Saturday, December 31, 2022

All mine?

There was this interesting thing that I read in the science fiction novels by Larry Niven. He writes of a galaxy of multiple species, including humans, interacting with each other. One of those species finds English funny - specifically the word 'My' - for a reason that seemed rather interesting to me.

The strange thing about English, in the view of that species, was the use of the word 'My'. And, come to think of it, it IS indeed strange...not just in English but in most human languages.

You use the word 'My' to indicate a part of you. Like, My hand, My foot, My heart, whatever. But, strangely, you also use the word 'My' to indicate that which YOU are a part of - My company, My club, My town, yada yada.

You also use the word 'My' to indicate your possessions - My house, My car, My phone...And you use the word 'My' to indicate your relationships - My father, My brother, My wife and so on.

AND you use the word 'My' for what you create - My thoughts, My opinions, My books, My paintings...

And, according to that alien, this is the cause of a lot of problems for humans. The hurt that you take when you have to part with a dearly held opinion is as much as amputating a part of your body! You mistake a relationship for a possession - the marital relationship and, sometimes, even the offspring - and either get into hot water yourself or create trouble for the others or both. You mistake your possessions for your personality and break apart when you lose them. And so on and so on.

How words mold thoughts is a thing that we seldom seem to realize. If a clear idea existed of what is integral to you and what is merely accumulated dross; what is controllable by you in toto and what is yours only by others' choice and so on, life probably would be a lot simpler...and a lot better.

But to KNOW all that, you end up having to answer that basic question - 'Who am I?' And THAT has been the conundrum for all eternity!

Monday, December 26, 2022

Above the gods?

Here we are, fighting like crabs to be considered above the next guy - whether by climbing up or by pulling the other guy down (easier to do the latter, no?) - and here is this chap who talks in terms of aiming to be above the gods. (Yeah, yeah, the demi-gods of Hinduism, not Yahweh or such). Talk about overweening ambition!

Yes, it is our man Tiru and here is what he has to say

Yaan Yenadhu ennum serukku aruppaan vaanorkku uyarndha ulagam pugum - Tirukkural

He who rids himself of the pride of 'I' and 'Mine' shall achieve realms higher than the gods - Loose Translation.

And so...there you have the solution. If you want to be superior even to the gods, all you have to do is rid yourself of your pride.

But, wait! Exactly what do you achieve in the process? I mean, here you are, all agog to want to be seen as superior to the chaps around you. So what IS the point of ridding yourself of your ego? I mean, if I rid myself of the pride of my self and my possessions and I get to belong to this superior place, what would be the freaking point? I cannot feel proud of it and preen about it now, can I, considering that I get to that place ONLY because I have got rid of all these inclinations to look down the nose at other people? 

It is like getting a membership into an exclusive club once you have lost all interest in being seen as exclusive! Sort of like being crowned King after you join the Communist party, you know.

I suppose Tiru is stuck in trying to explain joys that human beings have never experienced in the metaphors that they can understand. Sort of like trying to explain the beauty of the sights that can be seen only if you can see microwave radiation. Which, by the way, IS the problem with anyone trying to explain spiritual joys...always assuming that such exist and the person explaining HAS experienced it.

So, anyway, from what I understand, Tiru says that once you get rid of the idea of seeing the world purely in terms of your place in it; and rid yourself of the pride of what you possess of the things of the world and what you intend to possess...IF you can rid yourself of all that, then you'll lead a life that will transport you into realms beyond the gods.

I do not know if that is really gonna happen. What I do know is that stopping to measure myself and my possessions against the rest of the world has sufficed to keep me happy enough not to bother about the realms that other people may or may not occupy!

If THAT is what Tiru meant, I'm in agreement with it. If not, you guys can figure it out. Me, I'm content. 

Monday, December 19, 2022


We hunt for happiness all over the world when the wise say that it lies within you. Maybe it does but what is also true is that we carry a lot of things that can effectively poison whatever happiness we do find within ourselves...thereby proving that we are our own worst enemies.

And Tiru says that the worst of the enemies we carry within ourselves is anger.

Nagaiyum Uvagaiyum kollum sinatthin pagaiyum ulavo pira? - Tirukkural

Is there a worse enemy than anger which kills your smiles and your joy? - Loose Translation

Hmmm! Come to think of it, there is some truth in it. I mean, I can remember the times when I have had a tiff with someone and was fuming with anger. Forget enjoying myself, I used to be so pissed when someone in my vicinity dared to smile or laugh. I mean, here I was, absolutely incandescent with anger so how could anyone find anything to be happy about around me? Bloody self-centered of him, really!

Yeah, anger and its first cousin - hate - are not really the gregarious sort. They find it difficult sharing the same space with others and prefer to be the sole occupants of the mind that they are lodged in. They could, perhaps, permit vengeance and such others to be room-mates No effing way. If the one comes in, the other HAS to go out. And, so, when anger is in, joy IS out. And TILL anger is out, joy will not step in, cos joy seldom walks in where it is not wanted.

But, no worse enemy than anger? THERE I think Tiru goes too far. How about hopelessness, for example, the leading companion of depression? But, then, I suppose that it is poetic hyperbole. I bet Tiru says that to all negative emotions!

But...but...without anger, hatred-spewing and trolling, where is the joy of having your social media posts going viral? Hmmm...

Monday, December 12, 2022

Needless Coiffure?

Having been practically brought up on the philosophy that 'It is more important to be seen to be busy than to be busy' and having been told that you 'don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle', it is sort of odd to be told that what is important IS the steak...or to actually BE busy...after all!

But, then, Tiru did belong to a different millenium, so it is natural that he held such old-fashioned ideas. Like in this Kural of his...

Mazhitthalum Neettalum Vendaa; Ulagam pazhitthadhu ozhitthu vidin - Tirukkural.

It's needless to shave your head or grow long tresses if only you abstain from all condemn-able deeds - Loose Translation

All those coiffure related advice was probably a metaphorical indication of the practice of sages to either completely denude themselves of hair (deliberately, not like losing the dratted things despite every effort to retain them, as in my case) OR growing long tresses tied up in a top knot, long beard, mustache and all. This playing around with hair was intended, I suppose, to indicate the renunciation of all vanity. Though, modern sages...the successful ones...probably have a hair-stylist at their beck and call to take care of all that keratin. Not really a sign of renounced vanity.

Anyway, to get back to the topic, our man Tiru says that all this sort of hair-styling is needless, if you only renounced all those actions which you are supposed to renounce. In other words, if you truly renounced greed, envy, hatred, yada yada, it is unnecessary to also renounce hair. If you do not, renouncing hair is useless.

Now THAT is quite possibly true as far as any spiritual growth is concerned. I mean, really, you do not become a realized soul because you shaved your hair is not as though your hair was blocking realization from entering your head. And if you do have realization, it is not like it is going to be incomplete till you appropriately style your hair.

The problem, though, is that Tiru makes a sweeping assumption. He assumes that what you are keen on is in actually BEING a realized soul; he does not understand that what you want is to be SEEN as a realized soul (or good employee or wise mentor or whatever). He is too naive to understand that you are in it for what you can GET and not what you can BECOME.

And therein lies the tale. IF you want to BECOME, you take Tiru seriously. Like, if you want to cease to be bigoted, you concentrate on changing your thoughts; if you only want to be SEEN as not bigoted, you address only what passes for coiffure in the circumstances viz. you only learn how to SPEAK politically correct terms. And, likewise, for being a great employee (being busy vs being seen to be busy) and so on.

What am I saying? What's the effing point in becoming? What could you get that you'll not get in spades by just being SEEN the way you want to be seen?

Alas! I seem to be becoming as old-fashioned as dear old Tiru!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Abandoning hope?

Talk to anyone who is spiritual and he'll preach the virtue of being free from desires. The strange thing, though, is that there IS a type of person who has stopped chasing his desires...and he is considered far from virtuous.

In fact, our man Tiru goes so far as to say that such a man has stopped trying to be virtuous as much as he has stopped chasing his desires.

Aran Aakkam vendaathaan Enpaan Piranaakkam penaathu azhukkaruppaan - Tirukkural

He who envies rather than praises another's success is one who neither desires virtue nor success - Loose Translation

The peril of translation is that sometimes things do not seem as clear unless explained. Like, 'neither desires virtue nor success' is pithy but seems unlikely. Where is the man who does not 'desire' success? But, the point here is that such desire is NOT accompanied by the determination to strive for it. I mean, it is all fine to desire to be the next Tom Cruise or the Roger Federer or whatever. You do not BECOME any of those by virtue of sitting at home and calling Cruise and Federer names, do you?

To envy the successful and to think of them as ill-deserving people who have somehow been crowned with success is not merely negative, it is counter-productive. Tiru says that if you have the will to succeed, it will also express itself in honest appreciation of those who have succeeded. After all, if a successful person is not seen by you as worthy of respect, why would you want to be successful?

Envy saps your morale and robs you of your determination. The feeling that luck favors the unworthy will stop you from striving...unless, of course, you think of yourself as unworthy as well.

The easiest way to abandon hope about succeeding yourself is to start envying those who have succeeded!