When people are wronged, they do feel violated. This being the case, people find it all the more difficult to digest an injustice meted out to them for no particular fault of theirs. The moot question in such situations happens to be, “How to deal with the situation?” Though forgiveness is the best solution, our reaction is mostly one of dejection, seething anger and sometimes revenge.
A story from the Bhagavatha Purana can serve as a case study on the subject. There once lived a powerful king called Karthaveerya Arjuna who ruled over Mahishmathi. Once he ventured into sage Jamadagni’s Ashram. He was rendered a warm and royal hospitality. The king wondered aloud how the sage was able to rustle up such a great fare. The Rishi told him about the divine cow Kamadhenu who was in his possession. Karthaveerya Arjuna promptly coveted the divine animal. Jamadagni was reluctant to part with her. Karthaveerya Arjuna’s ego was offended by the categorical refusal. When he realized that persuasion would not work, he killed the sage in a fit of rage and walked away with Kamadhenu.
Jamadagni’s son Parashurama came to know of the gory details of the incident. He was livid. He vowed to axe down Karthaveerya Arjuna. He marched out to Mahishmathi furiously to execute his vow. Somehow, the killing of Karthaveerya Arjuna did not satiate his vengeance. He vowed to wipe out the Kshatriya clan off the face of earth. The Purana records that he went around the world twenty one times axing down every single Kshatriya who came his way.
People who have been outraged and penalized unjustly may appreciate Parashurama’s act of violence. They may even feel constrained by the law of the land to mete out justice the way they want to do so. Yet a little reflection on the subject will reveal that the brutality served no purpose. Lots of innocent lives which had little to do with the abominable act had to pay with their lives. It bred animosity, insecurity and an animal instinct to be on the defensive at all times. In fact the result of every battle and war, act of terrorism and vandalism is invariably the same across time and space.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”
Sometimes we become smug and complacent in life. This feeling descends on us when we have achieved our aim or when we are happy and contented in life. At such times, we tend to become arrogant and irascible. We turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the people around us and gradually lose sight of the power of mutual respect and interdependence. We preen our feathers and strut around till we stumble and tumble over.
The sum and substance of this process is depicted in one of the anecdotes that appear in the Upanishads. Indra established his supremacy over the three worlds. He became conceited. He forgot his basic manners. He disregarded his Guru Brihaspathi. The slighted Guru abandoned Amaravathi. The Devas weakened because, their Guru had stopped channelizing Havis or the strength of the oblations offered in the sacrificial fires to them. The Asuras, the natural enemy of the Devas recognized the chink in Indra’s armour. They harassed him. Only then, Indra recognized his need for his Guru. Indra hurried to pacify the preceptor in vain. He approached Lord Brahma for a plausible solution. The lord suggested that the Devas should have a stop gap arrangement. Vishwaroopa, the son of Thwastha was substituted in Brihaspathi’s position as an interim arrangement. Respite was restored. All the same Indra smelt something amiss. A little investigation revealed that Vishwaroopa was passing on the effect of the Havis partially to the Asuras. Indra was infuriated. He beheaded Vishwaroopa. Thwastha became distraught. He resolved to destroy Indra. He used his Yogic power to beget an invincible son who would be the nemesis of Indra. Vrithrasura was born. Indra was destabilized by Vrithrasura. He approached MahaVishnu. The lord told him that Vrithrasura was immune to all kinds of conventional weapons. Only a weapon made from the bones of sage Dadheechi could kill Vrithrasura. That was a tall order. There was no other alternative. Indra approached the sage and cited the case. Almost immediately, Dadheechi went into a state of Samadhi and gave up his life. Indra used the sage’s bones to construct the infallible Vajrayudha. Vrithrasura was duly killed. Indra appeased his Guru apologized to Brihaspathi and peace was restored.
Indra learned the lesson of gratitude, generosity, humility, empathy and co-operation the hard way. If we imbibe these values from Indra’s experience we can enjoy uninterrupted, flawless success.
Laughter is the best medicine. A good laugh can help us view life in a new perspective. However we must make sure that we enjoy healthy humour. Teasing or deriding someone certainly can by no means constitute merriment. On the other hand it is an expression of one’s arrogance. When we try to lighten our minds by making conceited and supercilious remarks, little do we realize that we are inviting bad Karma.
Ravana the anti hero of the Ramayana was erudite, talented, brave and powerful. But, he was also extremely arrogant. He was supremely confident about himself and never really bothered to be careful about what he said or did. Once, he was flying towards Kailash to meet lord Shiva. Nandi, the doorkeeper of Kailash, stopped Ravana’s entry as his master was busy. Ravana puffed up with self importance and blew his own trumpet. Nandi scoffed at the mighty monarch and refused to change his stance.
Ravana was amused to see Nandi who appeared like a midget, refuse him entry. He simply barged forward. He was surprised to see Nandi hold a trident in his path. Dashanana felt he was watching a comedy. He burst into peals of laughter. His boisterous mirth reverberated among the mountains. To add insult to injury, Ravana compared Nandi to a monkey. Nandi’s patience was tested sorely. In a fit of anger Nandi cursed Ravana thus, “So, you think that I am a monkey, is it? I could decimate you right now. But, I will not do so. Let the course of life make you commit more and more such sins. Mark my words; you will meet your maker because of the very monkeys you have ridiculed.”
Ravana did not attach any importance to the curse then. Ravana failed to correct himself. His haughtiness had made him hot headed and incorrigible. He continued being a megalomaniac with boundless ego. Therefore he paid a price for his misdeed.
Nonetheless, those of us who know the Ramayana know that Hanuman set fire to Lanka and the great army of Ravana was defeated by the simian forces of Rama. Eventually, Ravana paid a price for his misdeed.
All of us are entitled to have some fun in life. All the same we must steer clear of mockery and contempt lest we become the laughing stock at a later date. The world of humour must definitely undergo a spring cleaning.
We live in times when people can gain visibility by updating their status constantly. Their actions and achievements however big or small are showcased with great felicity. It is a pity to note that in the age of web connectivity, we have lost sight of the invisible strands of bonding that connect us and reflect on our personalities. Each of us has been helped by one, some or many people to have attained the status that we have arrived at. Of all human follies, misplaced pride happens to be the most common one. When we are blinded by this failing, we can be sure that the green signal for the impending fall will be flagged sooner or later.
The Shiva Purana captures the consequences of being conceited. Once, Narada Rishi performed rigorous penance in the Himalayas. Indra the lord of gods felt very insecure. He commissioned Kaamadeva to distract the sage. Cupid used several tricks up his sleeves by creating a verdant spring and injecting romantic feelings into Narada with his magical arrows. His attempts went in vain. Narada happened to be practicing austerity in the area which had been immunized by Shiva. The lord had burnt Kaamadeva to ashes when his penance was disturbed by the latter.
In such a backdrop, Indra realized that Narada was indomitable. He acknowledged the sage’s spiritual power. Narada was elated. He promptly went to Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu one after another and boasted about his piety. Though the trinity was aware that Narada was able to receive admiration from Lord Indra, because he could not succumb to temptation in Shiva’s zone, they appreciated him warmly. The praise made Narada very conceited. He always made sure that everyone he met was apprised of his ability to have complete control over his senses. When Narada turned into a complete braggart, Lord Vishnu was requested to make the Rishi come to his senses. In due course of time, Lord Vishnu created a set of circumstances where Narada fell in love with a princess called Shrimathi and wanted to marry her. The fact that Narada could not do so is another story. All the same this experience taught him that no feat, however great could sustain if one lost sight of humility.
If this episode manages to remind us that self-praise is donkey’s praise, we can use the time utilized in self-advertisement towards enriching our personalities.
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.
I have always wondered why a poetess like Elizabeth Browning would begin a romantic sonnet with the lines “How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.” Now I understand the emotion that underlines her seemingly mundane lines when I am trapped in a similar situation.
Recently I was asked to write about my experiences as a student at my school which will be turning fifty this year. I found myself fumbling for words even as I tried to encapsulate what Sri Vidya Mandir (That is the name of my school) means to me. When I first stepped into a sprawling house which was used as a school in the heart of verdant Malleswaram, in Namma Bengaluru, little did I know that it would become an integral part of my person and persona? I felt completely at home (pun intended) because we were just eight students in our batch and our teachers knew us like the palms of their hands.
There was never a dull moment at school, as we were constantly engaged in academics and extracurricular activities. The five years that I studied in this haloed place had a far reaching impact on my life. I don’t remember evaluating options when it came to deciding my primary career, it had to be teaching. My passion for languages, literature, social sciences, and the arts is nothing but the harvest of the seeds sown by my teachers out there. Perhaps that explains why I am still in touch with the teachers who inspired me. I met my friends for life on this campus. The list can go on.
Despite being the recipient of such rich bounties that populate my life to this day, I do have a pet peeve. Exactly two years after I left school to pursue high school education elsewhere, my alma mater decided to launch its High School wing. I will always be left wondering about how my life could have been further upgraded if I had spent three more years under its wings.
Today, when the school is stepping into its golden jubilee year, I realise that tens and thousands of students must have emerged as fully-fledged, responsible individuals from this mother ship. The mere thought of it is enough to set me off on new innings of pride, gratitude, humility, and inspiration. Long live SVM!
Which of us would not like to succeed and enjoy our name, fame, money and the status that comes along with it? The desire is but only natural and perfectly legitimate as long as we do not swerve from the path of truth and take to undesirable methods to achieve our goals. True, it is a tough proposition and sometimes it becomes very tempting for us to take up shortcuts to success. If we are under the impression that the said syndrome is the weakness of the human race alone, we must stand corrected.
The Markandeya Purana records a discord among the trinities on this count. Once it so happened that MahaVishnu and Brahma got into an unexpected argument. Each of them felt he was superior to the other. Shiva who was a witness to this altercation offered to find a solution to this issue. Accordingly, he metamorphosed into a linear flame and instructed the two discontented gods to find his beginning and the end. Brahma turned himself into a swan and flew upwards. Maha Vishnu bored into the bowels of the earth in the form of a tusked boar. Though both of them began zealously in right earnest, they were unable to reach their destination. After a considerable amount of effort and time, the two of them returned. Brahma said he had seen the tip of the Shiva Linga and handed over a Ketaki flower to lord Shiva saying that he found it on top of the Linga. MahaVishnu gracefully conceded that he could not fulfill his task.
Even as Brahma braced himself to be accolade for his achievement, lord Shiva pronounced a curse on the creator saying that he will not be included for idol worship on earth. He also vowed that he would not accept the Ketaki flower in his worship.
This tale holds a fivefold message that can be guiding forces to help us lead a successful life. We must steer clear of the one-upmanship game. Honesty is the best policy. There is no shame in accepting our shortcomings or failure. Faked success can burst like a bubble at any time and damage our self esteem and our image forever. The expanse of any subject is infinite like the supreme soul Shiva; we can explore it to the best of our ability but never gain complete access over it.
Published in the Oasis column of today’s Deccan Herald
In the Ramayana Hanuman, was identified to cross the ocean and scout for Sita the abducted wife of Rama. When he was midway across the ocean Mount Mainaka rose from the depths of the ocean and intercepted him. Hanuman was annoyed by the obstacle and started pounding the great mountain with all his might. Mainaka bore the brunt gracefully and spoke gently to Hanuman requesting the latter to accept the hospitality of the ocean. He sourced fresh fruits and water from his being and humbly requested Hanuman to avail the same and rest awhile before continuing on the journey. Maruthi was highly appreciative of the hospitality made a token of acceptance and continued with his journey.
The meekness of the once powerful Mainaka may seem in order with his altered status as a refugee. A little introspection of this story will reveal that Mainaka was being humble and grateful for what he received. It is said that long long ago all mountains were winged. They flew around with their massive bodies and landed where they pleased. This exercise proved to be a menace to earthlings. Therefore the Rishis requested Lord Indra to help them. Consequently, Indra chopped the wings off the mountains using his Vajrayudha. Mainaka, the son of Himavaan did not want to lose his wings. He sought refuge in the southern seas. Sagara obliged Mainaka and allowed the mountain prince to hide himself in the bosom of the ocean.
When Sagara learnt that Hanuman was crossing the ocean for Rama, the Ikshavaku prince he bid Mainaka to offer respite to the messenger. Sagara extended this support because he was grateful to Bhagheeratha, an Ikshavaku prince who had added sanctity and volume to his being by bringing down the divine Ganga to earth which eventually flowed into the seas.
This well known story has the mighty and the powerful eager to show their gratitude for favours received, and all of us are well aware that gratitude is the best attitude one can ever have to keep us happy.
Many of us respond to a situation as we perceive it. Our perceptions are usually based on the situation, venue and our state of mind. We could be right most of the times, yet there are instances when we can go wrong horribly very simply because we have no clue about the other person’s circumstances.
The Mahabharata lays out one such instance which proves to be fatal to Parikshit the king of Hastinapura. Once, the Kuru king went on a hunting spree. He was lost and exhausted after an energetic chase. Soon he reached a clearing. There he found a sage immersed in a serene state of meditation. The royal scion bowed to Rishi with great reverence and offered the customary respects. Then he asked the Rishi if he could have some water. The Sage did not respond. The king’s repeated queries and request for some water seemed to fall on deaf ears. Parikshit was frustrated. The disgusted king looked around. He found a dead snake lying in the whereabouts. He picked up the carrion with one of his arrows and tossed it around the neck of the sage, mouthed some inanities and insults at the still silent sage.
When Parikshit self righteously turned to go away from the scene, another sage entered the scenario. He happened to be Shringi the son of sage Shamik. The virtuos son was infuriated to see his father insulted with a dead serpent round his neck. He did not care that the perpetrator of this great sin was the king of the land. He pronounced a terrible curse on the ruler saying that the emperor would die of snake bite in a week’s time. Parikshit became jittery. He was aware of the potency of the curse. He hastened back to Hastinapura and got a royal quarters built on a tall column and moved in, in the hope of averting death. That he was overcome by death is another story.
This episode shows that each man did what he perceived to be right based on his experience and the given situation. It is easy to see that both of them did not act justifiably.
Most of us behave in more or less the same manner and end up wondering about what went wrong when matters turn sour.