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Chapter 97

Mahabharata English - SANTI PARVA

“Yudhishthira said. ‘There are no practices, O king, more sinful thanthose of the Kshatriyas. In marching or in battle, the king slays largemultitudes.[287] By what acts then does the king win regions of felicity?O bull of Bharata’s race, tell this, O learned one, unto me that desireto know.’

“Bhishma said, ‘By chastising the wicked, by attaching and cherishing thegood, by sacrifices and gifts, kings become pure and cleansed. It istrue, kings desirous of victory afflict many creatures, but after victorythey advance and aggrandise all. By the power of gifts, sacrifices, andpenances, they destroy their sins, and their merit increases in orderthat they may be able to do good to all creatures. The reclaimer of afield, for reclaiming it, takes up both paddy-blades and weeds. Hisaction, however, instead of destroying the blades or paddy, makes themgrow more vigorously. They that wield weapons, destroy many that deservedestruction. Such extensive destruction, however, causes the growth andadvancement of those that remain. He who protects people from plunder,slaughter, and affliction, in consequence of thus protecting their livesfrom robbers, comes to be regarded as the giver of wealth, of life, andof food. The king, therefore, by thus adoring the deities by means of aunion of all sacrifices whose Dakshina is the dispelling of everybody’sfear, enjoys every kind of felicity here and attains to a residence inIndra’s heaven hereafter.[288] That king who, going out, fights his foesin battles that have arisen for the sake of Brahmanas and lays down hislife, comes to be regarded as the embodiment of a sacrifice withillimitable presents. If a king, with his quivers full of shafts, shootsthem fearlessly at his foes, the very gods do not see anyone on earththat is superior to him. In such a case, equal to the number of shaftswith which he pierces the bodies of his enemies, is the number of regionsthat he enjoys, eternal and capable of granting every wish. The bloodthat flows from his body cleanses him of All his sins along with the verypain that he feels on the occasion. Persons conversant with thescriptures say that the pains a Kshatriya suffers in battle operate aspenances for enhancing his merit. Righteous persons, inspired with fear,stay in the rear, soliciting life from heroes that have rushed to battle,even as men solicit rain from the clouds. If those heroes, withoutpermitting the beseechers to incur the dangers of battle, keep them inthe rear by themselves facing those dangers and defend them at that timeof fear, great becomes their merit. If, again, those timid p sons,appreciating that deed of bravery, always respect those defenders, theydo what is proper and just. By acting otherwise they cannot freethemselves from fear. There is great difference between men apparentlyequal. Some rush to battle, amid its terrible din, against armed ranks offoes. Indeed, the hero rushes against crowds of foes, adopting the roadto heaven. He, however, who is inspired with dastardly fear, seeks safetyin flight, deserting his comrades in danger. Let not such wretches amongmen be born in thy race. The very gods with Indra at their head sendcalamities unto them that desert their comrades in battle and come withunwounded limbs. He who desires to save his own life-breaths by desertinghis comrades, should be slain with sticks or stones or rolled in a mat ofdry grass for being burnt to death. Those amongst the Kshatriyas thatwould be guilty of such conduct should be killed after the manner ofkilling animals.[289] Death on a bed of repose, after ejecting phlegm andurine and uttering piteous cries, is sinful for a Kshatriya. Personsacquainted with the scriptures do not applaud the death which a Kshatriyaencounters with unwounded body. The death of a Kshatriya, O sire, at homeis not praiseworthy. They are heroes. Any unheroic act of theirs issinful and inglorious. In disease, one may be heard to cry, saying, ‘Whatsorrow! How painful! I must be a great sinner.’ With face emaciated andstench issuing fro in his body and clothes, the sick man plunges hisrelatives into grief. Coveting the condition of those that are hale, sucha man (amidst his tortures) repeatedly desires for death itself. One thatis a hero, having dignity and pride, does not deserve such in ingloriousdeath. Surrounded by kinsmen and slaughtering his foes in battle, aKshatriya should die at the edge of keen weapons. Moved by desire ofenjoyment and filled with rage, a hero fights furiously and does not feelthe wounds inflicted on his limbs by foes. Encountering death in battle,he earns that high merit fraught with fame and respect of the world whichbelongs to his or her and ultimately obtains a residence in Indra’sheaven. The hero, by not showing his back in fight and contending byevery means in his power, in utter recklessness of life itself, at thevan of battle, obtains the companionship of Indra. Wherever the heroencountered death in the midst, of foes without displaying ignoble fearor cheerlessness, he has succeeded in earning regions hereafter ofeternal bliss.'”

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