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From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Mon May 24 1999 - 04:56:31 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

In the last post we saw how Sankara's "Bheekara-kareendra"… ireful tusker… 
made no distinction at all between Kaurava or Pandava as it strode through 
the battle-grounds of Kurukshetra like a lethal juggernaut, dealing death to 
one and all.

We saw how an enraged elephant did not pause… not for an instant… to notice 
whom it was attacking when it simply picked up Subramanya Bharati, one of 
the greatest Tamil poets of pre-Independence India, and with one vicious 
lash of its trunk, left him dying in a Triplicane alley.

We saw too how Hiranyakashippu's elephants, goaded to boiling rage by palace 
courtiers, rushed forth in a furious stampede to crush little Prahlada…. a 
mere child of six or seven years.

In all the above instances, we see the blind, unbridled malevolence of a 
tusker running amuck. And so very much like a rogue-tusker's is the 
malevolence of Death too… the bhagavatpAdA vividly points this out to us in 
verse#6 of the LNKS.

Like the crazed elephant, Death is no respecter of persons either. It 
strikes everyone that comes its way. When it strikes…and strike it does, 
sooner or later… it shows neither mercy nor clemency, it grants neither 
concession nor reprieve. And none so far has yet been born in the world from 
whom, it was said, Death flinched … Not kings and brave-warriors, not poets 
and sages, neither infant nor cripple… Death simply performs what it has 
unfailingly accomplished from time immemorial … and what it will always do 
until the end of time, viz.: signal the irrevocable end of the "journey of 
life"--- what Sankara bhagavathpAdA calls, "prANa-prAyaNa:"!

          ******       ********        **********
Our foregoing examination (both in the previous post and in this one) of the 
phrases "bheekara-kareendra" and "prAna-prayANa" in Verse#6 of the LNKS 
invites us, next, to go a little further distance down the trajectory of 
Sankara's poetic logic where our imagination probes the following questions:

* Man tames the wildest, the most fearsome of elephants in the forests. Can 
he not likewise conquer Death?

* If the most fearsome of tuskers can, with time and effort, be domesticated 
to serve him as mere beast of burden, can't Death too, likewise, be humbled 
by man to lighten the burdens of Life?

* If the terrifying elephant can turn into a friendly, sometimes comic 
performer on a circus stage, can't Death turn an amiable ally of ours too?

* If kings can ride in glory on elephant-back and parade themselves in 
gilded palanquins through the streets of their kingdom, why can't we also 
ride on the back of stately Death straight into the portals of the Kingdom 
of God?

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

At the end of Chapter 2 in the "bhagavath-gita", after a peroration in 60 
majestic stanzas on the Vedantic doctrines of "gnyAna-yOga", "karma-yOga" 
and, to a fleeting extent, on the principles of "bhakti-yOga", Lord Krishna 
finally confides in Arjuna:

EshA brAmhi sthiti-hi pArthA nainAm prApya vimuhyati I
  stithvAsyAm anta kAlE'api bramha nirvANam~ruchhati   II  (Ch.II.72)

It is a sparkling verse of extraordinary, deep and subtle significance.

"Having followed this exalted Way of Life ("EshA brAmhi sthiti-hi"), O 
Partha", Krishna says in the above verse, "the Man of Wisdom attains the 
state of being where there is no fear, no bewilderment ("na vimuhyati"). 
Having reached that state in the moment of Death even ("anta kalE'api"), 
verily, he enters upon the Kingdom of God ("bramha nirvANam~ruchhati")!

Now, if you carefully read the Lord's words above, you draw the following 

· No, the conquest of Death is not impossible… not for the Man of Wisdom, 
the Vedantic Man
· The conquest is made possible by the pursuit of the Vedantic Way of Life… 
through "gnyAna-", "karma-" and "bhakti-" "yoga-mArgA-s"
· These "mArgA-s" lead to him to "bramha-stithi"… a state of being where 
there is no fear, no bewilderment ("bhava-bheeti"!)
· It is the state in which, most certainly, he may look forward to riding 
the last leg ("anta kAlE"-- Tamil pun intended here!) of his journey in life 
("prANa-prAyaNa") atop the back of Death itself … (as if it were merely a 
tamed "Bheekara-kareendra")… and soon enter upon the Kingdom of God … 
"bramha nirvANam"!

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

Writing an extremely moving sonnet on Death, and addressed to his own soul, 
the great poet, William Shakespeare once exhorted himself in these splendid 
lines which it is relevant to recall here:

"Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more.
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And, Death once dead, there's no more dying then."
                                          (Sonnet CXLVI: "Poor Soul, the 
Centre of my sinful Earth")


… if "buy terms divine" were taken to be a clarion call to pursue the 
"yOga-mArgA-s" of Vedanta,

… if by "selling hours of dross" we take it that the poet means those 
precious moments of a lifetime wasted away without Vedantic aspiration

… and if by "Within be fed, without be rich no more" we take it that the 
poet urges his soul to care more for its inward condition than for bodily 

… then doesn't it seem as though Shakespeare, in saying "So shalt thou feed 
on Death, that feeds on men / And, Death once dead, there's no more dying 
then."… in saying that, doesn't it seem as though Shakespeare was clearly 
echoing the Vedantic strains of Verse#72, Chapter 2 of our Lord's 

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

In the last post, if you recall, we quoted lines from a famous poem of Lord 
Byron just to illustrate the terrible mien of Sankara's metaphor of Death, 
"Bheekara-kareendra". Byron's awesome "Angel of Death" was sought to be 
shown as being the perfect mirror image of Sankara's death-dealing "tusker", 
the archetypal nemesis of human life.

In this post, however, through the comforting words of the final verse of 
the Second Chapter of the "bhagavath-gitA", we learnt how the Ways of 
Vedanta, the ways of divine wisdom or "yOga-mArga", lead Man to the conquest 
of death.

We then asked ourselves how Death too, like a tamed elephant, can be turned 
into a friend rather than the nemesis of Man.

By way of a possible answer, another English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 
offered these words to show that the "Angel of Death" can be a benign one 

"What woulds't thou have a good great man obtain?
Palace? titles? salary? a gilded chain?
Or throne of corpses which his sword had slain?
Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!
Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
The good great man? Three treasures, LOVE, and LIGHT,
And CALM THOUGHTS, regular as infant's breath:
And three firm friends, more sure than day and night,
                                                              (Samuel Taylor 
Coleridge: "The Good Great Man")

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

In the next post we shall proceed to the next stanza… Verse#7 …of the 
"lakshmi-nrsimha-karAvalmba-stOtram" where the subject of Evil is dealt with 
by Sankara bhagavathpAdA.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

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