The Vairagya-Shatakam, or the Hundred Verses on Renunciation, of Bhartrihari, are generally grouped into ten divisions: condemnation of desire, futile attempts to abandon sense-objects, condemnation of poverty of a supplicant attitude, delineation of the evanescence of enjoyments, description of the working of Time, comparison of a king to an ascetic, control of mind by stimulating wisdom in it, discrimination of the immutable reality from the mutable, worship of Lord Shiva and the ways of a Self-realized ascetic.
Even though you may roam about heaven and earth with a view to obtain riches at the sacrifice of dignity of birth, rank in life and self-respect, your efforts will not be attended with success; and even if perchance you do succeed, your desires will never be satiated. O ignoble man! What horrible sins and crimes have you not committed just to fill the cavity of your stomach and cover this body with a piece of cloth?
Hope is a flowing river. Desires are its water. Longings are its waves. Attachments for objects are the animals of prey living therein. One cannot cross this river because of the countless whirlpools of ignorance in the waters and the precipitous nature of the river banks. Only yogis of pure mind can cross this river and enjoy the highest Bliss.
When you know fully well that all objects of enjoyments in this world are perishable and would leave you some day, why should you not voluntarily renounce them right now and enjoy eternal Bliss?
There is no miracle more wonderful to accomplish than that of a man of discrimination arising from knowledge of Brahman to wholly discard the wealth which has been giving him enjoyment!
The lives of ascetics living in mountain caves and meditating upon the Supreme Light are indeed blessed, not of those who live in mansions and indulge in sensual pleasures and vain imagination. The lives of ascetics living on alms, sleeping on the bare ground, self-reliant, and having but a worn-out blanket made up of a hundred patches is indeed the most exalted and blessed, not of those eating rich dishes, sleeping on royal beds and wearing excellent costly attire.
While the insects jump into the blazing fire and the fish seizes the bait attached to the hook through sheer ignorance, man who is supposed to have discrimination, and a knowledge of right and wrong does not abandon sensual pleasures that are attended with various defects! How inscrutable is the power of delusion!
Ignorant are those that think that possessing tall buildings, learned sons, tons of gold, a young beautiful lady as wife, and vigorous health constitute real blessedness, for they are deluded to run into the prison house of worldliness, whereas the truly blessed are those that renounce the world with all its joys and pleasures on account of its transitoriness.
Is it that those Himalayan valleys and the celestial Ganga banks are all engulfed in ruin that shameless men hanker after wealth, women and wine? Ts it that roots and herbs are no more available in those mountain-caves or that fruit-bearing trees are all destroyed that these men always want to revel in filth of worldliness?
Arise, O ignorant man, come with me. Let us go to solitary caves where even the name of that ignoble rich man is not heard. Let us live on roots and herbs and forest fruits; drink the cool, refreshing water of the holy Ganga and lie on soft beds of tender twigs and creepers. Let us repose on stone-beds in mountain-caves, meditate deeply day and night upon the All-merciful Shiva, and lead a contented and peaceful life. Let us be happy, let the greedy and the avaricious be miserable. Even if gold equal to Mount Meru in weight were conferred upon me, I will not accept it.
Worldly life is always attended with fear, whereas renunciation alone makes man absolutely fearless.
Birth is eaten by death, blooming youth by old age, contentment by greed, happiness of self-control by the dangerous wiles of young women, virtues by jealous men, kings by the wicked ministers and power itself by transitoriness. Tell me what on earth is not eaten away by something else?
Health of men is subjected to various physical and mental ailments, wealth to peril of robbers, and whatever is born is carried away by death again and again. Enjoyments are fleeting, life is short and youthful happiness too little to quench one’s thirst. Oh, this world is unreal. God alone is real. Renounce desires for worldly enjoyments and attain knowledge of the Self.
How dare you say there is happiness in this world, when you have come forth from within an impure womb, when in youth you are polluted by sensual pleasures and mental distraction, and in old age you become the laughingstock of lustful women?
How wonderful that man goes on doing sinful and vicious acts as usual regardless of everything when he knows that old age is waiting like a vulture to devour him, when diseases afflict his body and mind in various ways, and when days are wasted in useless pursuits!
O little man of little faith! Believe me, this world with all its enjoyments and sensual pleasures, is evanescent and fleeting. Why do you vainly search for happiness in these worldly objects and break your legs? If you really want happiness, do as I tell you. Concentrate. Meditate. Realize. Then you will enjoy the highest happiness.
Where are those lovely cities, powerful kings, their feudatory kings or vassals, their cabinet of shrewd ministers, those beautiful women with moon-like faces, those princes and lords of illimitable wealth and fame, those minstrels and their songs of praise and flattery that once flourished?
How strange again that man wants to enjoy the same pleasures of the senses, eat the same delicious foods, drink the same wine, enjoy the same women, pass the same day and night again, and that disgust for these have not yet arisen!
The span of man’s life is very short-only a hundred years. Half of it is spent in sleep, and out of the rest, half is passed away in childhood and old age. Then there are periods of illnesses, bereavements and troubles, and serving others. What happiness can there be for a man in this world?
Who is great–a king or an ascetic? If you are a king of wealth and lands, I too am the king of the highest wisdom. If you are a king of great repute, my reputation resounds in all the four quarters of the globe and is envied greatly by all learned men. If you are cold and indifferent towards me, I too am perfectly indifferent towards you and your riches. If you exercise your kingly powers over riches I do the same over words. If you are a great warrior in the battlefield, I have the skill and the faculty to humble down the proudest of disputants.
O king, if you are rich in royal garment, I am perfectly contented with the bark of trees. He is verily poor whose desires are boundless, while he is truly rich who is contented with his lot.
O let us eat begged food, let the sky be our clothing, let the earth be our bed. We have absolutely nothing to do with the riches.
What a great fool you are to set thyself to winning good graces, so difficult to secure? O mind, wander not hither and thither. Rest in peace. Let things happen, if happen they must. Brood not over the past, nor plan about your future.
O mind, be calm and never desire for sensual enjoyments. Expel delusion and cultivate devotion unto Lord Shiva, the Lord of lords, the God of gods, the Yogi of Yogis. Choose to live on the banks of the Ganga, the celestial river.
O mind, never again think of the frail Goddess of Fortune. Plunge thyself into deep and profound meditation on the Atma.
When there is devotion to Lord Shiva, and fear of birth and death, when there is not the least attachment for family and excitement for sexual passions, when there is the solitude of the forests where the air breathed by worldly men does not exist, what better life is to be wished for?
Meditate on the supreme, infinite, ageless, effulgent Brahman, bereft of all imperfections and attain supreme knowledge and bliss.
When this body is free from disease and old age, when the senses are yet unaffected and life is still young, wise people should leave no stone unturned for the sake of their own supreme good, for it is of little avail to dig a well when the house is already on fire.
In our quest through the nook and corner of the three worlds ever since the beginning of creation, none has come within sight or hearing of a means to control the elephant of his mind, when maddened by the mysterious, deep-rooted infatuation for the female elephant of sense-objects.
If there is a loin-cloth worn out and shredded a hundred times, if one is free from all disquieting thoughts, if there is food, obtained from begging, and sleep on the cremation ground or in the forest, if one is at perfect liberty to wander about alone without any hindrance, and if one is steadfast in the festive joy of Yoga, what then is worth the rulership of the three worlds?