Life, Old Age and Renunciation – Perspective from Bhartruhari’s Vairagya Satakam

Bhartruhari’s Vairagya Satakam

The hundred verses of Vairagya satakam are divided into ten groups and deals with criticism of desire, renunciation of sense object, oppression by evil men. Of vanity, indifference to worldly things, principles of time the destroyer, control of mind through wisdom, life of ascetic and self renunciation. His elucidation of life, old age, the problems and issues of it, and how to face it is a lesson in itself.

Men with property, learned, having respected sons, untold wealth, a beloved wife and of youthful age, thinking this world to be permanent, deluded by ignorance run into worldliness. Whereas those who consider the transient nature of the world and renounce it are blessed indeed.(20)

The objects of enjoyment, even after staying with us for the long time are sure to leave us sometime. Then what difference does their privation in this way make to men, that they do not of their own accord discard them. If enjoyment leave us on their own initiative they produce great affliction of the mind but if men voluntarily renounce them they conduce to the eternal bliss of self possession. (12)

31.The downside of every enjoyment in this world is fear. In health and enjoyment, there is the fear of disease. In social position, the fear of falling off. In wealth the fear of hostile kings. In honour the fear of humiliation. In power, the fear of enemy. In beauty the fear of old age. In scriptural erudition, the fear of opponents, in virtue the fear of traducers, in body the fear of death. All things of this world pertaining to man are attended with fear. Renunciation alone stands for fearlessness.

Similarly everything has to end one day. Birth ends in death. Brilliant youth in old age. Contentment is attached by greed. Happiness and self-control by wiles of gay women, virtues by jealousy of men. Forest tracks by beasts of prey. Kings by wicked ministers. Thus, there is nothing stable in the world. (32)

Life is insecure. Desire of youth unsteady. Realizing this, wise men firmly fix their mind in yoga for peace and equanimity. Wise work towards improving the man kind. (33)

Life is changing like a big wave. Beauty, possessions, enjoyments are all transient. Enjoyments are transitory individually and inexhaustible collectively, so we are in never ending wild goose chase which brings in turn stimulation and grief. Desire produces this terrible entanglement and hope keeps it on. So, free your mind of these.

The life of a man as ordained is limited to one hundred years. Half of it is spent in night and out of the other half one half again is passed in childhood and old age. And the rest which has its illness, bereavements and troubles is spent in serving other. What happiness can there be for mortals in a life which is even more uncertain than the ripples on the surface of water?(49)

The earth is but a lump of clay circled by a ring of water. Even the whole of it is but a particle. Hosts of kings, having partitioned it after fighting hundreds of battles, enjoyed it. these very poor insignificant persons may or do give. Nothing is strange for them. But downright shame on those mean fellows who would beg bits of coin from them even! (50)

Why you, my mind, wander about in vain. Be restful. Whatever happens in a particular way happens so by itself and not otherwise. So not thinking over the past, nor resolving about the future, I realize enjoyments that come without engaging my thoughts. (51)

Stay away from the troublesome sense objects. Take the path of highest good which is capable of bringing about in a moment the destruction of endless troubles; get thee to the state of thy atman. Stop agitating. Be calm and now and never again seek transient worldly attachments. (52)

In old age the body becomes shriveled, the gait becomes unsteady, the teeth fall out, the eye sight is lost, deafness increase, the mouth slaver, relatives do not value one’s words, the wife does not nurse and even the son turns hostile. Know the misery of man of worn out age. Seeing the grey hairs on the head of a man, and discomfiture of old age youthful women at once fly away from him. (53)

As long as this body is free from disease and decrepitude, as long as senility is far off, as long as the powers of the senses are unaffected and life is not decaying, so long, wise persons should put forth mighty exertion for the sake of their supreme good, for when the hose is on fire what avails setting about digging a well for water. (75)

Live practicing austerities, or serve our wives, read scriptural literature or poetry. Man having longevity do not know which one to undertake. (76)

The rulers of the world have minds restless like a horse and therefore difficult to please, while we are after gains, age steals away bodily strength and death cuts short this dear life. ah! Friend nothing is good for the wise in this world except the practice of austerities. (77)

When honor has faded, wealth has become ruined, those who sue for favors have departed in disappointment, friends have dwindled away, retainers have left, youth has gradually decayed there remains only one thing proper for the wise. Reside somewhere in the grove, in solitude and on the banks of river. (78)

This freedom to wander about, this food to which no meanness attaches, the company of holy men, the cultivation of vedic wisdom result of which is spiritual peace, the mind restrained in its movements towards external things there is peace, pursue it. (79)

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Ref: Vairagya Satakam, Swami Madhavananda, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta.

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Logic in Sanskrit – Tarka Sastra

In the time before knowledge got written down, codified, popularized,  the work of Philosophers, Scientist, Scholars, Writers were different. The epistemological study was to be done in painstaking manner, starting from observation, understanding, query, analysis, dialogue, discussion, discourse, deliberation, debate, dialectic, decision and finally conclusion to avoid confusion, And for successful debate, specially between conflicting ideas, philosophy and thought,  dialogue and debate was an option to reach conclusion. To this the scholars of ancient India, the Sanskrit scholars have researched and came to an inference that the primary need is common understanding of the words, their association and method of understanding. This is the starting point of logic. The scholars had written what is called “Nigandu” (Thesaurus), “Tarka Sastra”, and “Nyaya Sastra” as first step towards logical understanding.

Tarka is the process of questioning and cross-questioning that leads to a particular conclusion. It is a form of supposition that can be used as an aid to the attainment of valid knowledge. Tarka Sastra is a science of dialectics, logic and reasoning, and art of debate that analyzes the nature and source of knowledge and its validity

Sanskrit is stated to be the ideal language for computer processing because of its structure. It is one of the ancient language, constructed by human being (all languages are created by human being). The fact that it was well deliberated, with concise grammar for expanding the language in case of future requirement is one of the reason for its popularity till date. Understanding philosophy, especially philosophy and Sanskritic writings makes it difficult because of the subjects dealt there in and the concise manner in which it is written. Of course it was need of the time that it has to be written in short forms for the oral tradition was in prevalence for imparting knowledge and in many cases may predate writing and printing. Logic thus becomes imperative to understand these texts and that was also written down somewhere along the way. By writing down the way in which it is constructed decoding the knowledge becomes easier to that extent.

Tarka Sangraha” by Annam Bhatta is one such book on Logic. The book in its original, or should I say thesis, in Sanskrit is just of fifteen pages. But is a great aid in understanding or processing of concepts so that clear understanding of the same can be obtained. The similarity between current day computer language constructs of DDL (Data Definition Language), SQL (Structure Query Language), RDBMS (Relational Data Base Schema) is evident. The book had clear classification, data description, structure, linking between data sets, context and way to manipulate and manage the data. Such is format of this book.

To give an overview, there are primarily seven categories to describe in which anything and everything in the world can be fit in. From there it starts like this.

Data Sets

  • Categorie is of seven types which is – substance, quality, action, genus, difference, co-inherence and non existence.
  • Substance in turn is classified into nine type which are earth, water, fire/light, air, ether, time, place, soul and mind.
  • Quality has 24 attributes
  • Actions are of five types
  • Genus are 2
  • Difference are of five types
  • Coinherence is one and
  • Non existence has seven data points.

To give an example let us take the case of earth which is the first data point mention in the category substance.

Data Definition : Description of a substance: Earth has an inherent odour. In can be in its atomic structure or can be used with other substance to produce various things. In body part it is present in the nose for it is the organ on smell, in its mass form it is prevalent everywhere. Its primary color is brown but can take other colors. It has a taste, it is tangible. It is measured in dimension and so on. This is essentially achieved by linking the various data sets.

Knowledge Creation: Having identified the various categories and related data sets it also specifies how knowledge of any subject can be achieved. Knowledge is gained by understanding. Primarily there are two ways. One is remembrance for which prior knowledge and memory is needed. The other is Notion for unknown aspects. Notion is of four types. Notion could be right or wrong. And the right notion is obtained in the following means – Perception, Inference, conclusion by similarity, and assertion by authority. And further if you take the example of Inference, Inference could be obtained for two reasons. For self-understanding or for the purpose of instruction to others. And the way of doing it by proposition, reason, example, application and conclusion. Thus the various ways of knowledge acquisition in systematic manner if expounded.

Thus they have a system of both inductive and deductive reasoning based on data. The reasoning is methodical, scientific, investigative and rationalistic. Considering the timeline of these literature and how ancient it is and yet modern logically it becomes our duty to understand what our ancestors thought in various subjects and restore it to its natural glory. And this is sure to facilitate us to understand the frontiers of knowledge, which are extensive in a conscious, constructive and consensual way.

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Ref: Tarka Sangraha Annam Bhatta