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Shubhasya shighram, ashubhasya kalaharanam

The early birds in the field of worldly affairs are indeed those who reap substantial benefits, but early birds in the spiritual affairs end up profiting extraordinarily mightily. There is simply no limit to the reward of their pioneering spirit.

We hear of people who have invested in prime properties half a decade ago and boast of how they have enjoyed watching their investment turn into gold. This is apparent business sense and is often lauded all over. But the pioneers among the sadhaks, who enlist their efforts eagerly, and right in the beginning, in spiritual matters, and then enjoy the benefits thereof, aren’t readily discernible.

Sri Krishna had advised Uddhava to make the true investment, and that was an investment in spirituality. But that kind of investment in spirituality depends greatly on timeliness, swiftness and spontaneity. In spiritual matters, time is not only of essence, but time is essence!

When Ravana was lying on his deathbed struck by Sri Ramachandra’s arrows, awaiting his death, Sri Ram told Lakshmana to go and seek precious wisdom from him –wisdom none else would be able to impart to Lakshmana. Obviously, Sri Ram had seen the great virtue in his adversary. This was similar to Krishna asking Pandava brothers to visit Bhishma who was lying on the bed of arrows and seek wisdom from him. This is an important chapter in the Mahabharata. Well, coming to episode from Ramayana, when Lakshmana did his brother’s bidding and went and stood at Ravana’s head and sought advice, Ravana did not speak to him. Lakshmana went to Sri Ram and told him that Ravana is not willing to share his wisdom. Sri Ram laughed. He now asked Lakshmana to go and stand near Ravana’s feet and not his head. When Lakshmana followed this protocol, Ravana spoke. One of the precious counsels that he gave was Shubhasya shighram, ashubhasya kalaharanam… When it comes to auspicious (noble, virtuous, meritorious) acts, make sure they are carried out instantaneously without any delay. But when it comes to ashubha or inauspicious (ignoble, sinful, deprecating) acts, delay them so indefinitely that they may never be carried out.

This is such a sage advice coming from Ravana, someone who is so unlike a sage. Ravana told Lakshmana that he had realised the greatness and divinity of Sri Ram right at the outset, but he delayed taking shelter at his feet. It took him a whole lifetime! It was only at his deathbed that he finally took refuge in Sri Ram. Gajendra in Srimad Bhagavatam suffered the same fate; he too had to wait until his last, in the jaws of the crocodile, to recognise the fact that he must surrender to Lord Vishnu.

Shubhasya shighram is a wakeup call. Literally!

If we don’t start instantly, there is a chance we may start rather too late in the day… or worse still… never.

One of the spiritual masters, while discoursing about the act of waking up in the morning, observed that the most critical part of waking up is instant lifting of the body out of the bed as soon as one opens the eyes and senses the first ray of light. If this isn’t achieved shighram, i.e. instantly, the overpowering force of sleep, the heavy blanket of tamas, immediately assails the sadhak. Waking up is therefore not an act of greater might, it’s an act of great urgency. Shighram! If it isn’t done instantly, it is simply not done.

This metaphor of waking up may be extended to spiritual awakening where several challenges, all clad and armed with tamas, keep a sadhaka from making any advancement towards light. To work oneself out of ignorance, vice, stupor, lethargy and delusion, one needs the same resource: to act instantly.

When shreya, the spiritually uplifting life situations arise, it’s imperative to act at once, and when preya, the spiritually debilitating life situations raise their hood, one must tarry and dawdle and opt out.

Whether it’s an impulse to chant God’s Name; an opportunity to attend satsang with a holy person; possibility to study the scripture; urge to visit a temple, saint or a centre of pilgrimage, or the desire to undertake virtuous act such as daan (charity) etc, we must follow Ravana’s advice shubhasya shighram.

There are things worthy of haste. Shighram!


Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda) 
Editor, The Mother.