As promised, I present the first few verses drawn from Bhartruhari’s Neeti Shataka. A brief introduction to Neeti Shataka is in order.
Neeti can generally be understood as a teaching/exposition of morality, conduct, wisdom, behaviour, prudence, and all of these. The Neeti Shataka does exactly this: at one level, it is a treatise on a range of subjects like conduct, character, kinds of people, learning, the arts, while at another, it is sheer poetry in the sense you can choose to remain deaf to the poet’s message but experience the sonorous joy his poetry evokes within you.
Verse after verse touches almost every facet known to human experience. What is especially noteworthy is the non-existent pontificatory style of imparting the message. Bhartruhari elevates, pokes fun, derides and conveys ecstasy in ways that I feel are beyond the reach of normal human creativity. If that sounds like exaggeration, it isn’t.
Because, and unfortunately, an English translation can only take one so far: it is best read in the original for delight is not just in the poetry or instruction; those who are well-versed in Sanskrit poetics have delighted in its technical finery of rhythm, metre, and sound pattern.
Nothing is taboo or unwanted to Bhartruhari: he draws generously from the universe–from an elephant’s rut to oil to waves to lions to donkeys, the poet turns to gold everything he touches.
I’ve said enough.
Here’s the first, his invocatory verse to the Supreme that resides in all of us.
Swaanubhootyekanaamaaya namah shaantaaya tejase||
That which is present in all directions for all Time
Indescribable, Invincible, Unfathomable, Eternal,
The manifestation of that Supreme Knowledge
Whose calm locution one can but only experience
To that Divine Energy I bow.
And the momentous incident which led to Bhartruhari’s transformation as a sage: (I’d blogged this earlier)
Yaam chintayaami satatam mayi saa viraktaa|
Saapyanyamicchati janam sa janonyasaktah||
Asmatkrute ca parishushyati kaachidanyaa|
Dhik taam ca tam ca madanam ca imaam ca maam ca||
The One upon whom I meditate perpetually is detached from me but
(She) desires another and the Other (desires) yet another
Thus it goes always, this desire to always desire another
Fie on her, on him, on Madana (God of Love), on all this and fie on me too!