The Metaphysics of John Donne

John Donne

I have given the link to my talk please do listen in as and when you can!

True Love is Immeasurable

We promise God money, gifts and sometimes harsh penance as a token of our thanksgiving for fulfilling our wishes. We praise, clothe, feed and entertain God as we see fit.

A lot of us who go out of the way to please God simply forget that God – – our creator does not expect anything from us either in cash or kind. We are only expected to extend sincere affection towards our maker and he will take care of all our needs.

An incident from the Bhagavatha Purana reiterates this viewpoint. Satyabhama, the spouse of Krishna, once lost her husband to Narada in a game of dice. The distressed wife beseeched the celestial sage to let go of her husband.

She offered to give gold that equaled the weight of her dear husband. The sage agreed to alter his condition. Accordingly, Satyabhama sheepishly poured out the details of the awkward bet to the king of Dwaraka.

Then she requested him to sit on one plate of the balance. She placed all her jewellery on the other plate of the scale. The gold did not measure up to the weight on the other side. Then she ordered that the gold from the household and then even the treasury.

To her despair, she found that her best attempts failed. At that point of time Krishna gently told Satyabhama to seek help from his senior wife Rukmini. Satyabhama nurtured envy towards the said co-wife and generally steered clear of her. Yet, in the given circumstances, she approached Rukmini in order to redeem their husband.

Though the senior queen was aghast to hear what had transpired, she rushed to the spot. When she saw the scale in a state of gross imbalance, she quickly plucked a leaf from the Tulsi plant and placed it reverentially on the gold uttering the lord’s name.

Lo and behold! The plate holding the lord rose high immediately. Krishna helped himself out with a knowing smile that said it all. Immediately, Satyabhama felt ashamed but also felt enlightened. She realised that true love is immeasurable in worldly ways.

Test of Truth

Sometimes, the truths that we know or believe in can be pretty hard to establish for want of witnesses or proof. The societal values, the situation, place and time eventually end up delivering a verdict which may or may not measure up to universal justice. Different places in the world have diverse religions, belief sets and values framed on the basis of the native environment. The person at the receiving end of the situation ends up with a raw deal because his contemporaries cannot see beyond their nose. The victims and martyrs of such situations have always had unique ways of ascertaining their stand.

Panditha Jagannatha, a Sanskrit court poet of Mughal emperor Jahangir, fell in love with a Muslim maiden who he called Lavangika. The Brahmin community was aghast by the affair. They could not dissuade the already married poet from having a relationship with the Muslim woman. Eventually, Jagannatha was excommunicated and exiled. The sad poet went to Kashi. He realised that he would not be able to make his contemporaries realise the genuineness of his feelings. Hence, he decided to launch his test of truth. He sat on the fifty-third step of Panchaganga Ghat and started singing the paeans to river Ganga. He emphasised on the power of the mighty river which could liberate the worst among sinners. It is said that with the composition of each stanza, the waters rose by one step and touched his feet. The poet felt vindicated by the divine touch. The people around him realised that he was earnest about his feelings though they did not acknowledge the same.

Even now, people swear by the truth by taking the names of those they truly love. When we wonder about it and question ourselves what makes us do what we do, we are likely to realise that we are trying to connect what we believe as truth in what we believe in as truth. Most of the times, we resort to this method to reiterate our beliefs. If we, who live in this technologically advanced world, adopt this method, imagine what it must have been like for the people who did not have the privilege.

Integrity and Intelligence

Life often scatters obstacles in our path. Some of us sidestep them while others overcome them. Yet, if we are riddled with difficulties from time to time, we tend to give up. A story from the Mahabharatha says that if one tackles problems intelligently and with integrity, it will stamp our success with moral satisfaction and happiness.

Princess Sukanya had to marry the old sage Chyavana whom she had blinded inadvertently. Though there was no equivalence of any sort in the marital ties, the young bride did not have any complaints. She was quite cheerful and sincere in carrying out her conjugal duties.

A couple of years later, the handsome celestial twins, the Ashwinikumaras, happened to sight the beautiful Sukanya. They were smitten by her ethereal beauty. They tried to wean her away from her marriage and make her theirs. The principled lady refused to comply to their wishes, politely, yet firmly. The demigods were struck by her loyalty to her husband despite his shortcomings. They offered to cure him and restore his youth as a reward for her steadfastness.

Sukanya and Chyavana were ready to accept a lease of normal and healthy life. Just when things seemed to fall in place, the divine twosome laid out their condition. The clause said that Sukanya could continue in her marriage if only she could identify her husband in his new Avatar. The lady accepted the challenge without batting an eyelid.

Accordingly, the sage was taken to a nearby lake by the duo. The trio immersed themselves in the waters. When they emerged, Sukanya was startled to see that the three of them were identical in every single way. She was stressed but gathered her wits and observed the threesome walking towards her. She recollected from her vast repertoire of knowledge that Godly entities never came into physical contact with earth. She noticed that only one of the three men was leaving footprints on the wet banks of the lake. She walked demurely towards her only love in life and stood by him. The Ashwinikumaras were highly impressed by her integrity and intelligence and blessed the couple a happy and a fruitful life of togetherness. Sukanya had every reason to flounder, but she chose to overcome it.

Many Dimensions of Life Skills

Once sage Bhrigu planned to conduct a very great Yajna on the banks of river Saraswathi. He decided to dedicate the Yajna to the best among the trinities. The debate in his peer group failed to arrive at any result. Bhrigu set out to figure out the answer by himself.

He first went to Satya Loka and found the creator Brahma and his consort Saraswathi immersed in their own world. They did not notice Bhrigu. The sage ventilated his temper and walked away from their doorstep. In Kailasa, Shiva and Parvathi did not even recognise the presence of the sage as they were in the midst of an interesting conversation. The sage threw a tantrum and walked out. At Vaikunta, the scene was no different. Mahavishnu was relaxing on Adishesha and Mahalakshmi was pressing his feet. They failed to acknowledge the sage.

The affronted sage kicked Vishnu in his chest much to the chagrin of his divine spouse.
The Lord immediately apologised to the sage and held his feet. Bhrigu was born with an eye on the sole of his right foot. Vishnu gently shut the eye symbolic of the bloated ego of the sage, when he rubbed the area and the eye disappeared. The suitably chastised Bhrigu realised that he had gone overboard in conducting his test.

This episode from the Bhagavatha Purana has covered many facets of human behaviour and life skills.

Bhrigu wanted to honour the best among Gods. He meticulously charted out a test of patience and executed the decision consciously.

The process involved a great deal of risk, but the sage would not settle for anything, but the best. And cost him, it did, for he did cross his limits when he thrust his foot on Mahavishnu’s chest.

The erasure of his third eye which was keeping him from being humble helped the sage to recognise the importance of not stretching his zeal too far.

The righteous anger of Mahalakshmi about the episode highlights the need for the emotion, especially when one’s self-respect or that of a dear one is at stake.

Perhaps, that is why the Lord did not stop her, but it was also because he knew that his true love for her and his fortitude would prompt her return at the earliest.

The Eternal Love Story

There are innumerable tales that eulogise love over the millennia. Yet, the most endearing tale happens to be the Ramayana.

The ancient classic speaks of the power of love which unites the separated couple against all odds in an age sans New Age transport and communication.

The ‘Sundara Kaandam’ of the ancient epic is the net essence of the very core of true love. When Sita was abducted by Ravana, Rama and Lakshmana went in search of her without any clue except that she could be found in the southern direction.

They reached Kishkindha and befriended the exiled Sugriva and crowned him king after vanquishing Vaali. King Sugriva swore allegiance and sent his Simian troops to help the Ikshavaku brothers to locate Janaki.

Rama had a gut feeling that Hanuman, the minister of Sugriva might find Sita for him. Therefore, he handed over his ring to Hanuman to give it to her on finding her.

The tale of Hanuman reaching the southern tip of the sub-continent and attempting to cross the vast ocean forms the main theme of the Sundara Kaandam.

Hanuman successfully crossed the ocean and found Sita after a deliberate search and convinced her of Rama’s presence and his intention to rescue her.

In the meanwhile, Sita spent agonising moments in Ravana’s Ashoka Vana amid demonesses, hoping against hope that Rama would find her and rescue her.

Rama, the Kshatriya prince, could have let go of Sita after the abduction.

Similarly, Sita could have executed her oft contemplated suicidal thoughts during her crisis.

All the same, the estranged couple did not give up hope of finding each other, because they were guided by their love for and faith in each other.

It is this saga that holds a beacon of optimism and hope. It is this tale of love which fills people with confidence to overcome all the obstacles on their way to success.

The adventures of Hanuman described in the ‘Sundara Kaandam’ is a representation of many human virtues such as courage, devotion to one’s master, confidence and, most of all, the enduring factor of love that bonded the couple, despite the lack of any chance of finding each other in the given circumstances, time and place.

It’s a psychological belief that people will overcome their personal problems when they read the ‘Sundara Kaandam.

This tale emphasises the fact that if one’s life is guided by Truth, genuine love and firm faith, no obstacle can prove to be insurmountable!

Trust Triumphs

It is not enough if we love and cherish our relationship when we are on velvet. It is important for us to have faith in our friend, spouse, children, siblings, in-laws as the case may be during times of doubt and crisis.

Every relationship will have phases of ups and downs it is during these ebbs and tides, negative feelings of jealousy, one-upmanship, hatred and incompatibility set in. It is up to us to overcome these feelings and smoothen out the relationship.

This cannot be done in a day. It requires careful nurturing and intense quality time spent in each others company highlighting each other’s characteristic traits. A complete understanding of the other person and the ability to accept that person with unconditional love is of great esse- nce here. Once that state is arrived, at no amount no back biting, gossip or misdirection can affect a relationship.

An episode from the story of Shiva and Parvathi can illustrate this point perfectly.

When Parvathi came of marriageable age, the celestial sage Narada suggested that Shiva would make an ideal husband for her. At that time Shiva was in a deep state of penance.

Nevertheless Parvathi decided to woo him through her rigorous penance and prayer.

Time flit past. Shiva noticed the unswerving perseverance of Parvathi. He decided to test the love and devotion of his spouse and appeared as a disheveled tramp in front of the lovely maiden.

Then he dissuaded her from enticing Shiva into marriage. He was the personification of uncouthness and indecency which reflected in his rude and unbecoming behaviour.

He put Shiva in bad light to dissuade Parvathi from considering him as her spouse.

Parvathi was disgusted with the tramp but chose to remain silent before ticking off the vagrant effectively. Shiva was pleased with her steadfastness and her implicit trust in him. Parvathi had proven her love beyond doubt. Shiva married her.

This story highlights the unwavering trust that Parvathi had placed on her chosen lord. No amount of brainwash to the contrary effect could make her stray from her belief.  Besides, she did not attach any importance to the materialistic or social aspects of life. Her courtship period was a rigorous one riddled with uncertainties and hardship but true love triumphed in the end.

If this tale can have an impact on our lives we can certainly refresh the strained rapports with our loved ones and fuse it with a new lease of life to make it worthwhile.