Jñāneśvarī – Unsullied by Time (Part 3)

The Exuberant Play of Upamās (Part 2)

In the thirteenth chapter, while explaining the word ‘adambhitva’ (freedom from hypocrisy, sincerity), he says even when a miser has a threat to his life, he doesn’t reveal where he has hidden his wealth; similarly a person should never speak about the good deeds he has done to the other. That is adambhitva. Just as a nasty cow doesn’t let her master milk her and keeps the milk for herself, just as a rich traveller hides his money, just as a lady of good character covers her body, just as a farmer covers up the sown seeds with soil, a person filled with sattva does not reveal his good deeds.

A jñāni (wise person, realized soul) is described in the following manner by Jñāneśvara: A banana plant, which is hollow from inside gives a fruit that is rich in taste. A cloud that is as light as smoke can produce heavy torrents of rain. So also, a jñāni who might appear rather ordinary from the outside is brilliant from within and spreads luminescence all around.

Jñānadeva gives an example to demonstrate how simple words can have profound meanings. When seen from below, the sun appears not bigger than one’s palm. But the three worlds do not suffice to capture his brilliance. Similar are these words, which are deceivingly simple.

He says, “…bolī arupāce rupa dāvīna, atīṃdriya parī bhogavīna, iṃdriyāṃkaravīṃ.”[1] – I make abstract concepts concrete through my words. I bring within the realm of experience those things that can’t be grasped by the senses.

hātāṃceṃ karaṇeṃ kā pāyāṃceṃ cālaṇeṃ
teṃ hoya majakāraṇeṃ taiseṃ karīṃ[2]

The movement of your hands,
the running around of your legs –
may all that be aligned to me (i.e. to the Supreme)

maga pārthā tiye ṭhāyīṃ sādhya sādhana hoya nāhīṃ
kiṃbahunā tuja kāṃhīṃ ureci nā[3]

Arjuna, all that you undertake for yourself or for others –
offer all that to me; let that be your yajña
Having attained this state, there remains
nothing else to do, no other duties to fulfil!

The Jñāneśvarī contains not merely the elaboration of lines from the Bhagavad-gītā. Jñānadeva has elaborated upon several relevant points that aren’t too clear in the original. For instance, the sixth adhyāya of the Gītā contains portions with Tāntric details such as what kind of a place should be chosen for yoga sādhanā (practice of yoga). He provides details about Kuṇḍalinī-yoga. He has hailed Aṣṭāṅga-yoga as ‘Pantha-rāja,’ the king of paths.

Beauty in Every Utterance

Jñāneśvara has attempted to fill beauty in every word of the Jñāneśvarī

mhaṇauni akṣarīṃ subhedīṃ upamā śloka koṃdākoṃdī
jhāḍā deīna pratipadīṃ graṃthārthāsī[4]

Jñānadeva avers that all śāstras (subjects, treatises) other than adhyātma-śāstras (spiritual treatises) are apramāṇas – i.e. not authoritative, not credible. He calls a person who lacks a spiritual perspective but has merely dedicated himself in procuring knowledge of the śāstras as a ‘learned idiot.’ In Jñānadeva’s view there is no wall separating jñāna and bhakti. Bhakti is the result of jñāna. As long as the body lives, one cannot escape from karmas (actions). He opines that only if the karmas are offered to the deity with bhakti, just as flowers are offered, can mukti (Ultimate release) be attained.

loha ubheṃ khāya mātī teṃ parīsāciye saṃgatīṃ
soneṃ jālayā puḍhatī na śivije maḻeṃ[5]

A piece of iron fallen in the mud can rust;
after it’s transformed into gold
by contact with a touchstone,
mud cannot tarnish it

jeṇeṃ saprapaṃca ajñāna jāye yeku mī gocaru hoye
teṃ upapattīceni upāyeṃ gītārūpa heṃ[6]

I’ve explained to you in a methodical way
the knowledge given by Gītā
This removes all ignorance
and leads to Self-knowledge

nā nā sāṃḍileni kavaḻeṃ caṃdrīṃceṃ dhuye piṃvaḻeṃ
vyādhityāgeṃ kaḍuvāḻeṃ- paṇa mukhāceṃ[7]

Cured of cataract, one no longer sees the moon as yellow
Once cured of disease, the tongue gives up its bitterness
Once the sun goes down the horizon,
no mirages are seen

Nāmadeva, who was not just a contemporary but also a close associate of Jñāneśvara praises his life and achievements in innumerable abhaṅgs of his.

Bhavya-jīvana – A Splendid Life

Legend has it that when Jñāneśvara was about fifteen years of age (c. 1290 ce) he had the entire Jñāneśvarī written by Saccidānanda Bābā who was working as a kulakarṇi (accountant) in Nevase. After having composed Jñāneśvarī, Jñāneśvara lived only for six more years. He attained mukti in the Siddeśvara devālaya of Āḻandī even as he had lost himself in chanting the names of the divine in the company of Nāmadeva, Nivṛittinātha, and other noble souls.

There’s an interesting story behind the famous portrait of Jñāneśvara. There apparently lived a sage by named Gulābarāv in the province of Vidarbha. He performed tapas with the prayed – Let me have a vision of Jñāneśvara māulī. His prayers found fruition. He painted the image that manifested before his blind eyes through his eyes of wisdom. Even today the image of Jñāneśvara that lies in front of the eyes of millions of devotees is that image with him seated in padmāsana with his eyes slightly raised upwards; he wears an attractive turban, a shawl, an aṅga-vastra (a stole-like cloth worn on the upper part of the body), a pearl necklace, and a garland of flowers.

One can say that the life of Jñāneśvara was filled with turmoil. The main reason behind this was his father taking up saṃnyāsa and then returning to the life of a householder due to the pressure of circumstances. Because of this, the conservative society had branded their family as outcaste.

Jñānadeva (b. 1275 CE) was the second son of Viṭhalapanta and his wife Rukumā-bāi. Viṭhalapanta was a kulakarṇi in a place called Apegaon on the banks of the river Godavari in Maharashtra. Nivṛittinātha (b. 1273) was his first son. Jñānadeva had a young brother, Sopāna (b. 1277) and a younger sister, Muktā-bāi (b. 1279). These four siblings have lightened up the path of spirituality in our country. This is indeed a play of the divine.

Viṭhalapanta, who was declared by his own people as an outcaste along with his family took refuge in Tryambakeśvara (near modern-day Nasik). He lived there along with his wife and children, leading a pious life. Later in his life, he headed to Prayaga and ended his life through jala-samādhi. It is not mere coincidence that Jñānadeva was born on the occasion of Kṛṣṇa-janmāṣṭami.

Dīkṣā, dharma-prasāra

Nivṛittinātha, who had an inclination towards adhyātma from his younger days, received dīkṣā (initiation from the guru to take on a path of spirituality) from Gahinīnātha who was a student of Gorakṣanātha. Nivṛittinātha’s guru Gahinīnātha told him that he should teach his younger brother Jñānadeva everything he had learnt and that the latter had the potential as well as the divine resolution to achieve greatness. Accordingly, this traditional knowledge came down from Nivṛittinātha to Jñānadeva and from Jñānadeva to Sopāna and Muktā-bāi. There are several traditional stories that speak of several special siddhis displayed by Jñānadeva.

Jñānadeva travelled from one town to another spreading the word of dharma. Once he arrived at a place called Nevase that lies on the banks of the river Pravara in today’s Ahmednagar district. The people of the province requested him to reside there for a while. Jñāneśvara consented and the discourses he delivered to those people were compiled as the Bhāvārtha-dīpikā. This work, popular by the name of ‘Jñāneśvarī’ was composed around 1290 ce. After that, Jñāneśvara met his brothers and sister in Pandharpur. Starting from 1293, he travelled to several tīrtha-kṣetras (pilgrimage centres) in North India in the company of the great saint Nāmadeva. He gave up his body in 1296 on the thirteenth day of the śukla-pakṣa (the fortnight of the waxing moon) in the Hindu lunar month of Kārtika at Siddheśvara Sannidhi. Jñānadeva has also composed three works other than Bhāvārtha-dīpikā (the commentary on the Gītā) – Amṛtānubhava, Abhaṅga-gātha, and Cāṅgadeva-pāṣaṣṭi.

Jñānadeva’s writings are huge in terms of quantity as well. The Jñāneśvarī contains nine thousand Ovīs. The Amṛtānubhava consists of eight hundred verses, the Abhaṅga-gātha has around one thousand and one hundred abhaṅgs, and the Cāṅgadeva-pāṣaṣṭi has sixty-five poems. Such is the rich treasure-trove of literature that Jñānadeva produced.

The Jñāneśvarī and the Amṛtānubhava have his philosophical insights while the abhaṅgs document the experiences of a siddha who has attained aparokṣānubhava (direct perception of eternal bliss). The Jñāneśvarī has been translated into the major languages of India. Of late, Santa Jñāneśvara Harikathā Kīrtana Mahāvidyālaya has been established in Āḻandī and the traditional teaching of kīrtanas (songs) and regular lectures are organized.

Concluded. 

The original Kannada essay, written to commemorate seven hundred years of the composition of the Jñāneśvarī, appeared in the 1990 October issue of the Utthāna monthly. ಡಾ॥ಎಸ್ ಆರ್ ರಾಮಸ್ವಾಮಿ. ಕವಳಿಗೆ (೨೦೧೪). ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರೋತ್ಥಾನಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ, ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು. ಪು. ೬೩–೭೬ (“ಕಾಲದಿಂದ ಮಾಸದ ‘ಜ್ಞಾನೇಶ್ವರೀ’”)

 

Footnotes

[1] …बोली अरुपाचे रुप दावीन।

अतींद्रिय परी भोगवीन। इंद्रियांकरवीं॥ – Jñāneśvarī 6.36

[2] हातांचें करणें। का पायांचें चालणें।

तें होय मजकारणें। तैसें करीं॥ – Jñāneśvarī 18. 1358

[3] मग पार्था तिये ठायीं। साध्य साधन होय नाहीं।

किंबहुना तुज कांहीं। उरेचि ना॥ – Jñāneśvarī 18.1385

[4] म्हणौनि अक्षरीं सुभेदीं। उपमा श्लोक कोंदाकोंदी।

झाडा देईन प्रतिपदीं। ग्रंथार्थासी॥ – Jñāneśvarī 13.1164

[5] लोह उभें खाय माती। तें परीसाचिये संगतीं।

सोनें जालया पुढती। न शिविजे मळें॥ – Jñāneśvarī 18.1408

[6] जेणें सप्रपंच अज्ञान जाये। येकु मी गोचरु होये।

तें उपपत्तीचेनि उपायें। गीतारूप हें॥ – Jñāneśvarī 18.1388

[7] ना ना सांडिलेनि कवळें। चंद्रींचें धुये पिंवळें।

व्याधित्यागें कडुवाळें-। पण मुखाचें॥ – Jñāneśvarī 18.1393

Author(s)

About:

Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of greats like D. V. Gundappa and Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.

Translator(s)

About:

Arjun is a poet, translator, engineer, and musician. He is a polyglot, well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, Hindi, English, Greek, and German. He currently serves as Assistant Professor at Amrita Darshanam - International Centre for Spiritual Studies at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bangalore. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature.

About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.