Dhritarashtra said: Tell me what may be done by a person that is sleepless and burning with anxieties, for thou alone amongst us, O child, art versed in both religion and profit. Advise me wisely, O Vidura, O thou of magnanimous heart, tell me what is thou deemest to be beneficial for Ajatasatru and what is productive of good to the Kurus. Apprehending future evils, I look back only on my previous guilt. I ask thee with anxious heart, O learned one, tell me what is exactly in Ajatasatru’s mind.
Vidura said: Even if unasked, one should speak truly, whether his words be good or bad, hateful or pleasing, unto him whose defeat one does not wish. I shall, therefore, say, O king, what is for the good of the Kurus. I shall say what is both beneficial and consistent with morality. Listen to me. Do not, O Bharata, set the heart upon means of success that are unjust and improper. A man of intelligence must not grieve if any purpose of his does not succeed, notwithstanding the application of fair and proper means. Before one engages in an act, one should consider the competence of the agent, the nature of the act itself, and its purpose, for all acts are dependent on these. Considering these one should begin an act, and not take it up on a sudden impulse.
He that is wise should either do an act or desist from it fully considering his own ability, the nature of the act, and the consequence also of success. The king who knows not the proportion or measure as regards territory, gain, loss, treasury, population, and punishment, cannot retain his kingdom long. He, on the other hand, who is acquainted with the measures of these as prescribed in treatises, being necessarily possessed of the knowledge of religion and profit, can retain his kingdom.
Subdue the Senses
As the stars are affected by the planets, so is this world affected by the senses, when they are directed, uncontrolled, to their respective objects. Like the moon during the lighted fortnight, calamities increase in respect of him who is vanquished by the five senses in their natural state, which ever lead him towards various acts. He who wishes to control his counsellors before controlling his own self, or to subdue his adversaries before controlling his counsellors, at last succumbs deprived of strength. He, therefore, who first subdues his own self regarding it as a foe, never fails to subdue his counsellors and adversaries at last. Great prosperity waits upon him who has subdued his senses, or controlled his soul, or who is capable of punishing all offenders, or who acts with judgment or who is blessed with patience.
One’s body, O king, is one’s car; the soul within is the driver; and the senses are its steeds (horses). Drawn by those excellent steeds, when well trained, he that is wise, pleasantly performs the journey of life, and awake in peace. The horses that are unbroken and incapable of being controlled, always lead an unskilful driver to destruction in the course of the journey; so one’s senses, unsubdued, lead only to destruction The inexperienced wight, who, led by this unsubdued senses, hopes to extract evil from good and good from evil, necessarily confounds misery with happiness. He who, forsaking religion and profit, follows the lead of his senses, loses without delay prosperity, life, wealth and wife. He, who is the master of riches but not of his senses, certainly loses his riches in consequence of his want of mastery over his senses
[Note: Compare Katha Upanishad, I.iii.3 & I.iii.4.]
Translation by Swami Gambhirananda, Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati
“Know the (individual) self as the master of the chariot, and the body as the chariot. Know the intellect as the charioteer, and the mind verily the bridle”. (The mind is like the reins, which enable the charioteer, viz., the understanding or intellect to hold the horses, i.e., the senses, in check)
“They call the senses the horses; the senses having been imagined as horses, (know) the objects as the ways. (The road is the world of objects over which the senses move.) The discriminating people call that Self the enjoyer when It is associated with the body, senses, and mind.”
One should seek to know one’s self by means of one’s own self, controlling one’s mind, intellect, and senses, for one’s self is one’s friend as, indeed, it is one’s own foe. That man, who has conquered self by means of self, has his self for a friend, for one’s self is ever one’s friend or foe.
[Note: Compare Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, verses 5 & 6.
(Translation by Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh)
The Blessed Lord said: “Let a man lift himself by his own Self alone, let him not lower himself; for this self alone is the friend of oneself and this self alone is the enemy of oneself.” (5).
The self is the friend of the self for him who has conquered himself by the Self, but to the unconquered self, this self stands in the position of the enemy like the (external) foe.”]
Desire and Anger
Desire and anger, O king, break through wisdom, just as a large fish breaks through a net of thin cords. He who in this world regarding both religion and profit, seeks to acquire the means of success, wins happiness, possessing all he had sought. He who, without subduing his five inner foes of mental origin, wishes to vanquish other adversaries, is, in fact, overpowered by the latter.
It is seen that many evil minded kings, owing to want of mastery over their senses, are ruined by acts of their own, occasioned by the lust of territory.
Friendship with the sinful should be avoided
As fuel that is wet burns with that which is dry, so a sinless man is punished equally with the sinful in consequence of constant association with the latter. Therefore, friendship with the sinful should be avoided. He that, from ignorance, fails to control his five greedy foes, having five distinct objects, is overwhelmed by calamities. Guilelessness and simplicity, purity and contentment, sweetness of speech and self-restraint, truth and steadiness, – these are never the attributes of the wicked. Self-knowledge and steadiness, patience and devotion to virtue, competence to keep counsels and charity, – these, O Bharata, never exist in inferior men. Fools seek to injure the wise by false reproaches and evil speeches. The consequence is, that by this they take upon themselves the sins of the wise, while the latter, freed from their sins, are forgiven. In malice lies the strength of the wicked; in criminal code, the strength of kings, in attentions of the weak and of women; and in forgiveness that of the virtuous.
To control speech, O king, is said to be most difficult. It is not easy to hold a long conversation uttering words full of meaning and delightful to the hearers. Well-spoken speech is productive of many beneficial results; and ill-spoken speech, O king, is the cause of evil. A forest pierced by arrows, or cut down by hatchets may again grow, but one’s heart wounded and censured by ill-spoken words never recovers. Weapons such as arrows, bullets and bearded darts, can be easily extracted from the body, but a wordy dagger plunged deep into the heart is incapable of being taken out. Wordy arrows are shot from the mouth. Smitten by them one grieves day and night. A learned man should not discharge such arrows, for do they not touch the very vitals of others?
When defeat is ordained
He, to whom the gods ordain defeat, has his senses taken away, and it is for this that he stoops to ignoble deeds. When the intellect becomes dim and destruction is near, wrong, looking like right, firmly strikes to the heart. Thou dost not clearly see it, O Bull of the Bharata race, that clouded intellect has now possessed thy sons in consequence of their hostility to the Pandavas. Endued with every auspicious mark and deserving to rule the three worlds, Yudhishthira is obedient to thy commands. Let him, O Dhritarashtra, rule the earth, to the exclusion of all thy sons, Yudhishthira is the foremost of all thy heirs. Endued with energy and wisdom, and acquainted with the truths of religion and profit, Yudhishthira, that foremost of righteous men, has, O king of kings, suffered much misery out of kindness and sympathy, in order to preserve thy reputation.
Dhritarashtra said: O thou of great intelligence, tell me again words such as these, consistent with religion and profit. My thirst for hearing them is not quenched. What thou sayest is charming!
Vidura said: Ablution in all the holy places and kindness to all creatures, – these two are equal. Perhaps, kindness to all creatures surpasses the former. O maser, show kindness unto all thy sons, for by that winning great fame in this world, thou wilt have heaven hereafter. As long as man’s good deeds are spoken of in this world, so long, O tiger among men, is he glorified in heaven. In this connection is cited an old story about the conversation between Virochana and Sudhanwan, both suitors for Kesini’s hand.
Story about the conversation between
Virochana and Sudhanwan
Once on a time, O king, there was a maiden of the name of Kesini, unrivalled for beauty. Moved by the desire of obtaining a good husband, she resolved to choose her lord in Swayamvara. [Note: Swayamvara means self chosen husband from amongst an assembly of suitors.]
Then one of the sons of Diti, Virochana by name, went to that spot, desirous of obtaining the maiden.
Beholding that chief of the Daityas, Kesini addressed him, saying: Are Brahmanas superior, O Virochana, or are the sons of Diti superior? And why also should not Sudhanawan sit on the sofa?
Virochanan said: Sprung from Prajapati himself, we, O Kesini, are the best and at the top of all creatures, and this world is ours without doubt. Who are the gods, and who are the Brahmanas?
Kesini said: Well. O Virochana, stay here in this very pavilion. Sudhanawan will come here on the morrow, and let me see both of you sitting together.
Virochana said: O amiable and timid girl, I will do what you say. You will behold Sudhanwan and myself met together in the morning.
Vidura continued: When the night had passed away and the solar disc had risen, Sudhanwan, O best of kings, came to that palace where, O master, Virochana was waiting with Kesini. And Sudhanwan saw there both Prahlad’s son and Kesini. And beholding the Brahmana arrived, Kesini, O bull of Bharata race, rising up from hers, offered him a seat, water to wash his feet, and Arghya. [Note: Arghya is a respectful offering to the deity in Hindu ritual worship, or puja, consisting of water, flower, Bel leaf, sandal paste, Durva grass, rice.]
And asked by Virochana (to share his seat) Sudhanwan said: O son of Prahlad, I touch your excellent golden seat. I cannot, however, suffer myself to be regarded as your equal, and sit on it with you.
Virochana said: A piece of wooden plank, an animal skin, or a mat of grass or straw, – these only, O Sudhanwan, are fit for you. You do not, however, deserve the same seat with me.
Sudhanwan said: Father and son, Brahmanas of the same age and equal learning, two Kshatriyas, two Vaisyas and two Sudras, can seat together on the same seat. Except these, no other can seat together. Your father used to pay regards to me, taking a seat lower than that occupied by me. You are a child brought up in every luxury at home and you understand nothing.
Virochana said: Staking all the gold, kine (cows), horses, and every other kind of wealth that we have among the Asuras, let us, O Sudhanwan, ask them this question that are able to answer.
Sudhanwan said: Let alone your gold, kine, and heroes, O Virochana? Making our lives forfeited, we will ask them this question that are competent.
Virochana said: Wagering our lives where shall we go? I will not appear before any of the gods and never before any among men.
Sudhanwan said: Having wagered our lives, we will approach your father, for he, Prahlad, will never say an untruth even for the sake of his son.
Vidura continued: Having thus laid a wager, Virochana and Sudhanwan, both moved by rage, proceeded to that place where Prahlad was.
And beholding them together, Prahlad said: These two who had never before been companions, are now seen together coming here by the same road, like two angry snakes. Have you now become companions, you who were never companions before? I ask you, O Virochana, has there been friendship between you and Sudhanwan?
Virochana said: There is no friendship between Sudhawan and me. On the other hand, we have both wagered our lives. O chief of the Asuras, I shall ask you a question, do not answer it untruly!
Prahlad said: Let water, and honey and curds, be brought for Sudhanwan. You deserve our worship, O Brahmana. A white and fat cow is ready for you.
Sushanwan said: Water and honey and curds, have been presented to me on my way here. I shall ask you a question. Prahlad, answer it truly! Are Brahmanas superior, or is Virochana superior?
Prahlad said: O Brahmana, this one is my only son. You also are present here in person. How can one like us answer a question about which you two have quarrelled?
Sudhanwan said: Give unto your son kine and other precious wealth that you may have, but, O wise one, you should declare the truth when we two are disputing about it.
Prahlad said: How does that misuser of his tongue suffer, O Sudhanwan, who answers not truly but falsely, a question that is put to him? I ask you this.
Sudhanwan said: The person that misuses his tongue suffers like the deserted wife, who pines at night, beholding her husband sleeping in the arms of a co-wife; like a person who has lost at dice, or who is weighted down with an unbearable load of anxieties. Such a man has also to stay, starving outside the city gates, into which his admission is barred. Indeed, he that gives false evidence is destined to always find his foes. He that speaks a lie on account of an animal, casts down from heaven five of his sires of the ascending order. He that speaks a lie on account of a cow casts down from heaven ten of his ancestors. A lie on account of a horse causes the fall down of a hundred; and a lie on account of a human being, the downfall of a thousand of one’s sires of the ascending order. An untruth on account of gold ruins the members of one’s race both born and unborn, while an untruth for the sake of land ruins everything. Therefore, never speak an untruth for the sake of land.
Prahlad said: Angiras is superior to myself, and Sudhanwan is superior to you, O Virochana. Mother also of Sudhanwan is superior to your mother; therefore, Sudhanwan has defeated you Virochana. This Sudhanwan is now the master of your life. But, O Sudhanwan, I wish that you should grant Virochana his life.
Sudhanwan said: Since, O Prahlad, you have preferred virtue and have not from temptation, said an untruth, I grant your son his life that is dear to you. So here is your son Virochana, O prahlad, restored by me to you. He shall, however, have to wash my feet in the presence of the maiden Kesini.
Vidura continued: For these reasons, O king of kings, it behoveth thee not to say an untruth for the sake of land. Saying an untruth from affection of thy son, O king, hasten not to destruction, with all thy children and counsellors. The gods do not protect men, taking up clubs in their hands after the manner of herdsmen; unto those, however, they wish to protect, they grant intelligence. There is no doubt that one’s objects meet with success in proportion to the attention he directs to righteousness and morality. The Vedas never rescue from sin a deceitful person living by falsehood. On the other hand, they forsake him while he is on his deathbed, like newly fledged birds forsaking their nests.
Drinking, quarrels, enmity with large numbers of men, all connections with connubial disputes, and severance of relationship between husband and wife, internal dissensions, disloyalty to the king, – these and all paths that are sinful, it is said, be avoided. A palmist, a thief turned into a merchant, a fowler, a physician, an enemy, a friend and a minstrel, these seven are incompetent as witness.