तपःस्वाध्यायनिरतं तपस्वी वाग्विदां वरम् ।
नारदं परिपप्रच्छ वाल्मीकिर्मुनिपुङ्गवम् ॥
tapaḥsvādhyāyanirataṃ tapasvī vāgvidāṃ varam ।
nāradaṃ paripapraccha vālmīkirmunipuṅgavam ॥
Valmiki, a tapasvi, earnestly inquired with Nārada,
the most accomplished among the scholars in all subjects,
the one constantly focused on pursuing them with Tapa
and the one that stands tall among all the munis:
Muni is someone who is focused on pursuing his quest, especially on the nature of Universe, breathing and living it every moment. Tapa is straining, stretching and training the body and mind, to perform at their best. Tapasvi is who did Tapa for many, many years.

If you are a writer and if you want to write a book that lasts as long as the humanity lasts, what would you write about ?
Vālmīki's answer is to write about a great person, whose illustrious life would inspire and set example for ages to come.
In the first Ṡlōka, he is inquiring with Naarada whether one such person exists.
In the following four Ṡlōkas, he is outlining sixteen characteristics, in the form of questions, that would describe such a great person.
These characteristics speak volumes about the advances made by the times and lands where this epic poem is written, in understanding the heights that a human can possibly achieve.
कोन्वस्मिन्साम्प्रतं लोके गुणवान्कश्च वीर्यवान् ।
धर्मज्ञश्च कृतज्ञश्च सत्यवाक्यो दृढव्रतः ॥
kōnvasminsāmprataṃ lōkē guṇavānkaṡca vīryavān ।
dharmaj˝aṡca kṛtaj˝aṡca satyavākyō dṛḍhavrataḥ ॥
Who, in this world, is a person:
1) of adorable and admirable character,
2) of great valor,
3) of acute discernment about right and wrong,
4) that appreciates, remembers and grateful
for the help received from everyone,
5) that stands by his word all the time,
6) and pursues his goals to their completion, unswervingly?
चारित्रेण च को युक्तः सर्वभूतेषु को हितः ।
विद्वान्कः कः समर्थश्च कश्चैकप्रियदर्शनः ॥
cāritrēṇa ca kō yuktaḥ sarvabhūtēṣu kō hitaḥ ।
vidvānkaḥ kaḥ samarthaṡca kaṡcaikapriyadarṡanaḥ ॥
7) Who is a man of proven record and reputation,
8) who always wishes and does good to all beings,
9) who is well read about all aspects of life,
10) who is capable of getting the most challenging things done,
11) who is also approachable, personable and
pleasing to all alike, at all times?

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