Sanskrit quote nr. 26 (Maha-subhashita-samgraha)

Sanskrit text:

अकर्मणां वै भूतानां वृत्तिः स्यान् न हि काचन ।
तदेवाभिप्रपद्येत न विहन्यात् कथंचन ॥

akarmaṇāṃ vai bhūtānāṃ vṛttiḥ syān na hi kācana |
tadevābhiprapadyeta na vihanyāt kathaṃcana ||


Meter name (1st and 2nd pāda): Śloka; Type: pathyā (‘normal’); 8 syllables per quarter (pāda).
Meter name (3rd and 4th pāda): Śloka; Type: vipulā (‘extended’, type 4); 8 syllables per quarter (pāda).

Primary English translation:

“If a creature acteth not, its course of life is impossible. In the case of a creature, therefore, there must be action and not inaction.”

(translation by P. C. Roy)

Secondary translations:

“The course of life for a creatures that does not act is impossible; for them there is action and never inaction.”

(translation by M. N. Dutt)

“Wenn die Geschöpfe der Thätigkeit entsagten, würden sie schlechterdings nicht leben können; darum soll man sich ihr hingeben und sie nimmer unterdrücken.”

(translation by Otto Böhtlingk)



Presented above is a Sanskrit aphorism, also known as a subhāṣita, which is at the very least, a literary piece of art. This page provides critical research material such as an anlaysis on the poetic meter used, an English translation, a glossary explaining technical terms, and a list of resources including print editions and digital links.

Glossary of Sanskrit terms

Karman (कर्मन्) translates to “to act”, “to perform”, “activity”, etc. The antonym akarman refers to “inactivity”. It is a very common Sanskrit word, derived from the root √kṛ. (more info)

Bhūta (भूत, bhuta) refers to “a creature”, “a living being” or “an animal”. In certain context it is used to refer to “ghostly beings”, “spritis” etc. They are sometimes worshipped during religious ceremonies (eg., during raṅgapūjā). The term also commonly translates to the five elements of “matter” (eg., ākāśa, vāyu, agni, āpa, pṛthvī) which is collectively known as the pañcabhūta (‘five elements’). (more info)

Vṛtti (वृत्ति, vritti) is a common term in this case referring to “mode of life”. The term is also generally used to indicate a subdivision of sorts. (more info)


This quote is contained within the following Sanskrit literary sources:

Mahābhārata (V. S. Sukhtankar: 3.33.7 (d*115); Nimachand Siromani: 3.1209; M. N. Dutt: 3.32.8): The largest epic poem in the world, consisting of 100,000 verses. It contains the history of ancient India and the exploits of its heroes, such as the fate of the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas. It is also famous for its inclusion of the Bhagavadgītā, a conversation between Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra. The book was written by Vyāsa.
More info

Indische Sprüchen 4: Collection of Sanskrit subhāṣitas (proverbial verses) with German translation. The book was written by Otto Böhtlingk in 1870.
More info

Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bombay, vol. 16 page 361: Starting from 1841, these journals were published by the Asiatic Society of Bombay.
More info


Vyāsa is the author of the Mahābhārata. He is traditionally accepted as author of the vedas, the purāṇas and the mahābhārata. He was also known as Vedavyāsa or Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana.

Otto Böhtlingk (1815) is the author of the Indische Sprüchen.

About the Mahāsubhāṣitasaṃgraha

This quote is included within the Mahāsubhāṣitasaṃgraha (महासुभाषितसंग्रह, maha-subhashita-samgraha), which is a compendium of Sanskrit aphorisms (subhāṣita), collected from various sources. Subhāṣita is a genre of Sanskrit literature, exposing the vast and rich cultural heritage of ancient India.

It has serial number 26 and can be found on page 5. (read on

Sanskrit is the oldest living language and bears testimony to the intellectual past of ancient India. Three major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) share this language, which is used for many of their holy books. Besides religious manuscripts, much of India’s ancient culture has been preserved in Sanskrit, covering topics such as Architecture, Music, Botany, Surgery, Ethics, Philosophy, Dance and much more.

< Back to list with quotes