Saturday, August 11, 2012

How soon the dear are forgotten - mantrA 145

srigurubhyO namahA |

In the 145th mantrA of the thirumandiram the sage observes that our connections with people die with them and the dead are soon forgotten by those still living. Our lives in the world are momentary indeed, but the impressions of our time here are even less durable.
ஊரெலாம் கூடி ஒலிக்க அழுதிட்டுப்
போனை நீக்கிப் பிணமென்று போட்டுச்
சூரையங் காட்டிடைக் கொண்டுபோய்ச் சுட்டிட்டு
நீரினில் மூழ்கி நினைப்பொழிந் தார்களே. I.2.3.145

The neighbours gathered wailing loud and long,
Denied him now a name, called him corpse,
And bore him to the burning ghat and the body burnt,
Then a ceremonial dip--and memory dies as the hours lapse. I.2.3.145


Com - The neighbours gathered wailing loud and long, Once the physical body falls down dead (on exhaustion of the allotted fruits of karma) one’s neighbours and kinsfolk gather and mourn for the loss by loud wailing and lamentation. Denied him now a name, called him corpse, without calling him by the name that he was known by until death, they refer to him instead as the ‘corpse’ or the ‘body’. And bore him to the burning ghat and the body burnt, then they carried him to the cremation ground at the outskirts of the village and there burnt his body on the pyre. Then a ceremonial dip--and memory dies as the hour’s lapse. And once the last rites have been completed, and the ceremonial bath at the end is done with, it appears as if all memories of the dead person are washed away with the water on the head, for everyone will return to their own lives forgetting about the dead person.

*This mantra like others in this subsection is quite simple in its honesty. There is no hidden meaning and the sage speaks his mind quite brutally. The effect of this honesty is startling, chilling, and forces one to be aware (if only for the few minutes it takes to read the verses) of the soap bubble like momentariness of our life here on earth. The reality of physical death and the reality of life among people, when stripped completely of the glamour and false values, is enough reason to incite one to walk the path of self-realisation.It is custom in many cultures to mourn the loss of someone by gathering together and wailing/ lamenting their death. The sage reveals here that once people have done the wailing and mourning (which continues for a brief while), their relationship to the dead person becomes different. The dead person is no longer a person with a name, but has now become an ‘it’, a ‘corpse’. They then take this corpse to the cremation ground that is overgrown with the small weedy herb known as ‘thoodhuvalai’ and there burn it on the pyre according to custom.

Those attending the cremation then usually take a dip in the river or go home to have a ceremonial bath to signify the finish of the funeral. The sage wonders if people wash away all their connections and attachments to the dead person from their minds, like the water washes away the dirt clinging on to the physical body.

There are moments in our everyday life where events conspire and even the whole of nature seems to come together to inspire in our minds what is known as vairAgyA (dispassion). The wise man would use these moments or opportunities to grasp the sight of reality that is revealed him and would gradually disengage from a gross attachment to this phenomenal world. Of these moments, one is said to occur in the cremation grounds - it is known as shmashAna vairAgyA or the dispassion of the cremation grounds. When some one close to us has died and we observe the burning of the body in ghats etc, the mind gets a grasp of the transitoriness of this body. The one who was an individual just only hours ago is now lying still as his body is being consumed by the flames. The truth of our mortality stares us right in the face. At this point, the mind does tend to think philosophically about life, death, time, attachment etc and the wise one (and perhaps the fortunate one) will use the moment to gain spiritual clarity and correct his course through life. 

Another such moment apparently occurs (for women) during labor. While undergoing painful contractions that are necessary to bring the baby out of the womb, the woman is left to realise that her husband who was her companion in the act that preceded conception, is now unable to share her pain. She feels alone and for an instant vows that she will never let him near her again - this is known as prasava vairAgyA or the dispassion during labor. But human nature being what it is, the yearning to experience life and the condition that the fruit of our previous actions have to be experienced, we get pulled into the river of life soon. The sage here points out that once the last rites have been performed, for those still in the world of the living, life will go on regardless of the absence of dead person.



Anonymous said...

life goes on..

Swami, pranaams, this is Bala Mars.

mooligai sidhan said...

srigurubhyO namahA |

@ Bala,
Namaste. I hope that the mail went someway to answer your query. I suppose that this particular subsection will answer some of the other aspects of your questions.

Anonymous said...

Wisely said. Death leads to memories for a few days. And memories get forgotten in another few days. Oh god, if only man was designed not to have any memories, only a minimum MB RAM without a hard disk, just imagine what the world would be like.

mooligai sidhan said...

srigurubhyO namahA |

I cannot imagine a state where man has no memory - memory is necessary for even imagination. The faculty of memory known in sanskrit as smritI is the basis for cognition and this memory is cellular as also mental. In the saptasatI the dEvi is praised as being verily the memory in all beings - yA dEvi sarvabhUtEshu smriti rUpEna samsthithA. And Krishna declares in the gItA (15th chapter/purushOttama yOgA) that He is Himself both memory and the capacity to forget (matthasmrithirgn~yAnapOhanam cha).

I cannot imagine a world where there is no dEvi or no Krishna!