Quotes from Sanskrit Classics
The classical period of Sanskrit literature dates back from the 3rd century BC right upto to the 8th century AD. One of the earliest known Sanskrit plays is the mrichakatika thought to have been composed by shudraka in the 2nd century BC. Bhasa and Kalidasa are major early poets and dramatists. Kālidāsa qualifies easily as the greatest poet and playwright in Sanskrit. His three famous plays are Vikarmorvashiyam, Malavikaagnimitram and Abhijnaanashaakuntalam. The last mentioned play is acknowledged as one the most beautiful plays not only in classical Sanskrit but also in world literature.
A few of the greatest works of poetry in this period are the following Mahākāvyas:
- Kumarasambhavam by Kalidasa
- Kiratarjuniyam by Bharavi
- Sishupalavadham by Sri Magha
- Naishadheeya Charitam by Sri Harsha
There is a sloka which says about these mahakavis:
Kalidasa excels in the use of similes and metaphors in his poetry, Bharavi’s works are pregnant with meaning, Dandi’s language is simple and lilting and poet Magha combines in him all the three qualities mentioned above.
Sanskrit fairy tales and fables are chiefly characterized by ethical reflections and proverbial philosophy. The two most important collections are Panchatantra by Vishnu Sharma and Hitopadesha by Narayana Pandita. These were originally intended as manuals for the instruction of kings in domestic and foreign policy.
Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara is a work of special importance. Composed in verse it is of very considerable length, containing more than 22,000 slokas.
Fable collections, serving as the handbooks of practical moral philosophy, provided an abundant reservoir of ethical maxims. They became so popular that works consisting exclusively of poetical aphorisms started to appear. The most important are the two collections by the highly-gifted Bhartruhari entitled respectively Nīti-śataka and Vairāgya-śataka.
Given below is selection of sayings from the Sanskrit classics. The selections are in the nature of what is called subhashitani , literally meaning ‘well said’, picturesque in expression and import, embedded as diamonds strewn . They throw light on human nature, on virtues like truthfulness, compassion, love, humility, charity, perseverance, human effort etc, code of conduct according to one’s role in the family or society and practical advice when faced with obstacles or difficulties. They also warn us against negative emotions like anger, jealousy, greed, conceit, fault-finding etc. It has to be pointed out here that the selections are not intended to bring out the poetic excellences or provide a critical appreciation of the works concerned
1. Raghuvamsam (Mahakavi Kalidasa)
The purity or otherwise of gold can be tested only when it is put through the fire.
Knowledge imparted only to a fit recipient will yield the desired result.
Good qualities put their footprints everywhere.
People have varied tastes, likes and dislikes.
Wise men say that death is a natural thing for the embodied soul whereas life is accidental. Even if one is able to breathe and be alive for a second, it should be considered as a gain.
When the union and separation of the body (shareera ) and the indweller of the body (shareeree, Jiva) is common knowledge, how could the separation (viraha) from external entities cause grief to a wise person?
2. Kumarasambhavam (Mahakavi Kalidasa)
Only he can be considered a dheera ( a person of courage) whose mind is not disturbed or overcome by emotions even in the presence of objects of temptation.
In most of the cases, the Creator Brahma is reluctant to assemble all the good qualities in one place (person). (The idea is even the best of men will have a few failings).
Who can reverse the course of two things, namely, the mind which is steadfastly clinging to the desired object and water which always flows from higher level to lower level?
The human body is the first instrument for treading the path of dharma
A valuable diamond does not seek, it is only sought after.
Fools deride the character of great souls whose conduct and behaviour are different from those of ordinary mortals who cannot think of possible reasons for such difference.
Respect or recognition by men of noble character instills into one a belief in one’s own good qualities.
Begging of a noble person and not getting what one wants is much better than begging of a mean person and getting what one wants.
Empty ( of wealth, knowledge, good qualities etc) one loses dignity and respect in society. Fullness ( of wealth, knowledge, good qualities etc.) , on the other hand, gives one dignity and respect in society.
Noble souls use their wealth for the purpose of wiping out the misery and suffering of those overcome by misfortune.
There is none who is always happy and comfortable and none who is always unhappy and miserable. Happiness and sorrow alternate like the rim of a wheel which goes up and down.
3. Abhijnaanashaakuntalam Natakam (Mahakavi Kalidasa)
Which is not an adornment for a beautiful form? (Anything can add to the beauty if one has a beautiful form)
For people of character, when in a dilemma whether a particular conduct or deed is good or bad, their own inner voice or conscience is the final arbiter.
A girl child is another man’s property and she is held in trust by the parents.
When one gets recognition, the enthusiasm which was there while endeavouring to get that recognition, cools down.
The tree bears the intense heat on its head while it lessens the heat for those who take shelter under it.
Trees laden with fruits bend down so that people may pluck and enjoy the fruits. Clouds laden with water come down in the form of rain cooling the earth and watering plants and trees. In the same way noble men do not become conceited when fortune embraces them but use their wealth to help others. This is the nature of persons who are always eager to be of help to fellow humans.
One who is blind throws away even a garland of flower placed on his head, thinking it is a snake.
4. Vikramorvasheeyam Natakam (Mahakavi Kalidasa)
The happiness one gets after a period of grief is all the more enjoyable. One who is afflicted by the intense heat of the Sun better enjoys the shade given by a tree than one who is not exposed to the Sun’s rays.
The conflicting attributes of wealth and learning rarely co-exist in one person. Let there be such a rare union of Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati for the benefit of the good people.
May all cross their difficulties. May all see good and auspicious things. May all get their wishes fulfilled. May everyone everywhere be happy.
When the fishing net was torn and fish leaped into the water the fisherman becomes dejected and consoles himself saying that he will get merit (punya) (for allowing the fish to escape).
It is best for every one to act in accordance with one’s status everywhere.
5. Malavikaagnimitram Natakam(Mahakavi Kalidasa)
All kavyaas are not good only because they are old. All kaavyas are not bad because they are new. Good and wise people examine both and decide whether a kaavya is good or bad. Only a fool will be blindly led by what others say.
Only one who has some one to help will be able to get hold of an object or achieve a goal when there are impediments or obstructions in the process. Even a person with eyes will be able to see an object in darkness only with the help of a lamp.
Even a fool becomes clever by association with the wise just as even muddy water becomes clear when it comes into contact with the fruits of the nirmalee tree (i.e. when the fruits are put in the water).
6. Kiraataarjuneeyam (Mahakavi Bharavi)
Those who mean well for others do not want to please them by false praise.
The wise are indifferent as to who uttered the words, they judge the words by their inherent quality.
Abundance (affluence) co-exists with valour not with melancholy or absence of enthusiasm.
Do not embark on an endeavour on the spur of the moment without analysing its pros and cons. The absence of discrimination is the cause of great misfortune. Fortune, ever greedy for good qualities in men, embraces those who engage themselves in an endeavour after consultations and discussions with men of knowledge.
For those who follow in the footsteps of great men possessing highly desirable qualities, even a downfall on account of fate and not involving wrong doings is equal to rising higher in status.
Achievement, it seems, is enthusiastic to sit on the lap of those who engage themselves diligently in an endeavour without caring for fame, happiness or rise in popularity.
There is nothing which will tire out or disturb the mind of high-minded persons.
Love sees cause for fear even in the most unlikely places.
Unlucky persons disregard ( do not care about) what is already at hand.
Youth is fleeting like the clouds of autumn. The pleasures of the senses are sweet in the beginning but yield bitter results in the end.
when one’s loved one is absent, beautiful things seem ugly, what one likes including one’s own life becomes a pain, one feels lonely even in the midst of one’s relatives.
The enemies resident in the body, namely the sense organs like the eyes, which are difficult to control, should be conquered. Once they are conquered, it is as good as the whole world has been conquered by you.
One can accumulate wealth, one’s fame remains stable and one is considered a man of substance only so long as one commands the respect of society.
Evil men are natural enemies of the good ones.
7. Shishupaalavadham (Maagha kavi)
Great men, by nature, do not talk much (they limit their speech to the essentials only)
In the case of one who is satisfied with a little wealth, even Fate (vidhih) thinks it has done its job and does not increase his wealth. (One should have enough ambition if he wants to accumulate lot of wealth and should not be content with what he has)
One who lives, even after one has been scorched by the humiliation showered on him by others, is as good as dead.
Where is comparison between light and darkness ? There is no comparison at all.
Fools start an undertaking in a small way and they struggle to complete it. Great men start in a big way and accomplish the task remaining unruffled in spite of its magnitude.
The undertakings of those who are careless and negligent never bear fruit though they have used proper means.
Embarking on something which is beyond one’s capacity or strength is one of the causes for diminution in one’s wealth
Even small people can get their work done with the help of the big people
Beauty is that which takes on a new form every minute (so that the one who looks at it is never tired or bored)
8. Naishadheeya Charitam (Sri Harsha)
One who is satiated with water will not appreciate a pouring of cool water sweet in taste and smell.
When the tongue is corrupted by pitta, even sugar tastes bitter.
Straightforwardness is not the right policy when people of crooked mind are concerned.
Oratory is speech which is measured (not verbose) and at the same time pregnant with meaning.
9. Mrichchhakatikam (Raja Sudraka)
The house of a childless person is shoonya (void), for a person without a good friend it is forever void, the four quarters are void for the fool and for the poor everything is shoonya (void).
Happiness is more appreciated after one experiences grief over a period in the same way as light is more appreciated by a person in pitch darkness.
One who has enjoyed prosperity is suddenly reduced to penury is as good as dead even while living.
If I have to choose between death and penury I will choose death not penury. Death involves only a little distress but penury brings unending physical and mental agony.
If one is poor, his relatives don’t heed his words, even loving friends neglect him, his misfortunes spread out, his physical and mental strength shrinks, the moon of his good conduct becomes pale and even the wrongs committed by others are foisted on to him.
It is because of one’s qualities one is loved not because of force.
In adventure resides Goddess Lakshmi (Only those who are adventurous can amass wealth)
10. Uttararaamacharitam (Bhavabhuti)
The meeting of good people with good people somehow happens only by punya (fruit of meritorious deeds done in the past)
Loving, polite and pleasing interaction with others, controlled speech, a heart which only thinks of the good of others, introduction which is not boastful, Uniform behaviour before and after (when face to face or behand the back)– These are the secrets, pure and simple, of saintly souls.
The hearts of the best of men who are a cut above the ordinary people are harder than diamond (when facing obstacles or enemies ) and softer than flowers (towards the less privileged and the miserable). Who can understand the hearts of such men?
Without doing anything, if one converts the sorrows of another person into joy and happiness, then the first one, who is the object of love for the second one, is a valuable thing for the latter.
The concrete manifestation of the joy arising out of the union of the minds of the husband and the wife is called apatyam (progeny) on which converges the love of both of them.
Karuna(pathetic) rasa (emotion) is the only one which manifests in the form of other emotions like sringara (love) etc. depending on the underlying circumstances which give rise to the emotion in the same way as bubbles, waves, swell etc are only different forms that water takes. The basic substance is water only.
Good qualities are appreciated in whomsoever they are found. The sex or the age of the person is not taken into consideration.
The speech of intoxicated and conceited persons is termed as raakshasee (demoniac) by the rishis. Such speech is the root cause of all enmities and that is hell in this world.
Speech that is embellished by truth and love yields all one’s wishes, drives away poverty, builds a reputation, prevents wrong doings in the same way as the Cow Mother which yields all auspicious things.
It is some internal cause which brings together people. Love does not depend upon external attributes. The lotus blossoms when the sun rises (though the lotus is delicate and the sun’s rays are hot), the moon stone starts melting when exposed to moonlight (though moonlight is soft and the moon stone is hard).
When the woman one loves is lost the whole world turns into a dense jungle for the one who loves.
Love and existence of a cause for such love, these two are mutually contradictory
11. Mudraaraakshasam Nataka (Vishakhadatta)
It is not proper to disregard or neglect even an ordinary enemy.
What kind of enmity the grass has towards fire ? (there is no enmity, it is the nature of fire to burn anything whatsoever)
There are divine medicinal plants in the Himalayas. But on top of it are serpents
How does a man who is under the control of another know the joy of love.
Here the disciple is not prevented from doing anything good. But when he deviates from the right path guru will act as ankusha (weapon used to control an elephant), meaning he will be controlled and brought back to the correct path.
12. Dashakumaaracharitam (Dandi)
The glittering wealth is like the bubbles on water. Like lightning it rises suddenly and perishes with the same speed.
In this world one who does not put in effort (i.e. one who is inactive) does not acquire wealth
All prosperity and welfare is always in the hands of those who are always active, who do not know laziness
13. Harshacharitam (Baana)
The angry person, though possessing eyes, is blind.
There are no such persons who do not have friends, enemies or neutrals even though such persons possess good qualities.
Love does not consider use or benefit.
14. Kaadambari (Baana)
It is not possible that one, who is subject to the vagaries of a body, will not ever suffer any disease or discomfort
It is easy to preach to others
People do not listen to one who talks too much.
Untruth takes the same form as the one given to it by people.
15. Kaavyameemaamsaa (Kaviraja Rajashekharah)
Generally, for the living, there is no bondage except love.
It is only partiality that interchanges good and bad (i.e. good is considered as bad and bad is considered as good)
The plan should be got examined by outsiders. The argument is, what the neutral person sees, the one who executes may not see most of the time.
Actions not done at the appropriate time do not yield the desired result
The right kind of sleep is good for a very healthy body.
In the mirror of the poet’s mind there is the reflection of the world.
16. Kathaasaritsaagaram (Somadeva)
There is nothing unattainable to the one who has courage and who works hard.
Only one who does not lose his cool in adversity will enjoy prosperity
When two people think alike then what is it that is impossible?
Good people whose heart is full of sympathy and kindness become, without selfish motives, the friends or relatives of all.
The root cause of sorrow is the company of bad people.
Those of good nature may give up their life but not the righteous path.
Mud, thrown at the sky, falls on the head of the person who throws it (If one does something bad it recoils on him)
17. Panchatantra (Vishnu Sharma)
The wise man should not incur a big loss for the sake of a little gain.
Good people are noticed by their good qualities, not by birth.
Love and friendship are broken by backbiting.
He who has brains has strength (power), where is power in a fool?
To be in the service of another is a difficult job which even a yogi may not be able to fulfill.
Eroded by the soft water incessantly, even the hard stones of the mountain wear away over time.
The hands of the one with brains are long indeed. ( Using his brains he can do many things with hands which less brainy fellows cannot do)
One will face adversity if one does not take precautions to counteract anticipated difficulties or problems
If a large number of people unite for a purpose they become invincible, though each one, by himself is weak.
One should be circumspect with regard to those who show more than the usual respect or regard.
In prosperity and adversity the great do not lose their equilibrium.
Who is not one’s own for people of soft and soothing speech.
The crocodile, in his own habitat, can drag even an elephant into the water.
Who will make friends with a lean (down and out) person?
That which is hurting oneself should not be done to others.
One who takes precautions before misfortune strikes will prosper. One who does not take action when misfortune is anticipated, will come to grief.
How can one be unaffected by diseases if one eats food not conducive to one’s health ?
When everything is at stake the wise give up half of it to save the other half.
To those of generous character( disposition) the whole world is one family.
Whatever one dreams or imagines the outcome will be similar.
18. Hitopadesha (Narayana Panditah)
One’s goal is achieved by industry (hard work) and not by building castles in the air.
Jnaanam bhaarah kriyaam vinaa
Without action knowledge is a burden (knowledge, not put into practice, is sheer waste)