धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्*

* * *सुभाषितम् * * *

शत्रोरपि गुणा ग्राह्या दोषा वाच्या गुरोरपि।
सर्वथा सर्वयत्नेन पुत्रे शिष्ये हितं वदेत्॥
( महाभारत – विराट पर्व ५१/१५ )

पद विग्रह :

शत्रोः अपि गुणाः वाच्याः दोषाः वाच्याः गुरोः अपि ।
सर्वदा सर्व-यत्नेन पुत्रे शिष्यवत् आचरेत् ॥

Merits or excellence in an enemy should also be appreciated; wrongdoings by the teacher should be pointed out ; with all effort, deal with the offspring as you would with students.

This Shloka from the epic Mahabharat was uttered by Ashwatthama ( अश्वत्थामा ) while addressing Duryodhana and others in the Kaurava camp. The background of the situation was attack by the Kauravas in the territory of King of Virat where the Pandavas were spending their one year compulsory stay in incognito after spending 12 years in the forest. In their search of Pandavas to locate them , Kauravas entered the territory of Virat and took possession of the herds of cows which, in those days, used to be a kind of challenge to the ruling king. Coming to know of it, Son of King of Virat, Prince Uttarakumar, boasts before the king, of defeating the Kauravas singlehandedly. Arjuna in incognito as Brihannala, offers to be his charioteer. They arrive to the place where the Kaurava’s had camped. To cut the further long story short, in the ensuing arguments within the Kauravas camps, Karna boasts of his prowess and his superiority over all the Pandavas including Arjuna. When Acharya Drona challenges his Statements, Karna insults him. It is in this context in the discussion and arguments that follow, thus spake Ashwatthama as in the Shloka.

Who is perfect in this world? Every one has certain merits and demerits. The proportion of these vary, depending upon the person’s basic characteristics like, Satwik, Rajasik and Tamasik ( सात्विक, राजसिक, तामसिक ). Hence it is not surprising if one’s own enemies have meritorious characters in them. Just because he is not one’s favorite person, doesn’t mean that his merits should be discounted. Great kings have always admired the valour of other powerful kings, although they were pitted against each other. The value is given to the merit and not to the person himself. One should have the big heart to see and accept the good in everyone , including his own enemy.

Anyone may commit mistake or follow a wrong path knowingly or unknowingly or give a wrong advice. Follies, may be committed by a layman, a scholar, an uneducated man, a king, an administrator, a jurist, or even by a teacher ( गुरु a teacher of Dharma itself ). In order to uphold Dharma ( धर्म ), the scriptures give the liberty to students or youngsters to call out anyone taking a wrong step, even if he is the educator himself. Dharma has the last word always. There are such examples in our recorded history that even the supreme head of the state was declared as following Adharmic method inviting punishment. It happened in the later part of history of Peshwa administration in the Maratha empire. This aspect assumes more importance for those who hold important positions in public life , particularly the civil servants. We see any number of examples, where irrespective of facing transfer threats, some civil servants follow strictly the law and rules, without bending to any kind of pressures and enticements, in favour of rule of law and their own fair conscience. Though it is easier said than done, one need to develop courage and confidence to speak up against wrongdoings.

In this Shloka, Sage VedaVyasa ( वेदव्यास ), through Ashwatthama conveys to all of us a great life lesson. That of treating one’s offspring like a student. It is the basic responsibility of every parent to equip their offspring with life-essential skills that are rich with morals and values. This leads them towards a spiritually rich and peaceful lifestyle. To do that, the parents need to be unbiased while teaching them. The merits of the children should be rewarded and their follies penalized, just as they would do to their students. Indulging them at all times, yielding to their unwarranted demands will teach them no life lessons. If one wants their offspring to be ready to take on the world as young adults, they need to build that confidence in them, while they grow up. That can come only when they are dealt with the same way as one would deal with their students – without any attachment. The main goal is to teach them life skills at the expense of short term gain of buying peace with the a cantankerous child. Such adults make a much more contented, peaceful, and a happy society which in turn makes the world a much happier place.

Our responsibility is multifold. Identify and respect merits in a person including your enemy. Point out mistakes of a person whoever it is. Treat your child just as you would treat a student.


श्रीकृष्णो रक्षतु।