॥ मातृपञ्चकम् ॥INTRODUCTION:- The short poem consisting of five verses (hence called panchakam) is attributed to Shri Shankaracharya. The following abbreviations are used in the comments. 1) BG Bhagavat Gita. (2) BH- Shrimad Bhagavatam. (3) VR-Valmiki Ramayanam. (4) MB-Maha Bharata. ON DEVOTION TO MOTHER JOY AND SORROW:- We all desire happiness and only happiness and that too we want it to last all the time. But we find that such a state of unalloyed bliss eludes us. It is punctuated with periods of unhappiness. In fact, Krishna (in BG 8-15) calls life as दुःखालयं अशाश्वतम्। the repository of sorrow and impermanent. Even the brief spells of joy we experience are followed by periods of sorrow or pain. It is ,then, clear that what we term as ᳚happiness᳚ is not true happiness. Hunger and thirst stalk every one right from birth. Further as one advances in age, infirmity creeps in and so do many diseases and on the top of every thing looms the fear of impending death. Because of these reasons Krishna stresses the fact that life is the repository of sorrow and impermanent. We also find that some people appear to be blessed with greater quota of happiness than some others. Some are born in rich families and are surrounded with all the comforts of life while some are born in destitution. Such situations are intriguing. We would like to know the reasons behind these variations so that we can avoid those things that beget unhappiness and do whatever is needed to get happiness. It seems that we, with our limited intellect, are not able to unravel the mystery. If it were not so, we should have found the secret key to happiness and living on cloud nine. But unfortunately it is not so. We seem to be caught in a hopeless situation. THE REMEDY:- But we need not despair. This is where our scriptures come to our aid. They give the formula for a happy life. They say that if one does the right deeds he gets merit or punyam and if he does wrong deeds he gets sin or pApam. Punyam yields happiness and pApam unhappiness. शुभकृच्छुभमाप्नोति पापकृत्पापमश्नुते। VR(VI-114.24.5) Our unhappiness is attributable only to our failure to do the ᳚right᳚ deeds and doing the ᳚wrong᳚ deeds. विहितस्याननुष्ठानात् निन्दितस्य च सेवनात् । अनिग्रहाच्चेन्द्रियाणां नरः पतनमृच्छति ॥ says Yagnavalkya Smriti. The deeds include actions done by the body, words and also thoughts. कायेन कुरुते पापं मनसा संप्रधार्य च । अनृतं जिह्वया चाह त्रिविधं कर्म पातकम् ॥ VR-II-109-21. DHARMA:- The question, then is, how to know which deed is right and which is not right and who is to decide this? What appears to be the right deed for one may not be so for some one else. Also, in similar situations, but at different circumstances, one may have to act differently. So, there may not be one answer for this question. Such questions have been asked by people all the time and answered by our acharyas. Right conduct is called dharma. Leading a life in dharmic way, then, is the formula for happiness. Dharma has the ability to destroy pApam or sins. Mahanarayanopanishad (79-7) says this.धर्मेण पापमपनुदति। Once sins are removed, the way is cleared for happiness. Sage Vyasa bewails saying that I keep on saying this, but sadly no one listens to me. ऊर्ध्वबाहुर्विरौम्येष न च कश्चिच्छृणोति माम् । धर्मादर्थश्च कामश्च सः किमर्थं न सेव्यते ॥ Manu -the author of Manusmriti - says that by doing deeds in the right way ( that is following the dharmic path ) one can get all he wants (happiness) here and in the life hereafter also. तेषु सम्यग्वर्तमानः गच्छत्यमरलोकताम् । यथा संकल्पितांश्चेह सर्वन्कामान्समश्नुते ॥ SOURCES TO KNOW ABOUT DHARMA:-Manu clarifies his statement and says that all vedas are the basis to define dharma. What the vedas say is further elaborated by texts like smritis written by scholars well versed in the vedas, the conduct of the noble men or sadhus and finally what contributes to self-satisfaction. वेदोऽखिलो धर्ममूलं स्मृतिशीले च तद्विदाम् । आचारश्चैव साधूनां आत्मन्स्तुष्टिरेव च ॥ Sage Vyasa said the same, but in different words in Mahabharata. (Anusasana Parva. 141-65) वेदोक्तः परमो धर्मः स्मृतिशास्त्रगतोऽपरः । शिष्टाचीर्णोऽपरः प्रोक्तस्त्रयो धर्माः सनातनाः ॥ Krishna told this to Arjuna in Bhagavd Gita. He said that scriptures are to be taken as the guide for deciding what is right and what is not right. If one chooses to ignore the scriptural injunctions and acts according to his sweet will he will be doing so at his own peril and will not find happiness. यः शास्त्रविधि-मुत्सृज्य वर्तते कामकारतः । न स सिद्धि-माप्नोति न सुखं न परां गतिम् ॥ तस्माच्छास्त्रं प्रमाणं ते कार्या-कार्य-व्यवस्थितौ । ज्ञात्वा शास्त्रविधानोक्तं कर्म कर्तु-मिहार्हसि ॥ BG(16-23 and 24). The scriptures are taken to mean the vedas and the secondary texts like the Manu Smriti, the puranas like Shrimad Bhagavatam and (ithihasas) works like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The secodary texts are also accepted as authoritative because they faithfully reflect the ideas contained in the vedas. Thus the Mahabharata is considered as the fifth veda. Of Ramayana it is said that when the Supreme Being chose to be born as the son of Dasaratha, the vedas too took birth as Ramayana through the sage Valmiki. वेदवेद्ये परेपुंसि जाते दशरथात्मजे । वेदः प्राचेदसादासीत् साक्षद्रामायणात्मना ॥ Similarly Shrimad Bhagavatam is said to be the quintessence of the vedas and the secondary texts. सर्व वेदेतिहासानां सारं सारं समुद्धृतम्। (1-3-42). Because they all carry the essence of the vedas we can take them as a guide to our conduct without any reservation. By reading them or listening to their expositions by scholars we may learn the rules of conduct. To sum up, there are four sources for knowing about dharma. Firstly, one can read about them from the vedas which are the primary source. We have to remember that the vedas which prescribe dharma are not of human origin. They were given out by the Lord Himself at the time of creation for the good of the people. Purusha Suktam says this as: ऋचः समानि जज्ञिरे । छन्दाँसि जज्ञिरे तस्मात् । यजुस्तस्मादजायत। The Lord withdraws everything (including the vedas) into Himself at the time of dissolution (pralayam) and releases them again at the time of creation. अव्यक्ताद्व्यक्तयः सर्वाः प्रभवन्त्यहरागमे । रात्र्यागमे प्रलीयन्ते तत्रैवाव्यक्त- संज्ञके ॥ BG(8-18). Thus they are eternal. Since they were given out by Bhagavan they are known as Bhagavata dharma (भागवत धर्माः।). If one is unable to access or read and understand the vedas, he can next go to the smritis and other secondary texts. If one is unable to do that also, he can observe the conduct of noble people or sadhus and follow in their footsteps. Since they are great devotees and enshrine the Lord in their hearts, one can be certain that they will not stray from the path of dharma. One cannot call himself a devotee of the Lord if he does not, in the first place, obey His commands contained in the vedas faithfully. Shrimad Bhagavata says that, even under force of circumstances, such a devotee commits an act that appears to be improper or adharmic to the bystanders, the good Lord will condone it. (Book11-5-42). स्वपादमूलं भजतः प्रियस्य त्यक्तान्यभावस्य हरिः परेशः । विकर्म यच्चोत्पतितं कथञ्चित् धुनोति सर्वं हृदि सन्निविष्टः ॥ This, then, is the third alternative. What happens if the sadhu himself gets a doubt about how he should act in a particular situation and he cannot find the proper guidance in the scriptures? In such a tight situation he goes by the dictate of his conscience. Here again, we should remember that the devotee who has enshrined the Lord in his heart cannot take a step in the wrong direction. The poet Kalidasa says this in his work Abhijnana Sakuntalam: सतां हि सन्देहपदेषु वस्तुषु प्रमाणमन्तःकरणप्रवृत्तयः। Dharma is classified as सामान्य धर्मः or general dharma and विशेष धर्मः or special dharma. The former includes those rules of conduct that apply to all, irrespective of caste, sex or any other division. They include rules such as ᳚᳚one should not steal or covet another man's property, should not spit or urinate in the water᳚ etc. The latter apply to people of a particular class like a house holder or a sanyasi or on special occsions like birth, death, travel etc. GENERAL DHARMA:-One of the basic rules of conduct (general dharma) belonging to the first category given in the Vedas is: मातृ देवो भव। पितृ देवो भव। (Taittiriya Upanishad.I-9-2). These ask us to venerate our mother and father like God. They are commandments. No conditions are attached to them. They are, thus, to be obeyed implicitly. Not obeying them amounts to deriliction of duties and results in sin or pApam which in turn causes sorrow or suffering. Our puranas are secondary texts. They act like the magnifying glass. They elaborate the cryptic statements contained in the Vedas through the vehicle of stories and advices by wise people like the sages. Some references from puranas and other secondary texts are given in support of the above vedic dictum. DHARMA VYADHA:- First is the popular story of Dharma Vyadha. This appears in the Mahabharata-Vana Parva. A brahmin by the name Kaushika decided to go to the forest and perform penance for his own development. But, in the process he left behind his aged parents to fend for themselves. This is a serious lapse of dharma. As he performed penance, he gained some supernatural powers. One day, as he was sitting in meditation under a tree, he felt some bird droppings fall on his head. He was disturbed by this incident. He looked up in annoyance. The two cranes who were responsible for the misdemeanour were reduced to ashes by his gaze. The brahmin did not expect this to happen, but was pleased at the happening. He became puffed up by his achievements. One day he went to a nearby village to beg for alms. He was made to wait at a house. He became annoyed at this. Soon he heard a lady's voice from inside the house asking him to wait and not to take her to be the cranes. The brahmin was taken aback at the statement. How did the lady of the house know the incident that happened in the remote forest? The brahmin decided to wait and meet the lady of the house who could read his innermost thoughts. After some time the lady came out and offered him alms. She offererd her apologies for making him wait, but said it was because she was serving her husband which was her primary duty. This strict adherence to dharma was the cause of her eminence. She advised the brahmin to go to a particular village and meet a butcher and learn more about dharma. Kaushika was amazed to hear that he -a brahmin- was asked to meet a butcher and learn about dharma. Anyway, he felt small by now, since his ego had been pricked by the lady. He went to the village mentioned by the lady and after some enquiry found the butcher who was attending to his customers. He stood at a distance. When he found some respite, the butcher, washed his hands and hurried to Kaushika. He apologised for making him wait and said he had a duty to perform. It may be inferior and unglamourous. But that is what he had inherited and carried on with devotion. He said he can talk to him in detail in his house. He took the brahmin to his house. But he said that he had to wait till he had ministered to his parents. The butcher came to Kaushika after attending to his parents. He said that he knew that Kaushika was sent by that particular woman to learn about dharma from him. He said that doing one's duty is the highest form of dharma and this included serving the parents with devotion. In the following verses he narrated how well he looked after his parents. He added that this took preccedence over other duties such as receiving guests. That is why he made Kausika wait till he finished serving his parents. He advised Kaushika to correct his mistake, go home and look after his parents. Kaushika was full of remorse. He hastened to his home.and started serving his parents with devotion. व्याध उवाच:- पिता माता च भगवन्नेतौ मद्दैवतं परम् । यद् दैवतेभ्यः कर्तव्यं तदेताभ्यां करोम्यहम् ॥ त्रयस्त्रिंशद् यथा देवाः सर्वे शक्रपुरोगमाः । संपूज्याः सर्वलोकस्य तथा वृद्धाविमौ मम ॥ उपहारानाहरन्तो देवतानां यथा द्विजाः । कुर्वन्ति तद्वदेताभ्यां करोम्यहमतन्द्रितः ॥ एतौ मे परमं ब्रह्मन् पिता माता च दैवतम् । एतौ पुष्पैः फलैः रत्नैस्तोषयामि सदा द्विज ॥ एतावेवाग्नयो मह्यं यान् वदन्ति मनीषिणः । यज्ञा वेदाश्च चत्वारः सर्वमेतौ मम द्विज ॥ एतदर्थं मम प्राणा भार्या पुत्रः सुहृज्जनः । सपुत्रदारः शुश्रूषां नित्यमेव करोम्यहम् ॥ स्वयं च स्नापयाम्येतौ तथा पादौ प्रधावये । आहारं च प्रयच्छामि स्वयं च द्विजसत्तम ॥ अनुकूलं तथा वच्मि विप्रियं परिवर्जये । अधर्मेणापि संयुक्तं प्रियमाभ्यां करोम्यहम् ॥ धर्ममेव गुरुं ज्ञात्व करोमि द्विजसत्तम । अतन्द्रितः सदा विप्र शुश्रूषां वै करोम्यहम् ॥ पञ्चैव गुरवो ब्रह्मन् पुरुषस्य बुभूषतः । पिता माताग्निरात्मा च गुरुश्च द्विजसत्तम ॥ एतेषु यस्तु वर्तेत सम्यगेव द्विजोत्तम । भवेयुरग्नयस्तस्य परिचीर्णास्तु नित्यशः । गार्हस्थ्ये वर्तमानस्य एष धर्मः सनातनः ॥ WHAT THE PURANAS SAY:- Kurma Purana says that one should look after his parents with total dedication. यावत्पिता च माता च द्वावेतौ निर्विकारिणौ । तावत् सर्वं परित्यज्य पुत्रः स्यात्तत्परायणः ॥ Brahmanda Purana says that one gets the results of performing sacrifices. austerities, offering gifts etc., by being devoted to the parents. यज्ञान् वेदांस्तथा कामांस्तपांसि विविधानि च । प्राप्नोत्यायुः प्रजाश्चैव पितृभक्त्या न संशयः ॥ But if one chooses to neglect them, then all the good deeds done by him will go waste says Mahabharata (Anushasana Parva). येन प्रीणाति पितरं तेन प्रीतः प्रजापतिः । प्रीणाति मातरं येन पृथिवी तेन पूजिता। येन प्रीणात्युपाध्यायं तेन स्याद् ब्रह्म पूजितम् । सर्वे तस्यादृता धर्मा यस्यैते त्रय आदृताः ॥ अनादृतास्तु यस्यैते सर्वास्तस्याफलाः क्रियाः ॥ The Padma Purana says that blessed is the one who has his parents with him and makes them happy by his services and good behaviour. Because he need not go on a pilgrimage and take bath in Ganges to earn merit or punyam. He gets the same result daily in his house itself. पितरो यस्य तृप्यन्ति सेवया च गुणेन च । तस्य भागीरथीस्नानमहन्यहनि वर्तते ॥ It is said that one gets the result of going round the world six times, going on pilgrimages to Kashi ten thousand times and taking bath in Ramasethu hundreds of times by sincerely saluting one's mother. भूप्रदक्षिणषट्केन काशीयात्रायुतेन च । सेतुस्नानशतैर्यच्च् तत्फलं मातृवन्दने ॥ Another purana goes one step further and says that the wretch who ignores his parents living with him and goes visiting holy places seeking to harvest merit or punyam will, instead, garner only pApam or sin at those places and return home with a big load of sin. So, these injunctions are meant to tell us that one can easily earn all the merit or punyam one looks for easily, staying right in his house, by serving his parents sincerely and with devotion. They also alert us of the consequences of not obeying them. To neglect the parents, particularly in their old age, when they become weak and dependant and to cause anguish is a heinous act for which there is no atonement available says Brahmanda Purana. पातकानां किलान्येषां प्रायश्चित्तानि सन्त्यपि । मातृद्रुह्यमवेहि त्वं न किंचित् किल निष्कृतिः ॥ Though the above verses talk of service to mother, we should take the word to imply parents. CONDUCT OF GREAT PEOPLE:- The puranas and other scriptures contain many statements by great people who served their parents devotedly. Here we should remember Manu's words quoted earlier - that the conduct of noble people should be taken as the guideline and followed by us also. Manu-the author of Manu Smriti - points out that people cannot requite in full for the suffering undergone by the parents in giving birth and bringing them up. यं मातापितरौ क्लेशं सहेते संभवे नृणाम् । न तस्य निष्कृतिः सक्या कर्तुं वर्षशतैरपि ॥ (II-227). RAMA AND KRISHNA:- It is said that Lord's human incarnations are intended to teach dharma to humans. They are not merely for the purpose of killing the demons. BH(5-19-5) मर्त्यावतारस्त्विह मर्त्यशिक्षणं रक्षोवधायैव न केवलं विभो । The Lord in His incarnations as Shri Krishna and Shri Rama and Shri Shankaracharya scrupulously followed the dharmic path and set examples to others. Sages considered Krishna to be the embodiment of dharma. ये च वेदविदो विप्राः ये चाध्यात्मविदो जनाः । ते वदन्ति महात्मानं कृष्णं धर्मं सनातनम् ॥ MB.Vanaparva. Rama was also the personification of dharma - रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः।said Maricha, an enemy of Rama. So, we may study their lives and follow their footsteps, as advised by Manu. We find that they exemplified the role of good sons by the love and respect they showed to their parents. We know that Krishna fought with the evil Kamsa and killed him. Then Krishna hastened to the prison where His parents were incarcerated. He released them and repeated what Manu said above. ᳚Even if one were to live for a hundred years, one cannot pay back his parents who gave birth and nourished his body in which he can realise all the four goals of life.᳚ सर्वार्थ-संभवो देहो जनितः पोषितो यतः । न तयोर्याति निर्वेशं पित्रोर्मर्त्यः शतायुषा ॥ Shrimad Bhagavatam (10-45-5). The Ramayana has many instances where Rama talks about this subject. One example is wherein he talks to sage Vashishta - his guru. The sage, along with Bharatha, tries to persuade Rama to return to Ayodhya from the forest. He felt that Rama will obey his words as he happened to be Rama's guru. But Rama did not take the advice, and in the course of his reply, said what Manu had said and what He had said earlier as Krishna (viz.) that one cannot adequately repay his debt to his parents for all the love and attention they have showered on him when he was a child. यन्माताइपितरौ वृत्तं तनये कुरुतः सदा । न सुप्रतिकरं तत्तु मात्रा पित्रा च यत्कृतम् ॥ VR(II-119.9). HIGHER PLACE FOR MOTHER:- Though our scriptures advise us to treat the parents like God, they give a higher place to one's mother. Manu says that the mother is thousand times worthier than the father. सहस्रं तु पितृन्माता गौरवेणातिरिच्यते । The popular saying that there is no god equal to one's mother. न मातुर्दैवतं परम् । is probably based on this. We find that the puranas and other texts also echo this sentiment. Mahabharata (Shanti Parva) says that the father deserves more respect than tens of acharyas and the mother more than tens of father. She is weightier than the earrth itself. उपाध्यायान् पिता दश । पितॄन् दश तु मातैका सर्वा वा पृतिवीमपि । गुरुत्वेनाभिभवति नास्ति मातृसमो गुरुः ॥ In another place MB says that there is no shade (to offer solace) like one's mother and no protection equal to her. She is known as dhatri because.she carries the child within her, as janani because she gives birth to the child, as amba since she helps to develop its limbs, as virasu since she got a bold son and as shushru since she nurses him. In effect she is one's alter ego. नास्ति मातृसमो छाया नास्ति मातृ समा गतिः । नास्ति मातृसमं त्राणं नास्ति मातृसमा प्रिया ॥ कुक्षिसंधारणात् धात्री जननाज्जननी स्मृता । अङ्गानां वर्धनादम्बा वीरसूत्वेन वीरसू ॥ शिशोः शुश्रूषणाच्छ्श्रूर्माता देहमनन्तरम् ॥ MB (Shanti Parva) The ᳚YakSha Prasna᳚ episode appears in the Aranyaka Parva of the Mahabharata. It is in the form of questions by an YakSha and answers by Yudhishtira, the son of Dharma. The answers illustrate various aspects of dharma. One of the questions posed by the YakSha is: ᳚Which is weightier than the earth itself?᳚ किंस्विद्-गुरुतरं भूमेः?. The answer given by Yudhishtira is : ᳚The mother is weightier than the earth.᳚ माता गुरुतरा भूमेः। Rama also says to LakShmana that the mother and the motherland are more precious than the heavens. जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसि। The reason may be that right from the time of conception, the child becomes a part of the mother's body and grows drawing sustenance from her food.Even after birth, the child is taken care of by her and spends more time with her. She is the one who introduces others, including the father, to the child She, in effect, becomes the first guru. Krishna said this to his friend Kuchela when they met in Dwaraka. स वै सत्कर्मणां साक्षाद् द्विजाते-रिह संभवः । आद्योंग यत्राश्रमिणां यथाहं ज्ञानदो गुरुः ॥ BH(10-80-32). Thus the bondage with the mother is stronger than with others. In view of this one finds that at Gaya, where a Hindu is expected to offer oblations to his departed parents, the custom prescribes offering of one pindam or ball of rice to the father but sixteen to the mother. During the ceremony one says verses that recall the hardship the mother had to endure when carrying him in her womb for ten long months and later on also for several years when he was a child unable to take care of himself. The content of the verses are moving in their appeal. EXAMPLE OF SHRI SHANKARACHARYA:- The Skanda Purana says that even an ascetic who is adored by all should worship his mother. सर्व वन्द्येन यतिना प्रसूर्वन्द्या प्रयत्नतः। He may sever his attachment with everyone but not with his mother. The bondage continues. He has to attend to her during her final moments and perform the last rites. Shri Shankaracharya was a great ascetic. He was a realised person and so not bound by any rules and conventions. Still, he wanted to set an example to other people. So, he bore the scriptural injunctions in mind and was with his mother during her last moments. He performed the customary rites after her death. At that time his feelings got the better of him. He poured them out in five verses in which he describes the pain and sufferings his mother had undergone for his sake and the great love she had for him. The verses are given below with the meaning. The translation is not exact, but general enough to convey the contents.
॥अथ श्री मातृपञ्चकम् ॥ मुक्तामणि त्वं नयनं ममेति राजेति जीवेति चिर सुत त्वम् । इत्युक्तवत्यास्तव वाचि मातः ददाम्यहं तण्डुलमेव शुष्कम् ॥ १॥ Into your mouth, that said: ᳚You are the pearl of my eyes, my prince, may you live long, son!᳚, O Mother! I now offer only dry grains of rice. (1) अंबेति तातेति शिवेति तस्मिन् प्रसूतिकाले यदवोच उच्चैः । कृष्णेति गोविन्द हरे मुकुन्द इति जनन्यै अहो रचितोऽयमञ्जलिः ॥ २॥ At the time of child birth you cried out loudly - ᳚᳚Mother!! Father!! Shiva!! Krishna! Govinda! Hare! Mukunda!.᳚ To that mother I now bow with folded hands. (2) आस्तं तावदियं प्रसूतिसमये दुर्वारशूलव्यथा नैरुच्यं तनुशोषणं मलमयी शय्या च संवत्सरी । एकस्यापि न गर्भभारभरणक्लेशस्य यस्याक्षमः दातुं निष्कृतिमुन्नतोऽपि तनयस्तस्यै जनन्यै नमः ॥ ३॥ At the time of giving birth to me, O mother! you suffered from unbearable pain. You did not speak about the suffering of your body nor of the painful condition while lying in the bed for almost an year. For even one of the sufferings that you underwent during pregnancy, O mother!, a son is unable to offer atonement. To that mother I offer my salutations! (3) गुरुकुलमुपसृत्य स्वप्नकाले तु दृष्ट्वा यतिसमुचितवेशं प्रारुदो मां त्वमुच्चैः । गुरुकुलमथ सर्वं प्रारुदत्ते समक्षं सपदि चरणयोस्ते मातरस्तु प्रणामः ॥ ४॥ When in a dream, you saw me dressed like an ascetic. You cried aloud and came running to the school (to see me). The whole school then immediately cried before you. At your feet, O mother! I offer my salutation! (4) न दत्तं मातस्ते मरणसमये तोयमपिवा स्वधा वा नो दत्ता मरणदिवसे श्राद्धविधिना । न जप्त्वा मातस्ते मरणसमये तारकमनु- रकाले सम्प्राप्ते मयि कुरु दयां मातुरतुलाम् ॥ ५॥ I did not offer you water at the time of your death, Oh mother! I did not even offer the oblations as per funerary rites on the day of your death. Nor did I repeat the mantra that delivers one across the ocean of this world. Alas! I have come at an inappropriate time! O mother! Bestow upon me your unequalled compassion. (5)
Main text encoding and translation by Darshan Bhatt email@example.com Commentary by N.Balasubramanian bbalu at sify.com