Vidura Niti Part 3


Vidura

 

 

An Agnihotra (sacred fire ceremony) performed from motives of pride, abstention from speech practised from similar motives, study and sacrifice from the same motives, – these four, of themselves innocent, become harmful when practised unduly.

These are all reckoned as equal in moral
turpitude as the slayers of Brahmanas.

One that sets fire to a dwelling house, an administerer of poison, a pander, a vendor of the Soma juice, a maker of arrows, an astrologer, one that injures friends, an adulterer, one that causes abortion, a violator of his preceptor’s bed, a Brahmana (Brahmin) addicted to drink, one that is sharp-speeched, a raker of old sores, an atheist, a reviler of the Vedas, and takers of bribes, one whose investiture with the sacred thread has been delayed beyond the prescribed age, one that secretly slays cattle, and one who slays him who prays for protection, – these are all reckoned as equal in moral turpitude as the slayers of Brahmanas.

Gold is tested by fire; a well-born person, by his deportment; an honest man, by his conduct. A brave man is tested during a season of panic; he that is self-controlled, in times of poverty; and friends and foes, in times of calamity and danger.

Decrepitude destroys beauty; ambitious hopes destroy patience; death destroys life; envy, righteousness; anger, prosperity; companionship with the low, good behaviour; lust, modesty; and pride destroys everything.

Theses eight qualities shed a lustre upon their possessor.

Prosperity takes its birth in good deeds, growth in consequence of activity, drives its roots deep in consequence of skill, and acquires stability owing to self-control. Wisdom, good lineage, self-control, acquaintance with the scriptures, prowess, absence of garrulity, gift to the extent of one’s power, and gratefulness, – theses eight qualities shed a lustre upon their possessor.

But, O sire, there is one endowment which alone can cause all these attributes to come together; the fact is, when the king honours a particular person, the royal favour can cause all these attributes to shed their lustre (on the favourite). Those eight, O king, in the world of men, are indications of heaven.

Of the eight (mentioned below) four are inseparably connected, with the good, and four others are always followed by the good. The first four which are inseparably connected with the good, are sacrifice, gift, study and asceticism, while the other four that are always followed by the good, are self-restraint, truth, simplicity, and abstention from injury to all.

The eight different paths of righteousness

Sacrifice, study, charity, asceticism, truth, forgiveness, mercy, and contentment constitute the eight different paths of righteousness. The first four of these may be practised from motives of pride, but the last four can exist only in those that are truly noble.

Assembly

That is no assembly where there are no old men, and they are not old who do not declare what morality is. That is not morality which is separated from truth, and that is not truth, which is fraught with deceit.

Truth, beauty, acquaintance with the scriptures, knowledge, high birth, good behaviour, strength, wealth, bravery, and capacity for varied talk,these ten are of heavenly origin.

Sin

A sinful person, by committing sin, is overtaken by evil consequences. A virtuous man, by practising virtue, reaps great happiness. Therefore, a man, rigidly resolved, should abstain from sin. Sin repeatedly perpetrated, destroys intelligence; and the man who has lost intelligence, repeatedly commits sin.

Virtue

Virtue repeatedly practised, enhances intelligence; and the man whose intelligence has increased, enhances intelligence; and the man whose intelligence has increased repeatedly practises virtue. The virtuous man, by practising virtue, goes to regions of blessedness. Therefore, a man should, firmly resolved, practise virtue. He that is envious, he that injures others deeply, he that is cruel, he that constantly quarrels, he that is deceitful, soon meets with great misery for practising these sins.

He that is not envious and is possessed of wisdom, by always doing what is good, never meets with great misery; on the other hand, he shines everywhere. He that draws wisdom from them that are wise is really learned and wise. And he that is wise, by attending to both virtue and profit, succeeds in attaining to happiness.

Do that during the day, which may enable thee to pass the night in happiness; and do that during eight months of the year, which may enable thee to pass the season of rains happily. [Note: India has four months of rainy season known as the Monsoon.]

Do that during youth, which may ensure a happy old age; and do that during thy whole life here which may enable thee to live happily hereafter.

The wise prize that food which is easily digested, that wife whose youth has passed away, that hero who is victorious and that ascetic whose efforts have been crowned with success.

The gap that is sought to be filled by wealth acquired wrongfully, remains uncovered, while new ones appear in other places. The preceptor controls them whose souls are under their own control; the king controls persons that are wicked; while they that sin secretly have their controller in Yama, the son of Vivaswat. [Note: Yama is the god of death].

These cannot be ascertained

The greatness of Rishis, of rivers, of riverbanks, of high-souled men, and the cause of woman’s wickedness, cannot be ascertained.

These rule the earth for ever

O king, he that is devoted to the worship of Brahmanas, he that gives away, he that behaves righteously towards his relatives, and the Kshatriya that behaves nobly, rule the earth for ever.

He that is possessed of bravery, he that is possessed of learning, and he that knows how to protect others, – these three are always able to gather flowers of gold from the earth.

Of acts, those accomplished by intelligence are first; those accomplished by arms, second; those by the thighs, and those by bearing weights upon the head, are the very worst.

Reposing the care of thy kingdom on Duryodhana, on Sakuni, on foolish Dussasana, and on karna, how canst thou hope for prosperity? Possessed of every virtue, the Pandavas, O bull of the Bharata race, depend on thee as their father, O, repose thou on them as on thy sons!

Vidura said: In this connection is cited the old story of the
discourse between the son of Atri and the deities called Sadhyas is as heard by us.

I days of old, the deities known by the name of Sadhyas questioned the highly wise and great Rishi of rigid vows (the son of Atri), while the latter was wandering in the guise of one depending on eleemosynary charity for livelihood.

The Sadhyas said: We are, O great Rishi, deities known as Sadhyas. Beholding thee, we are unable to guess who thou art. It seems to us, however, that thou art possessed of intelligence and self-control in consequence of acquaintance with the scriptures. It, therefore, behoveth thee to discourse to us in magnanimous words fraught with learning.

Slanders and reproaches

The mendicant Rishi answered: Ye immortals, it has been heard by me that by untying all the knots in the heart by the aid of tranquillity, and by mastery over all the passions, and observance of true religion, one should regard both the agreeable and the disagreeable like his own self. One should not return the slanders or reproaches of others for the pain that is felt by him who bears silently, consumes the slanderer; and he that bears, succeeds also appropriating the virtues of the slanderer. Indulge not in slanders and reproaches.

Do not humiliate and insult others. Quarrel not with friends. Abstain from companionship with those that are vile and low. Be not arrogant and ignoble in conduct. Avoid words that are harsh and fraught with anger. Harsh words burn and scorch the very vitals, bones, heart, and the very sources of the life of men. Therefore, he, that is virtuous, should always abstain from harsh and angry words. That worst of men is of harsh and wrathful speech that pierces the vitals of others with wordy thorns, bears hell in his tongue, and should ever be regarded as a dispenser of misery to men. The man that is wise, pierced by another’s wordy arrows, sharp pointed and smarting like fire or the sun, should, even if deeply wounded and burning with pain, bear them patiently remembering that the slanderer’s merits become his.

He that waits upon one that is good or upon one that is wicked, upon one that is possessed of ascetic merit or upon one that is a thief, soon takes the colour from that companion of his, like a cloth from the dye in which it is soaked. The very gods desire his company, who, stung with reproach, returns if not himself nor causes others to return it, or who being struck does not himself return the blow nor causes others to do it, and who wishes not the slightest injury to him that injures him.

Silence and Truth

Silence, it is said, is better than speech. If speak you must, then it is better to say the truth. If truth is to be said, it is better to say what is agreeable; and if what is agreeable is to be said, then it is better to say what is consistent with morality.

Company

A man becomes exactly like him with whom he lives, or like him whom he regards, or like that which he wishes to be. One is freed from those things from which one abstains, and if one abstains from everything he has not to suffer even the least misery. Such a man neither vanquishes others, nor is vanquished by others. He never injures nor opposes others. He is unmoved by praise or blame. He neither grieves nor exalts in joy.

That man is regarded as the first of his species who wishes for the prosperity of all and never sets his heart on the misery of others, who is truthful in speech, humble in behaviour, and has all his passions under control.

That man is regarded as a mediocre in goodness who never consoles others by saying what is not true; who gives having promised; and who keeps an eye over the weakness of others.

These, however, are the indications of a bad man, viz., incapacity to be controlled; liability to be afflicted by dangers; proneness to give way to wrath, ungratefulness; inability to become another’s friend, and wickedness of heart. He too is the worst of men, who is dissatisfied with any good that may come to him from others, who is suspicious of his own self, and who drives away from himself all his true friends.

He that desires prosperity to himself, should wait upon them that are good, and at times upon them that are indifferent, but never upon them that are bad. He that is wicked earns wealth, it is true, by putting forth his strength, by constant effort, by intelligence, and by prowess, but he can never win honest fame, nor can he acquire the virtues and manners of high families (in any of which he may be born).

High Families

Dhritarashtra said: The gods, they that regard both virtue and profit without swerving from either, and they that are possessed of great learning, express a liking for high families. I ask thee, O Vidura, this question, – what are those families that are called high?

Vidura said: Asceticism, self-restraint, knowledge of the Vedas, sacrifices, pure marriages, and gifts of food, – those families in which these seven exist or are practised duly, are regarded as high. There are high families who deviate not from the right course whose deceased ancestors are never pained (by witnessing the wrong-doings of their descendants), who cheerfully practise all the virtues, who desire to enhance the pure fame of the line in which they are born, and who avoid every kind of falsehood.

Families that are high fall down and become low owing to the absence of sacrifices, impure marriages, abandonment of the Vedas, and insults offered to Brahmanas (Brahmins). High families fall off and become low owing to their members disregarding or speaking ill of Brahmanas, or to the misappropriation, O Bharata of what had been deposited with them by others.

Those families that are possessed of members, wealth and kine (cows), are not regarded as families if they be wanting in good manners and conduct, while families wanting in wealth but distinguished by manners and good conduct are regarded as such and win great reputation.

Therefore, should good manners and good conduct be maintained with care, for, as regards wealth, it comes or goes. He that is wanting in wealth is not really wanting, but he that is wanting in manners and conduct is really in want. Those families that abound in kine and other cattle and in the produce of the field are not really worthy of regard or fame if they were wanting in manners and conduct. Let none in our race be a fomenter of quarrels, none serve a king as minister, none steal the wealth of others, none provoke intestine dissensions, none be deceitful or false in behaviour, and none eat before serving the Rishis, the gods and guests. He, in our race, who slays Brahmanas, or entertains feelings of aversion towards them, or impedes or otherwise injures agriculture, does not deserve to mix with us.

Straw (for a seat), ground for sitting upon, water (to wash the feet and face) and fourthly sweet words, – these are never wanting in the houses of the good. Virtuous men devoted to the practice of righteous acts, when desirous of entertaining (guests), have these things ready for being offered with reverence. As the Sandal tree, O king, though thin, is competent to bear weights which timbers of other trees (much thicker) cannot; so they that belong to high families are always able to bear the weight of great cares which ordinary men cannot.

He is not friend whose anger inspires fear, or who is to be waited upon with fear. He, however, on whom one can repose confidence as on a father, is a true friend. Other friendships are nominal connection. He that bears himself as a friend, even though unconnected by birth of blood, is a true friend, a real refuge, and a protector.

He, whose heart is unsteady, or who does not wait upon the aged, or who is of a restless disposition cannot make friends. Success (in the attainment of objects) forsakes the person whose heart is unsteady, or who has no control over his mind, or who is a slave of his senses, like swans forsaking a water tank whose waters have dried up. They that are of weak minds suddenly give way to anger and are gratified without sufficient cause; they are like clouds that are so inconstant.

The very birds of prey abstain from touching the dead bodies of those who having been served and benefited by friends, show ingratitude to the latter. Be thou poor or be thou rich, thou should honour thy friends. Until some service is asked, the sincerity or otherwise of friends cannot be known.

Sorrow

Sorrow kills beauty; sorrow kills strength; sorrow kills the understanding; and sorrow brings on disease.

Grief, instead of helping the acquisition of his object, dries up the body, and makes one’s foes glad. Therefore, do not yield to grief. Men repeatedly die and are reborn; repeatedly they wither away and grow; repeatedly they ask others for help, and they themselves are asked for help; repeatedly they lament and are lamented.

Happiness and misery, plenty and want, gain and loss, life and death, are shared by all in due order. Therefore, he that is self-controlled should neither exult in joy nor repine in sorrow. The six senses are always restless. Through the most predominant one amongst them one’s understanding escapes in proportion to the strength it assumes, like water from a pot through its holes.

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