I write regularly and poetry is an important subtext, but though, I love to read, I am afraid (in the context of this requirement of the Writing 201 assignment) that I don’t read poetry that much. – At least that was so before taking this series here on WordPress.
But this one is an all-time favourite. ‘Vaishnava Jana To’ (devotees of Lord Vishnu) is a 15th Century Gujarati work by poet Narsinh Mehta. Though it is one of the most famous ‘bhajans’ of Hindus (hymn, psalm, prayer, etc.), my real introduction to it is through the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi whom I see as the greatest visionary politician and one of the greatest social reformers of modern times.
The poem’s text has been a guiding light when life needed so and I see it more as a ‘levitating text’ or ‘stanzas of healing words’ than as a ‘bhajan’, especially the lines that say – Feel the pain of others – Help those who are in misery – But never let ego or conceit enter their mind.
Here it is (with its English translation from Wikipedia):
वैष्णव जन तो तेने कहिये जे पीड परायी जाणे रे।
पर दुःखे उपकार करे तो ये मन अभिमान न आणे रे॥
Vaishnava (devotees of Lord Vishnu) people are those who,
Feel the pain of others,
Help those who are in misery,
But never let ego or conceit enter their mind.
सकळ लोकमां सहुने वंदे, निंदा न करे केनी रे।
वाच काछ मन निश्चळ राखे, धन धन जननी तेनी रे॥
Vaishnavas, respect the entire world,
Do not censure anyone,
Keep their words, actions and thoughts pure,
The mother of such a soul is blessed.
समदृष्टि ने तृष्णा त्यागी, परस्त्री जेने मात रे।
जिह्वा थकी असत्य न बोले, परधन नव झाले हाथ रे॥
Vaishnavas see all equally, renounce greed and avarice,
Respect other woman as they respect their own mother,
Their tongue never utters false words,
Their hands would never touch the wealth of another.
मोह माया व्यापे नहि जेने, दृढ़ वैराग्य जेना मनमां रे।
रामनाम शुं ताळी रे लागी, सकळ तीरथ तेना तनमां रे॥
Vaishnavas do not succumb to worldly attachments,
They are detached from worldly pleasures,
They are enticed by the name of God (Shri Ram),
All holy sites of pilgrimage are embodied within them.
वणलोभी ने कपटरहित छे, काम क्रोध निवार्या रे।
भणे नरसैयॊ तेनुं दरसन करतां, कुळ एकोतेर तार्या रे॥
Vaishnavas encompasses the absence of greed and deceit,
They have renounced all types of lust and anger,
The author of this poem (Narsi) would be grateful to meet such a soul,
Whose virtue liberates their entire lineage.