Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bhaja Govindam - Verse 2

Bhaja Govindam
Verse 2

मूढ जहीहि धनागमतृष्णां
कुरु सद्बुद्धिं मनसि वितृष्णाम् |
यल्लभसे निजकर्मोपात्तं
वित्तं तेन विनोदय चित्तं ||

modha jahehi dhanagamatrishnam
kuru sadbudhim manasi vitrishnam
yalabhase nijakarmopatham
vitham tena vinodaya chitham

oh, fool! give up your insatiable desire for earthly possessions;
be sensible and develop serenity and contentment.
be satisfied and happy with whatever you may earn by the sweat of your brow
and whatever has destiny marked for your lot.

In the second verse of the Bhaja Govindam, sung by Adi Shankara, tells us to give up our thirst for wealth and other earthly possessions. This desire creates a vicious cycle that churns forever, taking us to the heights of joy, but equally bringing us to depths of sorrow. He calls us a fool, because only fools bring on suffering to themselves out of ignorance. Fools are also those among us, who believe we are in control of events, specially when things are going well. When the first mishap occurs, all those qualities that one thought they possessed seems to fail us. True happiness comes from renouncing this path or curbing this desire. How? He says clean the mind of these thoughts, the lust for objects, greed for wealth and focus on something else. Something better and real, the ultimate truth.

It all seems so impractical in todays life. How? With all the pressure of the family, work and self, how does one give up small desires? We need to earn to keep our family healthy, and money to pay rent, car, clothes and so many other things. We are quite unsettled when our neighbhour buys a better and bigger car. Or when our colleague wears a Prada watch, as compared to our more sober Indian Titan brand. At home, simple potato chips from a local bakery or shop is no comparison to a packet of Lays. Where does one start? But, think, more importantly where does this all end?

Adi Sankara time was no different. Even if Pepsi, Prada or Titan hadnt setup shop then, the desire and passion to covet and possess was not less in any sense. He gives a way out of this problem, asking us to take baby steps. Shankaracharya says we should begin with contentment, be happy with what we have. That would be sustenance and a little more. We are looking to live happily, and this is not something that can be bought in a store. A ten rupee note, that goes to buy bag of chips, lasts in our hands, hardly for 10 minutes, and in our mouths even less.

Its not easy to swim against the tide. This commentary is not about brands, and even less about the names mentioned here. Brands are created not by a company or a person, but because of the demand to possess something that many others cannot easily covet. So i will buy a brand of lucky jeans for 100$, because i know my friends will probably not buy such an expensive one. My joy will last, till someone from my circle, new or old, swaggers along in a pair of armani. If we are able to control our desire, in this case, to think, jeans is jeans, be it a 10$ cheap walmart version or a super-expensive designer version, that would be a start. Its not about the fact that we must buy cheap clothes. Buy what you can afford, within your means. Aspiring for something more, will start the ball rolling.

It is not easy. But every time we remind ourselves, and every attempt we make to overcome we win a small victory. This will hopefully inspire us to build on this success to reach the levels that Shankarcharya goads us to.