Friday, February 26, 2010

the time of the wise and the foolish - काव्यशास्त्रविनोदेन

the time of the wise passes by entertainment with arts and sciences.
that of the foolish goes by troubles, sleep or quarrel.

kAvya-shAstra-vinodena kAlo gachchhati dhiimatAm |
vyasanena cha muurkhANam nidrayA kalahena vA ||

काव्यशास्त्रविनोदेन कालो गच्छति धीमताम् ।
व्यसनेन  च  मूर्खाणां  निद्रया  कलहेन  वा ।।

moving forward with the story of hitopadeshaH, the king sudarshan was pondering upon the role of parents in the child's education and welfare and growth.

thinking about the importance of education and worldly wisdom in the future kings, his sons, the worried king called a meeting of the wise. there he said -
'o great wise men, listen. is there any wise man here, who by teaching neeti-shAstra (polity, people management, worldly wisdom, administration), can give rebirth to by sons; my sons who are always on the wrong path, and have not studied properly? because, even glass gets the shining colors of precious stones by being with them, and the ignorant learns in the company of learned. in the company of lower minds, the thinking goes low, with similar minded it remains level and with the wise it become better!'

then a very famous, wise old man named viShNu sharmA who was an expert authority in neeti-shAstra, said, 'your sons are of a good lineage, and investing effort and time in them will not be fruitless. for investing in the unworthy is fruitless, like no amount of effort can make a crane talk like a parrot. in this family of yours, i don't see any worthless person. in six months, i shall make your sons experts inneeti-shAstra (polity, people management, worldly wisdom, administration).'
[in panchtantra, he even throws a challenge that if can't do so he be beheaded or his name be changed. he even declines the payment of hundred villages for his teachings, saying that he doesn't sell knowledge, but will do it for the good of the kingdom. ]

then he took them to the top of the palace and after sitting comfortably, he said to the princes - listen.
the time of the wise passes by entertainment with arts and sciences.
that of the foolish goes by troubles, sleep or quarrel.
let me tell you the interesting story of the crow, turtle etc. for your entertainment.'
and the princes said - sir, please do tell.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

meet the alphabet - letters and vowels i and ii

continuing with the vowel series, here are the short and long 'i' vowels.

the short sound is 'i' and sounds like 'i' of ink, think, sing etc.
it is said for 1 unit of time. the longer vowel, or diirgha is said for 2 units of sounds (represented in ITRANS as ee, ii, or I). the longer vowel for 3 units is not used in classical spoken sanskrit, and is only used in vedic chants, and is denoted by i3, the 3 denoting 3 units of time. malayAlam for one, has longer vowels as well, so i am told.


writing i and ii is easy (see below). it is like an 'S' hanging from a stalk. but, the bottom of the S has one more curved 'knot', without which it would be the consonant 'D' sound.


the word 'i', or the verb root 'i' means - to go, to go near. the verb forms go like
एति इतः यन्ति (eti, itaH, yanti)
एषि इथः इथ (eShi ithaH itha)
एमि इवः इमः (emi ivaH imaH)
e.g. निर्बुद्धिः क्षयं एति  nirbuddhiH (mindless) kShayam (to ruin) eti (goes)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

role of parents in child's education - मातृपितृकृताभ्यासो

the child taught by mother and father becomes qualified.
the child doesn't become learned just by being born.

mAtRi-pitRi-kRitAbhyAso guNitAm_eti bAlakaH |
na garbha-chyuti-mAtreNa putro bhavati paNDitaH ||
hitopadeshH - preface 28

मातृपितृकृताभ्यासो गुणितामेति बालकः ।
न गर्भच्युतिमात्रेण पुत्रो भवति पण्डितः ।।

indian parents put a lot of stress on education, whatever they can afford, or sometimes even what they can't afford. this has given indians an edge almost everywhere they go for higher studies. as the saying goes, a king is respected only in his own kingdom, the wise is respected everywhere. to the point that even president obama is urging US to focus on education. and this is also seen in many asian cultures. indian parents support even the child's college education.

while in US i saw many undergraduate students taking all sorts of odd jobs on campus to support themselves, and sometimes it did impact their studies. it is also true that higher studies in US have become exorbitantly expensive for average joe.

continuing from the last post, where king sudarshana ponders upon the pros and cons of hard work and education, here is another shloka that signifies the role of parents and education to the child's success.

as we have seen in the opening shlokas of hitopadesha, they stress on the importance of education and how it cultures and makes a person worthy for the society. here we see role of parents in making a child qualified, worthy and successful in society.

mere having taken birth is not enough. human child is born much before it is ready to survive on its own. most other animals come out in life ready to fight and survive, oviparous and viviparous. a giraffe baby stands in minutes and trots in a few more! immediately after hatching a chic starts to run fast enough to give you a good workout catching it. the parental support required is very little in most animals.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

writing sanskrit vowels and symbols

a short post, about a video on writing sanskrit vowels, and some experiments with chisel tip pen.

in the above writing, i have tried to create the effect as if the character is created using a strip of ribbon.


shiva's third eye.
while playing around with the chisel tip pen, stumbled upon this visual.

the two 'normal' eyes are for the physical world - sun and moon. the third, vertical eye is the 'fire', fire of knowledge, that burns away all
ignorance, pain, arrogance, attachment.

we all are equipped with it, it is for us to realize and use this third eye.

above: video showing how to write sanskrit vowels. the not so common ones (Rii, LRi, LRii) are skipped to keep it simple.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

meet the alphabet - the letter aa - आ

this is the second letter of the alphabet.
it is a long sound, similar to the 'a' of father, or hard.

a long vowel is called 'diirgha' (meaning long), and is said for two units of sounds. the short vowel being one unit of time. when counting the timing of a verse based on vowels, the short vowel is called 'laghu' (short), and long one is called 'guru' (heavy, more (in duration)). in chanting, or non-conversational speaking, there is a third longer vowel also, but that is not part of normal words used for conversation.

it is written in roman characters in ITRANS format as 'aa' or 'A' (single character to keep word length short and for readability). the use of a single character for a single sound is key to sanskrit alphabet, and gives rise to some seeming complicated 'conjugate' letters, which are combinations of consonants. more on that much later when we talk about consonants.

so, if hard, father, etc were written in ITRANS based on how they were pronounced, it would be 'hArDa' (हार्ड) and 'fAdara' (फादर).

the 'a' (short) and 'aa' (long) sounds have to be clearly understood. as mentioned in previous post on 'a', the confusion between the two can cause meaning difference of earth and sky, black and white. a suffix of -aa is the most common way of making the feminine form of the word.
kRiShNa = lord kRiShna; kRiShNaa = draupadii (wife of the pAnDavas, daughter of drupada)
drupada = king of pA~nchAla; drupadaa = (of drupada), his daughter
jalada = jala+da = cloud; jaladaa = jala+daa = river
shiva = lord shiva, mahesha; shivaa = durgA, pArvatI, devI, shaktI

this happens mostly in the trailing sound. 'a' and 'aa' sounds in between a word are usually always pronounced correctly.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

meet the alphabet - the letter a - अ

the sanskrit language's alphabet is very scientifically arranged. it shows the deep understanding of linguistics as early as 500BC (pANini's time) but the alphabet might have been in this order even in vedic times, which might push it another 1-2 thousand years back, conservatively. we will see its arrangement in later posts. check this

the letter 'a' is pronounced like 'u' of but, cut, shut etc.
in a word, the trailing sound of 'a' causes a lot of confusion in modern times. if it is not stressed enough, it sounds like a consonant without the vowel, like many english words put, cut, but etc. the lack of stress on trailing 't' is what would be called a 'halant' or vowel-less consonant sound.

when it is stressed, usually it ends up sounding like 'aa'.
e.g. yoga is pronounced erroneously like yogaa, whereas it is somewhat like "yo-g-uh" (NOT yogurt, but yogurt without the 'rt' sound!)

this confusion gives rise to errors of saying shiva as shivaa (pArvatI), brahma (brahman, the supreme unmanifest) as brahmaa (the creator, the manifest), drupada (the king) as drupadaa (his daughter), kRiShNa (the cowherd) as kRiShNaa (draupadI). gaNesha is pronounced as gaNeshaa. the 'sha' and 'ga' have exactly same vowel pronunciation, but mostly in english it is pronounced as 'ga' and 'shaa'. avoid such errors.

'a' is also a word in itself. the word 'a' (just the vowel), implies viShNu.

अकारो विष्णुरुद्दिष्ट उकारस्तु महेश्वरः ।
मकारस्तु स्मृतो ब्रह्मा, प्रणवस्तु त्रयात्मकः ॥

a-kāraḥ viṣhṇuḥ uddiṣhṭaḥ, u-kāraḥ tu mahéshvaraḥ |makāraḥ tu smṛitaḥ brahmā, praṇavaḥ tu trayātmakaḥ || (IAST)

a-kAraH viShNuH uddiShTaH, u-kAraH tu maheshwaraH |
makAraH tu smRitaH brahmA, praNavaH tu trayAtmakaH || (ITRANS)

the sacred 'om' is made up of a+u+m [a + u = o] and
a stands for viShNu
u stands for maheshwara (shiva)
m stands for brahmaa.
thus praNava (om) is trifold.

[the comments about the letter style is shown in handwriting]

Friday, February 12, 2010

shiva - the lord of lords

om tryambakam yajAmahe, sugandhim puShTi_vardhanam |
urvArukamiva bandhanAt, mRityor_mukShIya mAmRitAt ||
rigveda - 7.59.12

we meditate to the three-eyed, (like) fragrance, the nourisher |
give us liberation from death like a (ripe) cucumber, not from immortality ||

i will keep the post short, since it is very easy to write pages and pages on shiva, and not even make a start!

tryamabakam = tri (three) + ambakam (eye)
it is NOT triambakam, lingustic rules make the i+a = y. that is why the vowels are a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. because y is made of i + a

the three eyes of shiva are sun, moon and fire (see next shloka). the sun and moon are the day and night, the physical world being watched, caused by shiva, and the third, the fire or knowledge is the inner sight. this fire of knowledge is what burns down desire, kAmadeva. this third eye of fire of knowledge burns all sins, and removes all darkness of inside.

sugandhim = fragrance
shiva is as subtle as fragrance, and without being seen, pervades all that is there.

puShTi-vardhanam = puShTi (nourishing, health) + vardhanam (one who increases)
shiva is the raw nature, all his symbols are about time and growth. shiva is the energy that nourishes all.

urvArukamiva = urvArukam (cucumber) + iva (like)
bandhanAt = from bondage (bandhanam)
mRityoH = of death
mukShIya = liberate me

like a cucumber, here the reference is to a ripe cucumber, which separates from the vine very easily. compared to an unripe one which you can tug and tug and even break the vine but not separate the cucumber.

this is symbolic of our attachment to this world. unless we ripen, mature, grow out of the attachments of this mortal world, the death, separation can't be easy.

some explanations say that urvArukamiva = from great disease.
the break up given is urvaa = huge, arukam = disease
this is completely wrong, and is an axample of how, when we get carried away in 'devotion', we start creating new explanations, which are not even warranted from the words.

for it to be 'big disease' it has to UrvA not urvA (short u at beginning). and then how do you explain the 'iva' (like)?

this is a very ancient mantra of shiva, appearing in rig-veda, the earliest extant large volume works of humanity, and verily prized possession of the aryans. this itself should disprove all the aryan invasion theories, since if the aryans really invaded from outside, why would they hold shiva, the 'pagan', 'local' god, in such high esteem? (couldn't help that side remark : ) aryan invasion or migration into india is purely a colonial distraction.

Monday, February 8, 2010

no substitute for hard work - उद्यमेन हि सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि

as a chariot (cart) can't move with one wheel, similarly, without hard work destiny doesn't bring fruit.

यथा ह्येकेन चक्रेण न रथस्य गतिर्भवेत् ।
एवं पुरुषकारेण विना दैवं न सिध्यति ।। 23

yathA hyekena chakreNa na rathasya gatir_bhavet |
evam puruSha_kAreNa vinA daivam na sidhyati ||

even if by sheer luck, a treasure is seen lying in front, (as kAka-tAlIya nyAya), destiny doesn't give it in hand, some effort (of picking it up) is (still) expected.

काकतालीयवत्प्राप्तं दृष्ट्वापि निधिमग्रतः ।
न स्वयं दैवमादत्ते पुरुषार्थमपेक्षते ।। 26

kAka-tAlIya_vat-prAptam dRiShTvApi nidhim_agrataH |
na svayam daivam_Adatte puruShArtham_apekShate ||

work gets accomplished by effort, industry, not merely by wishing. the animals don't enter a sleeping lion's mouth.

उद्यमेन हि सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि न मनोरथैः ।
न हि सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य प्रविशन्ति मुखे मृगाः ।। 27

udyamena hi sidhyanti kAryANi na manorathaiH |
na hi suptasya siMhasya pravishanti mukhe mRigAH ||

in this post we will consider three shlokas, that are all related, to the role of fate and hard work. they appear in hitopadeshaH kathArambham (introduction).

while king sudarshan, strolling on the river bank, pondered upon the two shlokas he heard, and the state of his sons, he was indeed worried. good education is important, and education, dharma, proper thinking is what makes us different from animals. [see previous shlokas from the story here]

and then the other side of rationalizing thoughts popped up in his head. it happens to us all. we know what is right, and then a set of 'arguments' starts cropping up, supporting the easy way out!