Madhura Geetham – Sloka Series
“Athichoodi” is a type of poetic work (in Tamil) that comprises of a collection of one-line philosophical verses. HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji has composed a “Vedanta Athichoodi”, a poetic work that speaks of life’s most important principles. We had published the entire Vedanta Athichoodi and its overall meaning as part of our Madhura Geetham Sloka Series, earlier this year. Read that article here.
Each of the lines of this Athichoodi is extremely deep and contains a wealth of meaning. In our sloka series over the next few months, we will look at the meaning of each line of this work.
Aimpulan Adakku – Control Your Five Senses!
The mind and the senses are related and affect each other. The five senses provide constant stimuli to the mind and in turn trigger different thoughts in our mind and keep the mind completely engaged. But this constant engagement is detrimental because it saps mental energy. Mental energy is akin to water flowing in a canal. If too many outlets are dug in a canal, the water gets diverted and the flow in the main canal decreases.
“shabdAdibhih panchAbireva panchatvam Apuh svaguNena baddhAh |
kuranga-mAtanga-patanga-meena-brungAh narah panchAbhir anchitaih kim ||”
‘Deer, moths, fishes, bees and elephants are each lured by the sense of sound, form, taste, smell, touch respectively, and end up losing their lives! How do we explain the pitiable state of human beings who are entangled by [not one but] all the five senses?’
A deer is quick and nimble. Yet when a hunter blows his horn, it gets attracted to the sound and pauses to listen and becomes an easy prey. Similarly, a moth attracted by light goes near a fire and gets burnt. A fish, in spite of plenty of food in the water, gets tempted by the taste of the worm in the bait and becomes food for the fisherman. A bee, captivated by the smell of a flower, gets ensnared in the flower as the petals close at night. And finally, an elephant gets caught because it is attracted by the touch of a female elephant. These animals are said to have a weakness for only one of the five senses. Whereas, we humans are lured easily by the pleasures of all the five senses.
Driven by the longing for pleasures and material comforts, we channelize our efforts to accrue wealth with which we hope to buy those temporary pleasures and comforts. If the mind is fully occupied in the pursuit of transient happiness, how can one hope to realize the true purpose and attain permanent happiness?
In his work Kali Dharma Undiyar, Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji says –
“suvaiyAna uNavuDan sugamAna vAzhkaiyil manam aDangum enbadu undIpara
maDamaye Agum enDru undIpara”
‘By indulging in delicious food and in sensory pleasures, the mind cannot be controlled!
It would be foolishness to think so!’
Sri Swamiji says it is foolish to assume that we can control the mind while remaining in the world and indulging in material comforts. The more we get used to the comforts, the harder it becomes to renounce them. For example, our ancestors managed to live without a fan or air conditioner in the summer. Yet can we imagine an hour without the fan or air conditioner? It is the same summer heat that affected our ancestors and is now affecting us. Then how did they cope? The simple truth is, we got used to the comfort and therefore, it has now become a necessity. That is why Mahans advise spiritual aspirants to go in solitude, away from all luxury and distractions to practice a spiritual discipline.
Srimad Bhagavatam says –
“jitm sarvam jite rase”
‘One who wins over his tongue wins over everything.’
Among the senses, taste is the most influential on the mind and also the most difficult to control. Our scriptures say that everything in this world can be divided into three gunas (qualities) – tamas, rajas, and satva. The food we consume too can be classified into these three categories. Eating tamasic food like old and stale food, yogurt, etc. generates tamasic thoughts and behavior – being slothful, procrastination, etc. Consuming food that is rajasic in nature (like spicy food) prompts a person to be rajasic (being engaged constantly in action and triggering anger, etc.). Saatvic food generates saatvic thoughts. Saatvic thoughts aid in spiritual progress.
Jnana (divine knowledge) and Vairagya (dispassion) will flower only in a person who has actually given up all attachment to comforts. Others who talk about these lofty concepts while still being attached to these bodily comforts are deceiving not only others but themselves as well! Sri Adi Sankara Bhagavadpada compares such people to a drowning man in a river who frantically grabs a log of wood, only to realize that it is, in fact, a crocodile!
That is why Sri Swamiji advises spiritual aspirants to renounce material attachment and to control their senses (aimpulan adakku!) right after advising them to spend time in solitude (ekAntham pazhagu).
Sowmya Balasubramanian, Dallas TX