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Kathalaya: Bhajagovindam Stories‑3

Bha­jagovin­dam was com­posed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. In this com­po­si­tion, Adi Sankaracharya talks about the impor­tance of devo­tion to God and how it can make our lives hap­py and ful­fill­ing. In this series we would be explain­ing the mean­ing of each slo­ka through a sto­ry. This month we take the slo­ka where Adi Shankara explains how for many peo­ple in the soci­ety, their asso­ci­a­tions with fam­i­ly mem­bers depends on the amount of mon­ey they have. When one los­es all the mon­ey, no one seems to care for them.

Slo­ka 2:“यावद्वित्तोपार्जन सक्त- स्तावन्निज परिवारो रक्तः । पश्चाज्जीवति जर्जर देहे वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे ॥ ५॥ yaavad­vit­topaar­jana sak­ta­ha staa­van­ni­ja pari­vaaro rak­ta­ha pash­ca­j­jee­vati jar­jara dehe Vaar­taam kopi na prchchati geheTrans­la­tion As long as a man is capa­ble of earn­ing wealth, all depen­dent ones dis­play their attach­ment to him. Lat­er in life when he becomes infirm and inca­pable, no one even speaks to him.”

These vers­es , preg­nant with mean­ing, can be explained with a sto­ry from the Mahab­hara­ta and a very famous poem. This will help you under­stand the vers­es even before look­ing at the trans­la­tion. Yay­ati was the ances­tor of the Pan­davas and the father of King Puru. He was a very famous king and per­formed many yaj­nas and rit­u­als. He was mar­ried to Devayani and Sarmish­ta. Due to the curse giv­en by Devyani’s father Sukracharya, who is the Guru of the asur­as, Yay­ati lost his youth and sud­den­ly became an old man. How­ev­er, Sukracharya had men­tioned that Yay­ati could give his old age to some­one and regain his youth. Yay­ati was an ambi­tious king. He want­ed to enjoy many more plea­sures of the world. So he want­ed to regain his youth. He called his five sons and asked them one by one if any of them could take his old age. None of his sons was ready to agree to his request except Puru. Puru accept­ed Yayati’s old age. Yay­ati regained his youth and began to enjoy the plea­sures of the world. He enjoyed for a long time, until he real­ized its van­i­ty. Though his sons had enjoyed all the plea­sures giv­en by their father, none was ready to help when he became infirm.

Shankara, through these vers­es, wish­es to high­light the nature of our asso­ci­a­tions. Many peo­ple pay greater atten­tion to exter­nal beau­ty, mon­ey and fame before befriend­ing anoth­er.

ery few look beyond these exter­nal fac­tors to form an ever­last­ing bond and those are the ones that we real­ly val­ue all our life. As a potion, Shankara says that med­i­tat­ing on Govin­da, singing the praise of Govin­da, will help one dis­cov­er peace and a greater pur­pose to one’s life, even after one is embraced by old age and infir­mi­ty. A beau­ti­ful poem by Ella Wheel­er Wilcox res­onates with sim­i­lar thoughts: Laugh, and the world laughs with you: Weep, and you weep alone; For the sad old earth Must bor­row its mirth, It has trou­ble enough of its own.

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