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"Recognizing Toxic Friendships and Set Boundaries"

परोक्षे कार्यहन्तारं प्रत्यक्षे प्रियवादिनम् ।

वर्जयेत्तादृशं मित्रं विषकुम्भं पयोमुखम् ॥ Panchatantra, Mitralabha, Chapter 4, Verse 18.

Word to word meaning:

  • परोक्षे (parokṣe) - indirectly

  • कार्यहन्तारं (kāryahantāram) - one who does harmful deeds

  • प्रत्यक्षे (pratyakṣe) - directly

  • प्रियवादिनम् (priyavādinam) - one who speaks pleasingly

  • वर्जयेत् (varjayet) - should avoid

  • तादृशं (tādṛśaṃ) - such

  • मित्रं (mitram) - friend

  • विषकुम्भं (viṣakumbham) - a vessel filled with poison

  • पयोमुखम् (payomukham) - having its mouth in milk

English meaning:

"A friend who performs harmful actions indirectly should be avoided, just like a vessel filled with poison but looks like having the milk on the top of the vessel."

 Kannada meaning:

"ಪರೋಕ್ಷವಾಗಿ ಹಾನಿಕಾರಕ ಕ್ರಿಯೆಗಳನ್ನು ಮಾಡುವ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತನನ್ನು ತಪ್ಪಿಸಬೇಕು, ವಿಷ ತುಂಬಿದ ಪಾತ್ರೆಯ ಮೇಲ್ಭಾಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಹಾಲಾದರೂ ವಿಷವೇ ಹೊಂದಿರುವಂತೆ."

Hindi meaning:

"जो मित्र अप्रत्यक्ष रूप से हानिकारक कार्य करता है, उससे बचना चाहिए, जैसे कि जहर से भरे बर्तन में ऊपर से दूध है लेकिन पूरा विष ही होता है।"


  • Importance of Discernment: The shloka emphasizes the importance of discernment in forming relationships. It warns against trusting individuals solely based on their outward charm or pleasing words (प्रत्यक्षे प्रियवादिनम्), suggesting that true intentions and character should be assessed beyond surface appearances.

  • Caution against Indirect Harm: It cautions against associating with individuals who may not directly harm you (परोक्षे कार्यहन्तारं) but engage in deceitful or manipulative behaviors that can lead to harm indirectly. This highlights the subtle dangers of trusting those who do not have genuine intentions or who may betray trust.

  • Metaphorical Comparison: The metaphorical comparison of such individuals to a vessel filled with poison (विषकुम्भं) with its mouth in water (पयोमुखम्) underscores the inherent danger despite an apparently benign exterior. This imagery vividly illustrates the potential risks of associating with individuals who hide harmful intentions behind a pleasant facade.

  • Advice to Avoid Harmful Associations: The shloka concludes with practical advice to avoid such friends or associates (वर्जयेत्), indicating that it is better to steer clear of relationships that may lead to harm or betrayal, even if they seem initially appealing or beneficial.

  • Universal Applicability: The teachings from the shloka are universal and applicable across various contexts of life—personal relationships, professional environments, and decision-making processes. It encourages individuals to prioritize integrity, sincerity, and genuine intentions in their interactions and alliances.

Application in Life:

  • The teachings from this verse are highly relevant in various aspects of life:

  • Personal Relationships: It urges individuals to be cautious in choosing friends and associates, emphasizing the importance of integrity, trustworthiness, and genuine intentions in relationships.

  • Professional Environment: It highlights the significance of discerning colleagues and partners in professional settings, ensuring collaboration with those who uphold ethical standards and mutual respect.

  • Leadership and Decision-Making: Leaders can draw lessons on evaluating alliances and partnerships, prioritizing alliances based on shared values and long-term benefits rather than short-term gains or appearances.


The shloka metaphorically compares associating with individuals who engage in indirect harmful actions despite outward charm to drinking from a vessel filled with poison, even if its mouth is in water. This imagery underscores the importance of looking beyond superficial appearances and assessing others based on their actions, integrity, and true intentions. It advises against forming relationships based solely on pleasing words or surface charm, emphasizing the need to prioritize trustworthiness and sincerity in friendships and associations. By urging individuals to avoid alliances that may lead to harm or betrayal, the shloka advocates for ethical conduct and wise decision-making in navigating personal, professional, and social relationships. Its timeless wisdom continues to resonate, offering valuable guidance in fostering genuine and enduring connections based on mutual respect and integrity.


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