ಒಲೆಗುಂಡನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ಮೆಲಬಹುದು ಎಂದಿಹರೆ
ಮೆಲಬಹುದು ಎಂಬವನೆ ಜಾಣ , ಮೂರ್ಖನ
Olegundanobbanaee maelabahudhu yendhihare
Maelabahudhu yembavane jaana,
Murkhana geluvaagadheyaa, Sarvagna
Arguing with a fool is a foolish act in itself. If a fool says that iron can be chewed, one must reply – yes, it can be chewed, and allow the fool to win!
Sarvajña (Kannada: ಸರ್ವಜ್ಞ) was a Kannada poet, pragmatist and philosopher of the 16th century. The word “Sarvajna” in Sanskrit literally means “the one who knows everything”. He is famous for his three-lined poems called tripadi (written in the native three-line verse metre, “with three padas, a form of Vachana“).
Sarvajña’s poems mainly deal with social, ethical and religious issues. They are best enjoyed in Kannada, since the language brings out the flavour of the meanings of his tripadis, however, I have found that some of them can be savoured in English too. Fortunately, being born and raised in Karnataka, I can understand the Kannada version as well.
The beauty in Sarvajña’s writings stems from their inherent simplicity – there is no complicated philosophy, it is almost rustic – but ends up enlightening you on the subject. Sample this:
ಇಂದ್ರನಾನೆಯ ನೇರಿ ಒಂದನೂ ಕೊಡಲರಿಯ
ಚಂದ್ರಶೇಕರನು ಮುದಿ ಎತ್ತನೇರಿ
Indranaaneya Neri ondhano Kodalariya
Chandrashekarano mudhi ethaneri
Baekendhudhanu koduva Sarvagna
The great Lord Indra rides a majestic elephant, yet does not know to give, while Chandrashekhara (Lord Shiva) rides an old bull, yet gives everything to a devotee who asks him with a pure heart.
Sarvajña says that being rich, be it in knowledge or wealth, is of no use when you do not know to share it. A humble person, with limited knowledge, or lower means, but one who shares all that he has, is much more respected.
ಹೇಳದೆ ಕೊಡುವವನು ಉತ್ತಮನು
ಹೇಳಿ ಕೊಡುವವನು ಮಧ್ಯಮನು
ಸುಮ್ಮನೆ ಹೇಳಿ ಕೊಡದಿರುವಂತವನೆ ಅಧಮನು
Aada-dhele koduvavanu roodi-yolagutthamanu
aadi koduvavanu madhyamanu
adhama thaanadi kodadhavanu Sarvagna
He who does not speak of his charity is superior, he who speaks and donates, is normal, but he who speaks and doesn’t give, is inferior.
Here Sarvajña describes three types of people. There are those who speak a lot and are boastful, but do not share their wealth or knowledge, are the lowest category of people, and are not worthy of respect. There are others who share, and speak about it – this is normal human nature. And then there are those who give, who spend their life in service, but do not speak of their charitable activities – they are the most respected.
What I also enjoy about Sarvajña’s writings is the style of adding his name to the end of each tripadi – which mostly can be read as ‘so says Sarvajña’.
ಮೂರ್ಖನಿಗೆ ಬುದ್ಧಿಯನು ಎಷ್ಟೇ ಕಾಲ ಹೇಳಿದರು
ಒಂದು ದೊಡ್ಡ ಕಲ್ಲಿನ ಮೇಲೆ ಮಳೆ ಸುರಿದಂತೆ
ಎಷ್ಟು ಸುರಿದರು ಆ ಕಲ್ಲು ನೀರು ಕುಡಿಯುವುದಿಲ್ಲ
Murkha-nige Budhi-yanu noor-kala paellidharu
gorkalla-mel malle garedhare
Aa-kallu neeru-kudivudhe Sarvagna
Advising a fool for a hundred years, is like heavy rain on a stone; the stone will never drink the water, so says Sarvagna.
Are you wondering about how Sarvagna came to know so much, and how he developed his wit and wisdom? Well, Sarvagna has a tripadi for that as well!
ಸರ್ವರೊಳು ಒಂದೊಂದು ನುಡಿಗಲಿತು, ವಿದ್ಯೆಯ
ಪರ್ವತವೆ ಆದ ಸರ್ವಜ್ಞ.
Sarvarolu ondondu nudigalitu arithu, Vidhyeya
parvatave aada Sarvajna
Sarvajna did not become wise by his pride. By learning one word of wisdom from each person, he became a mountain of knowledge.
to be continued…