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Chapter 62

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘People accept with affection the declarations of theSrutis which say, ‘This is to be given.’ ‘This other thing is to begiven!’ As regards kings, again, they make gifts of various things untovarious men. What, however, O grandsire, is the best or foremost of allgifts.’

“Bhishma said, ‘Of all kinds of gifts, the gift of earth has been said tobe the first (in point of merit). Earth is immovable and indestructible.It is capable of yielding unto him who owns it all the best things uponwhich his heart may be set. It yields robes and vestments, jewels andgems, animals, paddy and barley. Amongst all creatures, the giver ofearth grows in prosperity for ever and ever. As long as the earth lasts,so long does the giver thereof grow in prosperity. There is no gift thatis higher, O Yudhishthira, than the gift of earth. It hath been heard byus that all men have given a little quantity of earth. All men have madegifts of earth, hence all men enjoy a little of earth. Whether in this orin the next world all creatures live under conditions dependent upontheir own acts. Earth is Prosperity’s self. She is a mighty goddess. Shemakes him her lord (in next life) who makes gifts of her in this life toother people. That person, O best of kings, who gives away earth, whichis indestructible, as Dakshina, becomes born in next life as a man andbecomes also a lord of earth. The measure of one’s enjoyment in this lifeis commensurate with the measure of one’s gifts in a previous life. Eventhis is the conclusion to which the scriptures point. For a Kshatriyashould either give away the earth in gift or cast off his life in battle.Even this constitutes the highest source of prosperity with regard toKshatriyas. It has been heard by us that earth, when given away, cleansesand sanctifies the giver. The man that is of sinful behaviour, that isguilty of even the slaughter of a Brahamana and of falsehood, is cleansedby a gift of earth. Indeed, such a gift rescues even such a sinner fromall his sins. The righteous accept gifts of earth only and no other thingfrom kings that are sinful. Like one’s mother, earth, when given away,cleanses the giver and the taker. This is an eternal and secret name ofearth, viz., Priyadatta.[328] Given away or accepted in gift, the namethat is dear to her is Priyadatta. The gift of earth is desirable. Thatking who makes a gift of earth unto a learned Brahmana, obtains from thatgift a kingdom. Upon re-birth in this world, such a man without doubtattains to a position that is equal to that of a king. Hence a king assoon as he gets earth, should make gifts of earth unto the Brahmanas.None but a lord of earth; is competent to make gifts of earth. Nor shouldone that is not a deserving person accept a gift of earth. They whodesire earth should, without doubt, conduct themselves in this way (i.e.,make gifts of earth). That person who takes away earth belonging to arighteous person never gets any earth. By making gifts of earth unto therighteous, one gets good earth. Of virtuous soul, such a giver acquiresgreat fame both here and hereafter. That righteous king respecting whomthe Brahmanas say, ‘We live on earth given to us by him,’ is such thathis very enemies cannot utter the least reproach respecting hiskingdom.[329] Whatever sins a man commits from want of the means ofsupport, are all washed off by gift of only so much earth as is coveredby a cow-hide. Those kings that are mean in their acts or are of fiercedeeds, should be taught that gift of earth is exceedingly cleansing andis at the same time the highest gift (in respect of merit). The ancientsthought that there was always very little difference between the man whoperforms a Horse-sacrifice and him that makes a gift of earth unto onethat is righteous. The learned doubt the acquisition of merit by doingall other acts of righteousness. The only act with respect to which theydo not entertain doubt is the gift of earth which, indeed, is theforemost of all gifts. The man of wisdom who makes gifts of earth, givesaway all these, viz., gold, silver, cloth, gems and pearls and preciousstones. Penances, sacrifice, Vedic lore, good behaviour, absence ofcupidity, firmness in truth, worship of seniors, preceptors, and thedeities–all these dwell in him who makes a gift of earth. They whoascend to the region of Brahman by leaving off their lives in battle,after having fought without any regard for themselves to secure thebenefit to their masters–even they are unable to transcend the merit ofthose that make gilts of earth. As the mother always nourishes her ownchild with milk from her breast, even so doth the earth gratify with allthe tastes the person that makes a gift of earth. Mrityu, Vaikinkara,Danda, Yama, Fire who is possessed of great fierceness, and all heinousand terrible sins are incapable of touching the person that makes a giftof earth. That man of tranquil soul who makes a gift of earth gratifies(by that act) the Pitris dwelling in their own region and the deitiesalso hailing from the region that is theirs. The man who makes a gift ofearth unto one that is emaciated and cheerless and destitute of the meansof life and languishing with weakness, and who thereby supplies one withthe means of subsistence, becomes entitled to the honour and merit ofperforming a sacrifice. Even as an affectionate cow runs towards hercalf, with full udders dropping milk, the highly-blessed earth after thesame manner, runs towards the person who makes a gift of earth. That manwho makes unto a Brahmana a gift of earth which has been tilled, or sownwith seeds or which contains standing crops, or a mansion well-equippedwith every necessary, succeeds in becoming (in next life) theaccomplisher of the wishes of everybody. The man who causes a Brahmanapossessed of the means of life, owning a domestic fire and of pure vowsand practices, to accept a gift of earth, never falls into any danger ordistress. As the moon waxes day by day, even so the merit of a gift ofearth becomes enhanced every time such earth produces crops. Thoseconversant with ancient history sing this verse in connection with thegift of earth. Hearing that verse Jamadagni’s son (Rama) gave away thewhole earth unto Kasyapa. The verse to which I refer is this, ‘Receive mein gift. Give me away. By giving me away, thou (O giver) shall obtain meagain!’ That which is given away in this life is re-acquired in thenext.[330] That Brahmana who recites this high declaration of the Vedasat the time of a Sraddha attains to the highest reward. A gift of earthis a high expiation for the sin of those puissant men who betakethemselves to Atharvan rites for doing injuries to others. Indeed, bymaking a gift of earth one rescues ten generations of one’s paternal andmaternal race. That person who is even conversant with this Vedicdeclaration respecting the merits of a gift of earth, succeeds inrescuing ten generations of both his paternal and maternal families. Theearth is the original source of all creatures (for it is from earth thatall creatures derive their sustenance). It has been said that the deityof fire is the presiding genius of the earth. After the coronationceremony has been performed of a king, this Vedic declaration should bere-cited to him, so that he may make gifts of earth and may never takeaway earth from a righteous person. Without doubt, the entire wealthowned by the king belongs to the Brahmanas. A king well-conversant withthe science of duty and morality is the first requisite of the kingdom’sprosperity. Those people whose king is unrighteous and atheistic inconduct and belief can never be happy. Such people can never sleep orwake in peace. In consequence of his acts of wickedness his subjectsbecome always filled with anxiety. Protection of what the subjectsalready have and new acquisitions according to lawful means are incidentsthat are not noticeable in the kingdom of such a ruler. Those people,again, who have a wise and righteous king, sleep happily and wake up inhappiness. Through the blessed and righteous acts of such a king, hissubjects become freed from anxiety. The subjects, restrained from wickedacts, grow in prosperity through their own conduct. Capable of retainingwhat they have, they go on making new acquisitions. That king who makesgifts of earth is regarded as well-born. He is regarded as a man. He is afriend. He is righteous in his acts. He is a giver. He is regarded aspossessing prowess. Those men who make gifts of ample and fertile earthunto Brahmanas conversant with the Vedas, always shine in the world, inconsequence of their energy, like so many suns. As seeds scattered on thesoil grow and return a goodly crop, even so all one’s wishes becomecrowned with fruition in consequence of one’s making gifts of earth.Aditya and Varuna and Vishnu and Brahman and Soma and Hutasana, and theillustrious and trident-bearing Mahadeva, all applaud the man that makesa gift of earth. Living creatures spring into life from the earth and itis into the earth that they become merged when they disappear. Livingcreatures which are distributed into four classes (i.e., viviparous,oviparous, filthborn, and vegetables) have earth for their constituentessence. The earth is both the mother and father of the universe ofcreatures, O monarch. There is no element, O ruler of men, that cancompare with earth. In this connection is cited the old narrative of adiscourse between the celestial preceptor Vrihaspati and Indra the rulerof Heaven, O Yudhishthira. Having adored Vishnu in a hundred sacrificeseach of which was distinguished by plentiful gifts as Dakshina, Maghavatput this question to Vrihaspati, that foremost of all eloquent persons.’

“Maghavat said, ‘O illustrious one, by what gift does one succeed incoming to Heaven and attaining to beatitude? O foremost of speakers, dothou tell me of that gift which is productive of high and inexhaustiblemerit.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Thus addressed by the chief of the celestials thepreceptor of the deities, viz., Vrihaspati of great energy, said thesewords in reply unto him of a hundred sacrifices. Endued as he is with themerits that attach to the gift of earth, the region of felicity reservedfor the person who makes gift of such earth as is auspicious and richwith every taste, never become exhausted.[331] That king, O Sakra, whodesires to have prosperity and who wishes to win happiness for himself,should always make gifts of earth, with due rites, unto deservingpersons. If after committing numerous sins a person makes gifts of earthunto members of the regenerate class, he casts off all those sins like asnake casting off its slough. The person that makes a gift of earth issaid to make gifts of everything, that is, of seas and rivers andmountains and forests. By making a gift of earth, the person is said togive away lakes and tanks and wells and streams. In consequence of themoisture of earth, one is said to give away articles of diverse tastes bymaking a gift of earth. The man who makes a gift of earth is regarded asgiving away herbs and plants possessed of high and efficacious virtues,trees adorned with flowers and fruit, delightful woods, and hillocks. Themerit that a person acquires by making a gift of earth is incapable ofbeing acquired by the performance of even such great sacrifices as theAgnishtoma and others with plentiful gifts in the shape of Dakshina. Thegiver of earth, it has been already said, rescues ten generations of bothhis paternal and maternal races. Similarly, by taking away earth that wasgiven away, one hurls oneself into hell and casts ten generations of bothone’s paternal and maternal lines into the same place of misery. That manwho having promised to make a gift of earth does not actually make it, orwho having made a gift takes it back, has to pass a long time, in greatmisery in consequence of being tied with the noose of Varuna at thecommand of Death. Those men have never to go to Yama who honour andworship those foremost of Brahmanas that pour libations every day ontheir domestic fire, that are always engaged in the performance ofsacrifices, that have scanty means of livelihood, and that receive withhospitality every guest seeking shelter in their abodes The king, OPurandara, should free himself from the debt he owes to the Brahmanas andprotect the helpless and the weak belonging to the other orders. The kingshould never resume, O chief of the deities, earth that has been givenaway by another unto a Brahmana, O ruler of the celestials, that isdestitute of the means of life.[332] The tears that would fall from theeyes of such cheerless and destitute Brahmanas in consequence of theirlands being taken back are capable of destroying the ancestors anddescendants to the third generation of the resumer. That man who succeedsby his endeavours in re-establishing a king driven away from his kingdom,obtains residence in heaven and is much honoured by the denizens thereof.That king who succeeds in making gifts of earth with such crops standingthereon as sugar-cane or barley or wheat, or with kine and horses andother draft cattle,–earth that has been won with the might of thegiver’s arms,–that has mineral wealth in its bowels and that is coveredwith every kind of wealth of the surface, wins inexhaustible regions offelicity in the next world, and such a king it is that is said to performthe earth-sacrifice. That king who makes a gift of earth becomes washedof every sin and is, therefore, pure and approved of the righteous. Inthis world he is highly honoured and applauded by all righteous men. Themerit that attaches to a gift of earth increases every time the earthgiven away bears crops for the benefit of the owner, even as a drop ofoil, falling upon water, is seen to extend on every side, and cover thewatery surface. Those heroic kings and ornaments of assemblies who castoff their lives in battle with faces towards the foe, attain, O Sakra, tothe region of Brahman. Beautiful damsels skilled in music and dancing andadorned with garlands of celestial flowers, approach, O chief of thedeities, the giver of earth as he comes to heaven departing from theearth. That king who makes gifts of earth with due rites unto persons ofthe regenerate order, sports in bliss in the celestial regions, adornedall the while by the deities and Gandharvas. A century of Apsaras,adorned with celestial garlands, approach, O chief of the deities, thegiver of earth as he ascends to the region of Brahman. Flowers ofexcellent perfumes, an excellent conch and excellent seat, an umbrellaand excellent steeds with excellent vehicles, are always ready for theperson how makes gifts of earth. By making gifts of earth a king canalways command flowers of excellent perfumes and heaps of gold. Possessedof all kinds of wealth the commands of such a king can never be disobeyedanywhere, and cries of victory hail him wheresoever he may approach. Therewards that attach to gifts of earth consist of residence in heaven, OPurandara, and gold, and flowers, and plants and herbs of medicinalvirtue, and Kusa and mineral wealth and verdant grass. A person by makinga gift of earth acquires in his next life nectar yielding earth. There isno gift that is equal to a gift of earth. There is no senior worthy ofgreater respect than the mother. There is no duty higher than truth.There is no wealth more precious than that which is given away.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Hearing these words from the son of Angiras, Vasavamade a gift unto him of the whole earth with all her jewels and gems andall her wealth of diverse kinds. If these verses declaring the meritattaching to gifts of earth be recited on the occasion of a Sraddha,neither Rakshasas nor Asuras can succeed in appropriating any share ofthe offerings made in it. Without doubt, the offerings one makes unto thePitris at such a Sraddha become inexhaustible. Hence, on occasions ofSraddhas, the man of learning should recite these verses on the subjectof the merits that attach to gifts of earth, in the presence and hearingof the invited Brahmanas when engaged in eating. I have thus, O chief ofthe Bharatas, discoursed unto thee of that gift which is the foremost ofall gifts. What else dost thou wish to hear?'”

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