Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Subashita Sunday Episode 6: Ramayana, Mysore Vasudevacharya, and Joseph Conrad

We welcome this Sunday with another episode of the Subhashita Sunday on The Dharma Dispatch. Like always, we have curated a handpicked collection of articles drawn from the best and the most prized annals of Bharatiya tradition.

Happy reading!


The Way of the Courageous

Once again, Maharshi Bhartruhari tops our list with this celebrated verse from the Niti Shataka. This strength, appeal and profundity of this verse lies in its use of short, simple verb phrases to convey a timeless truth. Less than thirty years ago, this verse used to be broadcast every morning on the AIR airwaves. No elaborate elucidation is required because it is rather straightforward and self-explanatory.

निन्दन्तु नीतिनिपुणा यदि वा स्तुवन्तु
लक्ष्मीः समाविशतु गच्छतु वा यथेष्टम् ।
अद्यैव वा मरणमस्तु युगान्तरे वा
न्याय्यात्पथः प्रविचलन्ति पदं न धीराः ॥
nindantu nītinipuṇā yadi vā stuvantu
lakṣmīḥ samāviśatu gacchatu vā yatheṣṭam ।
adyaiva vā maraṇamastu yugāntare vā
nyāyyātpathaḥ pravicalanti padaṃ na dhīrāḥ ॥

Whether the philosophers and scholars well-versed in ethics and Dharmashastras praise him or criticize him, whether Lakshmi (Deity of Wealth) enters his house or goes away as she wishes, whether death is today itself or after an eon, courageous men never step a foot away from the path of justice.


Flattery and Bitter Truths

From one Maharshi to another. This time, it is Adikavi Valmiki. The verse is from the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana. A common sense, simple, and valuable advice for kings and other powerful people grounded in a fundamental human impulse: the universal human tendency of falling for flattery and ignoring wise and truthful counsel, which is seemingly bitter.

सुलभाः पुरुषा राजन् सततं प्रियवादिनः ।
अप्रियस्य तु पथ्यस्य वक्ता श्रोता च दुर्लभः ॥
sulabhāḥ puruṣā rājan satataṃ priyavādinaḥ ।
apriyasya tu pathyasya vaktā śrotā ca durlabhaḥ ॥

Oh, King! It is easy to find people who always talk in (your) favor and endlessly praise you. But people who speak or listen to truthful words however harsh they maybe, but aimed at your welfare, are rare to find.


Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad continues to remain a legend in the world of literature. This Polish immigrant to England, in many ways, changed the course of writing novels. He also distinguished himself as one of the master prose stylists of all time. Although almost all of his novels and short stories are first rate, his 1899 novella, Heart of Darkness immortalized him. Just over 100 pages, this novel is perhaps the most brutally profound exploration of the full horrors of European colonialism. The fact that he wrote this at the height of the said colonialism also marks him as a truthful and courageous writer who stuck his neck out for what was right and just.

Here are a few quotes from Heart of Darkness.

Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of inextinguishable regrets.

I always went my own road and on my own legs where I had a mind to go.

The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.

Do read the whole profound and disturbing novel!


Mysore Vasudevacharya

Mysore Vasudevacharya ranks as one of the finest musical composers [Vaggeyakara] that lived in the previous century. He lived a rich, productive, and full life dedicated to Carnatic Classical music and there is almost no concert that does not feature one of his compositions. This titan passed away as recently as 1961. He was among the musical greats that adorned the court of the Mysore Wodeyars.

The following is an excerpt from the tribute given to Mysore Vasudevacharya by another iconic junior contemporary of his: DVG.

A heartfelt human emotion, when it flows in the form of melody that is soothing to the ears, becomes music. Such was the expressive music of Vasudevacharya. He did not inherit musical knowledge as a family profession. It was a treasure that he earned due to his personal liking, despite opposition from the elders in his family. The key factor for his penchant for music lay in his quality of heartiness. There were two features to that quality: One was his sensitivity towards understanding people’s feelings and the other was to respond to those feelings in a friendly and receptive manner.

Vasudevacharya was an emotional being. Through the study of great literature, he had developed aesthetic refinement. That emotional essence manifested in the flow of melody in his music. Even when he sang varṇas, the multitude of expressions would stand out. That was emotional music. That was the sibling of beautiful poetry. That was the bosom friend of divine meditation.

Read the full brilliant profile.


That concludes Episode 6 of the Subashita Sunday. See you next week.

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