Studying Geetaa and Sanskrit together (Chapter 2 Shloka 58)

Studying Geetaa and Sanskrit together (Chapter 2 Shloka 58) 

गीतान्वेषणे अध्यायः२ श्लोकः ५८

यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वशः |

इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ||२-५८||

पदच्छेदैः –

यदा संहरते च अयं कूर्मः अङ्गानि इव सर्वशः |

इन्द्रियाणि इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता ||२-५८||

अन्वयः – I think interpretation becomes easier by writing the अन्वय as three clauses –

  1. कूर्मः अङ्गानि सर्वशः संहरते इव
  2. यदा अयं च इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः इन्द्रियाणि (सर्वशः संहरते)
  3. तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता (भवति)

(1) The word इव in the first clause denotes the use of simile as the figure of speech. In simile उपमालङ्कारः, there is one to one correspondence between two entities. I am using the phrase ‘two entities’, with the idea that there is one entity उपमान, with which another उपमेय is compared. When there is comparison between two entities, there are specific characteristics or attributes of the two entities, which are put in comparison with each other. The specific characteristics or attributes, which are being considered for comparison can then be called as उपमानसर्वस्वम् and उपमेयसर्वस्वम्. One can do well to tabulate these, so that one can see the one-to-one correspondence in complete detail.

उपमानसर्वस्वम् कूर्मः ? अङ्गानि संहरते
उपमेयसर्वस्वम् अयम् इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः इन्द्रियाणि संहरते

I have put a question mark for one item in उपमानसर्वस्वम् , because one needs to deliberate, what aspect of उपमानसर्वस्वम् compares well with इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः in उपमेयसर्वस्वम्.

As can be seen in the picture below, a tortoise retracts its mouth from ‘what all is around it’.

 tortoise with mouth outtortoise retracts its mouth

There are surroundings everywhere. One can never be without surroundings. The surroundings cannot be driven away. What one can best do is to withdraw oneself, internalize oneself, as a tortoise does.

It is natural or inherent for the organs of sense to be enticed or distracted by the ‘surroundings’. Sweet scent or beautiful design on a butterfly or whispering woods or roar of a waterfall or soft touch of a child or sweet taste of honey are all characteristics of respective surroundings. शब्द, रूप, रस, गन्ध, स्पर्श are इन्द्रियार्थ-s of five sense-organs. One cannot put them away. But one can withdraw one’s involvement by internalizing oneself.

It comes to mind that there cannot be any simile other than that of a tortoise, where the concept is of retracting one’s organs. One may however ask, whether it is possible for humans to withdraw one’s organs, same way as is possible for the tortoise. The answer should be ‘yes’, not because it is said so in this श्लोक, but by realizing that humans are gifted with superior intelligence than the tortoise. So humans should apply their intelligence प्रज्ञा to do that, what a tortoise does by virtue of its special faculty.

At the question-mark item inउपमानसर्वस्वम् I would put the word आसमन्तात् meaning ‘surroundings’

(2) There are 3 lines in गीता, which are repeated verbatim. The second line of this श्लोक is one such line. It is repeated in श्लोक 2-68.

I would think that such lines, which are repeated verbatim are all that important, meaning that they have great import.

Whereas every chapter of गीता has a title connoting one or another योग, where the word योग means ‘joining’. This line, specifying withdrawing the organs is actually speaking of वियोग i.e. separation.

So to understand योग, one needs to not only understand but also exercise वियोग.

(3) This line speaks of इन्द्रियाणि in general, not just ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि. In (1) I mentioned शब्द, रूप, रस, गन्ध, स्पर्श just to explain इन्द्रियार्थ-s of ज्ञानेन्द्रिय-s. But कर्मेन्द्रियाणि also have इन्द्रियार्थ-s. To withdraw कर्मेन्द्रियाणि from their इन्द्रियार्थ-s is possibly best connoted by the three monkeys of महात्मा गांधी, rather four.

The शान्तिमन्त्र of गणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम् speaks not of withdrawing, but of regulating what grade of इन्द्रियार्थ-s the इन्द्रिय-s should indulge into, when it says ॐ भद्रं कर्णेभिः शृणुयाम देवाः | ॐ भद्रं पश्येमाक्षभिर्यजत्राः |

In भावार्थदीपिका Saint ज्ञानेश्वर uses a beautiful phrase शब्देवीण संवादु (= dialog without utterance). There is somewhat similar mention in a Kannada lullaby for the Lord. It says मातविद्दु मातुविलधांगिरबेकु | मातीन मजकूर तिळदीरबेकु | (meaning – Even if you have speech, stay dumb. Yet you should have grasped the meaning of the (holy) word.)

One can appreciate that meaning of इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः इन्द्रियाणि सर्वशः संहरते is very subtle and deep and to put it in practice or to acquire such capability is so very challenging.

(3) There are some interesting undertones even in the grammar in the श्लोक. Although I gave in the beginning the अन्वय as three clauses, the relational conjunctions make an interesting study.

(3-1) The main clause is तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता. There is no verb here. Usually one would take अस्ति or भवति as the implicit verb. I would rather take उच्यते to be the implicit verb. Literal meaning of this verb उच्यते is “is called as”. So the main clause becomes तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता उच्यते. तस्य his प्रज्ञा intellect उच्यते is called as प्रतिष्ठिता.

(3-1-1) I have not interpreted the word प्रतिष्ठिता, because it merits some deliberation. The word is used in most Indian languages in such contexts as – He is a प्रतिष्ठित member in the society. In such context प्रतिष्ठित means ‘one with status’ or ‘elite’. In the same vein, प्रतिष्ठिता प्रज्ञा can be interpreted as ‘elite intellect’ or an intellect with a status. An elitist status is a status on a high pedestal, honorable. Certainly such प्रज्ञा, as specified in the sub-clause(s), would be regarded as प्रतिष्ठिता highly respectable.

(3-1-2) Grammatically प्रतिष्ठिता is feminine adjective in past tense and with passive voice inbuilt, derived from प्रति + स्था. The prefix प्रति seems to bring the meaning of ‘elitist status’. By that, meaning of प्रतिष्ठिता can be taken as ‘taken to an elitist status’. Rather this word प्रतिष्ठिता suggests one meaning of the prefix प्रति to be ‘at or unto an elevated or elite status’.

(3-2) The sub-clause कूर्मः अङ्गानि संहरते इव has the relational conjunction इव which is combination of the English pair ‘so … as’ or Sanskrit pair यथा … तथा.

(3-3) The other subclause यदा अयम् इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः इन्द्रियाणि सर्वशः संहरते has the relational conjunction यदा. Usually it pairs with तदा. Although the pair यदा-तदा has time domain for the relation of ‘when … then’, in Sanskrit, its usage for the relation ‘if-then’ is not uncommon.

(3-3-1) Although there is no तदा explicit here, one should take it as implicit in यदा.

(3-4) Between अयम् in यदा अयं संहरते and तस्य in तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता, there is also an adjectival relationship. So the subclause यदा अयं संहरते has dual relationship with the main clause तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता.

(3-4-1) One is adjectival relationship between अयम् and तस्य.

(3-4-2) Another is adverbial relationship by virtue of यदा. This adverbial relationship is both of time-domain and of condition-domain, which is also so, in the computer-programming construct of ‘if-then’.

(4) The word अयम् is masculine first case singular of the pronoun इदम्, which means someone nearby. This श्लोक is by श्रीकृष्णभगवान्. In using the word अयम्, He is referring to someone nearby to Him and hence someone dear to Him. But in the main clause, the corresponding word is तस्य, (masculine), sixth case singular of the pronoun तत्, which signals ‘he’. Does this suggest that one, whose प्रज्ञा is प्रतिष्ठिता, becomes He ? Is this some suggestion of the महावाक्य Great Quote तत्त्वमसि ? Is this the reason why the second line has all such great import, that it is repeated verbatim in 2-68 ?

(5) One should not miss the significance of the word सर्वशः. Retraction should apply to all इन्द्रिय-s, without exception. The sense of स्पर्श touch is इन्द्रियार्थ of इन्द्रिय त्वच् the skin. This also is to be retracted !!

(5-1) Bio-sketch of कर्ण makes an interesting study in the context of retraction of the sense of स्पर्श touch, the इन्द्रियार्थ of इन्द्रिय त्वच् the skin.

(5-1-1) कर्ण was born with a special skin, which was his great defense also. But having given his word, he did not hesitate to donate that skin and make himself devoid of his defense.

(5-1-2) He was comforting his गुरु परशुराम, from whom he acquired पाशुपतास्र. When he was doing his service, a bee not only stung him on his lap, but even started extracting his blood. कर्ण unflinchingly continued his service. Is this not an example of making oneself unmindful of what was happening to the skin, rather so retracting the skin that one is devoid of the sense of touch ? The entire epic महाभारतम् is great, because biosketches of different characters bring forth and evidence very challenging concepts such as इन्द्रियाणि इन्द्रियार्थेभ्यः सर्वशः संहरते !!!

शुभमस्तु |