‘Don’t forget. Next Tuesday is Rama’s birthday by our calendar. Take Rs 500 with you and pay it at the office for a one-day upayam on that day. I wonder if you remember – hers is kettai nakshatram and gothram is vaadula, yours. They’ll need these details. Her exams are coming up and she must do well…make sure you collect the receipt.’
To let you know, we celebrate birthdays according to Srirangam panchangam (a well-known authoritative traditional calendar cast in the town of Srirangam), the date determined by the month and the star at the time of birth, with gothram specifying the lineage. Most temples have this scheme where one pays a part of that day’s expenses for conducting special prayers and rituals in the name of a person specified. In this instance, my daughter.
‘Also pray for your father. The poor man is suffering…
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The concepts herein are based on an illuminating foreword written by Late Shri K. M. Munshi to a booklet on Yaksha Prasna, an episode in Mahabharata with deep meanings, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
While treatises are written on the subject, very simply, Dharma is the defining behaviour of a species, a class, a group…by which it sets itself apart from others.
Like a tiger’s is to hunt a prey, a guru is to teach, guide…why, a thief’s is to steal!
It’s a consistent framework that govern a member’s thoughts, actions, beliefs, methods, measures and principles constituting its integrity.
So far so good. Now comes the interesting and complex part:
Dharma by no means is unequivocal. It is also not monolithic or static. There are desha dharma (specific to the place one lives), yuga dharma and kaala dharma (applicable to the times one lives in)… There are role and pedigree based ones too, like raja dharma (for kings) and kula dharma (for lineage)! While these are termed as visesha dharma (special and specific), at the lowest level is saamanya dharma (the ordinary, common, non-specific principles like ‘don’t thieve’, ‘don’t tell lies’…).
It is not difficult to visualize principles of dharma taking contrary positions in a given situation – dharma-sankat’s. A man is never one thing. A raja (a king, a leader) is also a manusha (a man, a human being), a pati (a husband) to his wife and many more with different dharma’s prescribed for each (Dasaratha’s example)! This is not all. Even in the same role, often saamanya dharma could conflict with viseha dharma (rishi’s example). And within in the same class too, saamanya or visesha!
And our lives are full of them and living is negotiating through these conflicts, big and small.
Dilemmas such as this are normally resolved by a Guru by his exemplary decisions/actions in a given context – the one strong function of gurukul education, showing the inadequacy of learning merely from books and not watching its roll-out in real. Also the two great epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata – and the multitude of Purana’s bring up a number of scenarios illustrating the application of dharmic principles. Their very purpose, it’s said. Also from the lives of saints and sages of yore and modern-day enlightened souls.
Time for some examples:
One role (raja) versus another (father): This is from sage Valmiki’s Ramayana, Balakanda, Sarga 19. Here sage Viswamitra is pleading with Dasaratha to send young Rama with him to fight the two demons Maricha and Subahu and protect sage’s penances to fruition. The king, extremely fond of Rama, hesitates. Thereupon the sage in his persuasion tells him not to be blinded by paternal affection, it is his raja dharma to protect his subjects and also not to go back on promises made (earlier the king generously promises to give anything he wanted when welcoming the sage to his court).
Saamanya versus visesha: This is in the well-known parable about the rishi (one who has renounced worldly matters) at his ashram (abode) performing meditation in the forest. A deer comes in running to where the rishi is and quickly gets away taking one of the forest routes available to it. Very soon, a posse of hunters also arrive at the spot and ask the rishi if he saw a deer coming that way and which way did it go. The rishi deliberately points wrong way to them. Here the principle of ahimsa (no cruelty to other living beings) overrides the saamanya dharma’s injunction: ‘don’t tell lies’.
In leadership roles where actions have a much broader impact, the principle of ‘Bahu jana sukhaaya, bahujana hithaaya’ (greater good for great many) is often used in conflict resolution. Not to be confused with tyranny of numbers (majority). For instance, consider capital punishment. Killing someone goes against the state’s visesha dharma of having to prevent cruelty to its subjects, the accused in this instance. On the other hand it is in line with the state’s visesha dharma to protect from or prevent crimes against its subjects, possible victims in future at the hands of this accused if let go or others emboldened by him. How best this could be done provides the answer to the legitimacy of state killing anyone. Or take the project of damming a river to provide water all-round the year versus large tracts of village lands going under water in the up-stream catchment area. Requires a close look at the costs and benefits.
Udyoga dharma (dharma of one’s profession) is a modern broad-based need since profession one takes up is no longer related to one’s kula (ancestral family inherited industries like farmer, potter, soldier, blacksmith…) and also because there are some zillion new professions that have come into being in modern societies. Broadly speaking, udyoga dharma could be that:
‘a) A man must perform a honest day’s work.
‘b) He must sincerely and diligently serve the best interests of his customers (internal including the employer and external including the environment).
‘c) An interesting corollary of b is he must constantly hone his skills so he continues to deliver the best.
Another powerful implication of the above is that the service level (b and c) are not adversely impacted by any grievances an employee may hold, genuine or otherwise, in his job! He is called up on to resolve the same independently to the best of his ability.
The straight and simple inculcation and subsequent reinforcement to keep up one’s dharma is the best self-actualizing motivator on a very sound and stable dharmic base scoring over any scheme conceived so far for this purpose.
In fact, it generally applies likewise to performance under all dharmic frameworks.
Posted by: jyoti ranpura <email@example.com>
At a building construction site nearby, I observed that lots of labourers were working there and their small children used to play various games.
One favourite game was to hold on to one another’s shirt and play “train-train”.
Someone would become the engine and others would become bogies.
Every day, these children used to take turns becoming the engine and bogies..
But, there was one small boy wearing only a half pant who used to hold one small green *cloth* in his hand and become the guard daily.
So, once I went to him and asked him ..”son, don’t you also wish to become an engine or a bogie some time?”
He softly replied, “Sir , I don’t have a shirt to wear so how will the other children catch me to make the train?
But, it gave me a huge lesson…. he could have cried and sat at home and fought with his parents for not having enough money to buy him a shirt.
But instead, he chose another way to play and enjoy himself..
In life, we don’t get all things we desire and we keep complaining ..
I dont have a bike, I don’t have car , I don’t have this or that etc….
Life is like that ….we need to make it beautiful, play the game with what you have and be grateful for what we have.
This too shall pass,
Translated from a post in Tamizh from Kamalji Panditji.
This happened in 1933 on a tour to Kashi.
A grand welcome was arranged by the Raja for Sankaracharya. Erudite pundits, aacharya’s, dignitaries had assembled in good number. No shortage of them ever in a premier learning cum spiritual center like Kashi in those days when they were held in veneration.
Where there is scholarship, green-eyed monster of envy resides usually not far away. This occasion was no exception. Among those who had gathered were some who were envious of the attention the sage was drawing and his aura.
‘So this is the young man who carries the title of Jagadguru, eh? Let’s quickly show him for what he is,’ they thought among themselves.
As soon as the sage settled down, one of them heckled him: ‘Who is Jagadguru (jagad = world) here?’
‘I,’ said the humble sage.
So brazen? ‘Oh, so you’re the guru of this jagad, eh?’
‘Oh, no, jagadaam guru na, jagathi bandhyamanaa sarve mama guru.’
<’No guru of the world, I claim. On the other hand all creatures present in this creation (jagad) are my guru’s and hence Jagadguru.’>
The beauty (and ambiguity) of Sanskrit – a poet’s delight and readers’ woe – allows the compound word Jagaduru to be resolved in two different ways – one who is the guru for this jagad or one to whom this jagad is a guru!!
Smiling at them, he inquired, ‘What are these?’ pointing at holes in a wall of the room.
‘Who built them?’
‘Kuruvi’s (common house sparrows)’
‘The limbless kuruvi’s can build such beautiful houses for themselves that I cannot with the benefit of all my limbs. Blessed with creativity of this kind, they are my guru’s.’
He did namskarams with all humility and veneration to those kuruvi’s!
His critics were silenced…and won over.
He – Jagadguru Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal – was born this day (18/05) in 1894.
Received this Tamizh clip yesterday – it’s about actor Madhavan who is successfully holding his own for several decades now in the volatile world of seven-day wonders – Kollywood. Though not an avid film goer/watcher, rarely seeing a movie from start all the way to finish, I personally loved his comic sense whenever he appeared on the screen. A serial of his I watched eagerly and in full years ago where he appeared as a South-Indian groom in a Panju family. Not one of those mind-numbing antics passing for comedy, but truly and refreshingly hilarious.
Am told this is an old clip, date and occasion not known to me (My version of WP does not let me upload). He’s talking about Mother’s Day. He recalls affectionately, nostalgically, gratefully three pieces of wisdom given to him by his Mom that kept/keeps him going in his profession, internalizing and living them out: a) Don’t hurt anyone intentionally b) Don’t cheat anyone out of his money; make a honest living and c) Treat people, big or small, like people with self-respect due to them.
Well, it seems to have certainly worked for him. Kudos to him for his assiduous following and to his mom for the sage advice
Got me thinking about my Mom and my life. No more now, my Mom had/was: an unwelcome father-less birth, a SSC-pass (given to reading Times Of India every morning!), a typical house-wife of her times, lived most of her life on my father’s meager income, poor on wiles and guile’s…
But I cannot recall any session with her when she sat me down and imparted wisdom.
The first third of my life was spent joyfully in Matunga where the entire neighborhood was friends, some closer than others. Soft-ball cricket, Chess, Cards, crazy over songs of Shankar-Jaikishen, O P Nayyar…, listening to the latest stories of James Hadley Chase (my friend went one up on his narration), fighting over who was more delightful to watch – Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai or our own Jaisimha…
Strangely no politics, no religion, no academics, no girls (I swear), no restaurants, gyms/clubs…Weird? May be, but it was fun. Mom used to search for and drag me home in the evening.
No time for the parents.
Then came college, job, marriage and children.
Once again, no time yet for the parents. Poor wife and children didn’t fare any better. The job taking away the second and a good part of the final third of my life – it was one big challenge as we were trying to make it in the emerging area of software and exports. We felt it was our show though we owned no part of it, giving it all we had to make it big.
Along the way a dear Aunt passed away, followed by my Father and then the Mother only a few years ago.
Those sessions just didn’t take place.
But in contexts very ordinary, the wisdom did come out, unadorned, unheralded, not in bold, italic or in quotes, that it was not recognized as such until later.
To bear out what I’m saying, here’s a story:
For years, it was a daily routine every morning for me to go down and pluck flowers off the plants in our building (apartment complex) for pooja. With very few residents in the building, usually I was the only one at it.
One day a lady, probably in her fifties, unexpectedly appeared on the scene. She and her man had taken a flat on rent in our building recently. She began reaching the spot earlier in the morning and cleaning up the flowers before I got there, without any compunction. I was irritated, offended to see a new-comer, on rent at that, asserting herself so unabashedly in regard to admittedly a shared resource in this manner. My long-standing ‘proprietary’ and exclusive access was thwarted. So I did what I could – I rose even earlier to get to the flowers. Many days I did (she did not go entirely without flowers on those days), and some days I didn’t, returning with a poor collection. On those occasions, came home and bitched about it bitterly.
‘Why are you so upset? Won’t gods in her house also need flowers? It would be the same Krishna and Shiva of our house in theirs too. Would you deny them?’ Lifting her head up, my old lady would say it and go back to her chores.
When said, it did nothing to comfort me. Well, I thought why can’t the interloper buy her flowers from the market instead of taking away mine? She can certainly ask her son (living nearby) to get it for her.
Though not at first, the wisdom went home soon enough. And when it did, the profundity of those words facile hit me hard. Made so much sense. Coming from a lady whose views, I held, would not rise above her deep roots in tradition to a fundamentally true spiritual/religious insight, and hence were never taken seriously to avoid arguments. And how she surprised me time and again is a subject for when I feel encouraged to talk about.
Since then, my routine changed. Whenever I reached the flowers first, I would knock on her doors and offer her gladly a part of the collection. So much so, it wasn’t long before she totally stopped coming while I made the deliveries at her door-step.
The two became such a nice couple I grew fond of. How they had changed! (?!?)
Even today I go to pick flowers and freely offer to one or two neighbors who for some reason can’t venture out.
This is not the only spot (dhaag/blemish) this animal changed for a happier mind on the old lady’s say-so, totally undramatic without raising the voice, rolling the eyes, pointing the fingers or thumping the table.
As I said, that’s for some other day, may be.
A very short beautiful story on the inexplicable…the invisible hand!
This refers to swayamwara arranged by the King Draupad to find a suitable match for his beautiful daughter, Draupadi.
A tough competition was set up: There was a wheel carrying a fish on its rim and revolving at the top of a pole. The pole was rose erect next to a water-body at its base. One who shot an arrow through the eye of the fish looking merely at the reflection in the waters below would win Draupadi’s hands.
The night before, a vexed Arjuna was talking it out with Krishna.
Krishna advised him: ‘ Arjuna, take care, put your foot forward, concentrate on the eye of the fish in your mind.’
Arjuna, more in despair: ‘If I do everything, what will you do, Krishna?’
Krishna smiled and said softly: ‘What you can do, I know, you’ll do and do well. What you can’t, I’ll.’
Arjuna: ‘And, what would that be?’
Krishna: ‘I’ll hold the water steady for you.’
…call it what you like, no denying the hand of the invisible in our lives.
Source: Based on a post from Vasu Kadambi
This is from Sri Govindrajaswamy temple , Thiruppathi, consecrated by Sri Ramanuja in 1130 CE.
The intriguing geometry appears on the ceiling slab of a massive gopuram vaasal (gate).
Here is the gopuram:
Here’s a bottom-up view of the ceiling and the stone slabs:
Here’s a close-up of the geometry:
Look at those straight lines. They appear to be the edges of two polygons shifted and superimposed. Right, eh?
Well, they are not. Start from any node, go down or up and trace the edges without lifting the hand – you’ll return to the starting point!!!
These salabanjika‘s (a common motif at the entrances) would walk away with the crown for beauty, poise and grace any day anywhere!!