Chapter 7 — On the Necessity of Activity

Vasishta speaking:—

Having obtained a body free from disease and a mind free from trouble, one should try to know the knowable to prevent further births. Whoever wants to avert his destiny through action obtains the acme of his wishes both in this world as well as the next. But whoever is averse to diligence and relies on his luck is an enemy to his own soul and sacrifices all his virtues, riches and hopes.

The exercise of our faculties of sense and mind as well as of the members of the body are the different modes of our exertions that lead us to success. Our perceptions are the cause of our mental activity, and this triggers the body to action whereby we obtain the fruits of our desire. Whatever rule exists in the scriptures (shastras), it is addressed to our acts and never points us to fate. Even children are well aware of this.

It was by the exercise of their efforts that Brihaspati became the lord of gods, and Shukra obtained the position of the teacher of the demons. There have been many weak, poor and miserable men who have by means of their manly exertions become equal to Indra himself. So also there have been many great men on earth who, after enjoyment of a great many extraordinary things and luxuries here, have become guests in hell for lack of exercising their manly virtues. 10 In this manner all beings have evaded the effects of their various states of want and opulence by means of their own efforts.

11 There are threefold benefits derived from the study of books, from the lectures of a teacher, and from one’s own industry, all of which attend our efforts and not destiny. 12 This is the long and short of all the scriptures (shastras), that diligence preserves our minds from all evils by employing them to whatever is good and right. 13 To apply with diligence to whatever is excellent, not low or mean and not liable to loss or decay, is the lesson of parents and teachers to their sons and pupils.

14 I get the immediate fruit of my labor in proportion to my exertion. Therefore I say that I enjoy the fruit of my labor and not of fortune. 15 Activity gives us success and this is what elevates the intelligent. But men of little understanding in their miserable state rely only in luck.

16 We have visible evidence (of the efficacy) of activity every day, in the examples of men travelling in distant countries (for the sake of gain). 17 He who eats becomes satisfied and who does not starves. So he who walks is said to proceed and not one who rests. In like manner, whoever speaks is called a speaker and not the silent man. Thus action makes the man.

18 Wise men escape from great difficulties by means of their efforts, but not so the mistaken fatalist by his fruitless inertia. 19 Whoever acts in any manner gets his reward accordingly, but the inactive man has nothing to expect anywhere. 20 By well directed industry a man reaps the best reward, as he meets with its reverse by his misapplied labor. Think upon this, O Rama, and do as you like.

21 The reward of industry, which a man meets with sooner or later at anytime or place, is said by the wise to be his fortune. 22 No one can see his fortune, nor has anybody ever seen it, nor is there such a thing to be found in any world. It is only the merit of our acts here which they place in another world.

23 A man is born on earth to grow up and decay in his time, and no destiny is seen in the same way in his childhood, youth or old age.

24 Application to diligence and action for the attainment of an object are known by the term “effort” by the wise, whereby all things are accomplished. 25 Going from one place to another, holding a thing in the hand, and the movement of limbs are all the acts of effort and not destiny.

26 There is another kind of propensity which is towards acts productive of evil. This sort of action is likened to the attempt of a madman which yields no good.

27 Men of acute understandings raise themselves to elevation by their association with the virtuous, study of good works, and active employment in duties tending to their own good. 28 The boundless joy arising from equanimity is said to constitute one’s supreme good. This blessing also results from a man’s diligent application to the scriptures. 29 Understanding leads to the knowledge of the scriptures, and the scriptures tend towards our right understanding of things. Just so does the lotus serve to beautify a lake, and the lake lends its grace to the lotus. 30 It is also by virtue of one’s deep study and good company in youth that a man later attains his desirable objects.

31 It was by means of his actions that Vishnu conquered the demons and established the order of the world. It was by this that he created the worlds, none of which could be the work of fate.

32 Now, O lord of Raghu’s race, employ your efforts to the exertion of your manly activities in such a way that you may live unafraid of being bitten by the snake-like people in this tree of the world (crush the malice of your enemies).