Saturday, August 24, 2019

Subashita Sunday Episode 3: Vemana, Kalidasa and Vedanta

We’re back again with Episode 3 of the Subhāṣita Sunday on The Dharma Dispatch. Like always, we have curated a handpicked collection of articles drawn from the best and the most prized annals of Bharatiya tradition.

Happy reading!


The Futility of Leading Life Randomly


It appears that you can never run out of Bhartruhari. This verse from the Vairagya Shatakam is at once poignant and biting in its irony as it describes the absolute futility of leading a life randomly, i.e. sleepwalking through life.  

नाभ्यस्ता प्रतिवादिवृन्ददमनी विद्या विनीतोचिता
खड्गाग्रैः करिकुम्भपीठदलनैर्नाकं न नीतं यशः।
कान्ताकोमलपल्लवाधररसः पीतो न चन्द्रोदये
तारुण्यं गतमेव निष्फलमहो शून्यालये दीपवत्॥

nābhyastā prativādivṛndadamanī vidyā vinītocitā
khaḍgāgraiḥ karikumbhapīṭhadalanairnākaṃ na nītaṃ yaśaḥ।
kāntākomalapallavādhararasaḥ pīto na candrodaye
tāruṇyaṃ gatameva niṣphalamaho śūnyālaye dīpavat॥

Neither did I acquire knowledge befitting modesty, which can silence a host of debaters, nor did I earn far-reaching fame by tearing through the temples of elephants with my sword. Enjoying the beautiful background of a moonlit night, neither did I kiss the soft lips of my beloved. And now my youth has slipped away without purpose, like a lamp burning in an empty house. (Translation by the talented B.N. Shashikiran)

The Innards of a Coward


In this edition, the 17th Century Telugu poet, philosopher and satirist, Vemana Mahakavi debuts on Subashita Sunday with a signature verse. Blazing luminaries like Bhartruhari, Sarvajna and Vemana are immortal for a fundamental reason: their poems are timeless and timely at the same time. Read and find out for yourself.

మేడి పండు చూడ మేలిమై యుండు
పొట్ట విప్పి చూడ పురుగులుండు |
పిఱికివాని మదిని బింకమీలాగురా
విశ్వదాభిరామ వినురవేమ ||

meḍi paṃḍu cūḍa melimai yuṃḍu
potta vippi cūḍa puruguluṃḍu |
pirikivāni madini biṃkamīlāgurā
viśvadābhirāma vinuravema ||

The skin and the furface of the fig fruit is smooth and shiny
Cut it open and we find worms inside |
Such is the arrogance in the mind of a coward
Listen O Vemana ||

Vemana could be talking about a worrying and vulgar feature of the present society, which has become more pronounced even as we speak: the ingrained trait of uncritically giving more importance to superficial appearances than the nobility that resides inside a person. The relentless assault on our senses from all directions and mediums like TV, Internet, and mobile devices has only made it worse.

Book Recommendation: India in Kalidasa


This landmark work of a true master, Acharya Bhagwat Saran Upadhyaya used to adorn the bookshelf of every college and university library and the homes of learned people in India. India in Kalidasa is an invaluable treasure-trove of almost everything related to the India of the Gupta Golden Age. The genius of Sri Upadhyaya lies in the fact that he has studied all the works of Kalidasa and unearthed this treasure for all of us. This one book is actually seven books within one book. It is sufficient for anybody to understand the following aspects of Kalidasa’s India in exhaustive detail:

  1. India’s Geography
  2. Polity and Governance
  3. Social Life
  4. Fine Arts
  5. Economic Life
  6. Education
  7. Religion and Philosophy

Acharya B.S. Upadhyaya worked on this volume with singleminded dedication from 1931 to 1947, the year of its publication. Just the list of source materials runs up to 33 pages. India in Kalidasa is also an encyclopaedia of India. Buy it. Read it. Most importantly, teach it to your children.  

A Vedanta Booklist   


The erudite and talented Ayurvedic doctor and scholar Dr. G.L. Krishna and Hari Ravikumar have compiled a lovely booklist for all aspirants of Vedanta and Indian philosophy. Here is how they describe it.

This is] a self-sufficient list of works that any sincere seeker of Vedānta must acquaint himself with—and understand in the light of his experience—if he wishes to reap the benefit of the ancient wisdom. The list is divided under four broad categories…

Read the whole thing!


That concludes Episode 3 of the Subashita Sunday. See you next week.

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