Friday, September 25, 2009

मृदङ्गो मुखलेपेन करोति मधुरध्वनिम् l

Social etiquette often requires that we give small gifts to please friends, relatives, or business contacts. If people we are visiting have young children, we invariably take some sweets or chocolates for them. This is an easy way to make friends with them.

Children often share their lunch-boxes with their friends, or with those they want to make friends with. Even adults find that inviting a person to dinner is the easiest way to establish a good relationship with him.

Obliging someone encourages him to help you, or to agree with your viewpoint.

This verse from Bhartrihari's Nitishatakam tells us about this tendency-

को न याति वशं लोके मुखे पिण्डेन पूरितः l
मृदङ्गो मुखलेपेन करोति मधुरध्वनिम् ll

Is there anyone on this earth (लोके) who can not be won over (न याति वशं) after being fed (मुखे पिण्डेन पूरितः)?

Even a Mridanga (मृदङ्गः - a type of musical instrument similar to a drum) produces (करोति ) melodious sounds (मधुरध्वनिम्) after a paste made from rice is applied to its mouth (मुखलेपेन).

[The literal meaning of मुखे पिण्डेन पूरितः would be 'whose mouth is filled with a ball of rice']

[In Sanskrit the word Mridanga is masculine, hence मृदङ्गः, not मृदङ्गम् ]

Today, however, 'feeding someone' is being taken to an extreme level.

In government offices, it is necessary to keep on 'feeding' people at various levels of authority, to get anything done. A friend was telling me about a clerk lady in a government office, who kept a small statue of Ganesha on her desk. If anyone wanted their file to go from her desk to the officer's for his signature, they had to make some offering (in an envelope) to the desk Ganesha first!

This habit of being fed and feeding, has reached epic proportions in government and bureaucratic circles. Ministers and government employees have become modern-day Bakaasuras devouring as much as they can get their hands on. People know that not a single file will move or a single signature made, without the government officals being 'satisfied' first.

The Economic Times says that 'at least 30 per cent of 2,742 business executives surveyed across the world regard Indians among the most corrupt when doing business abroad to "speed things up", according to a report by an NGO, Transparency International India (TII). '

So we are even exporting this habit of 'feeding' people to get results!

(Picture of Mridanga- courtesy Wikipedia commons)

Friday, September 18, 2009

उद्यमेन हि सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि न मनोरथैःl

It is said that you cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.

This same sentiment is conveyed through the lines of the following Subhaashit.

उद्यमेन हि सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि न मनोरथैः l
न हि सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य प्रविशन्ति मुखे मृगाः ll

If any work (कार्याणि) is to be accomplished (सिध्यन्ति), strong efforts are required (उद्यमेन).
(We cannot achieve an aim) merely by desiring (मनोरथैः) its completion.

Animals (मृगाः) will not enter (न प्रविशन्ति) a sleeping lion's (सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य) mouth (मुखे) on their own.

A lion certainly has the ability to catch its prey, and it may also have the desire to do so. But it is also necessary that it makes the effort.

Merely wishing something to happen, will not work. Hard efforts are required. This is something that many people do not seem to understand.

I have observed that a baby- just a few months old- will extend his hand and wave it in the direction of a toy that he wants, as if willing the toy to come to him. But when he realizes that this does not work, he starts crawling to reach it himself.

This lesson that a baby can understand seems to elude many adults, though.

We observe in society that people prefer to take the 'easy way out'. Instead of complying with the rules- which may take some effort- people prefer to bribe their way through any situation.

A hard-working person is frequently subjected to ridicule- as if working the minimum required, and trying to get 'a free lunch', is a desired situation.

But there is certainly a difference between something achieved through our own efforts, and something achievement through bribery.

A few days ago I turned on the television in the early morning. A Sadhvi was giving an exposition- and was advising viewers to recite a short Shloka.

It would take just a short time- she said. And the person reciting it would gain great spiritual benefit- "कम भक्ति में जादा लाभ l"

I am quoting her exact words here- "कम भक्ति में जादा लाभ l" So now spirituality offered basement bargains, too!

I wonder what the Sadhus of earlier ages- who used to do तप for years- would have thought of this attitude? And what quality of लाभ (gain) would this be, if not much effort was required to obtain it?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Speaking With a Forked Tongue

It is generally said that politicians habitually speak with a forked tongue- implying that they say one thing and mean another. They behave in a duplicitous manner. They say one thing but do something very different.

A few weeks ago 'in the backdrop of the drought situation which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described as "bad", Congress and UPA government planned to go on austerity mode with party chief Sonia Gandhi asking her MPs and MLAs to accept a 20 per cent cut in salaries for a year'.

But it appears that two of the government's own ministers, Krishna and Tharoor 'have been staying in five-star hotels, in the national capital for the past three months in the absence of official accommodation'.

Also, a 'near revolt in the cabinet has forced the PM to loosen the austerity belt'.

And now Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has said that 'he believes a politician has a “duty” to lead an austere life at all times'.

Saying one thing and doing another is not a new tendency. But today, we tend to justify it.

In earlier times the tendency of a good or righteous person to think, speak, and act in the same manner was extolled.

This is evident in the following Subhaashit.

यथा चित्तं तथा वाचो यथा वाचस्तथा क्रियाः l
As (their) thoughts are, so is (their) speech, as their speech is, so are their actions,

चित्ते वाचि क्रियायां च साधूनामेकरूपता ll
Thus, the thoughts, the words, and the actions of good/ righteous persons are identical.

I think we could do with some such persons in Indian politics today!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Wisdom in Condensed Form

There are many references to fools, in Sanskrit Subhaashits. Several Subhaashits tell us that it is easy to explain something to an ignorant person, and even easier to explain something to a learned one. But it is very difficult to explain anything to someone who is wilfully foolish.

Just how difficult, is illustrated in the two Subhaashits that I am posting today. These are from the Niti Shatakam by the philosopher-poet Bhartrihari (भर्तृहरि).

Bhartrihari is the author of a tripartite work of Sanskrit verses known as the Shatakatraya- comprising of the Shringar Shatakam, the Niti Shatakam, and the Vairagya Shatakam. These are verses concerning personal life, social life and spirituality respectively.

We can read about Bhartrihari here and here.

प्रसह्य मणिमुद्धरेन्मकरवक्रदंष्ट्राकुरात्
Perhaps it would be possible for a person to wrest a jewel from the jaws of a crocodile,
समुद्रमपि संतरेत्प्रचलदूर्मिमालाकुलम् l
It would even be possible to cross the high tidal waves of an ocean,
भुजंगमपि कोपितं शिरसी पुष्पवद्धारयेत्
It would even be feasible to place an angry serpent on the head as one would place a flower,
न तु प्रतिनिविष्टमूर्खजनचित्तमाराधायेत् ll
But it would be impossible for anyone to explain something to a wilfully foolish person so that he is satisfied.

Bhartrihari further illustrates-

लभेत सिकतासु तैलमपि यत्नतः पीडयन्
Maybe it would be possible to obtain oil by grinding grains of sand,
पिबेच्च मृगतृष्णिकासु सलिलं पिपासार्दितः l
A thirsty person could drink water from a mirage and satisfy his thirst,
कदाचिदपि पर्यटञ्शशविषाणमासाधयेत्
It would even be easy to find the horn of a hare after searching for a while,
न तु प्रतिनिविष्टमूर्खजनचित्तमाराधायेत् ll
But it would be impossible for anyone to explain something to a wilfully foolish person so that he is satisfied.

An obstinately foolish person walks around with blinkers on his eyes. He is determined not to see things from the viewpoint of any one else. He is sure that only he is correct and all others are wrong. And nothing will convince him otherwise. We frequently notice such people in society.

Bhartrihari has given such interesting and creative examples (दृष्टान्त) to illustrate his point! We see that he has managed to convey what he wants to say, with dry humour, in just a few lines .

These verses are observations on social life in a compact form. Or we could call them condensed worldly wisdom!