Man is not born to be the food of grief and woe4 min read

Shri Shankara Acharya’s Vakyavritti Verse 3

A certain aspirant who was conscious of the afflictions caused by the extreme heat of the threefold sufferings and was agitated and restless in his mind acquired the disciplinary qualifications of self-control and so forth, and approaching his master asked as follows.


Every man in the realm of relativity called avidya is subject to the threefold sufferings arising from physical, mental and unknown causes. No one in the world can be free from them. Sometimes there is a slight respite from sufferings, and man begins to think that he is happy, but his happiness fades like the dewdrops in the morning sun. Is this suffering essential? Yes, it is an indication of the fact that there is a realm of absolute reality where causation does not function, and that there alone is real rest and peace and bliss. Is not this life merely a series of sufferings and nothing more? No, because man instinctively thinks to remove his sufferings.

He is subconsciously aware of a region where there is peace and bliss, equanimity and joy. Sufferings cause perplexity of the mind. Man sometimes examines the means which lead to the extinction of sufferings, but then the mind produces doubts, bad reasoning and a perpetual hankering after the pleasures of the flesh. He forgets the spiritual yearning and tries to extract the cool water of wisdom from the sands of the life of the senses.

Wisdom means disciplining the mind, acquiring inner poise and peace and having a burning desire to be free from nescience. The mere wish to be acquainted with the philosophy of Vedanta is not enough. It must be accompanied by the disciplinary qualifications such as self-control, friendliness towards all, pursuit of truth at any cost and higher devotion to ‘ God. It is quite useless to study Vedanta merely academically without cultivating these disciplinary qualifications. Unless a man is master of himself, he cannot rise to the higher region of the Absolute.

If a bird has stones tied to its feet, it cannot fly to the infinite blue. Similarly a man. steeped in desires of the sense-objects, pursuing the pleasures of power, sex and possession, is doomed to failure.

But there are some rare souls who are blessed with wisdom because of the selfless service they have done to their fellow-men in the past. Such people acquire the qualifications which lead to their candidature for the bliss of the spirit. Once qualified, a man comes to a teacher and asks for his instructions.

Verse 4

“Tell me in brief O Lord, from Thy compassion alone, how I may break from this bondage of being and becoming without undue effort?”

People try to get rid of their pain and suffering, but the things of the world go in pairs of opposites. Tears will be followed by smiles, and smiles by tears. Every joy has hidden in it the germ of reaction in the form of grief. No grief is undiluted, as the soul of man loves peace, creative repose and, most of all, inner enlightenment.

The natural question is not how to be happy but how to eradicate the causes which lead to the continuation of the process of becoming. As long as becoming continues, man will be a pendulum between a smile and a tear. There is no success in the world in which there is no danger of failure today or tomorrow. Besides, death sits like a Sphinx and mocks our efforts, which will surely one day end in nothingness.

What should a man of understanding do? He must remember that there is a way out of this dilemma, that man is not born to be the food of grief and woe; there have been and there always are men who have conquered the limitations of birth and death through inner enlightenmet and are engaged in liberating others from the darkness of nescience.

Such people are called Gurus. Those who seek, find them. It is not the critic but the man of faith who has served his fellow- men and has evolved in himself a great urge to be free, who finds them. The word ‘Guru’ means the one who removes the aspirant from darkness into the region of light. They must be approached with humility and affection, service and adoration.

There is no material fee for the instructions in inner illumination. The only way of return is loving service and a desire to help mankind. The question in this verse is asked of the Guru. Unless a pot is empty it cannot he filled with another precious object. The mind must he emptied of earthly ambitions, hate and egoity, and then the teacher can pour into it the rays of the light of truth.

Shri Shankara Acharya’s Vakyavritti Verse 5