On Gandhi’s birth anniversary (2nd October), thought of writing this quick post about one of Gandhi’s favourite hymns. A hymn that also often helps me form an opinion and decide on the course of action.
Almost every Gandhi feature includes a rendition of “Vaishnava Jana To …” and many even think that it was Gandhi’s creation.
However “Vaishnava Jana To …” was actually written by the poet Narsinh Mehta, in the Gujarati language, way back in the 15th century.
While the entire poem is beautiful and profound, I have always been most drawn to the first two lines
vaisnava jana to tene kahiye
je pīda parāyī jāne re…
which can be translated as
A good man is one,
Who feels another’s pain…
There’s ofcourse a lot that goes into what’s “good”, but if we have to put it down to a one liner, it would be tough to do better than the above line.
Kindness, caring, love.. all seem to spring out of this core attribute of being able to feel the pain of another.
Note that it’s empathy that the poet refers to and not sympathy. Sympathy is easy, but empathy takes a lot lot more, and at times can just be beyond us.
Only if we feel the pain, can we overcome our prejudices.
Only if we feel the pain, can we understand and respect the choices people make.
Only if we feel the pain, can we rise above our own greed and ambition.
Only if we feel the pain, can we forgive or let go.
Only if we feel the pain, can we love…
See if it works for you too…
|The Original Hymn||Translation (by Khushwant Singh)|
Vaishnav Jan to taynay kahyeeye,
Jay peerh paraayee janney ray
Par dukkhey upkar karey,
Toyey man abhiman na anney ray.
Sakal lokma sahuney vandey,
Ninda na karey kainee ray
Vaach kaach, man nischal raakhey,
Dhan-dhan jananee tainee ray.
Samdristhi nay trishna tyagee,
Par-stree jaynay mat ray
Jivaah thaki asatya na bolay,
Par-dhan nav jhaley haath ray.
Moh maya vyaapey nahin jeyney,
Drud vairagya jeyna manma ray
Ram-naam-shoon taalee laagee,
Sakal teerth teyna tanma ray.
Vanalobhee ney kapatrahith chey,
Kaam, krodh nivarya ray
Bhane Narsaiyon tainoo darshan kartan,
Kul ekotair taryaa ray
A godlike man is one,
Who regards himself as the lowliest of the low,
Who looks upon everyone as his equal and has renounced lust,
He does not desire worldly things,
One who is not greedy and deceitful,