You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1999

lakshmi-nrsimha karAvalamba stOtram-12

From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Sat May 15 1999 - 22:37:44 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

"samsArakoopa-atigOram-agAdamoolam samprApya 
"lakshmi-nrsimha mama dEhi karAvalambam !" (Verse#5 - LNKS)

" Dark is this well… this life, my world --
An abyss of numberless misery;
Where serpents of sin, agents of distress,
And angels of fear hold sway."

In this verse of the "lakshmi-nrsimha-karAvalamba-stOtram" Sankara 
bhagavatpAdA employs the metaphor of a "well" ("koopa") to denote one of the 
deepest, most terrible of all fears of Man…. the fear of personal sorrow 
("dUKha", "shOkha" are some of the Sanskrit synonyms for this word).

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

If you have lived any part of your life in a village in India (many years 
ago, as a schoolboy, I did!) and have taken a stroll through farmers' 
fields, you'd remember easily what an old wayside public well, long fallen 
into utter disuse and decay, looks like. It is truly treacherous. It is 
deep. It is dark; it is macabre, too. And no one ever wants to go anywhere 
near it except vermin, lizards, scorpions and snakes ("shatha-sarpa", 
Sankara calls them). In my village, however, a local ghost was also said to 
infest one such well!

Now, if Sankara in the LNKS is to be believed, then, the nature of Man's 
sorrow is essentially no different from the characteristics of an old well. 
And if you carefully consider the following, you will see why the 
bhagavatpAdA's choice of metaphor… "koopa" denoting "dUkha"… is not only 
fitting poetic comparison … it is masterly too:

(1) Nobody in the world has any USE for sorrow. (If you reflect deeply, our 
entire lives, in fact, are spent desperately trying to keep away from it.) 
Nobody wants it, everybody is afraid of it, and there isn't really much 
anybody can do to remove it elsewhere…. as in the case of a dilapidated 
village well.

(2) The typical sorrows of life… whether arising from bereavement or 
bankruptcy…they befall us rather rudely and without a moment's notice. They 
TAKE US ABACK completely. When sorrow overcomes us, it is usually traumatic… 
a bit like not realising, until we are already sunk neck-deep inside it, 
that we have tripped and plunged into an abandoned old well!

(3) Once we fall into the DEEP pit of sorrow, we generally feel it is the 
absolute end of the world for us. In a trice our zest for life vanishes. We 
then find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to climb out of the 
pit. We rot away in life… like vermin inhabiting an old, decaying well.

(4) No matter how many of our fellowmen we may see stricken with similar 
sorrow too, we are generally convinced that our own predicament is the 
DARKEST and of the most painful, piteous kind in the whole world.

(5) When in the grip of terrible personal sorrow, men are very prone to the 
extremes of deranged, even MACABRE, acts.  Suicide is a common example of 
such behaviour in the modern world. Maniacal violence, perhaps, is another.

(6) Not only do we do everything we can to avoid personal sorrow, we also do 
our very best to SHUN the society of sorrowful men. This is because we 
regard the contagion of grief to be far more virulent than bubonic plague 

Sankara's metaphor of "koopa" fits the description of human "dUkha" like a 
perfect glove indeed!

(CONTINUED in the immediately following post No: 12.1

  sudarshan                                     *********        
************        **********

Get Your Private, Free Email at