Mahabharata Stories: 42 – The Grandsire Teaches (Part 1)

All creatures that live in social systems have a leader. That seems to be nature’s own choice. In the animal kingdom the rules are simple and seldom change and the ruler is usually the one that is physically the most powerful. However, in the human world, there are many dimensions that have to be looked into in order to generate or choose a leader, frame laws for living and implement them successfully. For, it is only here that there is an attempt to supersede nature.

The great Bheeshma, lying on the bed of arrows, was awaiting death. Krishna had granted him the boon that his bodily pains would vanish and his intellect would be acute to the extent of knowing all that was there to know. Krishna then asked of him: You are about to leave Yudhishtira and the others feeling helpless and at a loss. They are not adept at the art of ruling. With you would be gone all the wisdom that you personify! Discourse to Yudhishtira on the art of ruling!

Bheeshma agreed and Yudhishtira approached him respectfully unable to hold back his tears at having to lose the grandsire and unhappy to be fighting a war. The grandsire, coming to know his mind, said: My dear child, do not grieve! It is the duty of a Kshatriya to fight and kill if situation warrants. You have been a true Kshatriya. You may now ask of me anything you may want to know of administering the kingdom.


Yudhishtira: Tell me about the duties of a king.

Bheeshma: The primary duty of a king is to worship the gods and the learned. He should necessarily be a man of action. This action shall shape destiny and not the other way round as believed by many.

The next important duty is to be truthful which shall instill confidence into the minds of his subjects. His behaviour should be impeccable and he should have his passions under perfect control. He should be neither too mild nor too harsh in his actions. He should be just at all times. He should guard his subjects as a mother guards her child in the womb. Their welfare shall take predominance over his desires and wishes.

He should know the weaknesses of his kingdom and how to conceal them; he should know the enemies’ weaknesses and he shall be carefully secretive about his plans. He must always be alert and study his friends and foes well. He should choose his servants with great care. Confiding too much in anyone does not bode well for good administration. He should ensure that his treasury is full and supervise the works carried out by his officers.

The king should deal wisely on six fronts, which are making peace with a stronger foe, considering war on one who is near equal, waging war on one weaker, causing dissention among office-bearers of the enemy territory, spying on the enemy and winning the office-bearers of the enemy territory over to his side.

He should be as crafty while dealing with enemies as he is honest with his subjects.

Yudhishtira: Why is the king addressed Rajan though he is like any other human being? Why is he considered superior while in reality there may be many others better than him on many fronts?

Bheeshma: In the beginning there was no king as there were no mistakes made, but soon the time came when a king was required and the gods requested of Brahma to save the earth. Brahma composed a treatise of one-lakh lessons that dealt with Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (sense pleasures) and Moksha (liberation). Considering the limitations of mankind, this was abridged and condensed to a thousand lessons by the great preceptor Shukra. This work was meant to assist in the chastisement of men, and it was called Dhandaneeti or law of chastisement.

The gods then asked of Lord Vishnu to indicate the man who deserved to rule the world. Lord Vishnu indicated that the son to be born to Vena would be the most deserving of them all. Thus the son born, called Prithu, with all the wisdom of the Vedas became the first ruler of the earth. Shukra was his priest. He made the earth yield crops for men and animals and milked her in the form of the cow. The earth was a virtuous place in his reign and so she was called Prithvi. He was called Rajan or pleaser of the people and Kshatriya or healer of the afflicted.

A ruler is a pure one born when he has exhausted all his past acts — this is the reason why he is able to command even those who are superior to him on many fronts. This is also why he is able to rule the earth justly.


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