Feb. 16, 2022, 11:45 a.m. by Karuwaki Speaks ( 267 views)
Kalidasa,the classical Sanskrit author is often considered ancient India's greatest poet and playwright.His plays and poetry are primarily based on the Vedas, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata and the Puranas.Kalidasa was a great devotee of Goddess Kali & with her blessings,began his quest to become wise.
Much about his life is unknown, except what can be inferred from his poetry and plays.However,legends endure as they are always based largely on truth.I came across an interesting story about how Kalidasa finally became an enlightened soul with the grace of the divine goddess.
Once,Kalidasa was travelling in a forest and felt thirsty and as the thirst became unbearable, he spotted an old woman with a pot of water.He walked up to her hastily and called out:Kalidasa – O Mother! Sun has been particularly harsh & my throat is parched. Please give me some water to drink.
Old Woman – Son, I know you must be thirsty but before i give you the water to drink,tell me who you are?
Kalidas quickly said:Very well! Consider me a wanderer.
Old woman – How can you be a wanderer my son?There are only two wanderers in the universe, and they are the Sun and the Moon, who never cease in moving. Please think carefully & then reply.
Kalidasa was taken aback by this response. He cleared his throat and said,
Kalidasa – I agree. Why don’t you treat me as a guest?
Old Woman – No, you cannot be a guest, young man. There are only two guests in life, one is wealth, and the second is youth. Both are sure to arrive and depart, and never stay even when pleaded a million times! Tell me, who are you?
Kalidasa – O mother, I am patience.
Old Woman – I don’t think so. There are only two patient creatures in this world. First is mother earth, who silently bears the burden of all our sins, and second is the trees that surround us. They are always bountiful to everybody without discrimination; even to those who mean harm to them. You do not know the meaning of patience.
Kalidasa became increasingly became irritable & he snapped back angrily.
Kalidasa – Well, I must be stubborn then!
Old Woman – No, my child. You are not at all stubborn.Nails and hair are the only two to display stubbornness. No matter how many times you cut them, they always grow back.
Kalidasa lost his patience. He yelled –
Kalidasa – Well, I am a fool then!
Old Woman – How I wish that could be true! There are only two fools to walk on this earth, and you are not among them. First is a ruler who rules people without any adequate qualification, and second is the people who try to please that ruler only to be in his good books, even if it means misguiding the ruler in his judgements.
Kalidasa was awed at the intellect of this woman. He,who was considered as the greatest Sanskrit poet the world had ever seen, could not even answer the seemingly simple question of an old illiterate woman."Who are you"? The answer stretched his soul into the abyss and... back...The struggle was from within.
He fell at the feet of the old woman,realising that he was in the presence of a superior intellect.
Kalidasa – O mother! How stupid I was to think that I know myself but iam ignorant.I cannot be more ashamed of myself. Pardon my ignorance, and show me mercy. Grant me some water, I beg.
Saying this, Kalidasa surrendered himself .When he lifted his teary eyes to catch the glimpse of the old woman,he saw something else.In the place of the old woman stood a magnificent figure that radiated like a moon! She was none other than Maa Saraswati who had graced Kalidasa with her divine presence. Goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom, and learning and her four hands represent four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.
She smiled & spoke in a soothing voice and said:O Kalidasa! Stand up. While you are indeed a great scholar and your words have the healing power and the ability to transform lives, it is your ego about your abilities that belittles all your achievements. You have allowed arrogance to fill your heart. The mark of a true scholar is not his knowledge, but his humility. Your education is fruitless if it only feeds your ego. That would be a life wasted.You must understand how everything one receives and considers as his achievement, are not his to be proud of,rather you must be nothing but a learner, my child.
Kalidasa immediately stood up and folded his hands. Maa Saraswati, smiled and finally offered the pot of water to Kalidasa . He gratefully drank the water which tasted sweeter than nectar! It wasn’t just his thirst for water, but thirst for knowledge that had also been quenched.
The great poet finally understood that when intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes bhakti. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature, is bhakti. If it does not get transformed into bhakti, such knowledge is useless tinsel. To believe that gnyaana and bhakti, knowledge and devotion, are different from each other, is ignorance.
Adi Shankara,the great Indian Vedic scholar and teacher, whose works present an harmonizing reading of the shastras, with liberating knowledge of the self at its core, wrote Bhaja Govindam which is the epitome of bhakti.Verse 26 of the Bhaja Govindam says "Free yourself from lust, anger, greed and delusion. Meditate on who you are".In the words of Sri Rammana Maharshi:"Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world".