Niti-sataka 5 :: The qualities of the virtuous and resolute

Sorry for the interruption in posting the rest of Niti-sataka. There will be one more segment after this. These are really pretty nice verses and all seem to be without any contradiction to the principles of good character that are at the basis of all religious temperament, including that of the Vaishnava. It is when fanaticism leads one to ignore these principles that religion becomes debased. It is interesting to me that so many of the verses are confirmations of my feelings about the turmoil of the last few weeks, even though it may be said with justification that I failed to act with true virtue.

The virtuous

vāñchā sajjana-saṅgame para-guṇe prītir gurau namratā
vidyāyāṁ vyasanaṁ sva-yoṣiti ratir lokāpavādād bhayam |
bhaktiḥ śūlini śaktir ātma-damane saṁsarga-muktiḥ khale
yeṣv ete nivasanti nirmala-guṇās tebhyo narebhyo namaḥ ||62||

I bow my head respectfully to those
in whom dwell these qualities:
the desire for the company of the pious,
an appreciation of the virtues of others,
humility before one's teachers,
an attachment to learning,

love for one's own wife,
a fear of losing one's reputation,

devotion to God, strength in self-control,
and freedom from the company of the envious.

I am perhaps defective in the matter of fearing the loss of reputation. This is something I will talk about in an upcoming post based on my current project on the translation of Sva-likhita-jivani by Bhaktivinode Thakur, where I revisit some of the issues on autobiography and hagiography, the nexus between modernity and literalism. Anyway, I hope that these pious exhortations to good character, which almost always show an abhorrence for the universal tendency to calumniate others and admonishments to see the virtues in others will be taken seriously in the light of the general theme of this blog for the past several weeks.

vipadi dhairyam athābhyudaye kṣamā
sadasi vākya-paṭutā yudhi vikramaḥ |
yaśasi cābhirucir vyasanaṁ śrutau
prakṛti-siddham idaṁ hi mahātmanām ||63||

The following qualities are natural in great individuals:
calm in danger, forgiveness upon achieving success,
eloquence in public assemblies, valor in battle,
pleasure in one's good reputation, and an attachment to learning.

Again, pleasure in one's good reputation (yaśasi cābhiruci). I would like to have a good reputation, but I do not fear lies.

pradānaṁ pracchannaṁ gṛham upagate sambhrama-vidhiḥ
priyaṁ kṛtvā maunaṁ sadasi kathanaṁ cāpy upakṛteḥ |
anutseko lakṣmyām anabhibhava-gandhāḥ para-kathāḥ
satāṁ kenoddiṣṭaṁ viṣamam asidhārā-vratam idam ||64||

Who has ordered the good to follow
this razor-edged and difficult vow of conduct?
To give charity in secret,
to show respect and hospitality to those who come to one's door;
to not announce publicly the good they have done for others,
but to always give credit for the good they have received;
to remain humble even upon achieving success,
and to be free from the slightest hint of faultfinding when speaking of others?

kare ślāghyas tyāgaḥ śirasi guru-pāda-praṇayitā
mukhe satyā vāṇī vijayi bhujayor vīryam atulam |
hṛdi svacchā vṛttiḥ śrutim adhigataṁ ca śravaṇayor
vināpy aiśvaryeṇa prakṛti-mahatāṁ maṇḍanam idam ||65||

Though they may not possess any worldly riches
those naturally great are decorated with the following ornaments:
their hands with praiseworthy renunciation,
their heads with affection for the guru's feet,
their mouths with words of truth
and their arms with victory and valour.
Their hearts are decorated with pure motives
and their ears with the learning they have received.

sampatsu mahatāṁ cittaṁ
bhavaty utpala-komalam |
āpatsu ca mahā-śaila-
śilā-saṅghāta-karkaśam ||66||

Those who are naturally great
are as soft as the lotus in times of ease,
but as hard as the stones on a great mountain peak
in times of difficulty and danger.

The meaning is that a great person is charitable and compassionate to others when successful, but when in difficulty, is mentally tough and able to bear his troubles.

santaptāyasi saṁsthitasya payaso nāmāpi na jńāyate
muktākāratayā tad eva nalinī-patra-sthitaṁ rājate |
svātyāṁ sāgara-śukti-madhya-patitaṁ tan-mauktikaṁ jāyate
prāyeṇādhama-madhyamottama-guṇaḥ saṁsargato jāyate ||67||

A drop of water, when it falls on a hot plate,
evaporates and leaves not even a trace.
If it falls on a lotus leaf,
it takes on the appearance of a pearl.
And if it falls on the ocean, on an oyster
in the time of the Svati asterism,
it truly is transformed into a pearl.
A man's virtues manifest according to circumstance.

The obvious lesson is to be careful about the company we keep. yasya yat-saṅgatiḥ puṁsāṁ maṇivat syāt sa tad-guṇaḥ (BRS 1.2.229). āt the same time, this should give us a charitable disposition towards others. "There but for the grace of God go I." Even an Adolf Eichmann does not set out to become an amoral monster. Someone with basically good intentions may be diverted in contact with the modes of nature, so a devotee ("a perfect gentleman") should cultivate empathy. ātmavat manyate jagat does not mean self-centered egoism, but a recognition of the universal commonality of all creatures.

prīṇāti yaḥ sucaritaiḥ pitaraṁ sa putro
yad bhartur eva hitam icchati tat kalatram |
tan mitram āpadi sukhe ca sama-kriyaṁ yad
etat trayaṁ jagati puṇya-kṛto labhante ||68||

Those who have accumulated much piety
have true sons, ones that please them with their good deeds;
a true wife, one who desires the welfare of her husband,
and a true friend, one who stands by him in both happiness and danger.

Instructions to those who would be pious

eko devaḥ keśavo vā śivo vā
hy ekaṁ mitraṁ bhūpatir vā yatir vā |
eko vāsaḥ pattane vā vane vā
hy ekā bhāryā sundarī vā darī vā ||69||

Be devoted to one God,
whether it is Vishnu or Shiva;
be devoted to one friend,
whether a king or a monk;
make your home in a single location,
whether in the city or the forest;
and take one wife:
either a woman or a cave.

This verse reminds one immediately of the famous

eko devo devakīputra eva

ekaṁ śāstraṁ devakīputra-gītam |
eko mantras tasya nāmāni yāni
karmāpy ekaṁ tasya devasya sevā ||

And indeed, this expresses the same idea of being ekāntin or single minded. The Gita tells us to have vyavasāyātmikā buddhi and to remain fixed in our own prescribed duty. This is perhaps what is being stressed here as well. Know yourself. Know your sva-dharma in both your personal and professional life and stick to it. Perfecting it is the key to perfecting your life and your service to Krishna.

namratvenonnamantaḥ para-guṇa-kathanaiḥ svān guṇān khyāpayantaḥ
svārthān sampādayanto vitata-pṛthutarārambha-yatnāḥ parārthe |
kṣāntyaivākṣepa-rukṣākṣara-mukhara-mukhān durjanān dūṣayantaḥ
santaḥ sāścarya-caryā jagati bahu-matāḥ kasya nābhyarcanīyāḥ ||70||

The sadhu lifts others by his own humility,
he reveals his own good qualities by praising those of others;
he achieves his own goals by making extensive efforts
to achieve the welfare of other persons;
by his tolerance in the face of their insults,
he reveals the wickedness of his detractors.
These are the amazing characteristics of the good,
and they are justly praised in this world.
Who would not praise them?

Because they are so rare, says the commentator. And thus we ask whether we can legislate such good manners. At any rate, this seems to fit the present circumstances, at least in terms of what I was trying to achieve. This is a partial answer to Andrej, a friend who wondered about why I published the fatuous criticisms of a negligible person and why I tried to praise my critic. If anything, I am more embarrassed by having given free reign to the tendency to lash back.

bhavanti namrās taravaḥ phalodgamair
navāmbubhir dūrāvalambino ghanāḥ |
anuddhatāḥ sat-puruṣāḥ samṛddhibhiḥ
svabhāva eṣa paropakāriṇām |71||

Trees' branches bend when they are filled with fruit.
Clouds that are most filled with water
release them to the furthest reaches of the land;
similarly, the pious do not become puffed up with their riches.
This is the nature of those who do good to others.

śrotraṁ śrutenaiva na kuṇḍalena
dānena pāṇir na tu kaṅkaṇena |
vibhāti kāyaḥ karuṇa-parāṇāṁ
paropakārair na tu candanena ||72||

The ear is best decorated with learning
and not with earrings;
the hand by charity and not bracelets;
the bodies of the compassionate
are ornamented by their acts of kindness
and not by sandalwood paste.

The signs of a friend

pāpān nivārayati yojayate hitāya
guhyaṁ nigūhati guṇān prakaṭīkaroti |
āpad-gataṁ ca na jahāti dadāti kāle
san-mitra-lakṣaṇam idaṁ pravadanti santaḥ ||73||

The signs of a true friend:
he keeps you from sinful acts,
but engages you in beneficial ones;
he keeps your secrets,
but announces your virtues;
he does not abandon you in difficulty,
and helps with money if needed.

Friendship has also been a theme in the past few weeks of my experience. I stressed that cultivating friendship among devotees is an art that requires diligent attention.

padmākaraṁ dinakaro vikacīkaroti
candro vilāsayati kairava-cakravālam |
nābhyarthito jaladharo'pi jalaṁ dadāti
santaḥ svayaṁ para-hite vihitābhiyogāḥ ||74||

The sun makes the lotus flowers bloom
and the moon makes the night lilies blossom;
the cloud gives rains without being asked;
similarly, the good are always working
for the welfare of others.

eke sat-puruṣāḥ parārtha-ghaṭakāḥ svārthaṁ parityajanti ye
sāmānyās tu parārtham udyama-bhṛtaḥ svārthāvirodhena ye |
te'mī mānuṣa-rākṣasāḥ parahitaṁ svārthāya nighnanti ye
ye tu ghnanti nirarthakaṁ para-hitaṁ te ke na jānīmahe ||75||

The good abandon their own interests
to serve the ends of others;
lesser men will serve the good of others,
as long as it does not oppose their interests.
The demoniac are ready to ruin another
in order to accomplish their selfish purposes.
But we have no name for those who seek others' ruin 
without any reason whatsoever.

kṣīreṇātmagatodakāya hi guṇā dattā purā te'khilā
kṣīrottāpam avekṣya tena payasā svātmā kṛśānau hutaḥ |
gantuṁ pāvakam unmanas tad abhavad dṛṣṭvā tu mitrāpadaṁ
yuktaṁ tena jalena śāmyati satāṁ maitrī punas tv īdṛśī ||76||

When water was mixed with milk,
the milk lent it all its qualities: its color and taste;
but when the milk was placed on the fire,
that same water sacrificed itself in the flames;
and when the milk was ready to boil over
into the fire, the water entered and pacified him.
The friendship of a good man is like this.

The water on the fire reduced the heat, thus stopping the milk from boiling over.

itaḥ svapiti keśavaḥ kulam itas tadīya-dviṣām
itaś ca śaraṇārthināṁ śikhariṇāṁ gaṇāḥ śerate |
ito'pi baḍavānalaḥ saha samasta-saṁvartakaiṛ
aho vitatam ūrjitaṁ bhara-sahaṁ sindhor vapuḥ ||77||

Narayan lies here
and so too is it the home of his enemies, the demons;
Here are the mountains that found asylum on fleeing from Indra;
as well as the volcanoes and clouds that will destroy the universe.
How wide, deep and tolerant is the body of the ocean,
who gives them all shelter.

tṛṣṇāṁ chindhi bhaja kṣamāṁ jahi madaṁ pāpe ratiṁ mā kṛthāḥ
satyaṁ brūhy anuyāhi sādhu-padavīṁ sevasva vidvaj-janam |
mānyān mānaya vidviṣo'py anunaya prakhyāpaya praśrayaṁ
kīrtiṁ pālaya duḥkhite kuru dayām etat satāṁ ceṣṭitam ||78||

Cut off your desires, be forgiving,
conquer your follies, give up attachments to sin;
speak the truth, follow the straight path,
serve the learned sages;
show respect to those who are worthy,
but placate even your enemies
and show them tolerance.
Keep your reputation for virtue
and be compassionate to those in distress.
This is the behavior of the good.

manasi vacasi kāye puṇya-pīyūṣa-pūrṇās
tribhuvanam upakāra-śreṇibhiḥ prīṇayantaḥ |
para-guṇa-paramāṇūn parvatīkṛtya nityaṁ
nija-hṛdi vikasantaḥ santa santaḥ kiyantaḥ ||79||

There are a few good people out there
who are full of the nectar of good works
in thought, word and deed.
They bring happiness to the three worlds by their acts of kindness
and the good qualities of others, though as tiny as an atom
always appear like mountains to their hearts.

Here is what "making mountains of molehills"should mean. I love that line, para-guṇa-paramāṇūn parvatīkṛtya nityaṁ.

kiṁ tena hema-giriṇā rajatādriṇā vā
yatrāśritāś ca taravas taravas ta eva |
manyāmahe malayam eva yad-āśrayeṇa
kaṅkola-nimba-kaṭujā api candanāḥ syuḥ ||80||

What is the use of mountains made of gold or silver!
The trees that grow there are just trees.
My respect goes to the Malaya Hills,
where even the cubeb, neem and dogbane trees
who take shelter of them become sandalwood.

Kuṭaja is Wrightia tinctoria of the Apocynacaea family. According to others, it is Holarrhena antidysenterica, Conessi Bark, Kurchi, or dogbane. A kind of milkweed, in short. Interestingly all three of these trees have herbal uses.

ratnair mahārhais tutuṣur na devā
na bhejire bhīma-viṣeṇa bhītim |
sudhāṁ vinā na parayur virāmaṁ
na niścitārthād viramanti dhīrāḥ ||81||

The gods did not stop churning the ocean
when valuable jewels came forth from it,
nor did they stop for fear when it turned to poison.
They did not stop until they had turned it to ambrosia,
for the resolute never abandon the task they have set for themselves.

Source in the Bhagavatam, though the story is much older.

kvacit pṛthvī-śayyaḥ kvacid api ca paraṅka-śayanaḥ
kvacic chākāhāraḥ kvacid api ca śālyodana-ruciḥ |
kvacit kanthādhārī kvacid api ca divyāmbara-dharo
manasvī kāryārthī na gaṇayati duḥkhaṁ na ca sukham ||82||

He may sometimes sleep on the floor
or sometimes in a comfortable bed,
he may sometimes eat dry leaves
or sometimes fine rice with butter,
he may sometimes wear rags
and sometimes silks,
but an intelligent and resolute person
does not care for happiness or distress
while working toward his long term purpose.

Reminds me of Bhagavad-gita again.

aiśvaryasya vibhūṣaṇaṁ sujanatā śauryasya vāk-saṁyamo
jńānasyopaśamaḥ śrutasya vinayo vittasya pātre vyayaḥ |
akrodhas tapasaḥ kṣamā prabhavitur dharmasya nirvājatā
sarveṣām api sarva-kāraṇam idaṁ śīlaṁ paraṁ bhūṣaṇam ||83||

Magnanimity is the ornament of the powerful;
control of speech that of the hero;
self-control that of the wise, humility of the learned,
well-directed charity of the rich.
Freedom from anger is the ornament of the ascetic,
forgiveness of the lordly, and honesty of the pious.
In short, character is the ornament of all other virtues.

nindantu nīti-nipuṇā yadi vā stuvantu
lakṣmīḥ samāviśatu gacchatu vā iyatheṣṭham |
adyaiva vā maraṇam astu yugāntare vā
nyāyyāt pathaḥ pravicalanti padaṁ na dhīrāḥ ||84||

The experts in proper conduct may condemn or praise him,
fortune may smile on him or abandon him completely;
he may die today or after a thousand years,
nothing can make the resolute man swerve
from the path of righteousness.

It's hard not to see an influence of this verse on the language of Madhavendra Puri:

mugdhaṁ māṁ nigadantu nīti-nipuṇā bhrāntaṁ muhur vaidikāḥ
mandaṁ bāndhava-sañcayā jaḍa-dhiyaṁ muktādarāḥ sodarāḥ
unmattaṁ dhanino viveka-caturāḥ kāmaṁ mahā-dāmbhikaṁ
moktuṁ na kṣamate manāg api mano govinda-pāda-spṛhām

"Let the experts in proper conduct accuse me of being stupid; Vedic scholars may call me misled, friends and relatives may call me lazy, my brothers who are attached to liberation may call me a blockhead, the wealthy may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud; still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Govinda." (Padyāvali 81)


Parikshit said…
Thank you very much Babaji! _/\_

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