SECTION LVI: THE GRANDSIRE SPEAKS
Having bowed unto Hrishikesa, and saluted Bhishma, and taken the permission of all the seniors assembled there, Yudhishthira began to put questions unto Bhishma.
Yudhishthira: Persons conversant with duty and morality say that kingly duties constitute the highest science of duty. I also think that the burden of those duties is exceedingly onerous. Do thou, therefore, O king, discourse on those duties. O grandsire, do thou speak in detail on the duties of kings. The science of kingly duties is the refuge of the whole world of life. O thou of Kuru’s race, Morality, Profit, and Pleasure are dependent on kingly duties. It is also clear that the practices that lead to emancipation are equally dependent on them. As the reins are in respect of the steed or the iron hook in respect of the elephant, even so the science of kingly duties constitutes the reins for checking the world. If one becomes stupefied in respect of the duties observed by royal sages, disorder would set in on the earth and everything will become confused. As the Sun, rising, dispels inauspicious darkness, so this science destroys every kind of evil consequence in respect of the world. Therefore, O grandsire, do thou, for my sake, discourse on kingly duties in the first instance, for thou, O chief of the Bharatas, art the foremost of all persons conversant with duties. O scorcher of foes, Vasudeva regards thee as the first of all intelligent persons. Therefore, all of us expect the highest knowledge from thee.
Bowing unto Dharma who is Supreme, unto Krishna who is Brahma in full, and unto the Brahmanas, I shall discourse on the eternal duties (of men). Hear from me, O Yudhishthira, with concentrated attention, the whole range of kingly duties described with accurate details, and other duties that you mayst desire to know.
In the first place, the king should, from desire of pleasing (his subjects), wait with humility upon the gods and the Brahmanas, always bearing himself agreeably to the ordinance. By worshipping the deities and the Brahmanas, the king pays off his debt to duty and morality, and receives the respect of his subjects. O son, thou shouldst always exert with promptitude, for without promptitude of exertion mere destiny never accomplishes the objects cherished by kings.
These two, viz., exertion and destiny, are equal (in their operation). Of them, I regard exertion to be superior, for destiny is ascertained from the results of what is begun with exertion. Do not indulge in grief if what is commenced ends disastrously, for thou shouldst then exert thyself in the same act with redoubled attention. This is the high duty of kings.
There is nothing which contributes so much to the success of kings as Truth. The king who is devoted to Truth finds happiness both here and hereafter. As regards Rishis also, Truth is their great wealth. Similarly, as regards kings, there is nothing that so much inspires confidence in them as Truth. The king that is possessed of every accomplishment and good behaviour, that is self-restrained, humble, and righteous, that has his passions under control, that is of handsome features and not too enquiring, never loses prosperity.
By administering justice, by attending to these three, (viz., concealment of his own weaknesses, ascertainment of the weaknesses of foes, and keeping his own counsels), as also by the observance of conduct that is straightforward, the king obtains prosperity. If the king becomes mild, everybody disregards him On the other hand, if he becomes fierce, his subjects then become troubled. Therefore, do thou observe both kinds of behaviour.
O foremost of liberal men, the Brahmanas should never be punished by thee, for the Brahmana is the foremost of beings on the Earth. The high-souled Manu that sung two Slokas. In respect of thy duties, thou shouldst always bear them in mind. Fire hath sprung from water, the Kshatriya from the Brahmana, and iron from stone. The three (viz., fire, Kshatriya and iron) can exert their force on every other thing, but coming into contact with their respective progenitors, their force becomes neutralised. When iron strikes stone, or fire battles with water, or Kshatriya cherishes enmity towards Brahmana, these three soon become weak.
When this is so, O monarch, you will see that the Brahmanas are worthy of worship. They that are foremost among the Brahmanas are gods on earth. Duly worshipped, they uphold the Vedas and the Sacrifices. But they that desire to have such honour however much they may be impediments to the three worlds, should ever be repressed by the might of thy arms. The great Rishi Usanas, O son, sang two Slokas in days of old. Listen to them, O king, with concentrated attention. The righteous Kshatriya, mindful of his duties, should chastise a Brahmana that may be a very master of the Vedas if he rushes to battle with an uplifted weapon. The Kshatriya, conversant with duties, that upholds righteousness when it is trespassed against, does not, by that act, become a sinner, for the wrath of the assailant justifies the wrath of the chastiser. Subject to these restrictions, the Brahmanas should be protected. If they become offenders, they should then be exiled beyond thy dominions. Even when deserving of punishment, thou shouldst, O kings, show them compassion. If a Brahmana becomes guilty of Brahmanicide, or of violating the bed of his preceptor or other revered senior, or of causing miscarriage, or of treason against the king, his punishment should be banishment from thy dominions. No corporal chastisement is laid down for them. Those persons that show respect towards the Brahmanas should be favoured by thee (with offices in the state).
There is no treasure more valuable to kings than that which consists in the selection and assemblage of servants. Among the six kinds of citadels indicated in the scriptures, indeed among every kind of citadel, that which consists of (the ready service and the love of the) subjects is the most impregnable. Therefore, the king who is possessed of wisdom should always show compassion towards the four orders of his subjects. The king who is of righteous soul and truthful speech succeeds in gratifying his subjects. But thou must not always behave with forgiveness towards everybody, for the king that is mild is regarded as the worst of his kind like an elephant that is reft of fierceness.
In the scriptures composed by Vrihaspati, a Sloka was in days of old applicable to the present matter. Hear it, O king as I recite it. ‘If the king happens to be always forgiving, the lowest of persons prevails over him, even as the driver who sits on the head of the elephant he guides.’ The king, therefore, should not always be mild. Nor should he always be fierce. He should be like the vernal Sun, neither cold nor so hot as to produce perspiration.
By the direct evidence of the senses, by conjecture, by comparisons, and by the canons of the scriptures, the king should Study friends and foes. O thou of great liberality, thou shouldst avoid all those evil practices that are called Vyasanas. It is not necessary that thou shouldst never indulge in them. What, however, is needed is that thou shouldst not be attached to them. He that is attached to those practices is prevailed over by everyone.
The king who cherishes no love for his people inspires the latter with anxiety. The king should always bear himself towards his subjects as a mother towards the child of her womb. Hear, O monarch, the reason why this becomes desirable. As the mother, disregarding those objects that are most cherished by her, seeks the good of her child alone, even so, without doubt, should kings conduct themselves (towards their subjects). The king that is righteous, should always behave in such a manner as to a old what is dear to him, for the sake of doing that which would benefit his people. Thou shouldst not ever, abandon fortitude. The king that is possessed of fortitude and who is known to inflict chastisement on wrong-doers, has no cause of fear.
Thou shouldst not indulge in jests with thy servants. O tiger among kings, listen to the faults of such conduct. If the master mingles too freely with them, dependents begin to disregard him. They forget their own position and most truly transcend that of the master. Ordered to do a thing, they hesitate, and divulge the master’s secrets. They ask for things that should not be asked for, and take the food that is intended for the master. They go to the length of displaying their wrath and seek to outshine the master. They even seek to predominate over the king, and accepting bribes and practising deceit, obstruct the business of the state. They cause the state to rot with abuses by falsifications and forgeries. They make love with the female guards of the palace and dress in the same style as their master. They become so shameless as to indulge in eructations and the like, and expectorate in the very presence of their master, and they do not fear to even speak of him with levity before others.
If the king becomes mild and disposed to jest, his servants, disregarding him, ride on steeds and elephants and cars as good as the king’s. His counsellors, assembled in court, openly indulge in such speeches as: ‘This is beyond thy power. This is a wicked attempt.’ If the king becomes angry, they laugh; nor are they gladdened if favours be bestowed upon them, though they may express joy for other reasons. They disclose the secret counsels of their master and bruit his evil acts. Without the least anxiety they set at naught the king’s commands. If the king’s jewels, or food, or the necessaries of his bath, or unguents, be not forthcoming, the servants, in his very presence, do not show the least anxiety. They do not take what rightfully belongs to them. On the other hand, without being content with what has been assigned to them, they appropriate what belongs to the king. They wish to sport with the king as with a bird tied with a string, And always give the people to understand that the king is very intimate with them and loves them dearly. If the king becomes mild and disposed to jest, O Yudhishthira, these and many other evils spring from it.
SECTION LVII: PROMPTITUDE OF ACTION
The king, should always be ready for action. That king is not worth of praise who is destitute of exertion. In this connection, the holy Usanas has sting a Sloka. Listen to it with attention, O king, as I recite it to thee: ‘Like a snake swallowing up mice, the earth swallows up these two, the king that is averse to battle and the Brahmana that is exceedingly attached to wives and children. [1. literally, the Brahmana that would not leave his home]
It behoveth thee, O tiger among kings, to bear this always in thy heart. Make peace with those foes with whom (according to the ordinance) peace should be made, and wage war with them with whom war should be waged. Be he thy preceptor or be he thy friend, he that acts inimically towards thy kingdom consisting of seven limbs, should be slain. [the seven limbs being king, army, counsellors, friends, treasury, territory, and forts.]
There is an ancient Sloka sung by king Marutta, agreeable to Vrihaspati’s opinion, O monarch, about the duty of kings. According to the eternal provision, there is punishment for even the preceptor if he becomes haughty and disregardful of what should be done and what should not, and if he transgresses all restraints. Jadu’s son, king Sagara, of great intelligence, from desire of doing good to the citizens, exiled his own eldest son Asamanjas. Asamanjas, O king, used to drown the children of the citizens in the Sarayu. His sire, therefore, rebuked him and sent him to exile. The Rishi Uddalaka cast off his favourite son Swetaketu (afterwards) of rigid penances, because the latter used to invite Brahmanas with deceptive promises of entertainment.
The happiness of their subjects, observance of truth, and sincerity of behaviour are the eternal duty of kings. The king should not covet the wealth of others. He should in time give what should be given, If the king becomes possessed of prowess, truthful in speech, and forgiving in temper, he would never fall away from prosperity. With soul cleansed of vices, the king should be able to govern his wrath, and all his conclusions should be conformable to the scriptures. He should also always pursue morality and profit and pleasure and salvation (judiciously).
The king should always conceal his counsels in respect of these three, (viz., morality, profit, and pleasure). No greater evil can befall the king than the disclosure of his counsels. Kings should protect the four orders in the discharge of their duties. It is the eternal duty of kings to prevent a confusion of duties in respect of the different orders. The king should not repose confidence (on others than his own servants), nor should he repose full confidence (on even his servants).
He should, by his own intelligence, took after the merits and defects of the six essential requisites of sovereignty. [*These six are peace (with a foe that is stronger), war (with one of equal strength), marching (to invade the dominions of one who is weaker), halting, seeking protection (if weak in one’s own fort), and sowing dissensions (among the chief officers of the enemy).]
The king who is observant of the laches of his foes, and judicious in the pursuit of morality, profit, and pleasure, who sets clever spies for ascertaining secrets and seeks to wean away the officers of his enemies by presents of wealth, deserves applause. The king should administer justice like Yama and amass wealth like Kuvera. He should also be observant of the merits and defects of his own acquisitions and losses and of his own dominions. He should feed those that have not been fed, and enquire after those that have been fed. Possessed of sweet speech, he could speak with a smiling (and not with a sour) countenance. He should always wait upon those that are old in years and repress procrastination. He should never covet what belongs to others. He should firmly follow the behaviour of the righteous and, therefore, observe that behaviour carefully.
He should never take wealth from those that are righteous. Taking the wealth of those that are not righteous he should give it unto them that are righteous. The king should himself be skilful in smiting. He should practise liberality. He Should have his soul under control. He should dress himself with splendour. He should make gifts in season and regular in his meals. He should also be of good behaviour. The king desirous of obtaining prosperity should always bind to his service men that are brave, devoted, incapable of being deceived by foes [Asambhayan is explained by Nilakantha as ‘incapable of being overreached by foes.’] well-born, healthy, well-behaved, and connected with families that are well-behaved, respectable, never inclined to insult others, conversant with all the sciences, possessing a knowledge of the world and its affairs, unmindful of the future state of existence, always observant of their duties, honest, and steadfast like mountains.
There should be no difference between him and them as regards objects of enjoyment. The only distinction should consist in his umbrella and his power or passing orders. His conduct towards them, before or behind, should be the same. The king who behaves in this way never comes to grief. That crooked and covetous king who suspects everybody and who taxes his subjects heavily, is soon deprived of life by his own servants and relatives. That king, however, who is of righteous behaviour and who is ever engaged in attracting the hearts of his people, never sinks when attacked by foes. If overcome, he soon regains his position. If the king is not wrathful, if he is not addicted to evil practices and not severe in his punishments, if he succeeds in keeping his passions under control, he then becomes an object of confidence unto all like the Himavat mountains (unto all creatures).
He is the best of kings who hath wisdom, who is possessed of liberality, who is ready to take advantage of the laches of foes, who has agreeable features, who is conversant with what is bad for each of the four orders of his subjects, who is prompt in action, who has his wrath under control, who is not vindictive, who is high-minded, who is not irascible by disposition, who is equal engaged in sacrifices and other religious acts, who is not given to boasting, and who vigorously prosecutes to completion all works commenced by him.
He is the best of kings in whose dominions men live fearlessly like sons in the house of their sire. He is the best of kings whose subjects have not to hide their wealth and are conversant with what is good and what is bad for them. He, indeed, is a king whose subjects are engaged in their respective duties and do not fear to cast off their bodies when duty calls for it; whose people, protected duly, are all of peaceful behaviour, obedient, docile, tractable, unwilling to be engaged in disputes, and inclined to liberality.
That king earns eternal merit in whose dominions there is no wickedness and dissimulation and deception and envy. That king truly deserves to rule who honours knowledge, who is devoted to the scriptures and the good of his people, who treads in the path of the righteous, and who is liberal. That king deserves to rule, whose spies and counsels and acts, accomplished and unaccomplished, remain unknown to his enemies.
The following verse was sung in days of old by Usanas of Bhrigu’s race, in the narrative called Ramacharita, on the subject, O Bharata, of kingly duties: ‘One should first select a king (in whose dominions to live). Then should he select a wife, and then earn wealth. If there be no king, what would become of his wife and acquisition’?’ Regarding those that are desirous of kingdom, there is no other eternal duty more obligatory than the protection (of subjects). The protection the king grants to his subjects upholds the world [In the sense that without royal protection, the world soon comes to grief.].
Manu, the son of Prachetas, sang these two verses respecting the duties of kings. Listen to them with attention: ‘These six persons should be avoided like a leaky boat on the sea, viz., a preceptor that does not speak, a priest that has not studied the scriptures, a king that does not grant protection, a wife that utters what is disagreeable, a cow-herd that likes to rove within the village, and a barber that is desirous of going to the woods.'” [note: The duties of the cow-herd should lead him to the fields. If without manifesting any inclination forgoing to the fields he likes to loiter within the village he should not be employed. Similarly the barber’s duties require his presence within the village. If without being present there he likes to wander in the woods, he should never be employed, for it may then be presumed that he is wanting in that skill which experience and habit bring. These two verses are often quoted in conversation by both the learned and unlearned equally.]
SECTION LVIII : PROTECTION OF THE SUBJECTS
Protection of the subject, O Yudhishthira, is the very essence of kingly duties. The divine Vrihaspati does not applaud any other duty (so much as this one). The divine Kavi (Usanas) of large eyes and austere penances, the thousand-eyed Indra, and Manu the son of Prachetas, the divine Bharadwaja, and the saga Gaurasiras, all devoted to Brahma and utterers of Brahma, have composed treatises on the duties of kings. All of them praise the duty of protection, O foremost of virtuous persons, in respect of kings.
Listen to the means by which protection may be secured. Those means consist of:
- the employment of spies and servants, giving them their just dues without haughtiness,
- the realisation of taxes with considerateness, never taking anything (from the subject) capriciously and without cause,
- the selection of honest men (for the discharge of administrative functions), heroism, skill, and cleverness (in the transaction of business),
- seeking the good of the people,
- producing discord and disunion among the enemy by fair or unfair means,
- the repair of buildings that are old or on the point of falling away,
- the infliction of corporal punishments and fines regulated by observance of the occasion,
- never abandoning the honest, granting employment and protection to persons of respectable birth,
- the storing of what should be stored,
- companionship with persons of intelligence,
- always gratifying the soldiery,
- supervision over the subjects,
- steadiness in the transaction of business,
- filling the treasury,
- absence of blind confidence on the guards of the city,
- producing disloyalty among the citizens of a hostile town,
- carefully looking after the friends and allies living in the midst of the enemy’s country,
- strictly watching the servants and officers of the state,personal observation of the city, distrust of servants, comforting the enemy with assurances,
- steadily observing the dictates of policy,
- readiness for action, never disregarding an enemy,
- and casting off those that are wicked.
Readiness for exertion in kings is the root of kingly duties. This has been said by Vrihaspati. Listen to the verses sung by him: ‘By exertion the amrita was obtained; by exertion the Asuras were slain, by exertion Indra himself obtained sovereignty in heaven and on earth. The hero of exertion is superior to the heroes of speech. The heroes of speech gratify and worship the heroes of exertion. [Eloquent Brahmanas learned in the scriptures are heroes of speech, Great Kshatriya kings are heroes of exertion.]
The king that is destitute of exertion, even if possessed of intelligence, is always overcome by foes like a snake that is bereft of poison. The king, even if possessed of strength, should not disregard a foe, however weak. A spark of fire can produce a conflagration and a particle of poison can kill. With only one kind of force, an enemy from within a fort, can afflict the whole country of even a powerful and prosperous king. The secret speeches of a king, the amassing of troops for obtaining victory, the crooked purposes in his heart, similar intents for accomplishing particular objects, and the wrong acts he does or intends to do, should be concealed by putting on an appearance of candour. He should act righteously for keeping his people under subjection. Persons of crooked minds cannot bear the burden of extensive empire. A king who is mild cannot obtain superior rank, the acquisition of which depends upon labour.
A kingdom, coveted by all like meat, can never be protected by candour and simplicity. A king, O Yudhishthira, should, therefore, always conduct himself with both candour and crookedness. If in protecting his subjects a king falls into danger, he earns great merit. Even such should be the conduct of kings. I have now told thee a portion only of the duties of kings. Tell me, O best of the Kurus, what more you wish to know.
Vaisampayana continued, “The illustrious Vyasa and Devasthana and Aswa, and Vasudeva and Kripa and Satyaki and Sanjaya, filled with joy, and with faces resembling full-blown flowers, said, ‘Excellent! Excellent!’ and hymned the praises of that tiger among men, viz., Bhishma, that foremost of virtuous persons. Then Yudhishthira, that chief of Kuru’s race, with a cheerless heart and eyes bathed in tears, gently touched Bhishma’s feet and said, ‘O grandsire, I shall to-morrow enquire after those points about which I have my doubts, for today, the sun, having sucked the moisture of all terrestrial objects, is about to set.’ Then Kesava and Kripa and Yudhishthira and others, saluting the Brahmanas (assembled there) and circumambulating the son of the great river, cheerfully ascended their cars. All of them observant of excellent vows then bathed in the current of the Drishadwati. Having offered oblations of water unto their ancestors and silently recited the sacred mantras and done other auspicious acts, and having performed the evening prayer with due rites, those scorchers of foes entered the city called after the elephant.”