Sunday 28 August 2016


2016-35 Naladiyar or Naladi Nanooru [400 Quatrains in Tamil]

The Nāladiyār [Tamilநாலடியார்] is a Tamil poetic work of didactic nature belonging to the Patiṉeṇkīḻkaṇakku anthology of Tamil literature. This belongs to the post Sangam period [100 - 500 CE].  It is a Tamil classic treating of virtue, wealth and love, contains 400 venpakkal or quatrains composed by Jaina ascetics. Every poem deals with morals and ethics, extolling righteous behaviour.

There is an old Tamil saying which goes like this.

ஆலும் வேலும் பல்லுக்குறுதி,
நாலும் இரண்டும் சொல்லுக்குறுதி.

When literally translated, this means, “Banyan and Neem strengthen teeth, Four and Two strengthen words”. The message implied here is that the four-liner “Nāladiyār” and the two-liner “Thirukkural” strengthen one’s conduct and speech, just like how brushing the teeth with sticks of banyan and neem adds to its strength.

Nāladiyār  is unique in the employment of similes, which help to teach the moral codes using simple examples from daily life. For example, one of the poems states that just like a calf placed in front of a vast herd of cows seeks out its mother unerringly and attaches itself, the deeds of the past home in on the doer and exact their price unfailingly.

Rev G.U.Pope writes as follows in his introduction to Naladiyar or Four Hundred Quatrains in Tamil:

Pervading these verses there seems to me to be a strong sense of moral obligation, an earnest aspiration after righteousness, a fervent and unselfish charity, and generally a loftiness of aim that are very impressive.

I have felt sometimes as if there must be a blessing in store for a people that delight so utterly in compositions thus remarkably expressive of a hunger and thirst after righteousness.

They are the foremost among the peoples of India, and the Kurral and Naladi have helped to make them so.

When we examine each quatrain as an artistic whole—a kind of cameo—we find that there are several distinct and clearly marked types. 

1. There are the simply didactic. Here the student must first master the third and fourth lines, in which is enunciated the truth, precept, or principle, of which the former part of the quatrain gives the proof or illustration.

This is seen in the first quatrain, where the aphorism is, 'worldly prosperity is a thing of no account.' This axiom is illustrated by a matter of daily experience.

2. One class of the didactic quatrain depends for its effectiveness chiefly on some apt and ingenious simile, illustration, or analogy.

In 290 the aptness of the figure, the beauty of the expression, the wonderful terseness of the conclusion, together with the perfection of the form and rhythm, leave nothing to be desired.

If I am not deceived there is in many of these verses something far beyond mere technical skill. At times by a few happy touches an idea is expressed in such apt language, and illuminated by such a picturesque use and adaptation of familiar words, each chosen with truest and most accurate discrimination that the quatrain becomes a group of life-like pictures, on which the mind is fain to linger long, and to which it recurs often.

கல்வி கரையில! கற்பவர் நாள்சில;
மெல்ல நினைக்கின் பிணிபல; - தெள்ளிதின்
ஆராய்ந் தமைவுடைய கற்பவே நீரொழியப்
பாலுண் குருகின் தெரிந்து.    

In this matchless verse [135] not a syllable could be spared; while almost every word is common and easy, yet is the very fittest, and is used in its exact meaning. It is somewhat archaic;—has a fascinating air of mystery; pleasantly exercises and amply rewards the student's ingenuity; —seems dark at first, but once lit up, sparkles for ever.

Thus கரை = shore suggests a metaphor: [கல்வி கரையில] 'learning is a shoreless - infinite - ocean.' Then comes the simple antithesis, [கற்பவர் நாள்சில] ' the learners' days are few.' In Tamil the use of the same root twice [in கல்வி and கற்பவர்] and again in the third line [கற்பவே] imparts an added charm. Into these perfectly harmonious lines is compressed a whole chapter:

Swan [Hamsa]
'The subjects of study are infinitely numerous ; but the learners' days are few ; and if it be calmly thought out, men are liable to many diseases. Youthful enthusiasm may lead men to anticipate great and varied triumphs; calm reflection teaches them their natural weakness. So, men should learn with discrimination, [தெள்ளிதின்ஆராய்ந்தமைவுடையexamining closely things befitting them, with intelligence like that of the bird Hamsa, that drinks only the milk and leaves the water, when these mingled are presented to it.' 

Full Text of the Naladiyar with English Commentary by Rev G.U.Pope: [Click Here]

Sunday 21 August 2016


2016-34: Mundaka Upanishad: Two Birds on a Tree [Metaphor]

THIRD MUNDAKA   First Khanda

Mantra No. 1: Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating. 

The two birds are the Jiva and Isvara, both existing in an individual compared to a tree. Both the Jiva and Isvara have a common substratum which is Brahman and which is the reality of both. The body is compared to a tree because it can be cut down like a tree. This tree is also called the Kshetra or the field of manifestation and action of the Kshetrajna or the knower of the field. 

It is the Jiva that is affected by Avidya, Kama and Karma. Because of the conjunction of consciousness with these limiting factors, it has to experience the results of its actions; but Isvara, who is not limited to any adjunct, has no actions whatsoever to perform, and so, no experience of the results of actions. 

The fruits enjoyed by the Jiva are of the nature of pleasure and pain, i.e., they are all relative experiences born of non-discrimination. The experience of Isvara is eternal and is of the nature of purity, knowledge and freedom. 

Relative experience is the effect of the presence of Rajas, but the character of Isvara is Sattva and, hence, there is no phenomenal experience for Him. He is in fact the director of both the agent of actions and the results of actions. Isvara’s activity consists in His mere existence. 

Mantra No. 2: In the self-same tree the individual (bird) is drowned in grief because of delusion and impotency. When it beholds the other (bird), viz., the adorable Lord, it realises its own glory and gets freed from sorrow. 

The grief of the Jiva is the result of its inability to live in conformity with the forms of the effects of unwise actions done in the past. Such thoughtless actions, no doubt, lead to their corresponding results and as they are not in tune with the law of Truth, they torment the individual in the form of unpleasant experiences. 

The freedom of the individual consists in the vision of the Lord Supreme Who is co-existent with it, in fact inseparable from it as its very Self. The realisation of Isvara is the same as the raising of the individual consciousness to the consciousness of Isvara. The Jiva ceases to exist the moment it realises Isvara. 

Mantra No. 3: When the knowing individual has the vision of the intelligent creator, the Lord, the Purusha, the Brahman which is the source of all, then it shakes off both merit and demerit, and having become taintless, attains to supreme equality with the Lord. 

In this Mantra, the Lord is designated as having a golden hue, which means that His nature of Knowledge is eternally inherent in Him even as the colour of gold is something inherent in it. It points to the self-luminous nature of God. To the individual is attributed the quality of knowingness which is the knowledge of the Supreme Being achieved after acquisition of the power of correct discrimination. 

Divine knowledge is free from the conception of good and bad, because this knowledge is non-relative. It is an all-consuming wisdom in which relative natures or conceptions can have no value. Distinctions like virtue, vice, good, bad, high, low, etc., are made only as long as the all-comprehensive knowledge, which underlies all these distinctions, is not realised. 

The Jiva becomes free from blemishes, attachments and sorrows, and gets unified with the Supreme Being. Equality with the Infinite is the same as identity with the Infinite, which is of the nature of non-duality, limitless and unsurpassable. 

dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vṛkṣam pariṣasvajātetayor anyaḥ
pippalaṁ svādv attyanaśnann anyo’bhicakaśīti.
Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body. The former eats
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life

While the latter looks on in detachment.  MuU 3.1.1
samāne vṛkṣe puruṣo nimagno’nīśayā śocati muhyamānaḥ,
juṣṭam yadā paśyaty anyam īśam asya mahimānam iti, vīta-śokah.
As long as we think we are the ego
We feel attached and fall into sorrow.
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.  MuU 3.1.2
yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇaṁ kartāram īśam puruṣam brahma-yonim,
tadā vidvān puṇya-pāpe vidhūya nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti.
When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state.  
MuU 3.1.3

Two Birds on a Tree Metaphor explained by Swami Vivekananda:

Mundaka Upanishad Eng. Translation by Eknath Easwaran: [Click Here]

Sunday 14 August 2016


2016-33 Mundaka Upanishad:  Para Vidya  [Higher Knowledge] and  Apara Vidya [Lower Knowledge 

The Mundaka Upanishad is an ancient Sanskrit Vedic text, embedded inside Atharva Veda. It is one among the ten Principal Upanishads. It is a poetic verse style Upanishad, with 64 verses, written in the form of mantras.
The Mundaka Upanishad contains three Mundakas [parts], each with two Kantas [sections].
The first Mundaka defines the science of Para Vidya [Higher Knowledge] and Apara Vidya [Lower Knowledge]
Then it asserts that acts of oblations and pious gifts do not reduce unhappiness in life, and it is knowledge alone that frees.
The second Mundaka describes the nature of the Brahman, the Self, the relation between the empirical world and the Brahman, and the path to know Brahman.
The third Mundaka expands the ideas in the second and asserts that the state of knowing Brahman is one of freedom, fearlessness, complete liberation, self-sufficiency and bliss.


Saunaka is taught by Angiras
1.1.3. A great householder named Shaunaka once came to Rishi Angiras and reverently asked:
"What is that by knowing which all is known?"
1.1.4. Angiras replied: "The illumined sages say knowledge is twofold, higher and lower.
1.1.5. The study of the Vedas, linguistics,
rituals, astronomy, and all the arts can be called lower knowledge. The higher is that which leads to Self-realization."
1.1.6. "The eye cannot see it; mind cannot 
grasp it. This everlasting Brahman has neither caste nor race, neither eyes nor ears nor hands nor feet. Sages say this Brahman is infinite in the great and in the small, everlasting and changeless, the source of life."

The Mundaka Upanishad:  First Mundaka:  First Khanda 

śaunako ha vai mahāśalo’ṅgirasaṁ vidhivad upasannaḥ papraccha,
kasmin nu bhagavo vijñāte sarvam idaṁ vijñātam bhavati iti.

Saunaka, the great householder, approached Angiras in the proper manner and said: Revered sir, what is that by the knowing of which all this becomes known? MuU 1.1.3

tasami sa hovāca: dve vidye veditanye iti ha sma yad brahmavido 
vadanti,parā caivāparā ca.

To him [Saunaka] he [Angirua] said: Two kinds of knowledge must be known−
that is what the knowers of Brahman tell us.
They are the Higher Knowledge and the lower knowledge.  
MuU 1.1.4

tatrāparā ṛg-vedo yajur-vedaḥ sāma-vedo’tharva-vedaḥ śikṣā kalpo 
vyākaraṇaṁ niruktaṁ chando jyotiṣam—iti.
atha parā yayā tad akṣaram adhigamyate.

Of these two, the lower knowledge is the Rig−Veda, the Yagur−Veda, the Sama−Veda, 
the Atharva−Veda, siksha (phonetics), kalpa (rituals), vyakaranam (grammar), nirukta (etymology), chhandas (metre), and jyotis (astronomy); and the Higher Knowledge is 
that by which the Imperishable Brahman is attained.                                    MuU 1.1.5

yat tad adreśyam, agrāhyam, agotram,avarṇam, acakṣuḥ-śrotraṁ tad apāṇi-padam,
nityam vibhum sarva-gataṁ susūkṣmaṁ tad avyayam yad bhūta-yonim paripaśyanti dhīrāḥ.

By means of the Higher Knowledge the wise behold everywhere Brahman,
which otherwise cannot be seen or seized, which has no root or attributes,
no eyes or ears, no hands or feet; which is eternal and omnipresent,
all−pervading and extremely subtle; which is imperishable and the source of all beings.                                                                                                                 
MuU 1.1.6

YouTubeAudio: Intro. to Upanishads: Dr. Sumit Kesarkar: [Click Here] 

Sunday 7 August 2016


2016-32  Lloyd Douglas: Dr Hudson's Entry into Medicine            

Excerpt 2 from Dr Hudson's Secret Journal:

                                Dr Hudson's Entry into Medicine

November 14, 1913, 8.30 p.m.

Dr Hudson writing in his Secret Journal
...It was in mid-August. We had threshed the wheat, the day before, and my father and my uncle were starting, that morning, on a few days' fishing trip. I had strongly hinted that I should like to go along, but there seemed no room for me.

Barnum and Bailey's big show was to be in Detroit that day. I had saved something like six dollars, which would be ample to cover expenses; but I knew I should be reproached if I squandered my money in this manner. But, having been left out of the fishing excursion, after a hard summer's work, I felt that I was badly treated and would be quite justified if I helped myself to a day's outing.

Father and Uncle Jim were to start at five. I quietly sneaked out of the house at four, walked three miles to the little station at Wimple, and waited for the milk-train to come along. Arriving in Detroit at noon, I took a street- car to the circus grounds where I spent one of the most exciting days of my life. I saw it all; the menagerie, the demobilization of the garish parade, the circus and spectacular pageant "The Burning of Rome." I also patronized several units of the side-show. It was six-thirty before I left the grounds and boarded a crowded street-car for the business district. My train did not leave until nine-thirty.

After a long ride, we were clanging through brighter lights and heavier traffic, so I got off and sauntered along the edges of the crowd on the broad pavement, staring into the shop windows. Besides my return ticket, I had a little money left, and decided to look for a cheap restaurant. There didn't seem to be one on this street, so I turned the corner and walked a couple of blocks, looking for an eating-place that might fit my resources.

Presently I came to a café that had a very imposing front. Several very elegant turnouts were drawn up along the curb, the drivers lounging
"Doc's pretty well oiled"
near their horses' heads. I ambled past, inspecting them with admiration.
A tall, handsome man with a flushed face lurched out of the café and walked unsteadily down the street, pausing before a pair of beautiful roans harnessed to an open stanhope. One of the drivers called to his neighbour, "Doc's pretty well oiled."

I followed along slowly, though it wasn't much like me to take a curious interest in anyone's humiliation. The near horse, tied to the hitching-post, had tugged his bridle off and seemed about to bolt. "Doc" was making an unsuccessful effort to put the bridle on.

"Let me do it," I said.

"All right," he said, thickly, "if you think you can."

It wasn't easy to do, for the horse was nervous, but I managed.

"You know how to drive?" asked Doc. "I'll give you two dollars if you drive me home."

I told him I had to take a train at nine-thirty, but if he thought I could drive him home and get back in time, I would do it—adding that I didn't want to be paid for it. My attitude seemed to please him; for, shortly after we started, he professed an interest in me. I told him where I lived; that I had come to the circus; that this was the first time I had ever been in the city alone; that I wished I could stay in the city; that I didn't like to work on the farm; that I wouldn't stay on the farm if there was any chance to get away. All this was in reply to questions, for I was not naturally garrulous.

I was sitting by his side, driving him home
Then it was "Doc's" turn. He told me he was Doctor Cummings. My
heart gave a hard bump. We often read of Doctor Cummings in the papers. He was said to be one of the finest surgeons in the country. It was hard to believe that I was sitting by his side, driving him home. And he was talking to me as if I really was somebody. He told me that his hostler had been away for two days on a spree; couldn't depend on the fellow any more; wondered if I could stay and look after the horses until he could find another man.

I did not pause to consider what my father might think of this, nor how much my mother might worry if I failed to show up at home. All I could think of was the fact that I should be working for a doctor—one of the greatest doctors! I said I would stay.

"And so you don't like the farm," remarked Doctor Cummings. "Anything else in mind?"

"I'm afraid you'd laugh, sir," I confessed, adding, "I have never told anybody."

"But me," encouraged Doctor Cummings, "and I won't tell."

"I want to be a doctor," I confided, "but I'm afraid it's no good. We haven't the money. I'm not even sure my father can afford to send me to high school."

He didn't say anything for a while. Then he asked me my name and I told him. Then there was another long silence.

"So—you are not interested in anything but medicine; is that right?" he said, rousing from what must have been a little nap.

"That—and swimming," I replied.

"You like to swim?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I suppose you must swim pretty well."

"Like a water spaniel," I boasted. "If I can't be a doctor, I'll have to be a professional swimmer."

There was another long pause.

"Well—you stay here for a while, Wayne, and look after my horses," said Doctor Cummings, "and we will see what we can do. I don't think there's much of a future in swimming."

Got my chance to study medicine
So—that was how I got my chance to study medicine. I began it by being Doctor Cummings' shadow. I was his hostler, errand boy, and diplomatic agent. Drunk or sober, he was always kind to me. And he gave me my opportunity to go to school. If it had not been for my meeting him, that night, when he needed someone to look after him, my whole life might have been set in a different key.

Perhaps that circumstance was accidental; but I don't think so.