Of Perceptions and Responses


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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.

Tall Task of Taking Risks


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There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who like to play it safe and the ones who like to take the road not taken. Both kinds have their own justifications based on their knowledge, experience and circumstances.

The pioneering lot can once again be classified into two groups.

The ones who are willing to explore the unknown for personal benefits and the rest who do not think twice about throwing in their lot if it can add value to another person, people or a commendable cause.

These are the Samaritans who do not mind working behind the curtains or toiling away without an iota of expectation.

The Devas and Asuras yearned become immortal. They were told that imbibing the Amrutha found in the heart of the mighty ocean could help them fulfill their desire.

Therefore, they churned the ocean with the help of Vishnu who manifested himself as a giant tortoise to form the base of the churning pole.

After a strenuous bout of activity, they were appalled to be enveloped by toxic fumes which emerged from the sizzling poison that was garnered from the ocean.

The Devas and Asuras choked over highly poisonous air and did not know how to take things forward. Vishnu prompted them to appeal to Lord Shiva for help. Accordingly, the cousins pleaded.

Lord Shiva manifested himself almost immediately and without further ado swallowed lethal fumes and liquid, much to the shock of his onlookers. That he saved them and helped them gain the treasures from the ocean including the elixir of life forms the rest of the story.

Shiva who came to be known as Neelakanta from then on, because his neck turned blue after the consumption of venom, became the torchbearer of the tribe of people who are willing to go to any extent to help those who seek no matter what the possible consequences could be.

Shiva’s selfless act also comes under the category of “Nishkaama Karma” prescribed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita.

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.

To Wax Or Wane is the Question


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All of us know that the waxing and waning of the moon is a visual occurrence as the result of the satellite revolving around our planet.

It is interesting to note that the Skanda Purana has an interesting take on the subject which aims at educating its readers to show due respect to the modesty and independence of women. The handsome and accomplished moon personified as Somadeva had married the beautiful twenty seven stellar sisters of the cosmos.

He lived a happy and contented life till he coveted and abducted Tara, his guru Brishaspathi’s wife. The gods waged a war to redeem their preceptor’s spouse. Somadeva trounced them in a trice. The Devas approached Lord Shiva for help.

Brahma the creator who was witnessing this pantomime foresaw a great disaster. Hence, he advised Somadeva to surrender to Lord Shiva and apologise to Brihaspathi and send the pregnant Tara back to her husband. (The question mark over the patriarchy that dangled over the unborn child is another story.)

The war-weary Somadeva who was stricken with leprosy saw better sense now and did as he was bidden. The once haughty lunar deity became penitent and took up rigorous penance and appeased Lord Shiva. As a result he was cured of his deadly disease but was cursed for life to wax and wane every fortnight.

The Lord in his superior wisdom hoped to alert mankind that one can never get away from karma no matter what the status or penance quotient. Apparently the story is meant to be a subtle warning to all those people who lust for other people’s spouses, wealth and belongings, that they have to pay a price for it.

Apart from the punishment factor that awaits the wrongdoer, the tale also underlines the act that women are not commercial commodity who can be taken, used and rejected at the whims and fancies of the mindless and the powerful.

The Skanda Purana points out that our personalities will wane like the moon when we indulge in unethical debauchery and cause unwarranted pain to others. All the same, if we are suitably chastened and repent for our misdeeds, we can reinforce our intrinsic values. This, in turn, will help our personalities wax like the moon.

The Message of the Three Monkeys


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By RADHA PRATHI

Celebrating Gandhi Jayanthi and observing Martyr’s day can become more meaningful if we introduce the values propounded by Mahatma Gandhi into our everyday lives.

We could actually revolutionize the universe we live in, in a very unique way by following a simple code of conduct as seen by Gandhi in the three monkeys. They prompt man to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil. He perceived that human life would become simple and more meaningful if we lead our lives based on the message of the monkeys.

We should realize the distinction between listening and hearing. For instance, he could avoid participating and listening to gossip and talk which are worthless and time stealing. This practice will make his mind uncluttered and more procreative. It is obvious that no man is going to be cherished if he shut his ears literally in the contemporary world. Nevertheless he could move away from the unpleasant spot in a discreet way. If he finds that he cannot avoid the distasteful situation he need not pay attention to the matter and much less repeat or discuss the gossip in fresh company following the message of the second monkey shutting its mouth which suggests — speak no evil—.

Well-known adage goes Silence is golden, speech is silver. Yet speech is necessary for communication. In such a backdrop it would be best if we adopted prudence while speaking. All of us know that an unnecessary hurtful word can ruin the psyche of a person much more than weapons can do. We could do well to avoid speaking such evil words. At the same time flattering and insincere praise could also amount to speaking evil. It has been proven that a good conversationalist is a good listener, for listening helps the listener to make an assessment and also understand the speaker. The third monkey suggesting — see no evil — implies that revolting scenes of sex and violence are best not seen for they have a disquieting effect on the human mind.

Path of Endearment


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Oasis

Path of endearment

S RADHA PRATHI

The anxious people are not only the ones in trouble but also the ones who cause anxiety to others. So in other words the two groups of people though seemingly different from each other like chalk and cheese actually go through the same emotions albeit for different reasons. Apparently, falsehood, dishonesty, misplaced passion and rage, envy and forgetfulness of essential human values like compassion and brotherhood happen to be the main reasons for such a scenario.

The Bhagvad Gita records a criteria of a lovable person as told by Krishna to Arjuna. Krishna avers that a person who does not hate, envy, compare himself with others, holds others responsible for his fate and feels apprehensive about doing the right thing all the time is very dear to him.

Yudhishtira, the eldest Pandava prince in the Mahabharata, fits the definition of Krishna perfectly. His truthful and tranquil temperament fetched him many brownie points even among his rivals. The fact that he was called Ajatashatru – a person to whom the enemy is yet to be born – speaks in volumes about his character. Duryodhana, who resented Yudhishtira for being the first born and claimant to the throne, did not hate him as much as he detested Bhima or Arjuna. The eldest Pandava chose to overlook the attempts of murder made on him and his brothers when setting the house of lac on fire. Draupadi, the wronged wife of the Pandavas, had to constantly goad Yudhishtira to not forget the ignominy rendered unto her, because she knew that, left to himself, Yudhishtira would abstain from war.

On the day of the Great War, Yudhishtira was actually the first person who was ready to lay down his arms and call a truce. Krishna zeroed in on the straightforward royal to play his psychological mind game against Drona, because, he knew that the great Guru would validate and believe only the words of Yudhishtira when he would be appraised of his son Ashwaththama’s death.

Learning from the eldest Pandava who led a life with maturity and dignity can help us align ourselves towards path of endearment prescribed by Krishna.

Fortune, the Fair Weather Friend


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Sometimes we wonder about people who are corrupt but successful. Then, we feel tempted to go astray. When we succeed at such times, we gradually lose sight of our integrity and will have no qualms about repeating our misdeeds.

A story from our hoary past sums up this situation. There was a poor Brahmin called Hari Sharma. The pious man along with his family gained employment under a rich merchant, Sthuladatta. Life went on smoothly. The family worked very hard to make the wedding of their employer’s daughter a grand success. The Brahmin expected appreciation for his services. When he was neglected, he felt insulted. He decided to follow the path of deceit quite against the advice of his wife to teach Sthuladatta a lesson.

That night, he stole the horse carriage of the bridegroom and tied it under a tree outside the village. Then he instructed his wife to inform the worried Sthuladatta that he was a competent astrologer. When his employer consulted him, Hari Sharma extracted an apology from Sthuladatta before divulging information about the lost horse. This orchestrated act instantly shot him to fame. Even the king once consulted Hari Sharma about the robbery in the royal treasury.

The Brahmin was shaken by this unexpected test of his fake knowledge. He cursed his tongue aloud in privacy. The malefactor Jihva heard the curse and promptly pleaded guilty because Jihva in Sanskrit means tongue. Hari Sharma was dumbstruck by this unexpected coincidence that worked in his favour. The emboldened man dared to protect the thief for a fat commission and led the king to the remnant treasure.

The wise ministers found Hari Sharma’s accuracy dubious, prompted the sovereign to verify Hari Sharma’s expertise. Accordingly, they placed a frog inside a pot, closed it and invited Hari Sharma to reveal the contents. The terrified Brahmin who knew his game was up remembered how his father often called him a Mandookam or a foolish frog. He muttered his thoughts aloud. The court was dazzled by Hari Sharma’s brilliance and he was rewarded handsomely.

Hari Sharma realised that deception coupled with good fortune was a fair- weather friend who could desert him any moment. Hence he left the kingdom a reformed man.