Friday, September 25, 2009

god helps them who help themselves - न देवा दण्डमादाय

The gods don't protect like a shepherd with a stick.
Whom they want to protect, they give them intelligence.

न देवा दण्डमादाय रक्षन्ति पशुपालवत् ।
यं तु रक्षितुमिच्छन्ति बुद्ध्या संविभजन्ति तम् ॥
विदुरनीति ३-४०

na devA daNDamAdAya rakShanti pashupAlavat ।
yaM tu rakShitumichchhanti buddhyA saMvibhajanti tam ॥
viduraneeti 3-40

As described in an earlier post on smart goals, the wise minister and brother Vidura gives the emperor Dhritarashtra (dhRitarAShTra), a sermon of eight chapters in the epic Mahabharata.

After two chapters of some of the best advice on leadership and management and politics and friendship and social responsibility, the emperor says - tell me more, your interesting and varied talks entice me and i don't get tired of listening to them.

Time and again Dhritarashtra had said - "What you say is correct, but I can't think straight when it comes to the interests of my own son Duryodhana". Duryodhana plots and plans against the cousin Pandava (pANDava) and cheats them, insults them and sends them on exile for 13 years.

This is when Vidura says this shloka, meaning that the emperor should not think that he will be saved by any god or divine if he keeps making foolish decision and not use his own intelligence and good brains.

This one shloka itself has deep implications in many aspects of society, politics, religion.

There are people who think that if they surrender to god, to a master, to a guru, then everything will be okay. They give big donations, charity and all PR stunts. Then there are those who claim there can't be any god or God if there exist pain, sorrow, injustice and all the negativity in this world.

There are those who claim big titles, and positions and assure deliverance from whatever. there are missionary TV channels who will pray for you and get your message to God and save you. Now this trend has started in Hindu religion also. You have TV puja-s, and internet homa and prayers - on your behalf.

There are temples where the rich give donations of many crores (1 crore rupees = about 250,000 US dollars) in the hope and assurance that god will listen to them first. They have their own VIP lines to have quick and easy darshana (viewing) of the divine (statues in the temple). There are 'saints' and realized masters who have multi million dollar business of saving souls! They harp on the importance of a living guru and overshadow even the supreme divine in their megalomania.

And all of them rely on the spirituality, philosophy given by the ancient seers. No one has invented anything new. If they say so, laugh at them heartily. They sure have reinterpreted for their times. So we should look carefully at the original sources. Don't worry that those original people themselves are not alive.

Even if we don't believe in gods, avatars etc., even then we have to believe that some people existed who saw the way they saw and generations have carried their words. We have the scriptures to prove that somebody said these things. It is their humbleness that most of the Indian seers didn't leave any specific details about themselves. Even without their physical bodies, their words, if contemplated genuinely and earnestly, will deliver us!

Veda Vyasa is attributed to have categorized the Veda-s, no mean task by today's standards. So we must listen to his words carefully. And Vidura was one of the wisest in the Mahabharata, so we must listen to him even more carefully.


to those who think if we pray to god, god will come and deliver us;
to those who think god is going to deliver us only if we believe in this or that form of god (whether Indian or not);

To them - god will not come down and stand on your doorstep like a guard, will not be with you all the time like a body guard. While faith is important, it is the intelligence that god gives along with other skills that intelligence/mind can use, that ultimately saves us.

God is good only if thoughts, prayers to him/her etc. bring any change in us, our hearts and minds. And not all of life is spirituality, lot of it is also reality. As Kalidasa (kAlidAsa) says in Kumara-sambhavam - shareeramAdyam khalu dharmasAdhanam (शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्) - this body is the instrument of (executing) all dharma (responsibilities and deeds) - so we should not neglect the shareera-dharma as well. And with society comes the practical world and wisdom and neeti and reality of this world.

What miracles we hear - Jesus walking on water, Meera drinking poison, rocks thrown on Buddha splitting in pieces and not hurting him - they are created to give us a sense of greater than human perspective. They are to appeal to our feelings, emotions, and to create in us an unwavering faith. And through such 'higher than us' figures, good teachings are passed. We tend to believe larger than life figures, and the trend of creating legends continues to this day - be it Princess Diana or 9/11.

But before the faith, we must use our mind, our viveka to see what are the intention of the faith creator. Lot of world's problems are because of this negligence.

This shloka is like 'buyers beware' advice in Indian market. You be aware of what you are buying.

We should not blame anyone for our problems.

This doesn't mean it is everyone for oneself, and there is no need to do good. When Draupadi and Yuddhishthira have a discussion on the importance of karma while in exile, he says - I don't follow dharma even for following dharma [and having the fame of how dharmika I am]. I follow dharma (the right conduct) because I think that way, I must do the right thing, for I have to do karma, then why not the right karma.

So we all need to do our duties in the society. After that it is not our fault. A farmer tills the land, but if it doesn't rain it is not his fault. That is why kings and governments give subsidies, and relief funds during drought.

Anyway. Some of the statements above may not seem connected, because there is so much that can be said connecting them that it would be too long for a single post.

But, use your brains, your intelligence and the divine will protect you.
God helps them, who help themselves.

Question: when Rama is getting ready for exile, Lakshmana, his younger brother says that they should grab the throne by force. Because, this decision of Dasharatha - their father and king - to send Rama to exile, was not right decision for the father to his son or for the king to his kingdom. And yet Rama says - it is destiny (daiva). Even when Lakshmana says - the brave make their own destiny, Rama refuses.


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And now the language aspects of the shloka -

na = not
devAH = gods, divine
daNDamAdAya = with stick (daNDa) in hand (AdAya)
rakShanti = protect (plural third person of verb rakSh)
pashupAlavat = like a cattle-grazer
pashu = animal
pAla = protect
-vat = like, when used as a suffix
pashu-pAl-vat = like a cowherd/shepherd

yaM = whom
tu = rather, instead
rakShitumichchhanti = desire (ichchhanti) to protect (rakShitum = for protecting)
buddhyA = with intelligence
saMvibhajanti = attach, join, (endow)
tam = that (person)

[ The intention of this post is not to challenge anyone's belief but to remind them that god works through our own hands and mind, so we should always be aware, alert, and right thinking, for we alone take ourselves to heaven or hell by our own deeds].

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

smile, for you are worth it! - अमंत्रमक्षरं नास्ति

there is no sound that is not a mantra, no plant that is not medicinal |
there is no person unworthy, what is lacking is an 'enabler' ||

अमंत्रमक्षरं नास्ति नास्ति मूलमनौषधम्‌ ।
अयोग्यः पुरुषो नास्ति योजकस्तत्र दुर्लभः॥

amantramakSharaM nAsti, nAsti moolamanauShdhaM |
ayogyaH puruSho nAsti, yojakastatra durlabhaH ||

each and every sound can be a mantraM, to be meditated upon. but for that one needs to understand the acoustics of the mouth, vibrations of sounds, meaning of the letters of the language. specially in sanskrit each letter sound has a meaning.
e.g. the first consonants
  • क (ka) means - brahmA, viShNu, kAmadeva, agni (fire), vAyu (wind), sUrya (sun) etc.
  • ख (kha) means - sky (khaga = those that move in the sky = birds), heaven, senses of perception, field (farm), void
  • ग (ga) means - gandharva (celestial singers, dancers), adjective for gaNesha (gaN gaNapataye namaH)

every plant has some medicinal use. even the poisonous ones have use in fighting venom. a pharmaceutical company would be better testimony of it even for modern medicines, what to say of ayurvedic medicines which were prepared from plants directly, and were heavily plant based.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

terror and non-violence - नाततायिवधे दोषो

one who kills a terrorist overtly or covertly gets no blame,
for [it is nothing but] anger killing anger.

नाततायिवधे दोषो हन्तुर्भवति कश्चन ।
प्रकाशं वाप्रकाशं वा मन्युस्तं मन्युमृच्छति ॥

nAtatAyivadhe doSho hanturbhavati kashchana |
prakAshaM vAprakAshaM vA, manyustaM manyumRichchhati ||
manusmRiti 8-351

this is the confusing part about ethics - what to do? is the terrorist right in using force to get his/her way? are we right in using violence against a terrorist?

it is all in the intention.

the word AtatAyin mean "one who is in a stretched posture of attack - with a stretched out sword or a stretched bowstring, ready to kill."

vasiShTha-smRiti defines 6 acts of terror - one who sets fire (arson), one who poisons, one who is ready to kill with a drawn weapon, one who takes money by force, one who takes over land, one who kidnaps woman.

(september 11, 2001, new york)

arjuna asks kRiShNa in gItA (1-36) what he will gain by killing these terrorists, the kauravas. now, look at what all duryodhana did to pANDavas - setting fire to the house of lac (in which they were made to stay as guests), gave bhIma poison, took their land and money by deceitful force (winning the dice game my deceit), even took draupadI away (as part of the bet). even then arjuna has the moha - illusion - that the kaurava were his family, cousin etc.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

friendship - easier made than kept - सर्वथा सुकरं मित्रं दुष्करं परिपालनम् ।

It is easy to make friends, difficult to nurture.

sarvathā sukaram mitram duṣhkaram paripālanam |
sarvathA sukaraM mitraM, duShkaraM paripAlanaM |
सर्वथा सुकरं मित्रं दुष्करं परिपालनम् । (रामायण - किष्किन्धा काण्ड ३२-७)

How we love to make friends! That is what humanity is all about- connecting to other people! If social networking is any indication, our worth sometimes is measured by how many friends we have in our circle.

But we are talking about carrying the responsibility of being a friend. Of keeping tab, helping when needed and remembering and fulfilling the promises we make.

When we are in need, we say, "You indeed are my friend" for a friend in need is a friend indeed. I think should be 'A friend in deed is a friend indeed.'

Once the favor is done, we have smooth sailing again; we tend to slowly forget the importance of that help, in time. Maybe it starts to fade how someone helped us in our time of need.

In Rāmāyaṇa (रामायण , rAmAyaNa = The Travail of Rāma) - the first masterpiece of a story with fully developed characters, plot and all nine rasa (रस = mood in literature, like happy, sad, love, fear, ...), with no precedence in Indian literature to it. In that sense, it was a trendsetter, a best-seller forever, ever since it appeared on the "Vārāṇasī (वाराणसी, vArANasI = the oldest continuous living city of the world) best seller list" in the remote past.

Rāma helped Sugrīva (सुग्रीव, sugrIva = One with beautiful neck) the vānara (वानर, vAnara = maybe human, human like) king, to end his exile and get his wife back by the only possible way - killing Vālī (वाली, vAlI) who had banished Sugrīva and kept his wife. Rāma-Sugrīva friendship is a classic example of "types of friendships" where it is mutually beneficial and each comes to it for some help from the other, maybe because they are in similar situation.

When Sugrīva got the kingdom, Rāma told him that after the four months of rain, we will plan to attack Rāvaṇa (रावण, rAvaNa = one who made everyone cry in horror), for rain is not season to wage a war.

But even after the rains were over, Sugrīva, in his new found power and authority, forgot his vow and kept enjoying. Then Rāma sent his younger brother Lakṣhmaṇa (लक्ष्मण, lakShmaNa) to remind Sugrīva. Lakṣhmaṇa twangs his mighty bow from the city gates itself and Hanumān warns a worried Sugrīva - reminding sugreeva of his friendship vow..

So true, it is easy to make friends. But to keep it! That is a different ball game altogether.

This is also a line you could easily find as a status line on FB, on a car bumper sticker, but it was first said in Rāmāyaṇa.

Salutations to the foremost of seers, the ādi-kavi (आदिकवि, Adi-kavi = foremost poet seer), Vālmīki (वाल्मीकि, vAlmIki = seer of the epic Rāmāyaṇa).

And now the language aspects of the shloka -

सर्वथा = sarvathA = always
सुकरं = sukaraM = easy (su-) done/to do (karaM, NOT karma)
मित्रं = mitraM = friend[ship]
दुष्करं = duShkaraM = difficult (duH) + done/to do (karaM)
परिपालनम् = pari_pAlanaM = nurturing, fostering

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Monday, September 7, 2009

salutations to krishna - गोविन्दाय नमो नमः

for kRiShNa, for the son of vasudeva, and for the [source of] joy of devakI,
for the boy of the cowherd [chief] nanda, for the benefactor of cattle (cows), salutations.

कृष्णाय वासुदेवाय, देवकी-नन्दनाय च ।
नंद-गोप-कुमाराय, गोविन्दाय नमो नमः ॥

kRiShNAya vAsudevAya, devakI-nandanAya cha |
nanda-gopa-kumArAya, govindAya namo namaH ||

it seems like lot of you like devotional, bhakti mantras rather than the worldly wise neeti sutra. so let me pick some devotional bhakti mantras for simple sanskrit, starting with one of the most favorite of kRiShNa mantra.

while it is impossible, for a mere mortal like me, to dwell on all the details of the most intricate character of kRiShNa, let me touch on the language aspects of the words.

kRiShNa has many many names. viShNu has even sahasra-nAma i.e. 1000 names, mainly describing the attributes, or mnemonic for stories and incidents from his life and leelAs.

e.g. dAmodara = dAmA (rope) + udara (belly, wasit) = reminds of the story when he was tied to the grain-pounder with rope by yashodA.
vArShNeya = of the dynasty of vRiShNi
madhusUdana = slayer of madhu, an dAnava.
giridhara = giri (mountain) + dhara (holder) = one who held the mountain (on his little finger)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

avoid harsh words - न दुरुक्ताय स्पृहयेत्

|| na duruktAye spRihayet ||

॥ न दुरुक्ताय स्पृहयेत् ॥
[rig-veda 1-41-9]

What is the crux of humanity as we know? What would be the utmost thing we would need to remain human, to have life as we know it?

Money? Fame? Car? Internet? Two hands? Would any thing make us really happy? (Read on, there is a twist to this cliche).

Let us look at what ultimately makes us happy.

One type of person may be happy, in bliss without anything or anybody. Such people are very few, and most of them, we don't even know. For they don't care much for society. Yes, there are people who are born in society, and have given it up. No, no, not suicide, they have renounced the society, in the real sense. No desire left.

There are gurus and yogis in the active society who crave for fame, name, follower-ship, but there are many who reside in the foothills of Himalaya (himAlaya, हिमालय = the abode of snow), or even higher, don't have anything for possession, live in nature's sweet climate of harsh winter! Even as way back as Kalidasa (kAlidAsa, कालिदास) (around 50BC) mentions of such sadhu-s (sAdhu, साधु , good person) -

The ascetics would come down the slope to enjoy the shade of the cloud in the middle parts of the mountains (with rising sun and heat), but then would go up again worried about possible rain.
[kumArasambhavaM कुमारसंभवम् 1-5]

They could have had a social life, of 'earn and burn', 'shop till you drop', but on their own, they left the life of comparison, competition, joy and sorrow and connected to their inner source of happiness.

But we are not them.

And we are not happy by things, but by people. If we had no people to share with, fight with, compare with, show off to - where would the joy be? A Porsche brings no joy (for long) if you can't show off to the neighbor, or pick hot chicks!

Two years back, we moved back from US after a long stay of 17 years. While my daughter's new school was getting the new building built, their old building was really a makeshift, and for a year she complained. After all, we just moved from US for good for the first time in her life. She was only 9. and the worst part, the school infrastructure, where she would spend the most time, was not as great as any parent would want it - small, small rooms, no playground etc. It was a new school in town to boot!

Then the new campus was built for her second year at the school, huge grounds, big rooms!

So I asked her - "Would you have this new school building and no friends, rude teachers, inattentive staff or would you have the old building, less facilities but great friends and caring teachers"? She immediately said - "The good friends and teachers."

All her cribbing for a year for bad building was forgotten - the friends mattered more!

So, people give us joy or sorrow, or our joy and sorrow is tightly related to people. We feel joy when they agree with us, do amazing things, share their time with us, ...
We feel sad or angry when they disagree with us, do things we don't like, don't eat the dinner that we made while it is still hot, ... and if they great company, give us sorrow when they leave us.

So, people give us joy and happiness (for most of us normal mortals anyways).

And how do people give us joy? Apart from the short material things - by sharing their time with us, thoughts, likes and dislikes, talking about sweet nothings or sweets, sharing ideas and experiences.

And all this is through language, the foremost of human invention - by which we can visit places simply by reading a book; listen to someone across the globe or read this website and understand and enjoy. (I realize there is American sign language too, but you get the point).

Language is sacred.

The word is sacred.

Don't abuse it, don't abuse the power of the word. No, I am not being Bible-ish. I am talking way much higher level than that.

Word carries the thought.
Thought carries the experience.
Experience - the divine (or the evening soap!)

The wounds of arrows from a bow can still heal, but those from harsh words - they never heal, nor are they forgotten!

Harsh words caused Mahabharat (mahAbhArata, महाभारत, the great epic), the greatest civil war ever in history of the world - once by Draupadi to Duryodhana  (when he stepped in water when he thought there was none, and she called him blind son of blind father * Actually it is not Draupadi as per original Mahabharata, this is added somewhere later on. In Vyasa's Mahabharata, she wasn't even there at the time Duryodhana stepped in water by mistake) and once when Duryodhan (duryodhan, दुर्योधन) insulted her (by asking her to sit in his lap in front of a full court).

Why are words harsh?
Who do they hurt?

They hurt the ego in us.
Because we are full of 'mAnya-mAnitA' (मान्य-मानिता) - "I am great, I deserve respect."
They scare us, for harsh words make us realize the other person is not favorable to us.

But for most humans working at below average grade point, life is like that.
We all have a small bird of ego captured in our (rib)cage and any hurt to this enrages the monster in us - and we go berserk with hurt ego, bruised emotions and what not.

When do we use harsh words?
When we are angry or jealous. Anger comes when something comes in the way of us and what we want. Jealousy comes when someone else already has what we want!

At the root of both is 'our want' and mis-projection of it.

We may use harsh words to our children (our anger rather than their discipline!), our spouse (our venting rather than their fault!), subordinates (our hurt ego somewhere rather than their bad performance).

None of these build any positive vibe, does any real good.

And words are like arrows - once shot can't be reversed - they rarely miss their targets either!

That is why we are given two ears and one mouth - talk less, listen more.

॥ न दुरुक्ताय स्पृहयेत् ॥ ॐ शांतिः ॥

|| na duruktAye spRihayet || om shAntiH||
[rig-veda 1-41-9]

This was not intended to be this long or this deep, but with the flow of thought, the typing doesn't stop. Hope you are reading this line. and if yes, please do let me know your reaction.

May you all find this a turning point in your life and practice the restraint of the tongue, never say harsh words. Take that as a challenge in your life, how can you communicate without using harsh words, without getting angry. Not because someone else is watching, but because you are watching!

And tell me after a day or a week, how it went. How long were you able to remain un-harsh in words.

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and now the language aspects of the shloka -

na = (do) not
duruktAya = duH + ukti = difficult/harsh/bad/hurtful word
uktAya = for word
duruktAya = for harsh words
spRihayet = have desire, craving, coveting for.

so do NOT covet (saying) harsh words.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

one wise better than hundred fools - वरमेको गुणी पुत्रो

one wise son is worthy [than a] hundred stupid ones, for a single moon destroys the darkness, not even a hundred stars [can do that].

वरमेको गुणी पुत्रो, न च मूर्खशतैरपि ।
एकश्चन्द्रस्तमो हन्ति, न च तारागणैरपि ॥

varam_eko guNI putro, na cha mUrkha-shatair_api |
ekash_chandras-tamo hanti, na cha tArA-gaNair_api || kathamukhaM-08

so, we were following the hitopadeshaH. in the preface to the book, our king sudarshana was strolling on the banks of gangA in the metropolitan city of pATaliputra (modern day paTanA), where he had heard two shlokas being recited - knowledge is the only eye and the recipe for disaster. this had set him thinking about his own princes.

among the not-born, born-and-died and the stupid for life - the first two types of children are still better, for they give you sorrow only once, but the third (stupid) gives you sorrow every step of life.[4] his is some birth which brings fame to the name of the family, else in this ever changing mortal world, many are born and die.[5]