Eldest Brother
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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Eldest Brother

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

Yudhishthira said: Tell me, O chief of Bharata’s race, how the eldest brother should behave towards his younger brothers and how the younger brothers should behave towards their eldest brother?

Bhishma said: Do thou, O son, always behave towards thy younger brothers as their eldest brother should. Thou art always the eldest of all these thy brothers. That high conduct which the preceptor should always adopt towards his disciples should be adopted by thee towards thy younger brothers. If the preceptor happens to be unendued with wisdom, the disciple cannot possibly behave towards him in a respectful or proper way. If the preceptor happens to be possessed of purity and highness of conduct, the disciple also succeeds in attaining to conduct of the same kind, O Bharata.

The eldest brother should at times be blind to the acts of his younger brothers, and though possessed of wisdom should at times act as if he does not understand their acts. If the younger brothers were guilty of any transgression, the eldest brother should correct them by indirect ways and means. If there be good understanding among brothers and if the eldest brother seek to correct his younger brothers by direct or ostensible means, persons that are enemies, O son of Kunti, that are afflicted with sorrow at the sight of such good understanding and who, therefore, always seek to bring about a disunion, set themselves to disunite the brothers and cause dissension among them.

It is the eldest brother that enhances the prosperity of the family or destroys it entirely. If the eldest brother happens to be unendued with sense and wicked in behaviour, he brings about the destruction of the whole family. The eldest brother who injures his younger brothers ceases to be regarded as the eldest and forfeits his share in the family property and deserves to be checked by the king. That man who acts deceitfully, has, without doubt, to go to regions of grief and every kind of evil. The birth of such a person serves no useful purpose even as the flowers of the cane.

[Note: The flowers of the cane cannot be plucked for being offered to the deities.]

That family in which a sinful person takes birth becomes subject to every evil. Such a person brings about infamy, and all the good acts of the family disappear. Such among the brothers as are wedded to evil acts forfeit their shares of the family property. In such a case, the eldest brother may appropriate the whole Yautuka property without giving any portion thereof to his younger brothers. If the eldest brother makes any acquisition, without using the paternal property and by going to a distant place he may appropriate for his own use, such acquisitions, without giving any share thereof to his younger brothers. If unseparated brothers desire (during the lifetime of their father) to portion the family property, the father should give equal shares unto all his sons. If the eldest brother happens to be of sinful acts and undistinguished by accomplishments of any kind he may be disregarded by his younger brothers.

If the wife or the younger brother happens to be sinful, her or his good must still be looked after. Persons conversant with the efficacy of righteousness say that righteousness is the highest good. The Upadhyaya is superior to even ten Acharyas. The sire is equal to ten Upadhyayas. The mother is equal to ten sires or even the whole earth. There is no senior equal to the mother. Verily she transcends all in respect of the reverence due to her.

[Note: An Acharya is an ordinary instructor. He is called an Upadhyaya who teaches the Vedas. The Upadhyaya is greater than ten Acharyas or ordinary teachers. The father, again, deserves ten times as much respect as is paid to the Upadhyaya. As regards the mother, again, the reverence due to her is greater than what is due to the father. The mother is equal to the whole earth.]

It is for this reason that people regard the mother to deserve so much reverence. After the father has ceased to breathe, O Bharata, the eldest brother should be regarded as the father. It is the eldest brother who should assign unto them their means of support and protect and cherish them. All the younger brothers should bow to him and obey his authority. Indeed, they should live in dependence upon him even as they did upon their father while he was alive.

So far as the body is concerned, O Bharata, it is the father and the mother that create it. That birth, however, which the Acharya ordains, is regarded as the true birth, that is, besides, really unfading and immortal. (See page ‘Twice born’ or ‘Dwija’). The eldest sister, O chief of Bharata’s race, is like unto the mother. The wife of the eldest brother also is like unto the mother, for the younger brother, in infancy, receives suck from her.

[Note: Many of the verses in this Lesson are from Manu. The relative positions of the Acharya, the Upadhyaya, the father, and the mother, as given in verse 15, are interpreted somewhat differently. Manu, verse 15 would show that the Upadhyaya was regarded as very much superior of the Acharya. In Manu, II-140-141, he is called an Acharya who taught all the Vedas, without any remuneration. He, on the other hand, who taught a particular Veda for living, was called an Upadhyaya. The first line of the verse corresponds with Manu, II-148. The sense is that that birth which one derives from one’s parents is subject to death; while the birth derived from the preceptor is true regeneration, unfading and immortal. It is a question whether any other nation paid such respect to persons employed in teaching.]
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Related articles
Mother, Father & Teacher
Righteousness
Dharma
Good and pure
Conduct

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