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Highest Good

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The Rule of Righteousness
One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious
to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of Righteousness.

Highest Good (Greatest Merit)

From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

Yudhishthira said: Abstention from injury, the observance of the Vedic ritual, meditation, subjugation of the senses, penances, and obedient services rendered to the preceptors; which amongst these is fraught with the greatest merit with respect to a person?

Vrihaspati said: All these six are fraught with merit. They are different doors to piety. I shall discourse upon them presently. Do thou listen to them, O chief of the Bharatas! I shall tell thee what constitutes the highest good of a human being. That man who practises the religion of universal compassion achieves his highest good. That man who keeps under control the three faults, viz., lust, wrath, and cupidity, by throwing them upon all creatures (and practises the virtue of compassion), attains to success.

[Note: ‘Kama’ (lust) and ‘Krodha’ (anger) are mentioned, but the use of ‘cha’ gives by implication cupidity. What is meant by ‘Nidhaya Sarvabhuteshu’ is, dividing them into infinite small parts, to cast them off from oneself to others.]

He who, from motives of his own happiness, slays other harmless creatures with the rod of chastisement, never attains to happiness in the next world. That man who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self, laying aside the rod of chastisement and completely subjugating his wrath, succeeds in attaining to happiness. The very deities, who are desirous of a fixed abode, become stupefied in ascertaining the track of that person who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures and looks upon them all as his own self, for such a person leaves no tract behind.

[Note: In the first line, after ‘Sarvabhutani, Atmatwena’ is understood. The sense of this verse seems to be this; such a man leaves no trace behind him, for he becomes identified with Brahman (Supreme Reality). He is, therefore, said to be ‘Apada’. The deities on the other hand, are ‘Padaishinah’, for they desire a fixed abode such as heaven or a spot fraught with felicity.]

The Rule of Righteousness

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of Righteousness. One by acting in a different way by yielding to desire, becomes guilty of unrighteousness. In refusals and gifts, in happiness and misery, in the agreeable, and the disagreeable, one should judge of their effects by a reference to one’s own self.

[Note: The sense is that when one refuses a solicitation one should think how one would feel if another were to refuse the solicitation one addressed to that other. So with regard to the rest.]

When one injures another, the injured turns round and injures the injurer. Similarly, when one cherishes another, that other cherishes the cherisher. One should frame one’s rule of conduct according to this. I have told thee what Righteousness is even by this subtle way.

Vaisampayana continued: The preceptor of the deities, possessed of great intelligence, having said this unto king Yudhishthira the just, ascended upwards for proceeding to Heaven, before our eyes.



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