Ignorance is Bliss


The omnipresence of divinity is seldom acknowledged in our day-to-day lives. It could be due to ignorance or simply lack of comprehension. However, our lives tend to become complicated when we do not grasp the lofty universal truths fully.

An anecdote from the repertoire of stories told by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa puts across this point succinctly. Once, a layman was enlightened about the omnipresence of god. The happy man left the Ashram with his newfound knowledge. As he was walking down the street, he saw a rogue elephant. The Mahout shouted instructions to the people on the road to get away from the path of the pachyderm. Everyone slipped away in double quick time except the newly edified man. The elephant handled him roughly with his trunk and flung him afar. The hurt man was taken to the Ashram and rendered first aid. Then he was questioned on his foolishness. The naive  man said, “I thought that the God in the elephant would not harm me.” To which, the philosopher replied, “But, why did you not listen to the God who warned you through the Mahout?”

This incident enumerates the fact that spiritually oriented people need a lot of discernment lest they come to foolhardy conclusions like the protagonist in the tale.

An incident in the Ramayana expounds the facility of being in the dark about matters beyond our ken to help us function normally and genuinely. When the exiled prince Rama came to the banks of river Ganga along with Lakshmana and Sita, the local chieftain Guha extends warm hospitality and assures unflinching support to Rama. He even offers his position to Rama without blinking an eyelid. When all his offers were rejected politely, Guha personally takes the trio across the river. If Guha had the slightest inkling about the divinity of Rama he would have been awestruck by the mere presence of the trio. His gestures would have been punctuated with nervousness or simply decimated into inaction. Conversely, his lack of consciousness on the matter not only made him offer all his earthly possessions to the creator, but made him take the celestial navigator who helps his devotees to cross the sea of life to cross the river!


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Bird’s Eye View of Sanskrit


To many of us, the word “Sanskrit” suggests a wonderful language which belonged to a hoary past. We know that India is the land in which this wonderful language originated. Ancient Indians were well versed in the language. The Vedas, the Puranas, the classical texts – The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were written in this language and they have been recognised and revered by people across the globe even to this day. The Indian way of living, its ethos and flavour is directly related to the language and what it has to offer by way of classics and literature. Just about every subject under the sun has been covered in one way or another in some of these texts. Linguists and scientists marvel at the precise nature of this language. The inherent binary code of the letters in the language has been discovered to be compatible for codification and for use by computers. All the contemporary Indian languages have been derived from this source, with the exception of Tamil.

This ancient language has a hoary past running into millenniums hence it is very difficult to arrive at some consensus about the origin of the language. Traditionally, Indians, believe that the language was initially used by our pantheon of 33 crore gods to communicate amongst themselves. Hence Sanskrit is also called Daiva Bhasha or the lingo of the gods. Later on, the language was gifted to mankind by goddess Saraswathi and hence Sanskrit is also known as Geervana Bharathi.

The fairy tale like origin of the language apparently had few takers amongst the hardcore linguists across the globe who think that Sanskrit evolved from Prakruth derived from the sounds of nature. They believe that long, long ago when man evolved into an intelligent being, he found the necessity to communicate his thoughts, feelings and ideas. He probably played “dumb charades” and sometimes took to hieroglyphics to put across his thoughts and aped sounds from nature in order to communicate. Over a period of time the language was organised and honed till it reached the point of perfection. The phonology, syntax, vocabulary and grammar of the language has the world awestruck with its finesse and completeness.

When an ancient language has so many feathers in its cap (or is it crown?) one would think that the language is on velvet and nothing can ever go wrong in its kingdom. Yet sadly enough, we have come a long away from such a pristine state of affairs. A brief study of the history of the country will reveal that, we as a nation have been introduced to varied cultures and civilisation over the course of history. The invaders left their stamp behind that influenced our way of living and thinking to a large extent. Lots of factors changed. Yet the change cannot be considered complete as we have retained the basic Indian values despite innumerable onslaughts. Perhaps it is at this juncture, we should recognise the power of the Sanskrit language which helped us to carry forward the basis of Indian-ness for it has been the cementing factor which has sustained the spirit in the oral and written format.

All of you are perhaps aware that Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages in the world which is complete in its own way. Have you ever wondered about the origin of this language? As students, whenever you are taught something new or asked to learn a novel concept, you may have found yourself wondering whoever started it all. Some of your questions may have interesting answers and some may not.

If you have ever wondered about Sanskrit, well, there is a very interesting tale about the beginning of the language in our ancient texts. It is said that lord Shiva lapsed into one of his ecstatic danced to the beat of the Dumroo, a small percussion instrument (see picture alongside) and several variations of sounds flowed out of the instrument. It is said these letters were gathered in this order and used as the basic letters of the language and were represented in the ‘Devanagari’ script.

The sound and the symbols of the language were effectively used by the people to compile a comprehensible vocabulary and record their observations and inferences in the form of Vedas which are called Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana Vedas. A close reading of the Vedas will reveal that they not only give guidelines to lead a life that emphasises on living in harmony with nature and fellow human beings but also have a wealth of information on just about every topic under the sun.

A few copies of the Vedic literature was etched on processed palm leaves by scholarly students for reference, but most of them committed the entire text to memory and passed on the texts orally to their juniors. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, we do not have too many copies of the entire text available as on date.

Many a time some words were lost in mis-pronunciation and lapse of memory. In such cases, people resorted to the basic rules of grammar which helped them to supplement the blank with an appropriate word. This procedure is almost akin to solving a crossword puzzle where you have a clue of both the meaning of the word and the number of letters in the answer word.

Our ancestors had evolved a wonderful way of understanding and learning a language. Panini an ancient grammarian who is believed to have lived in eighth century BC formulated 3964 “Aphorisms” also known as “Sutras” each running into a word or a phrase. If a student of Sanskrit grammar learned these sutras by heart, his language was sure of becoming impeccable. These sutras dealt with different aspects of language like grammar, analogy, vocabulary, communicative language among other things which facilitated the learning of the language almost faultlessly.

The fact that there have been little or no revisions in the basic rules of the language ever since reflect on the level of perfection that had been attained by the grammarian. The famous Vedas, Puranas, epics, classics and even contemporary literature have been written in the language which subscribes to these rules. Perhaps, it is features like consistency and the completeness of the language that keep it going on till this day despite so many setbacks.

The Ubiquitous Protector


People, especially the city slickers do not have any reasons to exert themselves unless they make a conscious attempt to remove themselves from their comfort zone. All we have to really do is kindly breathe, eat and excrete because most of our needs and jobs are taken care of by machines and the rest by electronics and the help we employ.

Just when we are ushered into that idyllic world of doing nothing, there is an official declaration that most of the health problems of the present age stems from our sedentary lifestyles. So being the quintessential couch potato with matching chips alongside is no longer the most favourable position to be in. Those people who have pledged that they will not budge from their comfort zone for love or money will have to think again.

These days, even momentarily opened doors and windows happen to be ushering in winged creatures which are mostly mosquitoes. They breeze in and hum around our ears, settle on the exposed portions of our bodies and merrily quaff on our life blood.

As a rule, we humans do not resent the resultant itching or the sharing of half a drop of blood if it were not associated with a host of diseases. So we started using sprays, lights, coils and repellants with negligible results. Then, the brainier section of mankind invented the mosquito bat. All we have to do is place our thumbs on the button to activate the electrified battle-ready weapon and brandish it around ourselves and vanquish the bloodsuckers that dare to venture into our orbit. If we are lucky, our success is celebrated with some fireworks and we can slip back into indolence till the next beastly pest flies along.

Initially, the conscientious Samaritans were hesitant to indulge in conscious “himsa.” It took a few gurus and their disciples to use the implement in full public view to put across the message that the insects were probably wretched souls seeking liberation so that they could move on to higher planes. Then on, no one seems to have any compunction about using their bludgeons blissfully. On the contrary, they feel secure when they have one such racquet beside them.

The users of the bats will vouch for the fact that their arms have been strengthened while protecting themselves from some dreadful diseases. More enterprising batsmen and women also manage to burn a few calories when they scout for victims in the vicinity of their homes. In fact, a couple of engineering students have started working on the sports model of the bat which can keep scores of hits and misses quite on the lines of Pokemon Go!

Now that the power and position of the haloed bat has been established, the day is not far when the mosquito will be declared as an endangered species. True blue users of the bludgeon will understand that one of the sovereign duties of a desi is to safeguard the cesspools, potholes, garbage piles so that we have a never ending supply of offerings to the ubiquitous bats that each one of us possesses. After all, is it not our duty to protect our protector?

Effective Communication

Deccan herald 30th January 2018

These days we find plenty of courses that guide people into communication skills. Aspects like correct usage of language, body language, tone, clarity and confidence are emphasized in these soft skill sessions. At the end of the day people are taught to communicate pleasantly and effectively to forge successful personal and professional relationships. Hence it is no wonder that educational institutions, governmental organisations and corporate bodies do not hesitate to invest a pretty penny on honing these skills of their new recruits at all levels.

A reading of the Ramayana reveals the universal significance and the cornerstone of communication skills has remained the same right from the good old times.

Hanuman was sent as the most hopeful candidate to search for Sita because Rama was impressed by the simian minister’s intelligence, sincerity and communication skills. The emissary of Rama discovered Sita in the Ashoka Vana of Lanka. He realized that he would traumatize the doe like Sita if he appeared in front of her without notice. Therefore he narrated the story of Rama in mellifluous verse to attract her attention. The act of Hanuman construes the importance of using introductory talk as the unshakeable basis of every conversation. The fact that Sita gave him her Choodamani – the hair accessory, which happened to be her only earthly possession and proof of her existence to be given to Rama, speaks in volumes about the success of Hanuman’s ability to communicate effectively.

When Maruthi returned to Rama with the good news, he does not indulge in formalities or flowery language. Instead, he very simply hands over the Choodamani of Sita with a brief phrase that said, “Sita has been found.” The magical phrase sent a surge of joy through the being of Rama and prepared him mentally to take in the details about the disheveled and depressed status of Sita and her resolve to hold on to her life for another month till she was freed from the clutches of Ravana. Hanuman used speech as a tool sometimes eloquently and at other times briefly. He just proved that there are no hard and fast rules about the length of the talk. He had the discernment to understand that content is king in any conversation. When truth, tenor, confidence, clarity, humility and simplicity adorn the content, communication becomes complete.

Fear and Greed


Man is perhaps the greediest creature on planet earth. He has not only exploited nature but also his fellow human beings to fortify his well being. If he continues to behave selfishly, it will not take too long for him to enlist himself in the list of endangered species and eventually face extinction.

It is amazing to note that psychologists feel that it is intrinsic fear that prompts avarice in people. A popular folk tale reiterates this line of thought effectively.

Once a Guru was giving a discourse on the six cardinal sins that destroy a man’s personality and spirit. On that particular day he dwelt on the subject of greed. The subject was discussed at length and he summed up his session by declaring that fear is the root cause of greed. Some of his students were perplexed by the pronouncement. They expressed their doubt to the Guru. The teacher said that he would discuss the subject during the next class.

That night the tutor and the taught sat down to partake supper. The cook hurried towards the Guru and told him that he had cooked for the day but they had run out of provisions. He also mentioned that it might easily take them a couple of days to acquire rations again. The Guru waved the cook away and asked the students to eat their meal.

During the course of the supper he noticed that quite a number of students were gorging on the food. Even frugal eaters were asking for a second helping. He waited for everyone to eat to their fill and then assemble in the courtyard of the hermitage. When all the students filed in, he told them that fear indeed is the root cause of greediness. The pupils who had heard the cook speaking about the shortage of ration feared a possible starvation in the coming days and fed themselves to their teeth.

The students realised that the conversation had been arranged to clarify a point. They felt a little ashamed and also enlightened on the matter. They promised not to give in to fear and the greed that followed thereafter. When we know that insecurity can lead us to become acquisitive by nature, we must address the matter.


Shackled Capabilities


These days, I cannot resist chuckling to myself when I pass a police station in Namma Bengaluru. The billboard in the premises triggers me into a muted convulsion. The writing in Kannada says, “There are chain thieves around. Beware of them.”

When I saw the impressive board for the first time, I read it aloud to my curious friend who could not read the lingo. Almost immediately, the driver of the auto in which we were travelling chimed in and said that truer words could not have been spoken. He added that the board spoke of the thieves ‘within’ the premises, including the catchers and the caught. His unexpected sarcastic wisecrack had us in splits.

Soon he turned serious and reeled out a dozen instances of chain snatching incidents which met their Waterloo in the area earmarked for public security. Although we were amused, we could not discount the earnestness that we detected in his voice.

We realised that the men in khaki largely fail to inspire respect in the general public. We were reminded of a family anecdote. When one of my uncles was selected by the police department to join as a sub-inspector, my straightforward grandfather categorically threatened to disown him, if he did take up the job.

We in the sub-continent seem to have little or no faith in our law and order system. That explains the reams of jokes on pot bellied policemen and their wayward ways. Our movies invariably picturise them rushing in the last leg of the climax and nabbing the culprits after the hero has bashed them up.

Recently, a news report in Deccan Herald published a story about 10 boys from Bihar, who worked as shoeshine boys in Kolkata. The boys had inadvertently come across a treasure chest which fell off a van belonging to a bank. They divided the spoils amongst themselves and went back to their native places, only to be nabbed by the long arm of the police and that too within a matter of a few days.

This incident is proof of the fact that our police system is perfectly capable of doing its duty efficiently in double-quick time. Perhaps, they were empowered to do so because there was no interference from political or financially sound circles. May be they did it because the perpetrators would not grease their palms. No matter what the reason, the mission was accomplished, truly and well. The incident holds mirror to the general opinion of the common man about our police.

Conversely, we as a nation also look up to upright officers like Kiran Bedi or H T Sangliana as the totem pole of integrity and duty consciousness. May their tribe increase!

Determination vs. Obstinacy

Many a time people want to achieve their goal by hook or crook. Their very attitude is proof of the fact that they are not in a position to distinguish between determination and obstinacy.

When a person refuses to weigh the pros and cons of a situation and pursues his ambition blindly, he is not only likely to harm the people around him but will wreak havoc on himself both physically and mentally.

An episode from the Mahabharata unfolds the unfortunate repercussions of tenacity. Ashwaththama, the best friend of Duryodhana had promised his dying friend that he would ensure the annihilation of the Pandava family at all costs. He manipulated the death of the Pandavas and ended up killing the five sons of Draupadi. In hindsight, he realised that his mission would be completed if he managed to abort the foetus if princess Uttara who was carrying the posthumous child of Abhimanyu. That way he could effectively put a full stop on the continuance of the Pandava clan. Accordingly, he went to the princess and aimed a potent blade of Darbha grass at her womb. The petrified Uttara ran away in panic. When Ashwaththama chased the pregnant princess, he was intercepted by none other than Lord Krishna.

Krishna understood that the son of Drona was not in a position to distinguish the right from wrong, and there was simply no way he would tarry to listen to the Yadava king. It was then Krishna looked at the gem signifying human intelligence studded on the forehead of the Brahmin. He hastened to pluck it out and prevented the perpetration of foeticide. The mindless Ashwaththama could not focus on his evil undertaking. Thus, Krishna rescued the unborn baby. He ensured that the last scion of the Pandava family – Parikshit- the one who was tested arrived safely on planet earth.

When one examines Ashwaththama’s behaviour, it is not difficult to see that he was being faithful to his friend and true to his promise although his bosom pal was dead. All the same, it is apparent that he lost sight of human propriety in his zeal to redeem his promise. Had he realised that the means is as important as the end he could have spared himself of the ignominy?