Religion, Spirituality

Cluster of 12 blossoms – द्वादशमञ्जरिका (7) – Sankara on how ephemeral this life is…

Sri M (Satsang) once captured the essence of the soul in a beautiful statement:

Without the “I” of Shakthi, even Shiva becomes a Shava (Dead body)

Sanatana Dharma is unique in its clear and unstinting stand with regard to what “animates” the body – The Atman (Soul). Further, the concept of transmigration of the atman from one body to another is an unique concept in Sanatana Dharma. Ramana Maharishi compared this to a movie screen – if the screen is the soul, then the images projected on the screen are our bodies. Some movies run for a few weeks, some for months but all of them have an end-date (just like our bodies). The screen however remains the same. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter-2; verse-22), talks of how as far as the atman is concerned, this body is like a “worn-out” piece of cloth with an expiry date – when this expiry date approaches, the atman discards this rag and moves on to another, stronger body that can better help in its progression towards moksha (liberation) – of course not always is there a progression, sometimes there is also a regression and that is determined by how we lead our present lives…

The Amrita Bindu upanishad says: “एक एव हि भूतात्मा भूते भूते व्यवस्थितः।
एकधा बहुधा चैव दृष्यते जलचन्द्रवत्‌॥ १२”॥ ११॥ “There is but one atman, it is this one atman that is seen as many, like the one moon reflected as many in the water held in many pots” 

This is the “Universality of the concept of Godhead” that is so unique to Sanatana Dharma. That is why everything to us is sacred – the grass under our feet, the mountains, the river, the animals, the trees… everything is animated by that one principle that pervades the universe and also invades and dwells for a short time in every embodied being…

Now to the shloka, its transliteration, translation, and purport:

यावत्पवनो निवसति देहे
तावत्पृच्छति कुशलं गेहे ।
गतवति वायौ देहापाये
भार्या बिभ्यति तस्मिन्काये ॥ ६॥
Yavat-pavano Nivasati Dehe
Tavat-Pruchatthi Kushalam Gehe
Gatavati Vayau Deha-paye
Bharya Bhibyati Tasmin Kaye

यावत्पवनो (As far as, As long as; lifebreath, air) निवसति (Lives, Dwells, Stays) देहे (Body)
तावत्पृच्छति (To that extent, so much) कुशलं (Welfare) गेहे (dwelling)
गतवति (Gone, Departed, Deceased, Alas!) वायौ (Lifebreath, air that animates our body) देहापाये (Body)
भार्या (Wife) बिभ्यति (Approach with fear, Apprehension, Dread, Alarm) तस्मिन्काये (In that; The body, Home, Wearied, Exhausted, Extinguished)

Sankara here seems to refer to the life-breath as a guest who lives in the body and then moves on… As long as that life-breath animates the body, kith and kin wife and children treat that person well and inquire about his welfare. The moment the life-breath departs the container it was locked in (and animated), that person becomes a “body” and even his wife approaches that “body” with apprehension and fear…

Kannadasan the Tamizh lyricist captures it beautifully in the song “Aadiya aattam yenna, pesiya vaarththai yenna. Thediya selvam yenna, thirandhadhor suttram yenna. Koodu vittu aavi ponaal, koodavae varuvadhenna
Veedu varai uravu, veedhi varai manaivi. Kaadu varai pillai, kadaisi varai yaaro…”
You can watch the video on (YouTube).
“The games you played, the words you spoke, the wealth you accumulated, and when the ghost decides to leave the cage, what comes with you? Relatives, wife, son – how far can they accompany you? Who comes with you on your final journey?”

As long as the air (atman/soul) that animates the body dwells in that body, so long does that person/body expect to be treated well. His kith and kin ask about his welfare. The moment that life-breath chooses to fly away leaving behind that exhausted, extinguished container, then even his very wife of several years approaches that dead container with fear and apprehension


  1. तस्मिन्काये (Tasmin): Available at: Last Accessed: Feb 10, 2017
  2. बिभ्यति: Available at: Last Accessed: Feb 10, 2017
  3. vaasaamsi jeernaani yathaa vihaaya navaani gr.hnaathi naro’ paraani |
    thathaa sareeraani vihaaya jeernany-anyaani samyaathi navaani de’hi ||

1 thought on “Cluster of 12 blossoms – द्वादशमञ्जरिका (7) – Sankara on how ephemeral this life is…”

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