The Vairagya-Satakam is one of the three series of hundred verses which have come down to us under the title of Subhasita-trisati (lit. 'The happily worded three centuries') and associated with the name of the poet Bhartrhari. In some manuscripts, these verses exceed the number implied in the above name, but we have followed the authority of an edition published by the Nirnaya-Sagar Press of Mumbai, which maintains the exact original number.
Tradition attributes the authorship of these verses to Bhartrhari, the elder brother of the most renowned King Vikramaditya of Ujjanin. Controversy has not yet settled the point as to which Vikramaditya was the brother of the poet and when exactly he reigned at Ujjanin.
The fact, it seems, that Bhartrhari belonged to a royal family and renounced the world later on in life to become a yogi, forms the most reliable nucleus round which continued to gather. A cave is still pointed out near Ujjain, bearing his name, where Bhartrhari is said to have; practised austerities. A book called the Nathalilamrita recording from hearsay stories about the celebrities of the Natha sect of yogis contains an account of Bhartrhari's life in a loose, legendary style. But it is easy to make out that, when all clue to authenticity about the real facts of Bhartrhari's life became lost to tradition, the memory of a career so stimulating to imagination was not allowed to go down so hopelessly denuded of facts, and the process of adding limbs and features to the stump of an older tradition naturally went on. Add to this process such floating legendary materials as the story about a gift made to one's beloved proving her infidelity by changing hands till it reached the donor again, or the miracles with which the then famous sect of yogas used to be credited and so on, and you hope to get a fairly good biography of Bhartrhari such as gradually gained currency in tradition.
The verse, composed-may be, with stray exceptions-by Bhartrhari himself, cannot be made to gove any clue to his individual life, for his poetry seeks to create effect through style and sentiment too conventional to yield themselves to such use. But still his life-long lessons from experience and observation must have been reflected in their peculiar trend and emphasis in the movements of sentiment through the verses; and it may be possible for a reader of penetrative intellect to trace out from such nice shades the bare outline of a deeper life of hard-fought struggles and late-won victory. A nature, straightforward, possessed of noble faith in itself, unambitious of high distinction among men, but deeply susceptible to the beauties and charms of sentiment, seems to have been involved once in a tangle of sensual enjoyments too heavy to leave it the sustained strength for wielding the scepter, till from a life of such weakness and consequent dependence, it gradually rose through reactions, deep and incisive, to a wonderfully enriched sense of worldly vanity and an effective strength of renunciation. The verses composed by Bhartrhari tend to present to view the background of such a nature still holding in control lower susceptibilities, once indulged, by the dawning possibilities of a life of yoga. And though it is difficult to ascertain how far this life of yoga had advanced behind the role of the poet representing different stages of wisdom, it is fairly presumptive that the poet's voice gradually merged in the silence of the highest spiritual realizations.
The hundred verses of the Vairagya-Satakam are divided into ten groups under the following ten headings: condemnation of desire; , futile efforts to give up sense-objects;, condemnation of the poverty of a supplicant attitude; delineation of the evanescence of enjoyments;, description of the working of Time, or the principle of change;, a comparison as to how a monk stands to a king;, control of mind by stimulating wisdom in it;, discrimination of the immutable reality from the mutable; worship of Siva;, the way of life for an Avadhuta, or a realized ascetic characterized by the highest spiritual freedom.
With these few remarks of a prefatory nature, we send forth this English translation of an important poetical production of Medieval India into the world of modern readers. The translation has been made rather too closely literal, specially to suit the convenience of those readers who want to follow; the original Sanskrit with its help.
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