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.


  1. Liked it a lot. Deep is good & this is practical, not too philosophical. Much more interesting than posts to prove the importance of sanskrit... Things speak for themselves for those who are to listen. - End of the blog is unnecessarily long, there is so much to read and so little time.

    Thank you for your posts!

  2. thanks minna for your feedback. yes, while speaking or writing one know not the passage of time or the plight of listening or reading :)

    as for previous posts, the aim was not to prove anything, but to showcase the wisdom (mainly neeti which is secular!) still relevant.

  3. Nice one. We have to absolutely respect the 'shabda bramha'. It is so true that words carry power. They have an innate energy in them. Many a times, the harsh words are forgotten by the afflictor but remains forever in the mind of the afflicted... And like you said, it rarely misses the target and then some. Spoken words and sped arrows can never be taken back.

  4. thanks rashmi. i myself didn't realise how much depth this one sentence had, till i sat down to write they say, the best way to learn is to try teaching :) (i was just telling, but the point is same).

    there are 3 (off hand) common mistakes in writing - brahma -> bramha; chihn -> chinh; muNh -> muhn

    this occurs even when people read the devanAgarI words. it is kind of a small smoonerism (within the word)

  5. This is a nice one, but so difficult to practice! I tried it on my son yesterday and it worked. The reason why I get angry on kids is not because they do "NOT" do what I ask them to, but because they do not do what "I" ask them to. Yesterday, I controlled my tongue (though I could not control my mind which was still angry). That did make a difference. He simply obeyed me when I told the same thing 7th time in the same tone. To add, harsh tone could have the same effect as harsh words.


  6. thanks shan for sharing your experience!
    with children there is another important thing to remember -
    don't worry they are not listening to you.
    be afraid, they are watching you.

    children learn by example, by watching and imitating. so you may SAY as much as you like, but if you yourselves DO it, the children most likely will follow suit.

    and yes, word, tone and body language are all part of communication, with tone and body showing the most intent, since people have started using diplomacy to hide the real message with nice words.

  7. that reminds me of this one: "satyam bhrooyath Priyam bhrooyath, na bhrooyath satyamapriyam". Maybe you should write about this next time!

  8. this did come up in the follow up discussion on the FB page!

  9. liked it a is difficult to control your anger if kids repeatedly dont listen to you,especially when you are in a hurry and trying to do ten things in the morning.anyways i will try not to use harsh words.thanks for the posts,i will be a regular reader from now.

  10. I came here from facebook based on a recent comment. As a new student of Sanskrit - I would like to make the observation that the स्पृहयेत् is in विधिलिड़... therefore the "do not..." part of the translation could be better translated as "let there not be..." don't you think?

    Also - I am truly surprised that you didn't see the obvious similarities between what both Ayn Rand and vyAsa were presenting their "story."

    Both stories in their essence promote the idea of freedom. However, in the western construct - there is no history of an implicit or explicit constitution that allows both personal *and* economic freedom. As much as libertarians attempt to make a case for libertarian ideas - for the west - it remains a distant goal, while Indic thought was for thousands of years - ingrained with the triad of freedom.

    For Indians, the essence of the epics was in fact to disperse the ideas of this triad of freedom deep into the Indian psyche. So - today - with the decline in recent centuries - the original ideas are lost - but they remain embedded within the framework of Indic thought that is carried forward simply based on "faith..." perhaps just waiting to be awakened... regardless of whether the mahAbhArata is "real" or not - the core ideas - are eternal... Rand barely scratched the surface...

    If you get a chance - do try to read Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus.

  11. shashiji namaste,please hindi mein likhiye na!


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