Dedicated to learning Sanskrit, the cardinal aim of this blog is to give the reader direct access to ancient Scriptures, Śāstras, Literature, Philosophy and so on. The approach is primarily grammatical, but opinion pieces will inevitably feature. I approach the Scriptures with respect, but from a historical, social and mythical point of view. If you are looking for swooning devotion, this is not the blog for you.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Dharma, Artha, Kāma, Mokṣa – IX
Bibek Debroy offers us a refreshing opportunity to reconsider how we live our lives. He also gives us a candid insight into how he has changed. It certainly made me introspect on issues such as priorities, concentration, anger management, and when to let go. Read on and leave a comment sharing your experiences on this matter. The more we share, the more we learn!
There is a place known as Haflong.Not too many people have heard of it.Technically, it is the only “hill station” in Assam and is not far from Manipur.When I was very young, I spent a lot of time in that part of the country.There were metre gauge trains and steam engines chugged along these.And there were tunnels and tunnels, through what was known as “the hill section”.As soon as the train entered a tunnel, you heard some kind of animal howling from inside the tunnel.My parents told me these were “ulluka”s howling.When I had grown up, I asked several people what an “ulluka” was.No one had heard of any such animal.The closest was “ullu”, owl, derived from the Sanskrit उलूक.However, what I used to hear in my childhood were definitely not owls.The mystery was eventually solved on a recent trip to the Garo Hills.There is something called a Hoolock gibbon, the only proper “ape” that is found in India.It is found in the North-East, in Meghalaya and in Assam and Manipur.The Hoolock gibbon became an “ulluka”.It took me around 50 years to find an answer to a trivial question.Had I tried really hard, would I have been able to find the answer sooner?I am sure I would have.I didn’t try hard enough.It wasn’t one of my priorities.
A friend visited us recently.He is a NRI, turned green card holder, turned US citizen.He asked us, “What is this about spirituality?What are people looking for?What is the answer?”I asked, “Is that an important question for you?Is it high on your list of priorities?”He responded that it certainly was.I told him to rank, on a scale of 1 to 10, what his concerns and priorities were.When he did that, to cut a long story short, professional growth, family life, prosperity and material possessions scored 9 out of 10.Spirituality, and concerns around it, scored 2 out of 10.I responded, “There’s your answer.”I am not sure he understood.Questions about dharma, artha, kama and moksha aren’t like instant coffee.There are different translations of the Bible.In one of these, Matthew 7.7 states, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”If I don’t ask, if I don’t seek, if I don’t knock, how will I find the answers?
ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंसः सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते।
सङ्गात्सञ्जायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते॥
क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोह: सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रम:।
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति॥
Many people will recognize this.This is 2.62-63 of the Bhagavad Gita.There are many different translations of the Bhagavad Gita.As on earlier occasions, I am giving you mine.Naturally, you don’t have to accept my translation.But any other translation will also convey the same sense. “If a man thinks about sensual objects, this gives birth to attachment to those objects. From attachment is created desire and desire gives birth to anger. Anger gives birth to delusion and delusion leads to confusion of memory about what is right. From confusion of memory comes loss of intellect and loss of intellect results in destruction.”
Here are another couple of shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita, 2.47-48, and they are even more famous.These are quoted indiscriminately, especially 2.47.“You have the right to action alone.You never have the right to the fruit.Do not be motivated to act because of the fruit.But don’t be motivated to not acting either.O Dhananjaya! Perform action by resorting to yoga. Give up attachment.Look upon success and failure equally.This equal attitude is known as yoga.”Because these are quoted indiscriminately, I think the point is sometimes missed.This isn’t about attachment to the fruits of action alone.It is about all kinds of attachment.It is about वैराग्य, since everything that we are normally attached is impermanent and transient.It is about being निर्मम, being indifferent to any sense of ownership.It is about overcoming ममता, the sense of ownership.I have mentioned the Ashtavakra Gita earlier.Without quoting chapter and verse (2.2 actually), in the Ashtavakra Gita, the sage Ashtavakra asks King Janaka to avoid material objects, as if they are poison, if he seeks liberation.I am sure advocates of renunciation will disagree, but my sense is the following.Unless we are going off to the forest, we can’t do without material objects and possessions.But the key is not being attached to them.They come and go.
कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥
योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणइ सङ्गं त्यक्ता धनंजय।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्ययोः समो भुत्वा समत्वं योग उच्य्यते॥
Dr. Bibek Debroy
I am not going to quote the Sanskrit now.This is 2.56 from the Bhagavad Gita. “He is not disturbed by unhappiness and he is beyond desiring happiness.He has overcome attachment, fear and anger and he is known as a sage who is unwavering in his intellect.”You will say this is impossible for an ordinary mortal.It is meant for sages.I can only tell you something that is extremely personal.As some of you know, for the last several years, I have immersed myself in the Mahabharata.On an average day, let us say 2 hours per day.My wife calls it my “meditation”.I don’t know about meditation.What I do know is that it has changed me.For instance, the following has happened, inadvertently, rather than consciously.(1)I no longer know what is “right”.(2) I find that I know nothing at all.(3) I no longer have to prove myself “right” by proving you “wrong”.(4) Unlike earlier, I find most people agreeable and pleasant.(5) I no longer lose my temper. (I used to frequently lose it earlier and frequently find it again.)(6) I am content and no longer want anything from anyone.(7) I find most normal preoccupations completely irrelevant.I am looking for something that I still haven’t found.
On “Raja Yoga” and meditation, Swami Vivekananda said – try it out and you will see the difference, within three months.I don’t know about three months.All that I know is that, provided it is one of your priorities, you will change.