Wednesday, December 12, 2012

‘The Greatness of the Human Body’


Human life is short, fleeting rather. So, should one, during this limited span of time at disposal, go for shreya or for preya? [See the critical distinction between shreya and preya]. In the Nara Deha Mahatmya’, ‘The Greatness of the Human Body’, of Sankaradeva’s Bhakti-Ratnakara, we find some guidance in this respect. The following is a synoptic translation of that Chapter.

Nara Deha Mahatmya’

The main objective is to reveal the mahima (Great Glory) of the human body.  [The nara-tanu is the prime sadhana]. Doing Hari-Bhakti in this human body, samsara is destroyed.

1. [Krsna to Uddhava, 11th] Censures those suicides – wild persons addicted only to matter – who do not seek to cross the samsara-ocean, even on obtaining the extremely rare nara-tanu – the body-boat manned by the expert helmsman (the Guru) and favored by the Lord Himself as the extremely congenial wind.

2. [Dattatreya to Yadu, 11th] The rare human body is obtained after many, many births. Although destructible, it has the capacity to realize all the purusarthas of man. One should immediately, without delay, make efforts through it for obtaining the happiness of salvation. Forsaking matter, the steady one should make preparations for crossing the woe-filled samsara as visaya sukha is present even in animal bodies.

3. [Krsna to Uddhava, 11th] Praises the human body which is aspired for even by the gods as it secures both jnana and Bhakti. In the way that the denizens of hell pray for the nara-tanu, so also the inhabitants of heaven. As apart from it (the nara-tanu), one is unable to secure either jnana or Bhakti.

The nara-tanu is supremely superior to all other bodies and best as it is the prime reason (hetu – means) for obtaining God Himself Who is atma, antaryami. Through the practice of Bhakti-dharma (Sravana and Kirttana) in the Bhaktas’ company.

[Mucukunda to Krsna, 10th] ‘Visaya sukha’ obtainable in all yonis (wombs, births). But, service at Krsna’s Feet is not present anywhere save and except in this human birth. Therefore, manusya-sarira is durlabha and, thus, the foul-minded one who neglects the service of the Lotus Feet of Krsna (even after obtaining the supremely rare human body) falls to his doom.

5. [Dattatreya to Yadu, 11th] This human birth in Bharata is the open gate to liberation. Therefore, there is no chance of redemption for the one who, obtaining such a deha, does not do the seva of Hari. Such a one will (forever) remain fallen in samsara.

6. [Yama to denizens of hell, Narasimha Purana] The extremely beautiful human body was obtained by you on the strength of your (countless) punyas. But, doing various acts designed only to gratify the senses etc., you have brought about your own downfall (in a suicidal manner). You have, by neglecting Hari-seva (by means of this nara-tanu), very foolishly only burnt the precious sandalwood for ashes.

7. [Devas, 5th] Censure the wild, intoxicated persons. The human body is endowed completely with (the functionality of) all conative and cognitive senses and yet, that (wild) person who does not make any effort (with the aid of this mighty means) to cross samsara, by rendering devotional service to Hari; that one is surely a prisoner of this dreadful samsara, sinking into its terrible mire.

8. [Narada to sages, Naradiya Purana] That one who, obtaining human birth in Bharata, does not remember Hari, he is (definitely) void of intellect and supremely ignorant. There is not a greater fool than him.

In this fickle (but extremely valuable) human body, lasting for only about an instant, there is no other duty for man to pursue apart from Krsna-seva.

9. [Ananta to Citraketu, 6th] Apart from the nara-deha, all other dehas that exist, they are capable only of realizing the bhoga of visaya. Therefore know that Krsna-seva only is the phala (fruit, purpose) of this superior manusya-deha [ there is no other purpose] because (unlike the other bodies), it is capable of realizing both jnana and vijnana. Therefore, I tell you certainly that those who do not make even an iota of effort to serve the Feet of Krsna, they will not obtain liberation. They will go to their doom.

[Conclusion] From all these statements, it is clear that those people who, obtaining the human body, do not serve Krsna’s Feet, taking Eka-Sarana in Him, they are the ones extremely censured.

Assamese verse translation of Sankaradeva’s (Sanskrit) Bhakti-Ratnakara by Ramacarana Thakura  

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