In this the 9th shloka, Sankara asks us to ponder on the Question of who we are and what our true purpose in life is and why we are so possessive in our relationships…
There is an old Buddhist story that is relevant to this shloka – “How to catch a monkey.”
Once upon a time, there lived a monkey who had made a large tree in a forest his home. As with all monkeys, he was extremely naughty and playful – He took great pleasure in teasing a hermit who sat under this tree. As soon as the hermit closed his eyes to meditate, he would throw a twig or an unripe fruit on his head, effectively breaking his concentration. This went on for several months. The hermit tried reasoning with the monkey but in vain. Finally, he decided to teach the monkey a lesson and set him on the right path.
He got an earthen pot with a long slender neck and filled the bottom of this pot with nuts, fruits, and other delicacies. He then placed the pot under the same tree that night and retired to his hermitage. As the sweet fragrance of the goodies reached the monkey’s nostrils he slithered down the tree and sneaked up to the pot, He then thrust his arm into the pot and grabbed a fistfull of the nuts. He now tried to pull his hand out but his fist would not make it through the slender neck of the pot. Now, all he had to do was to let go of the nuts and he would be free, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t. He struggled the whole night – the more he struggled and the more he panicked the worse it became.
Early the next day the hermit came up to the struggling monkey and knocked him on his head twice and told him in a stern voice – “Drop the nuts” The monkey did and the very next moment he could pull his hand free. He looked at the hermit and hung his head in shame. The hermit then told him “Look at yourself, see how your own mind plays tricks on you. Instead of wasting time making fun of others, go and ponder over who you truly are, where did you come from and why do you behave the way you do” The monkey walked away a completely changed individual.
In this shloka Sankara asks us to ponder and meditate deeply on the following questions:
Do you know who your wife truly is?
Do you know who your child truly is?
Do YOU know who YOU are?
Do YOU know where YOU came from?
So many of us are caught up in our own expectations of how we want our spouses to behave with us, our parents and how our children should behave and what they should do with their lives. We are so possessive that we refuse to let go. This is true of parents, husbands, wives, friends, and children – neither do we grow, nor do we let the others grow…Like the monkey we hang on to expectations, perceived insults, and petty misunderstandings…
When we let go, we are truly free and so are they…
Sankara says, mull on these questions my brethren and you shall probably arrive at some clarity. In Sanatana Dharma, marriage and the relationship between husband and wife is a sacrament and not a paper contract. In its true meaning, it is the coming together of the Yin and Yang; the Shiva and Shakthi principles , where the one is incomplete without the other and the two complete each other – in the process helping each other to attain to their true nature. The underlying principle is that each is an unique individual who has to progress towards his/her spiritual goal while helping each other in the process. This is true of children too. To paraphrase Khalil Gibran (the Lebanese mystic/poet) – Children come through us to fulfill their own individual/unique missions and we should not aspire to make them into duplicates of ourselves or try to achieve through them what we could not on our own – What Khalil Gibran said a few decades ago and is often quoted; is in fact the very bedrock on which Sanatana Dharma rests for over 7,000 years…
Now to the shloka, its transliteration, and translation:
का ते कान्ता कस्ते पुत्रः
संसारोऽयमतीव विचित्रः ।
कस्य त्वं कः कुत आयात-
स्तत्त्वं चिन्तय तदिह भ्रातः
Ka-the Kantha Kasthe Putraha
Kasya-tvam-kaha Kutha Aayatha
Tathvam Chinthaya Tadiha Brathaha
का ते (Who Your) कान्ता (Spouse, Beloved) कस्ते (Who your) पुत्रः (Son)
संसारोऽयमतीव (This world verily) विचित्रः (Strange)
कस्य त्वं (Who are you?) कः कुत (You from where, Whence) आयात (Came)
स्तत्त्वं (True state, First principle, Essential nature) चिन्तय (Ponder, Worry) तदिह (That, Referring to…) भ्रातः (Brethren)
“Who is your spouse; who your son/child? Oh! This samsara (mortal world) is indeed very strange. Well, Who are you? Where did you come from? What is your true state? These things, please ponder upon my brethren“