From the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda – Volume 9 – Writings: Prose and Poems(Original and Translated)
This is Swami Vivekananda’s free translation of verses from Bhartrihari’s Sanskrit poem Vairâgya Shatakam.
The Swami’s translation is from Sister Nivedita’s Unpublished Notes of Some Wanderings with the Swami Vivekananda — selected verses recorded almost verbatim, but not necessarily in Bhartrihari’s order, by Sister Nivedita as Swami Vivekananda translated them orally for some of his Western disciples during a Himalayan pilgrimage in 1898.
For the researcher’s benefit, verses 14-15, 18, 24-26, 31, and 33 have been footnoted as corresponding verses taken from Swami Vivekananda’s original handwritten translation, which was given to the Vedanta Society of Southern California by Miss Josephine MacLeod, shortly before her passing away in 1948. This footnoted handwritten version was first published in the collection of poetry entitled In Search of God and Other Poems (Mayavati: Advaita Ashrama, 1968).
Stylistic differences in Swami Vivekananda’s overall translation of Bhartrihari’s poem are due to those variations inherent in the two aforementioned sources. Obvious typographical and punctuation errors have been corrected.
The verse numbers, as available, correspond to Bhartrihari’s numbering.
[A translation of verses from Bhartrihari’s Sanskrit poem Vairagya Shatakam]
I have travelled in many countries, hard to travel in, And got no result;
Giving up pride of birth and position,
I have served all.
Like a crow stealing into a kitchen,
With fear I have eaten the bread of others in their homes, Yet thou, Desire, who leadest to evil deeds,
Leavest me not!
I have crossed oceans to find wealth.
I have blasted mountains to get jewels.
I have spent whole nights in graveyards
And have obtained — not the broken cowrie
Ah, Desire, give me up now.
I have borne the wicked words of the wicked;
To please fools, when my heart is weeping,
my lips ever laughed.
Stopping my judgment, I have with folded hands
Stood before unworthy persons.
Even now, my Desire, why do you make me dance
like a fool?
For this life, which is like a drop of water
on a lotus leaf,
We have not enjoyed, but enjoyments have enjoyed us. We did not penance, but penances burnt us up.
Time did not fly, yet we are gone.
We become decrepit with age, but not so Desire. Infirmity assails us, the skin wrinkles,
The hair whitens, the body becomes crooked,
Old age comes on.
Desire alone grows younger every day.
Hope is the name of this river, whose water is Desire, And Thirst the waves thereof.
Passion is the crocodile living in that water,
Vain resolves are the birds that reside
In the tree of virtue on the shores and kill it. But there are the whirlpools of Delusion
And Despondence, the high banks.
The great Yogis are blissful because they,
With their pure minds, never crossed this river.
Blessed are they that, living even in the
caves of mountains,
Meditate on the supreme Light.
Even the birds will fearlessly drink of the
tears of pleasure
That flow from their eyes.
Alas, (Here Swami Vivekananda’s handwritten translation begins.) our minds grow familiar, even in imagination,
With palaces and pleasure — gardens,
And thus our lives fleet by.
Even when the only food is gained by begging,
and that is tasteless;
One’s bed, the dry earth;
One’s whole family, his own body;
His only clothing, a ragged bit of cloth —
Alas, alas, the desire for enjoyment does not leave a man.
Not knowing the power of flame, the insect falls into it. The fish swallows the bait, not knowing the hook inside. That, well aware of the vanity and dangers of the world, We cannot give it up —
Such is the power of Delusion.
Have such places in the Himalayas become extinct That a man should go begging at others’ doors?
Have the roots in the mountain forests all disappeared? Are the springs all dry?
Are the trees all withered that bear sweet fruits And bark for garments
That a man should look with fear on the face of a fool, Whose head is turned by a little wealth?
(Lit., “Whose eyebrows are dancing with the wind of the pride of a little wealth”.)
Arise! Let us go into the forest
Where pure roots and fruits will be our food,
Pure water our only drink,
Pure leaves our bed,
And where the little-minded, the thoughtless,
And those whose hearts are cramped with wealth
Do not exist.
In enjoyment is the fear of disease;
In high birth, the fear of losing caste;
In wealth, the fear of tyrants;
In honour, the fear of losing her;
In strength, the fear of enemies;
In beauty, the fear of the other sex;*
In knowledge, the fear of defeat;
In virtue, the fear of scandal;
In the body, the fear of death.
In this life, all is fraught with fear.
Renunciation alone is fearless.
The root of health has always round about it
A thousand worms in the form of dangers and disease. Where fortune falls, open a hundred gates of danger. Whosoever is born, him death will surely swallow. Say, where is that Providence who ever created
Anything that died not?
Life is like a wave upon the waters,
Youth only remains a few days.
Wealth is like a fancy of the mind,
It immediately vanishes.
Enjoyment is like a flash of lightning
amongst dark clouds.
Our most beloved one is only for a moment.
Knowing this, O man, give your heart unto Brahman To cross this ocean of life.
. . . Living in whom gods like Indra, Brahmâ
and others appear like a blade of grass,
Whose anger can destroy the worlds in a moment. O sage, know Him, that One Supreme
Who dies not,
And give not your mind to false enjoyment.
Ah, where is happiness in this life?
(At best it lasts but a hundred years, of which half is spent in sleep; of the other half, half in decrepitude; of what remains — one half goes in childhood and, of the rest, still half in serving others!)
O man, in this futile, wave-like life
Where is happiness?
Now you appear as child
And now as a youth, whose whole occupation is love. This moment poor, another wealthy,
Now a babe, and again a decrepit old man.
O actor man, at last you vanish from the stage
When death beckons you behind the scenes!
You are a king, but we have served Gurus,
Who are great in knowledge.
You are known by your wealth as a king,
We for our knowledge.
There is infinite difference between us and you, Therefore we are not the persons to wait upon you, O Kings!
Oh, when will that day come,
When in a forest, saying “Shiva”, “Shiva”,
My days shall pass?
A serpent and a garland the same,
The strong foe and the friend the same,
The flower-bed and the stone-bed the same,
A beautiful woman and a blade of grass the same!
(Verses 85, 90)
O Shiva, when shall I be able to cut
To the very roots of my Karma,
By becoming solitary, desireless, quiet —
My hands my only plate, and the cardinal points my clothing?
The fruits are sufficient food,
The waters of the mountain sufficient dinner,
The earth a sufficient bed,
And bark a sufficient garment —
These are all welcome.
Only I cannot bear the proud words of fools,
Whose organs are all disordered by the drink
Of the wine of new wealth!
What if you have got the wealth that fulfils every desire? If your foot is on the heads of your foes,
What of that?
If you have made all your love wealthy,
If your body remains a Kalpa (A periodic cycle of creation and dissolution.) — what of that?
The only thing to be desired is Renunciation
Which gives all love to Shiva.
Fear only life, that brings Birth and Death,
Have no love of friends, no lust, no attachment. Alone, living alone in a forest,
What is more to be longed for than this Renunciation.
Going searching in the lower regions,
Going into the skies,
Travelling through all the worlds,
This is but the fickleness of the mind.
Ah, friend, you never remember the Lord
Who resides within you!
How can you get happiness?
What is there in the reading of Vedas,
The Shrutis, the Purânas and doing sacrifices? Freedom alone takes off the weight
of this dreadful world,
And manifests Self-blessedness.
Here is the truth: the rest is all shop-keeping.
When the body is still healthy and diseaseless, When old age has not yet attacked it,
When the organs have not yet lost their power,
And life is still full and undiminished,
Now, now, struggle on, rendering great help to yourself! My friend, it is useless to try to dig a well
In a house that is already on fire!
In Shiva, who is the Lord of this Universe,
Or Vishnu, its soul, I see no difference,
But still, my love is for Him
Who has the young moon on His forehead.
Oh when will that time come,
When in a beautiful full-moon night,
Sitting on the banks of some river,
And in a calm, yet high notes repeating
“Shiva! Shiva! Shiva!”
All my feelings will come out through the eyes
In the form of tears?
When, wearing only the Kaupina, (Loincloth.)
Lying on the sands of the holy Ganges in Benares, When shall I weep aloud, “O Lord of ghouls”,
Saying this, and whole days shall pass like moments?
When, bathing in the pure Ganges water,
Worshipping Thee, Omnipresent, with holy fruits and flowers,
Stretching myself on stones in a stony cave,
My whole soul shall go into meditation,
And according to the voice of my Guru,
I shall avoid all misery, and purify
The mind defiled with serving the rich.
This whole wide earth my bed,
My beautiful pillows my own two arms,
My wonderful canopy the blue sky,
And the cool evening air to fan me,
The moon and the stars my lamps,
And my beautiful wife, Renunciation, by my side, What king is there who can sleep like me in pleasure?
This Universe is only a little circle.
What is there to desire in it?
Will the ocean go into waves
By the jumping of a little [fish?]?
There was a time when I could see nothing but Women in this world:
And now that my eyes are opened,
I can see nothing but Brahman.
Beautiful are the rays of the moon,
Beautiful are the lawns in the forest,
Beautiful is the meeting of the good,
Beautiful is poetry, and
Beautiful is the face of the beloved.
But to me none of these are beautiful,
Knowing that they are evanescent.
Oh mother earth, father wind,
Friend light, sweetheart water,
Here take my last salutation
With folded hands!
For today I am melting away into Brahman,
Because my heart became pure,
And all delusion vanished
Thro’ the power of your good company.
Old age watches us, roaring like a tigress.
Disease, like enemies, is striking us often.
Life is flowing out like water from a broken jar. Curious still how men do evil deeds in this world!
Those beautiful cities.
Those mighty monarchs.
Those powerful nobles.
Those learned assemblies.
Those moon-faced women.
Those proud princes.
And those that sang their praises —
They have all been swept away from the memory
My salutation, therefore, is to Time who works
The sun by his coming and going every hour
is lessening the life of man.
Time flies without our knowledge,
Crushed as we are by the load of many works.
Seeing the evils of Birth, Old Age, Danger, and Death We are not afraid.
Ah me, drinking the wine of delusion,
The world has become mad.
I have not learnt that knowledge which defeats all opponents!
Nor have been able, at the point of the sword,
Which can cut thro’ an elephant’s back,
To send our glory even unto the skies;
Nor, under the light of the full moon,
Drunk the nectar of the budding lips of the Beloved. My youth is gone fruitless
Like a lamp in an empty house.