Non-Violent Consciousness of Kalidas

Posted: 03.08.2014
Updated on: 30.07.2015

(In context of Abhigyana Shakuntalam)

Acharanga, the ancient works in Jain literature gives the guidelines for conduct. Giving an account of its significance it says, “The heroes are dedicated to the great path of liberation. It is the specious path. Only the mighty heroes can dedicate themselves to that specious path. Only the brave can tread that path.”[1]

Abhigyan Shakuntalam too put forth the very soul of non-violence when “king Dushyant was taken aback to observe the holy and disciplined atmosphere of a revered sage, Kashyapa. He proclaims “here in this forest of cosmic-trees (fulfill desires), they draw from air life’s necessary sustenance, restrain their passions in the midst of celestial nymphs.”[2] In all available comfort, if one practices penance, it is a breath-taking practice. It is rightly said, “Verily the aspirations of the great ever mount upwards.”[3]

Non-violence and Care

In Abhigyan Shakuntalam, such feelings we come across many times in different forms. In the very first act, actress came up with pleasant song like. “Bees have gently kissed the sirisa flowers”.[4] The above expression shows the beauty of nature and non-violent consciousness of the author. The subtle nonviolent concept of Lord Mahavira seems to be reflected in the romantic play of Kalidas. Mahavira says, “jaha dumassa…[5] i.e. bees sip the honey very softly without harming the flowers. Here, we find that Mahavira and Kalidas have expressed the same feelings in the same language.[6]

The location of the Hermitage is a place of peace and Non-violence. All creatures are treated equally that moves in its shelter. Even a king is not above nature’s laws there. Playing with the life of any living being is prohibited in the hermitage area. A king is expected to protect distressed beings, not to take life of other beings for his pleasure. In this context a hermit addressing to the king says, “This is a deer of the hermitage. This must not be slain. This must not be slain. Not indeed, not indeed, must this arrow be allowed to fall upon this tender body of the deer, like fire upon a heap of flowers, therefore, replace your well-aimed arrow. Your weapon is designed for the relief of the distressed, not for the destruction of the guiltless, innocent. After knowing about the hermitage area, he also followed the system and told his charioteer, sacred groves must indeed be entered in humble habiliments.[7]

Peace and harmony are the inbuilt characteristics of nature. The atmosphere, which we observe in a forest, is that of absolute peace, where all the animals live in total harmony and in tune with natural laws. Kalidas have a keen non-violent consciousness. So, he expressed that ‘fresh breeze is fragrant having contact with the flowers.’[8]

Non-violence and fearlessness

Any violent or killing action creates an atmosphere of fear, agony, and grossness. Therefore, it is imperative for every human being to take care of peace in nature through non-violence. The purity of the atmosphere can be observed in the hermitage is all due to fearlessness. Deer, having acquired confidence bear the sound without varying their courses. Young fawns, too, are leisurely grazing without fear on the garden-lawns where the sprouts of darbha-grass have been shattered.[9] They are not disturbed by the noise of the chariot, because of the sense of security created in them by the affectionate behavior of the sages.

Even today also, in the campus of the Jain Vishva Bharati at Ladnun, Rajasthan one can have glance on the dancing peacocks. These peacocks enjoying fearlessness can be well inferred. Therefore, they move freely in the campus, wherever they like.

Non-violence and Compassion

The other aspect of non-violence is compassion. In other words, Compassion is the essence of nonviolence. There are many facets of compassion in Abhigyan Shakuntalam. On one hand, the king whose heart is stung with remorse desires, “to be once more blessed with a sight of Shakuntala”.[10] The feeling of Shakuntala being abandoned with no reason makes him woeful. On the other hand, we see, “Sirisa-flowers gently plucked for ear-ornaments by tender hearted ladies with the sense of duty.”[11] This shows the difference between duty and intention. To pluck the flowers or to make ornaments out of these flowers was their duty but emotionally or intentionally, they are not hurting the flowers. This optimistic side of non-violence can be compared by a Jain layman. He may join defense service and does his duty perfectly, but at personal level applies nonviolent life style and practices regularly the principle of non-violence and forgiveness.

Animals and birds are not only living in hermit’s campus but are an integral part of the campus. Caring and sharing nature of the sages become explicit for, at some places, the polished stones are seen which have been bruised by the fruit of the Ingudi.”[12] This fruit was commonly used by the ascetics for extracting oil, which was used for the treatment of deer or other animals. In case, when their tongue got wounded while grazing, then this oil was used as an ointment. This shows the caring nature of the sages. Rishi Kashyap is saying- “She who would not drink water before watering the plants.’[13]

She fulfills her duty, not only for the sake of duty, but also with the feeling of affection. She says- “it is not only in obedience to our father, but I really feel the affection of a uterine brother for them”.[14]

Such an affinity and compassion touched the climax when the description of Shakutala’s beauty is minutely adorned through Non-violent consciousness by Kalidas.

The poet Kalidas describes Shankuntala’s beauty as perceived by Dushyant. “Shakuntala is like a flower that is not yet smelt unscratched delicate leaf and unpolished diamond.’15 The personification of flower, leaf and diamond reflects a deeper aspect of the poet about the existence of one sensed living beings, like earth and plant bodied beings as accepted in Jain philosophy.

Multitude of metaphors contains highest quality of applied nonviolence. It compels us to think is Kalidas not exposing a very subtle path of spirituality in the frame of a romantic play!

‘Flower is yet untested,’ reminds us the incident of a Gardener and a Monk. The Gardener did not say anything to the boy, who plucked the flowers and went away. However, when the monk attempted to smell intentionally, he warns the monk by saying, Monk! You are stealing. The reason behind it was, that the monk had taken the vows of detachment, so he is not supposed to smell fragrance intentionally too. Similar uses of metaphors like a delicate soft leaf, not scratched an imperforated diamond’ reminds us of the extra compassionate consciousness even towards one sensed living beings is the natural unscripted law of life.

Non-violence with Nature

Universe is nothing but the web of emotions and vibrations. We are not alone here interdependency; the affects and effects of emotions and atmosphere go hand-in-hand. Interaction is the rule of nature. This reality can be verified in the play of Abhigyan Shakuntalam. Shakuntala is deeply attached with the hermit and the hermit is also attached to Shakuntala.[15]

When Shakuntala is departing from the hermit, trees air, birds, all are giving their consent in different ways. Shakuntala prepared herself to depart from the companion of her forest-life. “Since a song to this effect, a sweet cuckoo song was employed as an answer by them. She was also blessed on her way by gentle and pleasant breezes. And all these were done on the willingness of sage Kashyap.”[16]

Cosmic Bond and Non-violence

Departure of Shakuntala brings shade of sorrowful in the hermit. The deer let fall the morsels of Darbha-grass, the peacocks stopped dancing and the creepers whose pale leaves fall on the ground, all these appeared like shed tears revealing the sorrow of departure.[17] Even Shakuntala says good-bye to Vanajyotsna, her sister among the creepers.[18] Shakuntala is described as a very loving and compassionate woman. Rishi Kashyap gives an example of Shakuntala’s love towards all living beings. He says, she was full of love even towards plants and would drink water only after watering them. Shakuntala feels sorrowful saying who would look after them when she left the hermitage. Shakuntala says with tears, my child! Why should you follow me, who must leave your company?[19]

When Shakuntala was leaving the Hermitage a little fawn that Rishi Kashyap describes as Shakuntala’s adopted child stopped her. She looked after the fawn by spraying healing oil whenever it hurt its tongue through blades of grass, and fed it with grains. This little fawn caught onto her dress trying to stop her out of sorrow. This explains the deep consciousness of love in animals. Such an endurance and feeling of compassion can be learnt for the welfare of humanity. Actually, it is the eco-friendly human nature.

Forgiveness and Non-violence

One aspect of nonviolence is forgiveness. “I pardon all the sentient and let all the sentient pardon me. I have friendship with all sentient and have no enimity with anybody.[20] ‘Forgiveness is an ornament of the brave.’[21] This is the message of forgiveness.

Abhigyan Shakuntalam describes many such touching incidents of forgiveness. One such incident is where Priyamvada requests Durvasa to forgive Shakuntala. Priyamvada thinks that shakuntala has committed the mistake of disrespecting him unknowingly first time in life, so she should be forgiven. On behalf of Shakuntala priyamvada requests, “Holy Sir! Considering it is the first time, this one offence of Shankutala who did not recognize the potency of penance, should be forgiven by your reverence.”[22] “That-from now, no more, whatever I have committed before in unawareness will be repeated again.”[23] Disrespect of short-tempered sage was committed for the first time by Shakuntala. Therefore, Priyamvada prays that Durvasa should consider her request.

Repentance and Non-violence

As a turning point when the king has a sight on the ornament - royal ring, the setting of which is engraved with his name, King Dushyant, reminds all the incidents related to Shakuntala, who was insulted by his rejection. Now with remorse temper moves to say a word of pardon. The impact of his feelings is reflected on his face and dress. The king enters in a dress indicative of remorse. Observing the King, Chamberlain (a doorkeeper of king) said, “Rejecting special modes of decoration, he wears but one golden bracelet fastened on the left fore-arm; whose lower lip is faded by sighs. His eyes are very red from sleeplessness caused by thought of Shakuntala.[24] These expressions show the feeling of his repentance.


Dutifulness and Non-violence

Nature of benevolent King has been expressed as, “trees become bent down by the abundance of their fruit, clouds hang low when they teem with fresh rain; good men are never elected by riches, this is the very nature of the benefactors of others.”[25]

The king feels his duty to give security to the weak and distressed. He prepares himself for such a work by saying. “If there are some evil demons to disturb sage’s sacrificed rites then ‘bring my car and my bow.”[26] The gatekeepers of sage says, “This well becomes you, who emulate your ancestors, truly the descendants of Puru are the officiating priests in the sacrifices of delivering fear from the distressed”.[27] When an importunate bee quite baffled Shakuntala by following her then the king quickly advanced to protect her, and says not to fear-‘While a descendent of Puru, a chastiser of the ill-behaved, governs the world, which is this that is so rude to these artless hermit girls.”[28]

Here, the target of the king’s meeting the hermit has been declared by him as ‘I am the person appointed by the king, the descendent of Puru, to supervise religious rites, and have arrived at this grove of Piety to ascertain whether the religious rites suffer no obstructions.”[29] It can be a role model to establish a healthy society. He also ordered to declare among his subjects, ‘Let it be proclaimed that whatever dearly loved kinsman any one of my subjects may lose, Dusyanta will supply the place of that kinsman to their.”[30] This declaration has the feeling of oneness with his subject. An emotion of unity reminds us the prayer of Vedic sages, “together we should go ahead, and together we should be saved”.[31]

“All souls are equal.”[32] Not to harm any creature is not enough for nonviolence caring, sharing; loving, sympathy, empathy, sensitivity, and compassion are the basic concept of nonviolence. We found such an expression in Abhigyan Shakuntalam. Sarvadaman, Shakuntala’s son forcibly drags a lion’s whelp for sport. Forbidding him to do so, a nurse says, “Naughty boy, why do you torment the animals whom we cherish as if they were our own offsprings”.[33] However, it is not possible to stop him by mere words. Nurse finding a substitute arranges “a painted clay peacock”.[34]

Rishi Kashyap imparts the lessons of living a healthy family life, proper behavior towards other people in society, respect towards elders, etc. He imparts these lessons, which denotes of being a rishi he staying in penance and away from the worldly affairs. H.H. Acharya Mahapragya says, “Speech becomes more important when it comes from silence”. Rishi Kashyap’s wisdom comes from this very silence.

By sending a message to Dusyanta through Sarangarava, he says - “Having considered us as rich in devotion, self-control, please! Have a mutual understanding towards Shakuntala.”[35] Kashyapa inspires to departing Shakuntala in such a words of social management - “Pay respectful attention to your elders, treat your rivals as your dear friends”.[36] Feeling of such a human solidarity, service, and loyalty can make a healthy and harmonious social life.

There is a saying is Vedas that anything in excess is harmful, even nectar if taken in excess is poisonous. There is an exception to this law in case of love for any quantity is not too much in this regard. Any other thing in excess like anger, frustration can be harmful but love in any quantity and all encompassing is never harmful. In the play of Abhigyan Shakuntalam different facets of non-violence teaches to learn a happy and harmonious life style. A person sees the reflection of himself in the society around him. Therefore, the onus of creating a positive atmosphere lies in the hands of every individual.

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