Saturday, 11 August 2018

“Kamini, Kanchana” delusion & uncertain life

Bhaja Govindam-2

Verse 2
muda jahihi dhanagamatrsnam kuru sadbuddhim manasi vitrsnam |
yallabhase nijakaramopattam vittam tena vinodaya cittam ||
Oh fool! Give up now the thirst to amass wealth.  Getting rid of vain desires, fill
the mind with good and holy thoughts.  Entertain it with the wealth you acquire by
fair means.

If in the first verse, Sri Sankara denounced the delusion in respect of the worldly education, here in the second stanza he decries the delusion in respect of the money, adoring it as an end instead of treating it just as a means only.  It is not seeking money that is deplored; it is the ‘thrushna’, the relentless quest for money that is decried.  Here ‘Dhana’ stands not for money alone but for the entire artha purushartha.  It is forgetting God in the chase of artha purushartha, that is denounced here.  Earning money through honest means is Okay. But one shouldn’t become greedy.   It is greed that is the villain that makes one indulge in unlawful means to amass money.  There is no end to one’s greed if it gains a free hand.  As Nachiketas tells Lord Yama in Kathopanishad (1-1-27) “ Na vithena tarpaneyo manushyaha” meaning ‘ man is not to be satisfied with wealth’.  Mind is always in a restless state and needs something to engage itself.  The mind isolated from greed should be filled with spiritual thoughts, thoughts turned Godward.  Wealth thus acquired without greed, through fair and legitimate means, when shared with the needy instead of hoarding, cools down the passions in the mind.  With a mind free from passions, one is able to concentrate on spiritual thoughts and engage in study of spiritual literature.

So Sri Sankara in this sloka points out that while acquisition of wealth is required to function in the materialistic world, one should do it without developing thirst to acquire wealth for  hoarding and be content with what one gets through legitimate means and this also he should do with prasada-buddi.  The mind thus freed of thoughts of amassing wealth should be engaged in thoughts of contemplation on God.  Cultivate detachment toward material enjoyments and fill the mind with love of God and good thoughts. Of such a householder who also uses his excess wealth to distribute to the needy, Swami Vivekananda states “the householder who struggles to become rich by good means and for good purposes is doing practically the same thing for the attainment of salvation as the anchorite does in his cell when he is praying”.   

Verse 3
naristanabhara nabhidesam drstva magamohavesam |
etanmamsavasadi vikaram manasi vicintaya varam varam ||
Don’t get excited with desire seeing the full breasts and navel area of women.
Think of them again and again as mere modifications of flesh, fat and the like.

Just like preoccupation with money, preoccupation with opposite sex also takes one away from the pursuit of spiritual goal of life.  It is natural for one to seek money for security.  Once feeling secure, one’s mind turns to seeking pleasure and sex comes to mind naturally because of the basic animal nature of human beings. That is why even when one rises to higher nature, one can fall a prey to kama easily if one is not careful and vigilant  against carnal slipups. Sri Sankara is talking about adopting prathipaksha bhavana to turn one’s mind away from the glamorous curves of a female body whenever the thought occurs.   In prathipaksha bhavana you try to see the full picture by seeing the other side as well along with the attractive side.  In this case one tries to picture the repulsive flesh and bones behind the attractive features of the body whenever one’s mind strays towards them so that an aversion to counter the attraction is also built up in the mind. This counter thought has to be reinforced again and again (vaaram, vaaram) for it to take firm root and ensure that one does not get lost in the temptation of the body,  to the exclusion of higher things in life a human life is meant for.   

This type of exercise is described in Viveka chudamani (verse 22) as “doshadrstya muhurmuhuḥ” meaning ‘observing the defects again and again.  In Kathopanishad Yama tells Nacchiketas (1-2-2): “Sreyas (the good and preferable) and Preyas (the pleasant and pleasurable) approach a man; the wise one using his intelligence chooses Sreyas while the ignorant one yielding to temptation prefers Preyas”    Sri Sankara is here cautioning about Preyas and helping to choose Sreyas as in the previous verse.  We should remember here that when sexual pleasure is criticized, it is not man or woman or marriage that is the target, but it is the uncontrolled temptation that has the effect of making one completely forget the spiritual purpose of human life that is denounced.  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa often advised his devotees to slowly get rid of desire for “kamini kanchana” meaning women and wealth, as these two create the biggest obstacles for the sadhakas who want to progress on the spiritual path.

Verse 4
nalinidalagata jalamatitaralam tadvajjivitamatisayacapalam |
viddhi vyadhyabhimanagrastam lokam sokahatam ca samastamII
Life is uncertain and unstable as a drop of water trapped in a lotus petal; know
that it is prone to various maladies like diseases and egoism and the entire
worldly life of man is mostly grief-stricken.

After addressing the artha, kama  purusharthas in the previous two verses Sri Sankara is addressing the uncertainty of human life in this verse by comparing it to a water drop on a lotus leaf in the pond. Water drop on a lotus leaf is a beautiful simile in more than one respect.  It brings out the uncertainty of human life and the hollowness of its attractions.   The first look of a droplet delicately balanced on the lotus leaf is one of sheer beauty.  But on a closer look the other side is revealed – its shaky uncertain existence, for it faces many threats to its survival.
1.     A slight wind can simply blow it off the leaf.
2.     A slight wave in the water can shake off the droplet back into the water.
3.     Even if it survives that, as soon as the sun rises a bit higher, even without any
wind the droplet cannot avoid getting dried up out of existence
Life is similarly uncertain in duration. No one can escape from the clutches of death and death stalks at every moment.  Life is not only unstable, but it is afflicted with the maladies like diseases, pride and egoism.  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says “Jnana and mukti cannot be had as long as egoism persists. Birth and death also do not come to an end to him who is given to egoism.”

This simile has also a Vedantic angle. Lotus grows in water. Hence the water drop which falls into the water again, joins its original source i.e, water.  If we think of the infinite Brahman as water in the pond and the Jeevatma as the water drop on the lotus leaf, then it conveys the idea of identity of Jeevathma and Paramathma indicated by the Mahavakya, ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ - Thou Art That (You are that), lotus plant growing out of water standing for the worldly life that creates the delusion of separation between Jeevathma and Paramathma.   Pratipaksha Bhavana is brought into play in this verse also.  When we realize the uncertainty of life, it will lead us to take to spiritual life more seriously, and with a sense of urgency.

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