Saturday, March 15, 2014

Poisonous Tree; Fruits of Nectar

"Desire is the root cause of all evil" or "Suffering comes from desire" is a popular quote often made, taken from Gautama Buddha's teachings.  When we were taught this several decades ago at school, it was accepted without any questions asked.  As we grew up, with more and more desires flooding into our lives, desire became an integral part of our existence.  Renouncing the world, for the sake of reserving a better seat in the next one, is indeed a difficult choice.  All the more so when nobody has confirmed the definite existence of the next world.  All those who went to check this ultimate truth have either chosen to stay there or are still searching for it.  We also know the stories of renouncers who returned to earthly ways much before their pursuit of the next world reached the climax.  They probably decided to try out the adage "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush". Many streams of philosophy teach non-attachment and lay stress on the miseries brought on us by the life in this world.  There are some who declare that there is no other world and the one we live in is the ultimate truth.  Chaarvaks prescribe emphatically to borrow and enjoy (Runam krutva Ghrutam pibet - meaning drink (not just eat!) ghee even with borrowed money).  "Where is the question of returning of a dead body that is burnt to ashes?", they ask.  At some stage or the other, everyone feels the evil side of human life.

"Samsara" is a word that encompasses everything we come across in our lives; family life, earthly pleasures, wealth etc.  It is often said that this samsara is a poisonous tree and anything that comes from it can only be venomous and harmful. Is this really true?  Then what about all the pleasures that we enjoy during our life time?  The poison theory holds that though there are indeed some pleasures, ultimately they all end up in pain.  Is there nothing worthwhile that this tree offers us?  The answer is yes.  It is indeed a poisonous tree, but it yields two fruits of nectar.

The pleasure derived by exploring the literary treasure is the first fruit of nectar from the poisonous tree.   The accumulated knowledge stored in these literary works is like a fruit salad and their collective wisdom is the bowl of nectar.  Not all literature can be classified as fruit-like.  Some of the literature could be even more poisonous than the tree itself.  The literary works are to be segregated and those with lasting pleasures and taking the mind to a higher plane are to be identified.  How to identify such works could be the next question.  One's own experience and time-tested stature of the works could be the two guides in such efforts.  A good literary work is one which widen our horizons each time we dwell on it; more and more inner meanings open before us. Reading and contemplating on such literary works does indeed bestow the effect of nectar on us.  The delight of such an exercise is further enhanced when the knowledge gained is discussed and shared with like minded people. It is a matter of experience that such literary works have many dimensions; discussing with those well versed in such fields provides better insight into their content and application.

The word "Kaavyaamruta" used for this fruit is not just confined to written words only.  It is a collective expression for other forms of fine arts like music, dance, sculpture, painting etc.  "Creative arts" could sum up the meaning of kaavyaamruta. Here again the test of a good work would be the same; the ones that widen the horizons each time we dwell on them.

We meet thousands of persons during the course of our lives.  Naturally, each one is interested in his own issues.  There is hardly any time left for thinking of welfare of others.  Yet, we find some rare people who are devoted to the welfare of others, often at their own expense.  These are the blessed ones and any time spent interacting with them leaves us with a sense of elation.  This is all the more evident when compared with some others, interaction with whom leaves us always with a sense of disgust.  A wise man has to segregate the people around him into these two groups and attempt to spend more time with the blessed ones.  They stand out in a crowd and attract others without any apparent effort.  Company of such wonderful people is the second fruit of nectar offered by the poisonous tree.

This verse from SubhAshita Ratna BhAndAgara brilliantly sums up all the above:

संसार विष वृक्षस्य द्वे फले ह्यमृतोपमे | काव्यामृत रसास्वादः संगतिः सुजने जने ||   

Samsaara visha vrukshasya dwe phale amrutopame, Kaayaamruta rasaaswadaha, sangatih sujane jane!