Critical Appreciation of Prahasanas - Part 12

Lockwood and Bhat in their introduction (page 10) use this conversation where Parivrājaka punishes Śāṇḍilya as an example to prove that Parivrājaka himself isn’t on par with the standards he had set earlier. And this alone would prove that Parivrājaka isn’t a true ascetic. They also say that by such an assumption, the play becomes more entertaining since everything Parivrājaka utters would be hypocritical. While there seems to be a contradiction in the behaviour of the Parivrājaka here, this alone isn’t sufficient to say that he is a quack! Many of the great ṛṣis too would sometime become angry, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t true ascetics. Even bhagavān Śri-kṛṣṇa acts inappropriately and expresses his happiness in an untimely manner when Ghaṭotkaca is killed, but that doesn’t make the bhagavadgītā null and void! He is still considered Yogeśvara. Moreover in the present context the Parivrājaka is able to do parakāyapraveśa later in this story which would establish that the Parivrājaka is not a quack like other mendicants who appear in prahasanas of the later period who are neither seekers nor do they possess any such skills, but instead try to fool people with extraordinary claims and fail miserably (one example being ‘Jñānarāśī’ from the prahasana Hāsyacūḍāmaṇi which we shall analyse next.). In those prahasanas their incompetence actually contribute to the humour, but in case of this prahasana the claims made by Lockwood and Bhat hold no water. Here it is the contrasting behaviour of the preceptor and the disciple that generates humour.

Śāṇḍilya doesn’t buy his preceptor's thoughts about punishment, instead he again reminds that it's time for food, Parivrājaka corrects him saying that it isn’t noon yet, the way Parivrājaka describes the right time for bhikṣā is very interesting, he says

न्यस्तमुसले व्यङ्गारे सर्वभुक्तजने काल इत्युपदेशः

[the pounding staff is at rest, the embers calmed, everyone has finished their meals, then one should go for bhikṣā]

He says that they can rest for sometime in the nearby garden. Again Śāṇḍilya asks how a ‘liberated’ person can be tired, the preceptor patiently corrects him saying that the body still needs rest. The discussion veers to the concept of the deha, the ātman, their differences and so on. Time and again Śāṇḍilya seem to take things literally instead of grasping the underlying spirit. Still he seems to know the nature of ātman which he states without mistakes! When he asks ‘Who are you?’ Parivrājaka answers as follows.

खपवनसलिलानां तेजसश्चैकदेशा-

दुपचितचलमूर्तिः पार्थिवद्रव्यराशिः ।


नर इति कृतसंज्ञः कोऽप्यहं प्राणिधर्मा ॥९॥

[Comprising of five primordial elements, sky, air, water, fire and earth is this dynamic but mortal body, perceiving the world through the five senses I’m some animate object called as man]

Compare this with the verse from Nirvāṇaṣaṭkam of Ādiśaṅkara,

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कारचित्तानि नाहं

न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।

न च व्योमभूमिर्न तेजो न वायु-

श्चिदानन्दरूपश्शिवोऽहं शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥

[ I’m neither the mind nor the intellect nor the ego nor thought

Nor am I the ears, the tongue, the nose, eyes

Nor am I the space, the earth, the fire, the air

I’m indeed that Ānandasvarūpa, Śiva ]

Or in terms of construction it has some similarities with the famous verse from Meghadūta of Kālidāsa.

धूमज्योतिस्सलिलमरुतां संनिपातः क्व मेघः

सन्देशार्थाः क्व पटुकरणैः प्राणिभिः प्रापणीयाः ।

इत्यौत्सुक्यादपरिगणयन् गुह्यकस्तं ययाचे

कामार्ता हि प्रकृतिकृपणाश्चेतनाचेतनेषु ॥ १.५ ॥

They arrive at the garden, Śāṇḍilya insists that the Parivrājaka should enter first since there is a tiger hiding somewhere inside ready to pounce upon him! Parivrājaka agrees and he is followed by Śāṇḍilya who starts screaming that he has been caught by the tiger! When Parivrājaka corrects him and says that it is a peacock, Śāṇḍilya calls it a coward tiger which, after seeing him transformed itself into the peacock and is retreating! Here we see a streak of Śakāra from the famous Mṛcchakaṭika, it is interesting to note that parts of both the prahasanas i.e. Matta-vilāsa and Bhagavad-ajjukam have some elements inspired by Mṛcchakaṭika. If not for its appearance in a prahasana one would be tempted to bring in comparisons of the sarpa-rajju-nyāya when Śāṇḍilya sees a tiger where there is a peacock!

Śāṇḍilya follows that with the description of the garden, which is done well with good diction and style, but it ends up as an enumeration since it betrays the lacks knowledge of the flowering seasons and lowers the propriety! Since it is Śāṇḍilya who describes it, it isn’t totally inappropriate.

Parivrājaka meanwhile takes this opportunity to correct his disciple and tries to make him understand the transient nature of life. This leads to a couple of good verses.

अभ्यागतः किसलयाभरणो वसन्त:

प्राप्ता शरत्कुमुदषण्डविभूषणेति ।

बालो नवेष्वृतुषु रज्यति नाम लोके

यज्जीवितं हरति तत्किल रम्यमस्य ॥१०॥

[Here comes the spring adorned with the shoots,

Here comes the autumn adorned with the lilies

Thus the naive are entertained with such thoughts

While that thing of beauty steals one’s very own life]

अनागतं प्रार्थयतामतिक्रान्तं च शोचताम् ।

वर्तमानैरतुष्टानां निर्वाणं नोपपद्यते ॥११॥

[Those who yearn for things beyond their reach (future),

Who worry about the things which are lost (past)

Who are forever sorrow about their present

Such people never attain nirvāṇa]

The second verse sounds like an all time truth masquerading as a maxim. One can find similar verses in bhagavadgītā and the below verse uttered by Kṛṣṇa elsewhere. (Two verses which are variations of the same idea.)

गतार्थान्नानुशोचन्ति नार्थयन्ते मनोरथान् ।

वर्तमानेन वर्तन्ते तेन मे पाण्डवाः प्रियाः॥

गते शोकं न कुर्वन्ति भवितव्ये न कातराः।

वर्तमानेन वर्तन्ते तस्मान्मे पाण्डवाः प्रियाः॥

[They don’t lament about the past nor they are anxious about the future

They always stay in the present, so the pandavas are dear to me]

Finally when it comes to finding a place to sit Śāṇḍilya is bothered by cleanliness while the Parivrājaka isn’t.

Lockwood and Bhat again have few notes regarding the small conversation below where nothing seems to be special.

शाण्डिल्य: -- आयतमानः पन्थाः । ननुं कुत्रेदानीमुपविशामः ।

“71 Disciple: A tedious path! Where can we rest? 20

परिव्राजकः -- इहैव वसिष्यावहे ।

“72 Mendicant: We’ll sit down here. 21

शाण्डिल्य: -- अपोक्षमपोक्षम् !

“73 Disciple: Filth! Filth! 22

“20. A double entendre, the other meaning being that Śāṇḍilya considers his guru’s lecture tiring and wants a rest from it.

21. A double entendre, the other meaning being that the Mendicant is suggesting that they can rest in the position (philosophical) put forward by him.

22. A double entendre, the other meaning being an expression of what Śāṇḍilya thinks of his guru’s philosophy. ‘Crap’ is a term which more exactly translates the implied meaning, here.”

Again it seems stretched to gather such meanings from this casual conversation.

This is the twelfth part of the multi-part essay on "Critical Appreciation of Prahasanas". Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh, Shashikiran B N and Hari Ravikumar for reviews and valuable inputs.



Raghavendra G S is a keen student of classical literature in Sanskrit and Kannada. He is one of the contributing editors of Prekshaa.

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