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Kalidasa supposedly wrote this verse in the poem Megadootam.

मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं दुरात्मनाम् |
मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं महात्मनाम् ||

manasyEkam vachasyEkam karmaNyEkam dhurAthmanAm |
manasyEkam vachasyEkam karmaNyEkam mahAthmanAm ||

There is just one difference between people who are good and those who are not. The thoughts, words and deeds of the bad do not match one another. The thoughts, words and deeds of the good people are all identical.

First of all, is Kalidasa the real author of this verse?

Secondly, what's the context in which this verse was written? Because one can easily apply the verse to Ravana and Duryodhana and argue that their thoughts, words and actions are all evil, match one another, that they are predictable, therefore they are "good" people.

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    As per my translation "मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं दुरात्मनाम् | मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं महात्मनाम् ||" translates as: "The thoughts, words and deeds of the bad people match one another. The thoughts, words and deeds of the good people match one another".... – Tejaswee Nov 11 '16 at 15:05
  • I just looked through the entire Meghaduta, and this verse doesn't seem to be there. In any case, @Tezz is right, the verse is saying that for evil people the thoughts, words, and deeds are one, just like for good people. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 11 '16 at 15:41
  • This page says Vishnu Sharma said this verse. – The Destroyer Nov 11 '16 at 15:45
  • In any case, Neither Duryodhana, RAvana, Kamsa, ShishupAla, JarAsandha... match each other as they had different priorities. Nor RAma, ParashurAma, Krishna, Bhishma, Drona, Vidura ... matched each other in their respective goodness. Hence this verse can simply be ignored. Is this question on the premise of: "the verse is 100% true", Or can it be refuted? – iammilind Nov 12 '16 at 7:39
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    @Surya I believe that's the correct interpretation of the verse. Also, see this comment – sv. Nov 12 '16 at 16:22
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I try to avoid this site but this page came up when I was searching for Kālidāsa on StackExchange, so let me post an answer anyway.

Firstly, this is obviously not from Kālidāsa's Meghadūta. The Meghadūta is entirely written in the Mandākrāntā metre, which has 17 syllables to each pāda (68 total). This one here is a standard śloka (anuṣṭup), with 8 syllables in each pāda (32 total).

It also does not occur in any of the other works of Kālidāsa, and is just not his style.

Instead, it is a subhāṣita, a pithy saying or proverb. Such subhāṣitas occur in many anthologies and tend to get attracted into editions of works like the Hitopadeśa or Pañcatantra. (Look at these works, or Bhartṛhari's Nīti-śataka, for many similar verses about the world, about bad people, about fools, etc.)

It is a nice śloka with a clever use of the same words to mean different things:

मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं दुरात्मनाम् ।
मनस्येकं वचस्येकं कर्मण्येकं महात्मनाम् ॥
manasyekaṃ vacasyekaṃ karmaṇyekaṃ durātmanām /
manasyekaṃ vacasyekaṃ karmaṇyekaṃ mahātmanām //

With the sandhis split:

मनसि एकं वचसि एकं कर्मणि एकं दुर्-आत्मनाम् /
मनसि एकं वचसि एकं कर्मणि एकं महा-आत्मनाम् //
manasi ekaṃ vacasi ekaṃ karmaṇi ekaṃ dur-ātmanām /
manasi ekaṃ vacasi ekaṃ karmaṇi ekaṃ mahā-ātmanām //

Literal translation / gloss:

[in mind] [one] [in speech] [one] [in action] [one] [of bad people] /
[in mind] [one] [in speech] [one] [in action] [one] [of great people] //

The two sentences are grammatically equivalent and there's no trickery with the words; it's just based on the context/semantics that we are led to understand them differently.

The former is the colloquial sense as in "one here, one there…" (we understand that they are different). The latter uses the repetition of "one" for emphasis: in thought, word and deed, the great have only one thing.

(Some sources change the दुरात्मनाम् line to "मनस्यन्यद् वचस्यन्यत् कर्मण्यन्यद् दुरात्मनाम्" but that's just killing the nice thing about the verse.)

Finally, as a proverb, it's not something you should think too hard about, or treat as a law of nature. Famous proverbs like "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" or "Time is money" are too easy to pick holes in; yet they express some real truth, appropriate in some contexts.

Enjoy the common-sense idea couched in memorable language.

  • Thanks for your answer. Do you agree with the meaning or translation I quoted in my question? Is the variation (मनस्यन्यद् वचस्यन्यत् कर्मण्यन्यद् दुरात्मनाम्) supposed to remove any confusion in the original one? Could you also add tr. of the variation? – sv. Mar 1 '17 at 18:55
  • "I try to avoid this site..." - you could take it up on meta. You could do a post on what's lacking here. – sv. Mar 1 '17 at 18:58
  • @sv. The translation quoted in the question is correct, except it has added "There is just one difference between people who are good and those who are not" which is commentary/introduction that is not present in the verse. The variation (splits as "manasi anyat, vacasi anyat, karmaṇi anyat, dur-ātmanāṃ") translates to "a different thing in the mind, a different thing in…" etc., which is unambiguous I guess, but the ambiguity (which disappears when you think about it even a little) was the beauty in the original one. :-) – ShreevatsaR Mar 1 '17 at 19:14
  • Ok, yes, that's what I thought about the variation. Thanks for clarifying. – sv. Mar 1 '17 at 19:19
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    @Pandya The quality of questions and answers (mainly questions) on this site is depressing; I prefer not to be aware of it :-) – ShreevatsaR Mar 16 '17 at 16:12

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