Maharshi Bhartruhari is a treasure for reason #2934889237475327462864022389723. There’s no topic he touches and doesn’t turn to glimmering gold. Always resplendent. Always invaluable. Our selection for this week is a verse that’s akin to a tight slap whose imprint remains indelible forever. Here he talks about the sorts of people that form the close circle of a king or ruler. The best part of this verse is that Bhartruhari befitting his stature as a Rishi, addresses himself with the Royal “We” instead of “I.”
न नटा न विटा न गायका
नृपसद्मनि नाम के वयं
स्तनभारानमिता न योषितः॥
na naṭā na viṭā na gāyakā
nṛpasadmani nāma ke vayaṃ
stanabhārānamitā na yoṣitaḥ॥
We are not an actor, nor a flatterer, no
Nor a scheming scoundrel intent on backstabbing others
What is Our utility in a royal court?
Alas! We are not even an attractive girl endowed with ample breasts.
We’re unsure whether even the name of the colossus Edward Gibbon is even mentioned in our school and college textbooks. Actually we would be surprised if he was mentioned let alone his including his work as prescribed reading. Gibbon is still renowned for his masterly volumes on the Decline and the Fall of the Roman Empire. However, not too long ago, Gibbon was made mandatory reading for anybody interested in developing mastery over English prose.
The following is an extract from a little-known long form essay titled Essay on the Study of Literature.
“The History of Empires is the history of human misery… alas! man intrudes all too often into the scholar’s cabinet… the handsome thing was to study and admire the ancients; our age thinks it easier to ignore and despise them… The warrior read the ancients in his tent. The statesman studied them in his cabinet.
Today’s Wits have understood how much they could gain by having ignorant readers. So they have heaped contempt on the ancients and on those who still study them.”
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya is another towering eminence of the freedom struggle eclipsed by the Rahu-Ketu duo named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Not only was he a fine Sanskrit scholar who held his own against the galaxy of traditional Sanskrit Vidwans all over India, he also tirelessly toured Bharatavarsha awakening and reawakening the Sanatana society with his speeches and writing. The establishment of the extraordinary Benares Hindu University is undoubtedly his greatest accomplishment. The obstacle-laden journey of the hardships he endured in the process and the final realization of his Sankalpa in itself makes for a thrilling topic for a good movie or documentary. It’s another matter that the Hinduer-than-thou filmmakers currently in circulation resemble the Natas and Vitas of Bhartruhari.
At any rate, this is an excerpt from the prospectus of the “Benares Hindu University Scheme” that Pandit Malviya published in July 1911. This was one of the milestones, coming after a full seven years from the first meeting at the “Mint House” in Benares, presided by the Maharaja of Benares. The direct simplicity of the language is also the secret of its lucidity.
“The Vedas have more than antiquarian value for Hindus. They are the primary source of their religion. And it is a matter of reproach to the Hindus, that while excellent provision is made for the study and elucidation of the Vedas in Germany and America, there is not one single first-rate institution in this country for the proper study of these sacred books…This, if done, will complete the provision for the higher study of Sanskrit literature at Kashi, the ancient seat of ancient learning.
Every nation cherishes its own religion. The Hindus are no exception to this rule…probably no other people on earth are more deeply attached to their religion than the Hindus. Sir Herbert Risely observed in his report on the Census of 1907 that, “Hinduism with its 207 million votaries is the religion of India.” The importance of providing for the education of the teachers of a religion so ancient, so widespread and so deep-rooted…in its followers, is quite obvious. If no satisfactory provision is made to properly educate men for this noble calling, ill-educated or uneducated and incompetent men must largely fill it. This can only mean injury to the cause of religion and loss to the community…The old system which supplied teachers of religion has…died out. It has not yet been replaced by modern organisations to train such teachers.”
The modern Rishi, Sri D.V. Gundappa returns to The Subashita Sunday with another profound verse on the difficulty of withdrawing oneself from the vicissitudes and tumults of an ever-mischievous mind. DVG taunts, mocks, and finally informs and enlightens. This verse is akin to a Sadhana-Sopana: a step in one’s spiritual quest or practice.
ಮನೆಯ ತೊರೆದೋಡಲೇಂ ವನಗುಹೆಯ ಸಾರಲೇಂ ।
ತನುವನುಗ್ರವ್ರತಗಳಿಂದ ದಂಡಿಸಲೇಂ ।।
ಬಿನದಗಳನರಸಿ ನೀನೂರೂರೊಳಲೆದೊಡೇಂ ।
ಮನವ ತೊರೆದಿರಲಹುದೆ ಮಂಕುತಿಮ್ಮ ।।
maneya toredoḍaleṃ vanaguheya sāraleṃ ।
tanuvanugravratagaḻiṃda daṃḍisaleṃ ।।
binadagaḻanarasi nīnūrūroḻaledaḍeṃ ।
manava torediralahude maṃkutimma ।।
Of what use is it if you leave your home and go to a forest-cave?
Of what use is it if you punish your body with severe austerities?
Of what use is it if you wander from place to place seeking diversion?
Can you withdraw from your own mind? – Mankutimma
That concludes Episode 4 of the Subashita Sunday. See you next week.