Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Niti-sataka of Bhartri Hari: Part I "The Fool"


This is the first of three centuries, or works of a hundred verses each, written by the very influential Sanskrit poet Bhartrihari. Many legends are told of this Bhartrihari and perhaps I will later recount some of them. His style of writing subhāṣitas, or "well-turned verses," have affected many poets throughout the history of Sanskrit literature, including most notably for Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Prabodhananda Saraswati. Bhartihari’s three śatakas have the themes of nīti (moral philosophy), śṛṅgāra (love) and vairāgya (renunciation).

I translated these many years ago, but I never posted them on this blog, though I did post them on-line a few years ago and reposted on Speaking Tree in 2012). I have made a few changes.




The first theme of the Nīti-satakam is “the fool.”

dik-kālādy-anavacchinnānanta-cin-mātra-mūrtaye |
svānubhūty-eka-mānāya namaḥ śāntāya tejase || 1 ||

I bow down to the Supreme Lord
whose form is infinite and spiritual,
unrestricted by time and space,
who can only be measured by subjective perception,
who is peaceful, who is all-powerful.

boddhāro matsara-grastāḥ
prabhavaḥ smaya-dūṣitāḥ |
abodhopahatāś cānye
jīrṇam aṅge subhāṣitam || 2 ||

The learned are envious,
the powerful are contaminated by pride,
and others are afflicted by ignorance—
so my wise sayings have grown old in my mouth.

ajñaḥ sukham ārādhyaḥ
sukhataram ārādhyate viśeṣajñaḥ |
jñāna-lava-durvidagdhaṁ
brahmāpi taṁ naraṁ na rañjayati || 3 ||

The ignorant are easy to please,
it is even easier to please the cultured;
but even Brahma himself could not satisfy
someone who is puffed up with a little knowledge.

Jñāna-lava-durvidagdha has entered the Sanskrit language as an epithet of the fool.

prasahya maṇim uddharen makara-vaktra-daṁṣṭrāntarāt
samudram api santaret pracalad-ūrmi-mālākulam |
bhujaṅgam api kopitaṁ śirasi puṣpavad dhārayet
na tu pratiniviṣṭa-mūṛkha-jana-cittam ārādhayet || 4 ||

You may be able to forcibly pluck a jewel
from the tooth-filled mouth of a crocodile;
you may swim across the stormy ocean
or you may be able to carry a cobra
like a flower garland on your head--
but never, ever, will you be able to satisfy
the mind of the obstinate fool.

labheta sikatāsu tailam api yatnataḥ pīḍayan
pibec ca mṛga-tṛṣṇikāsu salilaṁ pipāsārditaḥ |
kvacid api paryaṭan śaśa-viṣāṇam āsādayet
na tu pratiniviṣṭa-mūrkha-cittam ārādhayet || 5 ||

You may be able to extract oil
by carefully pressing the sand;
in your thirst, you may be able to drink
water from a mirage;
you may even be able to wander through the world
until you find a horned rabbit,
but never, ever, will you be able to satisfy
the mind of the obstinate fool.

vyālaṁ bāla-mṛṇāla-tantubhir asau roddhuṁ samujjṛmbhate
chettuṁ vajra-maṇiṁ śirīṣa-kusuma-prāntena sannahyati |
mādhuryaṁ madhu-bindunā racayituṁ kṣārāmudher īhate
netuṁ vāñchanti yaḥ khalān pathi satāṁ sūktaiḥ sudhā-syandibhiḥ || 6 ||

You may try to secure an intoxicated elephant
with ropes made from the stems of young lotus;
or you may try to cut a diamond
with the petals of a sirisha flower;
you may even hope to sweeten the salty ocean
with a mere drop of honey;
but do you think you can bring a scoundrel
to the path of righteousness with a few wise sayings, 
even if they should ooze ambrosia?

svāyattam ekānta-guṇaṁ vidhātrā
vinirmitaṁ chādanam ajñatāyāḥ |
viśeṣāataḥ sarva-vidāṁ samāje
vibhūṣaṇaṁ maunam apaṇḍitānām || 7 ||

The creator has given a unique quality
by which one can hide his ignorance,
especially when in the company of the learned:
silence is the ornament of the uneducated.

The last line of this verse vibhūṣaṇaṁ maunam apaṇḍitānām is also well known as a popular maxim.

yadā kiñcij-jño'haṁ dvipa iva madāndhaḥ samabhavaṁ
tadā sarvajño'smīty abhavad avaliptaṁ mama manaḥ
yadā kiñcit kiñcid budhajana-sakāśād avagataṁ
tadā mūrkho'smīti jvara iva mado me vyapagataḥ ||8||

When I had just a little knowledge,
I became intoxicated like an elephant;
my mind became quite contaminated
thinking I knew everything.
But when I had the fortune
to associate with learned people,
I found out that I was a fool.
From that moment, my intoxication
disappeared like a bad fever.

kṛmi-kula-cittaṁ lālā-klinnaṁ vigandhi-jugupsitaṁ
nirupama-rasaṁ prītyā khādan narāsthi nirāmiṣam |
surapatim api śvā pārśvasthaṁ vilokya na śaṅkate
na hi gaṇayati kṣudro jantuḥ parigraha-phalgutām || 9 ||

A dog gnaws with relish at a human bone
that is infested with worms,
is soaked in his saliva,
emits a disgusting smell,
has an incomparably evil flavor,
and does not even have any meat on it.
And he has no doubts about his pleasure,
even should he see the god of heaven beside him.
This is how an insignificant creature
ignores the pettiness of his obsessions.

śiraḥ śārvaṁ svargāt paśupati-śirastaḥ kṣitidharaṁ
mihīdhrād uttuṅgād avanim avaneś cāpi jaladhim |
adho’dho gaṅgeyaṁ padam upagatā stokam athavā
viveka-bhraṣṭānāṁ bhavati vinipātaḥ śatamukhaḥ || 10 ||

The Ganges falls from heaven onto Shiva’s head,
from Shiva’s head it falls onto the Himalayas;
from the mountains it descends to the plains,
and from there it flows to the ocean.
As it descends to ever more trivial destination,
so it is, in a hundred different ways,
do those who have lost their discrimination
fall ever further to their ruin.

In the first stage of one's ruin one thinks oneself a god.

śakyo vārayituṁ jalena hutabhuk cchatreṇa sūryātapo
nāgendro niśitāṅkuśena samado daṇḍena go-gardabhau |
vyādhir bheṣaja-saṅgrahaiś ca vividhair mantra-prayogair viṣaṁ
sarvasyauṣadham asti śāstra-vihitaṁ mūrkhasya nasty auṣadhim || 11 ||

You can extinguish a fire with water,
you can avoid the scorching sun with a parasol;
you can overcome a cobra with a sharp stick
and cows or donkeys with a staff;
you can cure a disease with the appropriate herbs and medicines,
and snakebite with spells and mantras;
indeed the scriptures provide a way of counteracting every problem,
but there is no cure for stupidity.

The last line, mūrkhasya nasty auṣadhim, is another popular maxim. In English also. Now you can say it in Sanskrit.

sāhitya-saṅgīta-kalā-vihīnaḥ
sākṣāt paśuḥ puccha-viṣāṇa-hīnaḥ |
tṛṇaṁ na khādann api jīvamānas
tad bhāga-dheyaṁ paramaṁ paśūnām || 12 ||

A human being with no culture,
without learning in literature, music or the arts,
is nothing more than an animal without a tail or horns.
Though he may live by eating other things than grass,
his destiny is exactly that of the beasts.

yeṣāṁ na vidyā na tapo na dānaṁ
jñānaṁ na śīlaṁ na guṇo na dharmaḥ |
te martya-loke bhuvi bhāra-bhūtā
manuṣya-rūpeṇa mṛgāś caranti || 13 ||

Those who have no learning,
no self-control, no sense of charity,
no wisdom, no character, no virtue and no sense of duty,
are the burden of the world.
Though they have human form, they are animals.

varaṁ parvata-durgeṣu
bhrāntaṁ vanacaraiḥ saha
na mūrkha-jana-samparkaḥ
surendra-bhavaneṣv api || 14 ||

I would rather wander, lost in the mountains
and surrounded by wild animals
than have the association of fools
in the mansions of heaven.

śāstropaskṛta-śabda-sundara-giraḥ śiṣya-pradeyāgamā
vikhyātāḥ kavayo vasanti viṣaye yasya prabhor nirdhanāḥ |
taj-jāḍyaṁ vasudhādipasya kavayas tv arthaṁ vināpīśvarāḥ
kutsyāḥ syuḥ kuparīkṣakā hi maṇayo yair arghataḥ pātitāḥ || 15 ||

If the learned people have earned a reputation
because their language has been transformed
and made beautiful by the study of scripture
and in turn 
teach to their own students,
are poor in a certain kingdom,

then the ruler of that land is a fool,
like a dealer in jewels who fails to recognize their value
and sells them for less than they are worth.


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