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VIDŪRA NĪTI
THE TEACHINGS OF
A SUDRA ADVISOR
Translated and edited by
Sri Rama Ramanuja Achari
22:05:2017
srimatham.com
2
INTRODUCTION
Birth and earlier life of Vidura1
V
idura was half-brother to Dhritarashtra and Pandu. He was a son of a maid-servant
who served the queens of Hastinapura — Ambika and Ambālika. In some accounts,
he was an incarnation of Yama or Dharma Raja, who was cursed by the sage,
Mandavya, for imposing punishment on him that exceed the sin.
Both queens were married to King Vichitravirya of Hastinapur, who died childless.
Vichitravirya's mother Satyavati was anxious to ensure that the royal line was continued so
she called upon her other son Vyāsa (born of Satyavati – a fisherwoman, and Paraśara muni),
to go to the beds of the two queens to father children. Vyāsa was a hermit, and came to the
palace, unkempt as he was. He went to Ambika first who closed her eyes when she saw him,
and then to Ambālika who became pale. Hence the children they bore were blind and weak
respectively.
When Satyavati asked Vyāsa to go to Ambika's bed again, to ensure that there would be
children, she sent her maid-servant instead. The maid-servant was not frightened by his
appearance and in fact received the sage with great respect and waited upon him with
affection. Thus, Vidura was born to a Sudra woman and was raised as brother of
Dhritarashtra and Pandu.
Along with his half-brothers he was educated by Bhishma, whom they all called father. As he
had no royal blood, Vidura was never considered for, or had any chance of obtaining the
throne of the kingdom. He served his two brothers as a minister,
After Krishna, Vidura was the most trusted advisor to the Pandavas and had warned them
repeatedly about Duryodhana's plots, In particular, he warned the Pandavas from
Duryodhana's plan to burn them alive in a house of wax he had made for them. He was known
for speaking the truth and for his expansive knowledge and sharp intelligence.
FOREWORD
The importance of this text cannot be underestimated. The centre of Hinduism is the home
and the householder is held up as the ideal. Since the rise of the monastic movements in India
the focus has shifted from the house to the ashram. The elevated status of the householder has
been usurped by the monks, and most Hindu teaching nowadays centers on the Upanishads
and Vedanta. The trivarga purushārthas: Dharma (ethics), Artha (material success) and
Kāma (pleasure and enjoyment) have become totally neglected and only the fourth
(apavarga) — Mokṣa is discoursed on. Thus we find in all teaching sessions only retirees are
present. The sanyasi teaching has little relevance for the householders. Brahmarishi Sri
Devraha baba famously said - " there is no greater Sanyāsa than being in Grihastha-āśrama."
The alternative way forward is the teaching of the Nīti Śāstras to the youth and to
householders. And of the Nīti literature Vidura Nīti is a great place to start.
The original text contains a lot more subject matter plus two stories with more didactic matter
imbedded in them. The topics in the original do not flow together and jump around
considerably so I have taken the liberty of rearranging the verses according to topic and
deleting those verses which were too obscure or irrelevant. There are several versions of the
1
Vidura means inteligent, skilled, wise.
2
(http://bombay.indology.info/mahabharata/statement.html for further details)
3
Mahabharata and some verses are found only in one or other of the editions. I have used for
reference the Gorakhpur Hindi translation and the Sanskrit E-text from Bhandakar Oriental
Research Institute, Pune2.
The setting of the teaching is the palace of Dhritarasthra, the blind king whose sons - the
Kauravas are about to engage in a fratricidal war with their cousins the Pandavas for the
kingdom.
The king has just been visited by his charioteer Sanjaya, who brought a message from the
Pandavas entreating a reconciliation.
"Sanjaya said, Consider, O king, your own acts which are contrary to both Dharma and
profit, and to the behavior of those that are righteous. O king, you have earned a bad
reputation in this world, and will reap misery in the next. Obeying the advice of your son
you hope to enjoy this doubtful property, while excluding them. This unrighteous and
unworthy deed is loudly proclaimed in the world. Calamity overtakes one who is
deficient in wisdom, or who is of low birth, or who is cruel, or who cherishes hostility
for a long time, or who is not steady in Kshatriya chivalry, or is devoid of energy, or is of
a bad disposition.
What person is there, who, attended upon by the greatest of counselors, possessed of
intelligence, capable of discriminating between virtue and vice in times of distress,
knowing the protocols of Dharma, and retaining the use of all his faculties, would commit
such cruel deeds. These courtiers, devoted to you, wait here united in their firm
determination (viz., that the Pandavas are not to get back their share). The destruction of
the Kurus, therefore, is certain to be brought about by the force of circumstances.
A man is praised when he behaves honestly. You I blame, since these dissensions will
surely bring about the destruction of innumerable lives. If you don't make peace, then
through your fault Arjuna will consume the Kurus like a blazing fire consuming a heap of
dried grass. Your majesty, you alone, yielding to your uncontrollable son, had regarded
yourself as crowned with success, and abstained from intervening at the time of the
gambling fiasco. You will surely see now the fruit of that (weakness of yours)!
After delivering his message and severely rebuking the king, Sanjaya retired for the night to
prepare for his address to the assembled kurus on the next day.
Sri Rama Ramanuja Achari — Sydney 22/05/2017
2
(http://bombay.indology.info/mahabharata/statement.html for further details)
4
CONTENTS
The Pandit ...............................................................
The fool ..................................................................
Prosperity ...............................................................
Projects ...................................................................
Perseverence ...........................................................
Health .....................................................................
Forgiveness .............................................................
Happiness ...............................................................
Exploitation ............................................................
Ingratitude ..............................................................