A maxim from the Mahabharat that somebody had posted, in response to the rather obvious question of why devotees attending the Kumbh Mela had not emerged unscathed from the Covid-19 community superspreading there:
न देवा दण्डमादाय रक्षन्ति पशुपालवत् ।
यं हि रक्षितुमिच्छन्ति बुद्ध्या संयोजयन्ति तम्॥
“Gods do not brandish a cane,
Minding men like sheep
They bless with some wisdom sane
Whom they wish to keep”
[the Ganguli translation instead phrases it rather less poetically as –
“The gods do not protect men, taking up clubs in their hands after the manner of herdsmen; unto those, however, they wish to protect, they grant intelligence.”]
[in case it is wondered what the actual source for this is – it is Book 5 [Udyoga Parva], section 35, line 51]
Now this is not, of course, entirely true – there are most definitely cases of the miraculous Divine Interventions wherein subtly or with flashy pyrotechnics and fulminating Voice of Thunder, the pious devotee has been quite directly protected from harm .. or, for that matter, guided directly to do the right and the righteous thing .
I have no doubt of that. I have directly witnessed it to occur, and been quite the grateful beneficiary thereof.
Yet I nevertheless do think that that Mahabharat-sourced maxim is quite a useful one for our current times and the circumstances prevalent especially in countries other than the one I am lucky enough to be sitting here writing this within.
A properly pious devotee does not do deliberately and *unnecessarily* risk-laden things simply because he or she feels confident that their zeal shall see them protected from consequence. That is foolhardiness and likely to embroil not only the devotee but also others around them in unnecessary perilous circumstance. It may similarly elicit the unnecessary expenditure of resources and effort to get them back out of it again.
Rather – a properly pious devotee respects their value … and makes astute use of the Gods-given qualities which they have been invested with, in pursuit of the necessary enduring victory.
Which, of course, is not to be taken as a statement against the undertaking of *necessary* risks, hardship and perils – quite the contrary. A properly pious devotee may bear these with both bravery and understanding, and takes them as tangible acts of Will.
However, precisely inherent in that quality of ‘wisdom’ imparted to the devotee (and the Sanskrit term used in the verse is ‘Buddhi’ – which we might translate also as ‘awareness’, ‘sagacity’) is some measure of discernment as to just which is which.
Which circumstances are ‘unnecessary’ risks versus ‘necessary’ ones.
It is easy to lose sight of this distinction, especially when passions are swept up and fervor spreads with fever-pitch.
That would be a mistake – for while it is true that Faith is Bricks … it is *Knowledge* and *Wisdom* which are the Mortar.
And as applies the contemporary circumstances – the needless waste of pious life is held out in the Shruti Itself to be just exactly that: not a pious action in and of itself, but as Devi Vak Herself puts it: it “does not make for the heavenly world” [variant translation: “[it is not] conducive to the world”].