The Duty Bound Are Uplifted

It is not what we do, but how we do it that makes all the difference. Perhaps, this is the reason why, we are often counseled to work with passion, dedication and discipline if we hope to achieve success. This concept is also expounded as Karma Yoga by Lord Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita. Sage Dhaumya reiterates this tenet by narrating a story to the exiled Pandavas in the Mahabharata.

Once, Sage Kaushika sought alms of a housewife. She happened to be serving lunch to her husband. She requested the holy man to wait till she completed her job. The enraged Kaushika glared at her. The lady of the house told him very calmly that she was not the crane which was burnt down by the sage’s ire. Kaushika was taken aback. The lady had just referred to the incident that had happened on his way to her doorstep. A crane had relieved itself on the sage. It was burnt down to ashes in a moment when the sage had glowered at it. The sage who was proud of his yogic power could not figure out how the lady came to know what had transpired. When he could not contain his curiosity any longer he blurted out his question. The lady told him to meet the butcher Dharmavyadha to clear his doubt.

More surprise awaited Kaushika, when the butcher enquired whether the former had been sent by the lady especially when the sage could not figure out any medium of communication. The sage spelled out his confusion. The butcher gave him a long look, asked the sage to wait and slipped inside his shop. Apparently, he had to attend to the needs of his elderly parents. He emerged after a while and then told the sage that he was committed towards his duty just as the lady was committed towards her husband. The sincerity of purpose with which each of them carried out their duties bestowed them with a superior spiritual power. This in turn helped them to anticipate and understand the events that take place in and around their lives.

Kaushika was enlightened with a new dimension of knowledge. He realised the value of dignity of labour. He learned that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. He had indeed stumbled on a universal truth that being duty conscious can uplift our spirituality quotient.

New Age Challenges of Teaching Undergrads

By S Radha Prathi, Dec 21, 2016,

Teaching at the undergraduate level is increasingly becoming a challenge even to the most enterprising, enthusiastic and experienced of teachers these days. Barring a handful of undergraduates, most students are hardly ever interested in the course. For most urban youth, it is a passage of rite to be fulfilled before they enter the world at large to pursue their vocations, businesses, jobs or personal lives.

Lecturers and professors both old and young who had gathered at a national seminar seemed to be speaking in one voice on their pet subjects. They began with the most sacred ritual of marking attendance which gains sacrosanct dimensions especially towards the end of the academic year.

The UGC insists on a minimum of 75% attendance requirement before taking up the prescribed examinations from time to time. Every student who falls short of the mark, unable to get a proxy or have the means to circumvent the problem, makes it a point to be there towards the end.

These students add to the nuisance value in the classroom because they are unaware of what is transpiring in the room and that naturally keeps them diverted. Interestingly, they are the ones who come up with ideas of having special classes in a bid to step up their attendance quotient.

These days, the courts stand testimony to the increasing numbers of affidavits filed by erring students suing colleges for depriving them of the attendance that would have enabled them to take up examinations.

Attendance has been boiled down to the level of being physically present in the campus. Never mind if you are late, distracted or have misbehaved in the lecture hall. A couple of medical certificates and wedding cards genuine or otherwise have the powers to set matters right.

Neither the students nor their parents seem to be unduly worried about the learning curve that could have shot up if discipline and diligence were employed. This act  is nothing but a sterling example of how colleges inadvertently nurture downright carelessness laced with rudeness which gains legal validation because of obscure processing.

Gone are the days when lectures were interrupted by garrulous youth and giggly girls who indulged in small talk or biting into a morsel of food during the serious hour. These days they are otherwise occupied checking or sending messages on their cell phones, that is if they are not playing or shopping.

If they are asked to deposit their instruments outside before a guest lecture, each one will take their own sweet time to make “suitable arrangements” before taking leave of their external organ for an hour or two.

Internet age
Taking down lecture notes is passé, because graduating youngsters believe that everything worth learning can be found on the internet. Necessary course material can always be bought, photocopied, scanned or stolen if necessary. Most pupils are not interested when there are relevant digressions from the topic because they do not figure in the scheme of the portions prescribed for examinations.

On the one hand, they want to be treated like adults when reprimanded for permissive public behaviour; on the other, they want to be spoon fed with the exact mark allotment for each question.

It is ironical to note that the youth of the world which believes in worldwide networking do not make an attempt to see the interrelated nature of subjects which can go a long way in shaping them as sensible and sensitive global citizens.
The harsh truth is students no longer learn to gain knowledge but to earn degrees. They attend college for the frivolous social ambience and not for getting a panoramic on various subjects. Politics, groupies and sectarian views have substituted the secular outlook.

Examinations, mark sheets and certificates have become passports to the first jobs which are usually procured through campus interviews. Hence, it is no wonder students are becoming increasingly removed from the teacher-taught equation. They have forgotten that being a graduate is not about procuring document, it is about graduating to a higher phase in life and emerging as a better human being who has some expertise over the chosen subject.

Matters will improve only if we are able to instill a love for learning in the young or just devalue degrees of the ones who do not measure up to display basic knowledge of the chosen subject and show evidence of etiquettes demanded of a graduate.

Sportive Attitude Can Save The Day

Winning and losing are part and parcel of life. The person who is more talented, strong, intelligent and fortunate wins. The ones who do not measure up to the mark lose out.

While it is only normal to acknowledge the champion and celebrate the victory, it is not quite in the order of things to look down upon or insult the ones who have not been able to make it.

Etiquette warrants that all the participants in the event or game accept their results gracefully and move on in life. It is neither necessary for the winner to crow over his outcome nor for the loser to bemoan his failure or play the blame game.

If we allow pride, ego or pettiness to rule over our emotions, it can prove to be detrimental to us in the long run.

The story of Anaranya, the king ofAyodhya and a descendant ofIkshwaku dynasty, is documented in theRamayana. It is said that this heroic ancestor of Rama was the unquestioned sovereign of his times.

Ravana, the king of Lanka, who happened to be his contemporary, went around the world to prove his prowess. Many kings submitted toRavanawithout fighting. Ravana challenged Anaranya to dare his supremacy and summoned the king to submit.

Though Anaranya was old and feeble by then, he chose to fight his contender. Ravana not only defeated Anaranya but also vanquished the army of Ayodhya in a trice. Anaranya was thrown down from his chariot. Ravana walked up to the fallen king and placed his left foot on the prostrate body of Anaranya to underscore his triumph. Anaranya was able to accept his defeat but could not digest the insult.

Anaranya was enraged. He cursed Ravana a certain death in the coming future at the hands ofRama, which did come true in the course of the Ramayana.

The confrontation between Anaranya and Ravana is a sure sign of the fact that no one can be sure of winning all the time.

Various factors contribute to success or failure of a person in a given situation. Only a sportive attitude can save the day for all concerned.


When True Colours are Exposed

When true colours are exposed

S Radha Prathi, Nov 11, 2016:

A casual look around us will reveal that we are living in an increasingly hypocritical world. Our costu­me drama consists of clothes, accessories, make-up, hairdo, et al, which has to be synchronised in accordance with the person, venue and situation, not necessarily in that order.

In other words, people have started believing that the social value and attitude of the people is reflected not so much as in their character as against their appearance and standard of life.

It is interesting to note that while most people work hard on their external appearance they rarely tarry to groom their intrinsic values. Faking appearances and attitudes have assumed the status of an elevated form of art in the make believe world.

What is more bothersome is the fact that most of us do not even have any qualms about pretending to be who we are not. This trend normally works well as long as it lasts. However, when one’s true colours are exposed, the results can be disastrous.

A story from the Panchatantra drives home this point. Once there lived a jackal called Chandarava in a forest. One day he ventured into a nearby village and was relentlessly chased by a pack of dogs.

The jackal’s blind run ended in a tub of blue dye. When the coloured animal emerged from the tub the dogs were terrified and ran away. The jackal decided to cash in on the change in the colour of his skin. He called for a meeting of animals and informed them that he was sent to live in their midst by their creator.

The inmates of the forest extended their hospitality to the newcomer. Life was a cakewalk for the jackal for a while. One day it so happened that when he was in court, he heard a pack of jackals yodeling. He forgot his pretentious existence for a moment and yodeled away.

The animals around him imm­ediately saw through the fraud and he was ripped apart. Those who practice deception rarely realise that they will have to face dire consequences when they are exposed in an inadvertent moment.

Eventua­l­ly, they will lose the trust and regard forever in their social circles. The ripple effect of th­eir exposure will affect not only their future but also that of their families and well-wishers.

Truth Should Be the Cornerstone of Marriage Alliances

The system of arranged marriage is still prevalent in our subcontinent. Educated, accomplished, independent individuals often rely on the discretion of their parents, elders and well-wishers while taking a plunge into the most pivotal phase of their lives. To be fair to the institution of arranged marriage, one must say that most alliances click and thrive. Yet, some alliances fail miserably because one of the parties withholds a significant truth.

Mahabharatha speaks of one such regal wedding. Dhritarashtra, the Kuru prince, was blind by birth. His disability discouraged marriage proposals from royal maidens. His grandmother Satyavathi summoned her step son Bhishma and bid him to seek the hand of Gandhari, the princess of faraway Gandhara in marriage to Dhritarashtra.

Bhishma led an intimidating military expedition against Gandhara. Gandhari’s father King Subala was assuaged to consent to the proposal. The young bride-to-be was first kept in dark about Dhritarashtra. When she came know of it, she realised that the security of her motherland and the honour of her father was at stake. She weighed the pros and cons and decided to honour the commitment albeit blindfolded. Her decision proved to be detrimental to Dhritarashtra. He had hoped that she would become the vision he never had. But she decided to follow the tenets of Pathivratha dharma by deciding to not see the world that her husband could not see. Some critics interpret her action as her way of protesting the injustice meted out to her. No matter what the reason, the couple felt cheated and unhappy with each other. Their imperial and intellectual individualities could do little to salvage their marriage. Though they were crowned sovereigns and were parents of a hundred sons, their ideologies and priorities differed.

Time and again, there are instances of people with best interests of the couple in mind or callous vested interests who indulge in cooking up fictitious age, qualifications, health and wealth quotients, social and economic status among other factors to forge an alliance. Little do these people realise that they are paving way to a discontented society wallowing in self pity in the name of making the couple living happily ever after.

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

Radha Prathi, Jun 2, 2015,

The beauty industry is flourishing like never before. The unquenchable desire for retaining youthfulness at all costs serves as fuel to this business. Which one of us would like to grow old, feeble and finally die? Most of us do not even like the idea of ageing gracefully. We use every trick in the book and even invoke cosmetic surgery to retain our good looks against all odds. In the process, we forget that we are at loggerheads with Nature and are fighting a losing battle.

Human vanity and longing for immortality is not a modern disease. The Ramayana records one such tale.

Trishanku the king of solar dynasty was an extremely good ruler and incredibly handsome.
He was besotted with his looks. He was acutely aware of the fact that when living beings died, mortal remains are either disposed of or biodegraded. He could not bear to part with his beautiful body. He yearned to reach heaven physically.

He approached his preceptor Vasishta to help him realise his desire. The sage turned down the request citing that no one can go against the law of Nature. Death invariably spelt the parting of the Atma and the Shareera. But Trishanku was not the one to take no for an answer. He was foolhardy enough to request the sons of Vasishta to fulfill his wish.
The young men were disgusted with the narcissist streak in the king which made him sideline the counsel of his guru. Therefore, they cursed him to become a Chandaala. Accordingly, Trishanku lost his divine looks and turned him into a dismal sight with disheveled looks. The distressed king was dethroned. He roamed like a mad man caught in the web of his own designs.

The horrible experience taught him little. The foolish king hoped to realise his dreams by cashing in on the ego conflict that existed between sage Vishwamitra and sage Vasishta. Vishwamitra promised the ostracised king that the latter would be duly sent to heaven in his new unflattering form. The sage’s eagerness to not let go of an opportunity to settle scores with his rival crippled his intellect. He quite forgot that laws of nature were not to be meddled with.

He conducted a special Yagna to send Trishanku to heaven. The ascent of the ugly king was arrested by Indra and the other gods. But Vishwamitra was not the one to take a beating quietly. He used all his spiritual powers to create a parallel heaven to the forsaken king.

Even today, when people find themselves suffering a prolonged life or refuse to accept that external beauty is only skin deep they consider themselves to be in Trishanku Swarga.