthira, is a cruel wretch, who, through vanity, doesnot, to the extent of his means, attend to the wishes of one who is poorand helpless, and who solicits assistance. He is verily the foremostof men who shows favour unto even an helpless enemy fallen into distresswhen such enemy presents himself and prays for help. No man is equal tohim (in merit) who satisfies the hunger of a person that is emaciated,possessed of learning, destitute of the means of support, and weakened bymisery. One should always, O son of Kunti, dispel by every means in one’spower, the distress of righteous persons observant of vows and acts, who,though destitute of sons and spouses and plunged into misery, do not yetsolicit others for any kind of assistance. Those persons who do not utterblessings upon the deities and men (in expectation of gifts), who aredeserving of reverence and always contented, and who subsist upon suchalms as they get without solicitation of any kind, are regarded asveritable snakes of virulent poison. Do thou, O Bharata, always protectthyself from them by making gifts unto them. They are competent to makethe foremost of Ritwikas. Thou art to find them out by means of thy spiesand agents. Thou shouldst honour those men by gifts of good housesequipped with every necessary article, with slaves and serving men, withgood robes and vestments, O son of Kuru, and with all articles competentto contribute to one’s pleasure and happiness. Righteous men of righteousdeeds should make such gifts, impelled by the motive that it is theirduty to act in that way and not from desire of reaping any rewardstherefrom. Verily good men should act in this way so that the virtuousmen described above might not, O Yudhishthira, feel any disinclination toaccept those gifts sanctified by devotion and faith. There are personsbathed in learning and bathed in vows. Without depending upon anybodythey obtain their means of subsistence. These Brahmanas of rigid vows aredevoted to Vedic study and penances without proclaiming their practicesto any one. Whatever gifts thus mayst make unto those persons of purebehaviour, of thorough mastery over their senses, and always contentedwith their own wedded spouses in the matter of desire, are sure to winfor thee a merit that will accompany thee into all the worlds into whichthou mayst go. One reaps the same merit by making gifts unto regeneratepersons of restrained souls which one wins by properly pouring libationsunto the sacred fire morning and evening. Even this is the sacrificespread out for thee,–a sacrifice that is sanctified by devotion andfaith and that is endued with Dakshina. It is distinguished above allother sacrifices. Let that sacrifice ceaselessly flow from thee as thougivest away. Performed in view of such men, O Yudhishthira, asacrifice in which the water that is sprinkled for dedicating giftsconstitutes the oblations in honour of the Pitris, and devotion andworship rendered unto such superior men, serves to free one of the debtsone owes to the deities. Those persons that do not yield to wrathand that never desire to take even a blade of grass belonging to others,as also they that are of agreeable speech, deserve to receive from us themost reverent worship. Such persons and others (because free from desire)never pay their regards to the giver. Nor do they strive for obtaininggifts. They should, however, be cherished by givers as they cherish theirown sons. I bend my head unto them. From them also both Heaven and Hellmay become one’s. Ritwiks and Purohitas and preceptors, whenconversant with the Vedas and when behaving mildly towards disciples,become such. Without doubt, Kshatriya energy loses its force upon aBrahmana when it encounters him. Thinking that thou art a king, that thouart possessed of great power, and that thou hast affluence, do not, OYudhishthira, enjoy thy affluence without giving anything unto theBrahmanas. Observing the duties of thy own order, do thou worship theBrahmanas with whatever wealth thou hast, O sinless one, for purposes ofadornment or sustaining thy power. Let the Brahmanas live in whatever waythey like. Thou shouldst always bend thy head unto them with reverence.Let them always rejoice in thee as thy children, living happily andaccording to their wishes. Who else than thou, O best of the Kurus, iscompetent to provide the means of subsistence for such Brahmanas as areendued with eternal contentment as are thy well-wishers, and as aregratified by only a little? As women have one eternal duty, in thisworld, viz., dependence upon and obedient service to their husbands, andas such duty constitutes their only end, even so is the service toBrahmanas Our eternal duty and end. If, at sight of cruelties and othersinful 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 ofall contact with the Brahmanas, especially as we shall then have to dragon our existence without being able to study the Vedas to performsacrifices, to hope for worlds of bliss hereafter, and to achieve greatfeats? 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. TheVaisya 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. TheBrahmana was like a blazing fire. Without being able to touch him orapproach his presence, the Sudra used to serve the Brahmana from adistance. It was only the Kshatriya and the Vaisya who could serve theBrahmana by touching his person or approaching his presence. TheBrahmanas are endued with a mild disposition. They are truthful inbehaviour. They are followers of the true religion. When angry, they arelike snakes of virulent poison. Such being their nature, do thou, OYudhishthira, serve and attend upon them with obedience and reverence.The Brahmanas are superior to even those that are higher than the highand the low. The energy and penances of even those Kshatriyas who blazeforth with energy and might, become powerless and neutralised when theycome in contact with the Brahmanas. My sire himself is not dearer to methan the Brahmanas. My mother is not dearer to me than they. Mygrandsire, O king, is not dearer, my own self is not dearer, my lifeitself is not dearer, O king, to me than the Brahmanas! On earth there isnothing, O Yudhishthira, that is dearer to me than thou. But, O chief ofBharata’s race, the Brahmanas are dearer to me than even thou. I tellthee truly, O son of Pandu! I swear by this truth, by which I hope toacquire all those regions of bliss that have been Santanu’s. I beholdthose sacred regions with Brahma shining conspicuously before them. Ishall 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 havedone in aid and honour of the Brahmanas, O monarch!'”