Sthirata Nahi Nahi Re

Bhagavat Gita 1

I was seven or eight when I first heard of the Bhagavat Gita. My mother registered my sister and me into Chinamaya Mission’s program for young ones. Chanting the Gita was one of the activities. I even learnt the whole of chapter 7 by heart for a competition, and what’s more, I won a prize for it too!

Not that I understood anything much at that time. Subsequently I have read some summaries and heard some lectures but have not really delved into the Gita. I would tell myself ‘I really should read it at least once from end to end’  but I never got around to it. Well, last week I finally embarked on my long time goal. I hope to have the two-fold benefit of understanding the basic ideas of the Gita and improving my Sanskrit at the same time. I am not going to rush through it, after all, what is the hurry?

Why am I telling you all this? Well, if you see me quote from the Gita every now and then, don’t take me for some erudite vidushi! I am just stumbling along my first word-for-word read of the Gita and no doubt it will filter down into this blog as well.

For those who do not have the time to read it, here is the gist of Chapter 1 which I have just finished. Sanjaya, the charioteer and seer for Dhritarashtra is our narrator. Dhritarashtra asks in the first verse of his seer, ‘What’s up in the battleground ?’. Or rather, he says elegantly in Sanskrit

धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः |
मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ||१- १||

What did Pandu’s son and my sons do when they assembled on the sacred (Dharmic) plain of Kurukshetra, eager for battle, O Sanjaya?

Note how he refers to the battleground as धर्म क्षेत्र  or the field of Dharma, a word which encompasses so much from righteousness, duty, religion, virtue, justice, morality, propriety to law. That is the field for which the Gita was written.

The theme of this chapter is Arjuna’s grief. Those who know the Mahabharata know that the Pandavas had come upon this point after many years of injustice, treachery, insults and even murder attempts. They had not lightly decided on this course of war with their kin. Yet when Arjuna sees his grandfather, uncles, gurus, sons, grandsons, in-laws, cousins and friends arrayed before him on either side of the battlefield, he is overcome with the magnitude of what is happening. ‘What am I doing it all for?’, he seems to ask Krishna, his charioteer, in this verse.

न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण न च राज्यं सुखानि च |
किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा ||१- ३२||

I desire not victory, O Krishna, nor kingdom, nor pleasures. Of what avail is dominion to us, O Govinda? Of what avail are pleasures and even life?*

He is a shaken man. His limbs tremble, his skin feels as if it burns, his mouth is dry. We can hardly recognize the great and experienced warrior that he was in these descriptions. His main fear seems to be that of accumulating the great sin of destroying his family.

अहो बत महत्पापं कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम् |
यद्राज्यसुखलोभेन हन्तुं स्वजनमुद्यताः ||१- ४५||

Alas! We have resolved to commit a great sin, inasmuch as we are endeavouring to slay our kinsmen out of craving for the pleasures of dominion.

It seems to me that he was more worried about gathering sins than the loss of dear ones. Whatever it was, I feel most sympathetic with him and wonder how the story would have gone if he had walked away from the battlefield then?

There are some verses (40-48) which I found rather objectionable in this chapter. His idea of a adharmic future is the impiety of women (not men!), the intermingling of castes due to which all the forefathers will go to hell without offerings of pinda and water! I suppose it struck at me personally as a woman who not only married outside her caste but also outside her region. To be accused of impiety and the ‘sin of intermingling of castes’ seems rather harsh! What can be wrong about the intermingled origins of my two wonderful children? Two such intelligent and empathetic citizens of the world, both doctors who aid people everyday, surely the Gita does not question the propriety of their existence? Ah well, different times, different mores. I am not one to take the scriptures too literally…

The theme song of the day? What came to mind immediately was ‘Sthirata Nahi Nahi Re’ by Sadasiva Brahmendra. ‘There is no stability of mind’ says the poet. ‘We are engrossed in this ocean of three kinds of sorrow, caged by arrogance and egotism’ he says. Arjuna too felt deep sorrow at his situation, a situation which came about partly by arrogance and egotism as well. ‘Minds wrapped up with the bond of things, perplexed by wrong or contrary knowledge’.  Interesting that vishaya can be interpreted as objects but also as country or land. Is that not what the Pandaves were, bound to their desire for land? For lyrics and translation, see footnote.

The song was made his own by the incomparable Maestro Balamuralikrishna. I believe it was set to music by him for the film Dharma Nirnayam but I cannot confirm this.  It is set to Raga Amrutavarshini here but this poem has been sung in different ragas by different artists. To know more about this raga, click here.

Alternate link : Click here

Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :

Poetry : Sadasiva Brahmendra
Raga : Amrutavarshini
Language : Sanskrit

स्थिरथा नहि नहि रे मानस ।
स्थिरथा नहि नहि रे ॥

तापत्रय सागर मग्नानाम् दर्पाहन्कार विलग्नानाम्  ॥

विषय पाश वेष्टित चित्तानाम् विपरीत ज्ञान विमत्तानाम्  ॥

परमहंस योग विरुद्धानाम् बहु चन्चलतर सुख सिद्धानाम्  ॥

Transliteration :

sthiratA nahi nahi rE mAnasa
sthiratA nahi nahi rE

tApatraya sAgara magnAnam darpAhankAra vilagnAnAm

vishaya pAsha veshTita chittAnAm viparIta jnAna vimattAnAm

paramahamsa yOga viruddhAnAm bahu chanchalatara sukha siddhAnAm

Translation :

O listen (implied by rE, interjection of calling)! The mind (mAnasa) does verily not (nahi nahi) stabilize (sthiratA).

We are engrossed (magnAnam) in this ocean (sAgara) of three kinds of sorrow (tApatraya) (note: Adidaivika (Divine), Adhibhoutika (of the body) and Adhyatmika (of the soul)), caged (vilagnAnAm) by arrogance (darpa) and egotism (ahankAra).

Minds (chittAnAm) wrapped up (vEshTita) with the bond (pAsha) of things (vishaya), perplexed (vimattAnAm) by wrong or contrary (viparIta) knowledge (jnAna).

Opposed (viruddhAnAm) to union (yOga) with ascetics (paramahamsa). So (implied) achieving (achieving) of joy (sukha) is very (bahu) uncertain (chanchalatara).



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.Balamuralikrishna, Sadasiva Brahmendra

11 responses to “Sthirata Nahi Nahi Re

  1. I can’t comment on your blog at this point of time…

    But this is one of my favorties again.

    The translation – I want to take a closer look. In essence, you are right. But the whole song goes like an soliloquy (the “poet” addressing his own mind)

    Did anyone else other than BMK sing this?

    • Hello Srinivas. Yes, I have heard a few versions of this song – in particular one by Sudha Raghunathan but in a different raga. But BMK’s version is the definitive one in my mind! As to the translation, I started by translating in exactly the same way you see it, as an address to his own mind. Yet when I looked at it further, he talks of things which don’t really apply to him, for example, being opposed to the company of (or union with) paramahamsas. He was, I believe, an avadhoota who sought company of holy men. So how can it be addressed to his own mind? I changed my translation therefore to a more general commentary. Still, it is just my interpretation; obviously, other interpretations are possible as well.
      Cheers. Suja

  2. Ramesh

    You are reading the Gita in Sanskrit ????? Wow ! Double wow !! Triple wow !!!

    Now I can learn a bit about the Gita in addition to music. Your blog is truly a jewel.

    Even religious scriptures are set in a time and age and are even outrageous when seen now. Mahabaratham is full of such atrocious stuff . But then there are timeless messages and the good way outweighs the bad. Pity the religious zealots who insist on literal following of every word.

    By the way, we have had a prolonged dry spell and Bangalore desperately needs rain. Yesterday the heavens opened up for an hour and drenched the city. I was wondering what was the trigger. Now I know :):)

    • Oh don’t be too impressed Ramesh 🙂 I have 4 windows open on the computer – a PDF of the Gita with translation and comments, a sandhi-broken version of the Sanskrit words, a Sankrit-English dictionary and a site which gives commentary on each verse from 4 sources. Then I go through each verse word by word, annotating the PDF with notes and questions to myself. A very slow process, I assure you 🙂 I’ll no doubt pepper my posts with quotes from the of course you’ll hear more of it!

      You are right that all of our scriptures have ideas which have reached their use-by-date and we must use common sense in their interpretation. Let me see how the Gita and I get along… Chapter 2 promises to be very esoteric and mystifying.

      hehehe, glad that amrutavarshini worked its magic in Bangalore 🙂 Enjoy!

      Cheers. Suja

  3. S.Narasimha Raj

    ” . . Ah well, different times, different mores. I am not one to take the scriptures too literally…, , ”
    Suja, your ‘inquiring mind’ has opened up avenues for comments to pour in, by – wittingly or unwittingly – opening up thoughts/questions on ‘Traditions, Conventions, Dogmas’! (Scriptures contain several aspects/issues/utterances which have undergone changes in interpretation & practice over the ages!
    Perhaps, it is appropriate to ‘sieve & winnow’ even the Bhagavad Gita to seek & secure ‘unquestionable Wisdoms’?
    I eagerly look forward to comments/contributions from you and your followers, to understand and learn-at-ease.
    Wish you a great time – reading, understanding, and interpreting Bhagavad Gita.

    • Hello Raj, You found the exact term for it – I do indeed like to ‘sieve and winnow’ whatever I read, scriptures or otherwise, to adopt what I find right and discard what I don’t. I do not believe in accepting anything blindly, not even words of great experts or knowledgeable gurus. They are after all men, with the same faculties as mine. If they can read and analyse and gather ideas, so can I ! Nor do I think that my relationship with God can be dictated by other men; I accept ideas in the way one reads a guide-book – read it as if it is a story of someone else’s experience, that’s all. When you have your own experience, then it becomes real.

      Even the Bhagavat Gita – why take it blindly? Let me indeed accept that Krishna addressed Arjuna and gave him advice that we can all follow. But the Gita is a recital of a man – Sanjaya – a seer. What if he misheard or misrepresented? Who recorded his words then? Were they transcribed immediately or was there some time for others to add their own interpretations? Surely Krishna did not advice Arjuna in verse? That can be quite annoying, especially if you are sitting distraught in a battlefield! So someone else made it into verse, did they not? What did they add or subtract? So Gita may well be a God-given direction but many a man has been involved in getting it into our hands. And men always have their own agenda. So yes, I shall read the Gita with faith, but with a questioning eye as well.
      cheers. Suja

  4. S.Narasimha Raj

    “I shall read the Gita with faith, but with a questioning eye as well”
    I like your pragmatic/practical/incisive approach. Keep pouring-out more of your thoughts/commentaries as you read on. Yeh dil maange more!
    Best Wishes.

  5. mohan

    I happened to re-read your blog on Gita Chapter I. Last time when I read it I didn’t have time to ponder over the blog. Let me ask a simple question? I too married off my daughter to another caste boy. Because of that some of my family members has completely boycotted me.Well educated one( one of my relative is a Ph.D in physics) cling to their caste with all their mite. Is it insecurity or ignorance?

    • Hello Mohan, I feel your pain.. it is so sad! Why do people value their own traditions and beliefs more than even their own family? Why cannot they see the soul inside a person? I do not know the answer. It could be both insecurity AND ignorance. Instead of hating them for it, let us feel pity for them, for what they harm the most is their own karma.

      I will tell you what my experience has been. When I was very young and grew up in a Brahmin community, I saw my own community as ‘us’ and the rest of the world as ‘them’. When I knew a bit better, I saw fellow Tamilians as ‘us’ and the rest of the world as ‘them’. When I left India for the first time, I saw fellow Indians as ‘us’ and the rest of the world as ‘them’. When I started working with people from many Asian countries, I started seeing all the Asians as ‘us’ and the rest of the world as ‘them’. When I moved to Australia and then to America and then to Europe, slowly the ‘us’ has become larger and larger and the ‘them’ smaller and smaller. What has changed in me in all these years? Recognition that we are all essentially one. When that happens, barriers drop. Let us pray that those who shun you will one day learn to do better.
      Cheers. Suja

  6. Narasimharaj

    “. . When I moved to Australia and then to America and then to Europe, slowly the ‘us’ has become larger and larger and the ‘them’ smaller and smaller. . . ”
    Suja, as was to be expected, you’ve taken the thinking closer to the concept of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’!
    Incredible chain of thoughtful exchanges on this ‘post’!
    Best Wishes.

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