The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 114 - Assignment of duties to different castes and stages of life

The sages said:

1. O holy one, we wish to hear about the special duties of different castes. O excellent brahmin, recount the duties of four Āśramas also.

2. Listen with restraint to the duties of different castes, Brahmins, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras in due order as they are being recounted by me.

3. A Brahmin shall be devoted to (the practice of) sympathy, charitable gift, austerities, sacrifice unto the gods and study of his own branch of the Vedas. He shall regularly perform water libations. He shall maintain sacrificial fires.

4. For his livelihood he shall perform sacrifices on behalf of others. He shall teach Vedic lore to the twice-born. O brahmins, for performing sacrifices he shall accept monetary gifts with discretion.

5. O brahmins, he shall do everything beneficial to the world. He shall not perform what is detrimental to anyone. Friendliness to all living beings is the excellent asset of a Brahmin.

6. O brahmins, he shall view a cow and another man’s precious gem as equal. O brahmins, his carnal approach to his wife during the permissible period after the days of menstruation, is commended.

7. A Kṣatriya shall give charitable gifts to the brahmins as much as they wish. O brahmins, he should perform different sacrifices and read the Vedas.

8. He shall maintain himself through his weapons. Protection of Earth is his excellent means of livelihood. Sustenance of Earth is his primary duty.

9. Rulers of men (kings) are content only by due sustenance of the Earth, since the protection of the king himself is accomplished by such holy rites as sacrifice.

10. By chastising the wicked and protecting the good, the king attains desired worlds; He is one who establishes and stabilises different castes.

11. O excellent sages, Brahmā, the grandfather of the worlds, granted breeding of cattle, trading activities and agriculture as means of livelihood unto a Vaiśya.

12. For him the following activities too are recommended: Reading of the Vedas, sacrifice, charitable gifts, practice of piety and the performance of compulsory and optional rites.

13-14. The holy rites of a Śūdra depend upon the collaboration of the twice-born. For that purpose he supports and nourishes them through riches earned by purchase and sale of articles or by practising arts and crafts. A Śūdra shall offer charitable gifts. He shall worship by means of Pākayajñas (offering cooked food unto gods). He shall perform rites unto the Pitṛs.

15-18. There are certain virtuous observances common to the four Varṇas. All of them can accept gift for sustaining their dependents. O excellent brahmins, they should carnally approach their own respective wives during the permissible period after the days of menstruation. The following are recounted as the noble characteristics of all the Varṇas, O excellent brahmins: Kindness and sympathy towards all living beings, forbearance, absence of over-exertion (?), auspiciousness, loving gentle speech, friendliness, absence of desire, abstention from miserliness and being devoid of jealousy. O brahmins, these alone are the characteristics common to all stages of life. There are special qualities and subsidiary duties of the Brahmins and others.

19. In times of adversity the vocation of a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya is recommended for a Brahmin; the vocation of a Vaiśya to a Kṣatriya and the jobs of a Śūdra to both Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas.

20. O brahmins, in case of incompetence that shall be avoided. That alone shall be pursued during adversity, but chaotic mixing up of jobs shall not be effected.

21. Thus, O brahmins, the duties of a Brahmin have been mentioned by me. Understand now the respective duties of the people of various stages of life even as I explain them well.

22-23. A boy who has been invested with the sacred thread shall be devoted to the acquiring of Vedas. Residing in the abode of his preceptor, O brahmins, a religious student shall be mentally pure. He should be devotedly engaged in the practice of cleanliness. Service should a rendered to the preceptor. He shall maintain devotional observances and grasp the Vedas intelligently.

24. O brahmins, with concentration and purity of mind he shall make obeisance to the sun-god and fìre-god at dawn as well as at dusk. He shall salute the preceptor too.

25. O excellent brahmins, he shall stand when the preceptor remains standing. He shall follow when the preceptor goes ahead. When the teacher is seated he shall be seated on a lower level. He shall avoid what is contrary to the preceptor.

26. He shall sit in front of him. Without his mind dwelling on anything else he shall repeat the Vedic text recited by the preceptor. Thereafter, on being permitted by him, he shall partake of the cooked food received as alms.

27. He shall take bath in the water wherein the preceptor has taken bath. Early in the morning everyday he shall fetch water for libation and sacrificial twigs for the preceptor.

28. Having learnt the requisite Vedic texts he shall pay fees to his preceptor. On getting his permission he shall enter the stage of a householder.

29. He shall duly acquire a wife. O brahmins, after earning wealth by his own work he shall perform the duties of a householder.

30-31. The householder propitiates the Manes by means of oblations, Devas by sacrifices, guests by cooked food, sages by regular recitation of Vedic texts, the spirits and other living beings by oblations etc., and the entire world by the truthfulness of words. Thus he attains celestial regions by his own actions.

32. The recluses and religious students who sustain themselves by cooked food received as alms depend on the householder. Hence the stage of householder is the noblest.

33-34. O brahmins, some brahmins are engaged in disseminating the Vedic knowledge. Some wander over the Earth for pilgrimage, taking holy dips in sacred waters. Some wander visiting different countries of the world. These have no abode of their own. They do not prepare their own food. To these people the householder offers a home and rest in the evening. Hence it is said that the householder sustains and supports them.

35. The householder should welcome them. He should speak sweet words always. He shall give them gifts. He shall offer seats, food and beds to those who come to his house.

36. A guest returning disappointed from a person’s house goes, after taking his merits and handing over his own sins.

37. For a householder the following are despicable: Dishonouring (others), egotism, arrogance, slandering, attacking and speaking harsh words to others.

38. The householder who duly adheres to what is thus enjoined becomes liberated from bondage and attains the most excellent worlds.

39. At a ripe old age, O brahmins, the householder who has duly fulfilled his duties shall entrust his sons with the duty of looking after his wife and himself retire and go to the forest. Or he can allow his wife to accompany him.

40. O brahmins, there he shall stay as a sage sustaining himself with leaves, roots and fruits. He shall let the beard and facial hairs grow. He shall have matted hairs on his head. He shall sleep on the bare ground. He can be the guest of anyone.

41. O excellent brahmins, his wearing apparel and upper garment shall consist of leather, Darbha grass or Kāśa plants. Taking head bath thrice a day (in rivers or lakes) is recommended for him.

42. The following are highly recommended in his case: Worship of the deities, offering ghee into the fire, greeting and honouring visitors and guests, begging alms and offering oblations.

43. Massaging his limbs by means of oil obtained from forest products is also commended. O leading brahmins, ability to bear the extremes of chilliness and heat is a form of penance unto him.

44. The forest-dwelling recluse who regularly preforms duties fixed for him shall bum off his defects like fire. He shall attain the eternal worlds.

45. O excellent ones, follow me even as I relate the nature and general characteristics of the stage of a mendicant sage, that is called the fourth stage by the wise.

46. O excellent brahmins, a mendicant shall eschew affection and attachment unto his sons, wife and assets. He shall enter the fourth stage of life after eschewing competitive spirit and rivalry.

47. O excellent brahmins, he shall leave off the enterprises of the three Varṇas. He shall behave alike unto the friends and others. He shall be friendly to all creatures.

48. He shall maintain Yogic practice. He shall never injure the oviparous, viviparous and other creatures mentally, verbally or physically. He shall refrain from all attachments.

49. He shall never stay in a single place permanently. In a village he shall stay for a single night. In a city he shall stay for five successive nights. He has neither pleasurable attachment nor hatred unto the lower creatures and birds.

50. For sustaining himself he shall visit, begging for alms, the houses of men of noble caste where coal has ceased to burn but the inmates have not yet taken food.

51. He shall not be dejected when nothing is obtained. He shall not be overjoyous when something is obtained. He shall have that much which is necessary to maintain his life. He shall be out of all attachment to quantities.

52. He shall have absolute contempt for over-cherished acquisitions. Even the liberated sage is bound (again) by overcherished acquisitions.

53. Eschewing such defects as passion, anger, arrogance, greed, delusion etc., the full-fledged saint shall be free from all possessions.

54. After offering freedom from fear to all living beings he shall wander over the Earth. Liberated from his physical body he shall have no cause of fear anywhere.

55. By means of sacrificial offerings such as ghee acquired through begging the brahminical sage shall perform the symbolic Agnihotra in his own body. He shall perform Homa unto the bodily fire through his mouth. He attains the other worlds through the funeral pyre.

56. He who is pure and endowed with good conceptions and intellect and passes through the stage of life pertaining to salvation in the manner mentioned above becomes calm like the fire wherein no fuel is put. That twice-born attains Brahma world.

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