Vidura Niti Part 5



vidhuraThe wrath of Bhishma, O thou of the splendour of Indra (king of gods), of Drona, and the king Yuthishthira, will consume the whole world, like a comet of large proportions falling transversely on the earth. Thy hundred sons and Karna and the sons of Pandu can together rule the vast earth with the belt of the seas. O king, the Dhritarashtras constitute a forest of which the Pandavas are, I think, tigers, O, do not cut down that forest with its tigers! O, let not the tigers be driven from that forest! There can be no forest without tigers, and no tigers without a forest. The forest shelters the tigers and tigers guard the forest!

They that are sinful never seek so much to ascertain the good qualities of others as to ascertain their faults. He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit should from the very beginning practise virtue, for true profit is never separated from heaven. He, whose soul has been dissociated from sin and firmly fixed on virtue, has understood all things in their natural and adventitious states. He that follows virtue, profit and desire, in proper seasons, obtains, both here and hereafter, a combination of all three. He that restrains the force of both anger and joy, and never, O king, loses his senses under calamities, wins prosperity.

Listen to me, O king.

Men are said to have five different kinds of strength.

  1. Of these, the strength of arms is regarded to be of the most inferior kind.
  2. Blessed be thou, the acquisition of good counsellors is regarded as the second kind of strength.
  3. The wise have said that the acquisition of wealth is the third kind of strength.
  4. The strength of birth, O king, which one naturally acquires from one’s sires and grandsires, is regarded as the fourth kind of strength.
  5. That however, O Bharata, by which all these are won, and which is the foremost of all kinds of strength, is called the strength of the intellect.

Having provoked the hostility of a person
who is capable of inflicting great injury on a fellow creature,
one should not gather assurance from the thought that one lives at
a distance from the other.

Cannot place trust on these

Who that is wise that can place his trust on women, kings, serpents, his own master, enemies, enjoyments, and period of life?

There are no physicians nor medicines for one that has been struck by the arrow of wisdom. In the case of such a person neither the Mantra of Homa (sacred fire ceremony), nor auspicious ceremonies, nor the Mantras of the Atharva Veda, nor any of the antidotes of poison, are of any efficacy.

None of these should be disregarded

Serpents, fire, lions, and consanguineous relatives, – none of these, O Bharata, should be disregarded by a man; all of these are possessed of great power. Fire is a thing of great energy in this world. It lurks in wood and never consumes it till it is ignited by others. That very fire, when brought out by friction, consumes by its energy not only the wood in which it lurks, but also an entire forest and many other things. Men of high lineage are just like fire in energy. Endued with forgiveness, they betray no outward symptoms of wrath and are quiet like fire in wood. Thou, O king, with thy sons art possessed of the virtue of creepers, and the sons of Pandu are regarded as Sala trees. A creeper never grows unless there is large tree to twine round. O king, O son of Ambika, thy son is as a forest. O sire, know that the Pandavas are the lions of that forest. Without its lions the forest is doomed to destruction. And lions also are doomed to destruction without the forest (to shelter them).


Vidura continued: The heart of a young man, when an aged and venerable person comes to his house (as a guest), soars aloft. By advancing forward and saluting him, he gets it back. He that is self-controlled, first offering a seat, and bringing water and causing his guest’s feet to be washed and making the usual enquiries of welcome, should then speak of his own affairs, and taking everything into consideration, offer him food. The wise have said that man lives in vain in whose dwelling a Brahmana (Brahmin) conversant with Mantras does not accept water, honey and curds, and kine (cows) from fear of being unable to appropriate them, or from miserliness and unwillingness with which the gifts are made.

A physician, a maker of arrows, even one that has given up the vow of Brahmacharya (celibacy) before it is complete, a thief, a crooked minded man, a Brahmana that drinks, one that causes miscarriage, one that lives by serving in the army, and one that sells the Vedas, when arrived as a guest, however undeserving he may be, the offer of water should be regarded (by a householder) as exceedingly dear.

A Brahmana should never be a seller of salt, of cooked food, curds, milk, honey, oil, ghee (clarified butter), sesame, meat, fruits, roots, potherbs, dyed clothes, all kinds of perfumery, and treacle.

He that never gives way to anger, he that is above grief, he that is no longer in need of friendship and quarrels, he that disregards both praise and blame, and he that stands aloof from both what is agreeable and disagreeable, like one perfectly withdrawn from the world, is a real Yogi of the Bhikshu order. That virtuous ascetic who lives on rice growing wild, or roots, or potherbs, who has his soul under control, who carefully keeps his fire for worship, and dwelling in the woods is always regardful of guests, is indeed, the foremost of his brotherhood.

Having wronged an intelligent personone should never gather assurance from the fact that one lives at a distance from the person wronged. Long are the arms which intelligent persons have, by which they can return wrongs for wrongs done to them.


One should never put trust on him who should not be trusted, nor put too much trust on him who should be trusted, for the danger that arises from one’s having reposed trust on another cuts off one’s very roots.

One should renounce envy, protect one’s wives, give to others what is their due, and be agreeable in speech. One should be sweet tongued and pleasant in his address as regards one’s wives, but should never be their slave. It has been said that wives that are highly blessed and virtuous, worthy of worship and the ornaments of their homes, are really embodiments of domestic prosperity. They should, therefore, be protected particularly.

One should devolve the looking over of his inner apartments on his father; of the kitchen, on his mother; of the kine, on somebody he looks upon as his own self; but as regards agriculture, one should look over it himself.

One should look after guests of the trader caste through his servants, and those of the Brahmana caste through his sons.

King Craft

Fire has its origin in water; Kshatriyas in Brahmanas; and iron in stone. The energy of those (i.e. fire, Kshatriyas, and iron) can affect all things but is neutralised as soon as things come in contact with their progenitors. Fire lies concealed in wood without showing itself externally. Good and forgiving men born of high families and endued with fiery energy, do not betray any outward symptoms of what is within them. That king whose counsels cannot be known by either outsiders or those about him, but who know the counsels of others through his spies, enjoys his prosperity long.

One should never speak of what one intends to do. Let anything thou doest in respect of virtue, profit and desire, be not known till it is done. Let counsels be not divulged. Ascending on the mountain top or on the terrace of a palace, or proceeding to a wilderness devoid of trees and plants, one should, in secrecy, mature his counsels. O Bharata, neither a friend who is without learning, nor a learned friend who has no control over his senses, deserves to be a repository of state secrets.

O king, never make one thy minister without examining him well, for a king’s finances and the keeping of his counsels both depend on his minister. That king is the foremost of rulers, whose ministers know his acts in respect of virtue, profit and desire, only after they are done. The king whose counsels are kept close, without doubt, commands success. He that from ignorance commits acts that are censurable, loses his very life in consequence of the untoward results of those acts. The doing of acts that are praise-worthy is always attended with ease. Omission to do such acts leads to repentance.

As a Brahmana without having studied the Vedas is not fit to officiate at a Sraddha (in honour of the Pitris or ancestors), so he that has not heard of the six (means for protecting a kingdom) deserves not to take part in political deliberations.

O king, he that has eye upon increase, decrease, and surplus, he that is conversant with the six means and knows also his own self, he whose conduct is always applauded, brings the whole earth under subjection to himself. He whose anger and joy are productive of consequences, he who looks over personally what should be done, he who has his treasury under his own control, brings the whole earth under subjection to himself.

The king should be content with the name he wins and the umbrella that is held over his head. He should divide the wealth of the kingdom among these that serve him. Alone he should not appropriate everything. A Brahmana (Brahmin) knows a Brahmana, the husband understands the wife, the king knows the minister, and monarchs know monarchs.

A foe that deserves death, when brought under subjection should never be set free. If one were weak one should pay court to one’s foe that is stronger, even if the latter deserves death; but one should kill that foe as soon as one commands sufficient strength, for, if not killed, dangers soon arise from him. One should, with an effort, control his wrath against the gods, kings, Brahmanas, old men, children, and those that are helpless.

He that is wise should avoid unprofitable quarrels such as fools only engage in. By this one wins great fame in this world and avoids misery and unhappiness. People never desire him for a master whose grace is fruitless and whose wrath goes for nothing, like women never desiring him for a husband who is a eunuch.

Intelligence does not exist for the acquisition of wealth, nor is idleness the cause of adversity. The man of wisdom only knows, and not others, the cause of the diversities of condition in this world.

The fool, O Bharata, always disregards those that are elderly in years, and eminent in conduct and knowledge, in intelligence, wealth and lineage.

Calamities soon come upon them that are of wicked disposition, devoid of wisdom, envious or sinful, foul-tongued, and wrathful.

Absence of deceitfulness, gift, observance of the established rules of intercourse, and speech well controlled, bring all creatures under subjection.

He that is without deceitfulness, he that is active, grateful, intelligent, and guileless, even if his treasury were empty, obtains friends, counsellors, and servants.

Intelligence, tranquillity of mind, self-control, purity, absence of harsh speech and unwillingness to do anything disagreeable to friends, -these six are regarded as the fuel of prosperity’s flame.

The wretch who does not give to others their due, who is of wicked soul, who is ungrateful, and shameless, should, O king, be avoided. The guilty person who provokes another about him that is innocent cannot sleep peacefully at night, like a person passing the night with a snake in the same room.

They, O Bharata, who upon being angry endanger one’s possessions and means of acquisition, should always be propitiated like the very gods. Those objects that depend upon women, careless persons, men that have fallen away from the duties of their caste, and those that are wicked in disposition, are doubtful of success. They sink helplessly, O king, like a raft made of stone, who have a woman, a deceitful person, or a child, for their guide.

They that are competent in the general principles of work, though not in particular kinds of work are regarded by men as learned and wise for particular kinds of work, are subsidiary.

That man who is highly spoken of by swindlers, mimes and women of ill fame, is more dead than alive. Forsaking these mighty bowmen of immeasurable energy, viz., the son of Pandu, thou hast, O Bharata, devolved on Duryodhana, the cares of a mighty empire. Thou shalt, therefore, soon see that swelling affluence fall off, like Vali fallen off from the three worlds.

Dhritarashtra said: Man is not the disposer of either his prosperity or adversity. He is like a wooden doll moved by strings. Indeed, the Creator has made man subject to Destiny. Go on telling me, I am attentive to what thou sayest.

One becomes agreeable by

Vidura said: O Bharata, by speaking words out of season even Vrihaspati (the Creator) himself incurs reproach and the charge of ignorance. One becomes agreeable by gift, another by sweet words, a third by a force of incantation and drugs. He, however, that is naturally agreeable, always remains so. He that is hated by another is never regarded by that other as honest or intelligent or wise. One attributes everything good to him one loves; and everything evil to him one hates.

Gain and Loss

O king, as soon as Duryodhana was born I told thee, – thou shouldst abandon this one son, for by abandoning him thou wouldst secure the prosperity of thy hundred sons, – and by keeping him, destruction would overtake thy hundred sons. That gain should never be regarded highly which leads to loss. On the other hand, that loss even should be regarded highly which would bring on gain. That is no loss, O king, which brings on gain. That, however, should be reckoned as loss, which is certain to bring about greater losses still. Some become eminent in consequence of good qualities; others become so in consequence of wealth.Avoid them, O Dhritarashtra, that are eminent in wealth but destitute of good qualities.

Dhritarashtra said: All that you say is approved by the wise and is for my future good. I dare not, however, abandon my son. It is well known that where there is righteousness there is victory.

[Note: Compare from the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 18, verse 78. Sanjaya said: “Wherever there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, wherever there is Arjuna, the archer, there are prosperity, victory, happiness and firm policy; such is my conviction.”]

Vidura said: He that is graced with every virtue and is endued with humility is never indifferent to even the minutest sufferings of living creatures. They, however, that are ever employed in speaking ill of others, always strive with activity quarrelling with one another and in all matters, calculated to give pain to others.


There is sin in accepting gifts from, and danger in making gifts to them, whose very sight is inauspicious and whose companionship is fraught with danger. They that are quarrelsome, covetous, shameless, deceitful, and are known as unrighteous, their companionship should always be avoided. One should also avoid those men that are endued with similar faults of a grave nature. When the occasion that caused the friendship is over the friendship of those that are low, the beneficial result of that connection, and the happiness also derivable from it, all come to an end. They then strive to speak ill of their (late) friend and endeavour to inflict loss on him, and if the loss they sustain be even very small, for all that they, from want of self-control, fail to enjoy peace. He that is learned, examining everything carefully and reflecting well, should from a distance, avoid the friendship of vile and wicked minded persons such as these.

Relatives (2)

He that helps his poor and wretched and helpless relatives obtains children and animals and enjoys prosperity that knows no end. They that desire their own benefit should always succour their relatives. By every means, therefore, O king, do thou seek the growth of thy race. Prosperity will be thine, O monarch, if thou behave well towards all thy relatives. Even relatives that are destitute of good qualities should be protected. O bull of the Bharata race, how much more, therefore, should they be protected that are endued with every virtue and are humbly expectant of thy favour?

Favour thou the heroic sons of Pandu, O monarch, and a few villages be assigned to them for their maintenance. By acting thus, O king, fame will be thine in this world. Thou art old; thou should therefore, control thy sons. I should say what is for thy good. Know me as one that wishes well to thee. He that desires his own good should never quarrel, O sire, with his relatives. O bull of the Bharata race, happiness should ever be enjoyed with one’s relatives, and not without them. To eat with one another, to talk with one another, and to love one another, is what relatives should always do. They should never quarrel.

In this world it is the relatives that rescue, and the relatives that ruin (relatives). Those amongst them that are righteous rescue; while those that are unrighteous sink (their brethren). O king, be thou, O giver of honours, righteous in thy conduct towards the sons of Pandu. Surrounded by them, thou would be unconquerable by thy foes. If a relative shrinks in the presence of a prosperous relative, like a deer at the sight of a hunter armed with arrows, then the prosperous relative has to take upon himself all the sins of the other. O best of men, repentance will be thine (for this thy inaction at present) when in future thou wilt hear of the death of either the Pandavas or thy sons. O think of all this. When life itself is unstable, one should in the very beginning avoid that act in consequence of which one would have to indulge in regrets having entered the chamber of woe.

True it is that a person other than Bhargava, the author of the science of morality, is liable to commit actions that go against morality. It is seen, however, that a just notion of consequence is present in all persons of intelligence. Thou art an aged scion of Kuru’s race. If Duryodhana inflicted these wrongs on the sons of Pandu, it is thy duty, O king of men, to undo them all. Reinstating them in their position, thou wilt, in this world, be cleansed of all thy sins and be, O king of men, an object of worship with even those that have their souls under control.

Reflecting on the well-spoken words of the wise according to their consequences, he that engages in acts never loses fame. The knowledge imparted by even men of learning and skill is imperfect, for that which is sought to be inculcated is ill understood, or, if understood, is not accomplished in practice. That learned person who never does an act, the consequences of which are sin and misery, always grows. The person, however, of wicked soul, who from folly pursues his sinful course commenced before falls into a slough of deep mire.

He that is wise should ever keep in view the (following) six conduits by which counsels become divulged, and he that desires success and a long dynasty should ever guard himself from those six. They are:

  1. Intoxication
  2. Sleep
  3. Inattention to spies, set over one by another,
  4. One’s own demeanour as dependent on the working of one’s own heart
  5. Confidence reposed on a wicked counsellor
  6. Unskilful envoys.

Knowing these six doors (through which counsels are divulged), he that keeps them shut while pursuing the attainment of virtue, profit, and desire, succeeds in standing over the heads of his foes.

Without an acquaintance with the scriptures and without waiting upon the old, neither virtue nor profit can be known (or won) by persons blessed even with the intelligence of Vrihaspati.

A thing is lost if cast into the sea; words are lost if addressed to one that listens not; the scriptures are lost on one that has not his soul under control; and a libation of ghee (clarified butter) is lost if poured over the ashes left by a fire that is extinguished.

He that is endued with the intelligence makes friendships with those that are wise, having first examined by the aid of his intelligence, repeatedly searching by his understanding, and using his ears, eyes, and judgment.

Humility removes obloquy, failure, prowess; forgiveness always conquers anger; and auspicious rites destroy all indications of evil.

One’s lineage is tested by his objects of enjoyment, place of birth, house, behaviour, food and dress. When an object of enjoyment is available, even that one who has attained emancipation is not unwilling to enjoy; what, again, need be said of him that is yet wedded to desire?

A king should cherish a counsellor that worships persons of wisdom, is endued with learning, virtue, agreeable appearance, friends, sweet speech, and a good heart. Whether of low or high birth, he who does not transgress the rules of polite intercourse, who has an eye on virtue, who is endued with humility and modesty, is superior to a hundred persons of high birth. The friendship of those persons never cools, whose hearts, secret pursuits, and pleasures, and acquirements, accord in every respect.

He that is intelligent should avoid an ignorant person of wicked soul, like a pit whose mouth is covered with grass, for friendship with such a person can never last. The man of wisdom should never contract friendship with those that are proud, ignorant, fierce, rash and fallen off from righteousness. He that is grateful, virtuous, truthful, large-hearted, and devoted, and he that has his senses under control, preserves his dignity, and never forsakes a friend, should be desired for a friend. The withdrawal of the senses from their respective objects is equivalent to death itself. Their excessive indulgence again would ruin the very gods.

Humility, love of all creatures, and respect for friends, -these, the learned have said, lengthen life. He who with a firm resolution strives to accomplish by a virtuous policy purposes that have once been frustrated, is said to possess real manhood.


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