This question mentions the following story of a sage, a hunter and a wild animal being hunted. This story appears to convey the same message as the Valāka story Kṛṣṇa narrates to Arjuna in Karṇa-parva of the Mahābhārata according to which Valāka goes to hell for speaking truth but failing to uphold dharma.

For example, there is a story that I have heard in which a hunter hunting an animal comes to a Sage and asks whether he has seen it or not.

Sage says, "what the eyes can see, the mouth can't speak and what the mouth can speak, the eyes can't see".

He didn't utter a lie because he was intelligent and he escaped from the situation.

What exact story is the above referring to? And which scripture is the story taken from?

What is the Sanskrit verse for the line that means 'what the eyes can see, the mouth can't speak and what the mouth can speak, the eyes can't see'?

  • I once heard this story in context of a example of tark shastra (persuasion/negotiation) or whatever we say for this kind of technique. Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 9:11

1 Answer 1


The sage goes by various names: Satyatapas, Satyavrata, Utathya etc.

The full story is narrated in the Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 3, Ch. XI.

23. Once on a time, a hunter named Nisâda, exceedingly clever in hunting, came accidentally with bows and arms in his hands, while hunting a deer in that wide forest. He looked like a second God of Death (Yama) and seemed to be very cruel.

24. That savage mountaineer, drawing his bow so as to touch the ear, pierced a boar with his sharp arrows. The boar, being very much terrified, fled with enormous rapidity to the Muni Satyavrata.

...  ...

37. O Jamadagni! Thus placed between the horns of a religious dilemma what shall I do now so as to meet both the ends -- to save the life of the boar, to do the welfare, as well as not to speak untruth.”

38. When Satyavrata saw the boar wounded by the arrow of the hunter, he, moved with pity, uttered the seed mantra of the Goddess of Learning; and now that most auspicious Goddess, on account of his uttering Her seed mantram, was very pleased and gave him the knowledge, difficult to be attained otherwise.

39. The door of all his knowledge opened out at once, and he became at once instantly the seer, the poet like the ancient Muni Vâlmikî.

40. Then that religiously disposed, merciful Brâhman, aiming at Truth, addressed that hunter before him with bows in his arms, thus :--

41. That force which sees (as witness) never speaks; and that force which speaks, never sees. O hunter! Why are you asking me repeatedly, impelled by your own selfish desire?

42. The hunter, the killer of the animals, on hearing this was disappointed in the matter of finding out the boar and went back to his home.

43. That Brâhmin turned out a poet like Varuna and he became celebrated as Satyavrata, the speaker of truth, in all the worlds.

44. He began to recite the Satyavrata mantram duly, and, by its influence, became a Pundit, rivalled by none in this world.

The verse uttered by Satyatapas to confuse the hunter is:

या पश्यति न सा ब्रूते या ब्रूते सा न पश्यति ।
अहो व्याध स्वकार्याथिन्कि पृच्छसि पुनः पुनः ॥

yā paśyati na sā brūte yā brūte sā na paśyati
aho vyādha svakāryāthinki pṛcchasi punaḥ punaḥ ॥

He who sees does not speak. He who speaks, does not see.
Selfish hunter, whom do you ask again and again?

In the Puranic Encyclopedia, you can read the brief history of how the brāhmaṇa boy named Utathya was cursed and how he transformed himself into Satyatapas.

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