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.
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