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Chapter 120

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Thou hast, O Bharata, discoursed upon the manyduties of king-craft that were observed and laid down in days of old bypersons of ancient times conversant with kingly duties. Thou hast,indeed, spoken in detail of those duties as approved by the wise. Dothou, however, O bull of Bharata’s race, speak of them in such a way thatone may succeed in retaining them in memory.”[353]

“Bhishma said, ‘The protection of all creatures is regarded as thehighest duty of the Kshatriya. Listen now to me, O king, as to how theduty of protection is to be exercised. A king conversant with his dutiesshould assume many forms even as the peacock puts forth plumes of diversehues. Keenness, crookedness, truth, and sincerity, are the qualities thatshould be present in him. With thorough impartiality, he should practisethe qualities of goodness if he is to earn felicity. He must assume thatparticular hue or form which is beneficial in view of the particularobject which he seeks to accomplish.[354] A king who can assume diverseforms succeeds in accomplishing even the most subtle objects. Dumb likethe peacock in autumn, he should conceal his counsel. He should speaklittle, and the little he speaks should be sweet. He should be of goodfeatures and well versed in the scriptures. He should always be heedfulin respect of those gates through which dangers may come and overtakehim, like men taking care of breaks in embankments through which thewaters of large tanks may rush and flood their fields and houses. Heshould seek the refuge of Brahmanas crowned with ascetic success even asmen seek the refuge or loudly rivers generated by the rain-watercollected within mountain lakes. That king who desires to amass wealthshould act like religious hypocrites in the matter of keeping a coronallock.[355] The king should always have the rod of chastisement upliftedin his hands. He should always act heedfully (in the matter of levyinghis taxes) after examining the incomes and expenses of his subjects likemen repairing to a full-grown palmyra for drawing its juice.[356] Heshould act equitably towards his own subjects; cause the crops of hisenemies to be crushed by the tread of his cavalry, march against foeswhen his own wings have become strong; and observe all the sources of hisown weakness. He should proclaim the faults of his foes; crush those thatare their partisans; and collect wealth from outside like a personplucking flowers from the woods. He should destroy those foremost ofmonarchs that swell with might and stand with uplifted heads likemountains, by seeking the shelter of unknown shades[357] and byambuscades and sudden attacks. Like the peacock in the season of rains,he should enter his nightly quarters alone and unseen. Indeed, he shouldenjoy, after the manner of the peacock, within his inner apartments, thecompanionship of his wives. He should not put off his mail. He shouldhimself protect his own self, and avoid the nets spread out for him bythe spies and secret agents of his foes. He should also win over theaffections of the spies of his enemies, but extirpate them whenopportunity occurs. Like the peacocks the king should kill his powerfuland angry foes of crooked policy, and destroy their force and drive themaway from home. The king should also like the peacock do what is good tohim, and glean wisdom from everywhere as they collect insects even fromthe forest. A wise and peacock-like king should thus rule his kingdom andadopt a policy which is beneficial to him. By exercising his ownintelligence, he should settle what he is to do. By consulting withothers he should either abandon or confirm such resolution. Aided by thatintelligence which is sharpened by the scriptures, one can settle hiscourses of action. In this consists the usefulness of the scriptures. Bypractising the arts of conciliation, he should inspire confidence in thehearts of his enemies. He should display his own strength. By judging ofdifferent courses of action in his own mind he should, by exercising hisown intelligence, arrive at conclusions. The king should be well-versedin the arts of conciliatory policy, he should be possessed of wisdom; andshould be able to do what should be done and avoid what should not. Aperson of wisdom and deep intelligence does not stand in need of counselsor instruction. A wise man who is possessed of intelligence likeVrihaspati, if he incurs obloquy, goon regains his disposition likeheated iron dipped in water. A king should accomplish all objects, of hisown or of others, according to the means laid down in the scriptures. Aking conversant with the ways of acquiring wealth should always employ inhis acts such men as are mild indisposition, possessed of wisdom andcourage and great strength. Beholding his servants employed in acts forwhich each is fit, the king should act in conformity with all of themlike the strings of a musical instrument, stretched to proper tension,according with their intended notes. The king should do good to allpersons without transgressing the dictates of righteousness. That kingstands immovable as a hill whom everybody regards–‘He is mine.’ Havingset himself to the task of adjudicating between litigants, the king,without making any difference between persons that are liked and thosethat are disliked by him, should uphold justice. The king should appointin all his offices such men as are conversant with the characteristics ofparticular families, of the masses of the people, and of differentcountries; as are mild in speech; as are of middle age; as have nofaults; as are devoted to good act; as are never heedless; as are freefrom rapacity; as are possessed of learning and self-restraint; as arefirm in virtue and always prepared to uphold the interests of both virtueand profit. In this way, having ascertained the course of actions andtheir final objects the king should accomplish them heedfully; andinstructed in all matters by his spies, he may live in cheerfulness. Theking who never gives way to wrath and joy without sufficient cause, whosupervises all his acts himself, and who looks after his income andexpenditure with his own eyes, succeeds in obtaining great wealth fromthe earth. That king is said to be conversant with the duties ofking-craft who rewards his officers and subjects publicly (for any goodthey do), who chastises those that deserve chastisement, who protects hisown self, and who protects his kingdom from every evil. Like the Sunshedding his rays upon everything below, the king should always lookafter his kingdom himself, and aided by his intelligence he shouldsupervise all his spies and officers. The king should take wealth fromhis subjects at the proper time. He should never proclaim what he does.Like an intelligent man milking his cow every day, the king should milkhis kingdom every day. As the bee collects honey from flowers gradually,the king should draw wealth gradually from his kingdom for storing it.Having kept apart a sufficient portion, that which remains should bespent upon acquisition of religious merit and the gratification of thedesire for pleasure. That king who is acquainted with duties and who ispossessed of intelligence would never waste what has been stored. Theking should never disregard any wealth for its littleness; he shouldnever disregard foes for their powerlessness; he should, by exercisinghis own intelligence, examine his own self; he should never reposeconfidence upon persons destitute of intelligence. Steadiness,cleverness, self-restraint, intelligence, health, patience, bravery, andattention to the requirements of time and place,–these eight qualitieslead to the increase of wealth, be it small or be it much. A little fire,fed with clarified butter, may blaze forth into a conflagration. A singleseed may produce a thousand trees. A king, therefore, even when he hearsthat his income and expenditure are great, should not disregard thesmaller items. A foe, whether he happens to be a child, a young man, oran aged one, succeeds in staying a person who is heedless. Aninsignificant foe, when he becomes powerful, may exterminate a king. Aking, therefore, who is conversant with the requirements of time is theforemost of all rulers. A foe, strong or weak, guided by malice, may verysoon destroy the fame of a king, obstruct the acquisition of religiousmerit by him; and deprive him of even his energy. Therefore, a king thatis of regulated mind should never be heedless when he has a foe. If aking possessed of intelligence desire affluence and victory, he should,after surveying his expenditure, income, savings, and administration,make either peace or war. For this reason the king should seek the aid ofan intelligent minister. Blazing intelligence weakens even a mightyperson; by intelligence may power that is growing be protected; a growingfoe is weakened by the aid of intelligence; therefore, every act that isundertaken conformably to the dictates of intelligence is deserving ofpraise. A king possessed of patience and without any fault, may, if helikes, obtain the fruition of all his wishes, with the aid of even asmall force. That king, however, who wishes to be surrounded by a trainof self-seeking flatterers,[358] never succeeds in winning even thesmallest benefit. For these reasons.. the king should act with mildnessin taking wealth from his subjects. If a king continually oppresses hispeople, he meets with extinction like a flash of lightening that blazesforth only for a second. Learning, penances, vast wealth, indeed,everything, can be earned by exertion. Exertion, as it occurs in embodiedcreatures, is governed by intelligence. Exertion, therefore, should beregarded as the foremost of all things. The human body is the residenceof many intelligent creatures of great energy, of Sakra, of Vishnu, ofSaraswati, and of other beings. A man of knowledge, therefore, shouldnever disregard the body.[359] A covetous man should be subjugated byconstant gifts. He that is covetous is never satiated with appropriatingother people’s wealth. Every one, however, becomes covetous in the matterof enjoying happiness. If a person, therefore, becomes destitute ofwealth, he becomes destitute of virtue and pleasure (which are objectsattainable by wealth). A covetous man seeks to appropriate the wealth,the enjoyments, the sons and daughters, and the affluence of others. Incovetous men every kind of fault may be seen. The king, therefore, shouldnever take a covetous man for his minister or officer. A king (in theabsence of proper agents) should despatch even a low person forascertaining the disposition and acts of foes. A ruler possessed ofwisdom should frustrate all the endeavours and objects of his enemies.That trustful and high-born king who seeks instruction from learned andvirtuous Brahmanas and who is protected by his ministers, succeeds inkeeping all his tributary chiefs under proper control. O prince of men, Ihave briefly discoursed to thee of all the duties laid down in thescriptures. Attend to them, aided by thy intelligence. That king who, inobedience to his preceptor, attends to these, succeeds in ruling thewhole earth. That king who disregards the happiness that is derivablefrom policy and seeks for that which chance may bring, never succeeds inenjoying the happiness that attaches to sovereignty or in winning regionsof bliss hereafter.[360] A king that is heedful, by properly attending tothe requirements of war and peace, succeeds in slaying even such foes asare eminent for wealth, worshipped for intelligence and good conduct,possessed of accomplishments, brave in battle, and ready for exertion.The king should discover those means which are furnished by differentkinds of acts and measures. He should never depend upon destiny. One thatsees faults in faultless persons never succeeds in winning prosperity andfame. When two friends engage in accomplishing one and the same act, awise man always applauds him among the two that takes upon himself theheavier share of the work. Do thou practise these duties of kings that Ihave told thee. Set thy heart upon the duty of protecting men. Thou maystthen easily obtain the reward of virtue. All the regions of felicityhereafter are dependent upon merit!'”[361]

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