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Wise & Wisdom: Vidura’s perspective

By U Mahesh Prabhu

Wisdom, in a subtle, way can be regarded as an ability to think and act using ones knowledge, experience, common sense and insight. There was a time when Wisdom was considered as supreme virtue and wise men were not just revered but were also most sought after. But of late Wisdom is being overlooked.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary “Wisdom” is defined as “knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life” or “the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand” or “knowledge of what is proper or reasonable; good sense or judgement”.

Vedic wisdom is way beyond the prevailing definition. It’s best defined by Vidura in Mahabharata.

As per the Mahabharata, Vidura was the half-brother to the kings Dhritarastra and Pandu of Hastinapura, born as son of the sage Vyasa and Parishrami, the maid to the queens Ambika and Ambalika. Although more competent, knowledgeable, skilful as well as virtuous than his half-brothers he himself declared “unfit to rule” as his mother was apparently from “lower caste”. His knowledge, wisdom and insights are best known in his conversation with elder brother a day before the monumental battle of Kurukshetra. This dialogue has popularly come to be known as Vidura Neeti.

According to Vidura a person can live a happy, pleasant as well as prosperous life by inculcating wisdom. Wisdom, according to him, is a path to attain perpetual happiness. Here’s his view on subject matter:

These are the marks of a wise man, viz., adherence to acts, worthy of praise and rejection of what is blameable, faith, and reverence.

He whom neither anger nor joy, nor pride, nor false modesty, nor stupefaction, nor vanity, can draw away from the high ends of life, is considered as a wise.

He whose intended acts, and proposed counsels remain concealed from foes, and whose acts become known only after they have been done, is considered wise.

He whose proposed actions are never obstructed by heat or cold, fear of attachment, prosperity or adversity, is considered wise.

He whose judgement dissociated from desire, follows both virtue and profit, and who disregarding pleasure chooses such ends as are serviceable in both worlds, is considered wise.

They who exert best of their might, and act also to the best of their might, and disregard nothing as insignificant, are called wise.

He who understands quickly, listens patiently, pursues his objects with his own judgement and not from desire and spends not his breadth on the affairs of others without being asked, is said to possess the foremost mark of wisdom.

They who do not strive for objects that are unattainable, that do not grieve for what is lost and gone, they who do not suffer their minds to be clouded amid calamities, are regarded to possess intellects endued with wisdom.

They who strive, having commenced anything, till it is completed, who never wastes their time, and who have their soul under their control is regarded as wise.

They are wise, who always delight in honest deeds, do what tends to their happiness and prosperity, and never sneer at what is good.

He who exults not at honours, and grieves not at slights, and remains cool and remains not agitated like a lake in the course of Ganga, is reckoned as wise.

That person who knows the nature of all creatures, who is cognisant also of the connections of all acts, and who is proficient in the knowledge of means that men may resort to (for attaining their objects), is reckoned as wise.

He who speaks boldly, can converse on various subjects, knows the science of argumentation, possesses genius, and can interpret the meaning of what is written in books is reckoned as wise.

He, whose studies are regulated by reason, whose reason follows the wisdom and who never abstains from paying respect to those who are good, is called as a wise man.

He having attained immense wealth and prosperity or acquired vast learning, does not bear himself haughtily is reckoned as wise.

Since foolishness contradicts wisdom; it might help to, also, take note of Vidura’s views in this regard:

He on the other hand, who is ignorant of scripture yet vain, poor yet proud, and who resorts to unfair means for the acquisition of his objects, is a fool.

He who, forsaking his own, concerns himself with objects of others, and who practices deceitful means for serving his friends, is called a fool.

He who wishes for those things that should not be desired, and who bears malice to those who are powerful, is regarded as a foolish soul.

He who regards his foe as his friend, who hates and bears malice to his friend, and who commits wicked deeds, is said to be a person of foolish soul.

He who divulges his projects, doubts in all things, and spends a long time in doing what requires a short time, is a fool.

He is the worst of men who enters a place uninvited, and takes much without being asked, and reposes trust on untrustworthy people… he is a fool.

That man who being himself guilty castes the blame on others, and who though impotent gives to anger, is the most foolish of men.

That man, who, without knowing his own strength and dissociated from both virtue and profit, desires an object difficult of acquisition, without again adopting adequate means, is said to be bereft of wisdom.

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