What is the Meaning of Vishada or Sorrow in Vedic Tradition?

Sorrow and Sadness

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V

You might not have heard this interpretation anywhere. In Sanskrit, 'vish' or 'visham' means both impurity and poison. The body is spiritually considered impure when it is filled with the darkness of tamas and rajas.

Aada means a bite as in adamsa which means tooth or the wound caused by biting. Vishadam is thus the pain and suffering arising from a poisonous bite, usually a snakebite. 

Visham refers symbolically to the impurities of the mind and body, which lead to suffering and death. In ancient times snakebites constituted a common cause of death for humans as well as cattle.

In the Vedic hymns you find many references to them, and invocations to gods seeking protection from snakes. People feared snakes, since a snakebite meant suffering and death. The same symbolism is evident in the story of the churning of the oceans (sagara manthanam) where Lord Shiva, the divine healer, takes away all the suffering caused by the churning. Literally, vishadam is a state of sorrow, depression, sadness, grief, or despair. We experience it because of our desires and attachments. In a secondary sense, it also means stupidity or insensibility.

In a symbolic sense it means the suffering that arises when we are bitten by desires and filled with the poison of ignorance, delusion, duality and attachment to worldly objects. Vishada yogam is the state of sorrow arising from our desires and attachment to sense-objects. It is the exact opposite of the ideal state of equanimity, balance, sameness and bliss which characterize the state of a perfected yogi. When your are bitten by worldly desires you experience attraction and aversion and suffer from union and separation. They are responsible for your disturbed state of mind.

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