Friday, April 04, 2014

DEIVATHIN KURAL # 128 (Vol # 7) Dated 04 Apr 2014

 DEIVATHIN KURAL # 128 (Vol # 7) Dated 04 Apr 2014

(These e-mails are translations of talks given by PeriyavãL of Kanchi Kaamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are going ahead from the last paragraph on page No 984 of Volume 7 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein ‘man/he’ includes ‘woman/she’ too mostly. These e-mails are all available at updated continually)

129.                  For us in Guru Peetam since we are also Sanyãsis, the rule that the one doing Namaskãrãs to us also are not to say the Abhivãdanam is applied.  Not knowing this some people will get up after doing Namaskãram and start with an 'Abhivãdaye' and at once others nearby will start shouting, "No, that is not to be said here" and try to stop him.  That would cause me to laugh because, the good things in it such as the name of the Gothram, names of the ancient Rishis and the name of the particular branch of the Vedas, are not required to be told to a Sanyãsi as per rules!  Here too we publicise that to infringe those rules is sinful. It is alright, let it be so.  But what I do is, setting aside those important things in Abhivãdanam, I enquire and get to know, the name of the person doing Namaskãra, his place of origin, the place where he is presently stationed, his father's name, Grand-father's name, his next door neighbour's name and information about his wife, children and so on.  Leaving aside the information as in Abhivãdanam of relationship to the Vedas and branches of it, I go in to many of the peripheral information by probing questions, adding some knowledge of my own to ascertain to myself the man's antecedents and present interests.  In the bargain I gain some name for myself and some kudos on being very insightful and having excellent memory since I make it a point to remember every detail of whosoever talks to me!  There are some followers of the Matam who give me a comprehensive report of everything that happened in their lives since the last time we had met!

130.                  What I do not get to know formally, informally I do get to know so much more.  What to do?  When they come here as followers of our religion and faith, when we receive their love and respect as well as in terms of money and material, we owe it to them to note and remember and evince interest in their worldly affairs also.  We just cannot afford to be uncaring and uninterested.  Otherwise how will the society of Sishyas have any attachment towards the Matam and our teachings?  By saying this, please do not come to the conclusion that our interest is only selfishly motivated.  For the one who is a head of an organization like mine, to tell the people the rightness of things as per Dharma we have to be deeply interested in their affairs.  Interest also means care and concern and true love for their wellbeing; which is but natural.

Anjali – 'Kumbidu' – 'கும்பிடு' – Shaking Hands
131.                  I spoke about various methods of expressing one's respects, like falling flat like a pole on the ground with eight parts of the body touching the ground in Ashtãnga Namaskãra, making an arch of head to knees with five parts touching the ground in Panchãnga Namaskãra, to kneel and bend your head or to Salute or do Salãm with one hand.  With them there is one more important method that must be mentioned.  For people all over India this is a commonly practiced method of greetings irrespective of geographical, cultural or ethnic differences based on caste or creed or languages that all foreigners visiting India easily pick up this simple but universally acceptable method of expressing respect as well as greeting each other, by bringing the two hands together with the two palms flush with each other known as 'Anjali' – 'अञ्जलि'.  This in Tamil is 'Kumbidudal' – 'கும்பிடுதல்' as quite commonly told to children to pray to God, it is said 'sãmi kumbidudã' –  "சாமி கும்பிடுடா"!  There is a proverb meaning that 'you came across the very Devata you were going to pray to', 'kumbida pona deivam kurukke vandadu' – 'கும்பிடப்போன தெய்வம் குறுக்கே வந்தது'. 

132.                  Thus the gesture made to the most exalted has become a very common way of expressing 'Best wishes' to all and sundry.  It is a quite popular thing to do whenever you meet someone who is even slightly elder in age or position that is responded with a similar Anjali.  In the North India they add a Namaste and here they say VaNakkam!  Youngsters do not do this much within themselves but may be when they are middle aged and more, the practise is quite popular.  (But in the modern times with everyone holding a cell phone in their hands, they seem to be lost in a world of their own, that you have to cut the conversation and put away the thing in your hands before you can do an Anjali nowadays!)

133.                  Instead of thus joining one's own hands in Anjali, a custom that is quite popular all over the world today as introduced by the westerners is to extend your right hand for a hand-shake.  Whenever people meet each other, shaking hands is the good-will gesture and a common courtesy.  With evidently seniors in age and status, what is done is a salute, followed by a bow and then shake-hands.  With juniors in age or position first they shake hands that may be followed by a hug or a peck on the cheeks.  In our country it is not the custom to shake-hands and kiss.  Hugging is there in the north.  But in south this hugging and embracing is not so prevalent.  From old literatures we learn that within their own sexes, embracing was done the first time they met each other or after a gap of separation, between brothers and friends.  In this if one happened to be quite senior and the other very young in age, we find that the custom was to take the youngster on one's lap and 'smell the top of the head'.  Kissing in public has never been allowed in our culture, as we are rather particular about 'echchil and thuppal' – 'எச்சில் and துப்பல்'.  For these two words, there doesn't seem to be any exact synonym in other languages, nearest in meaning being 'saliva and spit' with some special connotations.

134.                  Though shaking hands has not been a custom, joining hands was done at times, like when receiving someone very affectionately with extended hands or ushering in by holding the other's hands.  In the Ramayanam when Sri Rama and Sugrieva make friends there is a scene described in Kishkinda KãNdam (5.11): –  
रोचते यदि मे सख्यं बाहुरेषु प्रसारित: |
rochate yadi me Sakhyam bãhureshu prsãrita: |
गृह्यतां पाणिना पाणिर्मर्यादा बध्यतां धृवा ||
gruhyatãm pãNinã pãNirmaryãdã bdhyatãm dhruvã ||  That means, "If you wish to make friends with me, here are my two hands extended, which may please be held by you so as to let our respect for each other be strengthened."  That word 'maryãdã' here is what is understood as respect.  But in fact that word has no such meaning.  The literal meaning of the word is 'regulated limit', that is decency.  Giving it the emphasis, we assume the meaning as respect.  There is another meaning in Sanskrit for that word as a 'pact of friendship'.  So here it means that we will value our friendship and protect the same.  That is exactly what Sugrieva is saying. 

135.                  Accordingly later they seal their friendship with Agni as the witness, that is to say formally officialise their pact.  Let those interpretations be aside.  What we are concerned here is that Sugrieva extends his hands in friendship.  Immediately in the next sloka it says, that having heard these words, Sri Rama is said to have 'samprshtamanã hastam peedayamãsa pãNinã' – 'संप्रहृष्टमना हस्तं पीडयामास पाणिना', meaning that Sri Rama catches hold of Sugrieva's hands quite willingly.  These narrators of PurãNãs known as 'Upanyãsakãs', will jokingly say that from this we can gather that it is the custom of monkeys to catch hold of hands or shake each other's hands.  So, the custom has been perfected by the westerners, as the homo-sapiens are said to have evolved from the apes.  But we should not be making fun of each other's customs.  Every country has its own traditions and anyhow this 'Hand Shake' has become accepted and is practised world-wide nowadays.

136.                  Hand is the main tool or equipment for man.  Hence to show that one is prepared to do whatever and that one is not holding any weapon hidden in the hands, this system of extending one's hands has evolved.  That is why phrases such as, 'extending a helping hand' or 'he is the right hand man to so and so in this venture', have come into being.  Do we not often see elders guiding the toddlers catching hold of their hand?  Similarly when surrendering to another, we catch hold of the other's legs with our hands, don't we?  Then if the other is too old and needs to be guided across the road say, or when ushering them to their particular seat, we do that with the other person's hand in ours and possibly one free hand in their back in support.  Most importantly the Marriage Ceremony is called 'PãNigrahaNam' – 'पाणिग्रहणं' to mean that the bride-groom receives the hands of the bride in to his hands for keeps!

137.                  While on the matter of touching, the practice of physically touching the other's feet with one's hands doing Namaskãra is more prevalent in the north.  There they consider it their privilege and are rather adamant about it.  Similarly in the north this habit of hugging is more.  In India in the north it is successively colder and as you go down south it is progressively warmer.  That may be one of the reasons for this phenomenon of their being more hugging in the north and this stay-off attitude in the south.  Anyhow, as time goes on and 'Kali' is more dominant, there is more dirt and pollution in people's mind and in the environment.  In such a situation the unclean affects the clean body and mind more than the cleansing power of holy and saintly beings.  The physically and morally infected person affects others more, like one rotten apple is enough to spoil the whole basket.  Having noticed this, the Brahmins of South India have habitually been more particular about physical cleanliness and mental purity as required by the rules of behaviour and conduct.  This personal purity has been a part parcel of personal hygiene, that even an unintended touch will cause him to scurry to the river for yet another bath.  Thus though they are making a big issue of 'touch-me-not-Madi', there is no lack of love and affection.  In fact the radiation is more powerful than physical contact, as anything subtle is more effective than what is gross!

138.                  In South thus the Brahmin's Achãram was respected by all other castes and was being copied as far as possible by people of other castes.  Thus in the south we have been avoiding physical contact as far as possible.  As I said, one of the reasons has been the difference between the colder north and the warmer south in the ambient temperatures.  Then in addition is the fact that the North India has been affected by varying foreign influences from the time of Alexander the Great and various other Muslims who came to conquer and settled here.  So to touch and hug became accepted culture of the north.  But people with the responsibility to save and protect the Mantras have had to maintain high levels of purity and cleanliness that any touching and hugging had to be avoided at all costs.  Like the need for isolation of patients in hospitals and astronauts before and after a space travel; has had to be applied in the matter of Ãtma as part of the Do's and Don'ts in our Ãchãrãs!  

139.                  There are exceptions to this rule also in the case of very powerful beings when their love or blessings becomes evident.  Even foreigners, who have had some deeper insight in the matters of Dhyãna and Yoga, have also affirmed the physical contact is neither good nor necessary!  More than purifying and ennobling, the corrupting influence of physical contact is rather pronounced.  Psychologists also confirm that this hugging and touching are all part of animal impulses only. 

(To be continued.)




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