The eating bowl is not one bronze

by Basava

English version by A. K. Ramanujan
Original Language Kannada

The eating bowl is not one bronze
and the looking glass another.

     Bowl and mirror are one metal
     Giving back light
     one becomes a mirror.

          Aware, one is the Lord's;
          unaware, a mere human.

               Worship the lord without forgetting,
               the lord of the meeting rivers.

-- from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Basava | Next Poem >>

/ Image by Gaetan Lee /

View All Poems by Basava

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Bronze is a soft metal, easily shaped. It can be hammered into a bowl or flattened and polished, forming a simple mirror.

Basava is playing with a traditional teaching metaphor in this poem: both the bowl and the mirror are made of bronze. Mentally we label them as being different, but fundamentally they are the same substance, "one metal."

The bronze can be understood to represent God. All beings, all things are made of the same substance, though we mentally distinguish them by outer shape. The only substantial difference between the eating bowl and the mirror is the form they have taken on. We can say that the mirror has recognized its nature as a bronze object. The nature of bronze, when straight and polished, is to give back light.

We are all constructed of the same God-stuff. When we become aware of our nature and polish ourselves we give back light and become a mirror.

Recommended Books: Basava

Speaking of Siva
Amazon or AbeBooks
The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice
Amazon or AbeBooks

The eating bowl is