Friday, July 11, 2008

Latin mottos are nice! But why not Sanskrit?

Veritas, motto of a famous University. E pluribus unum, found on the coins of a country. Nulla tenaci invia est via, the motto of a car company. Forget the new world, even schools in Bangalore, India have latin mottos! A famous school in Bangalore has the motto on its coat of arms as Nec Dextrorsum Nec Sinistrorsum. I wonder how many in that institution have understood it!

There is something about Latin mottos. We are simply fascinated by them. Even countries where latin was never a spoken language use latin mottos on their coat of arms. Companies, educational institutions, governments, the list goes on. Can a motto in a common language of the land or the universal language be as interesting or as inspiring?

Several institutions in India have Sanskrit mottos! Most people have either never noticed them or do not care about them. In fact, these mottos as more suitable since they are apt and are taken from a context in our cultural heritage.

To start with my school Vijaya High School's motto, it says 'na hi jnaanena sadrusham pavitram'. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Ch 4, shloka 38), nothing is as pure as knowledge. What an apt motto for a school!

The motto of the Republic of India is 'Satyameva Jayate', which means Truth Alone Triumphs. Whether truth is currently triumphing is altogether a different issue!

The signature lines of the Indian armed forces are also very beautiful.

The Indian Navy's motto is 'shaM no varunah' which means May the Lord of the Oceans be auspicious unto us. Isn't that the prayer that one wants to say if one lives on the water all the time!?! The INS Mysore's line says 'Na Bhibheti Kadaachana' meaning 'Always Fearless'.

The Indian Air Force's motto is Nabha Sparsham Deeptam, (taken from the Gita) which translates as 'Touch the Sky with Glory'.

Different regiments and combat units in the Indian Army have different mottos. Most of them are so beautiful to hear and I have even heard the War Cry of a couple of them. It really does inspire the soldiers at testing times.

Rajputana Rifles - Veer Bhogya Vasundhara (The brave shall reap the earth)
Madras Regiment - Swadharme Nidhanam Shreyah (It is a glory to die doing one’s duty)
More here.

Several Indian Corporate institutions also have tailored their mottos from our Sanskrit heritage.

LIC - 'yogakshemam vahaamyaham', meaning 'I provide what they lack, and I preserve what they already possess'. This is a beautiful line from the Gita (ch 9, Shloka 22). Can you get a more beautiful saying, if you have to write it yourself? Just exactly what the LIC would want to use!

Doordarshan - Satyam Shivam Sundaram

- Bahujana Hitaaya, Bahujana Sukhaaya’ (Welfare for All and Happiness for All)

- Jnaana vijnanaanam vimuktaye (knowledge is that which liberates).

In fact, Nepal has one of my most favourite lines from Ramayana as its motto! The official motto of Nepal is 'Janani janmabhoomishcha swargaadapi gareeyasi'. Mother and motherland are greater than heaven. The context of this shloka is also beautiful. When Lord Rama defeated Ravana and installed Vibhishana as the ruler of Lanka, Lakshmana asks Rama to stay back for more time in the beautiful city. Lord Rama replies:

api swarnamayee lankaa na me lakshmana rochate
janaanee janmabhoomishcha swargaadapi gareeyasi

(Lakshmana, even though lanka is filled with gold and so beautiful, it does not entice me. Mother and motherland are greater than heaven.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Brave New World of hiking.

(With due respects to Aldous Huxley).

Some photos of my recent trip to the Grand Canyon. Some figures:
1400 miles of driving.
3 days.
14+ miles of hiking up and down the canyon in a day.

But numbers don't do any justice to the experience.

If you are wondering why there is no writeup, I need some more time to compose my feelings.

(Click on the slideshow to open up larger images in Google Picasaweb.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Winter's almost over!

Winter is behind us. Spring is in the air. Can summer be far behind? (Due respects to P. B. Shelley). A new year is about to start. Ugadi is on April 7th. Time to leave behind the sorrows and tensions and reflect on more joyous occasions. (In other words, time to remove my pessimistic cap!).

(Photo taken in front of my apartment)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Reading (Non)Fiction

Reading fiction is like eating bananas. But reading non-fiction is like eating a jackfruit. I say this because of I am presently struggling to read a couple of books. I say struggling both in the time-limitation sense and that of difficulty in making progress through the pages without losing the finer points of the narrative.

I have never heard anyone saying that they wanted to go home from a busy workday, curl up by the fireplace and continue reading a nonfiction book such as 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding' by John Locke or 'Walden' by Thoreau. (I know we could all benefit from reading such tomes instead of the Sidney Sheldons or the latest issues of Filmfare magazine. Walden is a magnificent diary on the experiments on simple living by the author.) So what is it that makes it so tough for people to pick up a nonfiction book when an easy fiction work is lying around, waiting to be read?

The simplest answer is that nonfiction reading requires an effort! You cannot really breeze through it as if you were waltzing through Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel. Skipping the meanings of a couple of words here and there will cause problems in later sections. You have to grasp meanings and explanations and apply them as you read to comprehend the insights the author is attempting to convey.

However, the joy of understanding and further contemplating the ideas after reading a serious nonfiction book cannot compare with the shallow thrill experienced after reading a, say, John Grisham courtroom drama. More often than not, after reading a fiction book, I am left with a feeling of emptiness, not what I am really taking away from this book. It is that momentary thrill and that 'aha' moment that we seek.

However, I am not belittling fiction. There can be works of fiction that are helpful in are that discuss social and cultural issues in the forms of stories so that the common man can identify with the scenarios, the problems and the solutions. (The first such works that come to my mind are S. L. Bhyrappa's novels).

But in the end, difficult as it may be to peel the jackfruit, it feels worth the effort after you taste the fruit! (^_^) (Maybe that's why jackfruits are seasonal like the nonfiction books!There is a glut or there is nothing.)

The book I am currently reading is called Shri Krishna Pareekshanam by DVG. Many scholars and philosophers have written several volumes and expositions on the meanings and relevances of Krishna's sayings in the Gita and his actions in Mahabharata. However, there have been a lot of controversies in explaining the thievery of Krishna (which is a taboo topic to discuss, since it was God himself taking what belongs to him) or his involvement with the Gopika strees. This book is an examination into many such aspects. However, too many Samskrita verses and old-style Kannada poetry is a deterrent since I don't have a good dictionary at hand or someone to discuss these topics with.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Meet your meat

Meat eaters of the world, arise! Awake! And see where your daily meat comes from.

See this moving video by PETA; narration by Alec Baldwin.

I used to get into the argument of vegetarianism vs non-vegetarianism a long time ago but now completely excuse myself from such a debate. The reason is that you can never convince the other person to change, no matter what the reasoning (same goes with me too; they cannot convince me to change either). Those I know who have converted to vegetarianism have done so voluntarily without anyone's advice and out of their own realizations. One meat-eating arguer I've met gives this really lame excuse for not eating meat during an auspicious month in the Hindu calendar when he wants to be pure to pray to God! Isn't (s)he contradicting oneself by saying that they are impure for the rest of the 11 months by consuming meat?!?

Anyway, it is a lost cause arguing with meat-eaters. Or maybe my arguments are not sound/unbiased enough since I was born into a vegetarian family and have chosen to remain a vegetarian purely by choice.

Ask yourself. Do you still want to eat meat after seeing this?