The Blessedness Of Peace

November 27, 2009

Verses of Vemana – 69

santame janulanu jayamu nondinchunu
santamunane guruni jaadateluyu
santabhavamahima jarchimpalemaya
viswadhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: The great musician-saint Tyagaraja sings in Telugu: ‘Santamu leka saukhyamu ledu saarasa dala nayana, Daantunikaina vedantunikaina[1]…’ Without peace, there is no happiness. One may be an ascetic, a knower of the Vedas, have all the material comforts of a family, wealth and food, be a master of the sastras, perform all the scriptural injunctions, become famous as a devotee of the Lord yet peace of mind may still elude him. Such is the blessedness of peace! Vemana says that a peaceful man gains victory in any situation. The guru is known through peace alone. In truth, no tongue can describe the glories of peace.

[1] ‘Santamu leka saukhyamu ledu saarasa dala nayana, Daantunikaina vedantunikaina,daara sutulu dhana dhaanyamulundina, Saareku japa tapa sampada galgina, Aagama sastramulanniyu jadivina, Baaguga sakala hrud bhaavamu delisina, Yaagaadi karmamulanniyu jesina, Bhaagavatulanuchu baaguga peraina, Rajaadhi raja sri raaghava, Tyagaraja vinuta saadhu rakshaka tanakupa’


Charity is a Cardinal Virtue

November 20, 2009

Verses of Vemana – 68

sudhi dhrustileka sukrunantativadu
pattaleka manasu paravidichi
kannupova bidapa gaki chandambuna
viswadhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: The Gita mentions twenty six ennobling qualities[1], attributes of the soul. Charity is the fourth of these cardinal virtues.Charity or almsgiving is meritorious. It cleanses the heart and restores it to its native purity.

India’s glorious epics are filled with men who were epitomes of generosity. One such noble soul is the great demon king Bali. Lord Vishnu comes to him as a midget, Vamana, asking for three paces of land in alms. Bali agreed. Sukracharya, Mahabali’s guru, realized the midget was none other than Lord Vishnu and warned Mahabali. But Bali stood by him word. As he took the earthen pot and prepared to grant the request by pouring water on the palm of Vamana to signify the donation Sukracharya took the form of a bee and blocked its snout. Lord Vishnu, the all-knowing, cleared the snout using a blade of sacred grass that blinded Sukracharya in one eye.

Vemana says that Sukracharya’s blind eye reminds one of the crows which is blind in one eye[2]. A fit reminder to one who is not openhanded!

[1] Chapter XVI, 1-3

[2] Vemana perhaps alludes to the story of Kakasura mentioned in the Ramayana.

The Company We Keep

November 20, 2009

Verses of Vemana – 67

kanulupovuvadu kallupoyenavadu
ubhayularayagudi yundunatlu
peda peda guudi penagoniyundunu
viswadhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: The human magnet is, in one sense, diametrically opposed to the ordinary magnet. While in the latter like poles repel, in the former like-minded attract one another. Good draws good and evil, evil. Vemana says that this is similar to the blind associating with the blind, the lame with the lame and the poor with the poor. The underlying message is that if one is willing to change oneself, all one has to do is to change one’s company: the company of men and more importantly the company of thoughts. It is that simple.

Work is Worship

October 27, 2009

The general view is that work is done in the office, the factory or the fields and worship is done in a temple or a church or a mosque. The feeling is that we work to earn money and we worship to get the blessings of God. However, the proverb ‘Work is Worship’ combines the idea of work and worship.

Work, the dictionary says, refers to physical or mental effort spent to produce or accomplish something. And the word ‘worship’ comes from the old English word ‘worth-ship’, which means giving worth to something.

So when the wise ones said ‘work is worship’, they meant doing what we do with the sense of worthiness or respect. When we understand that all work – big or small – is valuable and do it with reverence, then our work becomes worship. Work is worship, thus, speaks about the right attitude towards work.

All great people accomplished noble deeds, discovered new things, invented new products only because of their right attitude towards work. Edison, for example, held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions. All these were possible because of his worshipful attitude towards his work.

The mother at home works with the same attitude. Whether it is sweeping or cleaning the utensils or preparing food, she does it with love and care. Cooking, cleaning, sweeping may be lowly tasks but the mother with her worshipful outlook towards work changes daily chores into joyful jobs.

In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas performed a grand ceremony called ‘Rajasuya Yaga’. Kings were invited from all over the country to attend the function. Each member of the Pandava family was assigned some work. Lord Krishna was given the task of washing the feet of the guests who came to the ceremony. He, the great Lord Himself, washed the feet of the guests with His own hands and set a perfect example.

Thus, it becomes clear that work done with the sense of worthiness or respect is worship.

On Conquering Cruelty

October 16, 2009

Verses of Vemana – 66

champagudadetti jantuvunai
champavalayu loka satrugunamu
telukondi gotta delemicheyura
viswadhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: Vemana advocates against cruelty towards the dumb creatures. He speaks about the need to cultivate compassion. He says that we should give up the quality of violence in all its forms and specially killing of animals. We should rather slay the deadly beasts of ignorance roaming in the jungles of our mind[1]. A scorpion whose telson is removed, of what harm will it be? Similarly, we should cut out the stinger of evil nature in us and foster good behaviour. Else, it will be like the story of the Frog and the Scorpion.

[1] Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1989), p. 57

The Plague of Perfidy

October 16, 2009

Verses of Vemana – 65

cherukulona baini cheddagunambunna
tipiveyakunna dinaga bosaga
dantipurapu druhi yatadetlundura
viswadhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: Vemana presents in this verse a bane as hazardous to the nation as is cancer to the body: treason. He says that the traitor in one’s kingdom, on discovery, should immediately be removed, just as the outer bark of the sugarcane is to be peeled to eat it. Else, the consequences will be grave.

What is true of a nation is true of an organization. It ‘can survive its fools, but it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy outside is less formidable, for he is known and carries out his plans openly. But the traitor in an organization moves freely and works secretly to undermine its pillars. He infects the administration so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague[1].’

[1] Paraphrase of Marcus Tullius Cicero words on treason.

The Seer

October 16, 2009

Verses of Vemana – 64

chimakutteneni chivukanipinchunu
chima yenta.dani shrusti yenta
chimavanti vani shrustilonerugumu
visdhabhirama vinura vema

Commentary: Vemana speaks about the wonder that is creation. Consider, how small the ant is! Yet, when it bites[1], it hurts badly. Everything, from the infinitesimal amoeba to the inestimable cosmos, has a role to play in the divine schema. The ignorant, himself out of tune with God’s beautiful plan, fails to understand the significance of this and shows scant respect to life. The ‘seer’, quite like the lover, sees ‘Him’ everywhere. In an ant as well as in an anteater!

[1] There are 810,000 web pages on the bite of the tiny ant!