LIONS WONT EAT GRASS- Bhartruhari (Post No.5620)

Written by London Swaminathan

Date: 3 November 2018

GMT Time uploaded in London – 15-17

Post No. 5620

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Tamils have a proverb like Bhartruhari’s- A Tiger won’t eat grass even if it is hungry. That is, great men wouldn’t settle for anything other than what they have aimed for.

Hindu poets equate men with a goal to a lion or a tiger or a majestic elephant. Men without goals, who easily succumb to any temptation, are compared to a dog.

Kopperum Choza in Sangam Tamil book Purananuru (verse 214) says, a hunter who aims to kill an elephant may come with an elephant; but even a bird hunter may come empty handed; so, have a big goal.

Poets are Great men!


जयन्ति ते सुकृतिनो
रससिद्धाः कवीश्वराः ।
नास्ति येषां यशःकाये
जरामरणजं भयम् ॥ 1.24 ॥



  1. The lion, though overwhelmed by hunger and weak-

ened by old age, though at the point of death and in a

state of misery, and though his majesty may have left

him and his life be vanishing away, yet his whole desire

is to swallow at one mouthful the forehead of the kingly

elephant which he has crushed in pieces. How should he,

the mightiest of living things, feed upon withered grass! 1-25

क्षुत्क्षामो‌உपि जराकृशो‌உपि शिथिलप्राणो‌உपि कष्टां दशाम्
आपन्नो‌உपि विपन्नदीधितिरिति प्राणेषु नश्यत्स्वपि ।
किं जीर्णं तृणम् अत्ति मानमहताम् अग्रेसरः केसरी ॥ 1.25 ॥



  1. A dog rejoices over a small filthy bone of an ox

which he has found stripped of flesh, though it satisfies

not his hunger ; but the lion passes by the jackal stand-

ing near him and attacks the elephant. So the man of

firm mind, even though he may be in distress, desires that

which is in accordance with his natural disposition. 1-26

स्वल्पस्नायुवसावशेषमलिनं निर्मांसम् अप्यस्थि गोः
श्वा लब्ध्वा परितोषम् एति न तु तत्तस्य क्षुधाशान्तये ।
सिंहो जम्बुकम् अङ्कम् आगतम् अपि त्यक्त्वा निहन्ति द्विपं
सर्वः कृच्छ्रगतो‌உपि वाञ्छन्ति जनः सत्त्वानुरूपं फलम् ॥ 1.26


  1. The dog falls down low before the feet of one who

gives him food, wagging his tail and opening his mouth

wide ; but the elephant, on the other hand, remains un-

moved, and only eats after he is entreated with flattering

words. 1-27


Tiru valluvar in Tirukkural says,

The lotus stem is high according to water depth; a man’s merit is the measure of the mental strength- -595

another translation of the same couplet runs like this,

with the rising flood, the lotus stalk extends

on mind, the dignity of man depends

All thought should be the thought of rising high Though it fails; it is of the nature of success-596

another translation of the same couplet runs like this,

Think lofty thoughts always ; in such a context , even if you fail,

Your aspirations keep you on a higher plane.

लाङ्गूलचालनम् अधश्चरणावपातं
भूमौ निपत्य वदनोदरदर्शनं च ।
श्वा पिण्डदस्य कुरुते गजपुङ्गवस्तु
धीरं विलोकयति चाटुशतैश्च भुङ्क्ते ॥ 1.27 ॥

Aim high is one of the concepts or ideas that Hindu saints put forth before their disciples. First we found it in the great scripture Bhagavad Gita and then in a Sangam Tamil verse. Later Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar also repeated this.

Let a man lift himself by himself; let him not degrade himself, said Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (6-5)

Buddha also said the same in the Dhammapada: The Self is the Lord of the Self (verse 380)

Every one of us has the freedom to rise or fall and our future is in our own hands. Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar said: The stalk of a lotus blossom grows long enough to project the pretty flower out of water, so too, a man’s level of greatness is determined by his own will.

Rajaji, first Governor General of India, commenting on this said: Think of ever rising higher. Let it be your only thought. Even if your object be not attained, the thought itself will have raised you.”

Dr S M Diaz added: If a man constantly aspires, is he not elevated? The well-known expression of “hitching your wagon to the stars”, has, therefore some special meaning. You may not reach the stars. You may fall short of it. Even so, the effort involved in the process has certainly involved in the process has certainly served to elevate and enrich you, well above the ordinary run of human beings.



“One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.” —Albert Einstein.
All thought should be the thought of rising high though it fails; it is the nature of success. Your aspirations keep you on a higher plane (Tirukkural 596)

Though wounded with arrows, the elephant stands firm in his greatness; he who has spirit never loses heart when he fails (Tirukkural 597)

Let a man lift himself by himself; let him not degrade himself; for the self alone is the friend of the self and self alone is the enemy of the self. (Bhagavad Gita 6-5)
Purananuru verse 214 of Kopperum Chozan also advises everyone to Aim High. “A person who wanted to hunt an elephant will come with an elephant after a successful hunt. A person who wants to hunt quails may come even without a single bird. So aim high in life”.

Kopperum Chozan, the Choza king continues, “In the case of the superior persons who are inspired by higher desires if you admit that they experience the fruit of their deeds they may enjoy pleasures in the next world. If they do not enjoy them in the next world they will attain joys in the next re-birth; if even that is not admitted, it is an excellent thing to die after having planted one’s good name as high as the lofty Himalayas.” (Karma Theory)

American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) said in one of his essays:

“Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labour, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day and cost us nothing”.

It means always aspire to do great things. Do not set pessimistic goals. Set in the footsteps of great men and use their wisdom and experience.