Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who really cares for you? the bonds of affection - bandhuH

We all seek friendship, companionship, company, support system. That is what humans are - social animals. Many words of wisdom abound on the importance of having a genuine friend circle, social status, useful connections. Warnings against keeping false friends or making company of people with bad habits or ill intentions are seen everywhere.

In this little gem of a shloka by chANakya चाणक्य, which has been liberally quoted by many, including hitopadesha हितोपदेशः , we see a compass, a guiding principle, a measuring stick if you will, of who is a good 'relative', bandhu बन्धु, one is bound to us with affection and concern.

As we saw in an earlier post, there are many criteria of considering someone a father, a father-figure. Not just by birth, but a giver of daughter, food, life, fearlessness, knowledge etc are all considered as father-like.

Similarly, relatives or people 'connected' to you, bound to you with affection are not just those by blood relation. Usually it is the other way around. But, just like for father, let us see the attributes of a 'relative'. That is what bandhuH बन्धुः and bAndhavaH बान्धवः means. Or in other words, a kinsman, relative is not just by blood, but by their support to and concern for us.

Ature vyasane prApte, durbhikShe shatru-sa~NkaTe |
rAja-dwAre shmashAne cha yas_tiShThati sa bAndhavaH ||

आतुरे व्यसने प्राप्ते, दुर्भिक्षे शत्रुसंकटे ।
राजद्वारे श्मशाने च यस्तिष्ठति स बान्धवः ॥

āture vyasane prāpte, durbhikṣe śatrusaṅkaṭe ।
rājadvāre śmaśāne ca yastiṣṭhati sa bāndhavaḥ ॥

In sickness, misfortune, famine, danger from enemy,
royal appearance, and mortality one who stands by [you] is [really] a relative.

In times of disease or sickness (aature)
When we are sick with mental concerns or physical disease, who helps us? Do they make fun of us, make excuses to not help, avoid us? Call us names behind our back? Or do they help us to the extent of even taking time off from work to see our immediate needs are met? Are they at least understanding of us? Do they have patience for our troubles? This is first sign of someone you can call a relative, someone you can rely upon. Someone you can have on the speed dial!

In times of troubles (vyasane prApte)
Then there are times of trouble, not necessarily of sickness, but other kinds of disaster or misfortune. Like the day when our socks don't match or there is a run in the stockings! Jokes apart, it could be a financial crisis, accident, losing a job, robbery anything. It could be when you run out of salt and dash to the neighbor for a spoonful of salt for cooking the dinner. Or when you miss the last connecting flight and don't have a hotel reservation for the night! I am sure, you can think of much better examples from your own life. We all have our favorites.

In times of famine (durbhikShe)
Famine may seem such a thing of the past today in urban settings when grocery stores and WalMarts are open round the clock. Where does one see a famine anymore? Well, as recent as 1943 there was one of the biggest famine of recorded history, the Bengal famine, caused in a big way by the imperial Britain! The death toll from that famine was more than that of the two World Wars and Partition of India combined! And there is one going on right now (July 2011) in Eastern Africa. For history of famine see Wiki link for famine. In the pre-industrial era famine was not that uncommon, since food could not be transported so easily.

But when there is scarcity of food, one who shares his food, helps you survive the hard times is a bandhu. If money can help, then by lending or giving money, or if money can't buy then by giving actual food. There was a time when people used to store a year's worth of grain (rice or wheat). Today they store a month's worth bought in van-loads from Sam's club and stored in mega refrigerators. In case of famine or acute shortage in the market, one may dip in the reserves and help a friend.

In times of enemy danger/national disaster
There are at least two versions of the shloka. One by chANakya चाणक्य says enemy-danger, the others quoted use rAShTra-viplave (national disaster, state of emergency) राष्ट्र-विप्लवे .

So we have seen mental anxiety or physical sickness, affliction; crisis times; and shortage of resources and food. Enemy danger can be from an individual physical assault on the street to attack from enemy elements of the society or country. A terrorist attack or a war (proxy or not) would be considered as national disaster. Or a tsunami, earthquake or nuclear reactor disaster in Japan. And we have seen how the Japanese people helped each other, in stark contrast of Hurricane Katarina!

In India of chANakya चाणक्य, the times were of many external attacks. Alexander was coming from Greece. He may have been the first but certainly not the last. The traditional notion of keeping the war and battle away from civilians was also being challenged with foreign norms of 'Everything is fair in war' coming in. Causing civil unrest was becoming acceptable strategy to put extra pressure on the enemy. This maybe a reason why we find mention of this as an exceptable practice by chANakya his monumental work artha-shAstra अर्थशास्त्र. People have called chANakya shrewd and merciless in his political tactics. I think, having seen the new waves of indiscriminate war tactics, he had to harden his stand. His hard stands are only towards enemy of the state - internal criminals, cheaters and tax-evaders or external invaders.

In times of royal summon
There were times when people had to approach the king or were summoned by him. Today's equivalent would be a court summon, government directive or when one wants to approach the government for some cause, help etc. Very much like the era of kings, even today it helps to know people in the great bureaucratic machinery.There is even a Sanskrit maxim to the effect that even the weak can stop the strong when they [the weak] are protected by the king, as in case of border officer.

If the court of the law or the king has summoned you, who stands by you? To give a character witness, or use his connections to protect you? Today many people don't even want to get in 'police hassle' and would avoid it, forget about coming to help you. In such difficult times, one who stands by you, supporting you, is indeed your kinsman!

In times of death
There is no dearth of friends in good times! If you are in India, advertisements of Kingfisher alcohol claim to bring in good times, with many to share it. But who is there for us in bad times? As bad as death. Who stands by us in the cremation ground when there is a death in the family? Or even when the ceremony is for our own departure?

When someone is standing by us, supporting us in sickness or disaster or shortage of resources or attack from enemies, court summons or in times of death, that person is indeed worthy to be called a kinsman, a relative, related by concern if not blood.

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And now the language aspects -

Ature = आतुरे = in sickness
AturaH = sickness, affliction, one who is anxious.
-e ending makes it in [the event of] sickness

vyasane prApte = व्यसने प्राप्ते = in [times of] getting misfortune
vyasana = misfortune. bad habits.
prApta = gotten
prApte -e ending makes it 'in' misfortune

durbhikShe = दुर्भिक्षे = in famine

shatru-sa~NkaTe = शत्रुसंकटे = in times of danger from enemies
shatru = enemy
sa~Nkata = danger, crisis
hanumAn is called sa~NkaTa-mochana - one who frees from danger and troubles.

rAja-dwAre = राजद्वारे = at the royal gates
rAja = royal, when used as in compounded words, like rAja-mahala (royal palace) rAjapatha (royal road, highway)
dwAra = door, gate.
here it means when one has to appear before the court, king.

shmashAne = श्मशाने = in the cemetery, cremation ground.

cha = च = and

yas_tiShThati = यस्तिष्ठति = yaH tiShThati = who stands [by]
yaH = [one] who
tiShThati = stands [by you]

sa = स = saH = he
the visarga disappeared due to sandhi rules

bAndhavaH = बान्धवः = literally one tied, bound due to attachment and affection. a kinsman, relative

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Use resources wisely - The threshold lamp - देहली-दीप न्यायः

déhalī-dīpa- nyāyaḥ
देहली-दीप न्यायः

SELCO is an important player in rural electrification in Karṇāṭaka and Gujarāt. Harīsh Handé, a colleague of mine from IIT Kharagpur, made a life-choice by starting SELCO to bust three myths – the poor cannot afford technology, the poor cannot maintain technology, and you cannot sustain while serving the poor. SELCO serves people with less than a dollar a day income, and is socially and financially sustainable. Its customer base in Karnataka is well over 120,000 which includes poor daily-wage workers, and the Dalai Lama is also on their happy customer list. Harīsh and SELCO have received the Ashden Award twice among other awards, from famous personalities like Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Prince Charles.

Harish Hande receiving the Ashden award in 2007.

And as per news yesterday, he has been awarded the Magsaysay award for this 2011 as well!
Well done Dr. Hande, it is an honor to know you.

They go home-to-hut, installing the entire kit which includes a solar panel, a rechargeable battery and lamps. The clients get loans from banks, for they cannot afford even the already low prices. One client wanted light in two rooms, but did not have money for two separate kits. His daughter could study in the kids’ room while his wife could do sewing in the ‘master’ bedroom. The two small rooms of the house shared a wall. So, the technician at hand cut out a small hole in the common wall and installed the lamp right in between, lighting both for the price of one.

That is the threshold lamp maxim. A lamp placed on the threshold, lights up the inside as well as outside.

SELCO technician setting up a solar panel.

Today, people want everything individually. Transport, movies, exercise machines are just few examples of what was earlier shared communally, resulting in less production and overall consumption. Another important aspect is the modern practice of a TV in each room. It signifies the capacity to splurge, but disconnects the family members. You do not know what your kids are watching. Share and use wisely!

Use resources wisely and creatively.

The above story and Sanskrit maxim is also in the book of Sanskrit maxims for leadership and life - Attitude Shift - available in print and ebook form. Check Kindle, Flipkart or publisher page.

Language notes:
देहली-दीप न्यायः = déhalī-dīpa- nyāyaḥ |
déhalī = threshold, the door frame.
dīpa = lamp.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Water-purifying 'kataka' powder - जल-कतक-रेणु न्यायः

Water purifying 'kataka' powder

= jala-kataka-réṇu nyāyaḥ (jala-kataka-reNu nyAyaH)
= जल-कतक-रेणु न्यायः
= “As the kataka seed powder purifies the water.”

Before the advent of modern impurities and modern purifiers that do ‘reverse osmosis’ and ‘ionization’ and what not, water was purified using simple, available, natural ways – filtering through thin cloth, use of alum crystals, and use of the seeds of kataka plant (Strychnos potatorum). Even a recent World Health Organization report mentions this practice in India as a “low cost solution for poor communities of Africa.” Such seed extracts act as a particulate, colloidal and soluble polymeric coagulant as well as a coagulant aid.

"The ripe seeds of Strychnos potatorum, known as Therran or Nirmal, can be ground and used as a coagulant to purify water; or they may be rubbed against the inside walls of the earthenware water containers." [Wiki]

"According to Ayurveda, seeds are acrid, alexipharmic, lithotriptic and cure strangury, urinary discharges, head diseases etc. Roots cure Leucoderma whereas fruits are useful in eye diseases, thirst, poisoning and hallucinations. The fruits are emetic, diaphoretic alexiteric etc. According to Unani system of medicine, seeds are bitter, astringent to bowels, aphrodisiac, tonic, diuretic and good for liver, kidney complaints, gonorrhea, colic etc. " [Purdue Univ]

Interestingly, there are varieties of the Strychnos genus and some are even toxic, so if you are trying this out in the wild, be careful! Another plant with similar properties is Moringa.

The maxim is traditionally used in two ways. One, just like the kataka seeds remove the impurities of the water, true knowledge removes the impurity of our ignorance and makes our mind clear. [ Gourd in water (jala-tumbikā)]

Two, as Manusmṛiti 6:67 says -
“Even though the Kataka tree’s fruit is a water-purifier, 
just taking its name does not clean the water.” 

फलं कतकवृक्षस्य यद्यप्यम्बुप्रसादकम् ।
न नामग्रहणादेव तस्य वारि प्रसीदति ॥

phalam kataka-vṛikṣhasya yadyapyambu-prasādakam, 
na nāma-grahaṇādéva tasya vāri prasīdati. [IAST]

phalam kataka-vRikshasya yadyapyambu-prasAdakam;
na nAma-grahaNAdeva tasya vAri prasIdati . [ITRANS]

Similarly merely knowing or talking of dharma will not do, one has to practice it. Similar to Mere resolve would not help (ékākini pratijñā) maxim.

Check periodically if your thoughts are clear or muddy. Take time out of the regular rut to introspect. Clear your mind, your thoughts, your attitude. More reading or knowing would not help much unless you start practicing what you already know.

Purify your thoughts.

Read more such maxims in Attitude Shift - Sanskrit Maxims for Contemporary Life

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and now the language aspects -

जल-कतक-रेणु न्यायः
= jala-kataka-réṇu nyāyaḥ |
jala = water.

kataka = a plant whose seeds when rubbed on the inside walls of pots, cause impurities in water to precipitate, like alum crystals.

réṇu = dust, powder.

फलं कतकवृक्षस्य यद्यप्यम्बुप्रसादकम् ।
न नामग्रहणादेव तस्य वारि प्रसीदति ॥

फलं = phalam = fruit

कतकवृक्षस्य = kataka-vRikShasya = of kataka tree
vRikSha = tree
kataka-vRikSha = kataka tree
-sya suffix = of (for masc. or neutral genders)

यद्यप्यम्बुप्रसादकम् = yadyapyambu-prasAdakam = even though is water cleanser/purifier
= yadi-api-ambu-prasAdakam
yadi = if
api = also
yadi+api = yadyapi = even though, if also
ambu = water
prasAda = pure, clear, clean (other meanings, graciousness, grace, favor etc.)
prasAdakam = cleanser, purifier, cleaner

न = na = not

नामग्रहणादेव = nAma-grahaNAdeva = only by taking the name
= nAma-grahaNAt-eva
nAma = name
grahaNAt = by grabbing, accepting, taking (chanting the name)
eva = only, merely

तस्य = tasya = of it

वारि = vAri = water

प्रसीदति = prasIdati = becomes clean

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