Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Leaf, a Flower, a Fruit and a drop of Water

Many verses from Bhagavadgita are often quoted. In this often quoted verse from Chapter 9, the Lord says:

Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam, yo me Bhaktya prayachhati,
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnämi prayatätmanah.

The meaning of this verse is thought to be very simple; as simple as the verse itself is.  The Lord says: "Whoever offers me a Leaf, a Flower, a Fruit and a drop of Water, with great devotion, I accept it with all the dignity it deserves".  Then things are very simple.  Find a leaf that is available everywhere, at least now. Till the destruction of trees and vegetation reaches the next level.  And similarly a flower or fruit.  A drop of water as well though it is becoming increasingly difficult to find drops of pure and unadulterated water. And after finding them offer it to the Lord.  Lord has given us an excellent option.  He has suggested any of these; not all of them!  Well, let us offer all the four of them as they are available easily and quite inexpensive too.  Like the student who answered all the ten questions in the question paper and asked the examiner to value any five of them, as he was required to answer only five of them.  The Lord should have no complaints too; he can choose any one of them and accept it. And in return give us the deserved recognition.  When we donate (!) a tube light or a fan to the temple, we get our names painted on them so that the Lord does not get confused as to which devotee made the offering.  Then what about the offerings that Lord himself mentions so prominently in his own words in Bhagavadgita?

Did he also mention about Karma without aspiring for its fruits? Should these offerings be done without expecting any returns?  Is it not opposed to principles of natural justice?  Work without remuneration?  There was a very logical and systematic argument in an article opposing "Nishkama Karma".  There was a lengthy justification for banning Bhagavadgita because it was anti-worker and pro-capitalist.  To be compensated for the work done is a fundamental right of any worker.  To preach to work without remuneration is total exploitation.  There should not just be remuneration, but there should be adequate and reasonable returns or compensation.  With bonus thrown in as a deferred wage.  A very erudite interpretation which ought to be accepted in totality.

But the problem actually lies elsewhere.  When you are dealing with the Lord, it is not work for remuneration.  When a mother attends to the child, it is not work for her; it is an act of pure love!  She does it even if the child does not want it.  She considers it as a goal of her life.  When she does it, she does not expect any thing in return.  For her, the act itself is the ultimate reward. As Moslow's "Need Hierarchy Theory" says.  Work itself is the ultimate reward. Nothing more is required.  So also when the Lord and devotee are concerned.  A Lord who does not  need or want anything.  A devotee who desires to offer everything he has.

Those who want remuneration for the work done need not worry at all.  It is nature's rule that the wages of sin or saintly act are automatically disbursed and in just proportions.  The fruit of work done will never go waste; it will chase you and fall in your lap even if you do not want it!  The Lord only said; "Do Karma without aspiring for its fruits".  He never said that there are no fruits for any Karma.  He will give the resultant fruit even if the Karmi does not want it.  There is no escape from the fruits of Karma, whether good or bad.

But what leaf, flower, fruit or drop of water did the lord mean when he said "Patram Pushapam Phalam toyam...."?  Is it only an ordinary leaf or fruit or flower or water drop?  Or was there any deeper meaning to it?  It appears so as many scholars opine. As the Lord himself says in the same Bhagavadgita, there is reference to some leaves of a tree therein.  "Oordhwa moolam Adhah shaakha, Ashwatham praturavyavam, Chandamsi yasya Parnaani, Yastam veda sa vedavit".  The Lord refers to a big Ashwatha tree with roots upwards and branches spread out at the bottom.  The verses of the Vedas are its leaves.  These are the leaves the Lord is referring to.  Someone capable of learning and reciting these verses ought to do it and those are the leaves the Lord accepts. Not any ordinary leaf from an ordinary tree.

What are the flowers the Lord mentions here?  "Ahimsa pratham pushpam, Pushpam indriya nigraha, Sarvabhoota daya pushpam, Kshama pushpam visheshataha, Gnana pushpam Tapah pushpam Dhyana pushpam thataivacha, Satyam ashtavidham pushpam Vishnoh preetikaram bhavet".  The Lord is referring to eight flowers: Non-violence, control of senses, compassion to all living beings, tolerance or patience, knowledge, austerity, contemplative meditation and truth.  These are the eight flowers that the Lord refers to and not any other flower from a bush or tree.

What is the fruit that is to be offered to the Lord?  He has advised to do one's deeds without desiring the fruits of those deeds. But the fruits do chase the doer; the deeds never lapse without yielding fruits.  This fruit, "The Karma Phala" is the fruit the Lord mentions to be offered with all love and devotion.

That brings us to the "Drop of Water".  A righteous soul travels the length of his or her life (his or her refers to the body probably, for soul is neither he nor she) doing this "Nishkama Karma".  And as the end approaches, the fearless soul is ready to welcome the death of the mortal body with open hands.  The tears of love towards the Lord and the final drop of water from the eye, not in sorrow but in joyful  acknowledgement of the love showered by the Lord all along one's life is the water drop the Lord mentions.

These are the leaves, flowers, fruit and drop of water the Lord probably means.  But what about those who are unable to meet all these in their lives when the demands of daily life and the struggles to just live through are hard enough?   One can fondly ask, as John Milton says, "Doth God expect day labor light denied?"  Everyone may not be capable of these deeds. The Lord believes is equity; equal treatment of equals.  A person capable of donating 1000 Rupees for a good cause should not give 100 Rupees.  That would be miserly behavior.  A person capable of  donating 100 Rupees should not donate 1000 rupees by borrowing the difference.  That would be self-destruction.  Each one to his capacity.  Nothing more or nothing less.  The operative word in the verse is "...Yo me Bhaktya.....".  What is difficult is to find the required level of Bhakti to accompany the offerings.  The Lord is interested in the envelope, not the contents!  Again, as John Milton says, "They also serve who only stand and wait".

A mother treats her children equally. She gives 4 Rotis to a 18-year old son. 3 Rotis to a 12-year old. Only one Roti to a five year old.  Did she discriminate among them?  Each one as per his need.  That is the essence of equality.  So also in the case of flower, leaf or fruit. Nishkama Karma is of equal value even if offered in different quantities or dimensions by different people. He knows. He measures. He dispenses.  That is the ultimate faith! 


  1. Excellent. I fonly we understand and act on the principles,we can all lead a contented life I suppose!.i admire your panditya Kesha Murthy.

    Rahul Aradhya.

  2. karmanye wadhikarasye is most misunderstood verse.God does not tell dont expect fruit for the deeds but only asks not to have no attachment about the results .And coming to patram pushpam it is only God who can tell to bring only patram pushpam palam toyam and not any employer .God has given everything and budhi who can ask us to not to expect have attachment for results .It does not apply to all employers .They cannot tell workers what is said in is God who saya if you bring only leaf >>>> all that and it is true even we dont give anything God takes care of all.These are sayings by Lord Krishna to drag people to paramarthi and have tyaga manobhava

  3. I really enjoyed this piece. Looking forward to more such posts on interpretation of our Vedic texts. I have often wondered the meaning of " karmanye..." and if it is still applicable in this age.

  4. Brilliant post, Appa.

  5. Thanx for a brilliant post. May you be blessed.

  6. Very well explained sir. I will appreciate if some expalnations of mantras which we simply recite on daily basis is also given-Ravikanthan V.

  7. Very nice post.I like it.

    R Jagannathan