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How Can Hands Know The Taste Of Nectar? – Wisdom Of Vemana

It is a challenging task to convey profound meaning in simple terms. Over the ages, Yogis have practised it to convey their message. It is indeed difficult to sustain it especially in poetic medium. Poet-saints like Thiruvalluvar, Kabir, Sarvajna and Narayana Guru have perfected this capsular form that enabled them to reach out to vast masses, both literate and illiterate.

Vemana has consistently employed a four lined quartet. The fourth line in the quartet is usually his signature line. The first two lines give a moral/ social/spiritual statement followed by a suitable example in the third line. He used this form to effectively counter superstitions as well as propound certain values to be cherished by the people. He achieved this by means of likeness or contrast bringing in similarities, appropriate illustrations from everyday reality. Moving from general to particular, abstract to concrete, ideational to practical he has conveyed his message in an effective manner.

The following poem shows how he employed this technique to a telling effect –

Ordinary mortals, looking at a Yogeeswara,
Begin to snub without ‘knowing’ him.
How does the hand know tastes like nectar?
Listen Vema, the one endeared to the Creator!

It is common for the ordinary people to scorn at a Sadhaka or Yogi for not being one of them. Without realizing that the yogi has attained a higher state they look down upon him. They wish him to be at their known mundane level ignorant of the fact that he has travelled beyond that stage to be nearer the Truth. It is ignorance that clouds their judgment. Ironically, they think that they are superior to him mired as they are in their worldly affairs. They fail to recognise him as the provider of light in darkness, guidance in distress. The poem stresses that ‘knowing’ is important.

The Yogi has attained a state where he can differentiate truth from falsehood, the everlasting from the temporal. He knows that the people are in a state of illusion who need to be liberated. Therefore, he views them with sympathy. On the other, without knowing it, they consider him a ‘stranger’ or ‘outsider.’ One can do many things with one’s hand, but it does not know the taste of nectar. It is the tongue that tastes it, so knows its sweetness. So much difference between wisdom, here manifested by the Yogi, and ignorance exemplified by the ‘unknowing’ masses.