|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Unsorted > Hitopadesa|
siddhih sadhye satam astu prasadat tasya dhurjateh
jahnavi-phena-lekheva yan-murdhni sasinah kala
siddhih-success; sadhye-the goal, the object to be achieved; satam-saintly people; astu-let there be; prasadat-by the mercy of; tasya-of his; dhurjateh-of Lord Siva; jahnavi-the river Ganga; phena-the foam; lekha-the mark; iva-like; yat-murdhni-on whose head; sasinah-of the moon; kala-a part.
May the good students achieve their goal by the grace of Lord Siva, who has a crescent moon on his head, appearing like a streak of foam on the Ganges.
vande'ham shri-gurum shri-yuta-pada-kamalam shri-gurun vaishnavams ca
shri-rupam sagrajatam saha-gana-raghunathanvitam tam sa-jivam
sadvaitam savadhutam parijana sahitam krishna-chaitanya-devam
shri-radha-krishna-padan saha-gana-lalita-shri-visakhanvitams ca
In Vedic culture every endeavor begins with an invocation called mangalacarana, which literally means "auspicious act." It invokes the Lord's blessings, so that overcoming all obstacles, the work may see completion. Endeavor cannot be successful unless sanctioned by the Lord, the supreme controller. Vedic scholars believe that even endeavors of atheists are successful because they must have performed pious deeds in the past.
Mangalacarana can be performed orally or mentally so one might wonder why it is included as part of the book. It appears here so the readers may learn this Vedic etiquette. (This reason does not have the ring of truth. Maybe that is the reason for the mangalacaran in this book, but what about it appearing in other books? It seems that we should give the general reasons why it appears in books and then, if necessary, why it appears in this particular book. Best is we can skip the explanation of mangalacarana altogether because that appears somewhere else already. The commentary can begin from here) The author invokes the blessings of Lord Siva, az great Vaishnava. One gets the mercy of the Lord through the Vaishnavas, and thus he prays to Lord Siva. It is also customary, as Sukadeva Gosvami recommends--vidya-kamas tu girisam (Bhag. 2.3.7)--for a person desiring education to pray to Lord Siva.
Lord Siva carries the Ganges on his head, which indicates he has received the blessings of Lord Vishnu, for the Ganges water washes the Lord Vishnu's lotus feet. Just as Ganga descends from Lord Vishnu, so all knowledge flows from Him. Just as the Ganges comes in a continuous flow, so knowledge flows continuously through the chain of disciplic succession. (This implies that the knowledge received in Hitopadesa is coming from Lord Vishnu. This should either be substantiated or not used.)
This description of Lord Siva indicates the qualities of a bona fide student. Both the Ganges and the moon have a cooling effect. To get knowledge, one must keep a cool head, and this is one significance of the Ganges and Moon on Lord Siva's head. The moon on Lord Siva's head indicates that knowledge is brilliant, luminous. Receiving the Ganges on the head also signifies humility and respect. A proud student cannot go very far in learning. Dhurjati is a name of Lord Siva. It means "one who has matted hair," which signifies austerity. A genuine student is austere. During his studies he minimizes all other interests and activity and dedicates his full attention on the subject at hand.
Satam, as used in this verse, refers to gentle, well-behaved students. He limits his audience to such saintly students. He does not bless students who are lacking this qualification. Hitopadesa teaches one to develop character and at the onset the author knows that only the gentle and well-behaved will benefit fully from such good instruction. Sadhya (goal) refers to education, and siddhi (perfection) refers to acquiring proficiency in niti. He is saying, "May the properly motivated students of this work achieve their goals by the grace of Lord Siva." Those goals he describes in the next verse.
sruto hitopadeso'yam patavam sanskrtoktisu
vacam sarvatra vaicitryam niti-vidyam dadati ca
srutah-having heard; hitopadesah-the book called Hitopadesa or the beneficial teachings; ayam-this; patavam-expertise; sanskrtoktisu-in Sanskrit idioms; vacam-speech; sarvatra-everywhere; vaicitryam-wonderfulness; niti-vidyam-the science of polity or human behaviour; dadati-gives; ca-and.
After studying Hitopadesa, the student will be expert in using Sanskrit idioms, his speech in all circumstances will be wonderful, and he will be learned in niti, the conduct of human affairs.
By knowing what he'll achieve the reader takes a keener interest in a book. The goals for the student of Hitopadesa are threefold: Mastery of Sanskrit idiomatic expressions; competence in speaking in all circumstances; and expertise in the conduct of human dealings. Traditionally Hitopadesa is taught to children. Linguistically, the slokas are like nursery rhymes in their simplicity, except that they have deep meaning. Nursery rhymes are generally meaningless singsong verse that lose all utility once the student becomes articulate. In contrast, as the young student grows in sophistication, the Hitopadesa verses increase in utility, endowing the student with wisdom for lifelong use.
An advantage of memorizing these verses in one's youth is that it inceases one's power of memory. (Say how, or these two sentences do not follow logically.) This is why Vedic professors wrote everything in verse form.
In Vedic education much stress is laid on language. Language is the human tool for communicating and childhood is the optimum time to acquire the fundamentals. According to Patanjali Muni, author of the Mahabhasya commentary on the Panini Sutras, ekah sabdah suprayuktah samyag-jnatah svarge loke ca kamadhug bhavati, "Even if only one word is learnt and used properly, it can fulfill all of one's desires." This is because sabda is a form of Lord Vishnu, sabda murti-dhara (Vishnu Purana 1.22.84).
One of the indispensible characteristics of a great man is good speech. It is said, "A bird is known by its song, a man by his words" and "A well-dressed fool goes unrecognized until he speaks." Study of Hitopadesa makes one's speech wonderful (vacam sarvatra vaicitryam) and simultaneously offers knowledge of niti sastra. It must be studied, however, under a bona fide teacher-that is the implication of srutah (heard).
After invoking the blessings of Lord Siva, explaining the purpose and importance of the book, and indicating the qualification of the reader, the author next glorifies education in five verses.
ajara'maravat prajno vidyam artham ca cintayet
grhita iva kesesu mrtyuna dharmam acaret
ajara-free from old age; amaravat-like an immortal; prajnah-an intelligent person; vidyam-for education; artham-for wealth; ca-and; cintayet-should think or earn; grhita-caught; iva-like; kesesu-by the hair; mrtyuna-by death; dharmam-the religion; acaret-should follow.
An intelligent person should acquire education and wealth as if free from old age and is immortal; but should engage in religious acts as if death has caught hold of one by the hair.
Some fortunate souls have a natural interest in learning and as a hungry man need not hear the glories of food to whet his appetite, so the fortunate student requires no encouragement to study. Generally, however, although it is their duty, students are not keen on study, especially in Kali-yuga. Young students feel great pleasure when a public holiday falls on a school day. Indeed they feel relieved at the end of each school day. To encourage them, therefore, the author wants to stress, in this and the next few verses, the importance and glory of a good education.
In Kali-yuga we are conditioned to instant gratification. Our consumerists society has so many gadgets for our bodily comfort we are intolerant towards austerity. Consumerism is the result of our attempt to avoid all austerity in life. Ease is progress. Hence we are often averse to the austerity of study, which comes to fruition over a long time. Education declines from the imparting of wisdom and developing of character to learning a skill for making money. Beyond that we find few who are interested in a true education, because it calls for austerity in many ways, especially the ability to delay gratification while pursuing study. When we want to justify avoiding study our mind rationalizes. For example, we have to die one day thus a lazy student's intelligence argues, "Why study? It will all be lost at death. Why work hard for 15 or 20 years to become learned? Why not enjoy? In old age one cannot enjoy, and what happens after death is uncertain, so this is the time to enjoy." Carvaka Muni, the epicurian philosopher, summed it up:
yavaj jivet sukham jivet rnam krtva ghrtam pibet
deha-bhasmi-bhutasya punar agamanam kutah.
As long as one lives one should live happily. For enjoying one needs wealth. If one is poor, one should steal or loan, and enjoy delicacies made with ghee. One's body is burnt to ashes after death there is no rebirth (so one should fully enjoy in this life).
To counter such short-term thinking, the wise author of Hitopadesa says that in acquiring knowledge we should have the attitude that we are immortal (amaravat). He correctly points out that thinking of one's mortality while pursuing either wealth or education will not serve one's purpose; it will not maximize applying oneself. But the mind might say, "Being immortal is one thing, but what about old age? We cannot enjoy when our senses are feeble." Shri Narayana Pandit says that we should not just think ourselves immortal but we should think we have eternal youth (ajara). That is the optimum spirit in which to pursue wealth and education.
Even if our goal is to enjoy, we cannot do so without wealth, which generally cannot be obtained without education. Quite often we see that one who is uneducated yet by good fortune has wealth, it does not last long for a fool and his money are soon parted. Indeed the two were lucky to get together in the first place. In America, for instance, studies have shown that the great majority of lottery winners, many of whom become instant multi-millionaires were often back to where they were financially within two years, with the majority of these taking only one year to lose their immense fortune.
Wealth and education go together, but of the two, the author says, vidyam artham ca, education comes first. It makes no difference if one is a materialist or a spiritualist. If one is interested in going beyond material enjoyment one certainly needs vidya. The Vedas say rtejnan na mukti, "One cannot get liberated without acquiring knowledge." Lord Krishna says knowledge is most purifying (na hi jnanena sadrsam pavitram iha vidyate). Study is best during youth, when the mind is not burdened by anxieties and the memory is strong. Later on, especially if one has not practiced studying while young, it is much more difficult to study.
In Vedic culture the first part of life is exclusively devoted to study. The primary meaning of brahmacari is "student" and celibacy comes as a requirement for being a student, because one's attention is diverted after marriage.
A doubt is raised: If a people think they are immortal, they may be encouraged to act sinfully because people in general often act religiously of fear of punishment after death. To negate this tendency the author writes the second half of the verse: one should act religiously considering he may die at any moment (as if death has caught him by the sikha). He should not commit sin knowing very well he will suffer the reaction. It is seen when one witnesses death, a sense of religiosity and renunciation creeps in, though temporarily. This is called smasana vairagya-crematorium renunciation. Yet if one continously remembers his imminent death, then he can be actually renounced and religious. Materilistic people think this is a morbid outlook on life, but many saintly persons advocate such realistic thinking as a means of attaining optimal spiritual consciousness.
A story illustrates this point. Once a man approached a saint and asked, "My mind always hankers for sense pleasure. Please help me control it."
The saint closed his eyes and said, "I will definitely help you, but first I must tell you something very important. You will die within a week so you should quickly finish all your business and return here in two days."
The man went home and told his family the saint's prophesy. He then mindfully visited temples, distributed charity, engaged in religious study, and found no time for sense gratification. The two days passed very quickly. Next day he returned to the saint, who asked, "Did your mind disturb you for sense pleasure?"
"Not at all" the man replied. "I had no time to even think of sense gratification. I used all my time for pious activities with the hope I will achieve a good birth in my next life. I also realized I will not be able to take my wealth with me so I utilized it for religious purposes."
The saint said, "Your problem is now solved. I have answered your question about controlling your mind. Always remember that you may die at any time and your mind will no longer trouble you for sense pleasure." This impressed the man and from that day on he controlled his mind and led a pious life.
Although the advice given in the verse is contradictory, it is possible to follow. One may conclude that nothing can be done without wealth. Everyone needs money and we see that even scholars sometimes take a job to fetch some dollars. So, why not dedicate ourselves to earning wealth from a very young age? Even if one does not earn much as a child, he will have gotten an early start and will soon become adept. In response to this the author speaks the next verse.
sarva-dravyesu vidyaiva dravyam ahur anuttamam
aharyatvad anarghatvad aksayatvac ca sarvada
sarva-of all; dravyesu-among wealth; vidya-the education; eva-only; dravyam-the wealth; ahuh-is stated; anuttamam-the supreme; aharyatvat-which cannot be stolen; anarghatvat-priceless; aksayatvat-imperishable; ca-and; sarvada-always.
Education is the best of all wealth because no one can steal it from you, it is priceless, and it is imperishable.
Here the author gives three reasons why vidya is the best wealth. Firstly, no one can steal it from you. A rich man is always full of anxiety that his wealth will be plundered, lost in speculative business or gambling, or that he or his relatives will be kidnapped or murdered. Today's rich man can easily become tomorrow's pauper. Yudhisthira Maharaja lost his kingdom in a day and Dhrtarastra lost all his family members and relatives while attempting to gain wealth. Spiritual knowledge, however, cannot be forcibly taken away; it is not burdensome to carry; and it causes no anxiety. Therefore, the opulence of education is the most stable wealth.
Secondly, it is priceless. Although worldly affluence is limited, vidya is unlimited. No one can estimate the extent or value of his knowledge. Furthermore, with knowledge, one can earn any amount of wealth. Consultants in different fields earn millions with their knowledge, which remains intact and even increases. Knowledge is also priceless in the sense that it cannot be purchased with money like other commodities; it has to be earned by one's individual effort.
Thirdly, education is aksayatvat-it is imperishable. Worldly riches diminish when distributed, therefore most people are not enthusiastic to give charity. Vidya, however, increases the more one shares it with others. This is especially true with spiritual knowledge. As one increasingly uses his intelligence to meditate on various ways to present the philosophy of Krishna consciousness to different types of people, his realizations also increase. As we distribute light, our own light increases. The sages of Naimisaranya accepted Suta Gosvami as a qualified teacher beacuse he had not only heard properly from his teacher, but had also explained the subject and therefore had some realizations.
A man enriched with vidya can distribute his wealth unlimitedly and still remain wealthy. And when he dies, his worldly wealth is left behind, while his spiritual knowledge follows him to his next life, thus proving the superiority of the opulence of spiritual knowledge to worldly opulence. As Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, svalpam apy asya dharmasya. In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution.
There is a story in this connection about a proud king who was very much attached to his opulence. Once a saintly person visited him, and noticing his attachment, he suddenly became very serious. When the king inquired about his gravity, the saint said, "I can foresee that very soon you will die; but don't worry. Your many pious deeds will promote you to heaven where you will enjoy far greater opulence. There is only one problem. Your heavenly palace will be infested with mosquitos and although you will have a nice mosquito net, it will have a hole in it and the mosquitos will enter and bite you."
When the king heard this he became worried as he hated mosquitos. So he said, "Nevermind. I will get the net mended."
The saint replied, "That's alright, but one problem still remains. In heaven there are no needles so when you die, make sure you take a needle with you."
The king replied, " How can I take something with me at the time of death?"
The saint smiled and said, "If you cannot even take a needle with you, then why are you so proud of your kingdom? If it actually belongs to you, you would be able to at least take a needle from it." Hearing this the king realized the futility of his attachment.
Therefore, among all types of wealth, knowledge is the best. Shri Sukracarya says (Sukra-niti, 3.180):
vidya-dhanam sresthataram tan mulam itarat-dhanam
danena vardhate nityam na bharaya na niyate
Vidya is superior to material wealth because it is the cause of earning all other wealths; it increases when given in charity; it is not burdensome to carry; and no one can forcibly take it away."
Next Shri Narayana Pandita explains how a person born in a low family can achieve the association of the rich if he has a good education.
samyojayati vidyaiva nicaga'pi naram sarit
samudram iva durdharsam nrpam bhagyamatah param
samyojayati-carries; vidya-the education; eva-indeed; nicaga-that flows towards low level; api-also; naram-a man; sarit-a river; samudram-an ocean; iva-like; durdharsam-formidable; nrpam-with king; bhagyam-the fortune; atahparam-henceforth.
Just as a river carries a blade of grass downstream to the inaccessible ocean, so knowledge, although possessed by a common man, can lead one to a king who is generally unapproachable and whose audience brings good fortune.
Knowledge is respected everywhere. A king or head of state may be respected in his own country. but a scholar is honored worldwide-svadese pujyate raja vidvan sarvatra pujyate. One possessing knowledge can even attract the attention of world leaders who are generally innaccessable to the common man. We have experience that our Krishna conscious devotees often meet with presidents such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Shankar Dayal Sharma of India who enjoy discussing spiritual knowledge with the devotees.
Once a great poet named Shri Harsa traveled to Kashmir to have darsana of the deity of Mother Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. While there, he to tried to meet the king but a guard denied him entry into the palace, considering him an ordinary man.
One day Shri Harsa was sitting on the bank of a river performing his evening meditation when two women arrived there with clay pots to fetch water. They began to argue while he attentively listened. The argument developed into a quarrel and then escalated into a fight. Family members came from both sides and the fight became a melee.
The whole incident was reported to the king, who despite listening to the versions of both parties. could not determine who was at fault. He asked if there had been any witnesses at the river and the women told him of the brahmana who sat quietly watching the whole incident. As a result, the poet was summoned to the king's court to testify. When asked to give an account of the fight, Shri Harsa said, "Although I have no understanding of the local language, I can repeat everything that was said," and to the king's amazement, he began to narrate every word that was spoken by each person during the incident.
Upon learning that the poet was the famous Shri Harsa, the king gave him a royal reception. Soon thereafter Shri Harsa became very popular in Kashmir. Although previously denied the king's audience, when recognized as a man of great learning, he was given royal honor. In the same way, Sukadeva Gosvami 's exalted status was not appreciated by the ordinary people, but when he entered the learned assembly of sages he was given great respect.
On the other hand even if an uneducated man has the good fortune to meet a king, he cannot derive any benefit. Sometimes, an inexperienced devotee approaches Lord Krishna for the fulfillment of material desires. Although Krishna can give liberation from all sufferings, the devotee foolishly asks for something that will further prolong his stay in this material world. Shrila Prabhupada compares this to going to a great king and asking him for a handful of ashes. An intelligent devotee, upon gaining the darsana of Lord Krishna simply asks for continuous engagement in His devotional service, knowing that only by such service can he be completely satisfied at heart.
Therefore, one who has acquired spiritual knowledge is most fortunate because he can contact the greatest person-Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna says that anyone who understands His transcendental birth and activities attains Him (Bg. 4.9). He also accepts a man of transcendental knowledge as His very self jnani tvatmaiva me matam.
On their own strength, pebbles and straw are incapable of reaching the ocean, but if carried by a river, they can do so. The word samudram (ocean) literally means that which is full of gems. Therefore, by the mercy of the river even worthless pebbles can contact valuable gems. Similarly, the insignificant living entity is incapable of reaching the ocean of Krishna, but he can do so, being carried by the river of spiritual knowledge. This ability to get knowledge is the unique quality of human birth.
Materialistic persons who derive happiness from sense enjoyment, may ask the question, "How can vidya give us happiness?" This will be explained in the next verse.
vidya dadati vinayam vinayad yati patratam
patratvad dhanam apnoti dhanad dharmam tatah sukham
vidya-the edcuation; dadati-gives; vinayam-humility; vinayat-from humility; yati-attains; patratam-qualification; patratvad-by good qualification; dhanam-the wealth; apnoti-acquires; dhanat-from wealth; dharmam-the religion; tatah-after that; sukham-happiness.
Education makes one humble, which gives one qualification. Being qualified, one attains wealth for performing religious acts such as giving charity and performing sacrifices, which lead to happiness.
Humility is the fruit of a good education. In fact, one cannot receive knowledge from a bona fide guru unless he submits himself humbly with genuine questions and submissive service. Even Lord Krishna studied under a guru, posed questions and performed menial service. Questions should not be posed with a challenging spirit or with the intention of testing the caliber of the teacher. There should be intrinsic faith. In Bhagavad-gita (Bg 4.34) Lord Krishna recommends three things- pranipatena-pay obeisances; pariprasnena-ask questions; and sevaya-perform service. Thus, by surrendering his body, words, and mind respectively, one achieves complete humility.
Sometimes devotees make a show of surrender but inwardly maintain the anartha of pride. Thus there is a subtle defiance on the part of the disciple which, unless dealt with, will deprive him of the actual fruit of knowledge. Unless one serves the spiritual master with the proper mentality, whatever knowledge he has received may be misused. Those who neglect to render service to their guru or those who study without proper guidance will become proud and will use their knowledge only to argue with others, vidya vivadaya. It is said that learning in the breast of a bad man is like a sword in the hand of a mad man. The Lord says that a proud man does not reap the proper results of vidya (Bhag. 9.4.70):
tapo vidya ca vipranam nihsreyasa-kare ubhe
te eva durvinitasya kalpete kartur anyatha
For a brahmana, austerity and learning are certainly auspicious, but when acquired by a person who is not gentle, such austerity and learning are most dangerous.
A person decorated with the quality of humility uses his hard-earned wealth in devotional service, knowing well that it does not belong to him. One who uses wealth for sinful activities gains misery, whereas one who properly engages his wealth in religious activities gains happiness.
One may argue that even proud people earn money, so why undergo the austerity of acquiring education? Without proper education, proud people misuse their wealth and even if they perform religious duties they do it for name and fame. One may again argue that one can be happy without engaging his money in religious duties. But such happiness is temporary and is not real happiness at all. Lord Krishna says that happiness in the mode of passion appears like nectar in the beginning but like poison in the end (Bg. 18.38). Such pleasures have a beginning and an end, therefore intelligent persons do not delight in them. (Bg. 5.22).
Of all knowledge, knowledge of scripture is the best because it leads to lasting happiness. Therefore one should acquire it by all means.
vidya sastrasya sastrasya dve vidye pratipattaye
adya hasyaya vrddhatve dvitiyadriyate sada
vidya-education; sastrasya-the martial arts; sastrasya-of the scriptures; dve-two; vidye-knowledges; pratipattaye-for acquisition; adya-the first; hasyaya-the cause of ridicule; vrddhatve-during old age; dvitiya-the second; adriyate-is respected; sada-always.
Among various types of education, martial arts (sastra vidya) and scriptural knowledge (sastravidya) are famous for giving glory. Of these, the former becomes the cause of ridicule in old age, but the latter is ever respected.
It is said that the pen is mightier than sword. To control by force is unhealthy for society as excessive repression always leads to revolution. To convince people by gentle persuasion enthuses them to follow willingly. This merciful dynamic was especially shown by Lord Chaitanya who, unlike other incarnations, did not kill demons but preached the message of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (prema), to kill the demoniac mentality. As explained by Shrila Prabhupada in a lecture in 1974, "...we are so fallen that it does not require any more killing. We are already dead. Therefore Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna, merciful. All the demons, full of sinful activities, they are to be delivered by this weapon, Hare Krishna."
A fighter is respected when he is young and agile, but in his old age if he claims to be a great hero, people will ridicule him.Yet if one is learned in scripture, he gains respect whether young or old. In fact, he is even more respected in old age due to his life-long experience and realization, and after he dies people will continue to follow his teachings. Thus scriptural knowledge is superior to knowledge of martial arts.
A scholar can control hundreds of warriors. When Bhisma was lying on the bed of arrows awaiting death, the Pandavas approached him to hear the scriptures, not to learn about martial arts. Eminent sages from all over the universe came as well to hear the discourse. Although Bhisma was one of the greatest warriors, he was respected for his scriptural realizations. Due to his condition, he could not impart knowledge of military arts, yet he spoke for many days on sastra-vidya.
yan nave bhajane lagnah samskaro nanyatha bhavet
kathacchalena balanam nitis tad iha kathyate
yat-that; nave-in the new; bhajane-on the pot; lagnah-made; samskarah-the marks; na-not; anyatha-otherwise; bhavet-becomes; katha-the stories; chalena-on the pretext of; balanam-to the young students niti
-the niti or polity; tat-that; iha-here in the book; kathyate-is described.
Just as designs carved on a clay pot can never be changed after firing, so impressions created on the minds of young boys remain for the rest of their lives. Therefore, on the pretext of telling stories, I will teach polity to the youth.
While wet clay is turning on a wheel, it is easily molded into various shapes and carved with different designs which become permanent after firing. Similarly, a child's mind, like the clay pot before firing, is easily influenced. Whatever he learns remains with him for the rest of his life. Habits and preferences developed during childhood are difficult to change. An old dog cannot learn new tricks. Shrila Prabhupada was once asked by a reporter, "Why are all your students so young?" And he answered, "Because that is the age for education." Therefore, education must especially aim to train the youth.
Since children are always attracted to interesting stories, the author will weave valuable moral instruction into absorbing stories. Although the child may not understand the message while young, in his maturity he will remember the story and be able to apply its wisdom to his practical life. This same technique is used in the Puranas and Itihasas. Although Narayana Pandit has written the book for children, everyone can take advantage, because being ignorant of a subject, we are all like children in that field.
Although the word samskara literally means purification, here it is used to indicate marks or designs. Just as designs on a clay pot are made before firing, similarly in Vedic culture three samskaras or vedic rites are performed for the child before birth, to remove the impurities in the semen and ovum of the parents and to create good impressions on the mind of the unborn child. Being especially important in Vedic culture, samskaras continue after birth.
The child in the womb is conscious and is also influenced by what his mother experiences. While in the womb, Abhimanyu learned martial arts by hearing Arjuna speaking to Subhadra, and Prahlada learned transcendental knowledge while hearing Narada Muni instruct his mother. Modern psychologists also agree that the mother's mentality affects the unborn child. There is an interesting story in this connection.
During the time of the British Empire there were many kings in India. The King of Punjab (which included the present states of Punjab, Haryana, and Pakistan) was Maharaja Ranjit Singh. who was a great devotee of the cows and brahmanas.
During his reign, one businessman in Lahore, Pakistan built a trough for cows to drink water outside his mansion, a common practice in India. One day a cow came to drink there and saw some grains being kept behind an iron grate. While attempting to reach the grains, her horns got stuck in the grate, keeping her trapped. Seeing the cow's dilemma, many devout Hindus tried to free her without success. One man suggested that the wall holding the grate be demolished, but another said that would be costly to repair so he suggested that the cow's horns be cut instead. The crowd derided this idea, and instead broke the wall and freed the cow unharmed.
The whole incident was witnessed by one of the king's spys and that evening when he gave his report to the king he mentioned the cow episode. When the king heard that a Hindu in his kingdom had suggested cutting the cows horns, he angrily summoned the man. After comfirming the story, the king asked, "How could you dare suggest this ill treatment of a cow?'
Realizing his mistake, the man bowed his head and asked for forgiveness, but he could not pacify the king, who said, "You are not a real Hindu. There must be some defect regarding your birth."
Keeping the man in custody, the king called his mother, and questioned her about the birth of this son. Although testifying that the man was her legitimate son, she could not convince the king. He said, "Your son is not born of a Hindu," and he threatened to have them both executed.
Being terrified, the elderly mother said, "I am a chaste lady and have never contacted anyone other than my husband-not even in dreams. But after the night my son was conceived, the first person I saw in the morning was a butcher who lived nearby, sitting on the roof of his house. Upon seeing him, the thought of his abominable lifestyle entered my mind. I think this must be the reason my son has had these sinful thoughts.
This explanation satisfied the king as he realized the importance of samskaras. After releasing them, the king passed a law requiring every Hindu woman to wear a ring with a small mirror studded in it and every morning upon awakening they should see the reflection of their face in the mirror before seeing anyone else. This custom still continues in some parts of Punjab although the purpose is forgotten. This story vividly illustrates the importance of samskaras. Presently, people have lost faith in their importance, causing great disturbances in society.
Next the author explains the source material for his book and names the chapters in it.
bhedo vigrahah sandhir eva ca
pancatantrat tath-nyasmad granthadhakrsya likhyate
mitralabhah-the chapter entitled Mitralabha; suhrdnbhedah-the chapter Suhrdbheda; vigrahah-the chapter Vigraha; sandhi-the chapter called Sandhi; eva-certainly; ca-and; pancatantrat-in the book called Pancatantra; tatha-and; anyasmad-from others; granthat-from scriptures; akrsya-taking; likhyate-is written.
This book includes stories from Pancatantra and other such books. There are four sections named Mitralabha, Suhrdabheda, Vigraha and Sandhi.
Hitopadesa is not a concoction. Many of the verses can be traced to scriptures like Pancatantra, by Vishnu Sarma, Mahabharata, and the Puranas. Therefore one should study this book with faith. Hitopadesa, being simplified, is especially written for young students while Pancatantra is more expanded and complex. Hitopadesa has four divisions called Mitralabha, Suhrd-abheda, Vigraha, and Sandhi. The first chapter explains how to make friends, the second how to divide them, the third how to make war, and finally, how to make truce.
asti bhagirathi-tire-pataliputra-namadheyam nagaram. Tatra sarva-svami-gunopetah sudarsano nama narapartirasit. Sa bhupatir
ekada kenapi pathyamanam sloka-dvayam susrava-
On the bank of the Ganges in the city called Pataliputra (presently known as Patna) lived a king named Sudarsana, who was endowed with all royal qualities. Once the king heard the recitation of two verses.
sarvasya locanam sastram yasya nasty andha eva sah
aneka-many; samsaya-doubts; ucchedi-the remover; paroksa-invisible; arthasya-of the object; darsakam-that which shows; sarvasya-of everyone; locanam-the eye; sastram-the scriptures; yasya-one whose; na-not; asti-there is; andha-blind; eva-indeed; sah-he.
Sastra is the eye of illumination for everyone as it removes various doubts and reveals invisible objects. Therefore one who lacks knowledge of sastra, is surely blind.
Here the essence of Hitopadesa is revealed. Born into ignorance, we gain a greater part of our knowledge from hearing. Direct perception only allows us to obtain knowledge about current events occurring within the perceptible range of our senses. Knowledge about objects beyond our sense perception can only be received through scripture. Sastra yields information about past and future events and objects beyond our senses as well. Moreover, it explains objects we perceive yet do not understand. Therefore sastra is the real eye and is considered the best authority as it is flawless.
Originally the Lord, who is free from all efects, imparted the Vedas to Brahma, the first person in the universe. Later, the sages compiled other scriptures based on Vedic knowledge which are called smrtis. The Vedas and smrtis combined make the body of knowledge called sastra. Knowledge based only on observation and inference is incomplete and unsteady. A person who has not studied sastra is blind to the knowledge of the Absolute Truth.
If a blind man remains alone, he may not harm others, but if he boldly attempts to lead others, he will surely meet with disaster along with his followers. If a doctor, teacher, or lawyer do not know the books related to their field, then their patients, students and clients are doomed. As it is dangerous for a blind man to walk, so one's path in life is uncertain and dangerous if one lacks sastric knowledge. Therefore, one of the most essential qualifications of a leader is sastric knowledge.