Actor Late Chittoor Nagaiah in the protagonist role of the 1947 Telugu film yOgi vEmana

Actor Late Chittoor Nagaiah in the protagonist role of the 1947 Telugu film yOgi vEmana

Monday, August 13, 2007


There is a very impressive story in circulation on how Vemana renounced his worldly life and became an ascetic, sceptic and saintly person.

Vemana was an younger brother of ruler of a small place. He used to respect his elder brother's wife well.

Vemana's early life was pleasure-seeking. He used to live a number of days in the house of a prostitute. He used to give her gold, money, lands and satisfy her in many ways.

One day, when Vemana was in a jolly mode, the prostitute asked him for a gift. She asked him to present the nose-ornament worn by his sister-in-law. It was a small gold piece with a stone embedded in it.

Vemana went to his brother's house and asked his sister-in-law for the nasal ornament revealing for what purpose it was required. His sister-in-law agreed to give it to him on one condition. She would hold the ornament in her hand. She will be bending fully naked. Vemana had to look his sister-in-law from behind, and collect the ornament by sending his hands through her two legs.

He agreed for it. When he saw his sister-in-law's naked body, he saw her anus. He realised that human body was nothing but a storehouse of faecus and urine. His realisation was sudden and permanent.

He abandoned the ornament, prostitute, brother, sister-in-law and became a recluse. Gradually, wisdom donned on him. He used to sit under a tree nearly naked unmindful of what people say about him. During the period he said thousands of verses in Telugu language in meters called Aat`a Veladi and Kandam. They have a reprive called "Vemaa! (Oh Veema! i.e. his name)" or "Visvada abhi raama Vinura Veema! (Oh wise Vema listen!).


1. We may or may not believe the above story. We have a choice. Any choice is OK.

2. People can get realisation and renunciation in two ways.

a) Happening of a sudden incident which totally changes the path of a life, such as a new friendship, love, business, job, accident etc.

b) Continuous and gradually enlightenment through reading and analyses.

For a) above to happen we have to wait. There is an uncertainty. For b) above, we have to work hard, face some testing situations. The second method is called "Nitya Anitya Vicaaram (Enquiry of real-unreal, permanent-ephemeral). We should be able to clearly distinguish between the two. We should convince ourselves that what appears "real" to us is not truly "real". Shankara called this "Mithya (illusion)" and Jagan mithya (World is delusion).

But I have a different analytical view. What appears to be "real" is really "real". We are the illusion. We are ephemeral. Transitory. We come and go. Our Bank account is real. It continues even after we did, till somebody else draws from it. "Jagat" in a dictionary means "the world". Ja = what is born. Gat = what dies, goes. The world is not born. It does not die or go anywhere. Hence the world is not the Jagat. We are the Jagat.

I am not writing this in a preaching mode or mood. Many verses of Vemana emphasize this ephemerality of the world. Hence this story and the discussion.

3. We see even stronger things on the Internet and in the films. Yet we do not get any renunciation. Why? The answer is very simple. A person who can eat hay stacks will not be satisfied with a blade of straw.