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#90 - October 30, 2003 11:37 PM Hindu Gems
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Dear Forumites,

This thread is solely for postings on Gems from Hindu shastras and traditions without comments and discussions for the sake of not cluttering up the thread.

Discussions can take place in other threads or create new ones. Questions can be put in the "Questions" thread.

Thank you.

Webmaster


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CONTENTS - this page


1. Murugan - Kandapuranam

2. Leave Aside the Shastras - Tirumandiram

3. Yaadum Oore - Kanian

4. Harmony in Nature - Periapuranam

5. Cirada Etra - Andakavi/YalpanaNayanar

6. History, Sacred History & Mythology

7. Arunagirinathar - Tiruppugaz

8. Rules of Grammer - Tolkappiyam

9. Wedding Scene - Ahananuru

10. Description of Love - Kuruntokai

11. Immanence of God - Tayumanavar

12. Nature in Sorrow - Kampan Ramayana

13. Appar & the Joy of Pilgrimage

14. Gratitude - Tirukural

15. Asato Masad Gamaya - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

16. Asato Masad Gamaya - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

17. Verse from Sivapuranam - Manickavasagar

18. Verse from Sivapuranam - Manickavasagar

19. Gayatri Mantra - Vishvamitra

20. Ekam Sat - Five Vedic Truths

21. Brahma & Brahman

22. Memorisation - Brahmavaivarta Purana

23. Is God Man or Woman - Atharva Veda

24. On Liberation - Svetasvatara Upanishad

25. Ganapati Mantra - Rig Veda

26. On Soul - Atharva Veda

27. On Speaking Truth - Taittiriya Upanishad

28. Wisdom of Vedas for All - Yajur Veda

29. On Greatness of Learning - Tamil Poem

30. On Calmness - Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

31. Devotion, Not Caste - Kabir

32. See No Evil - Rig Veda

33. Prayer to Earth - Yajur Veda

34. Tomorrow Brings Happiness - Kampan Ramayana

35. Accepting or Not Accepting Wisdom - Kalidasa

36. Purnamadah - Isa Upanishad

37. On Dharma - Mahabharata

38. On Character - Angiras

39. On Time & Fleetingness - Sankara

40. Hymn of Creation - Rig Veda


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--------------------------------------------------------------


On MURUGAN


As today happens to be KandaSaSTi, (30/10/03), the major
celebratory day on the calendar of
Tamil Saivas, I wish to reflect on Lord
Murugan, a foremost Divinity of the
Tamil people.
When the demonic personage SUrapadman and his
***ociates who were then ravaging
the world, saintly spirits went to Lord Siva
and pleaded with him to do
something about the havoc: and so was Murugan
born. He emerged when a spark from
Siva's third eye merged with Agni in a forest
of thickets (Sharavana). We see
the parallel with the genesis of Rama when
VishNu was thus approached at a time
when RAvaNa was playing mischief. Murugan is
taken as the Tamil equivalent of
KArttikeya.
The sacred history of Murugan, from birth to
the final defeat of SUrapadman who,
upon repentance, was transformed into a
pea**** which became Murugan's vehicle,
is narrated in the magnificent Tamil epic by
Kacciyappa SivAcArya. Known as
Kanda PurANam and composed in the 14th
century, this work has all the majesty
and meaning of other great epics. In its m***ive content of 10,345 verses, we
not only read of exploits of grand proportions, but also savor the delights that
Tamil can offer, and recognize deeper meanings of relevance and value in the
conduct of everyday life: For that is the ultimate goal of sacred history.
And there are hidden meanings as well behind the exciting episodes. Thus, when
we read that Murugan won two brides, VaLLI and Deiva-yAnai, one may wonder how a
God could engage in bigamy. But as we probe deeper, we find a symbolism here.
Deiva-yanai was a daughter of Indra. She sought Murugan's hand and obtained it.
VaLLi was raised by a hunter. When Murugan in disguise went to have her as his
consort, she resisted at first. Upon being frightened by an oncoming wild
elephant, she rushed to Murugan's arms. The symbolism here is that the Supreme
Principle takes unto itself not only those evolved souls (Indra's daughter) who
seek it, but also the unevolved (hunter's daughter) ones whom it seeks out. When
we are unable to recognize the Divine in its many forms, fright and fear
sometimes draw us to it.
Murugan is known by many other names in the Tamil world. They include Kandan,
Guhan, VElAyudan, SubrahmaNian, TangavElu, KumAran, SvAminAthan and
Sharavana-bhavan. A great many temples are consecrated to Murugan in the Tamil
country and beyond. The more important of them include the temples at Pazani,
SvAmimail, Torupparankuram, and Tirukkazukkuram.
I have not met too many Hindus from the non-Tamil tradition who have even heard
of Murugan. Unlike VaishNavism which spread widely in the south of India, Tamil
Saivism has generally remained only among the Tamil people, within and beyond
India. The translation of the RAmAyaNa and the BhAgavatam into Tamil without a
reciprocal translation of Kanda PurANam into northern languages could partly
account for this lack of symmetry in mutual understanding and appreciation. And
since no English version of the Tamil epic as been propagated and commented upon
by Western scholars, like PeriyapurANam, RAmalingasvami's saintliness, and
Bharatiyar's poems, they are little known to the outside world.


V. V. Raman
October 30, 2003

[This message has been edited by Webmaster (edited April 15, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by Webmaster (edited October 14, 2006).]

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#91 - October 30, 2003 11:40 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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cAttiram Odum cadurgaLai vittu nIr
mAttiraip pODu madittuLLE nOkkumin,

Leaving aside the powers that quote shastras,
Just for a moment look deeply within.

Reflections
This is couplet 1604 in TirumUlar's (6th
century C.E.) Tirumantiram.
Long before Karl Marx described religion as
the opium of the masses,
TirumUlar wrote about mayakkum camayam:
intoxicating religion. Marx was
referring to the way in which the upper
classes manage to keep the lower ones in
subservience by making them believe in all
sorts of self-diminishing status in
the name of religious doctrines. But TirumUlar
was referring to the dulling
effects of mindless repetition of ancient and
anachronistic sayings and
practices.
In this couplet he is speaking in the context
of realizing the Divine, i.e.
achieving spiritual fulfillment. This cannot
be done, he declares, by quoting
the shAstras: rules and regulations regarding religious practice. For this, one
must look deep within oneself. He was, in fact, reminding us of the mahAvAkya:
aham brahmAsmi. I am brahman. For ultimately, from an enlightened perspective,
God is not a entity out there to be uncovered behind fanciful symbols, but the
cosmic consciousness that undergirds the universe, of which each and every being
is a faint and flickering flame. It is the recognition of that spark within each
of us that ultimately is God realization. Or else, it would be like groping for
a nugget of gold everywhere in the darkness of a room, when in fact the nugget
lies in a wallet that is thrust into one's own pocket.
TirumUlar is reckoned as the foremost of the Siddhas (realized souls) of the
Tamil Saiva tradition. His pithy pearls of wisdom included the maxim that Love
alone is God (anbE civam), going beyond the notion of Truth being God. It is
good to remember that the search for God as Truth leads to metaphysical esoteric
talk, whereas the recognition of God as Love results in harmony, the spreading
of joy, and a fuller experience of life. TirumUlar did not subscribe to the view
that God can be realized through ascetic exercises. He recommended, instead,
that we offer a leaf to the Divine, grass to cattle, food to the hungry, and
kind words to all. His simple wisdom and mystic maxims reflect a superior state
on the ladder spirituality.
In the context of the title of his work (Tirumantiram), it may be noted that
according to TolkAppiam, the earliest extant work in the Tamil Language, a
mantiram (often taken as the equivalent of the Sanskrit mantra) is the utterance
of a personage of wisdom. Its deeper meaning is more important than its magical
prowess.

V. V. Raman
October 27, 2003

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#92 - October 30, 2003 11:43 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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On Enlightened Universality

yAdum UrE yAvarum kELIr
tIdum nanDRum piRartara vArA
nOdalUm taNidalUm avaTROr anna
cAdalUm puduvu anDRE.

It is all my town, where I'm in.
Whoever they are, the're also my kin.
Evil and good do not ensue
From what others may, or may not do
Aching and relief are likewise too,
Even death is not something new.

These are the first few lines of a poem thrice as
long, written by a little
known poet called KaNian. The first Tamil line
above (which I have translated in
two English lines) is perhaps the most oft-quoted
line from all of Tamil poetry.
It is even known to some Non-Tamils, for it
expresses an enlightened vision that
occurred to very few in the ancient world.
KaNiyan was a poet of the Cangkam (ancient Tamil)
age. It was a time when many
poets sang the glories of chieftains and kings,
of the territories and kingdom
where they lived. KaNiyan lived in the town of pUngkunDRu. He felt that a poet
ought to write about ideas, principles, and nature, rather than extol the local
ruler, for he felt no affiliation for any particular place or potentate.
So he wrote the poem which begins with the simple line: yAdum UrE yAvarum kELIr
which essentially says that he regarded every place as his own, and all human
beings as his own kin. Like Shakespeare's "To be or not to be," this line is
known to practically all Tamils who have even a modicum of education in their
language and culture, except that not all may know the name of the author.
This pithy motto deserves to be reflected upon by people of all castes and
faiths, of all races and nations, for it expresses quite simply the humanity
that binds us all. The Latin poet Terence had said in a similar vein, Homo sum,
humani nil a me alienum puto: I am a man, and nothing of the human condition can
be foreign to me.
In the rest of the poem, KaNian reminds us that we alone are responsible for
the good we experience as well as the bad, that both our pains and pleasures are
results of our own previous actions, that we must bear responsibility for our
aches and ailments, as also for their mitigation and cure. He does not use this
(kArmic) vision to say that the suffering deserve their pain or as a
justification mistreating groups of people. On the contrary, this should remind
us of doing good for others, and of not hurting others, for these are the
highest karmic actions we can engage in.
Later in the poem he goes on to say that he will not pay homage to people simply
because they are rich, not look down upon those that are not.


V. V. Raman
October 20, 2003

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#93 - October 30, 2003 11:47 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Harmony in Nature

nITRu alarpEr oLinerungGum
appadiyin niRai karumbin
cATRu alaivan kulai vayalil
tagaTTUvarAl ezappakaTTU Er

ATRualavan kozukkizitta
cAlvaziyOi acaindu ERic
cETRu avalan karu uyirkka
muruku uyirkkum cezum kamalam


In the shimmering light of the ashen waters,
In that region of sugar-canes, full,
Within the banks of the juice-filled field
Constrained by ramps is the plowing bull.

To bear its tiny progeny
A crab from the mud moves and climbs
Over a furrow by plowshares torn.
A lovely lotus exudes honey
For the little ones that are born.

This is a snippet of a scene in the sugar cane
field bordering the small town of
AdanUr. There are the furrows made by the plowshares drawn by an ox. In that
marshy land one sees a mother crab slowly finding its way to a safe spot where
it gives birth to its little ones. When this happens, a lotus plant gives out
some nectar on which the new-born creatures feed.
Only the keen eye of one who has great sensitivity for all creatures great and
small could make this careful observation, and only a gifted poet could express
it in rhythmic verse that unfortunately loses its original charm in translation.
Aside from the beautiful description of an insignificant episode in nature, the
poet is trying to say here that all nature is in harmony, and that in the
village he is describing, everyone cared for one another.
What makes this utterly worldly verse even more remarkable is that it occurs in
what is regarded as a sacred work in the Tamil world. It is in the Periya
PurANam which is a compendium of the lives of sixty-three Tamil saints of the
Saiva tradition, referred to as NAyanArs. The saints come from every caste and
creed: from cEkaliyars and Cekkars to VeLLALars, and BrAhmaNars. Thus they
included washer men, fishermen, hunters, weavers, and more, revealing a glorious
side of a caste-ridden society. The author of this immortal work was CEkkizAr
PerumAn (11th-12th centuries), and his work is credited with the arrest of the
Jain faith in the Tamil kingdom, and the propagation of the Saiva sect.
The verses quoted above are from the life of Tiru-nALaippOvAr-nAyanAr, popularly
known as NandanAr.
The story of how this massive poetical work of 4286 stanzas came to be written
is fascinating in itself. We will look into it on another occasion.

V. V. Raman
October 16, 2003

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#94 - October 30, 2003 11:50 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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cIrADa eTRa vairavan vAkanam
cEra vandu tARARu
nAn mugan vAkanam
tannai paTRikonDu
nArAyaNan uyaru vAkanam AyiTRu.
nammai mukam pArAn.
maivvAkanam
vandE
en vayiTRil paTRinanE.

The vehicle of Bhairava deserving of praise
came and took away the vehicle
of the four-faced one.
It became NArAyaNa's vehicle on high,
and nobody looked at my face.
But the sheep-vehicle one
Burnt in my stomach
when this was done.

This poem sounds like a riddle, and it can be
understood only when one is
familiar with the mythopoesy of the Vedic/PurANic
framework. In particular, we
need to know that the vehicle (vAhanam) of
Bhairava (Siva) was a dog, of BrahmA
(the four-faced one) was a swan, of NArAyaNa was
a vulture, and of Agni (Fire)
was a sheep. Note the ingenious away in which the poet has brought together the
three primary divine principles (trimUrti: BrahmA, VishNu, Siva) of Hindu vision
as well as the primary deity (Agni) in the Vedic framework.

The context of the poem was very mundane: Once, when this poet was on a
pilgrimage, carrying some food, he stopped by a river to take a bath. When he
was in the water, a passing dog ate off the cooked rice he had kept as meal
after his bath. The food flew away, as it were, like a bird. The result was that
the poet was left ignored by all, and he began to feel the fire (pang) of hunger
in his stomach.
The imaginative and verbal richness of Tamil and the countless allusions of the
poets to the broader Indic tradition are reflected in this verse. But equally it
is an instance of the word-plays we find in Tamil literature. Here, for
example, aside from the allusions, there is a bi-lingual pun. The Tamil word for
swan is annam (from the Sanskrit haMsa). But in Tamil, annam also means cooked
rice. So instead of saying his rice (annam) was taken away, the poet says that
the vehicle of BrahmA (annam) was taken away.

This poem is credited to a little known, but highly esteemed Tamil poet by the
name of Andakkavi VIrarAgavar. Andakkavi means the blind poet, for he is said
to have been blind. He once declared that he could see more with his inner eye
of wisdom that most people see with their ordinary eyes.
Andakkavi VIrarAgavar is regarded as a saint-poet of the Saiva tradition. He is
also known as YazpANanAyanAr. According to tradition, many centuries ago this
poet from the ChoLa country went to Sri Lanka. The local king was so impressed
by his poetic gifts that he ceded to him the region of Jaffna to which many
Tamil people migrated in the distant past.

The word yAz is the name of a musical instrument (somewhat like the lute). One
who plays on that instrument is a yAzpANar. The Tamil spoken in Jaffna is also
referred to as yAzpANattamiz.

All too often, the poetic imagery and subtle humor of Tamil (and Sanskrit)
writers are lost sight of in the heavy emphasis on spirituality and religiosity
on which most commentators tend to dwell. The frequent association of all major
works with spiritual/religious weight makes it difficult for lay (secular)
scholars to study them in schools and colleges as works on philosophy,
literature, or pure poetry. It is an unfortunate fact of Indic culture that to
this day (more than fifty years after India's independence from foreign yoke),
people in India can get degrees from colleges and universities without ever
having studied in a systematic way even selections from Kamba RAmAyaNam or
Ramacaritra Manas, let alone the Vedas, the Upanishads, or the Gita. We are more
interested in whether the Vedas have reserved this or that rite and ritual for
Brahmins alone, than in appreciating their poetic, aesthetic, and literary
merits.

V. V. Raman
October 13, 2003

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#95 - October 31, 2003 12:02 AM Re: Hindu Gems
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On History, Sacred History, and Mythology


History is made up recorded, remembered, and
interpreted facts and episodes
that are believed to have occurred at various
times and places in the past.
The purpose of history is manifold: History
informs us about the past,
infuses a people with a sense of pride about the
achievements of their
ancestors, inspires a people to act in ways that
would make future
generations proud of their history, and
illuminates the possible course of
human events under certain circumstances. This
last feature is what one has
in mind when we speak about learning from
history.
Every religious tradition of the human family has
its own sacred history.
Sacred history includes the names and events
associated with personages and
principles that are regarded as sacred in the
tradition. Sacredness is that
aspect of an entity in a culture that commands
awe, respect, and reverence
from the people of the tradition. It also gives
meaning to existence. Unlike
secular history, sacred history is not always based on verifiable facts and
documentation. Rather, it has acquired sanctity by virtue of the fulfillment
it gives to the members of the tradition, and the weight it has acquired by
virtue of its persistence over impressive periods of time. Sacred history
touches the soul of a people, and fills the hearts of the practitioners with
a sense of spiritual fulfillment that ordinary history seldom does, or can
do.
When sacred history is examined through the lens of secular history, it is
likely to lead to inconsistencies and confusions, just as all the glory and
visual beauty of the moon experienced by a sensitive poet or a pair of
ardent lovers appears very different when viewed through the sharpening
eye-piece of a telescope.
When sacred history is seen by someone not of the tradition, it becomes
mythology: a fascinating narrative that may have meaning and interest, but
which is essentially made up of fantasy, with not even a grain of reality.
In other words, what is sacred history to one group may strike another as
pure mythology.
It is therefore important to recognize the role that sacred history plays in
a culture and tradition. Sacred history is to be experienced, not analyzed.
It is to be accepted for its deeply meaningful and aesthetic dimension, not
proved or certified as factually valid. The sweetness of sugar cannot be
felt in the formula for sugar as reveled in organic chemistry.It may be
useful to remember this when we talk about Ayappan or any other name in our
sacred history.
In so far as sacred history gives meaning and enhances our spiritual
experience, it is worth preserving and nurturing it. If an event in sacred
history is used to humiliate or marginalize fellow humans (as may happen
sometimes), then it deserves to be exposed as fraud or nonsense, and be
booted out of the culture.

V. V. Raman
October 27, 2003

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#96 - November 11, 2003 12:14 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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AruNagirinAtar: Tiruppugaz

ERumayil ERiviLaiyADum mukam onDRE
IcanuDan ńAnamozi pEcum mukam onDRE
kURum aDiyArkaL vinai tIrkkum mukam
ondRE
kunDRuruva vEl vAngi ninDRa mukam
onDRE
mARupaDu kUrarai vadaitta mukam onDRE
vaLLiyai maNam puNara vandal mukam
onDRE
ARumukam AnaporuL nI aruLa vENDum
Adi aruNAcalam amarnda perumALe.

It's the same face that on peacock rides and
plays,
The same face that to the Lord words of
wisdom says.
The same face that erases the deeds of
devotees who call.
The same face that took the hill-form spear
and stood tall.
The same face that destroyed evil creatures which one dreaded
The same face that came down and VaLLi wedded.
The Essence that became the Six-Face: Give your grace, be kind!
You who are first in AruNacalam enshrined.

These are the opening lines of the magnificent hymnal to Lord Murugan by the
great poet AruNagirinAthar of the Tamil Saiva tradition.
Each time I construct a pale rendering of a moving verse like this, I feel my
inadequacy, and of English more generally, for the difference between my
translation and the original is like that between the excited jubilation in a
celebration with dance, merriment and sweets, and a miniature black-and-white
photograph of the event taken with a primitive camera.
The only impulse that fuels my enthusiasm is the hope that some others might get
at least a glimpse of the glory in the lines. I also like to think that by
this effort I do my little part in sharing with the world some information on
the creative geniuses that have made Tamil literature and culture rich and
sparkling.
To fully appreciate the content of the verse above, one must be familiar with
the lore of Murugan (Kandan/Skanda/KArttikeya) or ShaNmugan: the six-faced
divinity, who is identified with the Pleiades cluster of six (visible to the
naked-eye) stars in the sky.
At the close of the epic of Kanda PurANam which narrates the saga of Kandan, we
come to know that evil SUrapadman, upon repenting his misdeeds, was transformed
into the peacock that became Murugan's vehicle (vAhana). In this work we read
about how, at one time, little Murugan expounded the significance of aum to
Brahma. It tells us that those who surrender themselves to Murugan will be
absolved of their kArmic misdeeds. In this PurANam we also read about Murugan as
he appeared with a gigantic spear with which he destroyed the evil principles
that were rampaging the world. In it we are told of his encounter and eventual
marriage with VaLLi, the adopted daughter of a hunter. All these are referred to
in the verse above.
The poet says that though the Divine manifests itself in a six-face aspect, all
the faces are of the same Supreme principle. This should to remind us that the
multiple visions of God doing various things in various religions belong,
ultimately, to one and the same Divinity.
The poet pleads with the Divine to bless us with grace, and recognizes
AruNacalam which has the holiest of all holy shrines of Murugan. This where
practically every poetic giant of Tamil Saiva tradition has gone and sung.
AruNagirinAtar (14th - 15th centuries) who wrote these lines was a poetic
genius whose hymns in the tiruppugaz are among the most jubilant of bhakti
poems. In sheer rhythm and joyous melody, it is unsurpassed. When one listens to
the sacred songs of tiruppugaz, the devotee's heart is filled with an ecstasy
that only the best of religious compositions can bring. No wonder it continues
to be sung in every assembly that pays homage to Murugan: there is even a saying
in Tamil to the effect that the tiruppugaz minstrel has no reverence for any
other deity.
There is a touch of trust-not-women in some of the saint's works, but this theme
was not unusual in a framework in which the lure of lust was seen (as it still
is) as the primary impediment to spiritual growth. Today we rejoice in the
saint-poet's songs for their music and deeply felt love of God, rather than for
its admonition against falling prey to women's wiles.
AruNagirinAtar is reputed to have been involved in debates with the eminent
VaishNava poet/thinker VillibhArati. There have often been inter-sect rivalries
between sampradAayas in Indic history. Not to acknowledge them would be a
distortion of recorded facts. We should take them as overflowing expressions of
profound faith, like the blind love that proclaims unabashedly that one has the
best mother in the world.
Most of all, like other sage-poets, AruNagirinAtar recognized that God is not a
topic for intellectual discourse, and is beyond those who are bereft of purity
of heart. The Divine is even beyond rote muttering of mantra and the subtleties
of space. The primordial cause of everything can only be directly experienced,
he declares. And through his songs he treats us to a little of that lofty
experience.
If an opportunity to listen to a verse from Tiruppugaz comes your way, don't
miss it.


Q: Why does Arunagirinathar refer to Lord Muruga as PerumAle?

1. The word PerumAL (literally peru AL:
Big/great person) simply referred to a
prince or a king in old Tamil.There was a
whole dynasty of PerumALs from the 5th
to the beginning of the 9th century CE who
were rulers of the Chera (KeraLa)
kingdom.

2. Metaphorically, the term was used to
describe God or any aspect of the
Divine. Just as the term Our Lord, when
used in a religious context, became
synonymous with Christ in English, in the
VashNava tradition, because of
frequent usage by the poets, the term
became synonymous with VishNu. Indeed, it
is now regarded, like TirumAl, as another name for VishNu.

3. However, in olden times when the original meaning (The Powerful One,
Almighty) was still in people's mind, Caivas also used it to refer to Civa and
to any Divine principle (like Murugan).

4. You are quite right that AruNagirinAtar uses the term many times, including
in his invocation to Lord GaNesha. Other Caiva saints have also used this
epithet for Siva, but often with an n at the end. MANikkavAcakar refers to Civa
as emparumAn in his CivapurANam (line 31). The term is used in the sense of
Almighty.

5. It is possible - and this is only my suspicion - that initially the poet sang
emprmAnE, which with time got transformed into PerumALe. But I am not sure of
this.

6. Technically, perumAL (The powerful one) and tirumAl (The Sacred one of
Illusion) refer to VishNu, whereas PerumAn could mean either Civa or VishNu.

I hope this clarifies a little.

V. V. Raman
November 10, 2003

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#97 - November 16, 2003 01:41 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Posts: 1030
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Reposted from Navyashastra.


Rules of grammar from Nature



nilam, tI, nIr, vaLi, vicumpoDu aindum
kalandu mayakkam ulakam Adinin
.... vENDum.

Earth, fire, water wind, and ether: since the world
is mingled and composed by these five,
(therefore it is necessary that ...)

Reflections
One would think that these lines are from an ancient book on science. Not
really. They are from one of the earliest works in the Tamil language. Known as
TolkAppiyam, it is primarily a book devoted to what is called iyaTRamiz or
natural Tamil, as distinguished from icaittamiz (Tamil for music) and
nAtakattamiz (Tamil for plays and dramas). Many sections are described with the
word iyal: Nature of. Thus the work talks about the nature of letters, the
nature of nouns, the nature of verbs, the nature of love, the nature of
chastity, etc. In the Latin world, many books used to be written with the title
De rerum Natura: On the nature of things.
Tolkappiyam is perhaps fifteen hundred years old. It is divided into three
parts. The first part discusses the alphabets (ezuttu) of the language. It opens
with the statement that the Tamil alphabet starts from a and goes to na. The
second part deals with words (col). The third part talks about the subject
matter (poruL). Tradition says that the author TolkAppiyar received all his
knowledge from Rishi Agastyar who is regarded as the founder of Tamil language
and tradition.
Academics who have dissected every word of the book have concluded that the
work, certainly of the Common Era, is that of an author who was well versed in
the Sanskritic language and tradition, as he himself proclaims.
Nevertheless, TolkAppiam is a Tamil classic. It is impressive that of the almost
1600 nUrpAs (lexicographic verses/lines) 483 are devoted to the letters of the
language. The letters are classified into pure sounds (mei-ezuttu:
body-letters), vowels (uyir-ezuttu: soul-letters), and sounds that can be
pronounced (uir-mei-ezuttu: soul-body and letters), as in the pure sound of k,
a, and ka respectively. Part two is an extensive discussion on words: ranging
from parts of speech to origins of words, and it speaks of twelve regions where
standard Tamil (centamiz) was used in various ways. The third part talks about
aham (love) and puram (other) themes, figures of speech, idiomatic expressions,
etc. It is a matter of amazing cultural continuity that these basics have been
taught to generations of children in the Tamil world for well over a millennium.
No other book on grammar (save PANini's) has this honor.
That such a detailed and erudite work on Tamil was written at that time suggests
that Tamil was must have already been a fairly sophisticated language when
TolkAppiyam was published. This is not surprising when we recall that the Tamils
are known to have traded with Rome in very ancient times.
What is interesting in the lines I have quoted is that this verse (635)
justifies a literary rule on the basis of the composition of the physical world
(from the five basic elements of ancient science). This not only reveals the
author's knowledge of the scientific views of his time, but also establishes a
validity for the rule on a scientific basis. There may not be many parallels for
this in the field of grammar and literary conventions elsewhere in human
heritage.
We also note here a poetic description of the role of the constituent elements
of matter. He describes the material world as an inseparable intertwining of the
five fundamental basic ingredients, as the ancients pictured. The phrase kalandu
mayakkum could also mean, deluding/bewildering by mixing. Indeed, the perceived
world is not what it seems, and it is certainly true that all illusions arise
from the intermingling of its composite parts in complex modes.

V. V. Raman
November 13, 2003

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#98 - November 16, 2003 02:26 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Reposted from Navyashastra

A simple scene

Mounds of rice and lentil as food.
A canopy held by columns of wood.
On the floor was sand gently sprinkled,
And lighted lamps inside twinkled.

A happy morn with crescent in sky.
No evil portents from stars on high.
Bride and groom were garlands wearing,
Pots of clay, some dames were bearing.

Some had bowls they were giving or taking
Older ladies were noise making.
Moms of youngsters who'd beauty spots on belly
Adorned with jewels all very lovely

Gently pored on the head of the bride
Some water which made it shine at a side,
With petals of flower and grains of rice.
They blessed her in terms which were nice:

"Swerve not," they said, "from chastity's way!
Serve your spouse in every way!
He loves you dearly as his wife,
May you be with him for all your life!"

The night after all that ceremony
The ladies together in harmony
The bride to the groom, they merrily sent
With some trepidation the bride there went.

Reflections
As the archaic Tamil original is also long, I am only presenting my
(approximate) English translation of this poem.
This poem should remind us that not all classical Tamil poetry is God-talk.

A unique feature of Sangam Tamil literature (<800 C.E.) is that it
classified poems into two broad groups: Those that dealt with various aspects of
love, and those dealt with other topics, especially war. The first group
consisted of what were called aham topics, and the second , of puram topics.
In due course there appeared several anthologies of such works. The best
known of these are two, each consisting of four hundred poems: aha-nAnUru and
pura-nAnUru.
The themes of the love poems in aha-nAnUru included the following:
passionate and secretive love between youthful couples in the woods (kurińji),
the pain when the two are separated (palai), which is followed by a period of
patient waiting (mullai). Then there are poems relating to the period of more
intense and painful longing (neidal). Finally, there is the phase of quiet
peace and harmony punctuated by episodes of marital infidelity (marutam). How
much more secular can one get!
When one looks into these poems it becomes clear that the ancient Tamil
people were a vigorous, life-and-love affirming lot, not always as other-worldly
as the bhakti hymns might suggest. Indeed, this has been so all through Indic
history, except that the more expressive and articulate poets and writers were
often spiritually inspired authors whose works appealed considerably to the
religiously inclinations of the people. The poetic compositions of the
devotional kind are so magnificent and powerful that they tend to give the
impression that all the people of the culture were perennially God-bound.
The poem above from a aham anthology is a simple description of an ancient
wedding. Notice that the use of a canopy (pandal) in marriages goes back to
really old times. So is the custom of garlands for groom and bride. We also see
a reference to the eating of rice and dAl, the sprinkling of rice, the
participation of the guests, and the trepidation of the bride as she gets close
to her new husband for the first time.
We are grateful to the observant poet who also left a picturesque record of
a typical but significant event in the culture of those distant times, and whose
echoes continue to this day.

V. V. Raman
November 6, 2003

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#99 - November 27, 2003 07:33 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Originally posted in Navyashastra.

A description of Love

nilattinum peride vAninum uyarndanDRu
nIrinum Ar aLavu inDRE cAral
karungkOl kuRincip pUkkoNDu
perundEn izaikkum nADanODu naTpE

Larger than land, higher than sky,
Deeper than river waters is on slopes high.
Like (honey) from dark Kurinci flower
Is how I feels the friendship of my lover.

This verse is from KuRuntokai (3) which belongs to the Cankam period (<8th
century CE). The work was edited by one PUrikkO. In the invocatory verse in the
Kuruntokai, Murugan is described as the Lord of the entire universe. It
concludes with the affirmation that the whole world is under his care and
protection. It is attributed to a poet by the name of DevakulattAr. KuRuntokai
is an anthology of 401 poems, authored by some 205 poets, showing the
abundance of verse-composers in the Tamil world already in those days. Few
other cultures have a legacy of such a plethora of prosody, dating back to more
than a millennium.
The poems in this anthology are all from four to eight lines: hence the
collection is known by a name which means, an anthology of short poems. All the
verses deal with the broad theme of love, some of them expressed with great
sensitivity, and some in raw rustic language.
We note the poet's insight that love is not only a grand experience but can be
very deep, and a lofty expression of the human heart. The reference to honey
from a flower brings to mind bees, and this reminds us of the sting that is
sometimes associated with love. Rarely is mundane love bereft of an occasional
pang. The honey brings home the idea that a feeling of sweetness is invariably
a feature of the love-experience.
In another poem in this anthology, a young man says to his friend, speaking of
a girl he loves:
Her breasts are full grown
Her long hairs flow down,
Her well set teeth sparkle in the dark,
Her body has many a beauty mark,
Because of her, I suffer a lot,
But of this she knows absolutely naught.
Her parents are rich as no other,
Oh, what will happen to her?

Many flowers are mentioned in Tamil poems, but the one called kuRinci occurs a
great many times.
Kuriqnci was one of the five types of habitable regions into which the classical
Tamil people divided land areas. In the Tamil country it corresponded regions
of low hills. There were wild beasts there, but also protected areas and secure
caves. It is believed that in pre-historic times, fire was discovered there,
and again it was in the Kurinci region that bow and arrow are said to have
evolved, and man became a hunter. The fact that such a traditional belief grew
reflects an awareness of and hypothesizing on cultural history among classical
Tamil thinkers.

V.V. Raman
November 24, 2003

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#100 - December 12, 2003 03:40 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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originally posted on Navyashastra.


Immanence of God: TAyumAnavar

paNNEn unakkAna pUcai oru vaDivilE

pAvittu iRaińca, AngGE

pArkkinDRa malaruDu nIyE irutti ap

panimalar eDukka manamum

naNNEn

I'll worship you not with flowers,

Bowing to any form of yours.

Seeing you in each fresh flower,

Even my mind can't pluck one, ever.


Reflections
This verse is from the works of the poet TAyumAnavar (18th century). He was
named after the name by which Siva was known in the local temple, to Whom his
parents had prayed for the birth of a son. He became a Saiva scholar of great
eminence in Tamil literature, one who was versed in Sanskritic learning no less.

Like the great MAnikkavAcakar who had lived a thousand years earlier, this
eminent personage had also served as minister in the government. The ruler's
wife was so taken by the charm of the youthful bright minister, that when the
chieftain died, she offered him everything if he would only become her husband.
The spiritually inclined man in his early thirties is said to promptly left town
and taken refuge in a remote town with his older brother. Here he was married,
but his wife died after their first son was born. TAyumAnavar gave up worldly
pleasure, position and property for a mystic's life. Like other sages before
him, he rightly declared that knowledge and learning don't lead us to God
realization. Yet, he used his scholarship in his efforts to bring together
divergent sects within the Saiva fold. A firm proponent of the doctrine of
grace, TAyumAnavar was undoubtedly one of the most eloquent, persuasive, and
genuine Caivaciddhantins of all times.
It is said that on one occasion, when there was a famine-causing draught, he
appealed to the Divine with such devotion and sincerity that torrential rains
ensued.
Like the Nature poets of England, TAyumAnavar saw the divine presence all around
him. As William Blake had seen a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild
flower, TAyumAnavar saw God in the form and body of a blooming flower, and felt
it would be harsh to pluck it from the stem, even to offer it to the Divine in a
worship mode.
The point is, though we worship God as the transcendent, when we recognize
Divine presence as immanent in the world around, our deepest reverence for
Nature is evoked. When one sees Divinity in mountains and rivers, in trees,
shrubs, and flowers, one begins to understand the glory of creation, and also
feel an innate respect for the natural world.
We may see more in this verse that the outpouring of a sensitivity poet, for it
has meaningful relevance to both prayer modes and to the current human
condition. Indirectly, TAyumAnavar is suggesting that puja and temple worship
are not necessarily the best ways of realizing God. Like other personages who
had attained enlightenment, he did not care much for traditional rites and
rituals, although he did regard pilgrimages very highly. But he insisted more on
being good and on being tolerant.
As to the relevance of this verse in our own times, though it is commendable and
useful to tap the natural world for human ends, if this becomes reckless
exploitation of land and sea, the very structure of the world that sustains us
will be mutilated, and we ourselves will perish. That is what deforestation,
global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer are all about. Thus, when
TAyumAnavar hesitates to pluck a flower even as an offering to God, we realize
that unless we see some sacredness in Nature, we will continue to pillage and
plunder every aspect of it, creating chaos and confusion and devastation. Indeed
that is what has led to the ecological crisis confronting technological
civilization.

V. V. Raman
December 11, 2003

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#101 - December 12, 2003 03:42 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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oroginally posted in Navyashastra.

When Nature is in sorrow: Kampan

kiLLaiyoDu pUvai azuda; kiLir mADattu
uL uRaiyum pUcai azuda; uru aRiyAip
piLLai azuda: periyOrai en colla?
vaLLal vanam paguvAn endRu, uraitta mATRattAl.
..
Avum azuda; adan kanDRu azuda; anDRu alarnda
pUvum azuda; punal puL azuda; kaL ozagum
kAvum azuda; kaLiru azuda; kAl vayap pOr
mAvum azuda; - am mannavanai mAnavE.

Parrots wept with Mainas too.
In lighted palaces, cats wept too.
Formless bodies (embryos) wept that way.
Of grown up ones, what to say?
'cause into the woods the generous one will fade,
In accord with a promise made

Cows wept and their calves wept.
The flowers that blossomed that day wept.
Sea-gulls wept, honey-dripping gardens wept,
Male elephants and powerful horses wept,
To honor that prince, they all wept.

Reflections
These two verses are from the most precious jewel of all Tamil literature, which
is titled: irAmAvatAram. It describes the reaction of the world around to the
impending exile of Sri RAma into the forest. The people of Ayodhya were dejected
that their beloved prince had to go away for fourteen long years. But RAma was
so universally loved and regarded that even the animal kingdom was deeply moved,
says the poet. So he lists birds and mammals. And he also speaks of the unborn
that wept, of flowers and gardens which also wept. If this is not imaginative
poetic exuberance, what is!
But there is more to this description than poetry. It conveys in a powerful way
the full impact of that sorrowful scene on the world at large. Metaphorically
and more importantly, it tells us that there are human events that affect
non-humans too. When bull-dozers erase lush fields to build homes for humans,
they rip trees and plants off their roots, they force birds to abandon their
nests, deer and wolves have to flee to seek shelter elsewhere. Figuratively
speaking, don't they all weep? Such is the havoc wrought by human activity on
the environment when we act in callous and self-serving ways. We don't always
reflect on this.
The removal of RAma from Ayodhya was like the diverting of the course of a river
that has been nourishing the flora and fauna of a fertile land. Human activity
is not without consequence to our fellow creatures on the planet.
Great poets are known by their many works, but one work alone is enough to
recognize the greatest poets. Kampan is among the greatest poets of the world.
Kampan was well versed in Sanskrit. He was as familiar with the VAlmIki version
of the epic as with other philosophical writings in the primary sacred language
of the Hindus. Kampan's work is the supreme creation of a consummate poet whose
genius has few parallels in the history of world literature.
Kampan took for his theme the uplifting saga of Rama which is narrated so
powerfully in the Sanskrit cantos of VAlmIki, and he chiseled it in the language
of the Tamils with supreme artistry. So when the Tamils speak of Kampan they
have only his RAmAyaNa is mind. The work consists of nearly 13,000 verses of
four lines each, all in the same specific meter of Tamil prosody.
Others in the Tamil world had written about RAma before Kampan came. But it was
given to this towering giant of Tamil Poetry to recast the epic of RAma in his
own version with imageries that reveal him as a divinely inspired minstrel with
a command of words and visions unsurpassed by any in the Tamil world, before and
since.
He was no mere translator of the ancient bard. Like the 17th century classicists
of French literature, Kampan transformed an ancient theme with descriptions of
scenes and events intelligible to his people and times, yet maintaining a
universality in it all. Kampan's SarAyu resembles more the Krishna or the
GodAvari, and he makes Rama a vegetarian. Kampan metamorphosed the idol of the
epic from a human hero to god incarnate. Rama, for Kampan, was not just an ideal
prince, he was the Divine Principle who must be worshipped. The AzvAr poets had
already deified Rama and the bhakti movement was well in vogue when Kampan
composed his masterpiece.
There is a beauty in Kampan's poetry that no serious student of the Tamil
language can fail to feel. For this is a word-artist's work replete with
similes, word-plays, and delightful hyperboles. The work is at once ennobling
and aesthetically uplifting, even if some may find it verbose here and there.
Who was this Kampan whom the Tamil people extol as the embodiment of their
language's glory, whose musical meters and pleasing imageries bring such joy to
Tamil readers? All we know is that he was once a court poet of a Chola king, and
that he found compositions of poetic adulation of ephemeral royalty neither to
his taste nor to his deeper satisfaction. He therefore retired from the royal
splendor of the court to spend his creative energies for the work that was to
make him immortal, and which we call KamparAmAyaNam. This is not a devotional
hymn, but a literary chef d'oeuvre.
Incidentally, in ValmIki's RAmAyaNa, when RAma was leaving the capital the horde
of Brahmins who beseech him not to leave Ayodhya say that the tall trees which
cannot move were weeping with the coarse sound of the breeze, that birds on
their branches which were unable to go in search of food, were begging of the
prince to come back.

V. V. Raman
December 8, 2003

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#102 - December 12, 2003 03:43 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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originally posted in Navyashastra.


Appar and the joy of pilgrimage

manattinAl tigaittu nGALum
mANpalA nGeRikaL mElE
kanaipparAl encei kEnO
kaRaiyaNi kaNTat tAnE
tinattanai vEdanG kunDRAt
tillaicciTRambalattE
anaittunGin nilayanG kaNpAn
aDiyanEn vandavARE

The mind confused strays into wasteful ways.
What can it do when it merely brays?
Oh, the One with the throat that has a stain,
Dwelling in the little hall where Vedas reign,
Your every shrine I got to see:
Of your feet, I'm a devotee.

Reflections
This verse is from TEvAram: a sacred compendium of devotional poetry, attributed
to three of the giants of Tamil Caiva CiddAntam. The senior-most of the
triumvirate was MaruL NIkkiyAr, a saint from the VELLALa (agriculturalist)
caste. He was honored with the title of TirunAvukkaracar: King of the Sacred
Tongue, for his poems reveal a mastery of sacred language that may well be
described as being royal in stature. He lived prior to the 7th century CE, and
came to be called with reverential affection as Appar by another author of the
TEvAram.
Appar had once become a Jain, and even embraced monk's life in that tradition.
In those days, Caivism and VaishNavism were vying with Buddhism and Jainism for
the people's loyalty. The remarkable cure of his chronic stomach ailment by his
Caiva sister brought him back to the Caiva fold. After this re-conversion to the
Caiva path, Appar began to write profusely on his ardent devotion to Lord Civa.
He is known especially for a genre known as tANDakam. One of these glorifies
Civa as follows:
He is celestial, superior to all the gods.
He is Sanskrit and Tamil too, and is the four Vedas.
He is immersed in milk, He is the Master.
He is the forester who did his dance with fire in hand.
He blessed the logger.
He is the honey that seeps in the flower-heart of his devotees.
He is the Loved One beyond our reach.
He is Civa, the Beloved One who resides in Civapuram.
Appar's invocations are invariably joyous, and he is ever confident that Civa
would never abandon him. He is unusual in not asking for an end to the
birth-death cycle. In one of his works he says it is good to be born for it
gives us an opportunity to experience NaTarAja in Cidambaram. Elsewhere he
proclaims that he would worship an outcaste or a leper as long as God is in the
heart of the individual. Appar befriended Brahmins and kings too, and is
credited with the re-conversion of the Pallava King to Caivism. In another of
Appar's poems we read that Lord Civa taught Tamil to Rishi Agattiyar who is said
to have brought it to the people of the region. This story is one of the legends
that have inspired the Tamils to regard their language as divine.
It is said that the TEvAram, once sung by minstrels and inscribed on mounds of
Palmyra leaves, were lost for some centuries until portions of the hymns were
discovered by a boy-prodigy named Nambi ANDAr Nambi during the reign of King
RAja-RAja I (11th century). Tradition says that Appar had composed some 49,000
hymns, of which only a few thousand have come down to us.
The verse above (IV.23.8) is from a section entitled KOyil, which means Temple,
and actually refers to the famous one at Cidambaram, renowned for its
magnificent NaTarAja. The little hall there is where, as per sacred history,
Civa's cosmic dance is said to have occurred: the one which symbolizes the
rhythmic tumult of Cosmic Creation and Terminus, poetically far more thrilling
than the explosive fury of the Big Bang of current scientific cosmology.
Appar who traveled to every Civa temple in the land, expresses in this verse the
spiritual joy that came to him from that accomplishment. And he says that the
human mind wanders here and there in wasteful ways, unable to seek and reach
that which is of lasting value. He compares the noises we make in this brief
life-span to the braying of donkeys, for they are so devoid of meaning or
inspiration compared to the chanting of the glories of the Divine.
Aside from their spiritual significance, the hymns of Appar are among the
powerful elements that have enriched the treasure-chest of Tamil literature.


V. V. Raman
December 1, 2003

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#103 - December 12, 2003 03:45 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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originally posted in Navyashastra.


On Gratitude
nanDRI maRappady nanDRanDRu nallallAdadu
anDRE maRappadu nanDRu.

A kind deed to forget is not good.
The non-good, the same day to forget is good.

This is a simple precept from the TirukkuRaL which includes not only pithy
saying about human nature, but also useful guidelines for leading a happy life.
In the course of our lives we meet and interact with many people. We do good
things to others, and we are also the beneficiaries of the good that others
have done for us. In this couplet the poet (TiruvaLLuvar) says that is not good
to forget the kind deed that someone did for us. It is customary to give thinks
right away for an act of goodness or kindness. But it should be more than that,
says the poet. We should remember such acts for as long as we live.
On the other hand, it is also possible that some people do us wrong. In that
case, counsels the poet, it is good to forget such behavior right away. It
will guard us from harboring hate and seeking revenge. If is far better to
forget such acts right away. It may be argued that it is almost impossible to
forget the serious harm that others might have done towards us. Here what is
meant for forgetting is actually forgiving. In other words, even if we cannot
erase from our memory whatever harm was done, let us forgive and move on. Let
us, however, always remember with gratitude the positive actions of others.
Such remembrance will inspire us to do likewise: That is act with goodness
towards others.
It would be helpful if we can apply this between groups. It is no secret that
various groups, subgroups, and nations have wronged others in the past. Rather
than constantly harping on mutual hurt and hate that have been perpetrated by
previous generations, if we choose to forget (forgive) the wrongs and remember
whatever good might have come from past interactions, we will not reduce the
number of unhappy hearts in the world, and soften our urge to take revenge, but
may be able to start new and healthy relationships in building societies and a
world community. This is, of course, more easily stated than achieved. But that
is what all ideals are about: They at least remind us of loftier ways of
living, and inspire at least some people to strive towards such goals. Therein
lies that value and importance.
Note in passing two pints about this kuRaL. First, it is one of the kuRaLs
which states two opposite, yet complementing principles: The negative of not
remembering the good, and the virtue of forgetting the bad. Second, it is also
one of the kuraLs where the poet - a master in the art of playing with words
has constructed a tongue-twister with several repeated sound in it.
Non-Tamils may learn the word for gratitude (also for thanks) in Tami: nanDRi.

[Today is observed as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This KuRaL is not
inappropriate on this day.]

V. V. Raman
November 27, 2003

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#104 - December 14, 2003 03:28 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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asato mA sad gamaya
tamasomA jyotir gamaya
mRtyomA amRtam gamaya

From the unreal, lead me to the real;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to non-death.

These lines from Yajus verses appear in the BRhadAraNyaka Upanishad
(I.3.28) which is the last part of the Satapatha BrAhmaNa. Scholars regard
it as the oldest of all the extant Upanishads.
In this section it is prescribed that while the priest is reciting mantras
during a sacrifice, the sacrificer should be chanting this.However, in our
own times it has become the most widely chanted Sloka in the Hindu world,
recited by one and all in temples, at the opening of functions, and even
prior to dinner in some homes.
We may interpret the asad (unreal) as an illusory understanding of the true
nature of reality, as taking the ephemeral for the permanent and the
perishable for the never-decaying. The prayer is to enable us to understand
the deeper aspects of this passing world of experience, for in that
recognition we become wiser and more balanced in our perspectives.
Likewise tamas (darkness) may be interpreted as ignorance, not just of the
nature of physical reality as of moral rightness. The joyoti one asks for is
not just physical light that enables us to see things, but enlightenment: a
vision of life and society that respects others, that is caring and
compassionate, that is guided by reason and understanding more than by
unthinking adherence of outworn practices.
Finally, the plea to be taken from death to immortality may be seen as
wanting to be released from the cycle of birth and death and become one with
the Cosmic Whole.
I should add that these are my own interpretations of this Sloka. In the
Upanishad itself it is explained that both unreal and darkness mean death,
and both real and light mean immortality. In other words, the essence of all
the three lines, we are told, is to obtain release from death and attain
immortality.

V. V. Raman

4th April 2003

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#105 - December 14, 2003 03:29 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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asato ma sad gamaya
tamasoma jyotir gamaya
mrtyoma amrtam gamaya

From the unreal, lead me to the real;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to non-death.

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (I.3.28)

If I may most humbly add additional views from a different dimensional
point of view. For this simple verse is also one of the most
misunderstood, as the meaning lies in the esoterics and not on the
words and meanings itself. Most vedic verses have several layers of
meanings and so does this verse too. Being an aranyaka, forest esoteric
knowledge, it is a yogi's prayer and experience. This verse alone
affirms the existence of meditation in vedic times.

The verse says, "Lead me". These words convey an attitude of surrender
to the Lord, and asking for his grace. It affirms that we cannot by
ourselves and our own willpower achieve moksha. This verse affirms
the grace of god for spiritual progress. As long as we say we know the
truth, we know the way, then it shows that we dont know! It would be
the blind leading the blind. I have always held that only one who has
seen the light must lead.

By this verse alone, most of the philosophical shools of thought that
do not stress 'surrender to the Lord' and 'asking for His Grace',
falls. Those are dead schools.

The three lines makes clear that all of us are in the (relatively)
unreal impermanent world, in darkness not knowing our true nature and
destined for rebirth; and that we should surrender our efforts and
instead implore the lord to lead us to light and moksha. Implore is
worship.

Take a moment to close your eyes. What do you see? We see blackness, or
darkness. Not so for the realised person. He sees the inside of his
forehead bright with light. Even when sleeping at night with the
lights out, he will see the inside of his head bright with light. In
the beginning few weeks after 'seeing the light', he will have problems
sleeping.

This seeing of the light heralds that a person has reached an early
stage of satchitananda. It is not yet moksha. At the beginning stages
of meditation, a person sees whirling clouds of colors on the inside
of his forehead corresponding to the place where we apply the sandanam
and kumkumam. Color is light and affirms the verse above. Later he sees
many signs and visions which I cannot disclose. After a few months or
years, see sees flashes of white light inside his head, behind the
forehead, sometimes even with the eyes open. It first appears like
someone is taking a photograph of us. These flashes are like lightning
flashes.It happens spontaneously and cannot be strived for. This light
and the bliss and knowledge it brings, as well as the signs and other
worlds and beings/gods/devas/monks that we see in our meditations will
appear more real to us than this world.

Later these flashes of white light lasts longer and finally a clear
white light appears continuously. At anytime, whether walking or
watching TV, all we have to do is close our eyes and we are 'lit up'
inside our head. This produces a feeling of bliss, anandam. Finally,
the clear white light become a brilliant white light, like a thousand
suns within our head. I will not go any further on this.

But this is the esoteric meaning of the verse. First an attitude of
surrender to the lord, then asking and getting his grace, then seeing
the true reality thru meditation, of seeing the colors, flashes, clear
white light, then the beilliant white light and thereafter achieving
moksha. Thus there is worship, then meditation.


Pathmarajah Nagalingam

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#106 - December 15, 2003 03:42 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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pullAki pUDAi puzuvAi maramAki
pulvirukamAki paRavaiyAi pAmbAki
kallAi manidarAi pEyAi kaNangaLAi
vallacurarAi munivarAi dEvarAi
cellA a ninDRa ittAvara cangamattuL
ellAp piRappum piRandiLaittEn emperumAn
meyyE un ponnaDigaL kaNDu iNdrU vIDuTREn

Grass, shrub, worm, tree, have I been.
As cur, bird, and snake, I have seen.
As stone, human, ghost, and servants fine,
As strong demon, sage, and being divine:
I've been born as moving creatures on this sturdy earth.
I am tired, oh Lord, of all this birth.
In truth, seeing your golden feet today
I have attained liberation all the way.

Reflections
These lines are from MANikkavAcakar's CivapurANam which is the opening section
of his sacred TiruvAcakam. It begins with the most sacred mantra of the Caiva
tradition: namacivAya which is known as aindezuttu in Tamil or pancAksharam in
Sanskrit (five letters/syllables). This work is a profound and heart-felt
articulation of Caiva-ciddhAntam: the powerful Tamil school of spiritual
awakening that sees the ultimate source of redemption in the grace (aruL) that
the divine bestows on an individual, often through a guru. The work is a blend
of moving music, pure poetry, and lived philosophy. It is the outpouring of
the heart of one who has had genuine mystical experience. The poet had gone
through the high of divine vision, and he had also felt the pang of being shorn
away from it.
MANikkavAcakar was an infant prodigy who was summoned to become prime minister
of the realm when still quite young. It is said that when he was sent on a
mission to negotiate the purchase of horses for the king's stable, he was
distracted by the sound of invocations. Drawn to its source, he saw a sage
seated under a tree, and from him he received grace. He began to utter blessed
words in bhakti verse. Eventually he came to be called MANikkavAcakar by which
we know him today, for the name means one who speaks with gem-like words.
Note in the verse above not simply the idea of evolution from lower to higher
species, and to beyond Homo sapience, but even the transformation of inanimate
(stones) into the animate. There is also the recurring theme in Indic thought
that ultimate liberation is when one has transcended the constraining cycle of
birth-death-rebirth.
[There is some dispute in the scholarly world as to whether all of the lines in
CivapurANam were from MANikkavAcakar, but this need not detract us from the
significance of the verse.]
This verse is sometimes sung as a moving melodious piece. Some years ago, it
was my privilege to listen to the gifted vocalist M.S. Subbalakshmi sing it at
a conference held at Madras University. She kept the audience spell-bound, and
made me misty-eyed as I heard her uplifting rendition of it, for when
devotional poetry is sung in the appropriate melody, it can transport one to
spiritual ecstasy that scholarship and analysis can never aspire to.

V. V. Raman, November 20, 2003

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#107 - December 15, 2003 03:44 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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pullAki pUDAi puzuvAi maramAki
pulvirukamAki paRavaiyAi pAmbAki
kallAi manidarAi pEyAi kaNangaLAi
vallacurarAi munivarAi dEvarAi
cellA a ninDRa ittAvara cangamattuL
ellAp piRappum piRandiLaittEn emperumAn
meyyE un ponnaDigaL kaNDu iNdrU vIDuTREn

Grass, shrub, worm, tree, have I been.
As cur, bird, and snake, I have seen.
As stone, human, ghost, and servants fine,
As strong demon, sage, and being divine:
I've been born as moving creatures on this sturdy earth.
I am tired, oh Lord, of all this birth.
In truth, seeing your golden feet today
I have attained liberation all the way.


As this is an important matter, I wish to respond to this translation
in all humility and offer my views.

The way I see it, 'Aki' means 'became'. It refers to Siva who became
all this.

'Cella nindra' would mean 'Stood in all'. Here again it would refer
to Siva who stood in All. Evolving souls would never stand in all,
unless they take billions of rebirths.

The last two lines 'ella pirapum' and 'meyya un ponnadigal' forms
part of the succeeding verse and should not be confused with this
preceding verse as the succeeding verse moves away from the
discussed subject matter. Clearly in these two lines Manikavasagar
is speaking of himself.

Pirapum further implies born of the womb and this eliminates
inanimate and reptilian births which are from eggs, seeds, etc.

In my understanding the discussed verse simply says, 'Siva became
All, Stood in All, and is not speaking of the soul or its transmigration.
Souls cannot 'become'(Aki) something. Souls inhabit a body. This
would be consonant with vedic and agamic thinking where souls
transmigrating into animal bodies and inanimate objects are not
mentioned.

It is this verse that has caused a lot of confusion amoung saivites
on whether souls transmigrate thru animal bodies. If this was true,
it would be a fundamental theme in indic thoughts and would have
been discussed all over the scriptures. It would also have been
mentioned in a so comprehensive a shastra like the Tirumantram.
But that is not the case.

Humble Regards.

Pathma

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#108 - December 21, 2003 03:57 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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tat satvitur varenyam

bhargo devasya dheemahi

dhiyo yonah prachodayaat

May we meditate on the radi.ance ofthe effulgent sun!

And may She illuminate our thought processes!

As most dvija Hindus know, this is the gAyatri mantra. It first appears in Book
III (62.10) of the Rig Veda. It is attributed to Rishi VishvAmitra.

The gAyatri is an inspiring in–vocation to the sun which is referred to as the
goddess Savitri.

The recitation of the gAyatri is preceded by the utterance of the invocatory
syllable OM and the pronouncement of three other sounds, said to represent the
three Vedas :

bhur, bhuvah, svah.

After the upanayanam (investiture of the sacred thread), the practitioner is
expected to recite the gAyatri mantra a certain number of times every day.

In the Hindu tradition, the gAyatri is the most sacred and universal of all
mantras. It has been described as an incarnation in sound of the

Creative Principle of the universe. In the Bhagavad Gita (X.35) Lord Krishna
says :

gAyatri chandasAm aham.

Of all poetry, I am the gAyatri.

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (V. 14.4) explains why this mantra

is known as the gAyatri :

prANA vai gayAha; tat prAnAms tatre; ,

tad yad gaNAms tatre; tasmAd gAyatri nAma.

The gayas are the life-breath; and it (gAyatri) protects the life–breath.
Because it protects the life-breath, it is known as gAyatri.

The enormous power of the gAyatri is described in the Skanda

PurANa in the following terms :

Nothing in the Vedas is superior to the gAyatri. No invocation is
equal to it, even as no city is equal to Varanasi. The gAyatri is the mother of
the Vedas and of the Brahmins.

No other verse in all human history has been recited more often

and by more people over a long stretch of time than the gAyatri mantra. This
fact alone should evoke our reverence for it, for it endows the mantra with an
unsurpassed weight of tradition.


V.V. Raman

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#109 - December 21, 2003 03:59 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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1. ekam sad: viprâ bahudhâ vadanti

Truth (God) is one. The learned call it by different names.

This is one of the deepest insights in the context of all the religious
visions of the human family. On the one hand it affirms the most enlightened
view of the Divine as an all-embracing Cosmic Unity. On the other hand, it
reminds us of the finiteness of the human mind which can only grasp a partial
aspect of it, resulting in different descriptions. By this recognition, Vedic
seer reminds the followers of the faith that one needs to respect the deeply
felt religious modes of others as well.

2. aham brahmasmi

I am Brahman.

Hindu seers recognized the underlying spiritual substratum of the Universe,
the Cosmic Consciousness that pervades the world and that gave rise to the
physical universe. They called this Brahman. They said furthermore that every
conscious entity is a manifestation of Brahman. Spiritual enlightenment comes
when one fully internalizes this profound spiritual truth.

3. tat tvam asi

That thou art.

This is another Upanishadic expression of the aphorism 2 above. In the
Christian tradition this is expressed by the notion of imago Dei: Man being
created in the image of God.

4. akâsât patitantoyam

yadâ gacchadi sâgaram

sarvadeva namaskârah

srî kesavam pradigacchadi

As waters falling from the sky

Return to the self-same sea

Prostrations to every God

Go back to the same Divinity.

This is another expression of the enlightened religious tolerance of early
Hindu thinkers. I have recommended that this be the motto of all inter-faith and
inter-sect groups in the world.

5. prathamâ pratimâ-pűjâ

japastotrâni madhyamâ

uttamâ mânasi pűjâ

soh'am pűjottanottamâ

First is image worship;

Next is the reciting of God's names.

Higher still is meditation;

Realizing I AM HE, is the highest of all.

Worshipping God through various symbols is a necessary initiation into
spiritual life. Reciting in words the splendor of the Divine through the various
attributes of the Divine (japa) enables us to get a deeper understanding of the
nature of the Divine. Meditation links our individual minds to the Cosmic Whole.
Ultimately comes a full recognition that we are but a spark of the effulgent
Brahman.

V.V. Raman

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#110 - December 21, 2003 04:00 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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BrahmA and Brahman

1. BrahmA, in the Hindu cosmological framework, is the Principle of Creation of
the Universe. BrahmA is also associated with interesting mythologies in Puranic
literature. Sarasvati is His consort. As a noun, the word Brahma is masculine.

2. Brahman, in the Upanishadic framework, is the spiritual substratum of the
Universe whose material manifestation is the world of experience and whose local
experiencing entities are individual consciousnesses. As a word, Brahman is
neuter.

3. In the Mundaka Upanishad we read:

brahA devAnAm prathamah sambabhUva

vishvasya kartA bhuvanasya goptA

Brahma arose as the first among the Gds.

He is the creator of the univserse

And the protector of the world.

There it also says,

sa brahma-vidyAm sarva-vidyA-pratishtAm

atharvAya jyeshtha-putrAya prAha.

He taught the knowledge of Brahman,

The foundation of all knowledge

to His eldest sin Atharvan.

4. Thus, Aham Brahmasmi refers to Brahman.

V.V. Raman

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#111 - December 21, 2003 04:01 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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From the Brahmavaivarta PurANa:

jńAnam dehi, smrtam dehi

vidhyAm vidhyAdi devate

pratishtam kavitam dehi

shaktim sikshyA prabodhikam.

Bless me with knowledge and with memory,

Oh Source of all Knowledge!

Bless me with perseverance and poetry,

And the ability to instruct students.

We see here a clear recognition of the role of memory in the learning process.
In traditional Hindu educational framework, memorization played an important
role. For example, children had to learn multiplication tables and shlokas by
heart. We also see in this prayer an expression of the commitment to education
and to the spread of knowledge. Reverence for knowledge has always been an
element in the Hindu cultural framework.

We note in the imagery of Sarasvati that the intellectual dimensions of culture
(knowledge, music, art) is not a male prerogative. This attitude follows from
recognizing that we learn our first words and wisdom and from our mothers.


V.V. Raman

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#112 - December 21, 2003 04:02 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Theologians sometimes argue about whether God is Man or Woman. In this
context, a verse in the Atharva Veda has this to say:

tvam strI - tvam pumAn asi

tvam kumAra - uta vA kumArI

tvam jIrno dandena vancasi

tvam jAto bhavasi vishvato mukhah (AV X: 8.27)

Thou art a woman, Thou art a man;

Thou art a boy, thou art a girl;

Thou art an old man tottering with a crutch

Thou existest at the start of all.

This verse describes the divine as man, as woman, as boy, as girl, as a person
in the evening of life. It is a remarkable vision of God as being with the
individual, male and female, all through life, from the youngest to the final
stage, beginning with the very beginning.

9. In the Tamil world, the maxims of AuvaiyAr are introduced to children as the
first system of ethical code to guide them through life. This is perhaps the
only tradition in the world where the preaching of a woman is taken as the
starting point of guidance for all of life. AuvaiyAr's sayings are pithy and
pregnant with insight and they never take us to nebulous metaphysics, making us
wonder why people clutter their minds with so many ethereal talk when the
meaningful principles of proper conduct are so easy to follow. The first thing
that children are taught in the Tamil world is:

Annaiyum pitAvum munnaRi daivam

Mother and father are the first God to be known.

Given that God is the source of our life, our protector when we are weak
and in need of assistance, and blesses us understanding and guidance, what
better gods can a young one have other than one's parents? This is the idea that
is instilled in the child.


V.V. Raman

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#113 - December 21, 2003 04:03 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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vedAham etam purusham mahAntam

Aditya varNam tamasah parastAt

tam eva viditvA atimrtyum eti

nAnyah panthA vidyate yanAya

I have known the Magnificent Purusha

Of Sun-like color (brightness), transcending darkness.

It is by knowing him alone that one goes beyond death.

No other path there to go there.

This is a very important Vedic utterance which is also found in the
ShvetAshvatara Upanishad (III:10). It is significant for at least three reasons:
First, it shows clearly that the rishis were not just theorizing, but uttering
profoundly felt experiences. This is not a philosophical statement, but a
vouching for spiritual ecstasy. Secondly, it tells us that for ultimate
liberation (that is what is meant by "going beyond death") one needs to have
that first-hand awareness of brahman. Finally, it reminds us that spiritual
experience can never be had through books and intellectual analysis. There is no
other mode of attaining that state than the yogic spiritual path.

V.V. Raman

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#114 - December 21, 2003 04:04 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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gaNAnAM tvA gaNapatiM

kaviM kavInAm upamakSa vastamam

jyayeshtharAjaM brahmaNAM bhrmaNasta

A naH SruNvannUtimiH sodasAdanam

Oh Lord of the gaNAs, we invoke Thee.

Oh Poet of poets, the most reputed of all!

Senior king of spiritual wisdom, Lord of spiritual knowledge,

Listen to us with Thy grace, be seated at our altar.

This prayer occurs in the Rig Veda (II:23.1). It is addressed to GaNapati,
whose name literally means Lord of the GaNas. It is well known that GaNapati
(GaNesha) is the primary deity in Hindu worship. Invocation of his name is done
at the beginning of all undertakings.

In Hindu mythopoesie, a class of minor deities at the service of Lord
Siva are known as gaNas.. Thus, gaNapati literally means lord of the gaNas.

But the word gaNa also stands for class, set, or category. From this point
of view, the name GaNapati becomes, lord of the categories. In mathematical
terms we may look upon this as the Set of all Sets.

The Sanskrit root gaN also refers to counting, numbering, enumerating. In fact,
gaNitaSAstra stands for mathematics. This makes GaNapata the Lord of Numbers.

Since categorization and numbering are both characteristics of the intellect,
GaNapati is also considered to be the supreme principle governing our
intellectual grasp of the world, the basis of all the fundamental conceptual
categories in terms of which we reckon the world.

Thus this invocation may be raken as a meditation to encompass the totality of
the universe, as in another aphorism:

viSvarUpa iti dhyAnaH: The totality of the universe is grasped by meditation.

[Please note that I use S for the first sha and sh for the second in the
Sanskrit alphabet.]

V. V. Raman

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#115 - December 21, 2003 04:06 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Nuggets from the SAstras
akAmo dhIro amrtaH svayaMbhU

rasena trpto na kutaScanonaH

tameva vidvAn na vibhAya mrtyor

AtmAnaM dhIram ajaraM yuvAnam

Without desire, steady, deathless, self-existent,

Linked to the essence, lacking naught: He is.

Who knows Him thus, fears not death,

The soul is firm, ageless, youthful.

In this verse from the Atharva Veda (X: 8.44) we see a recurring view in the
Hindu vision of the spritual life, and of human efforts to reach the Divine. It
looks of the Supreme as that which is without any desire, which is for ever
unperturbed, which is immortal, and which was not caused to exist. Furthermore,
a little that Supreme principle flickers in each of us as conscious beings, for
the Atman (soul) that is in each of us has these attributes too. Recognition of
this fact erases from our thoughts any fear of death.

V. V. Raman

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#116 - December 21, 2003 04:07 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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namo brahmaNe

namaste vAyu

tvam eva pratyaksham brahmAsi

tvam eva pratyaksham brahma vadisyAmi

RtaM vadishyAmi

satyam vadishyAmi

tam mAm avatu

tad vaktAram avatu

avatu mAm

avatu vaktAram

Aum SAnti Santi SAntiH

Salutations brahman

Salutations to vAyu (the Wind).

Thou indeed are the perceptible brahman.

Of Thou as the perceptible brahman, I will speak.

I will speak of that which is right.

I will speak of that which is true.

May it protect me!

May it protect him that speaks.

Om, peace! peace! peace!

This is part of the opening verse of the TaittirIya Upanishad. It sees in the
wind (the absolute essential for life) a material manifestation of brahman, the
sustainer of all life. It makes a promise to utter only that which is morally
right, and to speak of only that which is the truth. In other words, this is a
resolution to engage only in moral discourse, and also never to speak of
anything that is untrue. It seeks the protection of the Divine, not only for the
aspirant but for all who are committed to moral uprightness and to the truth.

[This message has been edited by Webmaster (edited February 20, 2006).]

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#117 - December 21, 2003 04:08 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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Nuggets from the scriptures

yathemAM vAcaM kalyANim

AvadAni janebhyaH

brahma rAjanyAbhyAM

SUdrAya cAryAya ca

svAya cAraNAya ca

These words auspicious(Vedic mantras)

May I speak to all the people.

To the Brahmin, the kSatriya,

to the shudra, and to the Arya,

to my own people and to AraNyas too.

The thrust of this verse in the Yajur Veda (26.16) is that the wisdom of the
Vedas should be available to one and all. Arya generally referred to the first
three varNas, and here AraNyas, meaning people in the forests, could mean people
beyond the orbit of the Sanskritic culture. From this perspective we may take
this verse to mean a call to proclaim the scriptures to one and all, as Saint
Ramanuja did.


V.V. Raman

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#118 - December 24, 2003 07:55 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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mannanum mAsarakkatrOnum chIr thUkkin

mannanir chirappudaiyAn katrOne

mannanirkku tan desamilla chirappillai

katrOnukku chendravidam ellAm chirappu.

If prince and scholar for fame are weighed,

To the latter's side the scale is swayed.

The king has no greatness if not in his land,

Where'er he goes, the scholar is grand.

The wisdom of Hindu thinkers finds expression, not only in sacred Sanskrit, but
in the many other languages of India as well. The one cited above is from a
Tamil poet who reminds us that that if we compare the relative greatness of the
powerful one and learned one, the latter is by far superior. And he makes his
point very simply. If a person goes to a place where he has no power, there will
be no more honoring and subservience for the person. However, no matter where a
scholar goes, he/she will always be recognized and respected. The greatness
that arises from knowledge and wisdom is of far more universal worth. This is
one of the values that we need to instill in children.


V.V. Raman

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#119 - December 24, 2003 07:56 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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maitrI karuNA mudita upekshANAM

sukha duHkha puNya apuNyA

vishayANam bhAvanAtaH

citta prasAdanam

Friendliness toward the happy, compassion toward the unhappy, delight at the
virtuous, and indifference to the wicked: these attitudes bring calmness to the
mind.

This is from Patanjali's YogasUtra (I:33) which is the classic treatise on
the theory and practice of Yoga. Yoga is one of the most powerful and insightful
techniques for the exploration of the inner world of human existence and the
attainment of the elusive mental peace. The YogasUtras expound the psychological
and metaphysical bases of the yoga system. The work, in four parts, also
includes practical modes for attaining inner peace even for those who may not
pursue the esoteric path of spirituality. Thus, in the above sUtra (aphorism)
very simple steps are given for maintaining calm and serene in life. We need to
be cheerful and friendly towards those who are happy, rather than be envious of
them. We must show compassion to the less fortunate rather than be insensitive
or negligent of their suffering. Finally, we should learn to ignore, rather than
judge or be critical of those we seem to be instigated by wickedness. One may
argue that the last item is not appropriate for we should not be indifferent to
the wickedness in the world. Rather, we should take up arms against evil. It is
important to remember that the goal of the YogasUtras is not to make this a
better world, but to enable the practitioner to attain yogic calmness. In that
context, indifference to evil is an appropriate attitude. Another interpretation
could be that we should keep away from evil-minded people.

V. V. Raman

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#120 - December 24, 2003 07:57 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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jAti pati pUchai na koi

hari ko bhajhe so hari ka koi

AisI vANI boliye - man kA ApA khoye

apnA tan SItal kare - auran ko sukh hoye

Caste-connections, let no one ask;

Who invoke the Lord, become part of Him.

Speak such words, let go of pride

Keep your mind cool, may (your) listener be happy.

These are two dohas (couplets) of the 15th century mystic poet Bhakta Kabir.
Though born of a lowly class and rejected as such, he was later accepted as a
disciple by the saintly Ramananda. The poet is reminding us in the first doha
that for spiritual enlightenment what ultimately matters is not one's caste
affiliation, but devotion to God. In the second, he is suggesting that when we
talk to others we should nor be boastful and excited about ourselves. Rather we
should keep our minds calm, and speak in such a manner that those we bring joy
to those who listen to us. In classical Indian literature many poets and sages
conveyed wisdom and insights on life and religion through pithy couplets such as
the above.

V. V. Raman

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#121 - December 24, 2003 07:57 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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bhadraM karNebhiH SruNuyAm devA

bhadraM paSyem AkSabhir yajatrAH

sthirair aGgais tushTuvAMsas tanUbhir

vyaSema devahitaM yad AyuH

That which is good (auspicious), may we hear with our ears, O God!

That which is good, may we see with out eyes, O Holy Ones!

With steady limbs and bodies, singing hymns to you

May we pass the divinely set term of life.

This verse is from the Rig Veda (I. 89:8). It is an appeal to the Almighty to
bless us with the opportunity to hear only good things, to see only good things,
and to speak only good words (sing the glories of the Almighty). Recall the
Japanese dictum: hear no evil, see no, speak no evil. This Vedic invocation may
be looked upon as a positive way of expressing similar sentiments. The prayer
here is to enable us to hear only the good, see only the good, and speak only
the good (God'a name).


[But the three monkies of Nikko are from an ancient Japanese tradition. The monkeys are known as Mikazaru (Hear no evil), Mizaru (See no evil), and Mazaru (Speak no evil) in Japan.]

V.V. Raman

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#122 - December 24, 2003 07:58 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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bhUrasi bhUmirasya ditirasi viSvadhAyA

viSvasya bhuvanasya dhartrI

pRthivIM yaccha pRthivIM dRMha

pRthivIM mA hiMsiH

Thou art earth! The earth is vast, all-nourishing.

She supports all creatures.

Such an earth neither hurts (us),

Nor is injurious (to us).

This verse in the Yajur Veda (vAjasaneyI saMhitA:13) It is a sensitive
expression of our gratitude to the planet which is our home in the cosmos. More
insightfully it describes the earth as supporting all creatures. It reminds us
of the line in the Old Testament where it says: "Speak to the earth, and it
shall teach thee;" and of the ancient Greek poet who explained: "Pammitor gI,
chaire!: Hail earth, Mother of all!" According to the TaittirIya BrAhmaNa, the
earth was formed by the spreading of a fragment, and hence is called bhUmi (that
which became). That the earth neither hurts nor is injurious may be interpreted
to mean that the planet and its physical environment are conducive to life and
its well-being. Any harm that might come to us on our planet would be our own
doing.

V. V. Raman

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#123 - December 24, 2003 08:00 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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tunbu uLadu enin andrO sugam uLadu?

Is it not because there is sorrow that there is also happiness?

This line is from Kamba RAmAyaNam (II: 7-43). Rama says this to Guha when the
latter is sad at the thought of Rama leaving him behind. What is to be noted
here is that it is the opposite of what we are often reminded of in swami-talks.
One often hears something to the effect that all our enjoyment and pleasure will
pass away, that happiness will yield to sorrow, etc. Though the intent is to
develop an attitude of detachment (which has spiritual value), the implication
is also that we must not enjoy good times too much, because bad times will
surely follow. Here, on the other hand, we hear just the opposite of the
turning-away-from-life attitude. Rama reminds us that both hapiness and sadness
are part of life, that one cannot exist without the other. More importantly we
are told that we must accept an unhappy event when it occurs, bearing in mind
that there will come a time when gloom and grief will give way to good cheer
and joy. This optimistic and life-affirming principle is also part of
enlightened Hindu thinking, but it is not as often emphasized.

V. V. Raman

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#124 - December 24, 2003 08:00 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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purANamityeva na sAdhu sarvaM

na cApi kAvyaM navamitya vadyam

santaH parIkshAnyatarad bhajante

mUdhaH parapratyayaneya buddhiH

All that's old is not (necessarily) good;

Nor wisdom not to be so called, just because it is new.

The wise examine both and accept (whatever is worthy)

Fools (accept) on others' understanding and intelligence.

These lines are from the illustrious Sanskrit poet KAlidAsa's comedy entitled
MAlavika Agnimitra which tells about king Agnimitra's love for the beautiful
MAlavika. The lines quoted above are very insightful, and very relevant in the
context of the cultural re-discovery of a people. What KAlidAsa is stating here
is that it is not wise to think that something is to be accepted simply because
it has been repeated for a long time in the tradition; or that, just because
someone of our age says something (which contradicts an ancient writing), it is
not deserving of respect. People with intelligence, he goes on to say, use their
own reasoning and appraisal in judging something, whereas the not very bright
ones (he calls them fools) will let their minds be formed by what others,
preferably of ancient times, have said. It is very important to remember these
words of wisdom when we revisit the writings of our ancient thinkers. Sadly, in
our own times, most thinkers derive all their intellectual nourishment from
ancestral writings. This is not to say that we should not benefit from the
wisdom and visions of the great thinkers of the past - of which there is plenty.
But when we twist and turn to justify every ancient aphorism because it was
articulated by some scholar or law-giver of the past, or when go back to ancient
writings to prove that the results of modern science may be found there, then it
is somewhat unfortunate.

V. V. Raman

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#125 - December 24, 2003 08:02 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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pUrNam adaH pUrNam idam

pUrnAt pUrNam udatcyate

pUrNasya pUrnam Adaya

pUrNam eva vaSishyate

Complete is that; Complete is this.

Out of the Complete, the Complete emerges.

From the Complete, (when) the Complete is taken,

The Complete still remains.

This is the opening reflection of ISA Upanishad, also known as ISAvasya
Upanishad. It is among the more frequently recited Sloka in the Hindu world.
Priests recite it on auspicious occasions and worshipers recite it after doing
the Arati.

This Sloka may be interpreted as the exclamation of one who has had a mystical
experience in which one recognizes perfection (pUrNam) all around: here, there,
and everywhere. One sees the entire cosmos as a manifestation of the Fullness,
Completeness, Perfection. And though this vast universe has emerged from the
boundless Supreme, the latter remains unaffected by it.

If we replace the term complete/full (pUrNam) by infinity, the Sloka ex–presses
the mathematical insight that infinity came come out of infinity, and that
infinity minus infinity is again infinity.

Hindu thinkers envisioned the Divine as That which is without end (ananta) and
without beginning (anAdi), like the number system (positive and negative). They
salso considered various categories of infinity, like nominal infinity
(referring to extraordinary greatness), epistemic infinity (referring to
enormous knowledge), one dimensional infinity (observation along an
uninterrupted line of sight), numeric infinity (fraction with zero in the
denominator) and temporal infinity (eternity).

V. V. Raman

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#126 - December 24, 2003 08:03 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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sarveSAM yah suhrt nityam

sarveSAM ca hite ratah

karmaNA manasA vAcA

sa dharmaM veda jAjale

Who to all is always good-hearted,

And whose actions, thoughts, and words

Are to all beneficent and pleasing:

He (such a one) knows dharma, O jAjali.

These words, spoken by TolAdhAra to JAjali in the MahAbhArata (SAnti parva:
254.9) give a very simple and practical approach to dharma. It says that
adherence to dharma essentially calls for thoughts, words, and deeds that always
have only positive impacts on one and all. Our thoughts must be good-hearted
(i.e. kindly), our actions must result in some benefits, and our words must
bring joy to others. If members of a society conduct themselves in accordance
with these criteria, dharma will reign in that society, and everybody will be
happy. Hindu wisdom, conveyed through simple declarations like this, are far
more meaningful and appealing to people at large, and have greater universality,
than long discourses on spirituality.

[JAjali was the name of a teacher in the MahAbhArata.

V. V. Raman

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#127 - December 24, 2003 08:04 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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AtmaSIlasya dRDhatAńced caritraM jńAtumicchasi

manasyAlokya caritAni svakIya anyavadhArayeH

lokaviSrutamAnena jńAyatekasyacid yaSaH

ISvaro yad vijAnAti caritraM kathyate budhaiH

If you wish to know and confirm for yourself your own nature,

Think of what worldly deeds you'd do if others wouldn't know.

What the world hears and knows about a man is his fame.

What God knows about him is his character.

These lines are from AGgirasa smRti.

the author of Hymns IX of the Rig Veda was known as aGgiras was . He is also
credited with the authorship of a code of laws and a treatise on astronomy.
Mythologically, he was one of the saptarishi. It is not clear if the various
aGniras refer to the same personage. In any event, this statements reminds us
that while one may fool the world with postures and façade, one can never
escape the judgment of one's own conscience which, in a way, may be looked upon
as the eye of God implanted in each one of us. This wisdom of this insight may
be seen in the quip, "Character is what you do when you are alone."

V.V. Raman

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#128 - December 24, 2003 08:06 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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vinamapi rajani sAyaM prAtaH

SiSira vasantau punar AyAtaH

kAlaH krIDati gacchati AyuH

tadapi na suńcatyASAvAyuH

They surely come and go, night and evening

Winter and spring arrive again and again.

Time is sporting, and life goes on.

And yet, covetous hope doesn't go away.

This is verse 12 in SankarAcArya's Bhajagovindam. Two important insights are
expressed here: First, the saint refers poetically to the ceaseless progression
of time, reminding us in the process of the impermanence of human experiences.
Indeed, this is a central theme throughout the work, where we are also told that
it is by invoking the Divine that we will become one with the ever-lasting.
Next, the sage refers to the common human psychological plight: even with
advancing years, even after realizing the ephemeral nature of things, most
people are attached to things that give them physical pleasure. Such is the
condition of people who have ignored the spiritual dimension of existence.

V. V. Raman

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#129 - December 24, 2003 08:07 PM Re: Hindu Gems
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nAsad Asin nosad Asit tadAniM

nAsid rAjo no vyomA paro yat

kim AvarIvaH kuha kasya

SArmanambhaH kim aAsid gahanM gabhIram

na mRtyur Asid aMRtaM na tarhi

na rAtryA ahna Asit praketaH

Anid avAtaM svadhayA tad ekaM tasmAd

hAnyan napataH kiM canAsa

Thus begin the famous nAsadIya sUkta (Creation Hymn) of the Rk Veda (X-129)
which consist of seven stanzas. There are many English versions of this. None of
them can fully convey the grandeur and majesty of the original. Translations of
great works, especially by sages and seers, are like pale imitations in papier
mache of magnificent sculptures of the masters in marble and granite. But they
are worthwhile efforts to convey the essence of the work to those who don't have
the benefit of a knowledge of the original language. That is the only excuse for
my own translation of the whole which I give below:

HYMN OF CREATION

Not even nothing existed then

No air yet, and no heaven.

Who encased and kept it where?

Was water in the darkness there?

Neither deathlessness nor decay

Nor the rhythm of night and day:

The self-existent, with breath sans air:

That, and that alone was there.

Darkness was in darkness found

Like light-less water all around.

One emerged, with nothing on

It was from heat that this was born.

In it did Desire, its way did find:

The primordial seed, born of mind.

Sages know deep in the heart:

What exists is kin to what does not.

Across the void the cord was thrown,

The place of every thing was known.

Seed-sowers and powers now came by,

Impulse below and force on high.

Who really knows, and who can swear,

How creation arose, when or where!

Even gods came after creation's day,

Who really knows, who can truly say

When and how did creation start?

Did He do it? Or did He not?

Only He up there knows, maybe;

Or perhaps, not even He.

This is as profound a poetic vision of Creation as any in the lore and legacies
of humankind. It is remarkable how the rishi in deep meditation reveals to us
the glimpse of cosmogenesis that he derived from his own meditation. Many
scholars and philosophers have analyzed and commented upon this marvelous
reflection which reveals the penetrating power of the seer. What has impresses
us here is the subtle skepticism at the end. The enlightened thinker know that
when it comes to ultimate questions, none of us can be very sure. So this
reflection could be interpreted as saying that when we as mortals make
statements about the origin and the end of the universe, or about God and the
hereafter, we can never be absolutely certain. Some have also translated the
last phrase, yadi vA na veda aTha ko veda as if he does not know, then who
knows?

Another profound idea mentioned here:

arvAgdevA asya visarjanenAThA

ko veda yata AbabhUva (verse 6):

Even gods came after creation's day,

Who really knows, who can truly say.

The idea here, as I see it, is that all descriptions, representations, and
conceps of the Divine came only after the creation of the universe and of the
human form in it.

V.V. Raman

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