Words of Bhisma, Vidhur & Yudhister

  • By Shyam Sunder
  • December 2002

Courtesy Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Pondicherry

A friend of mine gifted me a Mahabharata Diary that for each day has quotations from Bhishma, Vidur, Yudhishther, Sanatsujat, Kalavrikshiyaa Muni, A Week with Shiva and Bouquet of Sayings. I am reproducing the quotations for you. The Compilation and translation of the extracts from the Mahabharata appearing here have been done by Shri Shyam Sunder. Please thank the lawyer for this outstanding work and my colleague Ajay for typing all the stuff.

The piece is divided into six chapters namely –

1.    Bhishma’s Wisdom.        (1 – 100)   
2.    Viddura’s Counsel.         (101 – 200)
3.    Yudhishthira’s Answers.  (201 – 238)
4.    Sanatsujat’s Teaching.     (239 – 255)
5.    Kalavrikshiyaa Muni said.(256 – 269)
6.    A Week with Shiva.         (270 – 275)
7.    Bouquet of Sayings.         (276 – 313)

Before we move to chapter 1 here are Sri Aurobindo’s words on the Mahabharata.

“The Mahabharata is the creation and expression not of a single individual mind, but of the mind of a nation; it is the poem of itself written by a whole people.

The leading motive is the Indian idea of the Dharma.

Here the Vedic notion of the struggle between the godheads of truth and light and unity and the powers of darkness and division and falsehood is brought out from the spiritual and religious and internal into the outer intellectual, ethical and vital plane.

It takes there in the figure of the story a double form of a personal and a political struggle, the personal a conflict between typical and representative personalities embodying the greater ethical ideals of the Indian Dharma and others who are embodiments of Asuric egoism and self-will and misuse of the Dharma, the political a battle in which the personal struggle culminates, and international clash ending in the establishment of a new rule of righteousness and justice, a kingdom or rather an empire of the Dharma uniting warring races and substituting for the ambitious arrogance of kings and aristocratic clans the supremacy, the calm and peace of a just and humane empire.

It is the old struggle of Deva and Asura, God and Titan, but represented in the terms of human life.

Bhishma’s Wisdom      

1.   Narayana and Nara are but one Being, manifesting in twain.
2. The two great car-warriors, Vasudeva and Arjuna, are the ancient gods, Narayana and Nara; so have we heard.

3. Truth is dharma, tapa and Yoga, Truth is the eternal Brahman, Truth is the supreme yajna, Truth is the upholder of all.

4. All crookedness is the status of death, as straightness is the Brahman’s.

5. Ahimsa and truth speaking, control of senses, non-cruelty, non-hatred,- these, not the mortification of the body, do the sages term austerity.

6. Many, not one, are the gateways of dharma, the sages speak of the way they know, but the base of all is self-control.

7. Self-control has only fault, no other; forgiveness is mistaken by others for weakness.

8. Footprints of birds are not seen in the sky, not the footprints of aquatics on the water, even so the movement of jnanis can’t be known.

9. What the Veda is, is dharma; What dharma is, is the right path.

10. Dharma, O King, is the root of the whole world.

11. Success in earning, learning, and tapa can be had by perseverant effort.

12. Death and immortality, both are in this body. By delusion man has death, by Truth immortality.

13. No eye there is like knowledge no tapa like Truth, no sorrow like passion, no happiness like renunciation.

14. Than truth no dharma is higher, than falsehood nothing lower.

15. Many are the gateway of dharma, no means is fruitless.

16. Who pursues desires is ruined in the pursuit.

17. Who expects nothing sleeps well, Absence of expectation is exceeding happiness.

18. Non-possession is happiness in this world.

19. Grief cannot touch him, who knows the principle of rise and decay.

20. Do the good act today itself, let not the now pass out of hands.

21. Happiness or sorrow, thing pleasant or thing unpleasant, the wise should gladly receive all that comes, and never lose heart.

22. This body is the base of happiness, also of sorrow.

23. In cycles man’s joys and sorrows move.

24. As pieces of wood, floating on the sea, at times join together and then separate, so do people in this world meet and separate.

25. It is the king who makes the satyayuga. Also the treta and the dwapara, he is the cause of the kaliyuga too.

26. Strong are the roots of that king whose people are prosperous, wealthy and loyal, and whose ministers and employees are content.

27. The protection of his people, is the king’s foremost dharma.

28. Protection of all beings and compassion for them, this is the great dharma.

29. Seven things a king must protect; himself, minister, treasury, sceptre, friend, nation and city.

30. The protector of the king’s treasury is the target of all its looters, If not protected by the king, untimely death at their hands he meets.

31. Raising money from just and fair taxes, taking care of the nation on right principles, for the nation’s god the king should work all the hours.

32. Four kinds of friends a king has; Friends for common purpose, family friends, natural friends, and artificial friends.

33. The man of dharma is the king’s fifth friend, On the side neither of one nor of two he goes where is dharma; he is with the king who respects dharma.

34. A king must trust some chosen friends, but he should be alert at all times.

35. As chief minister the king should choose one who is elegant in looks, is free of malice, forgiving, soft-spoken, is of noble birth and noble conduct.

36. The members of your court, O son, should be truth-telling, straightforward, masters of their sense, humble, and men of apt words.

37. Seven qualities the king’s envoy should have: well-born, well-bred, clever, fluent talker, man of pleasant words, endowed with good memory, exact in giving messages.

38. The learned, the warriors, the rich the religious, the ascetics, the saints, the truth-speakers and the wise they are the people’s protectors.

39. Love all creatures, O King, and conduct. Yourself with truth, simplicity, cool mind, mercy and the like.

40. The fruit-bearing trees, O Yudhishthira, must not be felled.

41. Agriculture, cattle breeding and trade these are means of livelihood in this world; supporting all beings’ birth and growth, the triple knowledge sustains in higher worlds too.

42. For one work only one person should be appointed, not two or three, for they may not bear each other.

43. Between an individual and a group the group should be preferred. But if an individual exceeds many in merit, and a choice is to be made, the group should be forsaken for the individual.

44. A righteous king, on ascending the throne, should establish his lordship over all, subduing some by gifts, some by force, and some by sweet words.

45. What is the weakness in me? What attachment? Which fault persists? Why do I earn blame? One should always ponder over these.

46. If there were no punishment in this world, all would have destroyed each other.

47. The king should be ever prepared like Yama, the Lord of Death, to punish the enemies.

48. By mercy and softness alone a kingdom cannot be governed.

49. Be, O King, like the gardener, for like the charcoal-maker.

50. Surely, the king should regard his subjects as his children and grandchildren, but in discharge of his kingly duties, no partiality of affection he should betray.

51. As well wisher of his kingdom, a wise king ever tries to avoid war, So long as some treaty can be made, one must not go to war.

52. In battle aim at victory as the dharma and root of all happiness.

53. By internal dissension republics have been ruined.

54. Republics, clans and kingdoms face two faults – greed and jealousy – that fan the fire of dissension.

55. Yajna, study of Vedas, ahimsa, words of malice for none, reverent hospitality, control of senses, austerity, truth and giving – these are the sign of a Brahmin.

56. Those Brahmins, O King, who, forsaking their inborn work, engage, in lowly deeds, - fallen from Brahminhood, they are but shudras.

57. The wealth of all; except of the Brahmins, belongs to the king, say the Vedas. Also the wealth of those Brahmins who act contrary to Brahminhood, to the king belongs.

58. Like an elephant of wood, a deer of leather, like an impotent man, a barren field, a rainless cloud, of no use is the uneducated Brahmin, no good is the king who cannot protect.

59. Race-wise and clan-wise all may be similar, but in industry, brain, beauty and riches, all cannot be similar.

60. Not all have the right, even in republics, to know secrets of State.

61. Father and mother give birth to the body alone. But unearthly, undecaying, undying is the second birth one gets by the Guru’s teaching.

62. Hostility to friends, ingratitude, murder of woman, murder of guru-for these four sins no fit atonement is known.

63. Who follows truth on determining what is truth and what is untruth, is deemed knower of dharma.

64. Only that is dharma what Scriptures say, so hold some, but others don’t agree. We do not blame either, but say that all is not contained there.

65. It is good to speak the truth, greater than truth there is dharma none.

66. Where lie is truth and truth a lie, there to tell lie, not truth, is just.

67. An evil doer is dead of his own deeds; to kill him is to kill one already dead.

68. Whose good deeds are not for show, whose words are sweet, whose wealth goes for good objects, he sails safe over extreme dangers.

69. Howsoever pure and fair a man be, he earns blame from others.

70. Even sages, living in forests, engaged in their own duties, make friends, foes and neutrals.

71. The poor are called weak; by wealth man gets power.

72. Who by wealth has got a high status suffers pain of death at its loss.

73. Who with deliberation acts and is careful, choose right time and place for aids; thus he gets the desired fruit.

74. No good done in return can equal the good done before by another. The earlier act was spontaneous, the later one was in return only.

75. By ill-timed action one does not gain; the same action, well timed, gives great results.

76. There is no friend, enemy none, of self-interest each is a junction.

77. Selfish is this word of living beings; no love is to be seen.

78. Never trust anyone untrustworthy, nor put excessive trust in the trustworthy.

79. The faces of friends and foes like clouds change moment to moment.

80. Fire born of water cannot be extinguished, so, O King, fire of anger can’t be calmed by money or severity or sweet persuasion, or by knowledge of scriptures.

81. Without renunciation man is not happy; without renunciation man doesn’t reach God; without renunciation man does not sleep carefree; renounce, therefore, everything, and be happy.

82. Happy is the man, O Bharat, who is equal-minded, truth-telling, detached from the world, unattached to action, and who makes no wasteful effort.

83. Where personal effort is seen succeeding, there also, seen deeply, it is fate helping.

84. As the underworld is hard to fill, so, O Desire, are you hard to fulfill.

85. Man wants to be rich; when rich he wants to be king; when king he wants to be god; when god, he wants to be Indra.

86. The learned and the fool, the rich and the poor, all with their acts good and ill, are subject to Time, the Destroyer.

87. Who, undepressed, perseveres in his effort steadily, soon, by Shiva’s grace, gets what he wanted?

88. Who have no greed, no worldly attachment, who are stationed in truth and simplicity, who do not deviate from right conduct, them love, O son of Kuntil

89. In man there is nothing equal to intelligence.

90. Learning, valor, skill, strength and patience these five are known as man’s natural friends.

91. The weak should not be inimical to the strong, Engage not in barren hostility.

92. Of debt, fire and foe, if any remainder is left, they keep growing.

93. No work should be left unaccomplished and one should be always careful. Even part of a thorn left in the body continues to trouble the system.

94. Who is soft and also hard at right times, achieves his objects and master his foes.

95. The bond of heart is hard to break, but once broken it is hard to rejoin. Without love is that bond of heart that often breaks and rejoins.

96. A main dish without side dishes can’t satisfy, so a gift without sweet words can’t please.

97. Perpetual hell is the one place where the ungrateful go.

98. By conduct of dharma who keeps himself light, like a boat he crosses the ocean of life.

99. Both complement each other; fate and effort, A small fire fanned by air grows very big; so does the power of fate aided by effort.

100. Where Krishna is, there is dharma, where dharma is, there is victory.

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