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Chapter 68

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Do thou discourse to me once again, O grandsire,upon the merits attaching to gifts of sesame and of lamps for lightingdarkness, as also of food and robes.’

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection, O Yudhishthira, is recited thenarrative of the discourse that took place in ancient times between aBrahmana and Yama. In the country lying between the rivers Ganga andYamuna, at the foot of the hills called Yamuna, there was a large towninhabited by Brahmanas. The town was celebrated under the name ofParnasala and was very delightful in appearance, O king. A large numberof learned Brahmanas lived in it. One day, Yama, the ruler of the dead,commanded a messenger of his, who was clad in black, endued withblood-red eyes and hair standing erect, and possessed of feet, eyes, andnose all of which resembled those of a crow, saying, ‘Go thou to the towninhabited by Brahmanas and bring hither the person known by the name ofSarmin and belonging by birth to the race of Agastya. He is intent onmental tranquillity and possessed of learning. He is a preceptor engagedin teaching the Vedas and his practices are well-known. Do not bring meanother person belonging to the same race and living in the sameneighbourhood. This other man is equal unto him I want, in virtues,study, and birth. With respect to children and conduct, this otherresembles the intelligent Sarmin. Do thou bring the individual I have inview. He should be worshipped with respect (instead of being draggedhither with irreverence).’ The messenger having come to the place, didthe very reverse of what he had been bidden to do. Attacking that person,he brought him who had been forbidden by Yama to be brought. Possessed ofgreat energy, Yama rose up at the sight of the Brahmana and worshippedhim duly. The king of the dead then commanded his messenger, saying, ‘Letthis one be taken back, and let the other one be brought to me.’ When thegreat judge of the dead said these words, that Brahmana addressed him andsaid, ‘I have completed my study of the Vedas and am no longer attachedto the world. Whatever period may yet remain of my mortal existence, Iwish to pass, dwelling even here, O thou of unfading glory![346]

“Yama said, ‘I cannot ascertain the exact period, ordained by Time, ofone’s life, and hence, unurged by Time, I cannot allow one to take upone’s residence here. I take note of the acts of righteousness (orotherwise) that one does in the world. Do thou, O learned Brahmana ofgreat splendour return immediately to thy abode. ‘I ell me what also isin thy mind and what I can do for thee, O thou of unfading glory!’

“The Brahmana said, ‘Do thou tell me what those acts are by accomplishingwhich one may earn great merit. O best of all beings, thou art theforemost of authorities (on the subject) even in the three worlds.’

“Yama said, ‘Do thou hear, O regenerate Rishi, the excellent ordinancesregarding gifts. The gift of sesame seeds is a very superior one. Itproduces everlasting merit. O foremost of regenerate ones, one shouldmake gifts of as much sesame as one can. By making gifts of sesame everyday, one is sure to attain the fruition of one’s every wish. The gift ofsesame at Sraddhas is applauded. Verily the gift of sesame is a verysuperior one. Do thou make gifts of sesame unto the Brahmanas accordingto the rites ordained in the scriptures. One should on the day of thefull moon of the month of Vaisakha, make gilts of sesame unto theBrahmanas. They should also be made to eat and to touch sesame on everyoccasion that one can afford. They that are desirous of achieving what isbeneficial to them should, with their whole souls, do this in theirhouses.[347] Without doubt, men should similarly make gifts of water andestablish resting places for the distribution of drinking water.[348] Oneshould cause tanks and lakes and wells to be excavated. Such acts arerare in the world, O best of regenerate persons! Do thou always makegifts of water. This act is fraught with great merit. O best ofregenerate persons, thou shouldst establish resting places along theroads for the distribution of water. After one has eaten, the gift untoone should especially be made of water for drink.’

“Bhishma continued, ‘After Yama had said these words unto him, themessenger who had borne him from his abode conveyed him back to it. TheBrahmana, on his return, obeyed the instructions he had received. Havingthus conveyed him back to his abode the messenger of Yama fetched Sarminwho had really been sought by Yama. Taking Sarmin unto him, he informedhis master. Possessed of great energy, the judge of the dead worshippedthat righteous Brahmana, and having conversed with him a while dismissedhim for being taken back to his abode. Unto him also Yama gave the sameinstructions. Sarmin, too, coming back into the world of men, did allthat Yama had said. Like the gift of water, Yama, from a desire of doinggood to the Pitris, applauds the gift of lamps to light dark places.Hence, the giver of a lamp for lighting a dark place is regarded asbenefiting the Pitris. Hence, O best of the Bharatas, one should alwaysgive lamps for lighting dark spots. The giving of lamps enhances thevisual power of the deities, the Pitris, and one’s own self.[349] It hasbeen said, O king, that the gift of gems is a very superior gift. TheBrahmana, who, having accepted a gift of gems, sells the same forperforming a sacrifice, incurs no fault. The Brahmana, who, havingaccepted a gift of gems makes a gift of them unto Brahmanas. acquiresinexhaustible merit himself and confers inexhaustible merit upon him fromwhom he had originally received them. Conversant with every duty Manuhimself has said that he, who, observant of proper restraints, earnsmakes a gift of gems unto a Brahmana observant of proper restraints earnsinexhaustible merit himself and confers inexhaustible merit upon therecipient. The man who is content with his own wedded wife and who makesa gift of robes, earns an excellent complexion and excellent vestmentsfor himself. I have told thee, O foremost of men, what the merits arethat attach to gifts of kine, of gold, and the sesame agreeably todeserve precepts of the Vedas and the scriptures One should marry andraise offspring upon one’s wedded wives. Of all acquisitions, O son ofKuru’s race, that of male issue is regarded as the foremost.'”

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