‘Kaa te Kaantaa ? Kaste Putraha?’ Who is Wife? Who is Son?

shadow family

By London Swaminathan
Post No 922 Date 21st March 2014.

Hindus have been taught the purpose of life from the very beginning. Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha are the four values and Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa are the four stages of life. I believe that the following verses are in support of the Vanaprastha (Forest life) stage. We must leave all the attachments at one stage. We can’t keep on worrying about our family forever. We see how all our politicians are entangled in the power struggle for getting their family members big posts or big businesses. We also see our poor friends are abused by their family members as baby sitters or care takers for life. This is the attachment we must get rid of.

When Valmiki hunted animals and robbed the passersby, Narada asked him why he did it. He told him that it was to support his family. But he agreed with Narada on one point: it is sin to rob and kill people and animals. Immediately Narada asked him whether his family members would share the sins he committed. Valmiki, the hunter, told Narada that it was a thought provoking question and he would run home and find the answer. He came back very soon saying neither his wife nor his children were ready to share his sins. Narada taught him the Mantra ‘Rama’ to escape from the sins he committed for his family. That changed his life. He attained wisdom sooner than the Buddha. A sinner turned in to a saint! He got rid of the attachments with the magic word RAMA and became an enlightened soul.

Shadow of family holding hands in park

Adi Shankara advises us to come out of attachments in Bhaja Govindam:–

Kaa te kaantaa kaste putrah
Samsaaroyam ateeva vichitrah
Kasya tvam kah kuta aayaatah
Tattvam chintaya tadiha bhraatah (8)

Who is your wife? Who is your son? Supremely wonderful, indeed, is this empirical process! Of whom are you? Who are you? From where have you come? O brother, think of that Truth here.
Dr T M P Mahadevan comments on this sloka:

“Family relations and institution of the household have only a limited value. They have value in so far as they serve to liberate the individual from ego-centred existence. But when they have served their purpose, they must be left behind. Family is the home of trial and testing; it is not one’s destination. This does not mean that he should be cruel to them or hate them; nor even that he should be callous to their interests. What it means is that he should no longer regard them as his property, nor himself as their property”.


Another verse from Bhaja Govindam runs like this:
Ka te kanta – dhana – gata – cinta
Vatula kim tava nasty niyanta
Trijagati sajjana – sangatir eka
Bhavati bhavarnava tarane nauka (13)

Why worry about wife, wealth etc, O, Crazy one; is there not for you the one who ordains? In the three worlds, it is only the association with good people that can serve as the boat that can carry one across the sea of birth.
Bhaja Govindam, verse 13, by Adi Shankara.

Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (13-9) says

Non- attachment, non-identification of the self with son, wife, home and the rest and constant even mindedness on the attainment of the desirable and the undesirable (is good)
Appar questions family attachments in a Thevaram Hymn:–

indian falily

One of the Four Great Tamil Saivite Saints, Appar alias Tirunavukkarasu, lived in the seventh century AD. His 4900 verses are part of the Thevaram anthology. Following verse is the echo of Adi Shankara’s Bhaja Govindam:

Who is father? Who indeed is mother? Who are our
Co- siblings? Who is wife? Who are sons? Who indeed
Are ourselves? How did we come into being?
How do we depart? This is sheer gramarye; At this
Feel not happy; O ye that think on these, listen to what
I say He sports in his crown the lovely crescent
And the bright serpent; He is our father; His holy name is
Namasivaya. They that chant this name
When they rise up, will abide in the empyrean. — 6-919,Thevaram

( N.B.I have already argued in one of my posts, that Adi Shankara lived before Christ and the later Abhinava Shankara was confused with Adi Shankara by the scholars. I have given enough proofs from Tamil literature to support my argument. The above verse also shows that he copied it from Adi Shankara. I am following Kanchi Paramacharya in dating Adi Shankara. My main evidence comes from the Rope/Snake analogy which was copied from Shankara by a Greek philosopher of First Century AD).

family 2


Another Tamil saint Pattinathar also sang on the same theme:

1.Like the woodcutter felling a tree, if Time should
Fell the body, the woman that hugged it in the past
And the children also bewail vociferously;
They will come as far as the crematory;
Will they take a step beyond it,
Oh Lord, Kachi Ekampa? (verse2, Tiruvekampamalai)

2.Wife, children, happiness of domestic life
Stop at the doors, the kinsfolk, at the crematory;
What may the help on your way? (verse 12, General)

3.My mother – the one that bore me – called me a corpse
And forsook me; my wife around whose neck
I have strung the golden Taali lamented and said:
“Let it go away”. My sons who received all from me,
Made circumambulations at the crematory
And broke the ritual pot.
And there is none save Yours, oh Lord! (verse 28)

Tamil hymns were translated in to English by ‘Sekkizar Adippodi’
Dr T N Ramachandran of Thanjavur.

Tamil Film Song

Famous Tamil poet and lyricist Kannadasan wrote a song for the film ‘Pada Kanikkai ‘with Bhagavad Gita, Adi Shankara, Appar and Pattinathar in mind. He gave the gist of these hymns in his film song “All Relationship ends at home, it is your wife who comes up to the street corner, your son up to the crematorium and who comes with you until the end of your journey? In Tamil Veedu Varai Uravu, Veethi Varai Manaivi, Kaadu Varai Pillay, Kadaisi Varai Yaaro?

Contact swami_48@yahoo.com


Adi Sankaracharya

(Questions are imaginary; Answers are true excerpts from BhajaGovindam aand Viveka Chudamani) –S Swaminathan

Q : Shankarji, Namasthe and Vanakkam.what is your philosophy?  Could you please tell us in one or two sentences?

A: Brahman alone is real, the universe is unreal, and the individual soul is no other than the universal Soul ( ”Brahma Sathyam -Jagan Mithya- Jeevo Brahma Eva , Na Aparaha” ).

Q. You have said it beautifully well. But laymen may not understand it.

A: Maya can be destroyed by the realisation of the pure Brahman, just as the mistaken idea of a snake is removed by the discrimination of the rope.

Q. Swami, This is high philosophy indeed. But is there any short cut for reaching God?

A: Through the company of the good, there arises non attachment:

Through non attachment there arises freedom from delusion:

When there is freedom from delusion, there is the Immutable Reality:

On experiencing immutable reality there comes the state of ‘liberated in life’(Jeevan Mukti).

Q: Oh, Swamiji, now I remember the Bhaja Govindam sloka ‘Satsangatve nissangatwam, Nissangatve Nirmohatvam——–‘.Ok,  A lot of people believe in simple things like holy dip in Ganges etc. Is it not good then?

A: To one who has studied the Bhagavad Gita even a little,

Who has sipped at least a drop of Ganges water,

Who has worshipped at least once Lord Murari,

To him there is no quarrel with Yama, the Lord of Death.

Q: Shankarji, only now you have come down to our level. We understand that you have gone round the Holy Bharat several times by foot when there was no vehicle, no bridges, no gun to protect you from wild animals .How did you do it. Aren’t you scared?

A: There is only Brahman, the one without a second, which is within all, homogenous, infinite, endless, and all pervading: there is no duality whatsoever in it (Eka mevadwayam Brahma neha nanasthi  kinchana)

Q. Yeah, we understand fear comes only when you think there is another thing.  Swami, we believe in Karma.  Is in it that even meeting you today destined already?

A: Through the realization of one’s identity with Brahman, all the accumulated actions of a hundred crore of cycles come to nought.

Q: That is a good news. That means no one needs to fear Karma. Now In India, we have got a lot of Babas and Swamijis with hundreds of thousands of followers. Aren’t we are going in the right direction?  I think Your Holiness must be happy about it.

A:One ascetic with matted-locks, one with shaven-head, one with hairs pulled out one by one, another parading in his ochre-robes- these are fools who, though seeing, do not see. Indeed these different disguises or apparels are only for their belly’s sake.

Q. Thanks for clarifying, Swamiji. Could you please give a simple message to our youths?

A: Childhood skips off on sport and play.

Youth flies off in pursuits of love making.

As one grows older one he is drowned in worry about the security and future of his wife and children.

One’s whole life gets spent in some kind of worry or other. And at no stage does man find time to lift his thoughts to God.  Seek God (Bhaja Govindam), Seek God, Seek God.

Q. You are a keen observer of Nature. You even escaped from the grip of a crocodile when you were young in Kaladi, Kerala. You tricked your mum by saying the crocodile will leave you alive if she permits you to enter Sanyas (ascetic life).Tell us what can nature teach us?

A: The deer, the elephant, the moth, the fish and the black bee-these five have died due to one or other of the five senses, viz. Sound etc. through their own attachment.

Whoever seeks to realise the self by devoting himself to the nourishment of the body, proceeds to cross a river by catching hold of a crocodile, mistaking it for a log.

Q : Shankar ji ,we would recommend you to be entered in the Guinness Book of records under three categories  : 1.The man who walked around the sub continent several times by foot-for longest Pada Yatra 2.The man who wrote highest number of commentaries on ancient texts and and 3. For strengthening the unity of India by establishing four centres (Mutts) in four corners of India :Sringeri, Dwaraka, Kashmir and Puri.

Namasthe. Thanks (Dhanyavad)