Twenty Qualities for Success: Chanakya’s Strange Advice (Post No.4561)

Written by London Swaminathan 


Date: 29 DECEMBER 2017 


Time uploaded in London- 8-03 am



Post No. 4561

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks


Greatest statesman and astute politician who succeeded in establishing the largest empire in ancient India, Chanakya, gives a strange advice. He advises to learn 20 qualities for invincibility from animals and birds. But he is not the first one to use animals and birds for teaching. Dattatreya listed 24 Gurus from Nature. It is in the Bhagavata Purana.



Learn from Animals and Birds:

One should acquire one quality each from a lion and a crane, four of them from a cock, five of them from a crow, six of them from a dog and three from an ass.

—chapter-6, sloka 14, Chanakya Niti


If he has left it like this it would be a puzzle leading to different answers. But Chanakya, fortunately continued with more slokas giving the details


The first lesson one has from a lion, as they say, is that whatever work, big or small, one wants to accomplish, one should put in all efforts for it –sloka 15


A wise man should accomplish all things with a brake on his senses like a crane weighing the proper place, time and his own capacity – sloka 16

One should acquire four qualities from a cock: to wake up in time, to be ever ready for an assault, to distribute equally (what one has acquired) among his kith and kin, and eating a thing attained through self-attack- sloka 17


One should learn the following five from a crow:

Coitus in secret, insolence, accumulation of things from time to time, alertness and non-trust- sloka 18


Eating in good quantity, feeling satisfied with a little, good sleep, getting alert even with a feeble sound, loyalty to master, bravery – these six are the qualities that one should learn from a dog- sloka 19

One should acquire three qualities from an ass: however tired it may be, it goes on carrying load, does not care for cold or heat, moves about in all contentment – sloka 20

A person who follows these twenty qualities in the course of all types of his work, will become invincible- sloka 20

Panchatantra and Hitopadesa used only nature to teach the youths. Adi Shankara and others used plants and animals to illustrate their teachings. Tamils did not lag (Tirukkural, Viveka Chudamani, Divya Prabandam). They used the tortoise image to teach Self -control. We find it in Sanskrit literature as well in the Bhagavad Gita, Manu Smrti and other books.


Following is the link for my earlier articles on the subject.


Lessons from Nature | Tamil and Vedas


This type of learning started in the Vedic days. I have already written about what the Devas, Demons and Humans learnt from the Da,Da,Da sound from the Thunder. It is a parable in the Upanishad. I have also written about the connection between Dattareya and William Wordsworth two years ago (Dattatreya episode is in …

The Connection between William Wordsworth and Dattatreya | Tamil ……/the-connection-between-william-wordsworth-and-dattatr…

10 Nov 2011 – Let Nature be Your Teacher ”–William Wordsworth and Dattatreya William Wordsworth was an English poet who lived from 1770 to 1850 in England. … The most interesting thing about Dattatreya is that he mentioned 24 natural objects or living beings as his teachers. … What did he learn from the nature?


13 Saints in Nature!

malar thamarai

By London Swaminathan

Hindu saints learn from everything. They learn good lessons from abstract and concrete things. They learn from birds and animals, from hills and rivers and insects and worms. This type of learning started in the Vedic days. I have already written about what the Devas, Demons and Humans learnt from the Da,Da,Da sound from the Thunder. It is a parable in the Upanishad. I have also written about the connection between Dattareya and William Wordsworth two years ago (Dattatreya episode is in Bhagavatham).


Now I give below an interesting poem by an anonymous author. Sri Adi Shankara is the author of Viveka Chudamani in Sanskrit. He also gives lot of similes from Nature to elucidate Advaita. There is another book in Tamil titled ‘Viveka Chintamani’. We don’t know the author of Viveka Chintamani in Tamil. It is not a religious scripture; it is secular. It is modelled on the Bhartruhari Neeti Satakam. We read a lot of Anti Women verses in it. One song has become a famous Tamil film song: Selai kattiya maatharai nambaathe!= Don’t trust saree clad women!

Apart from the three or four anti women verses there are lots of words of wisdom in these verses. One such verse is about 13 Saints in Nature. The anonymous author had followed Bhagavatham (in Sanskrit) in it. Like Dattareya, he sees divinity in Nature. Immediately we are reminded of William Wordsworth’s poem “Up Up My Friend and quit your Books” where we come across his famous line “Let Nature Be Your Teacher”.
Now I quote the Tamil verse from Viveka Chintamani:


“Those who have the virtues of the following thirteen can be regarded as the deities worshipped by the people”: (The author did not give any reason, but the commentators have given the virtues found in them:

1.Peacock:- Avoid those who give you trouble and accept only good.
2.Cuckoo:- Be always sweet
3.Swan:- Take that is useful and leave out the useless (swans are said to have the power of separating milk from water).
4.Bee:- work for others without stopping.
5.Mirror: -Whatever you see, grasp them in full.
6.Pig:-Be a vegetarian
7.Snake:-Keeping a crown jewel (Nagaratnam); keep valuable and feel proud
8.Moon:- Giving cool light to everyone without expecting nothing; selfless service
9.Sun:- Giving energy to the people of the world to protect them
10.Ocean:- Boundless glory
11.Heron:- Be patient and achieve your goal
12.Sky:- Omnipresent; keeping all under it
13Lotus:-A Thing of beauty is joy for ever.

William Wordsworth echoes this in these lines:

“And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher”

“One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can”.

Read my earlier posts :
1.The connection between William Wordsworth and Dattatreya (posted on 10 November 2011).
2.G for Ganga…..Gayatri….Gita….. Govinda…….. (For Upanishad parable about Da..Da…da)


The Viveka Chintamani verse In Tamil:

மயில் குயில் செங்கால் அன்னம்
வண்டு கண்ணாடி பன்றி
அயில் எயிற்று அரவு திங்கள்
ஆதவன் ஆழி கொக்கோடு
உயரும் விண்கமலம் பன்மூன்று
உறுகுணம் உடையோர் தம்மை
இயலுறு புவியோர் போற்றும்
ஈசன் என்று எண்ணலாமே!