Monday, May 14, 2012

What a way to start your day

As a child I was taught two Sanskrit shloks. One to be recited before I opened my eyes when I woke up from sleep in the morning. And the other before I stepped out of the bed to begin my day. I did it as a task and it became a habit. Looking back, now I can decipher the importance of it in both scientific as well as psychological terms.

The first shlok was-

कराग्रे वसते लक्ष्मी, करमध्ये सरस्वती
करमूले तु गोविन्दः, प्रभाते कर दर्शनम्
karagre vasate lakshmi, karmadhye saraswati/ karmule tu govindah, prabhate kar darshnam

It means - On the tip of you hand resides Lakshmi (goddess of prosperity) as fingers are your working tools. In the palm resides Saraswati (goddess of knowledge) which decides your destiny. Open palms are like an open book. And in the base of your hand resides Govind (God of sustenance as your pulse/good health). Wake up to the vision of these three that give you the power to shape your life. 

Invictus - I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
I would say this shlok and slowly open my eyes. Open palms would be my first sight of the day. To know that the strength rests within you and whatever you do today affects your tomorrow is a great feeling to begin your day with. When we are asleep, our blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, metabolic activities etc are at an all time low. Not waking up suddenly and taking some time to open your eyes gives the body time to adjust and stabilize the body rhythm thus saving us from health problems. As we know, more heart attacks/strokes occur early morning than at any other time in the day. 

The second shlok was-

समुद्र वसने देवी, पर्वत स्तन मण्डले 
विष्णुपत्नी नमस्तुभ्यं, पाद-स्पर्शं क्षमस्व मे 
samudra vasane devi, parvat stan mandale/ vishnupatni namastubhyam, paad-sparsham kshmaswa me


It means - Dressed in the flowing robes of the seas and oceans (just like a draped saree), with mountains as your breasts (source of life giving nectar in form of rivers). O consort of Vishnu, I salute you and beg forgiveness for touching you with my feet. 

I would say this shlok right after opening my eyes, before stepping out of the bed. Talking to mother earth before you start your day, everyday. A dialogue that asks for forgiveness for needs which deplete the natural resources (conveyed here as disrespect shown by stepping on the ground) for my own survival. The earth is called Vishnu's wife as he is looked upon as the preserver and she the provider of all resources.

By the time you head for that tube of toothpaste, you are calm, confident, grateful and smiling :)
What a way to start the day!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The wicked cat says...

Hitopadesha (meaning Good Advice) is a collection of simple tales in Sanskrit which are a mix of the retelling of Panchtantra Tales by Vishnusharma (3rd century BCE) and new ones written by Narayan Pandit (12 century CE) in a way that are easily understood by children.

One of the stories is about a blind old vulture Jaradgav who is tricked by a wicked cat. The moral of the story is 'not to make thick friends with people without knowing them well'. But there is a couplet in the middle of the story which is of immense significance too.

Here the scheeming cat Deerghakarna, who is confronted by the angry vulture as it was trying to sneak up the tree and eat the new borns of the innocent birds, thinks to itself-

तावद् भयस्य भेतव्यम्, यावद् भयम् अनागतम्
आगतम् तु भयम् विक्ष्य, नरः कुर्यात् यथोचितम्

It means-

When danger is at a distance, that is the time to either fear it and run away or think of a plan to get out of it. A plan can be devised only by a rested and calm mind which is prepared to face what is ahead. But when it is at your doorstep facing you right in the face, it is the time for action. Fear or planning at that time are useless.

The gist implies that usually when the danger is afar we tend to neglect it. Only when it comes close do we either fear it or start planning to get out of it. And by the time we take action in this regard, more often than not it is very late and the calamity has already struck us. The above advice is dispensed keeping this human nature in mind.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'The Razor's Edge' & Kathopanishad

A few months back, I picked up 'The Moon and the Sixpence' by W. Somerset Maugham. Soon after, I started my studies of Upanishads. The more in depth the studies got, the more I wanted to buy books by Maugham. Bought one last week as well.

I had absolutely no clue that both were linked somewhere. Sometimes things just happen.

I found out today that the epigraph for the famous twentieth century novel 'The Razor's Edge' (1944) by     W. Somerset Maugham comes from Kathopanishad.

The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over;
thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.
Katha-Upanishad, 3.14
.....So begins the novel.


Maugham met Maharshi Raman in his Ashram in Tamilnadu in 1938. The character of Larry Darell is based on American Mining Engineering Guy Hague who had spent time in Ramana Ashram as well.

The original statement goes as follows: 

उत्तिष्ठ जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत | क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति || (1.3.14) (uttiShTha jAgrata prApya varAn_nibodhata | kShurasya dhArA nihitA duratyayA pathas_tat_ -avayo vadanti || ) - which means "Rise, awaken, seek the wise and realize. The path is difficult to cross like the sharpened edge of the razor (knife), so say the wise."

NOTE: I always mispronounced 'Maugham'. In his own words about how his name is to be pronounced, says Maugham, "My name rhymes with waugham, as in 'a waugham day.' "

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A funny Shlok

आपाण्डुराः शिरसिजास्त्रिवली कपोले
दन्तावली किलिता न च मे विषादः ।
एणीदशो युवतयः पाथि मां विलोक्य
तातेति भाषणपराः खलु वज्रपातः ॥

My temples are grey. My cheeks are without the rows of teeth within. My body is wrinkled. This doesn't bother me much. But when those doe-eyed young women call me Taat (a father figure/grandfather), it hits me worse than a lightning.

Men will be men across millenia :)

Childhood memories of Subhashits

Subhashitani = Guiding mandates on how the practical world is or should be

चिता चिंता समाप्रोक्ता बिंदुमात्रं विशेषता।
सजीवं दहते चिंता निर्जीवं दहते चिता॥1॥

Chita and Chinta are two words separated by just a dot (in the devnagari script). While Chita (pyre) burns just the dead, Chinta (worry) burns the living ones to death.

आयुषः क्षण एकोऽपि सर्वरत्नैर्न न लभ्यते।
नीयते स वृथा येन प्रमादः सुमहानहो ॥2॥

You cannot trade or buy back even a second of time when it has run out, with all the jewels in the world. So, to simply waste time when you have it is the biggest mistake of all.

सत्यं ब्रूयात् प्रियं ब्रूयात् न ब्रूयात् सत्यमप्रियं।
प्रियं च नानृतं ब्रूयात् एष धर्मः सनातनः॥3॥

Speak the truth. Speak the things which are nice to hear. Do not speak the truth in a way that is harsh. Do not say sweetly, what is not the truth.

अभिवादनशीलस्य नित्यं वॄद्धोपसेविन:।
चत्वारि तस्य वर्धन्ते आयुर्विद्या यशो बलम्॥4॥

Those who are polite and treat elders with respect, are blessed with age, knowledge, fame and power in return.

शनैः पन्थाः शनैः कन्था शनैः पर्वतमस्तके ।
शनैर्विद्या शनैर्वित्तं पञ्चैतानि शनैः शनैः ॥ 

Slow should be the pace of the travel, so should be the sewing. Unhurried should be the climbing of a mountain. Knowledge and furtune should be acquired at a slow pace as well.

वनानि दहतो वन्हेस्सखा भवति मारूत: |
स एव दीपनाशाय कृशे कस्यास्ति सौहॄदम् ||

When a raging fire is engulfing a forest, the wind becomes its friend and partakes in the magnitude of the destruction. But the same wind is its enemy when the fire is just a small flame. Who wants to befriend the weak?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why we love the ones we do?

Brihadaranyaka Upnishad of Yajur Ved is the oldest Primany Upnishad available. The setting of the texts is in the forest hence the name which means Brihadaranyaka (great-wilderness) Upnishad in Sanskrit

It was written by Rishi Yagnyavalkya of Mithila in the times of Gupta Dynasity around 320-500 CE (appx.). He had two wives. Katyayini and Maitreyi. Katyayini was adept at managing the household whereas Maitreyi was a scholar of Brahmhavidya.

Yagnyavalkya decided to renounce the world. He called both his wives and told them of his decision.

Maitreyi questioned him about why he wished to burden them with what he himself wished to renounce (worldly possessions). She was more interested in knowing why he wished to go and what would bring them the liberation that he was in quest of as well.

End of the conversation between Yagnyavalkya and Maitreyi in the 5th statement of the 4th chapter of the 2nd part of the Upnishad (Br. 2.4.5) brings to light a universal truth-

आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति 
 - Not for the sake of the beings are the beings loved, but they are loved for the sake of self.

It means that attachments are born of the conviction that this particular object or this particular person can bring me happiness. Conclusions born of this erroneous belief give rise to various likes and dislikes.


If 'I love you' or 'I love this' were indeed for the happiness of the other person or object then when the person or the object went away, we would be happy for them because there alone lies their happiness. But we are not. We are sad for our grief. Our loss.

Personal fullness (internal peace which has no gradation) is the motive for all things we love. It is not for the other person whom we profess eternal love to but for our very own self that we impose our love onto others.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nature of the seekers - Bhagvad Gita

चतुर्विधा भजन्ते मां जनाः सुकृतिनोऽर्जुन
आर्तो जिज्ञासुरर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ [७.१६]
चतुर्विधा = 4 types of, भजन्ते = pray, मां = me, जनाः = people, सुकृतनः = of virtuous deeds, आर्तः = hurt, the afflicted, जिज्ञासु = the seeker of knowledge, अर्थार्थी = seeker of wealth or materialistic things, ज्ञानी = the one who is learned, भरतर्षभ = of Bharat Dynasty

Here in the 16th Shloka of Chapter 7 of Bhagvad Gita, is defined the nature of a Bhakta (devotee/seeker).

Four classes/kinds of people take to prayers. Prayers here are thoughts positive in nature which look outward of oneself for relief. It is not necessarily a hymn or chanting. It could be addressed to anyone you hold in high regard & faith (teacher, parents, seniors, king, nature, deities etc.) in the form of a heartfelt request for help.

First one is आर्तः - someone who is in any kind of pain. The afflicted one, who is overwhelmed with anxiety, worry and sadness. As anxiety, worries, hurt, afflictions are nothing but a state of mind and born out of our very own thoughts which are negative in nature; a good way to counter them would be to put forth our very own thoughts which are positive in nature. It is not easy to think of positive thoughts when one is in the numbness of pain, hence a prayer (admission of surrender and asking for support) is the starting point. It is an easy antidote to all the mental negativity and helps us bear with it till our sense of reasoning and analysis is back.

Second is जिज्ञासु - the seeker of knowledge. The one who wants to learn.

Third is अर्थार्थी - the one who seeks material success.

Fourth is ज्ञानी - the learned one. The one who has understood the truth. Just because his prayers (of any kind) have been answered doesn't stop him for being a seeker. It is just like being a traveller who remains a traveller even when he has reached his destination.
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