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lakshmi-nrsimha karAvalamba stOtram-9

From: sudarshan madabushi (sudarshanm_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Apr 26 1999 - 00:05:09 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

The 4th Verse of the "lakshmi-nrismha-karAvalamba stOtram" deals with 
the second most primal fear of man viz. the "fear of the senses":

"samsAra-jAla-pati-tasya …sarvEndriyArTha-baDishArTha-jashOpamasya 
prOth-Kandita-prachura-tAluka-mastakasya … lakshmi-nrsimha! mama dEhi 
karAvalambam!".

 Like fish drawn by lethal bait  
 And then tangled, impaled and shred…
 These mortal coils too have lured and trapped
 My soul and every sense …

In this verse, we see the interesting metaphors of the "fish" and 
"net"… "jAla-pati-tasya"… being employed to archetype or symbolise a 
particularly complex form of human fear.

Sankara's metaphor is very rich with meaning and suggestion … and we 
must not hesitate to strain every nerve and muscle of whatever powers 
of poetic appreciation we possess in exploring it in as full a measure 
as possible in order to experience the beauty of this "stOtrA".

*****      *********       ***********

The theme of this verse is basically a re-statement of a very well 
known, very extensively discussed, scarcely understood and rarely, if 
ever, practised proposition of Vedantic thought. 

The bare thought, shorn of all customary philosophical embellishments, 
can be summarised in a few lines as below:

"On the narrow course of spiritual endeavour one can easily be lead 
astray by the senses. As fish are led to death by laying a simple 
bait, so is man deflected to ruin by the myriad enchantments of his 
senses ("sarvEndriyArtha-s"). Beware, thus, of the worldly spells 
thine own senses cast upon you!"

In a verse of extraordinary beauty in the famous poetic offering 
titled "abeethi-stavam", Swami Desikan, our redoubtable "kavi-simham", 
too affirmed (in a not altogether different context) the same Vedantic 
truth in terms of precisely the same poetic metaphor chosen by Sankara 
bhagavathpAdA:

" biBhEti Bhava-Brth prabhO tvad~upadesha-teevrowshadAth
   ka~dhaDhva-rasa-durvishay balisha-Bakshavath preeyathE  I
  apaThya-parihAraThi- vimuKha~miTha~mAkismakee
   tamappya-vasarE kramAdavati vatsalA tvadyayA"   II  (Verse 10)

My free translation:

As swarms of fish unto ruin seduced
By charming maggots on a deadly line,
Thoughtless men embrace too 
The myriad baits of un-virtue.

To those the world has thus entranced,
Thy Word is nothin' but bitter pill --
The folly of men medicine shan't mend
Ranga, Thy kindness swiftly will!   

 
Both poets, the bhagavatpAdA and Swami Desikan, we clearly see above, 
have taken a leaf out of Sri-Krishna's book, the 'Bhagavath-Gita'. 
While expounding to Arjuna the essential nature of Man's senses 
("indriya-s"), SriKrishna, as we all know, proclaimed:

"indriyasyEndriyasyArthE…etc.… tau hi asya paripanthinau!" (Ch.3 Verse 
34)
"The senses… and the objects they perceive… are indeed mighty 
stumbling-blocks along the path the Seeker of Truth takes."

Thus, what is conveyed by way of a profound exhortation in the Gita 
above ("tvad~upadesha", Swami Desikan calls it) finds its poetic 
equivalent in the tremulous expressions of fear voiced by Sankara in 
the lines, "samsAra-jAla-pati-tasya 
…sarvEndriyArTha-baDishArTha-jashOpamasya prOth-Kandita-prachura- 
tAluka-mastakasya …".


********        ***********          **************

Now, if you analyse the matter thoroughly it may seem odd and ironic 
that the Gita or the LNKS should  caution us all about the  fearful 
nature of the senses , the "sarvEndriya-s".

The abilities of the five senses ("karmEndriya-s" in Sanskrit), as we 
all know, number five… sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. 

Then there are the "intelligent senses" or "gnyAnEndriya-s". These are 
the mind… "manas" and the intellect … "buddhi".

It is by virtue of possessing the 7 sensual abilities that a living 
being… man, for instance… earns the right to be regarded as having 
"sensibility" or "being sensible".

It is with the instruments of "sensibility" indeed that we perceive 
and comprehend this world. With the indispensable aid of the 5 
"karmEndriya-s" we invest this vast world around us ("samsAra") with 
form, substance, colour and size. And then with the aid of the 
"gnyAnEndriya-s" we vest the world with attributes and 
intelligibility. 

Truly speaking, if we did not possess the senses, we could never 
really "know" the world in the state and condition it is in. And when 
one is seen to "not know the world" one is quite liable to be 
condemned by it as being "senseless".

With the exception of the dead and, occasionally perhaps, the 
demented, to those without the possession of any one or more of their 
senses… the"sarvEndriya-s"… to them the world is indeed a very nasty, 
very inhospitable place. The blind, for example … i.e. those who 
possess no "sight"… inspire pity in us; the leper… who has lost the 
sense of "touch"… fills us with vague revulsion; and the lunatic… he 
who has become "mindless" … we expeditiously banish from our midst. 

Therefore, if you consider it all from a purely secular standpoint, 
the possession of all the 7 senses intact…   our "sarvEndriya-s"… 
ought to really be regarded as an unqualified blessing of God 
Almighty and for which we should remain supremely grateful!

*******      **********   ************

Then why… why indeed… does the same Almighty give out a sombre warning 
that our "senses", verily, constitute the bane… the "paripanthinau", 
(to use Sri.Krishna's severe term for it)... the greatest obstacle to 
realising our true purpose in life? 

On the one hand, our common experience tells us the senses are 
Heaven's gift to us. But on the other, the collective wisdom of the 
poetry of Sri.Krishna, Sankara bhagavathpAdA and Swami Desikan warns 
us that our wayward "senses" are indeed the biggest hindrance to the 
progress of our souls!!

Somewhere in all this there seems to be a cruel and inscrutable irony, 
isn't it? 

*******     *********      **********

If we must set about understanding the irony we must subject Sankara's 
expression "jAla-pati-tasya" to close examination.

Or to be more specific, the clue to understanding our fear of the 
wayward senses... "sarvEndriya-s"... lies in the study of behaviour of 
fish beguiled by bait into a vicious net.

But we must continue in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
Sudarshan


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