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Who will go to the other shore

The Bhagavad Gita has influenced India through the centuries. In our own days, the Gita is a growing influence in Europe and America. I look forward to the day when a Gita university will be established. Will it be at Kasi or Kurukshetra or in the South where Sri Shankaracharya taught, centuries ago?

In the South, too, lived a saint known as Tiruvalluvar—the author of the book named the “Kural”. It is regarded as the “Fifth Veda”.

Tiruvalluvar was, like Kabir, a weaver by profession. He came under the influence of the thought and wisdom enshrined in the Gita and became a teacher of spiritual life. In the “Kural” he calls upon all to do their duty, renouncing all desire for fruits of action. “Be like a cloud,” he says, “that pours water but asks for nothing in return.”

There is the secret of true religion. The teacher of the “Kural” asks us to strive for inner freedom from the world. In addition to this ethic of inwardness, the Kural, like the Gita, sounds the note of the ethic of love—the note of bhakti. Life is not meant to be hoarded: life is meant to be given away, given freely to all, given in love and in the spirit of joy. “The man full of love,” says the Kural, “gives his very bones to others.”

So, in the Mahayana, the great saviour named Avalokites-vara is represented as a “winged steed” and is named “Cloud” (Valahala), who carries to the “Other Shore”, the far-off bank of enlightenment or freedom—all who wish to go there.

The wealth of the world is no better than the world itself—passing, transient.


In a beautiful, allegorical story, we read of the “Cloud”: as manifesting itself to a company of merchants who have set sail for the “Jewel Isle”. They are shipwrecked and fall the hands of alluring women on another island. The women receive them hospitably but wish to entice them. The women appear beautiful, but finally prove to be man-eating monsters! They are at once alluring and devouring: they represent the world of the senses which tempt us and swallow us.

Over the island of these alluring women moves the figure of the “Cloud”, the saviour—appearing from time-to-time soaring through the sky and calling out: “Ko paraga?” “Who will go to the Other Shore?” It is the cry of the ferryman: “Ko paraga?” “Who will go to the Other Shore?”

The voice of the “Cloud” is the voice of the bodhisattvas, the saviours of humanity. It is the voice which warns us against sensual pleasures. The voice of the “Cloud” is the voice of compassion. It is the voice which calls: “O ye that wander in darkness and are weary! come out of darkness into light—the light of the other shore where wisdom shines and peace abides!”

It is the supreme voice of the Bhagavad Gita. It says: “Give! Give!” Give the wealth of your heart, your loving service, your dedicated life! For in agony is the world. Your treasure, sons of the sages of the east! is not your bank accounts or cash certificates—not your silver, not your gold. Your treasure is the treasure of your heart. The wealth of the world is no better than the world itself—passing, transient. It is the wealth of loving service which you are asked to give to the poor—and be blessed.

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