Five centuries ago, a warrior from the Nayaka clan, a scion of the Kaginele town in Karnataka observed the society around him and did not quite like what he saw. He did not approve of the inequalities created by the caste system in our society. He was Kanakadasa, the devotee of Lord Krishna who made the lord turn towards him. It is said that he was forbidden from entering the temple premises in Udupi as he was born of a lower caste so he sadly made his way to the backyard of the temple and stood against the central section of the back wall where he deemed the lord to be standing. Then he sang soulfully in praise of the lord. Apparently, the Lord was pleased for he turned around in his idol form. Not only that, but the Lord also generated a hole in the wall to enable his favourite devotee to have a look at him from the back of the temple. The people in power and the temple authorities realised the purity of his devotion and have ever since maintained the ‘Kindi’ or the window in the temple. The idol remains that way till date.
Kanakadasa was a unique teacher who did not run a school nor prescribe books to be read because he understood that many people around him were illiterates or were very busy with their daily business. Therefore, he chose to compose simple lyrics bearing social and spiritual messages in the local language Kannada and sing it tunefully to attract the attention of the people around him. The homilies presented in the vernacular tongue helped people to reflect and ruminate on the vagaries of life. The lyrics enabled people to evaluate themselves morally and socially. They were able to see the connection between Indian mythology and its relevance to daily life.
The warrior-turned-saint poet walked his talk both literally and metaphorically. He put his heart and soul into what he thought was universally appropriate. The fact that we look up to him through his verses to resolve our problems in this digital age speaks in volumes about the multidimensional social reformer who made a difference to the world, just by walking his talk!
We live in times where begging is a sign of abject poverty or perhaps laziness coupled with lack of self respect. It is generally looked upon as the last resort of an individual who possibly refuses to lead a procreative life.
Yet going on Bhikshatana or a tour of begging was a part of student life and that of the men who belonged to the Brahmana sect of the ancient Indian society. A little trip down our traditional society will reveal that the practice finds its roots in the Varnashrama system that was propounded and followed during Vedic age.
Those were times when people contributed to society in which they lived on the basis of their physical and mental capabilities. The students and Brahmins who expended their time in rites and rituals, research, learning and disseminating knowledge, had little time to take care of the daily logistics of life. Hence, society took it upon itself to sustain such members in their community as and when their help was sought.
Thus, Bhikshatana or seeking of alms came into practice. The seekers of alms would arrive at the doorsteps of their potential donors and call out loudly and humbly for their requirement. The charitable household would take stock of their situation and then the lady of the house would give away one or two items. Usually it would be some food grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts or a length of cloth according to their financial strength.
Rarely though, there were times when the seekers of alms would receive very little or face rejection or derision from the public in general. This experience taught the seekers to accept discourteous or negative response without feeling offended or judgmental. They learned the valuable lesson of humility in the practical way.
Moreover they imbibed the value of curtailing the impulse to save up or hoard for a future time. In other words, Bhikshatana served as soup for the soul to evolve as a mature personality.
Indian culture introduced and included the practice of Bhikshatana variously, with the intent of inducing charitable and humble traits in our society.
Sometimes, we end up saying or doing tactless things with the best of intentions in mind. Our idea boomerangs and shows us in bad light. A little introspection will reveal that lack of right approach and choice of wrong words land us in such unpleasant situations.
The plight of sage Jaabali is one such as recorded in the Ramayana. When prince Bharata knew that his mother Kaikeyi was the architect of the twin catastrophe that struck Ayodhya, he decided to go to the forest and impress upon Rama to return from exile.
An entourage of family, well-wishers and ministers followed him. Repeated requests by Bharata pleading Rama to return were turned down by the Ikshavaku prince.
At that point of time, Jaabaali, an advisor in the court of Ayodhya, took it upon himself to convince Rama. He pointed out that it would amount to folly if the prince turned down the kingdom, especially in the new scenario when Kaikeyi and Bharata wanted him to assume throne. When Rama refused to breach his promise, Jaabaali he discounted the value of the promise of Rama in the altered circumstances.
Jaabaali felt emboldened by the calm attitude of the exiled prince and started elucidating his point with a very insensitive example. He said that people perform Shraaddha for their forefathers and feed Brahmins in the belief of satiating their dead. If such a practice had any genuine value attached to it, one could also perform Shraaddha to people going away on a long journey and then there would be no need for them to eat on their way.
When Jaabaali tried to ply his point using such tactless examples, he ended up enraging Rama. Raghava who was unperturbed when his crowning ceremony was cancelled and sent on exile, was enraged by the insinuations of Jaabaali. Rama, who was determined to redeem his promise to his father, actually faulted his sire for having entertained an atheist and foolhardy advisor like Jabaali in his court.
Jaabaali confessed that he had resorted to nihilistic ways in the hope of changing Raghava’s mind following which he sought the latter’s forgiveness.
Path of endearment
S RADHA PRATHI
The anxious people are not only the ones in trouble but also the ones who cause anxiety to others. So in other words the two groups of people though seemingly different from each other like chalk and cheese actually go through the same emotions albeit for different reasons. Apparently, falsehood, dishonesty, misplaced passion and rage, envy and forgetfulness of essential human values like compassion and brotherhood happen to be the main reasons for such a scenario.
The Bhagvad Gita records a criteria of a lovable person as told by Krishna to Arjuna. Krishna avers that a person who does not hate, envy, compare himself with others, holds others responsible for his fate and feels apprehensive about doing the right thing all the time is very dear to him.
Yudhishtira, the eldest Pandava prince in the Mahabharata, fits the definition of Krishna perfectly. His truthful and tranquil temperament fetched him many brownie points even among his rivals. The fact that he was called Ajatashatru – a person to whom the enemy is yet to be born – speaks in volumes about his character. Duryodhana, who resented Yudhishtira for being the first born and claimant to the throne, did not hate him as much as he detested Bhima or Arjuna. The eldest Pandava chose to overlook the attempts of murder made on him and his brothers when setting the house of lac on fire. Draupadi, the wronged wife of the Pandavas, had to constantly goad Yudhishtira to not forget the ignominy rendered unto her, because she knew that, left to himself, Yudhishtira would abstain from war.
On the day of the Great War, Yudhishtira was actually the first person who was ready to lay down his arms and call a truce. Krishna zeroed in on the straightforward royal to play his psychological mind game against Drona, because, he knew that the great Guru would validate and believe only the words of Yudhishtira when he would be appraised of his son Ashwaththama’s death.
Learning from the eldest Pandava who led a life with maturity and dignity can help us align ourselves towards path of endearment prescribed by Krishna.
“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day” said Thoreau. I wondered whether the philosopher would make such statements if the time machine relocated him in Namma Bengaluru today. With the ongoing building boom and transport in progress, it is impossible to walk on our streets unless one is preparing for an obstacle race! One could always walk in a park, but there are so few and eventually it encourages more talking than walking.
So, I decided to walk on my terrace. The silver linings were multiple. I did not have to spruce up or look for company besides I did not have to hurry home quickly in case of a sudden shower or an emergency.
So, the following morning, well before the crack of dawn, I splashed some water on the face and passed a comb through my hair and climbed the stairs. The open space seemed to welcome me with dim lighting crisscrossing from the tall buildings and streets alongside. The almost moist fresh air stung my lungs.
Within no time I felt like the “Solitary Reaper” albeit in altered situation and sizes till the dark grey skies gave way to a deep blue as sunlight seemed to be seeping through unnoticed crevices in the skies. Flocks of birds flew across, as the hidden Koel cooed away relentlessly. The silhouettes of the trees revealed their varied verdant hues as they gently allowed daylight pass through them. As the skies grew into a lighter shade, the street dogs shook themselves ready to face another day in their canine life.
Even as the skies brightened and the smells and the sounds of the street came alive, the curtains came down on the magic of morning. It was time to exit from the theatre of the universe and step into the reality of everyday life.
As I looked down upon the mounds of debris and building material stacked along the street, the paperboy zoomed round the corner and tossed the daily news up multiple bulls’ eyes without a single miss. The flower seller and the Soppu boy who could not bear to be left behind made an appearance by announcing their wares even as the milkman tinkled into the scenario. Soon fitness freaks flocked from different directions and hurried along to burn their calories as if in competition with the dog walkers who strained at the leashes. The pious ones who helped themselves furtively to flowers from our garden were oblivious to the fact that they were being watched from above.
As I descended the stairs reluctantly, I looked up at the now azure firmament and made a silent promise to keep my date every single day to receive my daily dose of “blessing”.
Published on 18th June 2018 in the Oasis Column of Deccan Herald
A lot of parents, teachers and team leaders find that they are inadequate when it comes to sorting out rivalry amongst their children, students and teammates respectively. Damages caused by the lack of grace and niceties can actually rankle the mind, leaving long term hurt or irreversible scars. Hence it is of paramount importance for people to exercise infinite patience and profound maturity to handle such situations to the healing point.
A story from the Bhagavatham can be used as a reference point to resolve similar problems in the present age. King Uttanapada had two wives called Suneethi and Suruchi, who had a son each who were called Dhruva and Uttama respectively. The king’s favouritism encouraged Suruchi to cherish the fond hope that her son Uttama would ascend the throne one day despite the presence of the crown prince Dhruva. This confidence also braced up Suruchi to look down upon the legitimate queen mother. One day, the five year old Dhruva saw his little half brother Uttama seated on the lap of their father Uttanapada. The child in him craved to climb on to his father’s lap. Even as he tried to do so, he was reprimanded sharply by his step mother. Suruchi snapped at him saying, “Only God can bestow you with what you want to do.” The confused lad ran to his mother to seek comfort. Suneethi knew that she was powerless to direct the king to do her bidding as he was besotted with Suruchi. At the same time she was mature. She did not want to influence the young mind negatively by telling him about the lopsided equations in her marital relationship. Since Dhruva was persistent, Suneethi worked around the words of Suruchi to advantage. She told Dhruva that there was no greater power than God in the universe. If the supreme power was appealed to with sincere devotion, everything would become possible. Dhruva was consoled and convinced. He went out to seek God. He was initiated by the celestial sage Narada and performed a severe penance. In fact, he not only gained his father’s affections and the kingdom but also went on to become one of the greatest Bhagavathas ever. Suneethi managed to steer her son out of a life of discontent, disappointment and directing him towards eternal glory!
Misunderstandings can cause rifts in relationships. These days such cases are on a prolific rise because the differences and the distance between the virtual world and the real world is closing in. People are losing track of the difference between the two, mistaking one for the other. While the benefits of such development are unarguable so are the drawbacks.
An ancient saying goes thus, “One must not believe anything that hears about or sees perchance. On the other hand one should verify the matter for truth even if the incident happens right in front of our eyes.” Truer words could not have been spoken.
It is during these times one will do well to ruminate on the story of the descent of the divine river Ganga from the heavens. King Sagara performed an Ashwamedha Yajna. Towards the end of the ritual, the ceremonial white horse was lost. Indra, the lord of the heavens wanted to abort king Sagara’s endeavour. Hence he stole the horse and led it to the nether world and tied it near the hermitage of sage Kapila who was deeply engrossed in penance. Since the Yajna could not be concluded without the animal, Sagara sent his 60,000 sons in search of the horse. They scourged the earth and then made their way into the nether world. There they found the sacred horse grazing casually. Alongside they sighted sage Kapila in profound penance.
The princes deemed the sage to be the horse thief for the lack of the knowledge of the truth. They thought it fit to disturb the sage and berate him soundly for his misdeed. The sage, who was completely unaware of what had transpired, was very angry with the arrogant princes who dared to accuse him wrongly and belittle him unnecessarily. He used the power of his penance and reduced them to ashes within moments.
It is obvious that both the parties involved in this unfortunate incident acted on the basis of what they considered to be true and not on the basis of what was really true. They allowed their ego and anger to rule over them. If they had used a little patience and some discretion, they could have completely avoided the debacle.