Sankara’s Smithy – Strike 10 – The cause and effect blow


Science at best  “describes” the Universe and life in this Universe whereas Vedanta “explains” them. The former is an outward looking study based on “multiple objects” whereas the later is an inward looking journey based on the “single subject”.  

So far, in the last eight verses, Adi Sankara drove home the point that one should realise and understand that the body, wealth, lust, life, family, relatives and our different states of physical and economical growth are all impermanent and won’t provide the permanent, sorrow free, pure happiness that we all are looking for as the goal in our lives and we should focus on the eternal, ultimate reality, Brahman otherwise known as Govinda.

Adi Sankara, now takes again, two of the above issues that are easily connected and understood by common man viz., lust and wealth and makes us understand that in our daily life,

1. if there is no fruit, there is no relationship ; as long as there is fruit, there is relationship.
2. Focusing on the effects won’t do any good as long as one doesn’t understand what the root cause is.

In four precise and concise sentences, Adi Sankara brings out clearly what today’s professionals call “root cause analysis” or DISO (dig in and sort out). Where the cause has ended, the effects cannot continue; therefore it is worthless to pursue them and shouldn’t be our sole attention.

Let us examine the Sloka.

Sanskrit Verse

वयसि गते कः कामविकारः

शुष्के नीरे कः कासारः ।

क्षीणे वित्ते कः परिवारो
ज्ञाते तत्त्वे कः संसारः ॥१०॥

Adi Sankara

English Transliteration

Vayasi gatē kaḥ kāmavikāraḥ

śuṣkē nīrē kaḥ kāsāraḥ ।

Kṣīṇē vittē kaḥ parivārō

jñātē tattvē kaḥ sansāraḥ ॥10॥

Meaning of the Sanskrit Words

वयसि गते - vayasi gate - When youthfulness has passed

कः कामविकारः - kah kaama vikaara: - where is lust and its play

शुष्के नीरे - sushkE neerE - When water has dried up

कः कासारः - kah kaasaarah - where is the lake

क्षीणे वित्ते - Ksheene vittE - When wealth is spent

कः परिवारो - kah parivara: - where are the relation

ज्ञाते तत्त्वे - jnaatE tatvE - When the Truth is realized

कः संसारः - kah samsaarah - where is the bondage/ samsaar/cycle of birth and death

Meaning in English

Just as the tremor of lust in youth automatically disappears in old age; just as a lake is only a stretch of land when water is dry; just as a wealthy man, when reduced to poverty is devoid of servants; so one who attains self-knowledge is rid of ephemeral pleasures.


The wisdom to discern the eternal from the ephemeral, comes only if we understand the temporary nature of the material world. That is what Adi Sankara tried to drill into our ignorant and foolish minds through the previous Slokas.

When one talks about eternal and ephemeral to common men like us, he/she has to invariably talk about two subjects which are wired into us. ; lust and wealth; the former is naturally instinctive (physiological & biological need) and the later wired through our relationships(socially induced). Adi Sankara takes up these two to drive home the point.

How can there be an expression of lust in the body when youthfulness is no more? There cannot be lust when youthfulness is spent because youthfulness is a cause, and the expression of lust, an effect. The idea is that when the cause is gone, the effect cannot remain. The impermanence of lust was also discussed in Sloka 3. A day to day phenomenon which we see - birds flocking to the water bodies when water is full and migrating to other places when water dries up, is taken as reference to drive home this point.

Similarly, when your wealth is no more with you, where are the followers? Wealth here means money or power, position, or some skill. Only as long as these things are there will people look up to you or follow you. When the cause is no more, the effect is no longer there as well. We studied this in detail in Slokas 2 & 5.

This verse tells us how to deal with the effect by addressing the root cause. For this let us try to understand the Sanskrit Word “ samsara”. What is samsara?

‘Samyak sarati asmin iti samsaraH’. The word samsara is made up of sam and sara. The word sara is derived from sr , to move. Sarati is the one who moves. Sam comes from samyak, meaning constant. samsara_ – samyak sara, that in which there is constant movement. What kind of motion is this? It is motion from one birth to another, from one situation to another, one accomplishment to another, and one becoming to another. Man is always trying to become something. This life of becoming is called samsara” .

Swami Viditatmananda says “ The problem of samsara is the constant sense of self-rejection or self non-acceptance. There is a constant current of self non-acceptance in me. I am not satisfied with the way I am now. On the one hand I do not accept myself as I am, and on the other, I cannot tolerate this self non-acceptance either. Therefore, there is an immediate impulse or urge to become acceptable to myself. Thus arises an effort or action on my part to become acceptable. A poor man wants to become rich, a weak man wants to become strong, a strong man wants to become stronger, a man who is not educated wants to get educated, a man in the east wants to go to the west, and so on. Every man or woman wants to become something, and this need reflects the dissatisfaction with one’s present state. Thus, the fundamental problem of the human being is his constant dissatisfaction with himself.

Why does this complex arise in the human being? It arises out of self non-acceptance. There is a constant battle going on within us; we don’t require a battle outside. That is samsara.

What is this freedom from samsara that we seek? It is nothing but freedom from this sense of self non acceptance or self-rejection, freedom from the need to become something. In reality, the only freedom that we have to acquire is inner freedom, a freedom from the compulsion within, that I must change. Sri Sankaracarya says, Jnate tattve kaH samsaraH. When the tattva or truth is known, where is the samsaraH? What is this truth”?

It is the truth of the Self. When can that truth be known? We studied that in detail Sloka 9, the progressive ladder to climb for understanding the Truth. “Nirmohatve niscalatattvaH”, the truth can be known only when the mind is free from raga-dvesas and has the clear perception that enables it to see the truth.

This clarity comes as a result of worship of God, and therefore, the worship of God becomes a means for gaining the knowledge of the Self. Therefore “Bhaja Govindam” says Adi Sankara.


What Shankara says here is Cause & Effect Theory. In the book ‘Manual of Self-Unfoldment’, Swami Chinmayananda speaks about four laws of Cause & Effect.

1. For every effect, there is a cause.2. Cause is nothing but effect in a different form.3. If the cause is removed, there is no effect.4. The cause is concurrent and inherent in the effect.

If we are able to think over this deeply, we will realize how to tackle any problem at the Cause level so that the Effect is never generated.

Misery is the Effect. Ignorance is the Cause. The Solution is Para Vidya, knowledge of the Supreme Reality.

Adi Sankara literally sums up his previous Slokas in this wonderful verse. Let us try and consolidate our learnings and get ready for the next input from him. Until then……

God Bless

Author: prabhusponder

A novice venturing out to explore the meaning of life

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