Sunday 25 October 2015


2015-43 Vedic Wisdom - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
What the thunder says -- Da Da Da  or The Three Great Disciplines 

              What the thunder says -- Da  Da  Da  [BU 5.2.1 - 5.2.3]
                               or The Three Great Disciplines

Prajapati, the creator had three kinds of offspring: gods, men and demons.
They lived with Prajapati, practising the vows of brahmacharins. 

After finishing their term, the gods said to him: "Please instruct us, Sir." 
To them he uttered the syllable da and asked: "Have you understood?" 

They replied: "We have. You said to us, ‘Control yourselves (damyata).’ 
He said: "Yes, you have understood."

Then the men said to him: "Please instruct us, Sir" 
To them he uttered the same syllable da and asked: "Have you understood?" 

They replied: "We have. You said to us, ‘Give (datta).’ 
He said: ‘Yes, you have understood.

Then the demons said to him: "Please instruct us, Sir." 
To them he uttered the same syllable da and asked: "Have you understood?" 

They replied: "We have. You said to us: ‘Be compassionate (dayadhvam).’ 
He said: "Yes, you have understood."

That very thing is repeated even today by the heavenly voice, in the form of thunder, as "Da," "Da," "Da," which means: "Control yourselves," "Give," and "Have compassion." 

Therefore one should learn [and practice] these [three great disciplines]:
self-control [dama], giving [datta] and compassion [daya].

What the thunder says -- da  da  da

Sunday 18 October 2015


2015-42  Magic Spell of a Book: John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies

John Ruskin [1819-1900]
Ruskin's Style

Ruskin's style is wonderfully eloquent, a living voice, trumpet-toned. The grave and the gay, the satiric and the serious, narration and reflection, appeal and argument, philosophic discourse and artistic revelation, are all finely interwoven into a grand, luminous web of words. It is the style of a man pouring out his whole soul with its aspirations, fears, love, and hope and joy in flowing strains of impassioned prose.

The great merit of Ruskin's style is its combination of the poetic and the prophetic, the moral and the aesthetic. He never toys with words, but places them in all their beauty of association and suggestion, and in all their force of truth and reality. Candid, brave and tearlessly assertive, his shining weapon of speech is never employed without purpose or effect.

So daring is his originality that it is hard to trace the influences which have fashioned his literary style. Still one dominant factor which has exercised its potent power over the whole body of his writings is the style of [the King James Version of] the Holy Bible. Ruskin is saturated with its spirit, and to it, no doubt, we can ascribe his appealing fervour, picturesqueness, tenderness, unaffected grandeur and sublimity. 


கான மயிலாடக் கண்டிருந்த வான்கோழி*  தானும் அதுவாகப் பாவித்துத் - தானும் தன்* பொல்லாச் சிறகை விரித்து ஆடினால் போலுமே* கல்லாதான் கற்ற கவி. 
Kaana mayil aadak kandirundha vaan kozhi* thaanum atuvaka paviththut tanum tan* polla cirakai virittu atinaar polume* kallathan katra kavi.   [Moodurai 14]
An illiterate person writing a poem pretending to be learned, is like a turkey that pretends to be a peacock, spreading its ugly wings and trying to dance.  

So writes the saintly poetess, Auvaiyar in her Verses of Wisdom, Moodurai. With no such pretensions of the alluded turkey, I humbly present, here, the Magic Spell of a Book -- John Ruskin's Seasame and Lilies -- on me:

Excerpts from Lecture I:  Sesame Of King's Treasuries

I want to speak to you about the treasures hidden in books; and about the way we find them [1]*A book is written not with a view of mere communication, but of permanence... The author has something to say which he perceives to be true and useful. So far as he knows, no one has yet said it; so far as he knows, no one else can say it. He is bound to say it, clearly and melodiously if he may; clearly at all events [9] Now books of this kind have been written in all ages by their greatest men -- by great readers, great statesmen, and great thinkers. These are all at your choice. [11]

You must love them, and show your love in these two ways: First, by a true desire to be taught by them, and to enter into their thoughts. To enter into theirs, observe; not to find your own expressed by them. Very ready we are to say of a book, "How good this is—that's exactly what I think!" But the right feeling is, "How strange that is! I never thought of that before, and yet I see it is true; or if I do not now, I hope I shall, some day." [13]

[As examples] I will take the following lines of Milton’s Lycidas:-

”…for their bellies' sake
Creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold!

Of other care they little reckoning make,
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast,
And shove away the worthy bidden guest;

Blind mouths!” 
Let us think over this passage, and examine its words. [The clergy who] "for their bellies' sake, creep, and intrude, and climb into the fold." [20]
Never think Milton uses those three words to fill up his verse, as a loose writer would. He needs all the three;—especially those three, and no more than those—"creep," and "intrude," and "climb;" no other words would or could serve the turn, and no more could be added. For they exhaustively comprehend the three classes of men who dishonestly seek ecclesiastical power.
First, those who "creep" into the fold; who do not care for office, nor name, but for secret influence, and do all things occultly and cunningly, consenting to any servility of office or conduct, so only that they may intimately discern, and unawares direct, the minds of men.
Then those who "intrude" (thrust) themselves into the fold, who by natural insolence of heart, and stout eloquence of tongue, and fearlessly perseverant self-assertion, obtain hearing and authority with the common crowd.
Lastly, those who "climb," who, by labour and learning, both stout and sound, but selfishly exerted in the cause of their own ambition, gain high dignities and authorities, and become "lords over the heritage," though not "ensamples to the flock." [21]
Now go on to "Blind Mouths"I pause again, for this is a strange expression; a broken metaphor, one might think, careless and unscholarly. Not so: its very audacity and pithiness are intended to make us look close at the phrase and remember it. Those two monosyllables express the precisely accurate contraries of right character, in the two great offices of the Church—those of bishop and pastor.
A "Bishop" means "a person who sees." A "Pastor" means "a person who feeds." The most unbishoply character a man can have is therefore to be Blind. The most unpastoral is, instead of feeding, to want to be fed,—to be a Mouth. Take the two reverses together, and you have "blind mouths"! [22]

We have got somethiing out of the lines, I think, and much more is yet to be found in them. But we have done enough by way of example of the kind of word by word examination of your author which is rightly called "reading". [25]

My friends, I do not know why any of us should talk about reading. We want some sharper discipline than that of reading. [31]

I say, first we have despised literature. What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether or our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses? [32]

I say we have despised Science. What have we publicly done for Science? [33] I say you have despised Art! [34] You have despised Nature; that is to say, all the deep and sacred sensations of natural sceneary. [35] Lastly, you despise Compassion. [36]

There is a true Church wherever one hand meets another helpfully, and that is the only holy or Mother Church which ever was, or ever shall be. [37]

When men are rightly occupied, their amusement grows out of their work, as the colour petals out of a fruitful flower! [39]

Excerpts from Lecture III:  Mystery of Life and its Arts

While the wisdom and rightness of every act and art of life could only be consistent with a right understanding of the ends of life, we were all plunged as in a languid dream -- our hearts fat, and our eyes heavy, and our ears closed, lest the inspiration of hand or voice should reach us -- lest we should see with our eyes and understand with our hearts, and be healed. [107] This intense apathy in all of us is the first great mystery of life; it stands in the way of every perception; every virtue. [108] 

About this human life that is to be, or that is, the wise religious men tell us nothing that we can trust; and the wise contemplative men, nothing that can give us peace. But there is yet, one class of men, more: -- men, not capable of vision, nor sensitive to sorrow, but firm of purpose -- practised in business. What will they say to us, or show us by example? [116] I think, I can best tell you their answer, by telling a dream that I had once. [117]

                                    Dream of a child's Mayday party

"I have dreams sometimes:- I dreamed I was at a child's Mayday party, in which every means of entertainment had been provided for them, by a wise and kind host. It was in a stately house, with beautiful gardens attached to it; and the children had been set free in the rooms and gardens, with no care whatever but how to pass their afternoon rejoicingly. 

They did not, indeed, know much about what was to happen next day; and some of them, I thought, were a little frightened, because there was a chance of their being sent to a new school where there were examinations; but they kept the thoughts of that out of their heads as well as they could, and resolved to enjoy themselves. 

The house, I said, was in a beautiful garden, and in the garden were all kinds of flowers; sweet, grassy banks for rest; and smooth lawns for play; and pleasant streams and woods; and rocky places for climbing. And the children were happy for a little while, but presently they separated themselves into parties; and then each party declared it would have a piece of the garden for its own, and that none of the others should have anything to do with that piece. 

Next, they quarreled violently which pieces they would have; and at last the boys took up the thing, as boys should do, "practically," and fought in the flower-beds till there was hardly a flower left standing; then they trampled down each other's bits of the garden out of spite; and the girls cried till they could cry no more; and so they all lay down at last breathless in the ruin, and waited for the time when they were to be taken home in the evening. 

Meanwhile, the children in the house had been making themselves happy also in their manner. For them, there had been provided every kind of indoor pleasure: there was music for them to dance to; and the library was open, with all manner of amusing books; and there was a museum full of the most curious shells, and animals, and birds; and there was a workshop, with lathes and carpenter's tools, for the ingenious boys; and there were pretty fantastic dresses, for the girls to dress in; and there were microscopes, and kaleidoscopes; and whatever toys a child could fancy; and a table, in the dining-room, loaded with everything nice to eat.

But, in the midst of all this, it struck two or three of the more "practical" children, that they would like some of the brass-headed nails that studded the chairs; and so they set to work to pull them out. Presently, the others, who were reading, or looking at shells, took a fancy to do the like; and, in a little while, all the children, nearly, were spraining their fingers, in pulling out brass-headed nails. With all that they could pull out, they were not satisfied; and then, everybody wanted some of somebody else's. 

And at last, the really practical and sensible ones declared, that nothing was of any real consequence, that afternoon, except to get plenty of brass-headed nails; and that the books, and the cakes, and the microscopes were of no use at all in themselves, but only, if they could be exchanged for nail-heads. And at last they began to fight for nail-heads, as the others fought for the bits of garden. 

Only here and there, a despised one shrank away into a corner, and tried to get a little quiet with a book, in the midst of the noise; but all the practical ones thought of nothing else but counting nail-heads all the afternoon—even though they knew they would not be allowed to carry so much as one brass knob away with them.

But no—it was—"Who has most nails? I have a hundred, and you have fifty; or, I have a thousand, and you have two. I must have as many as you before I leave the house, or I cannot possibly go home in peace." 

At last, they made so much noise that I awoke, and thought to myself, "What a false dream that is, of CHILDREN!" The child is the father of the man; and wiser. Children never do such foolish things. Only men do." [118]


But there is yet one last class of persons to be interrogated... These, -- hewers of wood, and drawers of water, -- these, bent under burdens, or torn of scourges -- these, that dig and weave -- that plant and build; workers in wood, and marble, and in iron -- by whom all food, clothing, habitation, furniture, and means of delight are produced; men, whose deeds are good, though their words may be few; men, whose lives are serviceable -- from these, surely, at least, we may receive some clear message of teaching; and pierce into the mystery of life, and of its arts. [119]

Does a bird need to theorize about building its nest, or boast of it when built? All good work is essentially done that way -- without hesitation, without difficulty, without boasting. [121]

"The work of men" -- and what is that? ... Whatever our station in life may be, those of us who mean to fulfill our duty ought first to live on as little as we can; and secondly, to do all the wholesome work for it we can, and to spend all we can spare in doing all the sure good we can. And sure good is, first in feeding people than in dressing people, then in lodging people and lastly in pleasing people with arts or sciences or any other subject of thought. [135]

These, then are the three first needs of civilized life [feeding people, dressing people and lastly in pleasing people]. Out of such exertion in plain duty all other good will come. [139] 

There is just one law, which obeyed, keeps all religions pure. "At every moment of our lives we should be trying to find out, not in what we differ from other people, but in what we agree with them." [140]

Can our youths plough, can they sow, can they plant at the right time, or build with a steady hand? Is it the effort of their lives to be chaste, knightly, faithful, holy in thought, lovely in word and deed? We have to turn their courage from the toil of war to the toil of mercy; and their intellect from dispute of words to discernment of things; from the errantry of adventure to the fidelity of kingly power. [140]

And then, indeed, shall abide an incorruptible felicity, and infallible religion, shall abide for us Faith, shall abide with us Hope and shall abide for us, and with us, the greatest of these, Charity. [140]

*The numbers within square brackets denote the paragraph numbers in the book Sesame and Lilies:


YouTube Video: John Ruskin - Artist and Observer: [Click Here] 11m

NGC Director Marc Mayer and Christopher Newall, a leading Ruskin scholar and the co-curator of John Ruskin: Artist and Observer take a walking tour of the exhibition and discuss the art and the man.


Sunday 11 October 2015


2015-41  Magic Spell of a Book:  John Ruskin's Unto This Last

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was among the most influential thinkers and activists of the Victorian age. He was a poet and writer, an artist and prominent art critic, a teacher and social philosopher. At the age of three, Ruskin was reading the Bible every morning with his mother and committing passages to memory. He published his first poem at the age of eleven and his first prose at the age of fifteen. 

In 1843 he published the first volume of 
Modern Painters (1843-1860, five volumes), for which he gained critical acclaim. The next major work was The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849), which explored the Gothic styles of the Middle Ages. He followed up with The Stones of Venice (1951-1953, three volumes), and in these he argued that industrialization and the capitalist economy had reduced the working man to a mere cog in the machine.

"And the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all in very deed for this - that we manufacture everything there except men; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, to strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters into our estimate of advantages." [Stones of Venice Vol.II, 1853]

John Ruskin subsequently became an enthusiastic and devoted teacher, lecturing at the Working Men's College in London between 1854 and later at Oxford. He eventually served as the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University (1870-1885).

Over the years, he had traveled broadly and witnessed extensive social injustices. Industrialization was taking hold and profit motivation was becoming more and more evident in the world. 
Ruskin was determined to hold individual people and moral values above the money motivated forward march of industrial progress.

"There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others." [Unto This Last, 1862]


Sarvodaya is here re-translated into English [by V.G.Desai], Ruskin's winged words being retained as far as possible. At the end of that chapter Gandhiji gives us a summary of the teachings of Unto This Last as he understood it: 

1. The good of the individual is contained in the good of all. 

2. A lawyer's work has the same value as the barber's, as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work. 

3. A life of labour, i.e. the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living. 

Gandhiji's conclusion, [written before 1915], is prophetic and fit to be treasured by India for all time to come. And the last paragraph of the booklet is a pearl beyond price. [See below]

"Swaraj is not enough to make a nation happy. What would be the result of Swaraj being conferred on a band of robbers? They would be happy only if they were placed under the control of a good man who was not a robber himself. The United States, England and France for instance are powerful States, but there is no reason to think that they are really happy. 

Swaraj really means self-control. Only he is capable of self-control who observes the rules of morality, does not cheat or give up truth, and does his duty to his parents, wife and children, servants and neighbours. Such a man is in enjoyment of Swaraj, no matter where he lives. A State enjoys Swaraj if it can boast of a large number of such good citizens.

Western civilization is a mere baby, a hundred or only fifty years old. And yet it has reduced Europe to a sorry plight. Let us pray that India is saved from the fate that has overtaken Europe, where the nations are poised for an attack on one another, and are silent only because of the stockpiling of armaments. Some day there will be an explosion, and then Europe will be a veritable hell on earth. 

Non-white races are looked upon as legitimate prey by every European State. What else can we expect where covetousness is the ruling passion in the breasts of men? Europeans pounce upon new territories like crows upon a piece of meat. I am inclined to think that this is due to their mass-production factories. 

India must indeed have Swaraj but she must have it by righteous methods. Swaraj cannot be attained by either violence or industrialization. India was once a golden land, because Indians then had hearts of gold. The land is still the same but it is a desert because we are corrupt. It can become a land of gold again only if the base metal of our present national character is transmuted into gold. The philosopher's stone which can effect this transformation is a little word of two syllables – Satya (Truth). If every Indian sticks to truth, Swaraj will come to us of its own accord."  

Sunday 4 October 2015


2015-40  Healing by Homeopathy: Pulsatilla, a Polychrest

The homeopathic medicine Pulsatilla is made from the windflower. It grows in clumps on sandy well ­drained soil in sunny meadows, pastures and fields. It is soft and beautiful with pendulous bell­-shaped flowers, purple petals and a gold heart. 

Dr Samuel Hahnemann first used the term polychrest in an essay about the medicine Nux vomica. By this he meant a medicine that had a great many uses. Pulsatilla was one of his polychrests and it remains one of the most useful medicines. Pulsatilla is predominantly a female remedy.

It is classically thought to suit blonde, blue-­eyed females of a mild, shy and tearful disposition. Pulsatilla is effective for a range of menstrual and menopausal problems, which are characterized by depression and tearfulness with a need for comfort and sympathy.

Digestive complaints such as indigestion, gastroenteritis, nausea and vomiting, caused by eating rich, fatty foods are cured by Pulsatilla.

Other conditions which respond well to Pulsatilla include depression, varicose veins, nosebleeds, toothache, earache, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, lumbago, chilblains,  acne, migraines, and fever without thirst.


Useful for:Key Symptoms:
MOODINESSRapid change in mood
Sensitive & tearful
Extremes of pleasure & pain
Craves sympathy & attention
COLDSNose runs in open air
Nose stuffy indoors and at night
"Ripe" cold
Thick, creamy, yellow nasal discharge
Sticky discharge from eyes
Fever, but no thirst
STYESEspecially on upper lid
COUGHGagging, choking, in paroxysms
Cough dry in evening, loose in morning
Brings up thick yellow mucus
Feels as if weight on chest; must sit up for relief
EARACHEFeels as if ears are stopped
Severe throbbing pain, worse at night
External ear swollen & red
Thick, yellow, bland discharge
INDIGESTIONAverse to fat food
Averse to warm food and drink
Dry mouth without thirst
Bitter taste
Painful stomach about an hour after eating
Weight like a stone in stomach
Must loosen clothing
BREASTFEEDINGTo dry up mother's milk when no longer needed
MENSTRUAL DISORDERDelayed onset of menses
Intermittent flow
Flow scanty, painful
Flow thick, dark, clotted
Bearing down sensation
Very emotional
Nausea, vomiting
FAINTINGFrom hot, stuffy atmosphere
INSOMNIAFrom recurrent thoughts
Wide awake in evening
Better from:Open air, Cold applications, Motion
Worse from:Warmth, Overheating, Toward evening,
Lying on left side, Lying on painless side