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Aphorisms - Niti Sastras Or Moral Stanzas

( Originally Published 1939 )



HE who feeds us is our father; he who helps us is our brother; he who places his confidence in us is our friend; those whose sentiments accord with ours are our kinsmen.

IF a margosa seed be dropped into a beverage composed of sugar, honey, and ghee, the whole of it becomes so bitter, that although milk may rain upon it for a thousand years the mixture will Iose nothing of its bitterness. This is symbolicaI of the wicked, who, however good people may be to them, never lose their natural tendency to do evil.

BEWARE of becoming attached to any country which is not your own, or of serving any master who is a foreigner; renounce all relatives who are only so nominally; keep nothing while does not belong to you; and leave a guru who can do you no good.

IF you undertake to do anything which you find to be beyond your powers, give it up at once. If an individual dishonours a whole class, he should be excommunicated; if a single inhabitant causes ruin to a whole village he should be expelled from it; if a village causes the ruin of a district, it should be destroyed; and if a district causes the ruin of the soul, it must be abandoned.

IN the afflictions, misfortunes, and tribulations of life only he who actively helps us is our friend.

Just as a plant of the forest becomes a friend of the body when by virtue of its medicinal properties it cures an illness which afflicts the body, however different the one may be from the other; similarly, he who renders us services should be considered our friend, however lowly may be his condition and however far he may be separated from us; whereas he who affects to be our friend should, if he attempts to hurt us, be regarded as our enemy.

ONE may render good service to the wicked, yet whatever good one may do to them resembles characters written in water, which are effaced as soon as they are written; but services rendered to good people are like characters engraved on stone, which are never effaced.

ONE should keep oneself five yards distant from a carriage, ten yards from a horse, one hundred yards from an elephant; but the distance one should keep from a wicked man cannot be measured.

IF one ask which is the more dangerous venom, that of a wicked man or that of a serpent, the answer is, that however subtle the poison of a serpent may be, it can at any rate be counter acted by virtue of mantrams; but it is beyond all power to save a person from the venom of a wicked man.

To attempt to change the character of a wicked man by being kind to him is like trying to make a hog clean. It is no use to mix water with milk and offer the same to an eagle, for the eagle knows the secret of separating the milk from the water. This is symbolical of the wicked.

THE venom of a scorpion is to be found in its tail, that of a fly in its head, that of a serpent in its fangs; but the venom of a wicked man is to be found in all parts of his body.

A WISE man preserves an equal mind both in adversity and in prosperity. He allows himself neither to be crushed by the former, nor elated by the latter.

AN inteIIigent man is he who knows when to speak and when to be silent, whose friendship is natural and sincere, and who never undertakes anything beyond his power.

VIRTUE IS the best of friends, vice is the worst of enemies, disappointment is the most cruel of illnesses, courage is the support of all.

JUST as the crow is the Pariah among birds, and the ass the Pariah among quadrupeds, so is an angry sannyasi the Pariah among penitents; but the vilest of Pariahs is the man who despises his fellows.

JUST as the moon is the light of the night and the sun the light of the day, so are good children the light of their family.

FLIES Iook for ulcers, kings for war, wicked men for quarrels; but good men Iook only for peace.

THE virtuous man may be compared to a large leafy tree which, while it is itself exposed to the heat of the sun, gives coolness and comfort to others by covering them with its shade.

WHEN we die the money and jewels which we have taken such trouble to amass during our life remain in the house. Our relatives and friends accompany us only to the funeral pyre where our bodies are burnt; but our virtues and our vices follow us beyond the grave.

TEMPORAL blessings pass like a dream, beauty fades like a flower, the longest life disappears Iike a flash. Our existence may be likened to the bubble that forms on the surface of water.

TAKE heed not to trust yourself to the current of a river, to the claws or the horns of an animal, or to the promises of kings.

TAKE heed to place no trust in a false friend; only disappointment will be experienced from a wicked woman; nothing good can be hoped for from a person who is forced to act against his inclinations; nothing but misfortune can be looked for in a country where injustice prevails.

A MAN of courage is recognizable in a moment of danger, a good wife when one is reduced to misery, firm friends in time of adversity, and faithful relatives at the time of a marriage.

A HYPOCRITE who disguises his true character and wishes to pass for an honest man is comparable to strong vinegar which one tries to make sweet by mixing with it camphor, musk, and sandal. The attempt may well be made, but the vinegar will never altogether lose its sourness.

To show friendship for a man in his presence and to libel him in his absence is to mix nectar with poison.

A MIRROR is of no use to a blind man; in the same way knowledge is of no use to a man without discernment.

TAKE care to spend nothing without hope of profit; to undertake nothing without reflection; to begin no ,quarrel without good cause. He who does not follow these golden rules courts his own ruin.

HE who works with diligence will never feel hunger, he who devoutly meditates will never commit any great sin; he who is vigilant will never feel fear; and he who knows when to speak and when to be silent will never be drawn into a quarrel.

TRUTH IS our mother, justice our father, pity our wife, respect for others our friend, clemency our children. Surrounded by such relatives we have nothing to fear.

IT is easier to snatch a pearl from the jaws of a crocodile or to twist an angry serpent round one's head, like a garland of flowers, without incurring danger, than to make an ignorant and obstinate person change his ideas.

THE miser acknowledges neither god nor guru, neither parents nor friends. He who suffers from hunger pays no heed whether the viands be well or ill seasoned. He who Ioves and cultivates knowledge has no taste for idleness. The froward person has neither shame nor restraint.

TEMPORAL blessings are like foam upon the water; youth passes like a shadow; riches disappear like clouds before the wind. Therefore to virtue alone should we hold fast.

LET US realize well that death watches like a tiger to seize us unawares, sickness pursues us like a relentless enemy, earthly joys are like a leaky vessel from which water trickles ceaselessly until it is empty.

BEFORE the existence of earth, water, air, wind, fire, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, sun, stars, and other objects, God One and Eternal was in existence.

PRIDE and arrogance suit no one; constancy, humanity, sweetness, compassion, truth, Iove for one's neighbour, conjugal fidelity, goodness, amiability, cleanliness are all qualities that distinguish really virtuous people. He who possesses all these ten qualities is a true guru.

UNHAPPY is the son whose father contracts debts; unhappy is the father whose son bears a bad character; unhappy is the wife whose husband is unfaithful.

To show friendship to a man while he is prosperous and to turn one's back upon him when he is in distress, is to imitate the conduct of prostitutes, who evince affection for their protectors only so Iong as they are opulent and abandon them as soon as they are ruined.

THERE are six things which almost invariably entail unhappy consequences the service of kings, robbery, horsebreaking, the accumulation of wealth, sorcery, and anger.

NEVER make known one's condition, one's wealth, one's mistress, one's mantrams, one's remedies, the place where one has hidden his money, the good works which one does, the insults one has received, or the debts which one has contracted.

KNOWLEDGE IS the health of the body, poverty is its plague, gaiety is its support, sadness makes it grow old.

A SHAMELESS man fears the maladies engendered by luxury, a man of honour fears contempt, a rich person fears the rapacity of kings, gentleness fears violence, beauty fears old age, the penitent fears the influence of the senses, the body fears Yama, the god of death ; but the miser and the envious fear nothing.

JUST as milk nourishes the body and intemperance causes it to sicken, so does meditation nourish the spirit, while dissipation enervates it.

It is prudent to Iive on good terms with one's cook, with ballad-mongers, with doctors, with magicians, with the rulers of one's country, with rich people, and with obstinate folk.

BIRDS do not perch on trees where there is no fruit; wild beasts leave the forests when the leaves of the trees have fallen and there is no more shade for them; insects leave plants where there are no Ionger flowers; leeches Ieave springs which no longer flow; women leave men who have become old or poverty-stricken; a minister leaves the service of an obstinate king; servants leave a master who has been reduced to poverty. Thus it is that self-interest is the motive of everything in this world.

ONLY the sea knows the depth of the sea, only the firmament knows the expanse of the firmament, the gods alone know the power of the gods.

HOWEVER learned one may be, there is always something more to be learnt; however much in favour one may be with kings, there is always something to fear; however affectionate women may be, it is always necessary to be wary of them.

THE meaning of a dream, the effects of clouds in autumn, the heart of a woman, and the character of kings are beyond the comprehension of anybody.

IT is more easy to discover flowers on the sacred fig-tree, or a white crow, or the .imprint of fishes feet, than to know what a woman has in her heart.

THE quality of gold is known by means of the touchstone; the strength of a bull is known by the weight that it will carry; the character of a man is known by his sayings; but there is no means by which we can know the thoughts of a woman.

PLACE no confidence in a parasite, or in a miser, or in any one who meddles in affairs which do not concern him. Do nothing to damage your friend. Avoid all communications with your friend's wife when he is away.

A PRUDENT man will never divulge his thoughts to another before he knows that other's thoughts.

NOTHING is more seductive and, at the same time, more deceitful than wealth. It is extremely troublesome to acquire, to keep, to spend, and to lose.

COURAGE IS the most splendid quality in an elephant; high-spiritedness is the most splendid quality in a horse; the moon is the most beautiful ornament of the night; the sun is the most beautiful ornament of the day; cleanliness is the most beautiful ornament of the house; gentleness in words is the most beautiful ornament of speech; virtuous children are the most beautiful ornaments of families; so too is modesty the most beautiful ornament in a woman, and justice the most beautiful quality in kings.

JUST as rain brings an end to famine, the bearing of children an end to a woman's beauty, an illicit transaction an end to the wealth of him who permits it; so does the degradation into which great people may fall bring an end to their greatness.

WHEN one sees blades of sahrabi-grass on white-ant heaps one can tell at once that snakes are there; so when one sees anybody frequenting the company of wicked men one may feel sure that he is as wicked as the others.

GREAT rivers, shady trees, medicinal plants, and virtuous people are not born for themselves, but for the good of mankind in general.

THE joy of a Brahmin invited to a good feast, of a famished cow to which fresh grass is offered, or of a virtuous woman who goes to a feast where she meets her Iong-absent husband is not greater than that of a good soldier who goes to the wars.

ONLY death can cut short the affection of a faithful woman for her family, of a tiger and other wild animals for their claws, of a miser for his riches, of a warrior for his weapons.

TAKE care not to fix your abode in a place where there is no temple, no headman, no school, no river, no astrologer, and no doctor.

WE may descend into hell, establish our dwelling in the abode of Brahma or in the paradise of Indra, throw ourselves into the depths of the sea, ascend to the summit of the highest mountain, take up our habitation in the howling desert or in the town where Kubera reigns, take refuge with Yama, bury ourselves in the bowels of the earth, brave the dangers of battle, sojourn in the midst of venomous reptiles or take up our abode in the moon; yet our destiny will none the Iess be accomplished. All that will happen to us will be such as it is not in our power to avoid.

BAD ministers cause the ruin of kings, evil opportunities that of young men, worldly communications that of penitents, good works done without discernment that of Brahmins.

THE vice or virtue which prevails in a kingdom is attributed to the monarch; the faults of kings, to their ministers; the defects of women, to their husbands; those of children, to their parents; and those of disciples, to their gurus.

JUST as intoxicating liquors destroy our sense of taste, so does a son of bad character destroy a whole family. The society of wicked men dishonours those whose company they frequent. Selfinterest destroys friendships that are most firmly cemented.

HE who boasts of knowing that which he does not know and he who affects not to know that which he does know are equally blameworthy.

THERE are three kinds of persons who are well received everywhere, a gallant warrior, a learned man, and a pretty woman.

THE favours of a prostitute appear like nectar at first, but they soon become poison.

THE pursuit of knowing is troublesome at first, but knowledge is a source of great delight when it is acquired.

A VIRTUOUS man ought to be like the sandal-tree, which perfumes the axe that destroys it.

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