Friday, June 8, 2012

Luck can't replace Effort - काकतालीयवत्

Some people believe that luck is the most important factor in success. While some are genuine humble, others may be implying that they are somehow special to have such good luck. Luck is something you can just buy, borrow or work at. But, luck is not the key to success, it is hard work, effort, industry.

Luck would be defined as something we had no control over, else if we had control over it, then it would not be luck, it would be our karma. It is called daiva, bhāgya (दैव, भाग्य) etc in Sanskrit and the 'destiny' is a good close to it. Destiny doesn't mean there is a secret plan for you and you don't know. It is the X-factor that you have no control over, since you don't even know it.

Sanskrit has a tradition of maxims, called nyāya (nyAya, न्याय) which capture a situation in life, usually with a nugget of wisdom. One of the most famous is kāka-tālīya nyāyaḥ (kAka-tAlIya nyAyaH, काक-तालीय न्यायः) which says that - a crow swoops down and sits on a branch of a Palmyra tree, and the hard fruit falls on its head and it dies. What are the chances of this happening? It is by sheer coincidence that the crow flew and sat on that very branch, and that very second a fruit had to fall on its head.

The shloka here says that even by such sheer luck like kāka-tālīya nyāyaḥ you were to see a treasure in front of you on your path, luck (daiva) would not pick it up for you, you are still expected to make some effort to pick it up.

We might say that some people get all the luck, but maybe we all get the opportunities, but a few actually realize it and put effort to seize it. During Diwali weekend of 2005, Phanindra Sama missed his bus from Bangalore to Hyderabad, and instead of just cribbing about it, he started to find whether the bus ticketing industry really was efficient enough or were there some tickets that actually went unfilled and no one just knew. So he set out to start, a bus ticketing company. It has the largest number of bus operators signed up and by 2010, made a turnover of 600 million Rupees.

How did that happen? Out of so many people, including IT people, who missed the bus, only Phanindra saw it as a treasure of opportunity lying in front of it. If you were expecting a story of someone finding a real treasures lying on road, I am sorry to have raised your hope, that is only metaphorical.

Never avoid effort, never underestimate it and never think you can circumvent it and still achieve success ethically and legally. Or in other words, luck helps them who help themselves. You still have to put effort to use your good luck!

kāka-tālīya_vat-prāptam dṛiṣhṭvāpi nidhim_agrataḥ |
na svayam daivam_ādatté, puruṣhārtham_apékṣhaté || (IAST)
= kAka-tAlIya_vat-prAptam dRiShTvApi nidhim_agrataH |
na svayam daivam-Adatte, puruShArtham_apekShate || 4 || (ITRANS)
= Even if pure luck (‘Crow on a Palmyra tree’ maxim) one sees treasure lying in front, 
destiny will not pick it up for you, effort [to pick it up] is expected.

And now the language aspects -

kāka = crow
tālīya = of tāla (Palmyra tree)
-vat = like (suffix)
= like the kāka-tālīya maxim

prāptam = obtained

dṛiṣhṭvāpi = dṛiṣhṭvā + api
dṛiṣhṭvā = after seeing
api = also, even

nidhim = treasure, wealth

agrataḥ = in front of
agra = front

na = not

svayam = on its own

daivam = destiny, luck

ādatté = accepts, takes (for you)

puruṣhārtham = effort, literally ‘purpose of man’

apékṣhaté = is expected

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ali Baba and Forty Thieves - in Sanskrit

A good friend of mine, today passed on a link to an amazing book - "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves".

Before you wonder what has this got to do with Sanskrit, this is a translation in the reverse direction.

So far, I had heard of Sanskrit works being translated in other languages from thousands of years, going to Persia, then to Europe - be it the Pañchatantra, Hitopadésha, Upaniṣhad-s, or the Bhagavad-Gītā, Rāmāyaṇa or Māhābhārata.

The story of Ali Baba and Forty Thieves from Arabia was translated in Sanskrit in 1934 by Shrī Govind Krishna Modak, a Sanskrit teacher at New English School, Puṇé.

Even back in 1934, there were enough good Sanskrit scholars, even at school level, who could translate the whole story, even if it was from a non-Indian background. That implies that Sanskrit does have the ability to express modern topics, alien landscapes, contrary to many who believe that the language is not growing any more, and it cannot grow anymore and is good only for ancient topics. Sanskrit was fully vibrant and alive in lower academic institutions as well.

From the preface of the book –
“In the hands of Mr. Modak, the language becomes a wonderfully facile and fluid instrument of expressing the thought in the simplest and most natural way. The language is simple, flowing and chaste.”

The book opens with a salutation to the divine (namo bhagavaté tubhyam vāsudévāya dhīmaté, नमो भगवते तुभ्यं वासुदेवाय धीमते) as is the tradition in India.

In the style of Hitopadésha, Pañchatantra etc. the author also brings in existing famous Nīti shloka-s and uses them in context in the book. Here are some examples –

Page 8:
puṣhpam-puṣhpam vichinvīta, mūlach_chhédam na kārayét |
mālākāra ivārāmé, na yathāṅgārakārakaḥ || 3 || (IAST)
puShpam-puShpam vichinvIta, mUlach_chhedam na kArayet |
mAlAkAra ivArAme, na yathA~NgArakArakaH || 3 || (ITRANS)
पुष्पंपुष्पं विचिन्वीत मूलच्छेदं न कारयेत् |
मालाकार इवारामे न यथाङ्गारकारकः ||
That is, “Pluck flowers without destroying the roots, like the garland maker, and not like the coal-maker.”
The coal-maker destroys the who tree, but the garland maker plucks only the flowers, so the tree keeps giving more. Like the golden goose!


kāka-tālīya_vat-prāptam dṛiṣhṭvāpi nidhim_agrataḥ |
na svayam daivamādatté, puruṣhārtham_apékṣhaté || 4 ||  (IAST)
kAka-tAlIya_vat-prAptam dRiShTvApi nidhim_agrataH |
na svayam daivamAdatte, puruShArtham_apekShate || 4 || (ITRANS)
काकतालीयवत्प्राप्तं दृष्ट्वापि निधिमग्रतः |
न स्वयं दैवमादत्ते पुरुषार्थमपेक्षते ||
That is “Even if pure luck (Crow on a Palmyra tree maxim) one sees treasure lying in front, destiny will not give it your hands, effort [to pick it up] is expected.”

The thieves used a cave whose door opened with a magic chant – “Open Sesame” (or “khul jā sim-sim” in Hindi). How do you translate this into Sanskrit work, so that it looks original to the target language, and not as if it is coming from another tongue? Well, it has to be made into an invocative mantra, of course! And that is what Shrī Modak does on page 10.

skanda-rāja namasté’stu chaurya-pātava-déshika |
dasyu-déva dvāram_idam, vivṛitam kṛipayā kuru || 8 ||  (IAST)
skanda-rAja namaste'stu chaurya-pATava-deshika |
dasyu-deva dvAram_idam, vivṛitam kRipayA kuru || 8 || (ITRANS)
स्कन्दराज नमस्तेऽस्तु चौर्यपाटवदेशिक |
दस्युदेव द्वारमिदं विवृतं कृपया कुरु ||
That is, “O king of tormentors, O teacher the skill of stealing,
O lord of the dacoits, salutations to you, please kindly open this door.”

and the rock would slide and show the cave entrance!

And the story goes on!

Those with interest in Sanskrit, should try this book, no matter what your expertise in Sanskrit, as long as you can read the script. Very interesting read!

The link to the book is here -

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