"Yudhishthira said, 'Whom do the eternal Brahmanas strictly observing religious rites call a proper object of gifts? Is a Brahmana that bears the symbols of the order of life he follows to be regarded as such or one who does not bear such indications is to be so regarded?' 1
"Bhishma said, 'O monarch, it has been said that gifts should be made unto a Brahmana that adheres to the duties of his own order, whether, he bears the indications of a Brahmachari or not, for both are faultless, viz., he that bears such indications and he that is divested of them.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'What fault does an uncleansed person incur, if he makes gifts of sacrificial butter or food with great devotion unto persons of the regenerate order?'
"Bhishma said, 'Even one that is most destitute of self-restraint becomes, without doubt, cleansed by devotion. Such a man, O thou of great splendour, becomes cleansed in respect of every act (and not with reference to gift alone).'
"Yudhishthira said, 'It has been said that a Brahmana that is sought to be employed in an act having reference to the deities, should never be examined. The learned, however, say that with respect to such acts as have reference to the Pitris, the Brahmana that is sought to be employed, should be examined (in the matter of both his conduct and competence).'
"Bhishma said, 'As regards acts that have reference to the deities, these fructify not in consequence of the Brahmana that is employed in doing the rites but through the grace of the deities themselves. Without doubt, those persons that perform sacrifice obtain the merit attached to those acts, through the grace of the deities. 1 The Brahmanas, O chief of the Bharatas, are always devoted of Brahman. The Rishi Markandeya, one of the greatest Rishis endued with intelligence in all the worlds, said this in days of yore.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Why, O grandsire, are there five viz., he that is a stranger, he that is endued with learning (connected with the duties of his order), he that is connected by marriage, he that is endued with penances, and he that adheres to the performance of sacrifices, regarded as proper persons?' 2
"Bhishma said, 'The first three, viz., strangers, relatives, and ascetics, when possessed of these attributes, viz., purity of birth, devotion to religious acts, learning, compassion, modesty, sincerity, and truthfulness, are regarded as proper persons. The other two, viz., men of learning and those devoted to sacrifices, when endued with five of these attributes, viz., purity of birth, compassion, modesty, sincerity, truthfulness, are also regarded as proper persons. Listen now to me, O son of Pritha, as I recite to thee the opinions of these four persons of mighty energy, viz., the goddess Earth, the Rishi Kasyapa, Agni (the deity of fire) and the ascetic Markandeya.'
"The Earth said, 'As a clod of mud, when thrown into the great ocean quickly dissolves away, even so every kind of sin disappears in the three
high attributes viz., officiation at sacrifices, teaching and receiving of gifts. 1
"Kasyapa said, 'The Vedas with their six branches, the Sankhya philosophy, the Puranas, and high birth, these fail to rescue a regenerate person if he falls away from good conduct.' 2
"Agni said, 'That Brahmana who, engaged in study and regarding himself learned, seeks with the aid of his learning to destroy the reputation of others, falls away from righteousness, and comes to be regarded as dissociated from truth. Verily regions of felicity herein-after are never attained to by such a person of destructive genius.'
"Markandeya said, 'If a thousand Horse-sacrifices and Truth were weighed in the balance, I do not know whether the former would weigh even half as heavy as the latter.'
"Bhishma continued, 'Having spoken these words, those four persons, each of whom is endued with immeasurable energy, viz., the goddess Earth, Kasyapa, Agni, and Bhrigu's son armed with weapons, quickly went away.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'If Brahmanas observant of the vow of Brahmacharyya in this world solicit the offerings one makes (unto one's deceased ancestors in Sraddhas) I ask, can the Sraddha be regarded well-performed, if the performer actually makes over those offerings unto such Brahmanas.
"Bhishma said, 'If, having practised the vow of Brahmacharyya for the prescribed period (of twelve years) and acquired proficiency in the Vedas and their branches, a Brahmana himself solicits the offering made in Sraddhas and eats the same, he is regarded to fall away from his vow. The Sraddha, however, is not regarded as stained in any way.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'The wise have said that duty of righteousness has many ends and numerous doors. Tell me, O grandsire, what however are the settled conclusions in this matter.' 3
Bhishma said, 'Abstention from injury to others, truthfulness, the absence of wrath (forgiveness), compassion, self-restraint, and sincerity or candour, O monarch, are the indications of Righteousness. There are persons who wander over the earth, praising righteousness but without practising what they preach and engaged all the while in sin. O king, He who gives unto such persons gold or gems or steeds, has to sink in hell and to subsist there for ten years, eating the while the faeces of such persons as live upon the flesh of dead kine and buffalos, of men called Pukkasas, of others that live in the outskirts of cities and villages, and of men that publish, under the influence of wrath and folly, the acts and the ommissions
of others. 1 Those foolish men who do give unto a Brahmana observant of the vow of Brahmacharyya the offerings made in Sraddhas (unto one's deceased ancestors), have to go, O monarch into regions of great misery.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'Tell me, O grandsire, what is superior to Brahmacharyya? What is the highest indication of virtue? What is the highest kind of purity?'
"Bhishma said,--'I tell thee, O son, that abstention from honey and meat is even superior to Brahmacharyya. Righteousness consists in keeping within boundaries or in self-restraint, the best indication of Righteousness is Renunciation (which is also the highest kind of purity). 2
"Yudhishthira said, 'In what time should one practise Righteousness? In what time should wealth be sought? In what time should pleasure be enjoyed? O grandsire, do tell me this.'
"Bhishma said,--'One should earn wealth in the first part of one's life. Then should one earn Righteousness, and then enjoy pleasure. One should not, however, attach oneself to any of these. One should regard the Brahmanas, worship one's preceptor and seniors, show compassion for all creatures, be of mild disposition and agreeable speech. To utter false-hood in a court of justice, to behave deceitfully towards the king, to act falsely towards preceptors and seniors, are regarded as equivalent (in heinousness) to Brahmanicide. One should never do an act of violence to the king's person. Nor should one ever strike a cow. Both these offences are equivalent to the sin of foeticide. One should never abandon one's (homa) fire. One should also never cast off one's study of the Vedas. One should never assail a Brahmana by words or acts. All these offences are equivalent to Brahmanicide.'
"Yudhishthira said,--'What kind of Brahmanas should be regarded as good? By making presents unto (what kind of) Brahmanas one may acquire great merit? What kind of Brahmanas are they whom one should feed? Tell me all this, O grandsire!'
"Bhishma said, 'Those Brahmanas that are freed from wrath, that are devoted to acts of righteousness, that are firm in Truth, and that practise
self-restraint are regarded as good. By making gifts unto them one acquires great merit. One wins great merit by making presents unto such Brahmanas as are free from pride, capable of bearing everything, firm in the pursuit of their objects, endued with mastery over their senses, devoted to the good of all creatures, and disposed to be friendly towards all. One earns great merit by making gifts unto such Brahmanas as are free from cupidity, as are pure of heart and conduct, possessed of learning and modesty, truthful in speech and observant of their own duties as laid down in the scriptures. The Rishis have declared that Brahmana to be a deserving object of gifts who studies the four Vedas with all their branches and is devoted to the six well-known duties (laid down in the scriptures). One acquires great merit by making gifts unto Brahmanas possessed of such qualifications. The man who makes gifts unto a deserving Brahmana multiplies his merit a thousand-fold. A single righteous Brahmana possessed of wisdom and Vedic lore, observant of the duties laid down in the scriptures, distinguished by purity of behaviour, is competent to rescue a whole race. 1 One should make gifts of kine and horses and wealth and food and other kinds of articles unto a Brahmana that is possessed of such qualifications. By making such gifts unto such persons one earns great happiness in the next world. As I have already told thee even one such Brahmana is fully competent to rescue the entire race to which the giver belongs. What need I say, therefore, O dear son, of the merit of making gifts unto many Brahmanas of such qualifications? In making gifts, therefore one should always select the object to whom the gifts are to be made. Hearing of a Brahmana possessed of proper qualifications and regarded with respect by all good people, one should invite him even if he resides at a distance and welcome him when he arrives and one should worship him by all means in his power.'"