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Chapter 103

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Tell me, O grandsire, how a kin should behavetowards foe that is mild, towards one that is fierce, and towards onethat has many allies and a large force.’

“Bhishma said, ‘In this connection is cited, O Yudhishthira. the oldnarrative of the discourse between Vrihaspati and Indra. Once on a time,that slayer of hostile heroes, viz., Vasava, the chief of the celestials,joining his palms, approached Vrihaspati, and saluting him, said thesewords.’

“Indra said. ‘How, O regenerate one, should I behave towards my foes? Rowshould I subdue them by means of contrivances, without exterminatingthem? In a collision between two armies, victory may be won by eitherside. In what way should I behave so that this blazing prosperity that Ihave won and that scorches all my enemies may not desert me?’ Thusaddressed, Vrihaspati, skilled in Virtue, Profit, and Pleasure, possessedof a knowledge of kingly duties, and endued with great intelligence,answered Indra in the following words.’

“Vrihaspati said, ‘One should never wish to subdue one’s foes by quarrel.Excited with wrath and bereft of forgiveness, boys only seek quarrel. Onethat desires the destruction of a foe should not put that foe on hisguard. On the other hand, one should never exhibit one’s ire or fear orjoy. He should conceal these within his own bosom. Without trusting one’sfoe in reality, one should behave towards him as if one trusted himcompletely. One should always speak sweet words unto one’s foes and neverdo anything that is disagreeable. One should abstain from fruitless actsof hostility as also from insolence of speech. As a fowler, carefullyuttering cries similar to those of the birds he wishes to seize or kill.captures and brings them under his power, even so should a king, OPurandara, bring his foes under subjection and then slay them if helikes. Having overcome one’s foes, one should not sleep at ease. A foethat is wicked raises his head again like afire carelessly put out makingits appearance again. When victory may be won by either side, a hostilecollision of arms should be avoided. Having lulled a foe into security,one should reduce him into subjection and gain one’s object. Havingconsulted with his ministers and with intelligent persons conversant withpolicy, a foe that is disregarded and neglected, being all alongunsubdued at heart, smites at the proper season, especially when theenemy makes a false step. By employing trusted agents of his own, such afoe would also render the other’s forces inefficient by producingdisunion. Ascertaining the beginning, the middle and the end of hisfoes,[309] a king should in secret cherish feelings of hostility towardsthem. He should corrupt the forces of his foe, ascertaining everything bypositive proof, using the arts of producing disunion, making gifts, andapplying poison. A king should never live in companionship with his foes.A king should wait long and then slay his foes. Indeed, he should wait,expecting the opportunity, so that he might come down upon his foe at atime when the latter would not expect him in the least. A king shouldnever slay a large number of the troops of his foe, although he shouldcertainly do that which would make his victory decisive. The king shouldnever do such an injury to his foe as would rankle in the latter’sheart.[310] Nor should he cause wounds by wordy darts and shafts. If theopportunity comes, he should strike at him, without letting it slip.Such, O chief of the gods, should be the conduct of a king desirous ofslaying his foes towards those that are his foes. If an opportunity, withrespect to the man who waits for it, once passes away, it can never behad again by the person desirous of acting. Acting according to theopinions of the wise, a king should only break the strength of his foe.He should never, when the opportunity is not favourable, seek toaccomplish his objects. Nor should he, when the opportunity is at hand,persecute his foe.[311] Giving up lust and wrath and pride, the kingshould, acting with heedfulness, continually watch for the laches of hisfoes. His own mildness, the severity of his punishments, his inactivityand heedlessness, O chief of the gods, and the deceitful contrivanceswell applied (by his foes), ruin a foolish ruler. That king who canconquer these four faults and counteract the deceitful contrivances ofhis enemies succeeds, without doubt, in smiting them all. When only oneminister (without needing any help) is competent to accomplish a secretobject (of the king), the king should consult with that one minister onlyin respect of such object. Many ministers, if consulted, endeavour tothrow the burden of the task upon one another’s shoulders and even givepublicity to that object which should be kept secret. If consultationwith one be not proper, then only should the king consult with many. Whenfoes are unseen, divine chastisement should be invoked upon them; whenseen, the army, consisting of four kinds of forces, should be moved.[312]The king should first use the arts of producing disunion, as also thoseof conciliation. When the time for each particular means comes, thatparticular means should be applied. At times, the king should evenprostrate himself before a powerful foe. It is again desirable thatacting heedfully himself, he should seek to compass the victor’sdestruction when the latter becomes heedless. By prostrating one’s self,by gift of tribute, by uttering sweet words, one should humble one’s selfbefore a more powerful king. One should (when the occasion for such actscomes) never do anything that may arouse the suspicions of one’s powerfulfoe. The weaker ruler should, under such circumstances, carefully avoidevery act that may awaken suspicion. A victorious king, again, should nottrust his vanquished foes, for they that are vanquished always remainwakeful. There is nothing, O best of duties, that is more difficult ofaccomplishment than the acquisition of prosperity, O ruler of theimmortals, by persons of a restless disposition. The very existence ofpersons of restless disposition is fraught with danger. Kings should,therefore, with close attention, ascertain their friends and foes. If aking becomes mild, he is disregarded. If he becomes fierce, he inspirespeople with dread. Therefore, do not be fierce. Do, not, again, be mild.But be both fierce and mild. As a rapid current ceaselessly cats away thehigh bank and causes large landslips, even so heedlessness and errorcause a kingdom to be ruined. Never attack many foes at the same time. Byapplying the arts of conciliation, or gift, or production of disunion, OPurandara, they should be ground one by one. As regards the remnant,(being few in number,) the victor may behave peacefully towards them. Anintelligent king, even if competent for it, should not begin to crush all(his foes) at once.[313] When a king happens to have a large armyconsisting of sixfold forces[314] and teeming with horse, elephants,cars, foot, and engines, all devoted to him, when he thinks himselfsuperior to his foe in many respects upon a fair comparison, then shouldhe openly smite the foe without hesitation. If the foe be strong, theadoption of a policy of conciliation (towards him) is not worthy ofapprobation. On the other hand, chastisement by secret means is thepolicy that should be adopted. Nor should mildness of behaviour beadopted towards such foes, nor repeated expedition, for loss of crops,poisoning of wells and tanks, and suspicion in respect of the sevenbranches of administration, should be avoided.[315] The king should, onsuch occasions, apply diverse kinds of deception, diverse contrivancesfor setting his foes against one another, and different kinds ofhypocritical behaviour. He should also, through trusted agents, ascertainthe doings of his foes in their cities and provinces. Kings, O slayer ofVala and Vritra, pursuing their foes and entering their towers, seize andappropriate the best things that are obtainable there, and devise propermeasures of policy in their own cities and dominions. Making gifts ofwealth unto them in private, and confiscating their possessions publicly,without, however, injuring them materially, and proclaiming that they areall wicked men that have suffered for their own misdeeds, kings shouldsend their agents to the cities and provinces of their foes. At the sametime, in their own cities, they should, through other persons conversantwith the scriptures, adorned with every accomplishment, acquainted withthe ordinances of the sacred books and possessed of learning causeincantations and foe-killing rites to be performed.’

“Indra said, ‘What are the indications, O best of regenerate ones, of awicked person? Questioned by me, tell me how I am to know who is wicked.’

“Vrihaspati said, A wicked person is he who proclaims the faults ofothers at their back, who is inspired with envy at the accomplishments ofothers, and who remains silent when the merits of other people areproclaimed in his presence, feeling a reluctance to join in the chorus.Mere silence on such occasions is no indication of wickedness. A wickedperson, however, at such times breathe heavily, bites his lips, andshakes his head. Such a person always mixes in society and speaksirrelevantly.[316] Such a man never does what he promises, when the eyeof the person to whom he has given the assurance is not upon him. Whenthe eye of the person assured is on him, the wicked man does not evenallude to the subject. The wicked man eats by himself (and not withothers on the same board), and finds fault with the food placed beforehim, saying, ‘All is not right today as on other days.’ His dispositionshows itself in the circumstances connected with his sitting, lying, andriding. Sorrowing on occasions of sorrow and rejoicing on occasions ofjoy, are the indications of a friend. An opposite behaviour furnishes theindications of an enemy. Keep in thy heart these sayings, O ruler of thegods! The disposition of wicked men can never be concealed. I have nowtold thee, O foremost of deities, what the indications of a wicked personare. Having listened to the truths laid down in the scriptures, followthem duly, O ruler of the celestials!’

“Bhishma continued, ‘Having heard these words of Vrihaspati, Purandara,employed in subduing his foes, acted strictly according to them. Bentupon victory, that slayer of foes, when the opportunity came, obeyedthese instructions and reduced all his enemies to subjection.'”

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