Sunday 31 January 2016


2016-05 Leo Tolstoy: What Men Live By

Leo Tolstoy [1828-1910]
Leo Tolstoy [1828-1910], was a Russian author, a master of realistic fiction and one of the world’s greatest novelists. Tolstoy is best known for his two longest works, War and Peace (1865–69) and Anna Karenina (1875–77), which are commonly regarded as among the finest novels ever written. During his last three decades Tolstoy also achieved world renown as a moral and religious teacher. His doctrine of nonresistance to evil had an important influence on Mahatma Gandhi. He was the embodiment of nature and pure vitality, the incarnation of the world’s conscience. He was not just one of the greatest writers who ever lived but a living symbol of the search for life’s meaning.

                                        WHAT MEN LIVE BY

A kind and humble shoemaker called Simon goes out one day to purchase sheep-skins in order to sew a winter coat for his wife and himself to share. Usually the little money which Simon earns would be spent to feed his wife and children. Simon decides that in order to afford the skins he must go on a collection to receive the five rubles and twenty kopeks owed to him by his customers. As he heads out to collect the money he also borrows a three-ruble note from his wife's money box. While going on his collection he only manages to receive twenty kopeks rather than the full amount. Feeling disheartened by this, Simon rashly spends the twenty kopeks on vodka and starts to head back home.

On his way home he rants to himself about how little he can do with twenty kopeks besides spending it on alcohol and, feeling warmed after the drink, he says to himself that the winter cold is bearable without a sheep-skin coat. While approaching the chapel at the bend of the road, Simon stops and notices something pale-looking leaning against it. He peers harder and notices that it is a naked man who appears poor of health. At first he is suspicious and fears that the man may have no good intentions if he is in such a state. He proceeds to pass the man until he sees that the man has lifted his head and is looking towards him. Simon debates what to do in his mind and feels ashamed for his disregard and heads back to help the man.

Simon takes off his cloth coat and wraps it around the stranger. He also gives him the extra pair of boots he was carrying. He aids him as they both walk toward Simon's home. Though they walk together side by side, the stranger barely speaks and when Simon asks how he was left in that situation the only answers the man would give are: "I cannot tell" and "God has punished me." Meanwhile, Simon's wife Matrena debates whether or not to bake more bread for the night's meal so that there is enough for the following morning's breakfast. She decides that the loaf of bread that they have left would be ample enough to last till the next morning. As she sees Simon approaching the door she is angered to see him with a strange man who is wrapped in Simon's clothing.
Matrena immediately expresses her displeasure with Simon, accusing him and his strange companion to be drunkards and harassing Simon for not returning with the sheep-skin needed to make a new coat. Once the tension settles down she bids that the stranger sit down and have dinner with them. After seeing the stranger take bites at the bread she placed for him on his plate, she begins to feel pity and shows so in her face. When the stranger notices this, his grim expression lights up immediately and he smiles for one brief moment. After hearing the story from the stranger of how Simon had kindly robed the stranger after seeing him in his naked state, Matrena grabs more of Simon's old clothing and gives it to the stranger.
The following morning Simon addresses the stranger and asks his name. The stranger answers that his name is simply Michael. Simon explains to Michael that he can stay in his household as long as he can earn his keep by working as an assistant for Simon in his shoe-making business. Michael agrees to these terms and for a few years he remains a very faithful assistant.
One winter day a customer who is a nobleman comes in their shop. The nobleman outlines strict conditions for the making of a pair of thick leather boots: they should not lose shape nor become loose at the seams for a year, or else he would have Simon arrested. When Simon gives to Michael the leather that the nobleman had given them to use, Michael appears to stare beyond the nobleman's shoulder and smiles for the second time since he has been there. As Michael cuts and sews the leather, instead of making thick leather boots, he makes a pair of soft leather slippers. Simon is too late when he notices this and cries to Michael asking why he would do such a foolish thing. Before Michael can answer, a messenger arrives at their door and gives the news that the nobleman has died and asks if they could change the order to slippers for him to wear on his death bed. Simon is astounded by this and watches as Michael gives the messenger the already-made leather slippers. Time continues to go by and Simon is very grateful for Michael's faithful assistance.
In the sixth year, another customer comes in who happens to be a woman with two girls, one of which is crippled. The woman requests if she could order a pair of leather shoes for each of the girls — three shoes of the same size, since they both share the same shoe size, and another shoe for the crippled girl's lame foot. As they are preparing to fill the order Michael stares intently at the girls and Simon wonders why he is doing so. As Simon takes the girls' measurements he asks the woman if they are her own children and how was the girl with the lame foot crippled. The woman explains that she has no relation to them and that the mother on her deathbed accidentally crushed the leg of the crippled girl. She expresses that she could not find it in her heart to leave them in a safe home or orphanage and took them as her own. When Michael hears this he smiles for the third time since he has been there.
After the woman and the two children finally left, Michael approaches Simon and bids him farewell explaining that God has finally forgiven him. As Michael does this he begins to be surrounded by a heavenly glow and Simon acknowledges that he is not an ordinary man. Simon asks him why light emits from him and why did he smile only those three times. 
Michael explains that he is an angel who was given the task to take away a woman's life so she could pass on to the next life. He allowed the woman to live because she begged that she must take care of her children for no one other than their mother could care for them. When he did this God punished him for his disobedience and commanded that he must find the answers to the following questions in order to be an angel again: What dwells in man?What is not given to man?, and What do men live by?
After Michael returned to earth to take the woman's soul, the woman's lifeless body rolled over and crushed the leg of the now crippled girl. Then Michael's wings left him and he no longer was an angel but a naked and mortal man. When Simon rescued him he knew that he must begin finding the answers to those questions. He learned the answer to the first question when Matrena felt pity for him, thus smiling and realizing that what dwells in man is "love"
The answer to the second question came to him when he realized that the angel of death was looming over a nobleman who was making preparations for a year though he would not live till sunset; thus Michael smiled, realizing that what is not given to man is "to know his own needs." 
Lastly, he comprehended the answer to the final question when he saw the woman with the two girls from the mother of whom he previously did not take the soul, thus smiling and realizing that regardless of being a stranger or a relation to each other, "all men live not by care for themselves but by love." Michael concluded, saying, "I have now understood that though it seems to men that they live by care for themselves, in truth it is love alone by which they live. He who has love, is in God, and God is in him, for God is love." When Michael finished, he sang praise to God as wings appeared on his back and he rose to return to heaven.

Full AudioBook "What Men Live By and Other Stories": [Click Here]

Sunday 24 January 2016


2016-04  Mother Teresa: Final Analysis ... Any Way

Mother Teresa [1910-1997]
Mother Teresa of Calcutta [1910-1997]: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus." Small of stature, rocklike in faith, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was entrusted with the mission of proclaiming God’s thirsting love for humanity, especially for the poorest of the poor. “God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor.” She was a soul filled with the light of Christ, on fire with love for Him and burning with one desire: “to quench His thirst for love and for souls.”


Sunday 17 January 2016


2016-03 Dr. Albert Schweitzer: "Reverence for Life"

Albert Schweitzer [1875-1965]
Dr. Albert Schweitzer: "Reverence for Life"
Albert Schweitzer [1875 - 1965] was a great theologian, organist, philosopher, physician. He was born in the province of Alsace-Lorraine [in 1875], then, part of the German EmpireSchweitzer considered himself French and wrote mostly in French.

In 1893 he entered the University of Strasbourg and studied theology, philosophy and musical theory. By [1901] the time he was 26, he had degrees as a Doctor of Philosophy, Theology and Music.

Between 1900 and 1905 he acted as a minister of a small church in Strasbourg. During this period he also wrote several books dealing with philosophy and ethics, religion and the music of Bach. He was also considered the world's foremost authority on the architecture of organs as well as one of the most renowned organists.

In 1905, Schweitzer made a radical career change and decided to devote the rest of his life to the natives of equatorial Africa as a medical missionary. He decided that he would study to become a doctor of medicine and reentered the university. In 1913, aged 38, Schweitzer became an M.D.

Why did he choose medicine? Because he was tired of talk and wanted action. And why Lambarene? Because, it was one of the most inaccessible and primitive spots in all Africa, and one without a doctor. Schweitzer considered his work as a medical missionary in Africa to be his response to Jesus' call to become "fishers of men" but also as a small recompense for the historic guilt of European colonizers.

He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of "Reverence for Life", but most famously in founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in [Gabon] Lambaréné, in French Equatorial Africa.  He is reverentially referred to as the Christ of the twentieth century.


Sunday 10 January 2016

SRI ANDAL: NACHIYAR THIRUMOZHI ஸ்ரீ ஆண்டாள் நாச்சியார் திருமொழி

2016 - 02  Sri Andal: Nachiyar Thirumozhi  ஸ்ரீ ஆண்டாள்  நாச்சியார்  திருமொழி 

                  Sri Andal   ஸ்ரீ ஆண்டாள் 

Sri Andal is considered to be the incarnation of Bhoomi Devi (Mother Earth). She was found by Sri Vishnu Chittar (the other name of Sri Peri Azhwar) near a Tulasi plant in his garden, which he maintained for the purposes of growing fragrant flowers for making floral garlands for Sri Vatapatra Sayi, the Lord at the temple in Sri Villiputur. 

Sri Vishnu Chittar named the child "Goda". Goda's love and devotion to the Lord was unbounded. She used to adorn herself with the garlands of flowers made by her father for the Lord at the temple to see if she was a good match for her Lord. 

The Lord instructed Sri Peri Azhwar in his dream that He should receive the garlands of flowers only after they have been worn by the devout Goda. 

Nachiar Tirumozhi is a set of 143 verses which are a part of the 4000 hymns of Nalayira Divya PrabandhamIn her eagerness to join with Lord Krishna, Sri Andal attempts various methods by which she can attain union with her Lord which forms the major part of Nachiyar Thirumozhi. These 143 pasurams (verses) are organized in 14 segments and each one is called "Tirumozhi" and is named after the first phrase of the pasuram, starting from 'tai oru tingalum' (தை யொரு திங்கள்). Each Tirumozhi deals with one specific topic.

Among these, Thirumozhi 6, Vaaranam Ayiram has a special significance. It details Andal's narration of her dream to her friends about her getting married to Sri Krishna. . The first thirumozhi starts with a plea by Andal to kAmadevan for his help in uniting her with her nAthan, emperumAn. The remaining tirumozhi-s are dedicated to different efforts by Andal to somehow speed up her union with perumAL. And finally she is reunited with her Lord. What follows is the meaning of the first two stanzas of Varanam Aayiram:

நாச்சியார்  திருமொழி 6  "வாரணம் ஆயிரம்" 

வாரணம் ஆயிரம் சூழ வலம் செய்து 
நாரணன் நம்பி நடக்கின்றான் என்று எதிர் 
பூரணப் பொற்குடம் வைத்துப் புறம் எங்கும் 
தோரணம் நாட்டக் கனாக் கண்டேன், தோழீ, நான்.  556

VaaraNam aayiram suuzha valam seidhu
naaraNa nambi nadakinraan enredhir
pooraNa porkudam veithu puramengum
thoraNam naatta kana kanden thozhi naan

I had a dream, O Sister! People decorated every place with festoons and put out golden pots with coconuts to welcome our lord Narayaṇa when he comes in procession surrounded by a thousand caparisoned elephants. 556

நாளை வதுவை மணம் என்று நாளிட்டு 
பாளைக் கமுகு பரிசு உடைப் பந்தற் கீழ் 
கோளரி மாதவன் கோவிந்தன் என்பான் ஓர் 
காளை புகுதக் கனாக் கண்டேன், தோழீ, நான்.    557    

naaLai vadhuvai maNamendru naaLittu
paaLai kamugu parisuDai pandarkizh
koLari madhavan govindan enbaanor
kaaLayum pugudha kana kanden thozhi naan 

I had a dream, O Sister! My relatives fixed the day for my wedding. They decorated a beautiful pandal with kamuhu trees. Madhavan Govindan who once took a form of a lion, entered like a bull, and I saw him in my dream. 557

YouTube Audio Discourse on Nachiyar Thirumozhi by Velukkudi  Krishnan Swamy: [Click Here] 94 min

Sunday 3 January 2016

SRI ANDAL: THIRUPPAVAI ஸ்ரீ ஆண்டாள் திருப்பாவை

2016-01  Sri Andal: Thiruppavai   ஸ்ரீ ஆண்டாள்  திருப்பாவை

Sri AndaL
Sri Andal Thiruppavai  [திருப்பாவை] 
The philosophic poetry of the Azhwars Saints from South India collectively known as the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham is a rich heritage in Tamil literature and culture. Azhwars were twelve in number, hailing from different walks of life. The four thousand verses of the Azhwars are considered equivalent to the four Vedas, bringing the message of the Vedas to the common people in the vernacular. The most popular among the Azhwars is the only woman-saint among them, Sri Andal. Sri Andal is worshipped along with the Lord in all Sri Vaishnava homes and temples. Young and old alike go to the temples in the early morning hours during the month of Marghazhi singing her famous Thiruppaavai verses. 

Sri Krishna
In Thiruppaavai, Sri Andal, along with her companions, observes the ancient religious rite of "Paavai NOnbu" which the cowherdesses of Vraja observed in the bygone age, to obtain Sri Krishna's hand in marriage. Each and every one of the thirty verses has been shown to contain many hidden inner meanings of high philosophical import. Several Acharyas have written commentaries on the same. Let us have a look at the first verse "MargazhithingaL" as a sample:

திருப்பாவை பாசுரம் 1:

மார்கழித் திங்கள் மதி நிறைந்த நன்னாளால்
     நீராட போதுவீர் போதுமினோ நேரிழையீர்
சீர் மல்கும் ஆய்பாடிச் செல்வச் சிறுமீர்காள்
     கூர் வேல் கொடுந்தொழிலன் நந்தகோபன் குமரன்
ஏரார்ந்த கண்ணி யசோதை இளஞ்சிங்கம்
     கார்மேனிச் செங்கண் கதிர் மதியம் போல் முகத்தான்
நாராயணனே நமக்கே பறை தருவான்
     பாரோர் புகழப் படிந்து ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய்.

Thiruppavai Pasuram 1
mArgazhith thingkaL madhi niRaindha nannALAl
nIrAdap pOdhuvIr! pOdhuminO nErizhaiyIr!
sIr malgum AyppAdich selvach siRumIrgAL!
kUrvEl kodunthozhilan nandhagOpan kumaran
ErArndha kaNNi yasOdhai iLanjsingkam
kArmEnich sengkaN kadhir madhiyam pOl mugaththAn
nArAyaNanE namakkE paRai tharuvAn
pArOr pugazhap padindhElOr empAvAi.

Simple English Translation of Stanza 1 "Margazhi ThingaL" by Dr V Raghavan: 

Margazhi ThingaL
“It is the good full Moon day of the month of Marghazhi. Oh the well ornamented maidens! Those desirous of taking the bath (in the YamunA) may please come on. Oh the prosperous young girls of AaypAdi (Gokulam) that is rich and grand (in beauty and wealth)! Lord NaarAyana will surely yield to us alone the drum (paRai). He is the son of King NandagOpa, of cruel deeds (towards the enemies), and holding a sharp spear in his hand always. He (KrishNa) is the young lion-cub of Queen YasOdhA with very charming eyes. He (Lord NaarAyaNa) has a dark cloud-like divine complexion, (lotus like) reddish eyes and (lustrous) face (shining) like the bright Sun and Moon. (This Lord NaarAyaNan alone is the Saviour). (Let us) resort (to Him) performing the Paavai-Nonbhu and get the benefit of praise from the people of the world. (Oh dear friend, may You recite and learn this).

For Sri Andal's THIRUPPAVAI: Annotated Commentary in English pdf
by O V Sadagopan: [Click Here]