Rama said: Tell me, O Sage, who are the companions of the wise man, and what is the nature of his enjoyments, whether subjective or objective, whether derived from within or from external objects?
Vasishtha replied: Our own conduct alone is our only true companion, whether innate to our nature or derived by discipline and education from others.
Our inborn good conduct is as infallible and friendly to us as the natural beneficence of our parents. Our acquired good behaviour is as mandatory upon us as the controls and restraints exercised by a faithful wife in the intricate maze of life.
A fearless course in life, a well-earned livelihood, and a well-regulated mode of living, together with a dispassionate temper and a cool mind, are replete with unrestricted ambrosial delight.
An unblemished life acquired from early youth is able to save a person from all dangers and difficulties in the world, and render him worthy of every trust and a repository of all wealth.
It is able to preserve a person from all evils, as a father prevents his sons from soiling their bodies with dust and dirt, and hinders them from all acts of wickedness.
Such a life gives a man the fervour of fire and the sweetness of flowers. It adds clarity to his mind and countenance, as sunlight brightens the face of the day.
It supports a man like a father who nurtures and nourishes his children, and protects him from every accident like a father ready to shield his children from all harm.
As fire purifies the gold from an alloy, separating out the dross that is to be rejected, so does such a life permit discrimination of what is good from what is to be shunned and avoided.
It gladdens the hearts of men with refined speech, cleansed of all vulgarity; and it is a secure repository of all laudable pursuits, like a treasury full of gold and precious gems.
As the sun never shows darkness to view, so the good man never exposes his shadow to sight. As the loving wife shows only affection to her beloved, he shows only tenderness to others.
He speaks and behaves kindly with all men, doing them only good. His words are always sweet and cooling, and never with tainted interest or selfish aim.
He is the well-wisher of men and is therefore revered by them all. He speaks smilingly to everyone with no craving for himself, and presents only the form of goodness to each and every being.
Should he meet an enemy in a contest who is ready to strike the first blow on him, he avoids it, eluding his opposer by an artifice or sleight of art and skill.
He is the patron of gentle polite men, and a protector of women and his family. He is a sweet balm to all souls suffering from sickness and sick-heartedness.
He is especially a patron of learning and attends upon the learned; he is a servitor of venerable men and favours those who are eloquent and skilled in discussion. He is a compeer and alter ego to his equals in birth and descent.
He wins the favour of the princely, the noble and the liberal; and he conducts all sacrifices, acts of charity, austerities of devotion and pilgrimages by the contribution of his honest means.
He partakes of nourishing food and drink together with his friends and amongst Brahmins. Joining with his wife and children, and all the dependents and members of his household, he ever associates with the good and the great.
He abstains from all idle amusements, deeming them mere straws and causes of disease. He converses upon high themes with a view to the edification and enrichment of mankind.
In this manner he passes his time in the company of his friends and family. He is content with his own lot, and happy with whatever fortune brings him.
Being thus employed in the discharge of his duties, in the circle of his friends, family and advisers, the wise man is always self-contented, never fretting or complaining at any person or event.
Remaining silent and calm in his mind, he is ever unmoved, like a figure in a painting, though he journeys through the mundane course of life.
He keeps dumb as a stone in fruitless discussions and feigns deafness in useless talk.
He is no more active than a corpse in any contravention of morality. But in conversations concerning the welfare and discipline of men, he is as eloquent as wise Brihaspati and as fluent as the serpent Vasuki.
When engaged in moral discourse he exposes the fallacy of sophistry. He clears all doubts in an instant by the deftness of his utterance on all subjects.
He is tolerant and magnanimous, bounteous and charitable. He is pliant and gentle, sweet in speech, handsome in appearance and esteemed for his pious deeds.
Thus is the innate character of enlightened men. Neither practice nor education can ever make a man such, just as the sun, moon and fire are bright by themselves and nothing else can make them shine.