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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Living in Day-tight Compartment

In my post on Mental Health Tips for All Times (April 11, 2020), one of the items I included was “Live in Day-tight compartments”. Here is an explanation for that quote.

“Live in Day Tight Compartments” was the advice Dr. (Sir) William Osler’s gave in his famous address to the graduating medical students at Yale in 1913. Dr. Osler who became the Professor of Medicine in four major universities modernized the practice of medicine and medical education.  In this address, he advised young physicians to practice their skills consistently, one day at a time in Day Tight Compartments. He also said that he learnt this from Thomas Carlyle who said:

Our main business is not to see

What lies dimly at a distance

But to do what lies clearly at hand.

In Mindful Living, it is called Living in the present moment, Calming the mind and Expanding the heart. And, just today I realized that the present moment is the intersect between my historical dimension as an individual (the part) and the Universal dimension, the Whole, the Essence.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 13

Mantra 32: “He who made this (cosmos) does not comprehend it. The creation is hidden from him  who saw (could have seen) it. He, the source of many lives (bahupraja), is enveloped by the mother’s womb (matur yona) and has entered the world of nirriti.”

This is an expression of the mystery of the origins of the universe and of life. Sounds similar to the Nasadiya Sukta.

The Vedic meaning of the word nirriti is “the world of the vasus and the rudras” in  other words, the earth, the mortal world.

 Mantra 33: “Dyau (the sky or heaven) is my father. Prithvi (Earth) is my mother. They are tied by kinship (by my navel). They are like two bowls laid together (one upon the other) making a womb. The father deposited the seed in the daughter’s (duhithuh garbham) womb.”

The second part may jolt a few. But, questions about the origin of the many from the one, the origin  of the first male or female, the origin of the two sexes and the unavoidable doubt that the first child was born out of brother-sister or father-daughter union were thought of by these wise ancestors of ours. They expressed their ideas bluntly and openly. This became the source for later mythologies about how the human race began when Prajapati or Manu cohabited with their daughters and was looked down upon. 

Mantra 34: “I am asking: What is the farthest limit of the earth? What is the center of the universe? What is the fertilizing power of the stallion? What is the highest abode/station/reach of Vac (speech)?”

The rishi answers his questions himself in the next mantra.

Mantra 35: “This altar is the farthest limit of earth. The sacrifice is the center of the universe. Soma is the essence of the  stallion. Brahma is the highest reach of speech.”

The first three answers make it clear that the rishi was speaking about vedic sacrifice which was the essence of Vedic teachings, suggested in the rk mantras and formalized into rituals in the Brahmanas, which is one part of the Veda samhitas. The word Brahma deserves some explanation. Brahma may stand for Prajapati (and not Brahma as we know today). Or, does it stand for Brahmana? What is written in English as Brahmana , may be with Brah in short form or Braah in long form. Brahmana with short forms also stands for one of the four priests in Vedic ceremonies. His duty was to just observe the conduct of the sacrifices and make sure they are done properly, recognize any errors and make a remedy immediately. He practiced silence - the other end of chanting and doing. Some scholars say that his role was the starting point for the development of meditation as an approach to the Brahman. Speech and Silence are certainly the reaches of Vac.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Positive Message from H H Dalai Lama

As you know, I am mixing positive messages with my usual posts on Asya Vamasya Sukta.
Here is a message from the Charter for Compassion   April 3, 2020 with an excerpted message from the Dalai Lama dated 30 March 2020.

My dear brothers and sisters, 

...[A]ncient Indian tradition describes the creation, abiding and destruction of worlds over time. Among the causes of such destruction are armed conflict and disease, which seems to accord with what we are experiencing today. However, despite the enormous challenges we face, living beings, including humans, have shown a remarkable ability to survive.

No matter how difficult the situation may be, we should employ science and human ingenuity with determination and courage to overcome the problems that confront us. Faced with threats to our health and well-being, it is natural to feel anxiety and fear. Nevertheless, I take great solace in the following wise advice to examine the problems before us: If there is something to be done—do it, without any need to worry; if there’s nothing to be done, worrying about it further will not help.... 

...[I]understand that as a result of the necessary lockdowns across the world, many people are facing tremendous hardship due to a loss of livelihood. For those with no stable income life is a daily struggle for survival. I earnestly appeal to all concerned to do everything possible to care for the vulnerable members of our communities.

I offer special gratitude to the medical staff—doctors, nurses and other support personnel—who are working on the frontline to save lives at great personal risk. Their service is indeed compassion in action.

With heartfelt feelings of concern for my brothers and sisters around the world who are passing through these difficult times, I pray for an early end to this pandemic so that your peace and happiness may soon be restored.

With my prayers,

 [H.H. Dalai Lama]
Let me follow it up with a link to an audio on eight pillars of Joy based on a book by H H Dalai Lama and Rev. Desmond Tutu with the title Book of Joy. This came to me in an email from IdeaArchitects who published that book.  Here is the link:

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 12

Mantra 29: This and subsequent hymns make it clear that Dirghatamas is explaining the origin of this earth and various forms of life in it. But the symbolism eludes me.

This hymn says that “he who had covered the cow sneezes to expel her. She is mooing from her station with rain (the clouds). She has created the mortals with her mental power. Shining as lightning, she has stripped the veil.”

Does the  “he who had enveloped the cow” stand for the Primordial One (later Brahman or Prajapati)? And does the cow stands for life? And sneezing refers to His breathing life into the “cow”? Does it also stand as an answer to the insolvable puzzle, namely the gender of the first human? If the first human was male, how did the female come about? If the first human was female, how did the male come about?

The cow (Aditi) , the first female whose life was breathed into her by the Primordial, then made the others. She made them by her mental power (chittibhih), may mean that just like Prajapati she desired to have off-springs. Or, it may mean that Aditi made mortals with mental powers.  And the symbol cow can also stand for the clouds and rain and that is why the rishi says that she was mooing from the clouds (thunder) and the lightening discharged the rain from the clouds.

It may also mean that the cow stands for light which dispels the darkness of the “cloud” and of ignorance.

Really, I do not know.   

Mantra 30: The ideas from the previous hymn on the origin of life flow into this one clearly. It says: “That which has breath (anat), fast movements (turagathu) and stirring of the mind (ejat) is established firmly in the midst of the abode. The immortal  move with the mortal by the self-generated power. (Or, the living move with the power of the immortal?). The mortal and immortal are born of the same womb (sayonih).”

This seems to define life as one with breath, movements and a mind. It also says, in essence, that life and death are part and parcel of life. There is a suggestion of continuity with the dead which may explain the later development of rituals to please the ancestors (pitru).

Mantra 31: “ I have seen the cowherd (gopa), who is steady, and who comes and goes along determined pathways. Invested with brilliance/splendor, he travels within the worlds (plural, bhuvaneshu) in all directions.”

The rishi seems to be clearly talking about the sun with its brightness and his rhythmic appearances every morning. In the Nighantu (Vedic dictionary), the word “gow” is given several meanings. One is “cow”; and another is “ray”. Therefore, the sun with his rays becomes the cowherd, who takes his cattle for grazing every morning and brings them back in the evening. The poet is referring to the rhythm, natural order, which is the rta of the Vedas.

One interpreter considers the word cowherd to mean Prana and gives interesting explanation. Sounds too far-fetched to me.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Mental Health Tips for All Times - From several sources

                                Good sleep


                                Time with Nature


                                Daily Routine (not too strict)

                                Writing journal (diary)

Finding something you like to and, doing it daily


                                Read (not only what you always like to read; but something new and different. Some humor; classics)

                                Music – listen or better still, sing or play

Write letter(s)

Send a note of gratitude or send a gift

Better still Volunteer  

Indulge yourself a little, not too much

Build and maintain relationships with unconditional love and compassion

Avoid competitions and comparisons

Stay informed from reliable sources

Avoid 24-hour news channels

“Live in day-tight compartments” 

Be detached without getting disengaged, if you can (this is particularly for the seniors)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Asya Vamasya Sukta - 11

Mantra 26:  This hymn refers to a cow, one who milks, to savitr who produces some distilled, (or is it purified or clarified), liquid and a reference to boiling something.

“ I invoke the cow (or is it Cow with a capital C?) so that the one who milks with blessed hands can milk her. May Savitr give us excellent sava; it is (made) warm (hot).” (or is it warm and shining milk, because the word abhidh means shining or inflamed and gharma is warm or hot)

The rishi is now clearly using the metaphor of cow and the Sun to point to something. The cow may refer to Aditi, the Universal Mother, from whom all the Adityas came and all the Universe. She is Mother Nature. She is the wish-fulfilling cow, kamadhenu. Rishis, Devas, humans and asuras obtain their needs (milk) from her. Therefore, savitr probably refers to a father figure, the Sun.

There are references in the Brahmana portion of the Veda which consider the cosmos and the individual body as vessels to warm or as receptacles of heat (gharma or gharam).

Mantra 27: She (the cow), the guardian of riches, has come here making hinkara sound yearning for her calf. May we get her milk to feed the Asvins. May she prosper for our benefits.

This is obviously a prayer to Aditi, the mother of all the riches. Asvins , the twin sons of the Sun by a nymph named Saranyu. They are celebrated as physicians to the devas since they restored youth to the old and decrepit sage by name Chyavana. According to Nirukta, the Asvins may represent day and night, or heaven and earth. In one Vedic commentary they are supposed to represent transition from darkness to light and thus related to Ushas, or dawn.

Mantra 28: "The cow calls (bellows, hinkrnoti) her calf standing there with blinking eyes and licks his forehead. She calls him to her warm udder and feeds him while mooing gently."

To me, this is  just a beautiful description of a mother feeding her baby. Dirghatamas is a poet and describes a scene. I remember such scenes from my childhood in India because we had a cow in our house. I also saw it recently in Galapagos Island when a sea-lion came out of the water, made noises and located her baby from among dozens running around and when her baby came, she just lied down and let her baby feed. It is just beautiful because life is mysterious, it is natural, it is universal, it is nurturing. One never gets tired of admiring although this scene has been repeated billions of times.

I find it inappropriate  when one of the interpreters hoists his ideas based on later developments in philosophy onto this simple hymn. Here is a sample: “ Why should the mother kiss on the forehead with himkara? Because it is a Bijamantra, with the syllable hym standing for both mind and matter in which “ha” as the consonant stands for Matter and “I” stands for the Mind and the nasal sound for the prana. Why kiss on the head? Because the head is the symbol of heaven, the immortal devas" etc.,

This is  a problem I see all the time when I read interpreters.  Why put words in the author’s mouth and use them as support for our own personal bias?

Why not just enjoy this simple hymn as is? At the most, we can say that the Cow symbolizes Universal Mother and we are all her children. She is a loving mother and will take care of us. I may add that the poet could have called the calf a female but did not. This may mean  something; may be, not.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Golden Rule Day on April 5th

The Golden Rule and the Charter for Compassion

I received a message recently  from the Charter for Compassion announcing that they plan to celebrate a world-wide day of awareness of the Golden Rule on April 5, 2020.

Here is their message: 

As an ambassador we ask you to help us promote Golden Rule Day to your networks. 

You can share the following:

our website:

Facebook page: 

YouTube page:

You can share the videos posted there, and any content you may find in our facebook page.

We are celebrating Golden Rule Day on April 5th, and anyone can join in and watch all the fun and interesting videos we'll be showing.

Hope you will join.

Thank you

I agreed to spread the message.  I hope you will join in sharing the message of the Golden Rule. You can find more details about this movement and about this special day at the website mentioned above.

May I add that I have signed on to the Charter for Compassion? As a charter member of this movement, I received the note referred to at the beginning of this message.

Hope you will join this circle of compassion.

But I should first tell you what the Golden Rule is, what the Charter for Compassion is and who is behind this movement.

First, what is the Golden Rule?

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you would like to be treated by others. Or, put it in a negative sense, not doing to others what you would not like done to you.

This principle is enshrined in all religions and traditions for millennia. But the name Golden Rule to refer to this principle seems to have originated in the 17th century in England. It was endorsed by leaders of major faiths of the modern world in 1993 by being included in the “Declaration towards a Global Ethic”. The exact words were: “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us.”

There are websites which list examples of this Golden Rule in all the major faiths. The ones I am most familiar with follow:

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”  Hillel, The Elder. Babylonian Talmud

“Do unto others what you want them do to you.”  Matthew 7:12 The New Testament

“Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Maha Bharata Shanti Parva 167:9

Thiruvalluvar, the famous Tamizh poet, whose book Kural has been translated into all the  major languages of the world, has devoted an entire chapter (Chapter 32) to this topic. The title of this chapter is “Innaa Saiyamai”, which means “Not hurting others”. Verse 316 in this chapter reads as follows: “Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself.”

Next, what is the Charter for Compassion and who is behind this movement?

Karen Armstrong, the celebrated scholar of world religions, noted that Compassion is emphasized in all world traditions. Yet, extremist views have overshadowed the application of this simple idea of compassion which is the essence of the Golden Rule. Therefore, she started a movement to encourage the application of the Golden Rule all over the world. She wanted to create a Charter for Compassion. Organizers of TED programs supported her efforts initially and now this has become a world movement. Several cities have adopted this Charter and initiated programs based on Compassion.

At this time in history when there is  more intolerance, violence and negative news cycles, let each one of us counteract their influence by spreading positive messages of Compassion and Golden Rule to bring harmony and well-being to all.  We owe it to the future generation.

Here are a few links to the Charter for Compassion movement. These links are worth sharing with members of our family and friends – particularly the younger generation.  

When I thought about what we can do now, particularly during this pandemic and the health-related global crisis, here are a ideas to consider:

1. Send a message of Gratitude to the Health Care Workers all over the world. They have put their own lives at risk to serve their fellow human beings.

2. Send a message of loving-kindness and a prayer to support all the mothers who are giving birth during this pandemic  without the support of their families.

3.Send a message of loving-kindness and compassion for all those patients who are seriously ill and, in the ICU, fighting their battle alone without the presence of their family

4.Send a message of loving-kindness and hope to the immigrants in limbo in several countries (I am told there about 22 million of them) who are left alone to fend for themselves in this moment of crisis

5. Finally and most importantly, do something tangible, something within our ability, to back up our wishes and prayers.

Thank you for reading