Friday, September 25, 2009

god helps them who help themselves - न देवा दण्डमादाय

The gods don't protect like a shepherd with a stick.
Whom they want to protect, they give them intelligence.

न देवा दण्डमादाय रक्षन्ति पशुपालवत् ।
यं तु रक्षितुमिच्छन्ति बुद्ध्या संविभजन्ति तम् ॥
विदुरनीति ३-४०

na devA daNDamAdAya rakShanti pashupAlavat ।
yaM tu rakShitumichchhanti buddhyA saMvibhajanti tam ॥
viduraneeti 3-40

As described in an earlier post on smart goals, the wise minister and brother Vidura gives the emperor Dhritarashtra (dhRitarAShTra), a sermon of eight chapters in the epic Mahabharata.

After two chapters of some of the best advice on leadership and management and politics and friendship and social responsibility, the emperor says - tell me more, your interesting and varied talks entice me and i don't get tired of listening to them.

Time and again Dhritarashtra had said - "What you say is correct, but I can't think straight when it comes to the interests of my own son Duryodhana". Duryodhana plots and plans against the cousin Pandava (pANDava) and cheats them, insults them and sends them on exile for 13 years.

This is when Vidura says this shloka, meaning that the emperor should not think that he will be saved by any god or divine if he keeps making foolish decision and not use his own intelligence and good brains.

This one shloka itself has deep implications in many aspects of society, politics, religion.

There are people who think that if they surrender to god, to a master, to a guru, then everything will be okay. They give big donations, charity and all PR stunts. Then there are those who claim there can't be any god or God if there exist pain, sorrow, injustice and all the negativity in this world.

There are those who claim big titles, and positions and assure deliverance from whatever. there are missionary TV channels who will pray for you and get your message to God and save you. Now this trend has started in Hindu religion also. You have TV puja-s, and internet homa and prayers - on your behalf.

There are temples where the rich give donations of many crores (1 crore rupees = about 250,000 US dollars) in the hope and assurance that god will listen to them first. They have their own VIP lines to have quick and easy darshana (viewing) of the divine (statues in the temple). There are 'saints' and realized masters who have multi million dollar business of saving souls! They harp on the importance of a living guru and overshadow even the supreme divine in their megalomania.

And all of them rely on the spirituality, philosophy given by the ancient seers. No one has invented anything new. If they say so, laugh at them heartily. They sure have reinterpreted for their times. So we should look carefully at the original sources. Don't worry that those original people themselves are not alive.

Even if we don't believe in gods, avatars etc., even then we have to believe that some people existed who saw the way they saw and generations have carried their words. We have the scriptures to prove that somebody said these things. It is their humbleness that most of the Indian seers didn't leave any specific details about themselves. Even without their physical bodies, their words, if contemplated genuinely and earnestly, will deliver us!

Veda Vyasa is attributed to have categorized the Veda-s, no mean task by today's standards. So we must listen to his words carefully. And Vidura was one of the wisest in the Mahabharata, so we must listen to him even more carefully.


to those who think if we pray to god, god will come and deliver us;
to those who think god is going to deliver us only if we believe in this or that form of god (whether Indian or not);

To them - god will not come down and stand on your doorstep like a guard, will not be with you all the time like a body guard. While faith is important, it is the intelligence that god gives along with other skills that intelligence/mind can use, that ultimately saves us.

God is good only if thoughts, prayers to him/her etc. bring any change in us, our hearts and minds. And not all of life is spirituality, lot of it is also reality. As Kalidasa (kAlidAsa) says in Kumara-sambhavam - shareeramAdyam khalu dharmasAdhanam (शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्) - this body is the instrument of (executing) all dharma (responsibilities and deeds) - so we should not neglect the shareera-dharma as well. And with society comes the practical world and wisdom and neeti and reality of this world.

What miracles we hear - Jesus walking on water, Meera drinking poison, rocks thrown on Buddha splitting in pieces and not hurting him - they are created to give us a sense of greater than human perspective. They are to appeal to our feelings, emotions, and to create in us an unwavering faith. And through such 'higher than us' figures, good teachings are passed. We tend to believe larger than life figures, and the trend of creating legends continues to this day - be it Princess Diana or 9/11.

But before the faith, we must use our mind, our viveka to see what are the intention of the faith creator. Lot of world's problems are because of this negligence.

This shloka is like 'buyers beware' advice in Indian market. You be aware of what you are buying.

We should not blame anyone for our problems.

This doesn't mean it is everyone for oneself, and there is no need to do good. When Draupadi and Yuddhishthira have a discussion on the importance of karma while in exile, he says - I don't follow dharma even for following dharma [and having the fame of how dharmika I am]. I follow dharma (the right conduct) because I think that way, I must do the right thing, for I have to do karma, then why not the right karma.

So we all need to do our duties in the society. After that it is not our fault. A farmer tills the land, but if it doesn't rain it is not his fault. That is why kings and governments give subsidies, and relief funds during drought.

Anyway. Some of the statements above may not seem connected, because there is so much that can be said connecting them that it would be too long for a single post.

But, use your brains, your intelligence and the divine will protect you.
God helps them, who help themselves.

Question: when Rama is getting ready for exile, Lakshmana, his younger brother says that they should grab the throne by force. Because, this decision of Dasharatha - their father and king - to send Rama to exile, was not right decision for the father to his son or for the king to his kingdom. And yet Rama says - it is destiny (daiva). Even when Lakshmana says - the brave make their own destiny, Rama refuses.


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And now the language aspects of the shloka -

na = not
devAH = gods, divine
daNDamAdAya = with stick (daNDa) in hand (AdAya)
rakShanti = protect (plural third person of verb rakSh)
pashupAlavat = like a cattle-grazer
pashu = animal
pAla = protect
-vat = like, when used as a suffix
pashu-pAl-vat = like a cowherd/shepherd

yaM = whom
tu = rather, instead
rakShitumichchhanti = desire (ichchhanti) to protect (rakShitum = for protecting)
buddhyA = with intelligence
saMvibhajanti = attach, join, (endow)
tam = that (person)

[ The intention of this post is not to challenge anyone's belief but to remind them that god works through our own hands and mind, so we should always be aware, alert, and right thinking, for we alone take ourselves to heaven or hell by our own deeds].

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.


  1. thanks, I liked it a lot as i belive in what u r saying..

  2. Shasi, your articles are simple and very nice to read. As you've said here, there are a lot of things in this article. Certain things appeal closer to my heart too. Keep writing. Good work.

  3. Great explanation of the verse.

  4. What a meaningful verse! Love it!

  5. namaste,

    great post. However, could not make out the point of the last question, on Sri Rama's decision not to grab throne as suggested by Lakshmana,to the subject under discussion.

    Obliged if you could explain the relevance of that question to the meaning of the sloka.


  6. Re comment above.

    Is it to actualise the avatara-lakshya ?

  7. In the meaning of the sloka it uses the term "shepherd". Instead it would be apt to use the term "cowherd"

  8. very nicely explained ...!!! one curious question : where is this written ..i want to read it ...?

  9. very nicely explained curious question :where is this all written ...?i will like to read it .

  10. Sir, Please forgive me if I am wrong -for I am not sure that I am correct- but I think there is some problem right on top of this page. When we say atha Sanskritam 'atha' means the begining. If one wants to say This is Sanskrit, would it not be iyam Sanskritam?

    Could you kindly correct me if I am wrong?

    Dr. Mohan Chougaonkar

  11. I was searching for this in google. Then I came to this link. Great work. I have so many subhashitam. If you need I will send.....


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