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lakshmi-nrsimha-karAvalamba-stOtram-17

From: sudarshan madabushi (sudarshanm_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Jun 07 1999 - 12:38:10 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

"sanntannya-mAnam aparAdha-gaNam vichintya
trasyAmi hanta bhavateem cha vibhAva-yAmi   I
ah-nAya may vrushageerisha-dayE jaheemAm
aashee-visha-grahaNa-kELi-niBhAmavasTAm"  II

       (Swami Vedanta Desikan: Verse#96 "dayA-satakam")

(My free translation of the principal idea in the verse):

"Lord! Is it some frolic of hide-'n seek?
Or some strange rite of love and pain --
That charmer and snake do bespeak
Again and yet again !

Stabbed blue and bloody though he be,
Soon revived by an antidote is he--
To the viper's fangs does he soon return
The gambol of death is thus re-begun!
Again and yet again --

Strange indeed is the caper too
That Self with Sin revels in play --
Wherein I but shunt
Betwixt ruin and grace --
>From Redemption's edge
To Evil's embrace --

Again and yet again!"

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

Whenever I read or recite the above stanza from the "dayA-satakam", I'm 
always struck by Swami Desikan's phrase "aparAdha-gaNam". It immediately 
reminds me of Sankara bhagavathpAdA's phrase "sarpa-gana" in Verse#7 of the 
"lakshmi-nsrimha-karAvalamba-stOtram".

To witness two great poets (rather, two great 'poet-philosophers')… with 
about a thousand years separating them and coming as they do from different, 
if not mutually antagonistic, ideological persuasions… to see them both 
happening to choose a strikingly similar poetic expression to convey the 
same philosophical idea… to me, it all seems more than just another instance 
of the wonderful coincidence of "great minds thinking alike!"!

That Sankara and Swami Desikan should think alike in this matter is, I 
believe, an especial case in point that

--- poets see the wood while philosophers have eyes only for the trees;

--- one flash of poetry's insight often tells us more about Truth than the 
numberless abstractions  philosophy bewilders us with;

--- what philosophic perspiration struggles to express in a whole treatise, 
poetic inspiration conveys sometimes in a single phrase;

--- poetic mood is sometimes a more valuable a tool of Vedantic inquiry than 
philosophic temper…

Both Sankara and Desikan, being consummate poet-philosophers understood it 
all very, very well …and that is why both "achAryA-s" were not only 
trail-blazing philosophers of their era but also its crowning 
poet-laureates.

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

"sarpa-gana" may be taken to mean a colony of menacing serpents coiled 
inside a pit. It is Sankara's fine metaphor for the "asurA-ic" 
pre-dispositions within Man that, as explained in the Gita (see last post 
#16), ever threaten to lead him unto terrifying Evil. In pretty much the 
same poetic vein, "aparAda-gaNam" is Swami Desikan's rare gem of a phrase. 
Roughly translated into English "aparAda-gaNam" means a "feral mob of sins". 
And the whole stanza, in which this phrase appears in the "dayA-satakam", 
serves to portray too the same terrifying predicament of man that Sankara in 
the LNKS sought to depict. This may be understood clearly if only one 
considers the following with a curious mind:

A snake-charmer stealthily advances upon a snake-pit and waits to grab hold 
of one of the deadly residents. The cobra waits for the charmer to make his 
move… its fangs bared, as it were, and ready to strike…

In the blur of a rapid second the charmer thrusts his hand forward to grab 
the creature behind its hooded neck. The serpent, however, moves quicker 
than the charmer … It whips around and strikes him like a bolt of lightning! 
Poisonous fangs stab deep into the charmer's flesh…

He recoils. He bleeds. The toxin rises in his veins. His blood curdles a 
pale and deathly blue. The eyes roll, his mouth begins to foam, the brain 
goes numb and pain throttles the life-breath out of his heart…The charmer 
retires…

Back home, he reaches for his pouch, a survival kit, and fishes out his 
antidote… a rare herbal blend that's part of his stock-in-trade. A whiff or 
two of the rare stuff and in a day or two he's revived himself completely! 
Not a moment to waste or lose, the snake-charmer is back scouting the pit 
again for another furtive snake!

This act gets repeated again and again… back and forth, round and round 
again… And indeed, no matter how many times the charmer is bitten he goes 
back to the snakes again… This goes on and on… exactly as Desikan notes: 
"…aashee-visha-grahaNa-kELi-niBhAmavasTAm":

"Stabbed blue and bloody though he be,
Soon revived by an antidote is he--
To the viper's fangs does he soon return
The gambol of death is thus re-begun!
Again and yet again -".

Between the charmer and the serpent it all seems like some macabre game of 
life and near-death being endlessly played out for reasons none really 
knows! Only the charmer himself can tell why the terrible fangs of a viper 
fascinate him and why he must return to them again and again! Desikan hence 
describes all of this as being both fascinating ("hanta") and deeply 
terrifying ("vichintya") at the same time:

"Lord! Is it some frolic of hide-'n seek?
Or some strange rite of love and pain --
That charmer and snake do bespeak
Again and yet again!".

The "kavi-simham" also uses the imagery of the "snake-and-charmer game" to 
compare it with Man's own  "caper" with the Evil that resides within his own 
self… what in Vedantic terms is called the "asurA-ic" half of his nature. It 
is the part of Man's nature the poet calls  "sanntanya-mAnam aparAda-gaNam"… 
"a feral mob of sinful urges"  coiled inside the human heart as so many 
vicious serpents… "sarpa-gana"… inside a pit.

Many are the urges of Man… lust, avarice, rage and covetousness… and 
numberless indeed, we know, are the evil deeds they lead him unto. Tragic 
are the consequences of evildoing that follow and they visit soon upon him. 
Man repents and for a while he seriously reforms. And just when one would've 
thought he'd rejuvenated…. the man would one day succumb to an evil urge and 
relapse into "asurA-ic" ways! The wheel of sin, redemption and relapse, 
alas, thus turns another cycle … and goes on endlessly through the lifetime 
of men… all like the "snake-and-charmer game" Swami Desikan describes as 
"aashee-visha-grahaNa-kELi-niBhAmavasTAm":

"Strange indeed is the caper too
That Self with Sin revels in play --
Wherein I but shunt
Betwixt ruin and grace --
>From Redemption's edge
To Evil's embrace -"

"aparAda-gaNam", we see, is thus an extremely rich phrase that instantly 
evokes in our mind a most marvellous poetic similitude with  Sankara's 
phrase, "sarpa-gana", in Verse#7 of the LNKS.

********            *************           ************
The next verse in the "lakshmi-nrsimha-karAvalamba-stOtram" we must take up 
for discussion is Verse#8 that includes the line:

"samsAra-vruksha-maGhabeejam-anantha-karma shAKhAshatam…karaNa-patram 
anangapushpam..
Aruh~ya dukhapalinam patha-taha…".

We will take it up in the next few posts. After that we have Verses 9, 10 
and 11. Then we'll wrap it all up and take leave of each other.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
Sudarshan



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