For more about the Hindu mystic and scholar Adi Shankara, see this post.
Who is thy wife?
Who is thy son?
The ways of this world are strange indeed.
Whose are thou?
Whence art thou come?
Vast is thy ignorance, my beloved.
Therefore ponder these things and worship the Lord.
Behold the folly of Man:
In childhood busy with his toys,
In youth bewitched by love,
In age bowed down with cares —
And always unmindful of the Lord!
The hours fly, the seasons roll, life ebbs,
But the breeze of hope blows continually in his heart.
Birth brings death, death brings rebirth:
This evil needs no proof.
Where then O Man, is thy happiness?
This life trembles in the balance Like water on a lotus-leaf —
And yet the sage can show us, in an instant,
How to bridge this sea of change.
When the body is wrinkled, when the hair turns gray,
When the gums are toothless, and the old man’s staff
Shakes like a reed beneath his weight,
The cup of his desire is still full.
Thy son may bring thee suffering,
Thy wealth is no assurance of heaven:
Therefore be not vain of thy wealth,
Or of thy family, or of thy youth —
All are fleeting, all must change.
Know this and be free.
Enter the joy of the Lord.
Seek neither peace nor strife
With kith or kin, with friend or foe.
O beloved, if thou would attain freedom,
be equal unto all.
Translation Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood