Vairagya Panchakam of Swami Desikan

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May 15, 1998

Vairâgyam is translated by SrI râmadeshikâcâryâr svâmi as “detachment from worldly matters”. The term pa~ncakam refers to the number 5. The composition has its name because it is on vairâgyam and consists of 5 Sloka-s. We may recall that SrI dayâ Satakam is a composition of 100 Sloka-s describing one guṇa of the Lord, viz. dayâ, with which He is overflowing. Vairâgya pa~ncakam is a composition on one guṇa of man viz. vairâgya, which is extremely wanting in most humans.

In order to appreciate the significance of this composition, it is useful to take a diversion on the history behind this work. One of the childhood friends of svâmi deshikan by name Vidyâraṇya became an influential person in the service of the king of Vijayanagaram when he grew up. In parallel, svâmi deshikan grew up to relish the kainkaryam of the Lord, and was serving his Sishya-s through religious discourses etc., but as far as the monetary side was concerned, he was living on uñcavṛtti. SrI vidyâraṇya very much wanted to help svâmi deshikan by getting him to the palace so that he can demonstrate his scholarship and skills in composing poems etc. by singing the praise of the king, and in return be rewarded monetarily by the king. So he sent a note to svâmi deshikan suggesting that he should visit the king’s palace. svâmi deshikan first sent a one-Slokam response to SrI vidyâraṇya declining the offer. The latter sent a renewed request because of his sincere desire to help his friend. vairâgya pa~ncakam is the response from the âcâraya in response to this second request.

The composition as it is presented in traditional text books consists of the first Slokam and the second set of five Sloka-s presented together as six Sloka-s under the tile of vairâgya pa~ncakam.

In vairâgya pa~ncakam, svâmi deshikan points out his dismay and wonder at the action of the learned poets who praised the “kings” that ruled a tiny parcel of land in this vast universe but felt a feeling of enormous superiority because of this. He is at a loss to understand those who can indulge in the praise of these petty beings when there is the “alpa santushṭan” who can be pleased with a handful of pounded rice offered by kucela and shower on him all that can ever be sought. (The reference to the quote “alpa santushṭan” is from the vyâkhyâna of Sri aṇṇangarâcârya).

He is unable to understand why learned people live this kind of life when all they need is a few grains that lay spilled on the paddy fields to take care of their hunger, a palmful of water from the public pond to quench their thirst, and a rag lying on the roadside to serve as a loin cloth. The depth of his vairâgyam can be felt when he declares that no matter how high the fire of hunger (jaṭharânalah or jaṭharâgni) in his stomach burns, he will not resort to asking for even a shred of grass from these kings and waste his precious skills with words which are fragrant like the jasmine flower because they are used for praising His guṇa-s. He declares that he has the greatest of wealths already in his possession in the form of the charioteer of arjuna, and he bids good-bye forever to the humiliating situation of waiting at the doorsteps of these kings for their convenience to just have the opportunity to have a visit with them.

If we take a moment to really think about why we want to accumulate wealth, it is clear that it is all for just filling this stomach. Think of what we have to go through all our lives to painfully accumulate this wealth by praising these so-called great people constantly all our lives till we die. It is not as if we just accumululate this wealth once over a brief period of time, and then go on being happy doing other things. No, we have to keep on praising these people just to keep what we have accumulated, since otherwise we will displease them and our wealth will be at risk. Is this worth it, svâmi deshikan rhetorically asks, when we already have at our possession Lord kṛshṇa the Eternal Wealth, the One who showed the path of dharma to arjuna and gave him eternal fame, protected the people of Ayar-pâdi with the govardhana mountain when they were exposed to hardship, always fills those who pray to Him with joy, Indestructible, and can bestow all that is needed.

shvâmi deshikan concludes this short work with the declaration that while he neither has property accumulated by himself nor by his father, he has the great wealth earned by the “grandfather” - pitâ-maha (referring to brahma) and stored on top of the hasti-giri, and so he does not need anything else from anyone else. Recall that Lord varadarâja is in the svayam-vyakta kshetram of kâ~nci in response to brahma’s intense penance, which we had reviewed as part of SrI varadarâja pa~ñcâsat. Given this Eternal wealth sitting on top of hasti-giri, svâmi deshikan does not see the need for him to seek the impermanent pleasures of the world.

Thus in very simple terms in a few verses, the great mahân has explained how simple and logical it is to renounce the worldly pleasures. If we meditate on these concepts even intermittently, He will bless us with His karuṇa so that we realize the enormous Wealth that is always available to us in the form of the Lord with no effort on our part.

—dâsan kṛshṇamâcâryan