Thursday, October 1, 2015

Come, Take my Place!

In theory, nobody on this earth is self-sufficient. In practice as well, each one has to depend on others to carry on with their lives. Even sixty years ago, when wants were very limited, this was the case. Farming community in the villages were self-sufficient to the extent that they were able to grow all the foodstuff they needed. They also had the livestock to provide for meat, if they needed it. The small hut they had, made from mud, wooden logs and leaves of trees provided the shelter. Thus basic requirements were sourced by themselves, without depending on others. However, they needed support from outside for four important things; clothing, salt, kerosene and match box. A visit to the weekly fair in the nearby bigger village provided market for their produce and buying these four items. 

Others were not self-sufficient to this extent. Basic requirement of food was to be obtained from the farmers or other intermediaries. As the wants increased and the list of items considered as essentials grew longer, this need for dependence on others also increased. Advancement in science and technology created more wants and also gave solutions to meet these needs. Asking whether science and technology evolved to meet the growing wants or their evolving created more wants and needs, is like the proverbial seed and tree (Vruksha-Beeja Nyaya) question. Asking others for either money or things money can buy, is as old as money or material wealth itself. Hence approaching others with a request for items or favors is perhaps as old as civilization itself. 

Whom should we approach when we need something? The answer is very simple. The person approached for a favor should be one having the capacity to give it. Poet Kalidasa has beautifully brought this out in his epic work "Raghuvamsha". Koutsa, who has just completed his education in the Gurukula of Varatantu Maharshi meets King Raghu with a desire to seek a certain sum of money to meet his "Gurudakshina". When he reaches the capital of Raghu, Raghu has just finished his "Vishwajit Yagna" and has given away everything he had to others and does not have anything left! He receives Koutsa with earthen pots containing water to wash his feet. Koutsa understands the situation and desires to take leave of the King without asking for anything. The King insists that he be told about the purpose of the visit.  "Even Chataka does not look for water in winter clouds", says Koutsa. Chataka is a legendary bird that does not drink any water fallen on the ground. It waits for the rains and opens its beak to the sky for the drop of rain water to fall in its mouth directly. Chataka knows that there is no use in expecting a drop of water in clouds of winter months. There is no logic in asking anyone for something when the other person does not have the capacity to comply with the request.  Of course, King Raghu did meet Koutsa's desire through an alternate route, as described by the poet in the epic. 

What can anyone give to others? One can give a little less than what he has or at the most whatever he has. This is true of material wealth. As regards position or status is considered, it can always be something lower than the giver himself has. A Chief Minister or a Prime Minister can make you a Cabinet Minister.  He cannot make you a Chief Minister or a Prime Minister. Someone who guards his own position with everything at his command cannot give you his own position. That will be self-destruction at its worst. Even if he desires to give away his position, there are other conditions to be met and it is not entirely in his domain to give it away. They are often helpless. But there is only one who can do this as well!  Who is that? 

Saint-poet Kulashekara Alwar, one of the twelve Alwars in the Srivaishnava school of philosophy, is highly revered for his contribution of Tamil devotional compositions and a sanskrit work "Mukundamala".  Kulashekara Alwar was one of the last Kings of the Chera dynasty in Kerala. As a King as well as a saint, he must have seen many people asking for favors from others. In his "Mukundamala", he refers to such seekers of favors and laments about their plight. In the 28th sloka of Mukundamala, he observes:  

नाथे नः पुरुषोत्तमे त्रिजगताम् एकाधिपे चेतसा 
सेव्ये स्वस्य पदस्य दातरि सुरे नारायणे तिष्टति 
यं कञ्चित् पुरुशाधमं कतिपय ग्रामेशं अल्पार्थदम् 
सेवायै मृगयामहे नरमहो मूका वराका वयम् 

Naathe nah purushottame trijagataam ekaadhipe chetasa
sevye svasya padasya daatari sure Narayane tishtati
Yam kanchit purushaadhamam katipaya gramesham alpharthadam
sevaayai mrugayamahe naramaho mookaa varaaka vayam

Lord Narayana, who is the sole authority for this whole Universe, is omni-present and available to us always. He is even prepared to give away his own position to the seeker! He does not hesitate to do such act of kindness. This being the case, why do people go and beg before worthless people who own a few villages or have some small amounts of wealth? We are unfit to be called as human beings; we are even worse than speechless animals!

Saint Kulashekhara Alwar's view as above is exemplary and can be reached only by few souls. Of course, there is an endless debate as to whether there is a God or not.  There are as many people who believe that man has created God, as who believe God created this universe. Nevertheless, it is advisable to at least think before asking a favor from someone else.  Whether it is absolutely necessary or whether the person approached is capable of meeting our need, are two simple questions that are to be answered before putting forth the request.


  1. As usual but impressive in today's context. Great one sir

  2. This one is really thought provoking. You are the lucky one to quote from many poets' true understanding of living a divine life which are part of our Indian heritage. UR........

  3. how did Raghu meet Koutsa's request? you have stopped the story tantalisingly half-way! as usual well written.

  4. well written with quotes from Raghuvamsha of Mahakavi Kalidas and the literature of Kulsekhara Alwar. The theme of the piece is enlilghtening,