Mahabharata Anusasana Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva

Section XC

"Yudhishthira said, 'It behoves thee, O foremost one of Kuru's race, to tell me unto what kind of Brahmanas, O grandsire, should the offers made at Sraddhas be given away.'

"Bhishma said, The Kshatriya who is conversant with the ordinances about gift should never examine Brahmanas (when making gifts unto them). In all acts, however, that relate to the worship of the deities and the Pitris, an examination has been said to be proper. The deities are worshipped on earth by men only when they are filled with devotion that comes from the deities themselves. Hence, one should, approaching them, make gifts unto all Brahmanas (without any examination of their merits), regarding such gifts as are made to the deities themselves. In Sraddhas, however, O monarch, the man of intelligence should examine the Brahmanas (to be employed for assisting the doers of the Sraddha in getting through the ritual and making gifts unto them of the offerings made to the Pitris). Such examination should concern itself with their birth and conduct and age and appearance and learning and nobility (or otherwise) of parentage. Amongst the Brahmanas there are some that pollute the line and some that sanctify it. Listen to me, O king, as I tell thee who those Brahmanas are that should be excluded from the line.  He that is full of guile, or he that is guilty of foeticide, or he that is ill of consumption, or he that keeps animals, of is destitute of Vedic study, or is a common servant of a village, or lives upon the interest of loans, or he that is a singer, or he that sells all articles, or he that is guilty of arson, or he that is a poisoner or he that is a pimp by profession, or he that sells Soma, or he that is a professor of palmistry, or he that is in the employ of the king, or he that is seller of oil, or he that is a cheat and false swearer, or he that has a quarrel with his father, or he that tolerates a paramour of his wife in his house, or he that has been cursed, or he that is a thief, or he that lives by some mechanical art, or he that puts on disguises, or he that is deceitful in his behaviour, or he that is hostile to those he calls his friends, or he that is an adulterer, or he that is a preceptor of Sudras, or he that has betaken himself to the profession of arms, or he that wanders with dogs (for hunting), or he that has been bit by a dog, or he that has wedded before his elder brothers, or he that seems to have undergone circumcision,  he that violates the bed of his preceptor, he that is an actor or mime, he that lives by setting up a deity and he that lives by calculating the conjunctions of stars and planets and asterisms , are regarded as fit to be excluded from the line. Persons conversant with the Vedas say that the offerings made at Sraddhas, if eaten by such Brahmanas, go to

fill the stomachs of Rakshasas (instead of filling those of the Pitris), O, Yudhishthira. That person who having eaten at a Sraddha does not abstain that day from study of the Vedas or who has sexual congress that day with a Sudra woman, must know that his Pitris, in consequence of such acts of his, have to lie for a month on his dung. The offerings made at Sraddhas if presented to a Brahmana who sells Soma, become converted into human ordure; if presented to a Brahmana who is engaged in the practice of Medicine, they become converted into pus and blood; if presented to one who lives by setting up a deity, they fail to produce any fruit; if presented to one who lives upon the interest of loans they lead to infamy; if presented to one who is engaged in trade, they become productive of no fruits either here or hereafter. If presented to a Brahmana who is born of a widowed mother (by a second husband), they become as fruitless as libations poured on ashes . They who present the Havya and Kavya (offered at Sraddhas) unto such Brahmanas as are divested of the duties ordained for them and of those rules of good conduct that persons of their order should observe, find such presents productive of no merits hereafter. That man of little intelligence who makes gifts of such articles unto such men knowing their dispositions, obliges, by such conduct, his Pitris to eat human ordure in the next world. Thou shouldst know that these wretches among Brahmanas deserve to be excluded from the line. Those Brahmanas also of little energy who are engaged in instructing Sudras are of the same class. A Brahmana that is blind stains sixty individual of the line; one that is destitute of virile power a hundred; while one that is afflicted with white leprosy stains as many as he looks upon, O king. Whatever offerings made at Sraddhas are eaten by one with his head wrapped round with a cloth, whatever is eaten by one with face southwards, and whatever is eaten with shoes or sandals on all goes to gratify the Asuras. Whatever, again, is given with malice, and whatever is given without reverence, have been ordained by Brahmana himself as the portion of the prince of Asuras (viz., Vali). Dogs, and such Brahmanas as are polluters of lines, should not be allowed to cast their eyes upon the offerings made at Sraddhas. For this reason, Sraddhas should be performed in a spot that is properly hedged around or concealed from the view. That spot should also be strewn with sesame seeds. That Sraddha which is performed without sesame seeds, or that which is done by a person in anger, has its Havi robbed by Rakshasas and Pisachas. Commensurate with the number of Brahmanas seen by one that deserves to be excluded from the line, is the loss of merit he causes of the foolish performer of the Sraddha who invites him to the feast.

'I shall now, O chief of Bharata's race, tell thee who are sanctifiers of the line. Do thou find them out by examination. All those Brahmanas

that are cleansed by knowledge, Vedic study, and vows and observances, and they that are of good and righteous behaviour, should be known as sanctifiers of everything. I shall now tell thee who deserve to sit in the line. Thou shouldst know them to be such whom I shall indicate presently. He that is conversant with the three Nachiketas, he that has set up the five sacrificial fires, he that knows the five Suparnas, he that is conversant with the six branches (called Angas) of the Veda, he that is a descendant of sires who were engaged in teaching the Vedas and is himself engaged in teaching, he that is well-conversant with the Chhandas, he that is acquainted with the Jeshtha Saman, he that is obedient to the sway of his parents, he that is conversant with the Vedas and whose ancestors have been so for ten generations, he that has congress with only his wedded wives and this at their seasons, and he who has been cleansed by knowledge, by the Veda, and by vows and observances,--even such a Brahmana,--sanctifies the line. He who reads the Atharva-siras, who is devoted to the observance of Brahmacharya practices, and who is steady in observance of righteous vows, who is truthful and of righteous conduct, and who is duly observant of the duties laid down for his order, they also that have undergone fatigue and labour for bathing in the waters of tirthas, that have undergone the final bath after performing sacrifices with proper Mantras that are freed from the sway of wrath, that are not restless, that are endued with forgiving dispositions, that are self-restrained masters of their senses, and they are devoted to the good of all creatures,--these should be invited to Sraddhas. Anything given to these becomes inexhaustible. These indeed, are sanctifiers of lines. There are others also, highly blessed, that should be regarded as sanctifiers of the line. They are Yatis and those that are conversant with the religion of Moksha, and they that are devoted to Yoga, and they that properly observe excellent vows and they that, with collected mind recite (sacred) histories unto foremost of Brahmanas. They that are conversant with Bhashyas, they also that are devoted to grammatical studies, they that study the Puranas and they that study the Dharmasastras and having studied them (i.e., the Puranas and Dharmasastras) act up to the standard laid down in them, he that has lived (for the stated period) in the abode of his preceptor, he that is truthful in speech, he that is a giver of thousands, they that are foremost in (their knowledge of) all the Vedas and the scriptural and philosophical aphorisms,--these sanctify the line as far they look at it. And because they sanctify all who sit in the line, therefore are they called sanctifiers of lines. Utterers of Brahma say that even a single person that happens to be the descendant of sires who were teachers of the Veda and that is himself a Vedic teacher, sanctifies full seven miles around him. If he that is not a Ritwik and that is not a Vedic teacher takes the foremost seat in a Sraddha, with even the permission of the other Ritwiks there present, he is said to take (by that act of his) the sins of all who may be sitting in the line. If, on the other hand, he happens to be conversant with the Vedas and freed from all those faults that are regarded as capable of polluting the line, he shall not, O king, be regarded as fallen (by taking the foremost seat in a Sraddha). Such a man would then be really a sanctifier of the line. For these reasons, O king, thou shouldst properly examine the Brahmanas before inviting them to Sraddhas. Thou shouldst invite only such among them as are devoted to the duties laid down for their order, and as are born in good families, and as are possessed of great learning. He who performs Sraddhas for feeding only his friends and whose Havi does not gratify the deities and the Pitris, fails to ascend to Heaven. He who collects his friends and relatives only on the occasion of the Sraddha he performs (without keeping an eye on properly honouring deserving persons by inviting and feeding them), fails to proceed (after death) by the path of the deities (which is a lighted one and free from all afflictions and impediments). The man who makes the Sraddha he performs an occasion for only gathering his friends, never succeeds in ascending to heaven. Verily, the man who converts the Sraddha into an occasion for treating his friends, becomes dissociated from heaven even like a bird dissociated from the perch when the chain tying it breaks.  Therefore, he that performs a Sraddha should not honour (on such occasions) his friends. He may make gifts of wealth unto them on other occasions by collecting them together. The Havi and the Kavi offered at Sraddhas should be served unto them that are neither friends nor foes but are only indifferent or neutral. As seed sown on a sterile soil does not sprout forth, or as one that has not sown does not get a share of the produce, even so that Sraddha the offerings in which are eaten by an unworthy person, yields no fruit either here or hereafter.  That Brahmana who is destitute of Vedic study is like a fire made by burning grass or straw; and becomes soon extinguished even like such a fire. The offerings made at Sraddhas should not be given to him even as libations should not be poured on the ashes of the sacrificial fire. When the offerings made at Sraddhas are exchanged by the performers with one another (instead of being given away unto worthy persons), they come to be regarded as Pisacha presents. Such offerings gratify neither the gods nor the Pitris. Instead of reaching the other world, they wander about even here like a cow that has lost her calf wandering about within the fold. As those libations of ghee that are

poured upon the extinguished ashes of a sacrificial fire never reach either the gods or the Pitris, after the same manner a gift that is made to a dancer or a singer or a Dakshina presented to a lying or deceitful person, produces no merit. The Dakshina that is presented to a lying or deceitful person destroys both the giver and the receiver without benefiting them in any respect. Such a Dakshina is destructive and highly censurable. The Pitris of the person making it have to fall down from the path of the deities. The gods know them to be Brahmanas who always tread, O Yudhishthira, within the bounds set up by the Rishis who are conversant with all duties, and who have a firm faith in their efficacy. Those Brahmanas that are devoted to Vedic study, to knowledge, to penances, and to acts, O Bharata, should be known as Rishis. The offerings made at Sraddhas should be given unto those that are devoted to knowledge. Verily, they are to be regarded as men who never speak ill of the Brahmanas. Those men should never be fed on occasions of Sraddhas who speak ill of Brahmanas in course of conversation in the midst of assemblies. If Brahmanas, O king, be calumniated, they would destroy three generations of the calumniator.  This is the declaration, O king, of the Vaikhanasa Rishis. Brahmanas conversant with the Vedas should be examined from a distance. Whether one likes them or feels a dislike for them, one should give unto such Brahmanas the offerings made at Sraddhas. That man who feeds thousands upon thousands of false Brahmanas acquires merit that is attainable by feeding even one Brahmana if the latter happens to be possessed of a knowledge of the Vedas, O Bharata!"