Dukrnkarane: an alternative view

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Wed Jan 13 12:46:42 CST 1999

On Sat, 9 Jan 1999, Giridhar wrote:

>         Shri Shankara advises all sadhakas,not to waste time in trifles
> but to strive for realizing one Self. The grammar rule i..e,
> the sutra DukR^iJNkaraNe is from dhatupat of Panini's
> Siddhanta koumudhi. Here, it can be referred to all secular
> knowledge.

This is indeed the usual interpretation of the first verse.  However in an
article in the April 1989 issue of Tattvaloka, a magazine published by the
Sringeri Matha (which by scary coincidence I was reading about when you
wrote this) a scholar called S. Sankaranarayanan wrote an article which
offers a different explanation.  The conclusion is similiar though from a
slightly different perspective.

Oh and a minor nitpick, the Siddhanta Kaumudi is Bhattoji Dikshita's
reformulation of Panini's Ashtadhyayi.

Anyway, the poem that begins "Bhaja Govindam" is actually called Dvadasha
Manjarika (bouquet of 12 verses.)  There is a 13th verse usually attached
to it which states "Through these 12 verse-blossoms the entire teaching
was imparted to the Grammarian by the most wise Shankara Bhagavatpada."

Who was this Grammarian?  The popular story is that one day during His
travels, Shankaracharya saw an aged Pandit sitting under a tree reciting
the sutras of Vyakarana (Grammar).  He spontaneously composed the Dvadasha
Manjarika to rebuke him, to say in essence "You are soon going to die,
spend your time worshipping God instead of wasting time in such pointless

Shri Shankaranarayanan notes a few things.  One, the very fact that the
poem is called _Dvadasha_ (12) Manjarika and the 13th verse refers to the
author in the third person suggests that it is a later interpolation.
Also the most authoritative commentator, the famous Svayamprakash Yati
only comments on the first 12 verses and furthermore makes no mention of
any grammarian.  For Shankaracharyas contemporaries, Vyakarana was the
most important and advanced of shastras.  Thinkers like Bhartrahari and
Mandana Mishra raised it to a form of philosophy itself.  It is very
puzzling that anyone of that age would have used Vyakarana as an
illustration of trivial pedantry.  So he concludes the story is not
true and was added later.

He suggests the true meaning is this. dukrnkarane is one of the most
elementary sutras.  If at the end of your life you are still on such
low-level material, you cannot claim to know much about Sanskrit at all.
And if you do not know Sanskrit how would you be able fathom the profound
teachings of our shastras?  _At_the_end_of_your_life_ (sannhite kale)
knowing dukrnkarane will not help you much.  But if you start from
childhood then maybe it will.  Similiarly the earlier you start worshiping
Govinda the more good it will do you.  This poem is not a tirade against
grammar. It is admonishing those people who postpone and procrastinate
instead of doing their duty to Bhagwan right now.

This can take many forms.  In fact someone could well say "there is no
point in doing puja until I learn enough Sanskrit to do it properly."
But Bhagawan will also listen to the prayers of people who don't know one
word of Sanskrit.  Just do what you can and keep your mind open so you can
learn to do more.

Another way this attitude can manifest is the tendancy
of Hindus overseas to have this romantic notion that India is very
spiritual while the West is degenerate and material.  They don't do much
for their foreign-born children and the communities they live in because
they imagine they will one day go home to a place exactly the same as they
left and not have to worry about what happens here.  Don't believe a word
of it!  Gujaratis were always the most capitalistic people in India and I
observed during my recent trip that they are diving into the global
consumer culture head-first.  I'm sure its the same in other parts of the
country.  Very soon India is going to be affected by the exact same
problems as American society is.  Where will those who just run away from
problems go then?

Whether or not Hindu society and religion remains vital and dynamic
depends on how much effort and resources its members put into it and how
squarely they are prepared to face the challenges life offers. Now as
then, Bhaja Govindam! is the best advice.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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