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Chapter 76

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘I desire, O king, to hear thee discourse in detailupon those high ordinances which regulate gifts of kine, for it is bymaking gifts (of kine) according to those ordinances that one attains toinnumerable regions of eternal felicity.’

“Bhishma said, ‘There is no gift, O lord of Earth, that is higher inpoint of merit than the gift of kine. A cow, lawfully acquired, if givenaway, immediately rescues the whole race of the giver. That ritual whichsprang for the benefit of the righteous, was subsequently declared forthe sake of all creatures. That ritual has come down from primeval time.It existed even before it was declared. Verily, O king, listen to me as Irecite to thee that ritual which affects the gift of kine.[366] In daysof yore when a number of kine (intended to be given away) was brought(before him), king Mandhatri, filled with doubt in respect of the ritualhe should observe (in actually giving them away), properly questionedVrihaspati (the preceptor of the celestials) for an explanation of thatdoubt. Vrihaspati said, ‘Duly observing restraints the while, the giverof kine should, on the previous day, properly honour the Brahmanas andappoint the (actual) time of gift. As regards the kine to be given away,they should be of the class called Rohini. The kine also should beaddressed with the words–Samange and Vahule–Entering the fold where thekine are kept, the following Srutis should be uttered,–The cow is mymother. The bull is my sire. (Give me) heaven and earthly prosperity! Thecow is my refuge!–Entering the fold and acting in this way, the givershould pass the night there.’ He should again utter the formula whenactually giving away the kine.[367] The giver, thus residing with thekine in the fold without doing anything to restrain their freedom, andlying down on the bare earth (without driving away the gnats and otherinsects that would annoy him as they annoy the kine), becomes immediatelycleansed of all his sins in consequence of his reducing himself to astate of perfect similitude with the kine. When the sun rises in themorning, thou shouldst give away the cow, accompanied by her calf and abull. As the reward of such an act, heaven will certainly becomeattainable to thee. The blessings also that are indicated by the Mantraswill also be thine. The Mantras contain these references to kine: Kineare endued with the elements of strength and energetic exertion. Kinehave in them the elements of wisdom. They are the source of thatimmortality which sacrifice achieves. They are the refuge of all energy.They are the steps by which earthly prosperity is won. They constitutethe eternal course of the universe. They lead to the extension of one’srace. Let the kine (I give away) destroy my sins. They have that in themwhich partakes in the nature of both Surya, and Soma. Let them be aids tomy attainment of heaven. Let them betake themselves to me as a mothertakes to her offspring. Let all other blessings also be mine that havenot been named in the Mantras I have uttered! In the alleviation or cureof phthisis and other wasting diseases, and in the matter of achievingfreedom from the body, if a person takes the help of the five products ofthe cow, kine become inclined to confer blessings upon the person likethe river Saraswati–Ye kine, ye are always conveyers of all kinds ofmerit! Gratified with me, do ye appoint a desirable end for me! I havetoday become what ye are! By giving you away, I really give myself away.(After these words have been uttered by giver, the receiver shouldsay),–Ye are no longer owned by him who gives you away! Ye have nowbecome mine. Possessed of the nature of both Sutya and Soma, do ye causeboth the giver and the receiver to blaze forth with all kinds ofprosperity!–(As already indicated), the giver should duly utter thewords occurring in the first part of the above verse. The regeneraterecipient, conversant with the ritual that regulates the gift of kine,should, when receiving the kine in gift, utter (as already) said thewords occurring in the latter half of the above verse. The man who,instead of a cow, gives away the usual value thereof or cloths or gold,comes to be regarded as the giver of a cow The giver, when giving awaythe usual value of a cow (as the substitute of a cow) should utter thewords,–This cow with face upturned is being given away. Do thou accepther!–The man who gives away cloths (as the substitute of a cow) shouldutter the words,–Bhavitavya–(meaning that the gift should be regardedas representing a cow). The man who gives away gold (as the substitute ofa cow) should utter the word,–Vaishnavi (meaning, this gold that I giveaway is of the form and nature of a cow).–Even these are the words thatshould be uttered in the order of the kind of gift mentioned above. Thereward that is reaped by making such vicarious gifts of kine is residencein Heaven for six and thirty thousand years, eight thousand years, andtwenty thousand years respectively. Even these are the merits,respectively, of gifts of things as substitute of kine. While as regardshim who gives an actual cow all the merits that attach to vicarious giftsof kine become his at only the eight step (homewards) of therecipient.[368] He that gives an actual cow becomes endued with righteousbehaviour in this world. He that gives the value of a cow becomes freedfrom every kind of fear. He that gives a cow (as a substitute in way fora real cow) never meet with sorrow. All the three, as also they thatregularly go through their ablutions and other acts at early dawn, and hethat is well-conversant with the Mahabharata, it is well-known, attain tothe regions of Vishnu and Soma. Having given away a cow, the givershould, for three nights, adopt the vaccine vow, and pass one night withkine. Commencing again from that lunation, numbering the eight, which isknown by the name of Kamya, he should pass three nights, supportinghimself entirely on milk and urine and dung of the cow.[369] By givingaway a bull, one attains to the merit that attaches to the divine vow(Brahmacharya). By giving away a couple of kine, one acquires the masteryof the Vedas. That man who performs a sacrifice and makes gifts of kineagreeably to the ritual laid down, attains to many regions of a superiorcharacter. These, however, are not attainable by the person who isunacquainted with that ritual (and who, therefore, gives away kinewithout observing the scriptural declarations). That man who gives awayeven a single cow that yields a copious measure of milk, acquires themerit of giving away all desirable things on Earth collected together.What need, therefore, be said of the gift of many such kine as yieldHavya and Kavya in consequence of their full udders? The merit thatattaches to the gift of superior oxen is greater than that which attachesto the gift of kine. One should not, by imparting a knowledge of thisritual, benefit a person that is not one’s disciple or that is notobservant of vows or that is bereft of faith or that is possessed of acrooked understanding. Verily, this religion is a mystery, unknown tomost people. One that knows it should not speak of it at every place.There are, in the world, many men that are bereft of faith. There areamong men many persons that are mean and that resemble Rakshasas. Thisreligion, if imparted unto them, would lead to evil. It would beproductive of equal evil if imparted to such sinful men as have takenshelter in atheism.–Listen to me, O king, as I recite to thee the namesof those righteous monarchs that have attained to regions of greatfelicity as the reward of those gifts of kine which they made agreeableto the instructions of Vrihaspati, Usinara, Viswagaswa, Nriga,Bhagiratha, the celebrated Mandhatri the son of Yuvanaswa, kingMuchukunda, Bhagiratha, Naishadha. Somaka, Pururavas, Bharata of imperialsway to whose race belongs all the Bharatas, the heroic Rama the son ofDasaratha, and many other celebrated kings of great achievement, and alsoking Dilipa of widely known deeds, all, in consequence of their gifts ofkine agreeable to the ritual, attained to Heaven. King Mandhatri wasalways observant of sacrifices, gifts, penances, kingly duties, and giftsof kine. Therefore, O son of Pritha, do thou also bear in mind thoseinstructions of Vrihaspati which I have recited unto thee (in respect ofgifts of kine). Having obtained the kingdom of the Kurus, do thou, with acheerful heart, make gifts of good kine unto foremost of Brahmanas!’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thus addressed by Bhishma on the subject ofproperly making gifts of kine, king Yudhishthira did all that Bhishmawished. Verily, king Yudhishthira bore in mind the whole of that religionwhich the preceptor of the deities imparted unto the royal Mandhatri.Yudhishthira from that time began to make always gifts of kine and tosupport himself on grains of barley and on cowdung as both his food anddrink. The king also began to sleep from that day on the bare earth, andpossessed of restrained soul and resembling a bull in conduct, he becamethe foremost of monarchs.[370] The Kuru king from that day became veryattentive to kine and always worshipped them, hymning their praises. Fromthat day, the king gave up the practice of yoking kine unto his vehicles.Wheresoever he had occasion to go, he proceeded on cars drawn by horsesof good mettle.'”

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