Flattery to achieve selfish motives

Flattery to achieve selfish motives

There is no dearth of people who utter untruths and resort to flattery to achieve their selfish ends. Many of them are gifted with the powers of writing, speech and good intelligence. Yet, instead of using these gifts in a positive way, they resort to guile, cunning and sycophancy to attain to what they imagine to be fruitful goals in life.

The eminent seventeenth century scholar Neelakantha Deekshita in his seminal work ‘Kalividambanam’ tellingly portrays the nature and modus operandi of such persons. He says untruth and flattery are a great combination leading to wealth, whereas truth and scholarship causes poverty.

This is something which is seen in all walks of life. Blatant falsehood, heaping praises on men in power, attributing all noble and admirable qualities to them is a time tested way of moving ahead in life. Especially in contemporary life, sycophancy and shameless genuflection before the ‘seat of power’ is more the rule than the exception. Truth, erudition and sincerity of purpose do not always guarantee success.

In olden days, every royal court had its own poets, writers and scholars, who, had to, many a time, praise the ruler in order to be in his good books. Composing poems, songs, plays in praise of the real and imagined qualities of the king ensured their survival.

Rewards for this flattery were in the form of land, gold, honorific titles, and so on. Neelakantha Deekshita decries this behaviour and says that such poets, who are slaves of ‘a handful of rice’ (meaning wealth and recognition) wash away, through their compositions, the faults of royalty, such as cowardliness, arrogance, indiscriminate actions, etc.

He goes on to say that the tongues of these poets become restless if they do not resort to flattery even a little. Such men need no reason to praise and flatter. As he says, if, in the olden days, even one such poem or song of praise was enough to obtain an entire village, clothes and other costly gifts, today, getting close to the ‘power centres’ ensures trouble-free life.

In Indian philosophy, powers of poesy and oratory are viewed as gifts from God, where the spoken word is refined through proper usage by men of nobility. The words of the Rig Veda may be recalled here, where it is said “speech is refined in the throats of men of virtue, just as grains are refined by passing them through a sieve”.

But alas, as the poet rues, some men, though gifted with the power of words, use it in a wrong manner, to hurt others, to earn name and fame, not to sing the praises of the Lord! Such callous men, Deekshita says, are like those, who, even after acquiring the ‘Kamadhenu-wish fulfilling cow, use her to pull the plough.

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