Category Archives: Religion

Arundhati Takes On The Redoubtable Vishwamitra!

Stories in ancient Indian scriptures, legends and myths include a good number of women and instances when they bested the men in the battle of wits. The one readily coming to our mind is Savitri retrieving her husband from the jaws of certain death defeating Yama. And there was Gargi (800 BCE) questioning Yajnavalkya, the first philosopher in the Upanishads, Draupadi in Mahabaratha arguing her case like an attorney when she was dragged to the court of DuryodhanaWhile ancient text of Rig Veda, it’s said, mentions some twenty 20+ poetesses, the Sangam literature in the south is not far behind with 25+ poetesses living in its time 2000 years ago! One of the best known poetess Avvaiyar was bold enough to challenge the powerful Tamil kings. More recently, some 800 years ago(!), there was Lilavati, the renowned mathematician and astronomer Bhaskaracharya II’s daughter, teaching her father’s students math and astronomy and earning so much recognition to even get her own gurukul.

This morning I heard this delightful story on TV told by Shri Anantapadmanabha Swamy, an eminent scholar associated with Ahobila Mutt. Did not readily find any reference in Google in a cursory search except for one site Tamil and Vedas already known to me as an inexhaustible storehouse of information of this kind.  The story here on Arundhati, the wife of Sage Vasishta, is drawn from these two sources, using some parts of text verbatim from the latter:

On one occasion, Vasishta had to perform a shrardha, a ritual dedicated to one’s forefathers (a practice followed by many even today though not with the originally prescribed austerity and rigor), mothers included.

As part of the ritual, a few guests are invited to participate and are provided, at the completion, with meals based on a prescribed menu allowing for a certain latitude. Acting symbolically as forefathers themselves, these guests are special, required to observe diligently certain austerities before and after the shrardha to preserve its sanctity.

And poor Vasishta searched high and low and yet wasn’t successful in finding the right person. As a last resort he approached Sage Vishwamitra who had a long-running feud with the former.

Vishwamitra

Vishwamitra heard him out and gladly agreed to be a guest on one condition. And, what was the condition? He must be served 1008, yes, 1008 side-dishes! Impossible to satisfy! Vasishta returned to his ashram crest fallen not knowing what next.

Arundhati gently inquired what had happened. Vasishta sadly admitted to his inability to find a right person, finally his request to Vishwamitra and how the latter did not make it easy, stipulating an impossible condition for his presence during the ritual.

Thence she assured her husband there was no cause to worry and asked him to invite the rishi stating his condition was acceptable. After all what could be better than having the great Sage Vishwamitra at the shrardha! But how? Vasishta felt quite apprehensive for the rishi was not one to be trifled with – on finding his condition not met, he was sure to fly into uncontrollable rage and cast some abominable curse on both of them. Nevertheless, faced with no alternative, he went ahead and invited the rishi agreeing to his strange condition.

On the day of shrardha, Vishwamitra came and sat at the dining place. To his chagrin he saw only 10+ curries on the plate (plantain leaf). When he angrily questioned, Vasishta, directed him to Arundhati as she was in charge of the ceremony.

Wondering (audibly) if the venerable sage did not know or pretending not to know what the shastra’s (rule-books) said in this regard, Arundhati responded citing a relevant shloka (couplet):

कारवल्लि शांत चैव वज्र वल्लि शतत्रयं
पनसं षट् शतंचैव श्रार्धकाले विधीयते

Kaaravalli satam chaiva vajra valli satatrayam
Panasam shat satam chaiva sraardhakaalE VidhiiyatE

Meaning: “Karela/bitter gourd served on the occasion of a shrardha is equal to 100 items, pirandai equal to 300 items and jack fruit equal to 600 items – thus is the rule set out for the ceremony.”

Pirandai.jpg

Pirandai (Cissus quadrangularis)

Fanas.jpg

Jack Fruit (Panasam)

She had served these three vegetable dishes along with 8 more items on the plate. So it came to 1008 items!

There wasn’t much of a counter left for Vishwamitra to say or do but go along to complete the meal and the ritual.

End

 

 

Sources: tamilandvedas.com/2014/06/09/arundhati-wins-vishwamitra-defeated/ and neevmagazine.co.in/lilavati-the-mathematician/

 

A Seer Sees It…Differently

The two sishya’s (disciples) were arguing over some matter.

The voices and the tempers were raising, not realizing the seer was close by.

The seer hoped they would quickly reach a closure.

But it was not to be. It went on for a while.

The seer decided to intervene. He walked up to them and requested them to sort things out amicably without sullying the decorum of the Mutt (institution).

A visitor around at that time observed all that happened.

Politely approaching the seer he asked him why he did not order the errant sjshya’s sternly to behave themselves. After all they were followers of the Mutt. Why make a polite request?

‘You must have read stories about our Rishi’s,’ the seer said to the visitor. ‘And, how predators (tigers) and preys (deer) drank water from the same pond side by side in the ashram’s of our venerable Rishi’s.’

The visitor waited for the seer to continue.

‘It all happened because of the tapas (practice of severe austerities, penances) of the Rishi’s. And here I’m, you’ve with your eyes seen what is mine (thapo-balam, strength of my tapas). Why blame them?’

‘So much more to do,’ muttered the seer, almost inaudibly, as he walked away in sadness.

 

End  

 

 

 

Source: Based on a real incident in the life of revered acharya Incjimedu Azhagiyasingar, the 42nd pontiff of Ahobila Mutt (1879-1953). Narrated by venerable Shri Anantha Padmanabhachariar.

 

 

Sage Vyasa Earns A Respite…

 

Enjoy this literary gem from the inexhaustible treasure of Mahabharatha!

The story how Mahabharatha was recorded goes like this: Sage Vyasa managed to get Vinayaka as his scribe for the task upon one condition: Vyasa must narrate without a single pause. The sage accepted it with one proviso: Vinayaka must understand what is being said before writing it down. This innocuous ‘clause’ put to good use enabled Vyasa to compose the epic without a break!

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Here’s an instance where the sage used a brilliant literary artifice to gain time:

Background: It is in Virata Parva. The mandated year of remaining incognito had just expired for the Pandava’s. Duryodhana labouring under a miscalculation amassed his troops in full strength and raided the border areas of Virata herding away their cattle. This was planned to draw the Pandava’s out prematurely from their hiding and thus gyp them of their rights once more – they would surely come to the aid of Virata in the face of this provocation and thus expose themselves. .

Scene: A chariot is seen to be coming towards them from a distance. Duryodhana wondered who could be the warrior venturing out thus all by himself?

Pitamaha Bhishma standing by his side responds, in Vyasa’s words:

‘Gangajalam keshava naari ketu’

Four words totally unrelated to each other! What sense to make out of them?

Gangajalam = water of River Ganges; keshava = a name given to god Vishnu; naari = woman; ketu = a planetary god.

Of course, Vinayaka figured it out not before giving Vyasa a much-needed respite. Here’s how:

Ganga ja: One Ganges gave birth to = Bhishma;

lam kesha = lankesha = Ravana, King of Lanka;

vana ari = one who destroyed the vana (Ashoka vana where Sita was held captive)

ketu = flag;

Now it reads as: Bhishma (said): It’s one who has on his flag one who destroyed Ravana’s vana = It’s one who has Aanjaneya on his flag = Arjuna.

So it was Arjuna on a chariot driven by the young prince of Virata!

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Clever, isn’t it?

The story goes on from here to record how Arjuna single-handedly defeated the entire force of Kaurava’s in this episode.

Am glad from inside languages like Sanskrit, Tamizh…would continue to confound smartest of lexical analysers!

This is from an upanyasam on Hari Vamsam by venerable Shri Anantha Padmanabhachariar.

End

 

 

 

Source: images from Pinterest

The Guinness Book Of Records Won’t Help In Solving These…

Here’re the questions:

1: “What is the SHARPEST thing in this world?”

His people responded: “The Sword.”

He: “The sharpest is the “human tongue.” Because with the tongue, humans easily hurt the hearts, feelings…of people.”

2: What is the MOST distant from us in this world?

Some said: “Space, the moon, the sun.”

He: “The most distant is the “Past”. Whoever we are, whatever may be our station in life, there’s no going back in time.”

3: What is BIGGEST thing in this world?

Someone replied: “Mountain, Earth, Sun.”

He: “The biggest thing in the world is “Lust”. Many humans become wretched by their indulgence in their lusts. All means are justified in order to realize the lusts of this world.”

4: “What is the HARDEST (and has the MOST WEIGHT) in this world?

They: “Steel, iron, elephant.”

He: “The hardest thing is to “promise” – easy to say but extremely hard to do.”

5: “What is LIGHTEST thing in this world?

They: “Cotton, wind, dust, leaves.”

He: “The lightest in the world is humility, hence it is easiest to lose/forget.”

6: What is CLOSEST to us in this world?

They: “Parents, Friends, Relatives.”

He: “The closest to us is “DEATH”. Because death is SURE and can happen any second.”

7: What’s the EASIEST thing to do in this world?

They replied: “Eating, sleeping, hanging out”

Budha pbs orgGautama Buddha answered: “The easiest is to break someone’s heart.”

 

End

 

 

Source: Thru FB (Usha Narayanan) and image from pbs.org

 

 

Who Killed Ravana?

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On his return, Mother Kaushalya asked Ram: ‘Is Ravana killed (by you)?’

Ram: Ravana – the maha-enlightened, the maha-valarous, the maha-mighty, the maha-erudite, Shiv-bhakth beyond compare, master of four veda’s, author of Shiva-Tandava-Stotra ……Mother, I did not kill the King of Lanka, ‘I’ killed him.’

End

 

PS: I preferred ‘maha’ to ‘most’ in translation. Also left ‘bhakt’ (devotee) as is.

Source: Pinterest

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The Story Of A Banana That Lost (Found?) Its Way

a6ce urbandud.wordpress com

‘Did you taste the bananas I had sent for you yesterday?’

‘Yes, it was very tasty indeed,’ Krishna smiled.

‘It’s a special variety I had planted this season. What I sent you was the first ‘thaar’ (bunch) of the season from the field.’

‘But you sent just one.’

‘Just one? I had personally handed over an entire ‘thaar’, not keeping even one for our home.’

‘Don’t know about that, but I got to eat just one and it was delicious, not the usual stuff.’

‘That’s surprising…never mind, today I’ll personally come with two thaar’s since you liked it so much. Be there till I turn up, don’t go away; I’ll surely come…will surely come…will surely come…’

Enga (Hey), where are you going to and where are you coming from? Wake up, it’s morning. You were dreaming,’ his wife was standing beside him.

The devout mirasdar (landlord), startled out of his sleep, taking a little while to gather his wits, dismissed his wife: ‘Oh, it’s nothing, don’t worry. Get the coffee ready, I’ll be there in a few minutes. I’ve to go to the field thereafter, so don’t delay.’

When he returned later with two huge thaar’s in his hands, his servant, coming to work just then, rushed to him: ‘Ayya, why did you bother? But for my son – down with fever, he didn’t sleep all night – I would have been here much earlier.’

As he tried to relieve the master of the heft, he found himself pushed aside petulantly.

The inquisition began: ‘Tell me first what happened to the bananas yesterday?’

‘Why, I carried the thaar you had given and delivered it to the Ayyar (priest).’

‘How many bananas were there in the thaar you carried?’

Ayya, I did not count. I guess it must be over hundred.’

‘And you handed over the whole thaar at the temple?  Don’t lie – I’ve a way to find the truth.’

‘I did exactly like you had instructed, Ayya…except for a small lapse.’

‘Small lapse?’

‘Just when I neared the temple, the sight of the bananas drew a beggar child who seemed too weak even to beg. He barely managed to put out his two hands, his hunger-dizzied eyes fixed on the fruits. I did not have the heart to walk away. Gave him a fruit that he eagerly partook…it was just one small fruit from the bottom of the pile, squashed on one side by the weight of the thaar…’

Despite his efforts to minimize the loss, the servant stood waiting for the inevitable reprimand.

Silence…

Finally, ‘Go, take these two thaars…’

‘I’ll go right away and this time there’ll be no lapses, I assure you, Ayya…’

‘and distribute among the hungry.’

Ayya?’

‘You heard me right.’ The mirasdar walked away.

The servant’s jaw dropped. He had expected to be fined a month’s pay for the infraction.

Vexed over ‘whatever happened to his master?’ he trooped out carrying the bananas. He was not going to lose his peace trying to figure things out.

 

End

 

 

 

Source: Adapted from a post in WhatsApp. Image from urbandud.wordpress.com

The Hindu Ethos

A very well-articulated article, I thought, from Keerthik Sasidharan capturing what many of us feel within. Appears in The Hindu of November 19, 2017 (there’s no way to reblog onto WordPress, hence…). It’s neither jingoistic in the ‘Hindutva’ sense nor ‘secular’ in the Congress sense.

Here we go:

Away from the heat of reactionary furies and banal identity politics, seeing how Hindu beliefs are formed, sustained and changed

Last week, I visited my ancestral village and found myself listening to family stories told by my aunts who are well into their 70s. These were stories I had heard before. Nevertheless, like always, they were repeated at family gatherings, attesting to the axiomatic truth of all collective storytelling since Vyasa in the Mahabharata: repetition endows potency. In my head, I often divide these family stories into two categories: stories of the times and stories of people. The former are tales of perilous years when hunger was common and scarcity the rule. These aren’t moral tales but merely their recounting — a survivor’s sigh of relief — of how far we have all come from the India of the 1950s to this day. The latter stories about people are invariably morality plays — tales filled with ethical breaches, betrayals, and comeuppance.

This time, I heard a real-life story about a man who was a shrewd and feared feudal presence in their village — the kind who had managed to be both a functionary of the young Communist party and also relentlessly acquire land and wealth. Now in his 80s, after being felled by a stroke, he lay in coma, while, as my aunts described not without some schadenfreude, his children squabbled over his ill-gotten properties even as they refused to shoulder any responsibility towards his care. It all seemed a bit squalid, but none too uncommon, familial tragedy in play. What struck me vividly, however, was a statement by one of my more religious aunts: “It is inevitable given the [bad] karma he accrued by unconscionably fleecing illiterate Mapillahs [Muslims of Malabar] off their lands.”

Everyday secularism

Irrespective of the truth of her statement about his purported actions, what struck me was the ease with which a religious Hindu woman could imagine that a Hindu man could “pay” for his actions towards Muslims. The doctrine of karma, as she understood it, supplemented her intuitions about justice towards a fellow citizen, irrespective of her fellow citizen’s faith in the very same doctrine. It is this generosity of her theological interpretations, made on her own — without the sanction or permission of a clergy, without the approval from a book — that allowed her to be secular in practice without any supervised tutelage of the state regarding secularism. In many ways, she is not unique for a practising Hindu across India. But hers is the kind of everyday secularism borne from the generosity of her religious piety that is often mistaken by Hindutva ideologues for weakness and is often ignored by Left liberals who have little use for religion, far less religiously inspired ethical commitments.

The inner lives of devout Hindus gains all the more salience this week as Kerala begins to celebrate the next three months as a period earmarked for expressions of bhakti. Public and private forms of religiosity will soon decorate the streets. Millions of men from all of south India, dressed in black, heady with vows of brief asceticism, will trek to the temples at Sabarimala. Innumerable festivals at large and obscure temples, performances of various temple arts, concerts and processions, readings and discourses that run for days, if not weeks — it is all quite extraordinary. All of these are public reiterations of a way of living that has evolved over decades, if not centuries — a way of bookmarking human existence as seasons change and time flows.

Being a Hindu

Given all this, it is tempting to think of these external displays as the sole marker of being a Hindu. But unlike Islam or even doctrinaire forms of Christianity, what is less explicitly understood are the set of beliefs that constitutes one’s self-identification as a Hindu. What does ‘being Hindu’ mean? This is a question whose answer goes well beyond any worship of a god or belonging to a specific constellation of traditions (sampradaya). The answer — not in an academic or anthropological sense, but as a lived practice — is inescapably tied to the question of what does “being” mean? And then upon answering that, asking what does the descriptor “Hindu” entail. There are maximalists who argue that being human and being Hindu is the same. On the flip side, there are those who deny — usually after suffering from various inequities within the Hindu society — that one can’t be Hindu and human simultaneously. For most people, the truth lies in the proverbial middle not because that is the easy way out but because most human experiences are rarely at the extremes. To answer what it is to be a Hindu in our times is then ultimately an exercise to reduce an archipelago of subjective understandings into an island of objective knowledge.

The result is that most writings about being Hindu, even by “insiders”, is indistinguishable from historical accounts of concepts, a cornucopia of myths, or are explorations of high philosophical subtleties. All of these are important, of course, but ultimately they are merely the scaffolding inside which Hindu identities learn to organise their inner worlds. If we are to be students of modern India, then this means learning to see how Hindu beliefs, commitments and affiliations are formed, sustain and change. To do this, away from the heat of reactionary furies and banal identity politics, is to learn to see the world for what it is.

End

 

 

Source: The original article appears here. Thanks, Siddharth for the forward.

Nagarjuna’s Killer Time-Gap

art.thewalters.org nagarjuna 

” … 

But what fascinated me most was Nagarjuna’s stress on what my guru referred to as ‘the Killer Time Gap.’ Now Eastern philosophy rests on the twin concepts of karma and reincarnation; since volumes have been written on these concepts, I will simply say here that karma is defined as the movement of the mind (thought) and what it produces in terms of speech and action; the consequences are inevitable and come later—whether a second later, lifetimes down the road, or anywhere in-between. According to Nagarjuna, it is this lethal time gap between our thought, speech and action (karma/doing) and the ensuing results of those actions that is responsible for all the suffering of humanity.

Take the act of killing for instance: If, as I lowered my foot to crush a bug, my own ribs started to break, I’d likely be too terrified of my own well-being to ever kill again, right? Or if, just after I’d stolen ten bucks from you, someone stole a thousand out of my wallet, I might put the action and the consequence together (since they came so close on the heels of each other) and the fear of being punished so quickly and severely might urge me to never ever steal again, right?

Only a few of us are born virtuous; the rest of us are a mix of darkness and light and therefore prey to all the temptations of the world. And yet, unless we are criminally insane or prone to masochism, we would all be perfectly moral if there was no gap between our actions and the consequences of those actions.

Right now (I am writing this post in October 2016) the US Presidential Debate rages on and all sorts of filth relating to the actions of both major candidates is rising up in a tidal wave to hurt not just them, but their families, associates, their respective parties, and all those peripherally involved in this major drama. Now, had either of these two candidates known (at the time they did what they did) that their past sins would rise up to bite them in the butt—too too right in the thick of their fight for a powerful office—would they have blithely gone ahead and done what they did? I think not—it was that killer time gap that allowed both to believe they would ever have to pay the karmic piper—and how wrong they both were.

What we do about this time gap in our own lives? I can only speak for myself. First I forged for myself a strong foundation of reality (known as the “view). In doing so, I digested the meaning of karma so well that in time I became convinced that nothing but nothing goes unrecorded in the vast reservoir of consciousness. This perennial awareness of how reality works now makes me careful in how I think, speak and act; if I make mistakes, as I often do, then I am quick to make amends—to offer an apology or do whatever is necessary to compensate for the hurt or trouble I have caused—for it is said that an amend performed minus the ego is said to wipe out the original bad act. Gradually, as this wisdom seeps into our consciousness, we become organically beautiful people and our happiness and peace quotient rises into the heavens. The beauty of living in such a way is that the whole cosmos benefits.

…”

End

 

 

Source: miraprabhu.wordpress.com and art.thewalters.org

‘So, Find A Man Who Always Speaks The Truth’

A Paramacharya anecdote on wearing rudraksha maalai

 Periyava

He had visited Nepal to have darshan at the holy Pashupathinath temple.

On return, he presented himself before the Paramacharya and respectfully offered the temple prasadam and a rare rudraksha maalai (string of rudraksha beads).

‘Did you have a good darshan?’ the old sage inquired.

‘Yes, Sir, by god’s grace and your blessings.’

The sage lifted the maalai in his frail hands.

‘What’re you going to do with this?’

‘If you may kindly permit, I intend wearing it around my neck…’

There was silence.

‘So, you’ll always speak the truth?’

He was startled. ‘Yes, Sir, I’ll henceforth always speak the truth,’ the words almost rolled off his tongue.

He knew it was not possible at all try as he might. In the presence of the sage he would dare to speak untruth.

Holding himself back, ‘No, Sir, it’s impossible for me to be speaking truth at all times.’

‘Why so?’

‘Sir, I work in a bank. The official records are never unmixed truth. Further, if my manager orders me, I would be compelled to…’

‘Take this, if and when you find someone who never speaks untruth, give it to him.’

The man was mighty happy to receive the maalai back from the sage.

Rushing back he said to his wife: ‘Let’s do as you had suggested. We even have His okay. And imagine we never saw we always had someone with us right here with us in this house who never spoke untruth!’

Since then the maalai adorned the sage’s portrait in the pooja room!

The incident was shared some days later by the sage with another man who had come to have darshan: Your relative…that fellow who works in the bank…he has aspects of Harishchandra in this age. He didn’t lie to me he never lies…’

End

 

Source: https://mahaperiyavaa.blog/author/mahaperiyavaa/