The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,884 pages of information about The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Volume 1.

The serpent said, ’O Yudhishthira, say—­Who is a Brahmana and what should be known?  By thy speech I infer thee to be highly intelligent.’

“Yudhishthira said, ’O foremost of serpents, he, it is asserted by the wise, in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana.  And, O serpent, that which should be known is even the supreme Brahma, in which is neither happiness nor misery—­and attaining which beings are not affected with misery; what is thy opinion?’

“The serpent said, ’O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the Veda[42] which worketh the benefit of the four orders, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen even in the Sudra.  As regards the object to be known and which thou allegest is without both happiness and misery, I do not see any such that is devoid of these.’

“Yudhishthira said, Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra.  And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone—­nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone.  He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana.  And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a Brahmana by birth.  And again, as for thy assertion that the object to be known (as asserted by me) doth not exist, because nothing exists that is devoid of both (happiness and misery), such indeed is the opinion, O serpent, that nothing exists that is without (them) both.  But as in cold, heat doth not exist, nor in heat, cold, so there cannot exist an object in which both (happiness and misery) cannot exist?”

“The serpent said, ’O king, if thou recognise him as a Brahmana by characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becometh futile as long as conduct doth not come into play.’

“Yudhishthira said, ’In human society, O mighty and highly intelligent serpent, it is difficult to ascertain one’s caste, because of promiscuous intercourse among the four orders.  This is my opinion.  Men belonging to all orders (promiscuously) beget offspring upon women of all the orders.  And of men, speech, sexual intercourse, birth and death are common.  And to this the Rishis have borne testimony by using as the beginning of a sacrifice such expressions as—­of what caste so ever we may be, we celebrate the sacrifice.  Therefore, those that are wise have asserted that character is the chief essential requisite.  The natal ceremony of a person is performed before division of the umbilical cord.  His mother then acts as its Savitri and his father officiates as priest.  He is considered as a Sudra as long as he is not initiated in the Vedas.  Doubts having arisen on this point, O prince; of serpents, Swayambhuba Manu has declared, that the mixed castes are to be regarded as better than the (other) classes, if having gone through the ceremonies of purification, the latter do not conform to the rules of good conduct, O excellent snake!  Whosoever now conforms to the rules of pure and virtuous conduct, him have I, ere now, designated as a Brahmana.’  The serpent replied, ’O Yudhishthira, thou art acquainted with all that is fit to be known and having listened to thy words, how can I (now) eat up thy brother Vrikodara!”

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The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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