Few Gems from – Question-Answer Gems of Sri Sankaracharya

“Prasnottara Ratna Malika”  – Garland of Gems of question and answers –  is a 67 verse poem by Sri Sankaracharya in Sanskrit. It is written in question and answer form, where both question and answers are short, pithy and yet deep in conveying the message. Some of the questions raised and answered are in general on life, philosophy and godliness.  Given below are the selected gems that pertain to our everyday life and living.

Few Gems from Garland of Gems:

What is most desirable for human beings? Life dedicated to one’s and others’ welfare.

Who are thieves – The sense objects

Who is the enemy of one – Idleness

What is transient – Youth, wealth and life

What is priceless – That which is given at the right time

What is hell? – Being in another’s control

What is death? – Unintelligence. A state of utter ignorance

What bestows happiness – Being amongst good people

Where is one to be indifferent? –  Towards bad people, another’s wife, another’s property

What should one strive for – To have good education, good medical treatments and habit of giving gifts

What is to be cultivated with affection – Compassion towards the helpless, friendship with the good

Who are the kind of people that one cannot correct? –  The unintelligent, doubting, the cheerless and the ungrateful

Who can control – The one who speaks truth, caring and humble

Who is blind? – One who enjoys wrong doing

Who is dumb? –  One who does not know how to speak – right words at the right time

Who is deaf? – One who does not listen to good advise

By whom is this world conquered? – By the person who has truthfulness and endurance.

What is hard to obtain – Charity along with sweet words, knowledge with humility, courage with patience, wealth with renunciation. These four auspicious things are hard to attain.

What is to be earned by people?  –  Knowledge, wealth, strength, fame, merit.

Which is the destroyer if all good qualities? – Greed.

Who is the enemy? – Lust.

What is to be well protected? – Good name, devoted wife and discernment.

What is the weapon for all? – Reason

Who are elderly – Those who know truth and one’s duty

What is destroyer of all good qualities? – Greed

What is the cause of decadence in family – The kind of behavior that one does to create heart burn in good people

Which place is good to stay – The neighborhood of virtuous people

Which place should one avoid – A place full of wicked men and ruled by greedy rulers

Whose words never fail – Those who observe truthfulness, silence and control of the mind.

What sustains the body – It is the operative quantum of karma that one has to fulfill in this life.

Who reaps the success in work? – One who works well in his chosen field and does concentrated work

Whom does disaster not strike? – one who follows the advice of elders and has control over his senses

Whom does goddess of wealth loves – one who is industrious without lethargy and just in conduct

Who will be happy in this world? – The rich person

What indeed is richness? – That by which there is fulfillment of wants

For whom there is no sorrow – One who is devoid of anger. Also a person who has devoted spouse and wealth

What is happiness? – The state of contentment

  • Excerpts from “Prasnottara Ratna Malika” – Garland of gems of question and answers



All Things are Ephemeral

All things are ephemeral.

As amongst earthen pots

some break while still on the potter’s wheel,

some while partially shaped,

some as soon as brought into share,

some after removal from the wheel,

some while in course of being removed.

Some after removal,

some while wet,

some while dry,

some while being burnt,

some while being removed from the kiln,

some after removal therefrom, and

some while being used.

Even such is the case with the bodies of embodied creatures.

Some are destroyed while yet in the womb,

some after coming out of womb,

some on the day after,

some of the expiration of fortnight or of a month,

some on expiration of a year or two,

some in youth, some in middle age and some when old.

Creatures are born or destroyed according to their acts in previous lives.

When such is course of the world why do you then indulge in grief?

  • by Sage Vidhura, Mahabharatha

Role of Action and Destiny in Success

All men are subjected to and governed by destiny and action. Our actions do not become successful either by action or destiny alone and need both for success. Action when destiny is not auspicious and absence of action when time is right, is not likely to be successful. Thus for human success action and destiny has to go hand in hand like timely rain in well prepared soil.

Sometimes, destiny acts on its own without waiting for action. It is also impelled by destiny that one takes up certain work at times, exerts and that leads to success. However, it is seen that the work of competent man, even when well directed, is without the concurrence of destiny does not produce the expected results at times. This makes some respond that action and intelligence are of no use and tend to be idle, and work without intelligence.

Normally, any act done produces a result depending upon the effort. It is also seen that no action leads to misery. A person obtaining something without effort and person who exerts not obtaining something is an exception. Action is needed to support life. Action is needed for happiness. Action is needed for experiencing the world. Action is always carried out aiming for some good and if it succeeds or fails in producing the expected results it is still accepted as no action or idleness is detrimental. However, world denounces one who seems to enjoy luxuries of life without obtaining it by sustained effort and is derided by society. Thus intelligent people do not subscribe to any benefit that is not result of once action rather they believe that it is injurious to one.

Efforts become unproductive only under two conditions.  One when destiny supports but no action and the other when action take place but without destiny. Without exertion no act in this world will become successful. When an action is undertaken with dedication, combined with knowledge and skill, blessed by gods and destiny it is sure to result in success. Also those actions undertaken with the advice of counsels, elders, knowledgeable people and well-wishers is likely to produce result. On the contrary, when a person undertakes any work without the advice from counsels, moved by passion, anger, fear and avarice it is likely to fail. Taking the counsel of wicked, foolish, cunning and those not wishing us well, acting without foresight, ignoring the advice of well-wishers is also likely to lead to failure.

Thus a man guided by expert counsel, well-wishers, elders should undertake action that is well thought, skillful and exert for it to becomes successful. If those men whose acts do not succeed even after the application of exertion, should without doubt be regarded as afflicted by destiny.  Thus having put the best efforts possible such man has nothing to ponder upon and is happy for his effort.


Adopted fromMahabharata”, Book 10, Sauptika Parva, Kisari Mohan Ganguli Translation from Sanskrit