Always in doubt…

चलने ही चलने में कितना जीवन, हाय, बिता डाला!
‘दूर अभी है’, पर, कहता है हर पथ बतलानेवाला,
हिम्मत है न बढूँ आगे को साहस है न फिरुँ पीछे,
किंकर्तव्यविमूढ़ मुझे कर दूर खड़ी है मधुशाला।।७।

Chalne hi chalne me kitna jeevan, haaye, bita dala
‘Door abhi hai’, par, kehta hai har path batlanewala
Himmat hai na badhu aage ko sahas hai na phiru piche
Kinkartavyavimudh mujhe kar door khadi hai madhushala

Ah, how much time have I wasted away just walking aimlessly! Every person showing me the way tells me ‘it’s farther off yet’. I don’t have the strength to move forward, nor the courage to turn back. And while I stand confused this way, my tavern stands beckoning from far away!

A few months back, I had spoken of Madhushala, written by Shri. Harivansh Rai Bachchan way back in 1935. While the poem is about a madhushala, or a wine tavern, I would not take it literally. The tavern and the wine are brilliant metaphors for everything that intoxicates us in life, as well as the pain and frustration that we encounter everyday.

The poem is not about hero worship. Nor does the protagonist claim to be very strong and intelligent. He is just one among us, with problems and human failings. In this verse, he speaks about intent. We all have intent – we all want to do something, to achieve something in life. But many a time we find ourselves wandering aimlessly, in pursuit of something that still seems elusive. We want to get there, but don’t know how.

And people around don’t seem to be of much help. Even if they are, and point us in the right direction, we don’t trust them enough to follow their guidance. Instead, we stand at the crossroads in our minds, wondering what to do! Our goals seem far away, our methods not sound enough, and a feeling of general unsatisfaction creeps in. We seek solace in escapism, the ostrich in the sand mentality. We want to get away from this, and divert our minds…and this happens again and again, doesn’t it?

अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति ।
नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मनः ॥ ४० ॥

ajñaś cāśraddadhānaś ca
saṁśayātmā vinaśyati
nāyaṁ loko ’sti na paro
na sukhaṁ saṁśayātmanaḥ

The ignorant the faithless, the doubting self goes to destruction; there is neither this world nor the other, nor happiness for the doubting.

The ignorant, i.e., one devoid of knowledge received through instruction, the faithless or one who has no faith in developing this knowledge taught to him, i.e., who does not strive to progress ickly, and the doubting one, i.e., one who is full of doubts in regard to the knowledge taught – such persons perish, are lost. When this knowledge taught to him about the real nature of the self is doubted, then he loses this material world as also the next world. The meaning is that the ends of man, such as Dharma, Artha and Karma which constitute the material ends or fulfilments, are not achieved by such a doubting one. How then can mans supreme end, release be achieved by such a doubting one? For all the ends of human life can be achieved through the actions which are prescribed by the Sastras, but their performance reires the firm conviction that the self is different from the body. Therefore, even a little happiness does not come to the person who has a doubting mind concerning the self.