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Monday, December 1, 2014

Major Upanishads - 1


For a long time I have been convinced that our ancestors had a great view of what the important elements of LIFE are. I have also felt that the followers have all interpreted the original teaching in a way that necessitated elaboration of esoteric concepts such as soul and spirit. In the process they started different schools and some of the followers of these schools have become so attached to “their” school and “their” masters that they have become closed-minded.
 In addition, we now have a better understanding of the physical aspects of the Universe which means that many of the metaphysical concepts will have to be reinterpreted in light of actual, verified and verifiable facts. Both Buddha and Sankara asked us to do so.  This is why I have felt that each one of us should go back to the originals, read them for ourselves and not blindly follow older interpretations, however much we respect the authors.  

When I read the major Upanishads and synthesize what they say with modern physics and neurobiology, where do they take me? Here are some ideas:   

1, Isa Upanishad: (Shukla Yajur Veda). In summary, it states that true wisdom does not simply come out of  knowledge of the supernatural or of the natural. It comes only with the realization “So aham asmi”, which means “I AM HIM (SELF)”.  This “so aham asmi” is one of the 4 mahavakyas or great revelations of the Upanishads. 

Sloka 16 refers to Sun as pushan in Sanskrit. That word means a “nourisher”. Sun is also called “solitary traveler” and “controller”, both of them appropriate. Then he is “surya” which on the basis of its verb root means “one who secures” the vital forces and rays and “makes them his own”. In the next sloka it says: “let my vital force attain the immortal all-pervading” air.  

One gets the impression that the saints and seers who wrote those words easily recognized that vital force or breath (used synonymously as prana) and the sun, the source of energy (surya) are the two primary requirements for life. This point is made in almost all the Upanishads. Prana is specifically emphasized in  Kaushitaki Upanishad.  

This idea shows up again in Katha Upanishad, Section 3. Based on Rg Veda I. cxv. 1, the Sun is considered the Self of all that move and do not move. It is responsible even for the up (prana) and down (apana) movements of the big Prana or the vital force. It says that breath depends on some other force which is in each body. In light of modern knowledge, we can say that breath is necessary for energy exchange and the source of energy is Sun. In that respect Sun is the Self of all because without life no one can think of the Self.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Thought-Exercise

There is the sun, the moon, the tree and the house I live in. I see them; so do you. What I “see” is based on a mental map my brain made of that external reality. What you see is based on the same external reality, but by your brain. They are similar, but not the same; not identical. However, your map and my map match close enough so we can share and discuss the same realities.  

When there are thousands and millions of us, the mental maps are also thousands and millions since the mental maps are made by individual brains in individuals. The maps may not match perfectly. But they refer to the same reality. The reality is only one.   

I am aware of my individual map of the reality and you are aware of yours. You cannot be aware of my mental map except that you are aware of the fact that I have my own mental map, somewhat similar to yours. The reverse is also true. Is there a common entity of Universal Awareness, a Supra-consciousness that stands for the commonality of the mental maps of all of us? This will be akin to the “ideal” of Plato in the Greek system. Is that what is called Brahman in the Vedas? If so, what does that depend on? 

Just as there is only one reality and several mental maps, can there be only one mental awareness (Universal Awareness) and several individualized mental maps of that awareness? But, awareness seems to suggest the need for a subject, an object, knowledge about that object and a physical entity as a platform for all of these to occur. In individuals, it is the brain. What is it in the universal sense? Can there be a Subject not needing a platform to operate from and without any object? 

Thinking differently, once we speak of a mental map, it is an object. The ultimate base as a logical explanation of a common source is subject without an object. Therefore, there cannot be any mental image. If we define the ultimate base as a Pure Subject and one for which no mental image is possible or needed, it is the same as saying that it is the Subject without any object. Any discussion then becomes circular reasoning.  

Whatever IT is, IT has to be the One Primordial Cause and has to be the common source for all. Each individual unit has part of the original imbedded inside. Therefore every individualized unit is capable of knowing IT intuitively (just as we are aware of our lives) and IT is knowable to the individuals (Its parts) without need for a mental map. May be?



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sanskrit, Tamizh, English and Italian - Relationship between Languages - Part 2

Now, I give you some examples of Sanskrit and Tamizh similarities. I am sure all Tamizh speaking people will know the corresponding Tamizh words are the same as the following Sanskrit words.

Vanthi (another word in Sanskrit is vamata, does it not sound like vomit?)

You have to spend a little more time finding the similarity between the following words in Sanskrit and Tamizh. But, they are phonetically close. (All Tamizh words are given in parantheses)
Thakshaka (thatchan)   carpenter
Katuh (kaduppu) pungent
Sthanu (thoon) pillar
Katcham (kaccham) edge of a garment
Veetthee or veethika  (veedi) road or market
Apoopah (appam) a sweet
AAnih (aani) nail, axle
Kanttha (kizhisal) torn garment
Shaadah (chagathi) mud
Naavikah (naavay) boat
Dronee (thoni) bucket
Nishreni (yeni) ladder
Shanasutram ( chanal) hemp
Analah (anal) fire
AAlaapa (aalapanai) preliminary discussion (how appropriate for Indian classical music)
Samlaapa (sallapam) friendly talk
Paththanam (pattinam) town
Yela (elakkai) cardamom
Thundi ( thondi) actually, pot belly
Masina (masikkirathu) making paste
Pinnakah (pinnakku) the residue left over after crushing sesame seed or cotton seed
Shrunkala (sangali) chain
Given that both Tamizh and Sanskrit are ancient languages, it is certain that some words came into Sanskrit from Tamizh and vice versa. Historically, however we know that the Tamizh of ancient India was quiet different from the Tamizh of more recent times. We also know that the vedic language moved south from the north with the vedic customs and most historians agree that this happened probably around the 4th and 5th century CE.

My own position is that each language has its own beauty. How does it matter whether my ancestors were the early ones or yours? How does it matter which language influenced which? (I am sure that it is always in both directions although one may be more dominant because of its political or economic dominance) What if we borrow words if those words enrich my mother-tongue and help me express my ideas better?

We have to look at the English language to learn how to be open-minded. One of the reasons for the dominance of English in the modern world is not just due to the vast British empire during 18th to 20th centuries, but also due to its ability to borrow words from various parts of the world ruled by the British. The evidence for my statement is a book called Hobson-Dobson: The Definitive Glossary of British India written by H.Yule and A.C.Burnell published originally in 1866 and republished in 2013.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sanskrit, Tamizh, English and Italian - Relationship between Languages

Kanchi Periyaval, the sage of Kanchi Matam for most of the 20th century, is my hero and inspiration. His talks were backed by scholarliness and were full of rational arguments. One of the many areas he inspired me to delve into is the field of languages.

I have always been interested in languages from the semantics point of view. Now that I have time, I am deep into four languages – Tamizh (my mother-tongue), Sanskrit, English and Italian. It is interesting that two of these languages (Tamizh and Sanskrit) are classical languages. English and Italian are not classic languages, but have deep roots in Latin, another classic language.

Latin and Sanskrit have common roots and grouped under Indo-European languages.  Tamizh belongs to a separate class of Dravidian languages, of which there are more than 80. The relationship between Tamizh and Sanskrit seems to be due to the influence of the latter on the former after the first 400 years or so of the first millennium.

When I read, I am always looking for words which sound similar in two or more of the four languages I am familiar with. The relationship becomes so evident once we get the phonetics right. I started keeping notes on as many words as possible with similarities and the list is growing longer every day. Here are a few of them. These are, by no means, complete. It is also possible that experts in languages will find errors in my list. But, as a novice, I could not help notice the similarities.

First, Tamizh provided several words to the Latin language during the trade relationship between the Roman Empire (approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE) and various kingdoms in India, particularly in the south of India. Subsequently these words entered almost all the European languages. These words are: inji in Tamizh becomes ginger; sarkara becomes zucchero in Italian and Sugar in English; arisi becomes riso in Italian and rice in English and pippala becomes pepper.

You might have known an island called Sucotra (Suqutra) belonging to Yemen, located at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden. There is a suggestion that this name is a modification of Tamizh word (sugathara theevu, meaning a pleasant island ).  (Basham AL  The wonder that was India. Rupa and Co Calcutta 1967). The Tamizh word neelam for the color is part of the English (chemical) name for the aniline dye.

Mango (mangai ) and  betel leaf (vetthilai) are imports from Tamizh. More modern Tamizh imports include: catamaran (Tamizh: kattai maram)  and mulligatawny (Tamizh: milagu thanni) soup.

There are many other connections between Tamizh and English, but mediated through the relationship between Sanskrit and Latin and the infiltration of Sanskrit into everyday spoken Tamizh. A perfect example seems to be the word, Widow. In Sanskrit it will be vidhava and in Tamizh vidavai. The root word is dhava which in Sanskrit means husband and one without a husband is vi-dhava. In Italian, the word is vedova.

Names for the parts of the body in English and Sanskrit are easily identifiable as coming from a common source. Examples are endless. Here are some.  Nose is naasika. Finger in Sanskrit is anguli and in Latin ungula as in ungulate. Kapaala for skull in Sanskrit becomes cephalic in Latin and in English. Hrdaya of Sanskrit becomes heart. Pada in Sanskrit is the foot and in Latin there are several words related to foot with the prefix ped such as pedal and pedestrian. Anghri in Sanskrit also means the foot; but seems to have been modified to ankle in English. Brow of English is bru in Sanskrit and puruvam in Tamizh. The knee is janu in Sanskrit and genu in Latin, ginocchio in Italian. All these words sound similar.

Tooth is dantha in Sanskrit and dentalis in Latin. There is some suggestion that the word amba that denotes Divine Mother is related to the word womb and the word astthi for bone is related to the word osteo in New Latin. Tendon is called sinew in Latin and snayu in Sanskrit.

Pus in Sanskrit is puya and the Latin adjective is pyo. Thirst in Sanskrit is tharshah. Sweat is swedah. Naked is nagna in Sanskrit. Vaanthi  or vamatha is to vomit. Mishram of Sanskrit is nothing but mixture. Soopah in Sanskrit stands for something to sip, which, as you can guess is soup. Chatu in Sanskrit means to argue and is similar to the word chat. Gravaa is the same as gravel.

Makshika of Sanskrit stands for mosquito. Mooshika is for mouse. Alooka means an owl.

And most all numbers use words with similar sounds, particularly in Sanskrit and Italian. The most important is, of course, dasha in Sanskrit and dieci in Italian which is related to deci, as in decimal.

The word genetics has common roots with the Sanskrit word for birth which is jananam. Rajyam is Sanskrit for a territory and it will be regione in Italian, and a queen in Italian is Regina.

The English word ignite is related to the word agni (fire) in Sanskrit. Gnana in Sanskrit means knowledge and even the word knowledge sounds remotely similar to gnana. How about the corresponding root in Latin of Gnosis (to know) from which originate words like diagnosis and prognosis? Ignorance in Sanskrit is agnana.

Cenare in Italian means to eat. In Sanskrit the word is ashanam. In Tamizh when we refer to the cow’s habit of ruminating as ashai podarathu. Videre in Italian is to see (ci vediamo means “will see you later”) The root is related to the modern word video and to the ancient Sanskrit word veda (vid means to know). In Tamizh it is related to the word viddai.
 I was also surprised to find that the word nabha in Sanskrit means cloud and is similar to the Italian word nebbia and the word piove of Italian which means rain is similar to the Sanskrit word payah.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Categories and Definitions in Sanskrit - Continued

Ṣadānga – six limbs of the Vaida’s - Śikṣā ( grammar of alphabets), vyākaraṇa (grammar of words), chandas (meter), niruktam (meaning and etymology), jyōthiṣam (astrology), kalpam (procedural)
Ṣaddhvā – six ways of knowing the spiritual- through alphabets, words, meaning of words, mantra, parts of the Universe, basic elements and Universe.

Ṣad Īti – six calamities or afflictions - ativrṣti (excess rain), anāvrṣti (no rain), śalabha (locust), mūṣka (rats, mouse), śuka (parrots) and pratyāsanna (foreign invasion)

 Ṣad vikāra of created objects are  Jāyate (born), asti (exists, is), vardhate (grows), vipariṇīmate (develops), kṣhīyate (decreases) and naśyate (perishes)
Six duties of a Brahmin are adyayana (learning scriptures), adyāpanam (teaching scriptures), yajanam ( begging for food), yājanam (giving food), dānam (charity) and pratigraham (?)
Six seasons (rtu) In India the seasons are divided into 6, not 4. They are vasanta (spring), grīṣma (summer), varṣa (rainy), sarad (autumn),  hemanta (cloudy), śiśir (winter)
Sapta riṣi - Bhrugu, Mārīci, Atri, Ᾱngīrasa, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu. (some replace Bhrugu with Vasiṣta).  These riṣi’s vary with each manvantara
Sapta dhatavah - rasa, srunga, māmasa, meda, asthi, majja, śukra ( some add three more, they are keśa, tvak and snyu. (snyu, is tendon, as is sinew in English)
Sapta lōka - bhū, bhuvah, svah, ahah, janah, tapah, satyam
Aṣtānga namaskāram  -  During prostration in front of the deity and elders, for men eight parts of the body are to touch the ground. They are dōrbhyām padbhyām jānubhyām urasā śirasā druśā, manasā vacasā ca iti prṇāmō Aṣtānga īritah. They are respectively, shoulders, feet, knees, chest, head, sight, mind and lips or mouth . A variation uses the words pāṇibhyām for dōrbhyām, and dhiyā for manasā. For women this is substituted with five parts touching the ground. The parts omitted are shoulders, chest and mouth.
Navāvasthā (nine states of the body) are niṣeka (conception), garbha (pregnancy), janma (birth), bālya (infancy), kaumāra (childhood, yauvana (youth), madhyam (middle age), jarā (decay) and mrithyu (death) (Uddhava Gita 17:46)
Navabhakti vidānam (nine ways of showing devotion, worship) are śravaṇa (hearing the Lord’s name and stories), kīrtana (singing His glory and name), smaraṇa (remembering Him, always), pādasaivana (serving at His feet), arcana (special method in which one repeats His name and offer flowers at his feet), dāsya (becoming His slave), vandana (thanking Him, expressing gratitude), sakhya (being His friend) and ātmanivaidana (surrendering to Him).
Navarasa (Nine expression of moods in dance and drama) include śrngāram (amorous), bhībhatsam (disgust), rōṣa or raudra (anger), vismaya (surprise), vīram (Courage), bhayam (fear), hāsyam (humor), śokam (sadness) and śāntam (peace). But, the original treatise of Bharata listed only eight, and śāntam was not in that list
Yama ( observances based on self control, control of the senses, abstaining from; these are Passive). According to Patanajali, there are five. They are ahimsa  (non-injury), satya (truth) asteya  (nonstealing), brahmacarya (celibacy) and aparigraha (nonpossession)
     In another definition, 10 items are included. They are: brahmacaryam dayā kṣānti dānam satyam akalkatā: ahimsa asteyam mādurye dama ca iti yamā smrutāh.  (celibacy, compassion, forbearance charity truth-telling honesty non-injury non-stealing kind speech and self-restraint (calm)
Niyama (restraint, vow, voluntary, not obligatory, self-imposed, externally assisted; these need Active participation) They are 10 in number, as listed in Śoucam ijya tapō dānam svādyāya upasta nigrahah:  vratam, mounam, upvāsam ca snānam ca niyamā daśa.  They are (in order) Purity, worship, charity, education, control of the mind, vow or observance, silence, day of food intake/fasting and holy bath.
            Another list from Uddhava gita (12:34-35) includes: cleanliness, bathing and sipping of water before functions (called ācamanam), performance of fire-oblations, straightforwardness, visiting holy places, repetition of mantra (japa), avoidance of things not to be touched, looking upon all beings as Brahman, and control of mind, speech and bodily actions.
            However, the only five Niyama’s are suggested in Patanjali yoga śāstra in preparation for meditation/rāja yōga are: purity, contentment, austerity, learning and devotion (to pure knowledge).  

Twelve Ᾱditya are Gods of Rg Vaida.  Dhatā rudrō yamā mitrō varuṇah sūrya aiva ca
                                                     Bhagō vivasvān pūṣa ca savitā daśmah (only 10, two more added later, they are Aikādaśh tvaṣtā viṣṇu dvāadaśa ucyatai.

Twelve dharmapatni - Kīrti (fame), Śri (fortune), Vāk (speech), Puṣṭi (healthy body), Śraddha (faith), Kriyā (action), Lajjā (shame?), Mati (understanding), Kṣamā (forgiveness), Smriti (memory), Maidha (intellect) and Dhruti (courage)
Twelve names of Viṣṇu (dvādaśa nāma) are keśva, nārāyaṇa, mādava, gōvinda, viṣṇu, madhusūdana, trivikrama, vāmana, śridara, hriṣīkesa, padmanabha, dāmodhara
Fourteen Manu’s are in sequence:     Svāyambhu, Svārociṣa, Auttami, Tāmasi, Raivata, Cākṣusa, Vaivasvata (current Manu). Yet to come, Sāvarṇi, dakṣa sāvarṇi, brahma sāvarṇi, dharma sāvarṇi, rudra sāvarṇi, deva sāvarṇi and Indra sāvarṇi
Fourteen parts of Vedas         Angāni vaidah catvāro mīmasa nyaya vistarah
                                                Purāṇam dharmaśāstram ca vidyā hi gatā caturdasah

            Four vedās which includes Rg, yajur, sāma,athrva.  Six vedāngās include sīkṣa, vyākarana, chandas, nirukta, jyōtiṣam and kalpa.  Purāṇam, dharmaśāstram, mīmasa and nyaya make fourteen.

Mōkṣa is of 5 kinds: sālōkyam (in sight), sāmībhyam (nearby), sārūpyam (in form), sāyujyam (union) and nirvāṇa (no residue left)

Ratnam (precious stones) are  padmarāgam (ruby), vaiḍuryam (lapis lazuli), puṣparāgam (topaz), mauktikam (pearl), indranalaka (blue sapphire), pravālakam (coral), karketakam (?) and marakatam (emerald or Beryl)



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Categories and Definitions in Sanskrit - continued


Deva:   In one system, there are said to be 33 gods, rather “deva”s. They are: Vasu (8), Rudra (11), Ᾱditya (12) (this list included the Sun and Vishnu), Viśvādeva (2).  In another system, there were 9 groups, with a total of 241. This list includes: Ᾱditya (12), Viśvādeva (13), vasu (8), duṣita (36), Ᾱpāswara (64), Mārut (49), rudra (11), Mahārāyar (36), satyar (12). There are other systems with 333 and 330 million counts. No wonder, the westerners were flabbergasted when they encountered these ideas. They are still flabbergasted, when we say that Hindus worship several Gods but believe that there is only ONE SUPREME. 

Devayonisañaka (Demigods) Gandarva – celestial musician

                                                Apsaras – celestial damsels

                                                Nāga – face of a man and tail of a serpent (non-poisonous snake); poisonous snake is called sarpam

                                                Siddha – a sage; a seer; one who has attained siddha (look under siddha for its eight components)

                                                cāraṇa – celestial singer

                                                guhyaka – attendant of Kubera, guardian of heavenly treasures

                                                yakṣa – attendants of Kubera

            Here is a list of Gods and semi-gods from Udhhava Gita Chapter 9: Sloka 5-6:

            Daiva, asura, guhyaka, siddha, gandharva, vidyādara, cāraṇa, kinnara, nāga, rākṣasa, and kimpuruṣa.     

Kāla: (Time) is divided as follows:  1 day = 24 hours (see related Latin derivatives such as  hōra and horoscope)   A day is made of 8 yāma,
                                                            1 yāma is made of 6 muhūrta

                                                            1 muhūrta is 2 nādi (30 minutes)

                                                            1 nādi is 15 laghu (15 minutes)

                                                            1 laghu is 15 kāṣṭam (1 minute)

                                                            1 kāṣṭam is 5 kṣaṇam (4 seconds)

                                                            1 kṣaṇam is 3 nimesham (4/5 second)

                                                            1 nimesham is 3 lavam (4/15 or 0.26 second)

                                                            1 lavam is 3 vedam (0.09 second)

                                                            1 vedam is 100 triṣti (0.03 second)

             Another source (Manu śastra says that One nimisha is the time it takes for one blink of an eye; 18 such nimishas make a kāṣta, 30 kāṣta make one kalā, 30  kalā make one muhūrta and 30 muhūrta make one day 

Siddhi:          there are 8 siddhis. They are: aṇimā, mahimā, laghimā, prāpti, prākāmya, vaśitā, īśitā, kāmavasāyitvā. ( translated in sequence, they are: ability to become minute, become very big, to become light and levitate, to extend, to become irresistible, have self control, ability to rule and consummate all desires)
                        There is another list of siddhis which include:  free from old age, thirst, hunger and death; ability to hear from distance, ability to see from distance, move the body at the speed of the mind, ability to take any form one wishes, enter another’s body, die when one wishes, ability to take on the sports of Gods, have others obey commands, knowledge of present, past and the future, ability to read other’s mind, counteract the effects of fire, poison and a state in which no one can overcome.
Traya (means three, note the similarity to English three).
            trayī – stands for rg, yajur, sāma Vedas
            triguṇa – satva, rajo and tamo guṇa
            trikāla – past, present, future
            trivarga – darma, artha, kāma ( righteous life, wealth and desire)
            trimūrti – brahma, viṣṇu, śiva (creator, protector, dissolver)
            tridanda – control of organs, mind and self
            tāpatraya – suffering due to self (Ᾱdyātmikam), external things (Ᾱdibhautikam) and divine effects (Ᾱdidaivikam)
            trilōka – earth, middle and heaven
            triśarīra – stūla, sūkṣma, kāraṇa
            triguṇa – state of being awake, dream and dreamless sleep

Words have three powers:  abhidha (to be known), lakṣaṇa (sign or indicator) and vyanjana (denoting clearly)

Caturta  means 4
            Caturvaida – rg, yajur, sāma, atharva
            Catur antarāya – (impediments of the mind) – wandering (laya), vikṣhaipa (distracted), kaṣāya (full of passion and dull) and rasāvāda (attached to tastes and flavors)
            Catur varga – (four prameya or proofs) – Śruti (vedic text), partyakṣam (direct perception), anumānam (inference) and aithiham (tradition)
            Catur vyuha – Vāsudeva, samkarṣṇa, pradhyumna, aniruddha
Four methods of worship are based on Vaidīka, Vaikhānasa, Ᾱgama and Tantra 

Panca – means 5, note similarity to penta
            Pancabhūta – 5 elements of Ᾱkāśa (space), vāyu (wind,air), agni (fire), Ᾱapa (water) and prtvi (earth).
            Pancakrityam – sruṣti (creation), stithi (protection), layam (dissolution), tirodānam (covering) and anugraham (blessing)
            Pancha lakṢaṇam of Purāṇa (Five characteristics of an Epic or  Purāṇa are: sarga, anusarga, vamśa, manvantara and vamśānucaritam
            Pancabhaṇa (the bow with flowers in the hands of Lalita and Manmadan) five flowers are aravindam (lotus), aśoka, sūta (mango), navamalli (jasmine) and nīlotpalam.
            Pancayagñam – deva, pitru, manuṣ, bhūta and brahma (for the deities, the ancestors, for the humans or for Manu, for other lives and for Brahman respectively)
            Pancamahāpātakam (five great sins) are brhamhatti (killing a Brahmin), surāpānam (drinking liquor), svarṇasteyam (stealing), gurukalpadamanam (not ?)

Ṣaṣti – means 6.
            Ṣadūrmi – hunger, thirst, grief, delusion, decay and death
            Ṣadvarga/ripu – kāma (desire), krōda (anger), lobha (greed), mada (intoxicated, mad), mōha (delusion) and matsarya (jealousy),
            Ṣadkrma – adhyāpanam (learning), adhyayanam (practice of rituals), yajanam (beg for food), yājanam (performing sacrifice), (thathā)  dānam (charity), pratigraham (accepting what is given) ca iva ṣadkarmāṇi agrajanmanh.                           

           Ṣanmada - gāṇapatyam (worship of Ganeṣa), kaumāram (worship of Muruga), śāktam (worship of Goddess), sauram (worship of Sun), śaivam (worship of śiva)  and vaiṣṇavam (worship of Viṣṇu).  Śaivam may be pāśupatam, vīra, kāṣmīra and śaivasiddhāntam. Vaiṣṇavam may be pāncarātra, ekānti or vaikānasa.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Categories and Definitions in Sanskrit - Continued

Guṇa means quality or attribute. According to the Saṅkhya system, the three constituents (guṇa) of prakriti are sattva, rajas and tamas. Their balance determines the inherent characteristics of all things in this universe. The word Guna is also applied to organs of actions (karmendriya) which are driven by these guṇas.

Guru is so called because  gukārah antakārasyāt rukārah tan nivartikah, antakāra nirōditat guru iti ucchyate budhaih ( Gu stands for darkness ru stands for removal of that darkness; hence guru)

            Ᾱdi Śankara gives the following characteristics of a Guru.  Śāntā mahānto nivasanti santo, vasantavat lōkāhitam carantah, tīrṇāh svayam bhīmabhavārṇavam janān, ahetuna anyān api tārayantah.  They always live in peace (and harmony). They move like spring breeze in this world. They have crossed the ocean of life and can help everyone cross it with ease.

Indra:   The original name seems to be idandran, which is a combination of “idam” (this, Brahman) and “dran” (have seen). One who has seen Brahman, is Indran.(Idam aadarsham ithi tasmaat idandrah, vai naama idandrah) .

            The root word is ind, means to be powerful.The other etymology for the word Indra is indati iti, indrah.

Indriya:            Indralingam indradriṣtam indrasriṣtam indrajruṣtam indradattham ithi Indriyam” says the definition. In other words, the organs of sense and action owe their origin, power and qualities to Indra, the Lord of the Deva’s. In Uddhava gīta (11:36), Lord Kriṣna says: sarvaindriya indriyam, that is “I am the one who gives the power for the organs to function”.

Īśvara  has 7 qualities. They are sarvgñatā (all knowing), tripti (self contained), anādibhodam (beginning-less knowledge), svatantratā (in His own power), nitya (eternal) aluptaśakti  (undiminished energy) and anantatā (endless). (look for Jīva below)

Jāti, Kulam and Varṇam are related concepts and the source of so much problems in the Indian society.

Jāti is defined as fixed by birth and therefore, includes race and lineage. Therefore it is specific and defines a “species”. It may include members of a caste (varṇa) or tribe (hunting or fishing) or religion or a class (economic).

Kulam is more a genus than a species and includes tribes and families

Varṇam means color and is applied to what is now called Caste. This word is an unfortunate introduction by the Portugese to whom the word castas means “tribes, clans or families”. The word came to be used to both the varṇa and jāti. Incidentally, the so called caste was not prevalent in the Dravidian culture.

The main point was that there were several guilds (coppersmiths, ironsmiths, carpenters etc) in those days. They formed several jātis (later called castes) who practised the same profession, who married only within their group kula (class or caste) or married “up”, and did not eat in the company of the other groups.

Jīva  also called Paśu is bound by vidya (limited knowledge), rāgam (desires), avidya (ignorance), niyati (fate and luck), kalā (limited expertise) and kāla (time). In the Advaita system, Jīva  is individualized ātman.

Kaiśava as in ka (Brahma), a (Viṣṇu), īśa (śiva) and va (vaśa, or under control). One who is in control of creation, protection and dissolution.

Kumaran         Kutsitān mārayati iti - because He conquers the asurāh (demons) of Kāma (desire, lust) and Krōda (anger). Another derivative is Kutsitō mārō yainah which means one who is more handsome than Māran, another name for the God of Love Manmadan.

Mantra is so called because mananāt trāyate, it protects because of being contemplated on, because it is kept in the mind (manas). In japa, the mantra is not uttered aloud.  (the name mantri for minister is based on the requirement that a minister should keep secrets to himself).

Mōkṣa is defined as:   Mōkṣaya nahi vāsōsti na grāmāntaram vā; agñahrdayagrantināśo Mōkṣa iti smrutah. (from Gita Rahasya of Tilak, Vol 1, page 343) This means that Liberation is not in any particular place. You do not have to go to some other place to get it. Destruction of ignorance in the form of a knot in your heart is known as Liberation.

Muni is different from a riṣi. Muni is defined as a sage, ascetic, saint; one who is indifferent to pain and pleasure; devoid of fear, desire and anger and one of steady mind. The term riṣi denotes a poet; the seer. This is reserved for those who obtained the Vedas and gave them to us.

Nārāyaṇa        Ᾱpo nārā iti proktā āpo vai narasūnavah.  Tā yad asyāyanam pūrvam tena nārāyaṇa smrutah.   Two meanings. Nāra means water; it also means human. He is also the source from which we came (ayanam means abode)

OM (Pranav mantra) is so called because akārō viṣṇuh uddhiṣto, ukārastu maheśvarah, makārastu smrutho brahma, praṇavatu trayātmikah

Pragna is a natural state in that it is in this state we are aware of all the other states – namely awake (vaishvanara) and dream (taijasa). Pragna is the general (   ) which functions as a particular (visesha) in the other two states.  It is also called Ishvara (in the Yoga or Nyaya) or Atman (advaita) or Antaryamin (visishtadvaitam). In the advaita system it is the material and the efficient cause of this universe. Chit is the perceiving consciousness. Buddhi is the content or the object of this perceiving consciousness.

Prāṇa  Prakarṣena aṇah iti     because it is an excellent breath, life itself

Pratyaksha is the direct perception of particular and/or inference and related to physical things and mental objects.
Purāṇa is socalled because pura api nava iti though it is old, it is new

Puruṣa is so called because sarvāsu pūrṣu puriśayah iti, one who dwells in all bodies (this is from Brhadāraṇyaka Upanishad 2:5:18)

Riṣi denotes a poet; the seer. This is reserved for those who obtained the Vedas and gave them to us.

Rudra is so called because rjam drāvayati, He drives away suffering; or rōdayati, He makes us cry.

Ramā is one who makes you happy, ramayati iti.

Stobha are special sounds/mantra uttered in Sāma veda.    e (for invocation), ō hau (rpresent Vāsudeva), him (represent prajāpati) and (food).

             These are shortened forms of mantras for convenience of recitation and have symbolic meanings. There are 13 of them. Hā ū stand for Earth (prithvi), hā ī (vāyu, air), a ya (chandra, moon), ī ha ( jīvātman, Self), ī (agni, fire), u (sun, āditya), e (invocation), ō hau (Vāsudeva), him ( prajāpati) and (food, annam), hu (indeterminate), vāk ( virāt) and svarah (prāṇa).

Also, the word Swaaha is used during homa/yagna when offering oblations to the devāa thru agni (fire). The word swadha is used when the offering is to ancestors.

Sūtra means a thread, in simple meaning. Figuratively, it means the material cause of the universe, just as the thread is the material cause of a piece of cloth. This meaning is implied in slokā’s which describe the process of creation in terms of spider weaving its abode out of itself and taking it back. 

            Sūtra also means aphorisms. They are cryptic statements which condense plenty of meaning in as few words as possible in order to facilitate memorization and recall. Since they are cryptic, they need explanation (bhaṣya). This, in turn, leads to different explanations for the same statement.

            It is also used to name sacred and philosophical texts. The word grantha means a condensation of an elaborate treatise. Sutra is tighter than that. In these texts the word thread (sutra) is in relations to Brahman, and signifies one of three things:  1. Holds together the Universe, as a thread holds together a string of pearls; inherent in the universe, weaved into it just as threads are weaved into clothes and 3. The Universe comes out of Brahman and receded into Him, just like the thread of a spider which comes out of its mouth.

Sutra is defined as :    alpaksharam asamdhigdham saaratah vishwathomukham

                                                Asthobham anavadyam cha sutram sutravidho vidhuh

            Finally, sūtra also stands for Mahat or Cosmic Energy (energy portion of the material cause) and therefore often equated with prāṇa, hiraṇyagarbha, sūtratma, and vāyu. Mahat also stands for buddhi.

Vāsudeva        because vasati, vāsayati  lives and makes it live (sarvabhūtativāsah – lives in every creature)

Vishnu so called because viṣ vyāpane (He expands into)

Vyāsa is so called because he categorized the Vedas Vivāsa vedān yasmāt sa vyāsa iti smrti

Yantra so called because yamati trāyate iti (protects by containing within). This includes geographic designs of various shapes such as Mandala, Chakra etc.

Yōga so called because the root word is yuj which means to unite (the individual with the universal). It is defined by Patanjali as chitta vritti nirōdhah meaning that it is control of the mental activities. In Karma yōga, however, yōga is defined as samatvam yōga uccyate (Bhagvat Gīta 2:48) which translates to “Equanimity is yōga”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Categories and Definitions in Sanskrit Texts

The name for various systems of Philosophy in Sanskrit is darṣana. On reading these ancient texts, I admire the minds of Indian thinkers and those who structured our ancient languages, specifically Sanskrit and Tamizh. Our ancient scholars were meticulous about categorizing things and defining words. They liked to use minimum number of words and set them to meters that are easy to memorize. This is how many ancient texts were preserved for generations, purely by the spoken route before the arrival of writing and then printing.

When one categorizes and defines any set of items, it is always for a purpose. Therefore, there are different methods of categorizing the same set and different definitions of the same idea. The following are words from the Sanskrit texts I have read. I looked up several sources deliberately for the meanings and sometimes I stumbled upon them.

Here they are arranged according to categories and definitions to help you when you delve into this ocean of literature. If you can correct some of them and add some more, I will be only too delighted.

(Please note that I have used transliteration of the alphabets. If there are errors, please let me know)


Ᾱcārya is so called because Ᾱśinōti hi śastrārtat (he knows the subject) ā yo sthāpayati svayam ācaratai ( helps student follow by his example) yah ca ācāryam pracakṣate (him we call acharya) (Other similar words include upādyāya, one who sits by the side and teach and also charges a fee to teach; and Guru, one who removes our ignorance)

Agni is so called because agre gacchati iti, it is in front (to receive the oblations)

Akṣara   so called because na kṣīyate, not reducible

Ᾱlayam (temple) is so called because ā samantāt layah (place for privacy and sleep)

Ambā so called because ambane badhnāti iti, binds you with love

Aparoksha is realization of the Brahman based on intuition, inspiration and experience and relates to the Whole.

Aśvattha is the name of a celestial tree with its roots at the top and the branches below; this is what is represented in the design of the temple towers (gōpuram) in the south. It is so called because a (not) stāthah (existing) śvah (tomorrow), in other words impermanent.

Asura  so called because asūṣu ramate iti  which means they rejoice in falsehood, not realizing that Self is other than this body and external objects.

Also note the possible relationship to the Zoarostrian tradition from which this concept could have come. In that tradition, there is a story about the battle between the “Good and the Bad” forces. In that battle Azur Mazda (Ahura Mazda) was from Heaven and represented fire, sunlight and life. Ahirman was from the underworld and represented darkness and death. They were evenly matched. Zoroastrians believed that Ahura Mazda will win and will be the supreme leader. Although the similarity of sounds (Ahura or Azura and Asura) is obvious, you can see that in the vedic tradition, asura is for the evil force. How the representations got changed is not clear.

Bhagavān is so called because he possess Bhaga or excellence or qualities that give splendor to the owner. The qualities are: śri, sampat, śobha, kāma iccha, māhātmyam, aiśvaryam, vīryam, yatnam, prayatnam, arka, kīrti, sūryayaśah

In Dayāśatakam the list includes only six: bōda (Knowledge) bala (strength) aiśvarya (wealth) vīrya (courage) śakti (energy) and dayā (compassion). In a beautiful poem in which these qualities are listed, the saint tells the Lord (Bhagavān) that He is no use if He has the first five qualities until He gets the sixth quality (compassion) in the form of His Consort whose name is Dayā (compassion) residing in His chest.

This is probably based on Viṣṇupurāṇam (6:5:74) which states      

            Aiśvaryasya samagrasya dharmasya yaśasah śriyah,

            Vairāgyasyāta mokṣasya ṣaṇṇām bhaga itīraṇāh.

It is also interesting to know that the word bhāgyam we use in several Indian languages means attainment of at least one of these qualities.
Bhakti is defined as love to a higher person which is mixed with respect and which does not ask for anything in return. Bhakti can be shown to the Supreme in several ways. They (nine ways of showing Bhakti or worshipping)  are listed in Nārada Bhakti Sūtram as follows:

            Śravaṇam kīrtanam viṣṇoh smaraṇam pādasevanam

            Arcanam vandanam dāsyam sakhyam ātmanivedanam

In order, they are listening to His stories and purāṇās, singing his praise, meditating, serving at his feet, doing arcane as in pūja, bowing down, being His slave being his friend and surrendering to Him.

Bhījākṣara (root alphabets) used as symbols in rituals. Here they are and what they stand for: lam (for Earth), vam for water, ram for fire, yam for wind and ham for space. (You might have heard these sounds and also some other sounds such as aa, oo etc in Sāma veda called stobha..

Brahmam (note the alphabet m at the end, not Brahma) is defined by Adi Śankara in Brahma Sutra II: 1. 30-31 as Nitya-suddha-Buddha-mukta svabhāvam (Innately eternal, pure, all knowledge and ever free)  AND  sarvagñam sarvaśaktisamanvitam (all knowing and repository of all energies) AND sarvōbeta ca darśanāt (non-dual from points of view) (sometimes the word Brahman is used)

Candas: this is equivalent to meter in English poetry and thodai in Tamizh poetry. There are at least 90 varieties but the 8 most important are listed in Uddhava Gita Chapter 16, sloka 41. They are: gāyatri, uṣnik, anuṣtp, brihati, pankti, triṣtup, jagati and atijagati. It is interesting to note that gāyatri has 24 syllables, and each of the succeeding meters have 4 additional syllables so that atijagati has 52 syllables. (Note that syllables are counted differently in Sanskrit)

Deva:  One of the original words from Rg Vaida. Root is div which means to shine, be bright. In earliest usage, this word was used to denote organs of sthe ensory system (eye, ear, tongue, skin and nose, and interestingly the mind also) and movements of the body since they were considered to have received their energy for function from the deva’s. Later, this word was used to denote divine entities which energized different functions of the Universe such as wind, fire, water, earth, the sun and the moon and the stars.

            When this was combined with the classification from Samkhya philosophy, deva’s are those dominated by satva guṇa, asura’s are considered to be those dominated by rajo guna and rākshasa are those dominated by tamo guna. This interpretation is suggested in Uddhava Gīta 20:19. Aidhamāne guṇai sattvai daivānām balamaidhtai, asuraṇām ca rajasi tmah uddhava rakṣsām.

            Deva, as defined in ancient texts, has only an indirect perception of Brahman, not direct experience.

            Note the similarity of the word deva to the English word divine supporting the scholarly view that Latin and Sanskrit have common roots. This is probably the reason why the westerners linked the word God to the word deva and missed the entire idea of One Brahman.

            Also note that Purāṇās state that the sage Kāśyapa is the son of Brahmā. The name Kāśyapa is the reverse of Paśyaka, which in Samskrit means “one who sees”. He had 2 wives. The first one was Diti, representing lack of knowledge and her sons were called Daitya’s or Asura.  The second wife was Aditi, knowledge and Discrimination and her sons were the Deva, also called Ᾱditya, Dānavā and Tanujā.

Dharma is so called because it dhriyate loke anena, or dharati lōkam vā  It supports the world

Gaṇaiśa is so named because He is Gaṇānām īśah  the leader of gaṇā (aggregate of humans, which includes body, spirit, mind, knowledge, consciousness, tendencies and self or ego)

Gāyatri is so called because Gāyantam trāyate iti  this manta protects those who sing it

Gñanam is spiritual knowledge, self efflugent, ability to understand things as they are by its own power.  This is different from Vigñānam, specific and external knowledge (equivalent to science)

Gōvinda is so called because stands for our senses, therefore one who controls our senses; or in its meaning as speech, one who can be reached with speech, namely prayers or in its meaning as animals or life-forms, one whom all of us aim for.