The greatest of all assets, it is said by the wise, is knowledge. In days of yore, sages undertook immense pains to gain this knowledge to simply hand it down to mankind. Living in this age, we are very fortunate indeed to have with us all this with as much pain as winking an eyelid. Yet, all this is to no purpose if we learn nothing out of them.
Yudhishtira continued to pose questions to the grandsire:
Yudhishtira: What are the duties that have to be practiced?
Bheeshma: The worship of mother, father and preceptor. Serving the father helps one cross the world, serving the mother helps him reach heavens, serving the preceptor helps one attain the Absolute Truth.
Yudhishtira: I want to know about Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), and Kama (sense pleasures). Which of these leads one to Moksha (liberation)?
Bheeshma: The three co-exist if one amasses wealth taking care never to abandon the path of righteousness. Righteousness is the foundation on which wealth is planted and pleasure is the fruit of wealth. All three of them have their roots in Will. They are not ends in themselves but means to the end. Liberation is the only goal of men.
Yudhishtira: How does intelligence help when a king has a difficult task on hand?
Bheeshma: In distress, it is difficult to know who the friend is and who the foe. It is intelligence that helps one decide whether to make friends with a foe or to wage war with a friend. As long as one is assured that his interests are protected, he remains a friend; if he is sure things would continue to be so, he permits friendship to continue.
Self-interest is the key in every person’s life. Friendship terminates as soon as the reason for friendship is lost.
The rule is: When you are afraid of a friend, appear as if you are not. Never trust him but he should feel you totally trust him.
Yudhishtira: What is the source of sin?
Bheeshma: Covetousness is the one root of all sin.
Yudhishtira: Tell me about ignorance
Bheeshma: Ignorance is born of covetousness and is an inseparable companion of covetousness.
Yudhishtira: What duty should be preferred to any other?
Bheeshma: Self-restraint. It is the way to the highest glory.
Yudhishtira: Tell me about truth
Bheeshma: Truth is the eternal duty of every human being. Truth is the highest refuge and the greatest penance and stands above all sacrifices. Truth is the Highest Brahman and is immutable, eternal, unchangeable.
Yudhishtira: What is the one thing one should strive for?
Bheeshma: Death waits for none and is the only certainty. What you have planned for tomorrow, do today. Man is bound by a thousand desires on earth and is unable to restrain attachments. Only truth is able to show the path through the veil of attachments. A wise man restrains his senses and rises above attachments. He attains immortality. Seek the self – it is the only thing one should strive for.
Yudhishtira: How can one be free from attachments and attain emancipation?
Bheeshma: One who has passed far beyond the senses is free from attachment. Pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, are equal in his eyes. With wisdom he attains emancipation whether he is in domestic life or in the forest.
Yudhishtira: Without abandoning domestic life, how can one attain emancipation?
Bheeshma: One should be free of attachment. Renunciation is the key and is the highest means. Knowledge guides the mind toward yoga, and through yoga man attains the Brahman. If one acquires Yama and Niyama (restraint and purification of the senses) equal to a Sanyasin, one leading domestic life can attain emancipation.
Yudhishtira: Is there anything superior to Brahmacharya? What is the highest kind of purity?
Bheeshma: Abstaining from wine and meat is even superior to Brahmacharya. Righteousness is the highest indication of virtue and the highest kind of purity.
Yudhishtira: Who is the true friend of man?
Bheeshma: Man is born alone and dies alone. He has no friend but Dharma, which follows one constantly.
Yudhishtira: Who is the One God?
Bheeshma: Sri Krishna – for He is the Eternal Brahman. Surrender unto Him and be one with Him.