Regarding the hundred pearls from Bhartrihari: नीतिशतक (1)

(Disclaimer: I am a beginner and lack depth in Classical Sanskrit literature. I tread that zone on the clutches of translation and often ride piggyback on my teachers’ knowledge. What I share here is more for opening up of discussion and perhaps reflection. So I call it an “avalokan”, a closer look – of Bhartrihari’s collection of 100 verses, called Neeti Shatakam. Not much is available on the net, and I think it could be interesting to explore it)

Yesterday I reviewed the hundred shlokas of the ’मुक्तक’ form in the नीतिशतक of भर्तॄहरि. My book says that a मुक्तक is a पद – a set of two to four lines, each containing its own autonomous topic and message. Thus, in a standard poem – say, a गीत, meaning evolves through the parts such as स्थायी, अन्तरा and so on. मुक्तक काव्य is a collage made in poetry.

नीतिशतकम् of भर्तॄहरि can be sorted into a few themes. Noticeable is the point that he begins with description of how he finds the fools absolutely insufferable (first three shlokas after prayer and cursing of the cupid). Then he writes about the सज्जन/महात्मा/… in short the people who should be emulated. Then he also derides or criticises दुर्जन / toxic people, their behavior and qualities with an obvious ring that they should not be emulated. Of course, he also writes some more मुक्तक on some general themes.

Bhartihari was a king, an elder brother of the famous king Vikramaditya. Strangely, he abdicated throne and became a sanyasi. There are rumors that it was because his wife, whom he deeply loved, was in love with someone else.

[Incidentally, his second श्लोक (after the first one of namaskaar to God) is, यां चिन्तयामि सतत सा मया विरक्ता  / साSप्यन्यमिच्छति जनं सजनोSअन्यासक्त: । अस्मत्कृते परितुष्यतिाचिदन्या / धिक्तां च तं चदनं च  इमां च मां च ॥ २  ॥ Meaning is – The one whom I ceaselessly contemplate is not into me any more. She desires another man who is enchanted by yet another. There is some woman who wants me. To hell with my beloved, this bloke, the cupid, this woman and me. Of course, that proves nothing autobiographical.] I am not going to discuss the second verse despite this sobering realization that even a king with all the wealth and power at his disposal is lamenting the matters of love.

Moving on to the third one:

अज्ञ: सुखमाराध्य:  सुखतरमाराध्यते विशेषज्ञ:

    ज्ञानलवदुर्विदग्धं ब्रह्मापि तं नरं न रञ्जयति ॥३॥

अज्ञ:= someone who is a blank on a subject     सुखमारध्य: = is easy to please (persuade?)  खतरमाराध्यते = (सुखतरम्+आराध्यते) more easily pleased/persuaded      विशेषज्ञ: = an expert  ज्ञानलवदुर्विदग्धं = (ज्ञान+लव+दु:+विदग्धम्) badly (not half-)baked with a bit of knowledge     ब्रह्माSपि = even Brahma, the creator     तं = him     नरं = man     न रञ्जयति = cannot please/persuade

It is easy to persuade someone who knows nothing about the subject. An expert is easier to persuade. But (God forbid!) if you ever have to persuade someone who has just a bit of badly baked knowledge in all the wrong places – उसे आप तो क्या, ब्रह्मा भी खुश नहीं कर सकते!

Current leadership and change management literature puts a lot of stress on “getting the right people on  the bus” —

कहीं ये वो तो नहीं?

If you were a manager and if you have the दुर्विदग्ध people on your block, would you not need to get rid of them?

Easier said than done if you are an employer – What would you do if you were a trainer? Parent? Spouse?? What if the thick-headed also possessed something on which you critically depended? What if you were bound with such a partner with contractual obligation??

भर्तॄहरि presents several verses concerning the मूर्ख and the thick-headed ones. Why would a king and a high-achieving ascetic place description of fools at the head of his शतक? Hmm, what is your take?


प्रसह्यमणिमुद्धरेन्मकरवक्रदंष्ट्रांकुरात् समुद्रमपसंतरेत्प्रचलदुर्मिमालाकुलम् ।

भुजंगमपि कोपितम् शिरसि पुष्पवद्धारयेन्न तु प्रतिनिविष्टमूर्खजनचित्तमाअराधयेत् ॥ ४ ॥

(One can forcibly retrieve a jewel from the teeth of a crocodile, one can swim across the ocean (with nothing but bare hands as a help) on the series upon series of its agitated waves, one can even wear an angry snake on the head as if it were a laurel of flowers – but (please, sorry – ) one just can’t persuade/please the mind a stubborn fool.)

प्रसह्य = forcibly     मणिमुद्धरेन्मकरवक्रदंष्ट्रांकुरात् = मणिम्+उद्धरेत्+मकर+वक्र+दंष्ट्र+अंकुरात् = can retrieve a jewel stuck in the saw-like teeth of a crocodile      समुद्रमपसंतरेत्प्रचलदुर्मिमालाकुलम् = समुद्रम्+अपसंतरेत्+प्रचलत्+उर्मिमालाम्+आकुलम् = can swim across the ocean by swimming atop the lines upon lines of the agitated waves     भुजंगमपि = eve a snake     कोपितम् = angry     शिरसि = on the head पुष्पवद्धारयेत् = पुष्पवत्+धारयेत् = can wear as if a laurel of flowers     न तु = but not     प्रतिनिविष्ट = a committed, stubborn     मूर्खजनचित्तम् = मूर्ख+जन+चित्तम् = mentality of a fool     आराधयेत् = can be persuaded/pleased

लभेत सिक्तासु तैलमपियत्नत: पीडयन् पिबेच्च मृगतृष्णिकासु सलिलं पिपासार्दित

कदाचिदपि पर्यटन् शशविषाणमासादयेन्न तु प्रतिनिविष्टमूर्खजनचित्तमाअराधयेत् ॥ ५ ॥

(If you grind the sands hard enough, you may get oil out of it. If you are thirsty enough, you may be able to drink from the mirage itself. If you wander, perhaps you may be able to find the horn of a rabbit. But one just can’t persuade/please the mind a stubborn fool.)

लभेत = can find     सिक्तासु = from the sands     तैलमपियत्नत: = oil, by efforts     पीडयन् = grinding   पिबेच्च = and can drink     मृगतृष्णिकासु = from the mirage     सलिलं = water     पिपासार्दित = thirsty enough    कदाचिदपि = perhaps     पर्यटन् = wandering/traveling     शशविषाणमासादयेत्  = can find a horn of a rabbit     -न्न तु प्रतिनिविष्टमूर्खजनचित्तमाअराधयेत् = same meaning as the last line in the previous one

So I am wondering why zero tolerance for ‘fools’? The shlokas 4 and 5 throw some more light. Note that Bhartrihari uses the phrase “Pratinivishta moorkha:”, which means a person who is foolish by commitment and stubbornness. That means that ignorance and lack of ability cannot be removed from such a person because they are highly unlikely to learning.

These people, especially when in key positions surrounding a king (a CEO or any top manager) would block flexibility, adaptability and change.

Hmm, I can see why King B can’t stand them.

What do you think?


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