"Yudhishthira said, 'When a king becomes desirous of making gifts in this world, what, indeed, are those gifts which he should make, O best of the Bharatas, unto such Brahmanas as are possessed of superior accomplishments? What gift is that by which the Brahmanas become immediately gratified? What fruits do they bestow in return? O thou of mighty arms, tell me what is the high reward attainable through the merit arising from gifts. What gifts, O king, are productive of rewards both here and hereafter? I desire to hear all this from thee. Do thou discourse to me on all this in detail.'
"Bhishma said, 'These very questions were on a former occasion put by me to Narada of celestial appearance. Hear me as I recite to thee what that celestial sage told me in reply.'
"Narada said, 'The deities and all the Rishis applaud food. The course of the world and the intellectual faculties have all been established on
food. There has never been, nor will be any gift that is equal to the gifts of food. Hence, men always desire particularly to make gifts of food. In this world, food is the cause of energy and strength. The life-breaths are established on food. It is food that upholds the wide universe, O puissant one. All classes of men, householders and mendicants and ascetics, exist, depending upon food. The life-breaths depend upon food. There is no doubt in this. Afflicting (if need be) one's relatives, one is desirous of one's own prosperity, should make gifts of food unto a high-souled Brahmana or a person of the mendicant order. That man who makes a gift of food unto an accomplished Brahmana who solicits the same, secures for himself in the world to come wealth of great value. The householder who is desirous of his own prosperity should receive with reverence a deserving old man that is spent with toil while proceeding on his way far from home, when such a man honours the householder's abode with his presence. That man who, casting off wrath that overleaps every bound and becoming righteous in disposition and freed from malice, makes gifts of food, is sure to attain to happiness, O king, both here and hereafter. The householder should never disregard the man that comes to his abode, nor should he insult him by sending him away. A gift of food made unto even a Chandala or a dog is never lost. That man who makes a gift of clean food unto a person on the way who is toil-worn and unknown to the giver, is sure to acquire great merit. The man who gratifies with gifts of food the Pitris, the deities, the Rishis, the Brahmanas, and guests arrived at his abode, acquires merit whose measure is very large. That person who having committed even a heinous sin makes a gift of food unto one that solicits, or unto a Brahmana, is never stupefied by that heinous sin. A gift of food made unto a Brahmana becomes inexhaustible. One made to a Sudra becomes productive of great merit. Even this is the difference between the merits that attach to gifts of food made unto Brahmanas and Sudras. Solicited by it Brahmana, one should not enquire about his race or conduct or Vedic lore. Asked for food, one should give food to him that asks. There is no doubt in tits, O king, that he who makes gifts of food obtains both here and hereafter many trees yielding food and every other object of desire. Like tillers expecting auspicious showers of rain, the Pitris always expect that their sons and grandsons would make offerings unto them of food (in Sraddhas). The Brahmana is a great being. When he comes into one's anode and solicits, saying, 'Give me,' the owner of the abode, whether influenced or not by the desire of acquiring merit, is sure to win great merit by listening to that solicitation. The Brahmana is the guest of all creatures in the universe. He is entitled to the first portion of every food. That house Increases in prosperity to which the Brahmanas repair from desire of soliciting alms and from which they return honoured in consequence of their desires being fulfilled. The owner of such a house takes birth in his next life in a family, O Bharata, that can command all the comforts and luxuries of life. A man, by making gifts of food in this world, is sure to attain to an excellent place hereafter. He who makes gifts
of sweetmeat and all food that is sweet, attains to a residence in heaven where he is honoured by all the deities and other denizens. Food constitutes the life-breath of men. Everything is established upon food. He who makes gifts of food obtains many animals (as his wealth), many children, considerable wealth (in other shape), and a command in abundance of all articles of comfort and luxurious enjoyment. The giver of food is said to be the giver of life. Indeed, he is said to be the giver of everything. Hence, O king, such a man acquires both strength and beauty of form in this world. If food be given duly unto a Brahmana arrived at the giver's house as a guest, the giver attains to great happiness, and is adored by the very deities. The Brahmana, O Yudhishthira, is a great being. He is also a fertile field. Whatever seed is sown on that field produces an abundant crop of merit. A gift of food is visibly and immediately productive of the happiness of both the giver and the receiver. All other gifts produce fruits that are unseen. Food is the origin of all creatures. From food, comes happiness and delight. O Bharata, know that religion and wealth both flow from food. The cure of disease or health also flows from food. In a former Kalpa, the Lord of all creatures said that food is Amrita or the source of immortality. Food is Earth, food is Heaven, food is the Firmament. Everything is established on food. In the absence of food, the five elements that constitute the physical organism cease to exist in a state of union. From absence of food the strength of even the strongest man is seen to fail. Invitations and marriages and sacrifices all cease in the absence of food. The very Vedas disappear when food there is none. Whatever mobile and immobile creatures exist in the universe are dependent on food. Religion and wealth, in the three worlds, are all dependent on food. Hence the wise should make gifts of food. The strength, energy, fame and achievements of the man who makes gifts of food, constantly increase in the three worlds, O king. The lord of the life-breaths, viz., the deity of wind, places above the clouds (the water sucked up by the Sun). The water thus borne to the clouds is caused by Sakra to be poured upon the earth, O Bharata. The Sun, by means of his rays, sucks up the moisture of the earth. The deity of wind causes the moisture to fall down from the Sun. 1 When the water falls down from the clouds upon the Earth, the goddess Earth becomes moist, O Bharata. Then do people sow diverse kinds of crops upon whose outturn the universe of creatures depends. It is in the food thus produced that the flesh, fat, bones and vital seed of all beings have their origin. From the vital seed thus originated, O king, spring diverse kinds of living creatures. Agni and Soma, the two agents living within the body, create and maintain the vital seed. Thus from food, the Sun and the deity of wind and the vital seed spring and act. All these are said to constitute one element or quantity, and it is from these that all creatures spring. That man who gives food into one who comes into his
house and solicits it, is said, O chief of the Bharatas, to contribute both life and energy unto living creatures.'
'Bhishma continued, 'Thus addressed by Narada, O king, I have always made gifts of food. Do thou also, therefore, freed from malice and with a cheerful heart, make gifts of food. By making gifts of food, O king, unto deserving Brahmanas with due rites, thou mayst be sure, O puissant one, of attaining to Heaven. Hear me, O monarch, as I tell thee what the regions are that are reserved for those that make gifts of food. The mansions of those high-souled persons shine with resplendence in the regions of Heaven. Bright as the stars in the firmament, and supported upon many columns, white as the disc of the moon, and adorned with many tinkling bells, and rosy like the newly-risen sun, those palatial abodes are either fixed or movable. Those mansions are filled with hundreds upon hundreds of things and animals that live on land and as many things and animals living in water. Some of them are endued with the effulgence of lapis lazuli and some are possessed of the resplendence of the sun. Some of them are made of silver and some of gold. Within those mansions are many trees capable of crowning with fruition every desire of the inmates. Many tanks and roads and halls and well and lakes occur all around. Thousands of conveyances with horses and other animals harnessed thereto and with wheels whose clatter is always loud, may be seen there. Mountains of food and all enjoyable articles and heaps of cloths and ornaments are also to be seen there. Numerous rivers that run milk, and hills of rice and other edibles, may also be seen there. Indeed, many palatial residences looking like white clouds, with many beds of golden splendour, occur in those regions, All these are obtained by those men that make gifts of food in this world. Do thou, therefore, become a giver of food. Verily, these are the regions that are reserved for those high-souled and righteous persons that make gifts of food in this world. For these reasons, men should always make gifts of food in this world.'"
75:1 The Bombay reading adityatastansha is better than the Bengal reading adityataptansha.