Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana Book 7 Chapter 11:18-35

Book 7: Chapter 11

Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 7: Chapter 11: Verses 18-35
An inquiry into right conduct

One may live by (what are known as) Rta and Amrta or (even) by Mrta and Pramrta. One may (also) live by Satyanrta, but under no circumstance by Swavrtti (a dog's (living). Gathering ears of corn left by the owner while reaping a harvest or gleaning foodgrains lying scattered in a grain-market after the heaps have been sold off or removed is called Rta (lit., right or true); that which is got unasked is called Amrta (nectar). Daily begging (of foodgrains) is Mrota (death); white agriculture is called Pramrta (lit., greater death, so-called because it involves the destruction of many living beings). Trade is (what goes by the name of) Satyanrta (a mixture of truth and falsehood); while service rendered to those belonging to a lower grade is (what is meant by) a dog's living. A Brahmana as well as a Ksatriya should always shun this detested calling. (For) a Brahmana is an embodiment of all the (four) Vedas, while a Ksatriya (lit., a ruler of men) is the personification of all the gods. Control of mind and the senses, austerity (fasting etc.), purity (of body), contentment, forgiveness, straightforwardness, wisdom (discrimination), compassion, devotion to the immortal Lord (Visnu) and veracity are the characteristics of a Brahmana. A martial spirit, valour, fortitude, audacity, liberality, self-control, forgiveness, devotion to the Brahmana race, benignity and protection (of the weak) constitute the characteristics of a Ksatriya. Devotion to the gods, to one's preceptor and to the immortal Lord (Visnu); promotion of the three objects of human pursuit (viz., religious merit, worldly riches and sensual enjoyment); belief in the existence of God, in life after death, and so on; constant exertion (for the acquisition of wealth) and dexterity (in acquiring it) are the characteristics of a Vaisya. (And) submissiveness, purity, guilelessly ministering to one's master, performance of (the five daily) sacrifices[1] unaccompanied by (the recitation of) Mantras (sacred texts), non-thieving, truthfulness and protection of cows and the Brahmanas are indeed the characteristics of a Sudra. And the duty of women devoted to their husband (lit., looking upon their husband as a deity) is to serve him, to do good offices to him, to humour his relations and constantly to observe his sacred vows. Herself remaining adorned and keeping her utensils etc., well-scoured at all times, a virtuous wife should serve her husband by thoroughly sweeping her house and plastering it (with cow-dung etc.), by drawing auspicious diagrams and spherical designs (on the floor with colours), through sense-objects-great and small-desired by him, through modesty and control of the senses, through truthful and agreeable words and (above all) through love at opportune moments.

Contented (with her resources) and not coveting even that which is available (to her), diligent, conversant with Dharma (what is right), agreeable and truthful of speech (not only to her husband but to all), vigilant, pure (of body) and full of affection, she should gratify her husband unless he is fallen[2] (guilty of any of the five major sins). A wife who serves her husband, regarding him as an image of Sri Hari (Lord Visnu) and devoted to him as Goddess Laksmi is to Her Consort, rejoices in Vaikuntha (the realm of Sri Hari) like Sri (Laksmi) in the company of her husband, who (by virtue of her devotion) is sure to attain a form similar to that of Sri Hari (Himself). The calling of mixed[3] races such as the Antyajas [4] (those belonging to the lowest grade in society) and Antevasayis [5]. (lit., those living at the end of a town or village ), other than those who are thieves and given to (other) sinful pursuits, should be the same as has been (hereditarily) followed in their respective families. (30) Generally the course of conduct determined by the innate disposition (according as it is Sattvika, Rajasiks or Tamasika) of men (belonging to the various grades of society and stages in life) in all ages has been declared by men whose eye is the Veda as conducive to happiness both here and hereafter, O Yudhisthira ! A man following a vocation determined by his natural disposition (as revealed by his birth) and (scrupulously) discharging his duties bids fair to attain by degrees the state of a Gunatita (one who has transcended the three Gunas or modes of Prakrti), relinquishing (later on) his natural pursuits (as well). Being repeatedly sown (with seeds), a field will automatically become sterile (one day). It will no more be capable of yielding any crops; may, (even) the seed sown (in it) will perish. (Even) so by over-indulgence in the objects of senses the mind, the seat of desires (in their latent form) is sure to get fully disgusted (with them), 0 king, but not so by driblets of enjoyment, like fire (that is extinguished by pouring large quantities of ghee but not so by drops of it)[6]. If what has been declared to be a characteristic of the grade in society of a (particular) man is perceived even in another (a man belonging to a different class), the latter should be distinctively called by that very denomination (caste).[7]

Thus ends the eleventh discourse entitled "An inquiry into right conduct," forming

part of the dialogue between Emperor Yudhisthira and the sage Narada,

in Book Seven of the great and glorious Bhagavata-Purana, otherwise known as the Paramahamsa-Samhita..


  1. The Sastras have made it obligatory for a Sidra to perform the five daily sacrifices, reciting the name of the gods etc., to whom oblations are offered in the dative case and adding the word 'Namah (Hail !) Instead of' Swaha' after it (as'Agnaye Namah', (Hail to the god of fire!)'. Says the law-giver Yajnavalkya :-
  2. The five major sins are :- (1) killing a Brahmana, (2) drinking Intoxicating liquors, (3) thieving, (4) committing adultery with the wife of one's preceptor and (5) fellowship with anyone guilty of one or more of these crimes.
  3. Mixed races are of two kinds : (1) Pralilomajas or those sprung from the union of a female of a higher caste with a male belonging to a lower grade in society, which is considered as quite the reverse of the natural order; and (2) Anulomajas or those sprung from the union of a male belonging to a higher caste with a female of a lower grade, which is not considered so bad. The former are naturally regarded as the most low-born in society.
  4. (1)Washermen, (2) Carmakaras (workers in leather), (3) Natas (rope-dancers) (4)Burudas (basket-makers), (5)Kaivartas (fishermen), (6) Medas (those living by any degrading profession) and (7) Bhillas (Bhils, a wild mountain race)-these are the seven tribes known by the name of Antyajas.
  5. The Antevasayis are regarded as even lower than the Antyajas and comprise the Candelas, the Pulkasas, the Matangas and soon. All these mintue details show to what inconceivable lengths the science of ethnology was developed by the Hindus and what great value they attached to racial purity, which is so very essential for moral and spiritual evolution
  6. Possessed as he is by innumerable cravings of a latent type is not possible for a man to conquer his desires all at once. It, however, he enjoys a variety of sensuous pleasures according to the restriction laid down in the Vedas, he is likely to get disgusted with them in course of time even as his mind gets purified by the performance of obligatory and other incidental duties and he realizes the futility of his pursuit after pleasure even like Emperor Yayati and the sage Saubharl, whose accounts find place in Discourses XVIII. XIX and VI respectively of Book-Nine.
  7. What is sought to be conveyed by this assertion is evidently this that if a man belonging to a lower grade in society evinces the characteristics of a higher grade, he should be accorded the same honour as Is due to the members of that higher caste. But this should in no case be taken to mean he should adopt the vocation of a higher grade, as such deviation will create confusion.