Wisdom from the land of beauty

Kashmir. The very mention of the word conjures up images of lofty snow-clad mountains, enchanting meadows of multi-hued flowers, woods of fir and pine and serene lakes and springs.

Nature has lavished her best on this enchanting land. What is normally missed in this panorama of beauty is the ancient spiritual and philosophical attainments of the inhabitants of this land.

For thousands of years, Kashmir has been the seat of not only brilliant writers, poets and dramatists, but also exalted philosophers of the Kashmiri school of Shaiva philosophy. Great names like Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, Kalhana, Kshemendra, among many others, spring to mind here. A sixth-century work describes Kashmir as the very embodiment of Goddess Uma, the consort of Lord Shiva, the Goddess being the personification of wisdom, beauty and knowledge.

The name of Loshtadeva occupies a prominent position in this pantheon of Kashmiri philosophers. He is said to have lived in the first half of the twelfth century, being the son of another famous Vedantic writer.

In the evening of his life, he realised the futility of a life of materialistic pursuits and sense gratification and became an ascetic and retired to Kashi (Varanasi), the seat of traditional Indian knowledge systems, and composed his work 'Dinakrandana Stotra' there. In this work, he expounds on the knots of bondage that man entangles himself him in. To satisfy the wants of his family, a man has to perforce get involved in all kinds of activities, desirable and otherwise, a kind of noose from which there is no escape.

Ignoring all sense of propriety, man descends to mean levels, indulges in pettiness, associates himself with the evil, unrighteous and mean-minded men and sometimes even cringes at the doors of wealthy, but low-minded men, all for the sake of the few monetary crumbs that they throw at him. Loshtadeva now touches upon a fact that will remain as long as humankind remains on earth. He asks, "Lord, how is it that as long as my senses were healthy and active, they craved for all sorts of pleasures, but now, when they are waning, they seem to have lost interest in sense pleasures and instead, derive happiness in meditating upon you? Alas, time has run out for me!"

Centuries may have passed, but man's mistakes remain the same. "I ran after damsels, not after the learned and wise. I chased wealth, not good deeds. I uttered falsehoods, indulged in hypocrisy and gossip, spoke ill of others and caused pain to them, disobeyed scriptural injunctions, never did I do good to others. But now, I repent for my misdeeds. Lord, you are my sole refuge now. Pray , redeem me from this miserable existence and grant me the wisdom to help others to correct themselves and resort to a life of virtue and devotion."

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