This is the forward to the Commentary on Vemana’s Verses:
Who is Vemana?
Vemana was, basically, a social reformer. He wanted to reach the rock bottom of truth, stripping off all the misleading arguments, beliefs, faiths and taboos. He believed that when the stark truth of reality uncoloured by any ‘ism’ flashed before the mind of the person like lightning, the mind-set of the person would definitely change, for truth is one and no one can go against the spirit of truth. He thought that ‘truth could be used as the only instrument for reformation.’ He was one of those hoards of seekers of truth who believed in the unlimited efficacy of a truthful statement. In more than one sense, he was a powerful crusader for reforming the society.
What was Vemana’s Concern?
His main concern was the man on the street: the unlettered person with an unpolluted mind. The analogies he used for elucidating the basic tenets of truth have been drawn from the experiences of the common man. That is why Vemana’s words have sunk deep into the minds of millions.
Vemana was perhaps the first thinker who recognized that the way of pointing the truth is more important than the truth itself. He knew the art of sweetening the bitter truth where necessary and transforming it into a sweetened pill. Yet he was strident in his criticism.
He never spared anyone. He was a hater of hypocrisy. His poems are the sharpest darts that pierced through the core of hypocritical behaviour. That is why the followers of truth are never offended by his words. Apparently, he may sound caustic, but his true intention is to reform the society, to evolve a social revolution for the benefit of human kind.
Vemana Lost and Found
The pity is that time has woven innumerable cobwebs around Vemana’s personality and real intentions. This has given enough scope for many to misinterpret Vemana and also make every attempt to bury his real meaning fathoms deep and not allow his message to reach the real target, the unlettered man.
The startling thing is again the work of time that has demolished all the cobwebs thereby the bright sun of Vemana’s thought has again shone splendidly in the firmament of the intellectual thought. The hypocrites for a very long time out rightly rejected Vemana and did not care to go to the depth of the meaning of his statements for the reason that his statements debunk their mask of pretensions.
Vemana’s Mastery of Content and Style
Now there is a kind of awareness among people that Vemana’s style of putting things is definitely singular and unique and inimitable. He trod a new path. It is this style that has offended many and made many his enemies. And at once it is this style that has endeared him to millions. So in the case of Vemana’s verses the form and the content are equally important. It is not only the message that has brought glory to the verses but also the style of putting it.
The significant aspect of conveying his message lies in using the rhetorical question which itself suggests the answer. Why does he use this method? Perhaps he must have found it to be the best instrument to churn the psyche of the people so that a process of thinking begins so as to see and accept the ultimate truth.
What is the relevance of Vemana today?
The basic instincts of man are the same throughout the world. All laugh in the same way; all weep in the same way; joys move people in the same way; sorrows crush people in the same way. So Vemana must have thought any reformation of man is possible by appealing to the cardinal virtues that govern this universe.
Jesus Christ used love; Socrates used reasoning; Buddha used dharma and goodness. These are nothing but core virtues. When a reference is made to basic human values for the purpose of reformation the words carry the tone and tenor of universality.
The Universal Message of Vemana’s Verses
In this sense, it must be accepted beyond any shade of controversy or any argument of contradiction that Vemana’s poems carry a universal message and hence they are for all seasons. And so neither place nor time nor circumstances can limit the permeating quality of his verses.
The pedestal of glory that was once denied by time was once again bestowed on him as in the case of Socrates, Jesus and others.