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Chapter 63

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘When a king becomes desirous of making gifts in thisworld, what, indeed, are those gifts which he should make, O best of theBharatas, unto such Brahmanas as are possessed of superioraccomplishments? What gift is that by which the Brahmanas becomeimmediately gratified? What fruits do they bestow in return? O thou ofmighty arms, tell me what is the high reward attainable through the meritarising from gifts. What gifts, O king, are productive of rewards bothhere and hereafter? I desire to hear all this from thee. Do thoudiscourse to me on all this in detail.’

“Bhishma said, ‘These very questions were on a former occasion put by meto Narada of celestial appearance. Hear me as I recite to thee what thatcelestial sage told me in reply.’

“Narada said, ‘The deities and all the Rishis applaud food. The course ofthe world and the intellectual faculties have all been established onfood. There has never been, nor will be any gift that is equal to thegifts of food. Hence, men always desire particularly to make gifts offood. In this world, food is the cause of energy and strength. Thelife-breaths are established on food. It is food that upholds the wideuniverse, O puissant one. All classes of men, householders and mendicantsand ascetics, exist, depending upon food. The life-breaths depend uponfood. There is no doubt in this. Afflicting (if need be) one’s relatives,one is desirous of one’s own prosperity, should make gifts of food unto ahigh-souled Brahmana or a person of the mendicant order. That man whomakes a gift of food unto an accomplished Brahmana who solicits the same,secures for himself in the world to come wealth of great value. Thehouseholder who is desirous of his own prosperity should receive withreverence a deserving old man that is spent with toil while proceeding onhis way far from home, when such a man honours the householder’s abodewith his presence. That man who, casting off wrath that overleaps everybound and becoming righteous in disposition and freed from malice, makesgifts of food, is sure to attain to happiness, O king, both here andhereafter. The householder should never disregard the man that comes tohis abode, nor should he insult him by sending him away. A gift of foodmade unto even a Chandala or a dog is never lost. That man who makes agift of clean food unto a person on the way who is toil-worn and unknownto the giver, is sure to acquire great merit. The man who gratifies withgifts of food the Pitris, the deities, the Rishis, the Brahmanas, andguests arrived at his abode, acquires merit whose measure is very large.That person who having committed even a heinous sin makes a gift of foodunto one that solicits, or unto a Brahmana, is never stupefied by thatheinous sin. A gift of food made unto a Brahmana becomes inexhaustible.One made to a Sudra becomes productive of great merit. Even this is thedifference between the merits that attach to gifts of food made untoBrahmanas and Sudras. Solicited by it Brahmana, one should not enquireabout his race or conduct or Vedic lore. Asked for food, one should givefood to him that asks. There is no doubt in tits, O king, that he whomakes gifts of food obtains both here and hereafter many trees yieldingfood and every other object of desire. Like tillers expecting auspiciousshowers of rain, the Pitris always expect that their sons and grandsonswould make offerings unto them of food (in Sraddhas). The Brahmana is agreat being. When he comes into one’s anode and solicits, saying, ‘Giveme,’ the owner of the abode, whether influenced or not by the desire ofacquiring merit, is sure to win great merit by listening to thatsolicitation. The Brahmana is the guest of all creatures in the universe.He is entitled to the first portion of every food. That house Increasesin prosperity to which the Brahmanas repair from desire of solicitingalms and from which they return honoured in consequence of their desiresbeing fulfilled. The owner of such a house takes birth in his next lifein a family, O Bharata, that can command all the comforts and luxuries oflife. A man, by making gifts of food in this world, is sure to attain toan excellent place hereafter. He who makes gifts of sweetmeat and allfood that is sweet, attains to a residence in heaven where he is honouredby all the deities and other denizens. Food constitutes the life-breathof men. Everything is established upon food. He who makes gifts of foodobtains many animals (as his wealth), many children, considerable wealth(in other shape), and a command in abundance of all articles of comfortand luxurious enjoyment. The giver of food is said to be the giver oflife. Indeed, he is said to be the giver of everything. Hence, O king,such a man acquires both strength and beauty of form in this world. Iffood be given duly unto a Brahmana arrived at the giver’s house as aguest, the giver attains to great happiness, and is adored by the verydeities. The Brahmana, O Yudhishthira, is a great being. He is also afertile field. Whatever seed is sown on that field produces an abundantcrop of merit. A gift of food is visibly and immediately productive ofthe happiness of both the giver and the receiver. All other gifts producefruits that are unseen. Food is the origin of all creatures. From food,comes happiness and delight. O Bharata, know that religion and wealthboth flow from food. The cure of disease or health also flows from food.In a former Kalpa, the Lord of all creatures said that food is Amrita orthe source of immortality. Food is Earth, food is Heaven, food is theFirmament. Everything is established on food. In the absence of food, thefive elements that constitute the physical organism cease to exist in astate of union. From absence of food the strength of even the strongestman is seen to fail. Invitations and marriages and sacrifices all ceasein the absence of food. The very Vedas disappear when food there is none.Whatever mobile and immobile creatures exist in the universe aredependent on food. Religion and wealth, in the three worlds, are alldependent on food. Hence the wise should make gifts of food. Thestrength, energy, fame and achievements of the man who makes gifts offood, constantly increase in the three worlds, O king. The lord of thelife-breaths, viz., the deity of wind, places above the clouds (the watersucked up by the Sun). The water thus borne to the clouds is caused bySakra to be poured upon the earth, O Bharata. The Sun, by means of hisrays, sucks up the moisture of the earth. The deity of wind causes themoisture to fall down from the Sun.[333] When the water falls down fromthe clouds upon the Earth, the goddess Earth becomes moist, O Bharata.Then do people sow diverse kinds of crops upon whose outturn the universeof creatures depends. It is in the food thus produced that the flesh,fat, bones and vital seed of all beings have their origin. From the vitalseed thus originated, O king, spring diverse kinds of living creatures.Agni and Soma, the two agents living within the body, create and maintainthe vital seed. Thus from food, the Sun and the deity of wind and thevital seed spring and act. All these are said to constitute one elementor quantity, and it is from these that all creatures spring. That man whogives food into one who comes into his house and solicits it, is said, Ochief of the Bharatas, to contribute both life and energy unto livingcreatures.’

‘Bhishma continued, ‘Thus addressed by Narada, O king, I have always madegifts of food. Do thou also, therefore, freed from malice and with acheerful heart, make gifts of food. By making gifts of food, O king, untodeserving Brahmanas with due rites, thou mayst be sure, O puissant one,of attaining to Heaven. Hear me, O monarch, as I tell thee what theregions are that are reserved for those that make gifts of food. Themansions of those high-souled persons shine with resplendence in theregions of Heaven. Bright as the stars in the firmament, and supportedupon many columns, white as the disc of the moon, and adorned with manytinkling bells, and rosy like the newly-risen sun, those palatial abodesare either fixed or movable. Those mansions are filled with hundreds uponhundreds of things and animals that live on land and as many things andanimals living in water. Some of them are endued with the effulgence oflapis lazuli and some are possessed of the resplendence of the sun. Someof them are made of silver and some of gold. Within those mansions aremany trees capable of crowning with fruition every desire of the inmates.Many tanks and roads and halls and well and lakes occur all around.Thousands of conveyances with horses and other animals harnessed theretoand with wheels whose clatter is always loud, may be seen there.Mountains of food and all enjoyable articles and heaps of cloths andornaments are also to be seen there. Numerous rivers that run milk, andhills of rice and other edibles, may also be seen there. Indeed, manypalatial residences looking like white clouds, with many beds of goldensplendour, occur in those regions, All these are obtained by those menthat make gifts of food in this world. Do thou, therefore, become a giverof food. Verily, these are the regions that are reserved for thosehigh-souled and righteous persons that make gifts of food in this world.For these reasons, men should always make gifts of food in this world.'”

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