Bhamathi – born Jeevanmuktha?

Most students of Advaitha Vedantha have likely heard the name “Bhamathi”. Bhamathi is one of the sub-schools of Advaita Vedanta. I cannot claim to know much about these subtle philosophies, but I am fascinated by the story behing the Bhamathi school.

The interesting fact is that Bhamathi, the eponym behind the name of this sub-school, was the wife of the main author of this sub-school, Vachaspathi Mishra. You can find more details on them here. While using pen-names of loved ones/spouses are slightly common now, it is amazing that such a attribution happened several centuries ago! How did this come to be?

Vachaspathi, soon after marriage, completely forgot himself and his householder life, in the study of Vedantha and writing several works elucidating them. Decades rolled by when he barely paid attention outside of his work, thus likely neglecting his new wife.

What did the little wife do while her husband was tucked away with his palm leaf manuscripts and his tomes on various topics, his mind and body engaged in lofty philosophical thought? Did she manage her household on her own, care for aged in-laws, handle the affairs of property/land? Did she quietly serve him, anticipating his every need? Did she sharpen his bamboo brushes, prepare his palm leaves, dry and bind the written leaves? Could she read his works, comprehend them and understand their importance?

As her friends went on to bear children, celebrate festive occasions, enjoy the joys of married life, did she ever feel angst? Did she glace wistfully at the little children playing in the roads? Did she ever wish for the simple gifts that young brides seek from their husbands? Did she ever hesitatingly wait for her husband to look up from his work when she served him food? Did she resign herself to her lot or accept it with equanimity?

Legend goes that, one day, on the verge of completing his magnum opus (a commentary on Adi Shankara’s Brahma sutra Bhashyam), he looked up to see an elderly lady lighting a lamp. Not recognizing her, he questions her about her identity and learns that she is indeed his own wife “Bhamathi”!! He is naturally stunned, but touched by her unconditional support, uncomplaining nature and devotion to her duty.

As most legends are, this one is likely an exaggeration. However, it probably is based on some truth. Bhamathi could have been a born Jeevanmuktha who did what she felt was her duty, with no expectations or desire whatsoever. She may have known the import of her husband’s work for Hindu philosophy or she may have been ignorant of it, yet she supported him selflessly in his endeavor, her ego annihilated.

Can there be a better example of Shithapragna lakshana?

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