“Yudhishthira said, ‘Do thou, O foremost one of Kuru’s race, discourseunto me once again of the excellent ordinance regarding gifts, withespecial reference, O thou of great wisdom, to the gift of earth. AKshatriya should make gifts of earth unto a Brahmana of righteous deeds.Such a Brahmana should accept the gift with due rites. None else,however, than a Kshatriya is competent to make gifts of earth. It behovesthee now to tell me what these objects are that persons of all classesare free to bestow if moved by the desire of earning merit. Thou shouldstalso tell me what has been said in the Vedas on this subject.’
“Bhishma said, ‘There are three gifts that go by the same name and thatare productive of equal merits. Indeed, these three confer the fruitionof every wish. The three objects whose gifts are of such a character arekine, earth, and knowledge. That person who tells his disciple wordsof righteous import drawn from the Vedas acquires merit equal to thatwhich is won by making gifts of earth and kine. Similarly are kinepraised (as objects of gifts). There is no object of gift higher thanthey. Kine are supposed to confer merit immediately. They are also, OYudhishthira, such that a gift of them cannot but lead to great merit.Kine are the mothers of all creatures. They bestow every kind ofhappiness. The person that desires his own prosperity should always makegifts of kine. No one should kick at kine or proceed through the midst ofkine. Kine are goddesses and homes of auspiciousness. For this reason,they always deserve worship. Formerly, the deities, while tilling theearth whereon they performed a sacrifice, used the goad for striking thebullocks yoked to the plough. Hence, in tilling earth for such a purpose,one may, without incurring censure or sin, apply the goad to bullocks. Inother acts, however, bullocks should never be struck with the goad or thewhip When kine are grazing or lying down no one should annoy them in anyway. When the cows are thirsty and they do not get water (in consequenceof any one obstructing their access to the pool or tank or river), they,by merely looking at such a person, can destroy him with all hisrelatives and friends. What creatures can be more sacred than kine whenwith the very dung of kine altars whereon Sraddhas are performed inhonour of the Pitris, or those whereon the deities are worshipped, arecleansed and sanctified? That man, who, before eating himself gives everyday, for a year, only a handful of grass unto a cow belonging to another,is regarded as undergoing a vow or observance which bestows the fruitionof every wish. Such a person ac-quires children and fame and wealth andprosperity, and dispels all evils and dreams.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘What should be the indications of those kine thatdeserve to be given away? What are those kine that should be passed overin the matter of gifts? What should be the character of those personsunto whom kine should be given? Who, again, are those unto whom kineshould not be given?
“Bhishma said, ‘A cow should never be given unto one that is notrighteous in behaviour, or one that is sinful, or one that is covetous orone that is untruthful in speech, or one that does not make offeringsunto the Pitris and deities. A person, by making a gift of ten kine untoa Brahmana learned in the Vedas, poor in earthly wealth, possessed ofmany children, and owning a domestic are, attains to numerous regions ofgreat felicity. When a man performs any act that is fraught with meritassisted by what he has got in gift from another, a portion of the meritattaching to that act becomes always his with whose wealth the act hasbeen accomplished. He that procreates a person, he that rescues a person,and he that assigns the means of sustenance to a person are regarded asthe three sires. Services dutifully rendered to the preceptor destroyssin. Pride destroys even great fame. The possession of three childrendestroys the reproach of childlessness, and the possession of ten kinedispels the reproach of poverty. Unto one that is devoted to the Vedanta,that is endued with great learning, that has been filled with wisdom,that has a complete control over his senses, that is observant of therestraints laid down in the scriptures, that has withdrawn himself fromall worldly attachments, unto him that says agreeable words unto allcreatures, unto him that would never do an evil act even when impelled byhunger, unto one that is mild or possessed of a peaceful disposition,unto one that is hospitable to all guests,–verily unto such a Brahmanashould a man, possessed of similar conduct and owning children and wives,assign the means of sustenance. The measure of merit that attaches to thegift of kine unto a deserving person is exactly the measure of the sinthat attaches to the act of robbing a Brahmana of what belongs to him.Under all circumstances should the spoliation of what belongs to aBrahmana be avoided, and his spouses kept at a distance.'”