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.' "

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