Self Confidence Vs Overconfidence


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Confidence can be a powerful virtue and a true friend during times of doubt or crisis. Heroes have overcome obstacles and disasters by the sheer strength of self-reliance. Some admittedly great men who chose to be arrogant paved way for their downfall and defeat.

The Ramayana shows the contrast between the two sides of this wonderful quality through the character of the king of Lanka. Ravana was a staunch devotee of lord Shiva. He wanted to spend all his time in the company of the lord. His royal duties and ambitions came in the way of his deep desire. Therefore he decided to take a middle path that would allow him to have the best of both the worlds. Accordingly, he performed a vigorous penance. When Shiva manifested himself in front of him, he expressed his prayer. Shiva was amused by the naiveté of his devotee who seemed to take him for granted. All the same Shiva did not want to disappoint Ravana. Hence Ravana was given an Atma-Lingam which housed the Soul of Shiva. Even as the king of Lanka reveled at his blessings, and was ready to leave for Lanka, Lord Shiva cautioned him to be careful about handling the Atma Lingam. The lord said that, if the Atma-Lingam was ever placed on the ground during the transit, it would be rooted to the spot. When one observes this clause closely, it will not be difficult to see that Ravana was being tested on two counts – his devotion and determination. Ravana accepted the condition without any hesitation for he saw no threat to breach the stipulation. He proceeded towards Lanka in wind speed.

The gods became apprehensive about the potential power of the already potent king. Ganesha was commissioned to intervene and abort his venture. The elephant god manifested himself as a Brahmin boy and offered to be Ravana’s assistant and hold the Linga while the king completed his ablutions. When Ravana was doing his job, Vinayaka tarried a while, called out to the king and then placed the idol on the ground and vanished. The angered devotee had to garner all his demoniac strength to break off a portion of the Atma Lingam.

If only Ravana had substituted self confidence instead of over confidence he would have been able to retain his hard earned blessings and remained indomitable with all his wonderful talents and qualities.

Test of Truth


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Sometimes, the truths that we know or believe in can be pretty hard to establish for want of witnesses or proof. The societal values, the situation, place and time eventually end up delivering a verdict which may or may not measure up to universal justice. Different places in the world have diverse religions, belief sets and values framed on the basis of the native environment. The person at the receiving end of the situation ends up with a raw deal because his contemporaries cannot see beyond their nose. The victims and martyrs of such situations have always had unique ways of ascertaining their stand.

Panditha Jagannatha, a Sanskrit court poet of Mughal emperor Jahangir, fell in love with a Muslim maiden who he called Lavangika. The Brahmin community was aghast by the affair. They could not dissuade the already married poet from having a relationship with the Muslim woman. Eventually, Jagannatha was excommunicated and exiled. The sad poet went to Kashi. He realised that he would not be able to make his contemporaries realise the genuineness of his feelings. Hence, he decided to launch his test of truth. He sat on the fifty-third step of Panchaganga Ghat and started singing the paeans to river Ganga. He emphasised on the power of the mighty river which could liberate the worst among sinners. It is said that with the composition of each stanza, the waters rose by one step and touched his feet. The poet felt vindicated by the divine touch. The people around him realised that he was earnest about his feelings though they did not acknowledge the same.

Even now, people swear by the truth by taking the names of those they truly love. When we wonder about it and question ourselves what makes us do what we do, we are likely to realise that we are trying to connect what we believe as truth in what we believe in as truth. Most of the times, we resort to this method to reiterate our beliefs. If we, who live in this technologically advanced world, adopt this method, imagine what it must have been like for the people who did not have the privilege.

TIME AND TIDE WAIT FOR NONE


This story was published in the student edition of Deccan Herald on

18th December 2018

“ I will start studying from New Year”, “ I will clean up my room from the first of January”, “ I will continue with my Guitar classes from 2019”,  “ I  will  stop playing with the smart phone after I check all the new year greetings on Whatsapp”, “ I will not touch chocolates, cakes and chips after the New Year party.” Perhaps one of these or many more such lines are doing the rounds. Are you also making some such promise to yourself? The spirit of festive season can certainly have a very therapeutic and rejuvenating effect on people. Hence it is no wonder everyone is filled with the enthusiasm to make resolutions towards personal betterment. Well, there is nothing wrong with the zeal. After all new beginnings have a way of bringing positive changes and progress.

By the way, do you remember the story of “The Hare and the Tortoise”? Once the two animals were talking to each other and suddenly the hare started making fun of the tortoise for its slow gait. The tortoise laughed with the hare for a while but soon became very angry and upset. Therefore he told the hare that the two of them could enter a race which would decide the winner. The hare laughed at the idea for he was sure that he would win hands down. Nevertheless, he agreed to enter the race because he wanted to snub the tortoise for his overconfidence. On the day of the race, the two creatures set out from the start line. After a minute or two, the hare decided to rest for a while, and catch up later. The pleasant weather made him fall asleep. The tortoise noticed this, but did not stop in his tracks. He plodded on, in his naturally slow manner and reached the finish line a couple of hours later. In the meanwhile, the hare had fallen asleep, when he got up after several hours; he rubbed his eyes and scampered to the post, only to find the tortoise waiting for him at the Finish line. The hare felt very ashamed of his over confidence which made him lose out to someone who was obviously lots slower than him.

Though most of us know this story we fail to realise that we behave like the hare. We might have the right resources, guidance and support but we fail to make use of them to achieve our goals. Instead we waste our precious time on distractions which do us no good. We begin with a lot of eagerness and then it starts fading away. Therefore we are left with a lot of projects that are unfinished, promises that are broken and ideas that are not executed.

If you jog down the memory lane, you will remember that you too were bubbling over with the same kind of energy last December and perhaps earlier Decembers too! You began well, but most of you lost track of your goals like the hare because of several reasons. Some of your resolutions were forgotten or were found to be impractical and then there were some resolutions which bored you to tears and some others which could be done at a later date. If only you had shown some consistency in working on your resolutions like the tortoise, you could have succeeded in accomplishing your plans after all slow and steady wins the race!

Yet your attitude shows that you have neglected your own promises to yourself. If you don’t respect your own words then how can you expect others to do so?

You still have some time to redeem your promises before your start making new ones, make sure that you use it wisely and well for Time and Tide Wait for None!

 

 

 

STRENGTH OF KARMA


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The law of Karma makes it amply clear that we will most definitely experience the consequences of our actions.

Largely, people do not have any objections about harvesting the benefits of their good deeds. It is only when we go through a rough passage of life we cringe and cower at the thought of bearing the brunt of our misdeeds.

A level-headed person will understand that when one lands a bad bargain, he or she should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. By doing so, at least the quotient of regret of not having tried enough to circumvent the problem can be done away with.

An episode from the Mahabharata documents this nugget of wisdom through the predicament of Parikshit, the king of Hastinapura. Once, the sovereign succumbed to unreasonable anger. He humiliated a reverent sage Shamik by garlanding him with the flaccid dead body of a snake.

The sage’s son Shringi, who was outraged by the king’s misdemeanor, cursed him to be dead in a week’s time by a snake bite. The petrified king realised that no amount of penitence could salvage him from the imminent death. Nevertheless he thought out the situation pragmatically.

He got a royal residence built on a tall tower and moved in. The food, drink and even the very air that he breathed were scanned before being permitted into the premises. Now it was customary for Brahmins to offer a fruit to the king. That day also, it was given to the king after the usual security check.

When the unsuspecting ruler cut open the fruit, a worm fell on the ground and grew up manifold. Takshaka, the king of snakes, metamorphosed himself into a tiny worm and had reclined in the heart of a lemon. Parikshit recognised Takshaka – and he fell dead when stung by the reptile and the prophecy was fulfilled.

Though Parikshit could not save himself, the fact remains that he left no stone unturned to protect his life. His approach is worthy of being emulated, for while it is sad to fail in one’s mission, it will be a shame and pity for not having tried to decimate the problem. If a righteous sovereign could not salvage himself from the consequences of his misdemeanor, we must think twice before we err consciously!

MATURITY AND PATIENCE


Published on 18th June 2018 in the Oasis Column of Deccan Herald

A lot of parents, teachers and team leaders find that they are inadequate when it comes to sorting out rivalry amongst their children, students and teammates respectively. Damages caused by the lack of grace and niceties can actually rankle the mind, leaving long term hurt or irreversible scars. Hence it is of paramount importance for people to exercise infinite patience and profound maturity to handle such situations to the healing point.

A story from the Bhagavatham can be used as a reference point to resolve similar problems in the present age. King Uttanapada had two wives called Suneethi and Suruchi, who had a son each who were called Dhruva and Uttama respectively. The king’s favouritism encouraged Suruchi to cherish the fond hope that her son Uttama would ascend the throne one day despite the presence of the crown prince Dhruva.  This confidence also braced up Suruchi to look down upon the legitimate queen mother. One day, the five year old Dhruva saw his little half brother Uttama seated on the lap of their father Uttanapada. The child in him craved to climb on to his father’s lap. Even as he tried to do so, he was reprimanded sharply by his step mother. Suruchi snapped at him saying, “Only God can bestow you with what you want to do.” The confused lad ran to his mother to seek comfort. Suneethi knew that she was powerless to direct the king to do her bidding as he was besotted with Suruchi. At the same time she was mature. She did not want to influence the young mind negatively by telling him about the lopsided equations in her marital relationship. Since Dhruva was persistent, Suneethi worked around the words of Suruchi to advantage. She told Dhruva that there was no greater power than God in the universe. If the supreme power was appealed to with sincere devotion, everything would become possible. Dhruva was consoled and convinced. He went out to seek God. He was initiated by the celestial sage Narada and performed a severe penance. In fact, he not only gained his father’s affections and the kingdom but also went on to become one of the greatest Bhagavathas ever. Suneethi managed to steer her son out of a life of discontent, disappointment and directing him towards eternal glory!

Even God Helps Only Those Who Help Themselves


29th July 2015, S Radha Prathi

When one walks along the long journey of life, it becomes apparent that we cannot be in control of our lives all the time. We may come across unforeseen obstacles in the form of natural calamities, accidents, death et al which can completely change the course of our actions. Sometimes our best laid plans may end up in shambles. Our dream projects may be washed down the drain. There are times when we may have to simply change our pattern of life. These aberrations usually prompt us to question the need to lead an organised existence. After all, who has seen tomorrow? Besides, it is an accepted truth that no one can change destiny. Whenever we are caught wondering about the uncertainty of our lives, it will do us a world of good to ruminate over a story from the Panchatantra.

Once, a couple of fishermen came to a riverbank around sunset. When they scouted the waters they realised that it was rich with fish. They planned to cast a net for them the following day. Some of the fish happened to overhear the conversation. They decided to migrate to another water body overnight. They spread the word about their plans in the waters they lived. Some of their brethren were ready to follow course.  Some of them approached an elderly fish called Yadbhavishya who was also a philosopher of sorts for guidance. When Yadbhavishya heard about their plans, he said that everything that happens in life is predestined and individuals can do very little about it. Every living being who is born into existence will ultimately die at some point of time.  He added that death is most definitely the final point in everyone’s life and therefore there is really no point in safeguarding life. The followers of Yadbhavishya decided to stay back and accept their fate.  Many other fish migrated despite his counsel. The following day, the fishermen cast their net as planned. The believers in destiny contemplated on the irony of fate as they breathed their last as they were being drawn out of water. It is true that they would all have to die at some time or another as pointed out by their philosopher. Nevertheless, they could have extended their lives to some extent, if they had taken a practical recourse. There is really no point in becoming willing scapegoats and sitting ducks in the name of being submissive to our destinies. We must be proactive, for it is said that even god will help only those who help themselves.

Symphony In Stone


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When the esoteric phrase, ”Satyam Shivam Sundaram”, was translated into poetry on stone, it metamorphosed into the colossal Shiva Linga a.k.a. the Brihadeeshwara at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.

Majestic: Brihadeeshwara Temple at ThanjavurHoused in the Chola architectural marvel, this place of worship has been the essential culmination of divinity, truth and beauty. The fact that this year it has completed a 1,001 revolutions around the sun without so much as a fissure or ado speaks volumes about the quality and quantity of perseverance, dedication, planning and aesthetics that have been ploughed into the spiritual skyscraper. Historians, researchers, architects, archaeologists, artists, mathematicians and laymen alike are awestruck by this immense achievement of the ambitious monarch, Raja Raja Chola, who conceived, designed and accomplished his mammoth project to perfection.

Rajarajeswaram, another synonym for the Brihadeeshwara or the big temple, was completed during the lifetime of Raja Raja during the 12th century AD. The meticulous king made it a point to not only inscribe relevant information in the temple premises, but also carved out details pertaining to the work profile and salary of the temple personnel, right from the head priest to the humble cleaner who happened to work there.

A casual glance at the topography of the Thanjavur plains, which is bereft of hills and stones, stands testimony to the enormous effort invested by the king and his team to translate his gargantuan dream into reality. The double wall which encases the sanctum sanctorum and bears the tall and magnificent gopuram displays the sound common sense of the builders.

The temple, which is a faultless, well-proportioned, unique structure measuring 216 feet in height is testimony to a hoary past. The figures that ensconce the intricate geometry that holds the temple together may be mind-boggling, but the visual effect of the tangible edifice is nothing short of mind-blowing.

It is a museum of sorts which reflects the political, social, historical, economical, cultural, artistic, architectural, agricultural and professional dimensions of the contemporary times of Raja Raja Chola. The sight of the appealing sculptures, murals, bronzes, coins and inscriptions have the ability to transport the beholder to an ancient past and hold him spellbound by the sheer enormity of its size.

The divine sanctuary is a veritable school of sorts as it can give insights into just about any aspect of that period.

Most details about the shrine have been well documented, yet the divine sanctuary has the penchant to reinvent itself and surprise its admirers from time to time. In the year 1931, one Prof S K Govindaswami of Annamalai University noticed paintings underneath the over-lying Nayaka paintings that adorned the temple walls. He announced this fascinating discovery in an article in the Andhra Historical Society journal and also wrote to a newspaper regarding the same.

When the Brihadeeshwara temple came under the protective wings of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a talented and qualified team under S Subbaraman devised a special ingenious technique to carefully strip the 400-year-old Nayaka paintings in panels of suitable size and mounted them on fiber glass, taking care not to cause the slightest damage to both the paintings. Myths and folklore surrounding Lord Shiva, the central theme of the Chola paintings, came alive in the 14 chambers. The story of great saint Sundaramurthi Nayanar, seated on horseback, leading the Chera king seated on a richly caparisoned elephant to Kailasa, Raja Raja Chola and his three queens worshipping Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram, and Shiva as Thripuranthaka Murthy steal the show. The paintings of the Maratha period on the inner walls of the outer enclosure are also quite interesting.

During the millennium celebrations of the temple by the ASI, UNESCO and the Government of Tamil Nadu last year, art, architecture and literature on and about the period were dusted, translated and re-published. Movies and documentaries made on the temple from time to time by various organisations were also evaluated and screened. A postal stamp and a coin bearing the image of the lofty temple were released on the occasion. Several native art forms, music and dance were show cased in the premises of the grand replica of the temple, in the vicinity of the original temple, offering a glimpse of the temple’s glorious past.

The world watched us, as we offered our salutations to a great achiever and his corporeal achievement only last year. The classical minded probably sighed and muttered in Greek —  Kalos Kai Agathos — singular balance of the good and beautiful!