The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXIX

How long, how long in infinite Pursuit
Of This and That endeavour and dispute?
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

This is the thirty-ninth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The poet opens up with a question asking us, for how long we are going pursue in our endeavors and wishes for these pursuits are infinite. For how long we will continue to resolve the disputes and challenges of life for they are also endless. These pursuits and challenges of life are infinite and unsolvable. It is better to be merry with the fruitful grape instead of wasting your time and energy over nothing or worse, a bitter fruit. Instead of bound to life's spiritual endeavor and earthly disputes that go on for ever, why not merry oneself with the modest and fleshy grape growing in the backyard than with nothing in hand or worse, a bitter fruit. Be happy with what you have and enjoy it rather than pursue infinite and life consuming tasks that may lead to disappointment or no time to enjoy what you already have.

Thought Of The Day

This is another of jewels of David Attenborough. It is a fascinating documentary on the Papua New Guinea's Birds of Paradise. Here is an interesting trivia on these birds.

In this group of 39 species of exotic birds that make up the Birds of Paradise, all females across species look similar and are mostly brown and looking dull and plain. While the males are all showy
and colorful and in males each species look distinct from the other species. The plumes and feathers and the colors of males are distinct and totally unlike the females. Why did evolution took the path that it took? Why had this specific bird family has taken there plumage and ornaments to such an extreme levels and insane levels?

The females of the Birds of Paradise group raise the newborn entirely by herself. Most other species of birds usually work in pair to raise the newborns or build a nest or find food for the offspring, but the females of this group does everything by her own. This reason by itself is why the males have so fancy plumage. The tropical forests of Papua New Guinea are rich in fruits and figs all year round, making it easier for the females to entirely raise the chick all by herself. Since the male have nothing else to do, they spend all the time perfecting there dance moves and producing fascinating plumes and displays. As females do not need males to help around, the partner selection process revolves around which male has the best plumes. Now with evolution, this particular liking becomes more and more amplified over thousands of generations until the plumage reaches to such extreme levels. Sexual selection ensures that males with the best plumage are highly preferred and that in turn leads to those qualities getting more pronounced going forward. Also the jungles of Papua New Guinea do not have natural predators, so the birds can afford to have complicated feathery contraptions as they do not need to be agile to fly away quickly from harm's way.

I wonder how humans will evolve to fill the new ecological niche that have opened up in last couple of thousand years of our lives. How will our bodies change with technology, with processed food, with no longer a nomadic and sedentary lifestyle, with so much knowledge. I wonder!

Photo Of The Day

Trilobite 450 Million Years Old (Cambrian Period)

Nautiloids/Ammonoids 450 Million Years Old (Devonian Period)

Nothosaurus 250 Million Years Old (Triassic Period)

All these fossil pictures have been taken at - Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, Bathurst, NSW

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXVIII

Ah, fill the Cup:--what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if To-day be sweet!

This is the thirty-eighth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The same motif as in previous quatrains runs in these lines as well. The essence of Time is that it flies, waiting for no one, stopping at nothing, constantly moving forward. And in this constant ho-hum of time, we need to live mindful of the fact that our time is limited. Fill the cup (make merry and enjoy), what purpose/profit (boots [archaic]: profit) will it serve to repeat the same known facts about how time is slipping by beneath our feets. Why fret about the unknown and yet unborn future and the already dead past. You can not do anything about the either of them, so why worry about them. Enjoy the today!. Live for today and make it sweet.

Photo Of The Day

Lagoon Nebula (camera connected to 20" telescope using adapter, Taken in Dubbo Observatory)
30 second camera exposure

Milky Way Galaxy (Taken in Dubbo)
25 second camera exposure

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXVII

One Moment in Annihilation's Waste,
One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste--
The Stars are setting, and the Caravan
Starts for the Dawn of Nothing--Oh, make haste!

This is the thirty-seventh quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The poet says, one moment we are in this wasteland of complete destruction and annihilation (probably referring to the barren and life less desert that the caravan is travelling through during day time) and in another moment, we are in this well of life, this life giving and fertile oasis where we spend our night resting and replenishing our body and spirits. Now that the stars are setting and the dawn is about to break, we have to start our caravan again into the "dawn of nothing", into that unknown landscape that awaits us of which we know nothing. Life is like this only, we have moments of despair and abandon and moments of joy interlude. But life needs to move on, from one moment to another, looking forth into the unknown. An alternate interpretation could be that day time symbolizes death and nights the living (in desert that makes sense as nights are cooler and comfortable unlike the treacherous days ) and so, from coming nothing (day) and going to nothing (day), there is this brief interlude of night, which is life!

Translation - Shauq Har Rang Raqeeb-e-Sar (Ghalib)

shauq har rang raqeeb-e-sar-o-saamaan niklaa
qais tasveer ke parde mein bhee uriyaan niklaa

zakhm ne daad na dee, tangee-e-dil ki yaarab !
teer bhee seena-e-bismil se par_afshaan niklaa
boo-e-gul, naala-e-dil, dood-e-charaagh-e-mehfil
jo teree bazm  se nikla, so parishaan niklaa

dil-e-hasrat zadah tha maida-e-lazzat-e-dard
kaam yaaron ka ba-qadr-e-lab-o-dandan nikla

thee nau_aamoz_fana'a  himmat-e-dushwaar_pasand
sakht mushkil hai ki yah kaam bhee aasaan nikla

dil mein fir giryaan ne ik shor uthaaya 'ghalib'
aah  jo qatra na  nikla tha, so toofaan  nikla

Line 1/2 - The desire and yearning turned out in every color and hue to be an opponent of being well possessed. Qais, even in the veil of the picture turned out to be nude. The poet says that to be well possessed and having all the material wealth is an enemy of the passion and desire. One can be passionate only or one can be of good possession only as both these qualities are enemies of each other. Case in point being the Qais (majanun) who was a passionate lover but was possession-less and roaming around with no clothes. Even when his painting is made, he is always made naked. In the second line, there is a nice wordplay on veil and nakedness (both being such opposite quantities). A painting, an expensive possession to have, yet it could not hide or negate the nakedness of the passions of Qais.

Line 3/4 - The wound did not do justice to the tightening or the narrowness of the heart. O God! Even the arrow would go through the wounded heart and emerge out with its wings rattled and restless. The poet says that this wounds of mine, it will not put end to the tightness of the heart. I was expecting this wound to ease the narrowness of my heart. (maybe this grief stricken heart would be let go of its tightness by my the wound). Such is the tightness, that even the arrow that made this wound, would pass through my afflicted heart and come out on the other side, rattled and bewildered (wings fluttering). Maybe even the arrow of beloved's airs, could not relive the lover of its unease. The arrow comes out of the lover, doing nothing and itself (the arrow) escapes hurriedly with wings fluttering (as if wishing to escape such tightness).

Line 5/6 - The fragrance of the flower, the cry of the heart, the smoke from the lamp at the gathering. Whoever came out of your gathering, they come out confused and troubled. The poet says, whoever came to your gathering, they all came out dazed and troubled. Smell the flowers displayed in the gathering. Their fragrance is so transitory that even a mild waft can undo it. Look at the smoke that rises from the lamp. Look at the shapes it makes as if they are writhing in pain. And finally hear the lament of my heart, for my heart is wounded at the thought of being just another guest in this gathering among so many of your guests. You did not grant me any special favors, or a private meeting. My heart laments at the sight of so many rivals each vying for your attention. All of me and my senses (sight, sound and smell) are leaving your gathering in a troubled state.

Line 7/8 - The longing stuck heart, was like dishes/flavor of pain served on the dining table. My friends came to taste according to their capacity of their lips and teeth and they emerged satisfied. The poet says my longing stricken heart was a dining table for all the flavors and delicacies of pain. And my friends had their full share based on their capacity of lips and teeth and yet their was more left on the table. My pain was enough for their (friend's) appetite to suffice and their work was done!

Line 9/10 - The novice in oblivion was difficulty loving courage. It is severe difficulty that this work also turned out to be easy. Even in oblivion, this newcomer was able to get the better of such terrible circumstances for he was a danger loving courageous person. Now it becomes difficult to find a more hostile and dangerous world for him, for this oblivion turned out to be too easy for him.

Line 11/12 - In the heart, weeping again there rose a tumult, Ghalib. aah (sigh), that drop that did not left, thus a storm emerged. The poet says, again the weeping arose and with it a tumult. The use of phir means it is second time around. The first time I was weeping, I could control this tumult in my heart within myself, such that not even a drop of tear exited my eyes. But this time, this tumult has unleashed a storm and now I am weeping uncontrollably. One another interpretation could be, that what appeared to be a drop held by my self-control was in fact a storm that has now unleashed itself. The tumult and the ferment of my distress is a storm unlike the calm and control of the un-exited tear drop that I thought earlier.

Meaning of difficult words -
raqeeb = opponent
serr-o-saamaan = with belongings
qais = majanoon
uriyaan = nude
daad = justice
seena-e-bismil = wounded heart
par = wings
afshaan = rattled
boo = fragrance
gul = flower
naalaa = cry
dood = smoke, esp. from a lamp that's been extinguished
haasrat-zadah = longing stuck
lazzat = flavor
maida = dinning table
dandan = teeth
nau_aamoz = beginner
dushwaar = difficult
fanaa = oblivion
giryaan = weeping
qatra = drop

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXVI

For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,
I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay:
And with its all obliterated Tongue
It murmur'd--"Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"

This is the thirty-sixth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The use of clay and pottery has been a recurring theme in the last two quatrains as well. In previous quatrains the earthen pot has told the bearer that life is short and so make full use of it and ultimately all will be dust and from this new life will emerge living and dreaming the same thoughts. In this quatrain the meaning is lot more obscure.

In the market place, in a dusk of the any ordinary day, I watched the maker, the potter thumping and shaping his wet clay. He giving form to his creation, he molding the clay and giving it birth. But the earthen clay with its obliterated mouth, a speech that is hardly audible says, gently my brother, gently! In a slow murmur, the clay says to the potter to create his creation gently. Unlike the notion of creator where he has absolute control and its creation, in this quatrain the relationship between the clay and potter seem more humble and private. (sibling-like)

One possible explanation could be that maybe the creation and the creator is not different. Instead they are one and the same. There is no separate realms of higher and lower beings, no separate sphere of creator and the creation. Everything existing is in the midst of the creator. And in this divine soup, the earthen clay seeks out to the supernal potter and supernal potter seeks out to the earthen clay making them whole again.

The Isha Upanishad (Summary)

This is my beginner level attempts for a simple summary of the main Upanishads. I am basically referencing the earlier English translations (check references at the last) and providing a concise brief on the verses. I have minimal Sanskrit knowledge and in no way these blog posts are complete and comprehensive. I am starting from the smallest of the Upanishads, The Isha Upanishad

The Isha Upanishads forms the closing chapters of White (Sukla) Yajur Veda. This has 18 verses (plus the invocation). The original Upanishads in Vedic Sanskrit can be read here. The English translation of the verses is in red and my interpretation is below that. I will also provide a general commentary on this Upanishad in a separate post.

Invocation :
Ōm pūrṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate | 
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate ||

Om ! That is full; this is full, (for) from the full the full (indeed) arises.When the full merges into the full, what remains is full indeed. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !
That is perfect (whole). The unfixed and indeterminable 'That' is the Absolute which can not be perceived, which covers everything that can not be stated or explained or quantified. 'That' is the Brahman, the Absolute Reality itself one which is form-less, age-less, limitless and unbound. 'This' is perfect (whole). This being the manifested or the perceived world of ours. 'This' also projects from the whole only. This world of ours is also perfect. The forms and actions abound in this world are just representations or illusory. From the perfect (whole) comes the perfect(whole). This visible world has come from that Absolute.It is projected from the Absolute. Even though 'This' has been taken from the Absolute, the Absolute remains unchanged. These forms or illusions does not change the real nature of the Absolute. The Manifest flow back to the Absolute and still the Absolute is unchangeable. The forms and representations of the manifested world do not embellish or diminish the Whole.The Manifest and the Absolute are inseparable. Though they appear as separate realms, in fact the Divine, the Brahman permeates the visible world (immanence). All existences are of the Divine and in Divine, we all exist.

Verse 1 :
Ōm īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam yat kiṁ ca jagatyāṁ jagat | 
tena tyaktena bhuñjitha, ma gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam ||1||

Om. All this should be covered by the Lord, whatsoever exists in the moving universe. By such a renunciation protect (thyself). Covet not the wealth of others.
Whatever moves in the moving universe - the beings, the stars whatever changes in this ever changing universe is covered by the same Unchangeable Truth. The Divine is everywhere, present in the unwavering mountains, in the tempestuous rivers and in the distant cosmic dust and in all thing animate and inanimate. The world is not apart from the Absolute, The Absolute pervades and permeates  everything. The world is steeped in the God. Protect yourself (i.e. to realize the Truth and avoid condemning the Self by being attached to the material world). The knowledge that the Real Supreme One (Brahman) indwell in all beings(Ātman). The Brahman is my True Self, the universe has its root in the Self and can not exist independent of Ātman. Once one realizes it, the immanence of the Absolute, the falsehood (ignorance) shreds away revealing the innermost true Self (Ātman) which is the Absolute itself. The one who sees Unity and Oneness behind the Multiplicity, One who is aware of the sanctity of Self, liberates the Self from the illusions and griefs and the attachment around us and one will find peace and enjoyment in the world. The realization that True Self is indestructible, permanent, perfect and in harmony should make one covert no other possession in life for each and everything is part of the Same. Do not covet what belong to others. Identify with the innermost true self and not with the body and realize it and one will be happy. Realize that each is the living abode of the Divine, each one has the Whole inside it, sustaining it.

Verse 2 :
kurvann eveha karmāṇi jijīviṣet śataṁ samāḥ | 
evaṁ tvayi nānyatheto’sti na karma lipyate nare ||2||

By performing karma in this world should one yearn to live a hundred years. Thus action does not bind thee, the doer. There is no other way than this.
If one desires to live in this world fully, one should perform righteous deeds (karma). The previous verse says that being aware of the divinity and the agelessness of the Self, could one seek enjoyment (enjoyment in the denial of craving and material pursuits) in this world. But for beings that are unable to see that Truth (Self Knowledge), then those may follow the path of Right Action (karma) and live a life of hundred years. No one can escape from action. Even inaction also produces action that has its own results. We must work and not refrain from it. You have to do what's right for its own sake and then move on without getting tied down by praise or regret or by thought of consequences. Not withdrawing from this world but living in it, in midst of the suffering and joy and following the Right Action one can live with God like freedom. If one lives like this, then our actions will not bind us (i.e bind him to ignorance or wheel of birth and death). Be aware of your responsibilities as a Man (responsibility to yourself and people around and the Supreme Reality) and perform selfish action (i.e. work done with the realization all things are sacred and all actions are sacrifice and surrender to the Lord). There is no other way than to live like this. Life can be spent in contemplation, but it is no substitute for (Right) Action. One can live actively in virtuous manner and does not need to withdraw from the world or work. True freedom does not lie in escaping from work, but doing in Right way and moving on. We must live in this world without being choke by it.

Verse 3 :
asuryā nāma te lokā andhena tamasā vṛtāḥ | 
tāṁs te pretyābhigacchanti ye ke cātmahano janāḥ ||3||

Those sunless worlds are enshrouded by blinding gloom. Those who are the slayers of the Self go to them after death.
Those who seek delight in bodily and sensual worlds, those who are addicted to this physical life of material joys, After death their world is sunless world, engulfed in a blinding darkness that is never ending. There is no morning light in this world. Those who do not seek the knowledge of the Self, they are delegated to such nether regions after death. Their inability to see Light in themselves condemns them to utter Darkness. The Darkness is within them as well as outside for their True Self fails to shine through in the all encompassing Darkness. All Men and Gods who slay the Supreme Self will fall to this sunless world. Self can not be destroyed, but it can only be obscured by pursuit of desires. Their blinding ignorance (not to see the Divinity of Self), causes them to fall to darkness which can not be penetrated. Unlike the hell and heaven which is temporary and finite as our actions and deeds are finite, this Darkness (absence of Knowledge), is a everlasting and those caught are in an endless cycle of births and deaths. As long as one is slave to the material world, one will be slave to the outcomes of fate and his deeds. They can not experience Knowledge, Peace and Immortality. Good deeds will only make them be born higher in the next life, but they still can not achieve liberation unless they realize the True Self.

Verse 4 :
anejad ekaṁ manaso javīyo nainad devā āpnuvan pūrvamarṣat | 
tad dhāvato’nyān-atyeti tiṣṭhat tasminn apo mātariśvā dadhāti ||4||

Unmoving, It is one, faster than the mind. The senses cannot reach It, for It proceeds ahead. Remaining static It overtakes others that run. On account of Its presence, Matarsiva (the wind) conducts the activities of beings.
That Self, though motionless and unchanging and never stirring (never deviating from its true nature), is swifter than the mind. The senses (always changing) can not reach it for the Self moves faster and always ahead of them. The senses and forms have a finite perception and state and space at a given time. They move from one place to another however fast they can but they can only occupy a singular space. The Self is present everywhere and hence it is already present there however fast the senses try to reach there. The Self (Ātman) needs to be admitted and perceived before we can perceive anything else. Remaining motionless, it outruns others that run. Un-moving, it outpaces everything. The Self though  attribute-less, yet when superimposed by the senses (due to ignorance) like mind move faster then the mind. The mind can be conscious of the object only it is conscious of the Self. Due to the presence of this eternal Consciousness (Ātman), the Cosmic Wind (Matarsiva) comes out as breath and conducts the life of all beings. The infinite and all pervasive Self with the infinite and all pervasive Wind give breath and life to all living beings (i.e. runs their life). The Wind is the first cosmic manifestation of the Absolute in this world and this gives life to the world by distributing its function to everyone. The wind lords over everything because Ātman is it inner self. Without Ātman, even the Cosmic Wind ceases to exist. Everything happens, everything lives because the eternal Ātman exists as individual seed of consciousness emanating from the Supreme inside all. All exist in the light of Ātman and all things happen because of it.

Verse 5 :
tad ejati tan naijati tad dūre tad vad antike | 
tad antarasya sarvasya tad u sarvasyāsya bāhyataḥ ||5||

It moves; It moves not. It is far; It is near. It is within all; It is without all.
The Self though motionless and unchanging, but it also moves in the vehicle of the body. Like fallen leaves in the ripples of the water, they move with the water but they are also static in the water. For the wise, the Self is near for they realize that to be their innermost core. But for the ignorant, they can not reach the Self even if they live thousands of years. They will never reach (realize) it. It is inside all as it is innermost Spirit, the omnipresent Ātman. It is present inside all as all forms and cause and effect bear evidence to that all pervading Ātman. And it is outside all, as the essence of this whole universe is the rooted in it. It is that ether that's present everywhere. It is infinite and boundless, covering all. The Self like the Absolute is one essence but in two attributes - Un-moving in itself, yet moving all. Near, yet far. Unchanging, yet changing all. Inside of all, outside of all. In these contradictory attributes, it proceeds that Self like Absolute is free from all attributes. They are beyond human comprehension, They are being conceived through negations but Absolute is anything but Void.

Verse 6 :
yas tu sarvāṇi bhūtani ātmany evānupaśyati | 
sarvabhūteṣu catmānaṁ tato na vijugupsate ||6||

He who perceives all beings in the Self alone, and the Self in all beings, does not entertain any hatred on account of that perception.
The wise is who perceives and sees all beings in the Self alone and the Self in all beings. The Ātman is indivisible and unchanging. The forms and the vehicle are just representations imposed by the sense. The wise can see beyond these temporal illusions and multiplicity and see the immutability of the Ātman in all Beings. What we see as different is being projected by the mental faculties. The one is the eternal truth of things, the many its manifestation.  The latter is not a filament of the mind. It becomes so, when divorced from the sense of its eternal background. The innermost Self embody all Beings. One's Self is not different from other beings. The multiplicity are just the manifestation of the Divine and ultimately flow back to it. This Oneness connects us all, exists in all regardless of any distinction. If one can see all Beings in Self and the Self in all beings, than they do not bear any hatred against any being due to that perception. Malice comes forth, when one is consumed by evil that one sees around. But the very root of hatred in destroyed, when one sees the Self in oneself and all Others. One who sees through this haze that shrouds us and see the pureness, the equality of the Self, leaves behind any hatred against others for they are not disturbed by the outer appearances of Others.

Verse 7 :
yasmin sarvāṇi bhūtāny ātmaivābhūd vijānataḥ | 
tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śokaḥ ekatvam anupaśyataḥ ||7||

When a man realises that all beings are but the Self, what delusion is there, what grief, to that perceiver of oneness?

He who realizes that Self is everywhere, feels united with all beings. He sees the unity of life and seeing all creatures in himself. The one who perceives that each and everyone of the living being has the same innermost Self, and all beings in Self, then to that wise being, what grief? what delusion? can he get. Due to ignorance, we see the indivisible Self in in its multiple representations and forms, we realize these forms to be real and try to desire what we do not have. This identification of mine and of yours and the differences in forms leads to grief or anxiety (when he loses) and delusion (that desires can be fulfilled and internal satisfaction achieved). But the one who knows the Ātman to be unchanging and eternal bliss, blameless and pure, inside and outside of all, he realizes that the it is essence of everything. The awareness of the Oneness, the negation of basis of multiplicity removes the basis for grief and causes of misery.

Verse 8 :
sa paryagāc chukram, akāyam, avraṇam, asnāviram, śuddham, apāpaviddham | 
kavir manīṣī, paribhūḥ, svayambhūḥ, yāthātathyato’rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyaḥ ||8||

He (Self) is all-pervading, radiant, bodiless, soreless, without sinews, pure, untainted by sin, the all-seer, the lord of the mind, transcendent and self-existent. That (Self) did allot in proper order to the eternal Prajapatis known as samvalsara (year) their duties.
The Self is omnipresent, all encompassing and bright and radiant. The Self fills through all the space, penetrates everything and shines through in its own lightness. It is formless, pure, spotless and without blemishes. It is pureness, untouched by the rigors and limitations (limitations of action, form) of  this world. The Self is all knowing (Self is a witness to all the action) and sees all in detail. It is the Lord of the mind, beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge and it is Un-created. The self-existent Self is the true basis of our creation. Such is the essence of Self. When we shed our exteriors and senses from the illusory forms, we realize the true nature of Ātman. He has duly allocated and ordered perfectly the duties to the eternal and unchanging years according to their nature. As a Cosmic Soul,  He controls all activities of the world. He allocates to the eternal Prajapatis also known as years their duties. These eternal years are still not absolute eternal as only Brahman transcends time.

Verse 9 :
andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti yo’vidyām upasate |
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyāṁ ratāḥ ||9||

Those who worship avidya go to pitch darkness, but to a greater darkness than this go those who are devoted to vidya alone.
Those who worship and are devoted to the path of ignorance (avidya), those who only seek selfish pleasures and desires, they will enter into blinding darkness. Those in the pursuit of desires and ignore the true nature of the Spirit, those who are forever lost in  the world of karmic wheel of birth and death, ignorant of the Being and Becoming and overlooking the True Self, those will enter the world of darkness where True Knowledge is unattainable and remote. Even greater darkness than this will those go to who are devoted to understanding the True Knowledge for merely intellectual pride and satisfaction alone. These will go to even greater depths for they misused the Knowledge to which they were aware but they never realized the Truth. These theorists will go to even greater darkness than the former. The darkness of intellectual dishonesty is greater than the darkness of ignorance.

Another interpretation being that vidya is the knowledge of deities and avidya being the ritualistic work. Those devoted to rituals only and have lack of knowledge( this is not Supreme Knowledge), they enter blind darkness. But even greater darkness awaits those who meditate on deities without any rituals. Harmony needs to be established between the knowledge of deity and ritualistic work for the best possible results.

An alternate interpretation - vidya is the awareness of Unity of all things (Unity is Truth), the Oneness of all and avidya being the conscious of the multiplicity only (multiplicity in its manifestation). Those aware of only the multiplicity of forms and not their reconciling Oneness sink into darkness. But those who only look at Unity of things, the sheer Oneness alone and denying the fact of Many, they withdraw from life-activity and merge into a state of non-being. They are ignorant by the choice of Knowledge. Multiplicity is sustained by the Unity and Unity is realized in its full potential by Multiplicity. The Many provides a fertile field for the One to live and experience the Becoming in all its richness and provide the path for the Many to realize the Oneness.
Verse 10 :
anyad evāhur vidyayā anyad āhur avidyayā |
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇām ye nas tad vicacakṣire ||10||

Different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by vidya and different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by avidya. Thus have we heard from the wise who had explained it to us.
Different is the result reached when pursued by vidya or knowledge and different indeed in the result when pursued by avidya or ignorance. The results of actions based on knowledge will be different from the results based on ignorance. Actions will produce results irrespective of if they are based on knowledge or ignorance. Awareness of the Unity of all things (vidya) and being consciousness of the Multiplicity only (avidya) even though they are two sides of the same supreme Self-Awareness, yet the results of actions based on each of them are totally different. If we base our actions on vidya, the results would be akin to vidya and if we base our actions on avidya, the results would be akin to avidya. The right result can not be obtained from the True Knowledge or the lack of it. We can grasp the ultimate nature of Reality only by taking both in equal measure. Birth and non-birth, acceptance of manifestation and withdrawal from manifestation, awareness of Unity and consciousness of Multiplicity of the Oneness, will result in Right Action when taken together or else they will lead to only partial and incomplete results. So have we heard from the wise who have clearly explained it.

An alternate interpretation that avidya is ritualistic work and vidya being meditation on the deity. When done separately, they still will produce results but not the one that are expected. Harmony of both ritual and meditation is needed to produce the correct results. Neither alone can lead to the ultimate goal. Work done with the pure motive and noble intentions will lead to higher plane. He can now mediate and realize the True nature of the Self and its nature with the Brahman. This is the Ultimate Goal that can be reached. This is what we have heard from the wise who have explained us.

Verse 11 :
vidyāṁ cāvidyāṁ ca yas tad vedobhayam saha |
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā vidyayāmṛtam aśnute ||11||

He who knows both vidya and avidya together, transcends mortality through avidya and reaches immortality through vidya.
Those who have are aware only of ignorance(conscious of Multiplicity only), for these illumined people death is the final act of all their knowledge and actions. They can not see beyond what the senses can perceive. Those who are only aware of Knowledge(of Oneness), the eternal nature of the Self, they deny the the reality of life external to the Self. They do not see death. They do not see Individual. Each needs to first realize and be conscious of the individual Ego and then transcend this state of separateness. From this life we have to rise and seek out the Self. The ignorance has to be transcended by Knowledge. The one who has the knowledge of both vidya and avidya, the one who has first realized his sacred individual life and then rose to understood the true nature of Ātman, He who has first performed unselfish and pure deeds in his life and purified the mind and then gained True Knowledge. He has realized and transcended mortality of life through good deeds (achieved in one of the many manifestation of the Oneness) and reached immortality through the knowledge of the Timeless Self. Hence avidya is the prerequisite for vidya. Without avidya there is no individual, no life and no liberation to be achieved. Life is the vehicle for immortality, provided one uses this Life (this one manifestation of the Supreme among countless many) to work towards it. Avidya brings forth vidya.

An alternate interpretation that avidya is ritualistic work and vidya being meditation on the deity. So by performing the rituals, one can overcome death and by meditation of deities, one can achieve immortality.

In each of the above 3 verses (9,10 and 11), vidya can be understood as Knowedge of Self, or knowledge of deities while avidya can be rituals or work or awareness of Multiplicity only.

Verse 12 :
vandhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye’sambhūtim upāsate |
tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u sambhutyāṁ ratāḥ ||12||

To pitch darkness they go who worship the Unmanifested (Prakriti). To a greater darkness than this go those who are devoted to the Manifested (Hiranyagarbha).
The Un-manifested prakriti being the state of non-manifestation before the creation of forms and shapes and names. This state being formless and undifferentiated is in equilibrium. Disturbance in this state of equilibrium bring forth the Creation. This Invisible state is caused into visible manifestation (this world) by its own nature. Those who only worship and believe in Non-becoming, those who do not believe in re-birth, they will go to pitch darkness where light from the wisdom will not penetrate them for they believe in Void, in blankness, in Non-Being. Manifested Hiranyagarbha is the first manifestation of the Brahman in this universe and it is created from the Unmanifested prakriti. It is the primordial source of all things and hence all things. Those who only worship and believe in visible manifestation, the phenomenal world, of matter and forms, they will enter even greater darkness for they do not believe in transcendence of the Self. The True Reality, the True Self is not the Un-manifested only, nor the Manifested only. The Self is not Invisible Cause, The Self is also not Visible Phenomenon. A balanced understanding of the visible and the invisible, of matter and spirit, knowledge and work is needed to comprehend the Absolute. Both being one and same, and no complete knowledge is possible without understanding both. If one worships only one, the results will not be complete. The Unity (non-birth) and the Multiplicity (re-birth) are aspects of the Divine Self. He who understands it, sees the Him is all beings and all being in Him.

Verse 13 :
anyad evahūḥ sambhavād anyad āhur asambhavāt |
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇām ye nas tad vicacakṣire ||13||

Different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by the worship of the Manifested and different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by the worship of the Unmanifested. Thus have we heard from the wise who had explained it to us..
If one follows or worships only the Visible Phenomenon (Maya), the results attained would be different. They would not be the results one had expected. Same would happen if one worshiped the Un-manifested. In either case, actions would bring forth the results but the results attained would be different. Thus have we heard from the wise who have explained us. For attaining the correct results, for attaining that highest goal, a union of both the visible and the invisible is needed. The earthly and the supernal, the work and the knowledge, the spirit and the body needs to work together to achieve that True Wisdom. By worshiping the Un-manifest only,  the realization is Void only, an undifferentiated abstraction. There is no life breathing richness to be realized. By worshiping the Manifest only, the sacredness of Self, its eternal and timeless nature is not realized. To combine both - in the visible universe doing good deeds, dissolving the reinforcing Ego and gaining wisdom and use this wisdom to comprehend the true nature of Self (its timeless and unchanging nature) in the eternal universe. Once you harmonize the two, the ends obtained would be perfect and what is desired.
Verse 14 :
sambhūtiṁ ca vināśaṁ ca yas tad vedobhayaṁ saha |
vināśena mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā sambhūtyā amṛtam aśnute ||14||

He who knows both the Unmanifested and the destructible (Hiranyagarbha) together, transcends death by the (worship of) the destructible and attains immortality by the (worship of ) the Unmanifested.
The one who knows that both the the Un-manifested prakriti and the Manifested Hiranyagarbha needs to be realized together, overcomes death by the worship of the Visible, and obtains immortality by the devotion to the Invisible. Hiranyagarbha is the first primordial being, the first individualized manifestation of the untamed Un-manifested and since what ever has born, is bound to be destroyed, therefore His destruction is inevitable. Perfect knowledge is not possible without knowing Both, without the simultaneous comprehension of both. They are both required and without the one, the other does not exist. The essence of one, is the existence of the other, One bringing forth the Other, One being the same as the Other, the two states of the Same. The one who knows the mortality and the limitations of the earthly life, the one who realizes the essence of the sacred body and sacred work in this mutable world, the one who works towards dissolution of the self-limiting ego, one free from the limitation and desires which are the harbingers of death. Death can be conquered by overcoming these agents of death that abound in the Manifested world if one does noble deeds without fear or praise (but on its own merit). Such being transcends death. The one who realizes and worships the Un-manifested, he gains the wisdom to perceive the Invisible in all Visible forms. He merges with the Absolute and exists in the Absolute and the Absolute in him. By this he attains immortality. To be present in this world but not awe at the Supernal Self, Or to be awe of the Supernal and meditative Self, but ignore the happening of this world is not the correct way. One needs to live a noble life in this Visible world, but with a spirit of non-attachment with a mind centered on the Un-Manifested remembering that the eternal is the soul for the temporal.
Verse 15 :
hiraṇmayena pātreṇa satyasyāpihitam mukham | 
tat tvaṁ pūṣan āpāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye ||15||

The face of the Truth is veiled by a bright vessel. Mayst thou unveil it, O Sun, so as to be perceived by me whose dharma is truth.
The face of the Truth is covered by a brilliant golden disc. Unveil it, O' Nourisher [The sun is personified as O pūṣan], remove it so that I who is follower of dharma [Truth] may behold it. The sun is called as the Nourisher of all beings. The sun's rays nourish the whole world, giver of all the light present in the universe. The infinite brightness and luminosity, that uncovers and shreds away darkness and pestilence. Such infinite powers of the sun makes it a symbol of the Infinite and the giver of the Good and All Wisdom. The seeker of the Truth prays to the Radiant One, to control His blinding and shinning rays so that his humble eyes can perceive and behold the truth. In Vedic thought, Sun represents the many ideas of Good and Divine. Because of its vastness, infinite nature, purity and luminosity and the power of self revelation, The sun can be associated with Truth, Law, Vast, Fosterer and Controller and Knower. The sun is all Truth and all Knower, and this flows out but in our mind and senses, all we see is a blinding light. The seeker prays to Sun to unveil its True nature and show the Form Of The Good.

Verse 16 :
pūṣann ekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha tejaḥ | 
yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇatamaṁ tat te paśyāmi yo sāv asau puruṣaḥ, so’ham asmi ||16||

O nourisher, pilgrim of the solitude, controller, absorber (of all rasas), offspring of Prajapati, cast away thy rays, gather them up and give up thy radiating brilliance. That form of thine, most graceful, I may behold. He, the Purusha (in the solar orb), I am.
In the previous verse, where the seeker implores the Sun to control its blinding light so as to perceive the Truth. O' Nourisher, The sole traveller of the heaves (the sole seer), The Controller of All, The Upholder, The Son of Prajapati, spread forth your rays and gather up your radiant light and withdraw your light. Do not waste your light, Give up your radiating brilliance, O' The Brilliant One! so that I can behold you, I can by your Grace gaze your loveliest form, The most Glorious!. Now that I see you, The Purusha who dwells there, I am indeed He. Whoever is that person, I am also that. I myself am He. By the light of the Truth, I am able to see beyond the real and unreal and realize the Knowledge that I am the one with the Supreme. The forms, the deceptions shred away and and the Oneness of all beings in the divine Soul of the Universe is perceived. The Purusha there, He am I. The Purusha is the Cosmic Soul, the unchanging Universal Principle that causes all things to happen in this universe, that brings forth all change. It is the source of all consciousness in the Manifested Prakriti. The Self Itself. I am that Purusha, I am He, He is me. The Glorious Being and I are one and the same.

Verse 17 :
vāyur anilam amṛtam athedam bhasmāntaṁ śarīram | 
aum krato smara kṛtaṁ smara krato smara kṛtaṁ smara ||17||

Let (my) vital air (prana) now attain the immortal Air (all-pervading Self); then let this body be reduced to ashes. Om, O mind, remember – remember that which has been done, O mind, remember – remember that which has been done.
May this life of mine enter into the immortal breath, then may this body end in ashes. Let now my breath return to the immortal, all-pervading eternal Self (The Cosmic Breath or The Eternal Prāna), May my life-breath go to the immortal Prāna and let this body be reduced to ashes. Do not desire for the transient and momentary rewards of this mortal life. This body is perishable, This life of yours in transitory. Strive for the eternal refuge of the Self. Seek the undying and timeless nature of the Ātman. Those who become conscious and have perceived clearly the nature of this temporal body and the nature of the immortal Self, they let go off all the physical desires and material craving that afflict him. Those can boldly say, let this body of mine be burned to cinders for soul attains freedom and merges with the Eternal Self. Death is nothing other than shredding away of the facade and uniting with the all pervading Prāna. O! Mind , remember, remember what has been done. O! Intelligence, remember, remember what has been done. Remember all that has been done. Remember all. Remember whatever was done in this life, O! mind recall all the good and noble deeds done in the life. When at the last moments in this temporal abode that we so much endear, all thoughts of actions and deeds of his whole life comes to this mind, One should fill it with good thoughts only. But it should be remembered that only one who lives a virtuous and righteous life, can while dying sincerely and voluntary remember noble thoughts.

Verse 18 :
agne naya supathā rāye asmān viśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān | 
yuyodhyasmaj juharāṇam eno bhūyiṣṭhāṁ te nama-uktim vidhema ||18||

O Fire, O Deva, knower of all our actions or all our knowledge, lead us by the good path for enjoying the fruits of actions. Liberate us from our deceitful sins. We offer thee ever more our words of adoration.
O! Agni, O! Holy Fire, lead us, along the virtuous path O! Deva, who knowest all our deeds. Lead us to blessedness by the good path, lead us to the correct way for the enjoyment of the fruits of our actions. Illuminate the way that leads us the right path that await us by virtue of the good deeds we did. Knower of all our actions, Remove all illusions and take away from us the deceitful sins. To Thee we offer our prayers and supplications ever more and more. To Thee we pray again and again. At these last moment in out lives, when the only thing this weak body can do it to lie prostrate, we pray to Thee, the Knower of all our Actions. Lead to the good path and liberate us. We pray again and again lying on this death bed. Amidst the maze of ways and byways with which course of man's life is strewn, in the distractions and the diversions of desires and ignorance. In this minefield, the seeker knows the correct Path, but loses sight of it due to ego and sin. Aid us! Show us the correct way, pass us beyond the realms of sin and ego.

Invocation :
Ōm pūrṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate | 
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate ||

Om ! That is full; this is full, (for) from the full the full (indeed) arises.When the full merges into the full, what remains is full indeed. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

References :-
  • Upanishads by Shri Aurobindo
  • The Upanishads Volume I by Swami Nikhilananda
  • The Upanishads by Swami Paramananda
  • The Ten Principal Upanishads by Shri Purohit Swami & W.B. Yeats
  • The Principal Upanishads by S.Radhakrishnan

Voltaire - Candide (Summary)

"Candide: or, Optimism" - This is the first work by Voltaire that I have read. Voltaire was fleeting covered in our school history as one of the critical influences for the French Revolution. This story is about Candide, a young man who is thrown out of a castle and his adventures as he travels wherever his fate takes him.

The story begins with Candide living in the castle in Westphalia. Alongside is the baron's daughter Cunégonde and their tutor Pangloss among others. Pangloss is an ardent believer in Leibniz philosophical thought that teaches that this is the "best of all possible worlds" and "all is for the best". Candide is attracted to Cunégonde and they are caught kissing one day. The baron throws Candide out of the castle. Candide roaming around is caught up in a brutal war between two armies and is conscripted. Nearly executed, he escapes to Holland where he meets Jacques and by chance Pangloss (who is sick and in bad shape). Jacques takes both of them in and cares for them. Pangloss revels that the castle was destroyed in the wars and everybody was killed. Candide mourns the loss of his beloved. Traveling to Lisbon, Jacques is subsequently drowned while saving someone. Pangloss stops Candide from rescuing him saying that this harbor was created for him to drown and provides an optimistic commentary of their situation. They both are captured by the inquisitors and condemned. Candide is flogged and Pangloss is hanged. Left to his state, an old lady leads Candide to a house where he meets Cunégonde who reveals her terrible escape from near death in the castle. She is now owned by a merchant and an church official who take turns to her company. Candide slays both men and escape to Americas with Cunégonde and the old woman. During the voyage, the old woman reveals her unimaginable horrors that she had faced. On reaching Americas, in Buenos Aires, Cunégonde gets separated from him. Candide escapes with his valet (Cacambo) as he is being pursued. They together face countless adventures (wars, cannibalistic tribes) until they reach El Dorado. In this fabled land of unimaginable riches and utopia, they stay for a month. But soon Candide longs for Cunégonde. The king of El Dorado provides them with many sheep full of diamonds for their journey back. Candide and Cacambo travel back to Suriname slowly loosing the treasures. At Suriname, he sends Cacambo back to Buenos Aires to buy back Cunégonde and to meet him in Venice while he proceeds to Venice directly. Candide needing a companion for his journey back to Venice hires the services of Martin (who is a Manichean and a believer that the world is inherently evil). The rest of their journey is made over lengthy discourses on philosophy.
But then, to what end," said Candide, "was the world formed?"
"To make us mad," said Martin.
"Do you think," said Candide, "that mankind always massacred one another as they do now? Were they always guilty of lies, fraud, treachery, ingratitude, inconstancy, envy, ambition, and cruelty? Were they always thieves, fools, cowards, gluttons, drunkards, misers, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, and hypocrites?"
"Do you believe," said Martin, "that hawks have always been accustomed to eat pigeons when they came in their way?"
They reach Venice and wait for Cacambo. Cacambo arrives and tells them that Cunégonde is taken as a slave in Constantinople. They all leave to retrieve her. On the ship, Candide comes across Pangloss (he survived being hanged by inquisitors) working as slave in a ship. Candide buys his freedom. They all reach Constantinople where Candide is united with his beloved. Cunégonde is now ugly and pale shadow of her former glory but Candide still marries her. With whatever diamonds left, Candide buys a farm and they all (Candide,Cunégonde, Martin, Cacambo, Pangloss, the old woman) live together. Eventually boredom catches with them and each is now much more unhappier with their lives. Each of them philosophizing over their state and the turn of events. They go to a dervish to seek answers.
Candide asks "Master, we come to entreat you to tell us why so strange an animal as man has been formed?"
"Why do you trouble your head about it?" said the dervish; "is it any business of yours?"
"But, Reverend Father," said Candide, "there is a horrible deal of evil on the earth."
"What signifies it," said the dervish, "whether there is evil or good? When His Highness sends a ship to Egypt does he trouble his head whether the rats in the vessel are at their ease or not?"
"What must then be done?" said Pangloss.
"Be silent," answered the dervish.
"I flattered myself," replied Pangloss, "to have reasoned a little with you on the causes and effects, on the best of possible worlds, the origin of evil, the nature of the soul, and a pre-established harmony."
At these words the dervish shut the door in their faces.
Confused, they leave for home and on way, they meet an old man who is content selling the fruits of his farm.The old man tells them that his whole family works on their farm and work keeps three great evil as bay - boredom, vice and want. Returning to their home, Candide and all reflected on what the old man said. They decided to work without reasoning as that is the only way to make life bearable. Things start looking up and each one is meaningfully engaged and productive. Though Pangloss still sometimes insisting that see ultimately all turned out to be the best and used to saying
"There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunégonde had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not traveled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts."  
"That is all well said, but we must cultivate our garden", answered Candide

The story is very dense in terms of events and story line. Events move fast and episodes of chance meeting of characters and characters narrowly escaping death are far too many to be believable (I do not think it even tries to be a realistic story). The story touches the political and religious climate of early 1700s Europe that was caught in internecine wars, religious persecution, slavery and exploitation all around. The torture and the evil around shows its face over and over again and nowhere does Candide ever gets a chance to redeem his optimism. Slowly his faith in optimism is shredded away and by the end, Candide ignores the Pangloss continued optimism and says that "we must cultivate our garden". The story does not develop any over riding moral tale or theories on human ethics or the nature of evil. It is endless series of adventures with evil and exploitation (and satire thrown in equal measure) that covers the face of the earth and in all classes, be it kings, or clergy or common-folk. Voltaire is very critical of religion (in fact of all religions) and widespread slavery and the incessant wars that the Europe saw. Unimaginable brutality (including sexual violence) is common in the story. At the end, Candide sees through that absurdity of philosophical argument and realizes events will happen on their own accord and what he can do is to work and take responsibility of one-self. Debating over the issues that afflict human condition or having an optimistic outlook does not absolve one from the need for individual responsibility and action. Good may or may not always begets good, but inaction always begets boredom and dissatisfaction. Pangloss belief that evil is part of the larger good and world is in pre-established divine harmony is discredited in endless tale of horror and misfortune. The faith in larger Good, in the benevolent God, in optimism all amounts to nothing. Candide seeing all the misery around him, finds the world anything but harmonious. Any perspective or theory provided, can not and will not solve or even explain the workings of this world. The only way to make sense of this world, is to do the work required of you and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXV

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answer'd, once did live,
And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd
How many Kisses might it take -- and give!

This is the thirty-fifth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. Again a very very opaque quatrain. The Vessel (that earthen bowl of the previous quatrain), the one who replied with an obscure answer to the poet's questioning. The poet says I think that the vessel once did lived and used to partake in countless merry and frolic. I kissed its cold lip and pondered over the incoherent replies given to me. I wonder how many kisses (like these) will the Vessel give and take. I am curious how many hands will this Vessel pass through.

The Vessel, the earthen bowl of wine was once dust, but was also once live. In Abrahamic religions the belief that God created human from dust is predominant. And human turns to dust once dead. The Vessel might have been human once. In the circle of life and death, dust to dust will keep going on and in each life of these countless lives, I will always keep looking for answers beyond myself but the only answers I get are at best incomprehensible.

Translation - Zamanaah Sakt Kaam-Aazaar Hai (Ghalib)

zamaanaah sakht kam-aazaar hai bah jaan-e-asad
vagarnah hum to tavaqqau ziyaadah rakhte hain

Line 1/2 - The age is rigidly lacking in torment, on the life of Asad I swear. Otherwise, we were expecting for more. The poet says, I swear by my life - the torment and the tyranny is lacking the hardness. Otherwise I was hoping for more. The age has delivered rigidly less torment. The juxtaposing of sakht (rigid or painful) and kam-azaar (less of pain) makes it a nice figure of contrast (an oxymoron) - 'painfully painless'. Such is the misery of the poet, even after seeing all this and going through all this, he swears that he was expecting more pain in his life but the life seemed like painfully painless. Coming this far in life and seeing the apathy and rebuke of the beloved (earthy or supernal), I swear I was expecting much more pain.

Meaning of difficult words -
zamaanaah = age, period
sakht -  hard, rigid
kam-aazaar - lacking in torment, less annoyance
bah jaan-e-asad = on life of asad
vagarnah = otherwise
tavaqqau = expectation

Borges - Dreamtigers

In my childhood I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger—not the jaguar, that spotted "tiger" that inhabits the floating islands of water hyacinths along the Parana and the tangled wilderness of the Amazon, but the true tiger, the striped Asian breed that can be faced only by men of war, in a castle atop an elephant. I would stand for hours on end before one of the cages at the zoo; I would rank vast encyclopedias and natural history books by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those pictures, I who cannot recall without error a woman’s brow or smile.) My childhood outgrown, the tigers and my passion for them faded, but they are still in my dreams. In that underground sea or chaos, they still endure. As I sleep I am drawn into some dream or other, and suddenly I realize that it’s a dream. At those moments, I often think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will, and since I have unlimited power, I am going to bring forth a tiger.
Oh, incompetence! My dreams never seen to engender the creature I so hunger for. The tiger does appear, but it is all dried up, or it’s flimsy-looking, or it has impure vagaries of shape or an unacceptable size, or it’s altogether too ephemeral, or it looks more like a dog or bird than like a tiger.

The is the complete story of Borges's Dreamtigers. How I wish to be The Maker, even better than the Maker. In my dreams I can be one. I want to dream of things more subtle and more grander than the real. But see how miserable do I fail. Instead of a tiger, I do not know what I have dreamed. With my failing sight and spirit, I have brought life to an apparition. A spectre of the real that is not capable of anything. Of not even existing!

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXIV

Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur'd--"While you live
Drink!--for once dead you never shall return."

This is the thirty-fourth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat and the quatrain does not give itself easily to interpretation. The poet holding the earthen bowl (made of mud and full of his favourite wine) is just about to drink from it. But then he stops and ponders over it. Holding it close to his lips, he seeks from the bowl, to reveal the secret (a well being the store of) of life. My lips want to learn that secret knowledge of our short lives. And the lip (the rim of the bowl) murmured to my lips, that don't worry about it. Drink and enjoy while you are alive - for once you are dead, one shall never return. One has this one life only to live for and while one has it, one should live it fully for once it ends it gone forever never to return!

Photo Of The Day

Kiama, NSW

Carrington Falls, NSW

Albert Camus - The Plague (Summary)

I just completed reading Albert Camus work - The Plague. This is the second book by Camus that I have read after his best know work 'The Stranger'. The Plague is a story of the plague that reaches epidemic levels before dying out in small coastal town Oran in French colonial territory of Algeria. It chronicles the lives of people caught up in that quarantined city and narrates the lives of doctors, lovers, trapped tourists and ordinary day people in-midst of the horrible tragedy.

The novel starts with occasional dying out of rats in Oran. Soon thousands of rats start dying, leading to panic and hysteria in the city. The civic authorities unaware of the seriousness of the situation start half-hearted measures. In some days, human deaths follow. Rieux (the main character) is convinced that plague is taking hold of the town. As more people die, the authorities start desperate measure and the town is sealed off. No one can enter or leave the town and all other services are restricted. These measures have an effect of an exile on the citizens who feel as if trapped and isolated. Rieux is friends with Rambert (a journalist who was visiting Oran but is trapped in the city now), Tarrou (a vacationer), Paneloux (the town priest), Cottard (a former criminal who attempted suicide but is smuggling goods now) and Grand (a ageing civil servant obsessed with composing a perfect sentence). Rieux's wife is under treatment in a difference city for some grave illness. The book accounts for the feeling of isolation that is all pervasive and the despair that gives rise to emotional collapse. Paneloux using masterly oration chides people that this plague is God's will and its time for all to turn to church. Tarrou comes up with the idea of the health teams that will aid the civic authorities. Rieux and Grand joins him in these teams. Rambert initially desperate to flee the city (to be with his wife in Paris), later feeling ashamed, joins these health teams. Paneloux also joins. As the situation worsens, even more desperate measures follow. People are shot while fleeing, mass funerals are conducted and occasional looting happens. Rieux and the health teams work tirelessly. Slowly as the winter chill starts, the plague starts to loosen its grip over the city but not before Paneloux and Tarrou die of it. Grand is infected but makes a surprise recovery. The town's quarantine is lifted. Cottard is arrested for his past crimes and Rambert is reunited with his wife. Rieux is informed that his sick wife is dead while Grand goes back to composing his sentence.

The storyline is fairly straightforward. It is story of lives of people who got caught up in the epidemic sweeping the town. As with situation, you have all kind of people behaving in all kind of ways. Some turn to God, others to crime and fatalism, some to a higher purpose and others rise to the occasion and do what is correct. The book makes no notion about what is correct and what was wrong. It is a narration of events filled with narrator's point of view. The theme of separation from either the loved ones or from one's daily habit is recurring throughout the book. This feeling of separation leads to hopelessness pervading everyday lives were people now attempt to live the moment as it comes and not looking out for the hopes of future for the exile could be endless. Besides their thoughts, their personal freedom (like the beaches that they enjoyed previously) also gets restricted. Absurdity of human life (on which Camus writes repeatedly), the idea of a absent Benevolent and rational God or that human lives having any higher purpose is the other prominent idea of the book. The plague is the irrational executioner that will come after anyone irrespective of who they are how they live their lives. The lack of control over our lives and our destiny, the randomness of life and death. In all this, death and suffering however absurd they might be seem is the only certainty that awaits us all. And in this constant overhang, one has to live life and give meaning to life by living it. Life is not sacred, the act of living is sacred and worth fighting for, even in the face of insurmountable plague. Another aspect of the story was that of health teams and even tough they did not achieve much, but the resistance they offered was worth it, not for some grandiose idea of heroism or bravery but for a simple fact that it was a noble struggle and defiance against death. For even a rat when pushed to a corner, will fight it out/ We for all the 'isms' and spirit, can definitely accomplish more.

Translation - Main Unhein Chhedun Aur Kuch Naa Kahen (Ghalib)

main unhein chhedun aur kuch naa kahen
chal nikalte jo mai piye hote

qahar ho yaa bala ho, jo kuch ho
kash ki tum mere liye hote

meri qismat mein gham gar itna tha
dil bhi ya rab kai diye hote

aa hi jaata woh raah par ‘ghalib’
koi din aur bhi jiye hote

Line 1/2 - I would tease her, and she would not say a thing! She would have started (begun) if she has drunk wine. The poet says I would tease my beloved, but she would not complain. She did not say a word. And another time, she started (abusing me) when she was drunk. As if the poet is disappointed by not hearing the abuse from his beloved when he teases her, he recalls that had she been drunk, the response would have been a lot different.

Line 3/4 - Whether you are a catastrophe or you are a disaster, whosoever you are. I wish that you were for me. The poet says, I will accept you as my destiny/fate irrespective of what you are. If you are a terrible calamity, or if you are a disaster. What ever you are, I wish that you were my destiny. My longing and love will hold on and soothe out the raging disposition that you are. I will be the shield that would willingly and happily take all the heat and no one else has to know or suffer.

Line 5/6 - In my destiny, there was so much grief. Oh God!, if only you had me number of hearts too!. The poet says that in my life there is so much grief and misery, that I ask You for if you could indeed have given me number of hearts as well like the number of griefs you have given me. One heart is not enough to contain so much grief, it is overwhelmed.

Line 7/8 - Would have come around for sure, Ghalib! if had lived for some days more. The poet says that she could have come around (be persuaded by) ultimately. If only you would have lived for some days more. You died a bit early (maybe the lover killed himself in a haste for if he could have waited, things would have sorted out)

Meaning of difficult words -
mai = wine
qahar = catastrophe
bala = disaster

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXIII

"Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And--"A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

This is the thirty-third quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The previous quatrain mentioned about the door which can not be opened and the opaque veil and in their separate spheres the seeker and the seeked realize and diffuse until they are one, whole and indivisible. In this quatrain the poet questions loudly - to the rolling heaven above I implored, asking for the way forward. I begged to show me the way, a lamp to be provided by that hidden hand to her countless little children that are stumbling in the dark unaware. We (the Children) are stumbling in the dark for we do not know much. We do not know why we are here, where we came from, where we are going. We are groping for answers, but there are none to come. And to our prayers, the Heaven's answer is "A blind Understanding!".

Could 'a blind understanding' mean we humbly accept what is happening, even though we do not know why it's happening for we can not see (we are blind to it for it is beyond our realm). We accept what is to to become of us and our lives with the utter understanding that it will happen irrespective and not get too much caught by in the why and how of it. One may not know where he came from, where he is going or what lies ahead in the path or even what his fate and actions lie in front of him. But even as we grope in this darkness, we must see the light (and come to understand) that the essence is to live and live it fully.

Translation - Hoon Garmi-e-Nishat-e-Tasavvur Se Naghma-Sanj (Ghalib)

This is one of ghalib's unpublished ghazals that is not part of his diwan. The verses have been taken from here and here.

mumkin nahin ki bhool ke bhi aarmeedah hoon
mein dasht-e-gham mein aahoo-e-sayyaad deeda hoon

hoon dardmand jabr ho ya ikhtiar ho
gaah naala-e-kasheedah, gaah ashk-e-chakeedah hoon

jaan lab pe aayi toh bhi na sheereen hua dahan
az-bas-ki talkhi-e-gham-e-hijraan chasheedah hoon

ne subbha se alaaqa na saaghar se waastah
main ma’ariz-e-misaal mein dast-e-buriida hoon

hoon khaaksaar par na kisi se hai mujhko laag
na daana-e-fitaada hoon na daam chidaah hoon

jo chahiye nahin wo meri qadr-o-manzilat
main yusuf-e-be-qeemat-e-awwal khareedah hoon

hargiz kisi ke dil mein nahin hai meri jagah
hoon main kalaam-e-naghz vale naa-shuneedah hoon

ahl-e-vara’a ke halqe mein har-chand hoon zaleel
par ‘aasiyon ke zumre mein main bar-guzeedah hoon

hoon garmi-e-nishat-e-tasavvur se naghma-sanj
main andaleeb-e-gulshan-e-naa-aafariidah hoon

paani se sag-gazeedah dare jis tarah asad
darta hoon aaine se ki mardum-gazeedah hoon

Line 1/2 - It is not possible that even by mistake, I would be relaxed and comfortable. In the forest of grief, I am like a deer who has just seen the hunter. The poet says of life's never ending trials and tribulations that even by a chance its not possible that he is at ease and satisfied. He is like a vulnerable deer who has just caught sight of a hunter and is running scared in the forest. I am too similarly caught up in this forest of life where grief and anxiety never seem to be far from me.

Line 3/4 - I am anxious and distressed, be it by force or be it by my free will. Sometimes, it is a drawn-out (stretched) lament, sometimes it is the tears oozing out from my eyes. The poet says I am always in the state of distress, sometimes it is because the misery is forced on me and other times, I choose to be distressed. Sometimes its like a long drawn lament and sometimes like tears oozing out of his eyes.

Line 5/6 - Even on the verge of death, still there is no sweetness in the mouth. To the extent that (in as much as), the bitterness of the grief of separation is what I am tasting instead. The poet says that death used to be a sweet elixir that would take away all griefs and sorrow that life had to offer. But instead on the verge of death, I have this bitter taste due to the grief of separation. Even death is not sweet!

Line 7/8 - I have neither affinity with the rosary, nor any association with the wine. I am (have the features) of such an example, for I have amputated hands. I can choose neither the rigors of piety nor can I can indulge in the pleasures of the world. I am like a person with no hands (who can neither hold rosary nor a glass of wine) who has got no choice to indulge in either of them.

Line 9/10 - I may be humble and lowly (down amid the dust), but I do not have any liking (or animosity) with anyone. 'laag' is very broad word with multiple variations of meaning. What is to be meant here is not very clear. I am neither the scattered seed nor I am the net (maybe seeds laid for the trap) for catching the sparrow. The poet says that he is among the dust, neither loving or hating others. He will not be like scattered grain that will be food for birds nor will he be like a trap for them. I will live life alone and humbly, without the need of friendship or enmity or doing good or harm to others.

Line 11/12 - What it needs to be, it is not my value and and position. I am like Joseph, the one who as bought by the first bidder for practically free. In Biblical stories, Joseph was initially sold as a slave, but is destined to be a prophet in later life. The poet says my value and position and rank is not what is needs to be (my true worth is not being valued correctly). I am like Joseph who was auctioned for pennies but later rose to be a prophet.

Line 13/14 - On any account, in someone's heart there is no place for me. I am such a wonderful composition, but which is not yet heard. The poet says there is no place of me in anyone's heart. The use of 'hargiz' makes it sound forceful as if the poet says that its not even possible for anyone to place him in their hearts. The reason is because, even though I am unique and very collect-able, but no one has the capacity or intellect to understand me. I am like a song, they do not hear.

Line 15/16 - In the circle full of religious and pious people, although I feel disgraced. But in the company of sinners, I am the chosen one. The poet says even if he is in the pious circle, he finds himself shamed and disgraced (probably because the pious are not giving him the respect he deserves). But in the company of sinners, I am the chosen one. It is the sinners that know my true worth.

Line 17/18 - These are the best lines of the ghazal in my opinion. I sing with the heat (excitement) of the delights (joy) of the things I imagine and foresee. I am the nightingale of the garden that is yet to be born. The poet says I am a singer of songs that are evoked by the excitement of the happiness of the things I imagine. I am the nightingale of a garden of the future when the things I imagine would be possible and the future is bright and happy. There could be another interpretation possible. Say the poet imagined a heaven on earth so profound that he breaks into a song unprovoked. It was such a nice melodious tune that the poet says, for a nightingale to even compete with him, it would have to be singing in so majestic a garden that it has yet not been created.

Line 19/20 - O! Asad, like the dog-bitten is scared of water. Scared I am of the mirror, for I am people-bitten. The poet says like someone who is bitten by a infected dog (rabies which causes the victims to develop fear of water) and is afraid of water, I am scared of the mirror for I am people-bitten. When I see my reflection in the mirror, I can't help noticing my disappointment with my relationship with the other person. I am not good at keeping people around me happy and on seeing myself in the mirror, I realize the loneliness staring blankly at my face.

Meaning of difficult words -
aarmeedah = comfort/relaxed
dasht = forest
aahoo = deer
sayyaad = hunter
deeda = sight
dardmand = anxious, depressed
jabr = force
ikhtiar = right, free to choose
gaah = sometimes
naala = cry, lament
kasheedah = stretched
ashk = tears
chakeedah = oozing out
sheereen = sweet
dahan = mouth
az-bas-ki = in as much as, to the extent that
talkhi = bitterness, acrimony
hijraan = seperation
chasheedah = tasting
subbha = rosary
alaaqa = to be attached, dependence, affinity
saaghar = goblet of wine
ma’ariz = features to identify something
misaal = example
bareeda = amputated, cut
khaaksaar = humble, lowly
laag = affection, attachment, enmity
fitaada = scattered
daam = net, trap
chidaah = sparrow
qadr = value
manzilat = dignity, rank, position
yusuf = joseph
be-qeemat = without value, free
awwal = first
hargiz = on no account, never
kalaam = composition
nagz = excellent, wonderful
shunidaah = to be heard
vale = but, yet
ahl-e-vara’a = world of pious/religious people
halqe = circle
har-chand = although
zaleel = shamed, disgraced
‘aasiyon = sinners
zumre = in company
guzeedah = selected, chosen
nishat = joy, happiness
tasavvur = imagination, idea
sanj = measurer, examiner, weigher
naghma-sanj = measurer/weigher of songs (i.e. singer)
andaleeb = nightingale
aafariidah = created
sag = dog
mardum = men, people
gazeedah = bitten

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XXXII

There was a Door to which I found no key:
There was a Veil past which I could not see:
Some little Talk awhile of ME and THEE
There seemed--and then no more of THEE and ME.

This is the thirty-second quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The poet says that he has come across a Door for which he has found no key and there is a Veil past which he can not see. The locked door and the veil are obstructing his path and his vision. There are things we can not see or fathom and mysteries which we can not unlock. There is this barrier that separates "we" from "You" [The Divine] which we can not seem to transcend. We live of[talk] our lives with all its joys and tribulations with this notion of separate spheres of we and You. All our experiences and life moments are nothing but a constant exchange between the Self and the Divine. But if we were to look harder, we would realise that there is actually no veil, no barrier. In fact, there is no ME and no YOU. We are part of the Divine.We are in midst of the Divine. I am You and You are Me. All things, all Beings are part of that Oneness and that Oneness is complete.

Frits Staal - Discovering the Vedas (Summary - II)

This is the second part of the my summary on Frits Staal's book - "Discovering the Vedas". The first part of the summary is here. The first part basically focused on the origin of early Vedic speakers and the time and space in which the Vedas were written. This one is brief gist on Vedas and their context. As with the first part, the summary below is what I have read in the book and I am no Vedic culture expert to deny or confirm any of the ideas that the book puts forward.

By the end of first part we had come to a conclusion that early Vedic settlers came from somewhere in Russian steppes, made a long and arduous journey taking along with them their Indo-European language, myths, fire worship, soma practice and knowledge of horse and chariots. They initially settled in NW India around 1800 BC slowly moving east into the Gangetic plains. The culture was primarily village based, male dominated and ritual driven. It could have been that women (for marriage) would have come from the indigenous population and early Vedic settlers married into indigenous tribes to advance their clan or family's political/societal aims. These indigenous population contributed greatly like the name of tribes which later became the name of Vedic schools (sakhas). Women are not mentioned frequently in early Vedic text. We hear very little about women or their state. There is specifically no mention in Vedas of what was to be later known as "dependence of women" that states that a women's dependence is first on her father, then on her husband and lastly on her sons. This idea was codified much later in the 2nd century AD in the manu-smriti from where is widely took life of its own and could be said to be a seminal event in relatively poor state of women's status in Indian society. Similarly caste began appearing in the later Vedic works and in the post-Vedic dharamsutras and by the time of manu-smriti in 2nd century AD, it was also codified. Though the widely prevailing view is that caste was inherent to Vedic society probably because it fits into the aryan invasion theory whereby the invaders became the higher caste and indigenous tribes the lower status groups. But since in the first part summary, we have concluded that there was no invasion, instead a smaller group of settlers crossed over. The genetic material also goes back 9000 years making the idea that Vedic speakers could fashion a new social order so quickly is far fetched. The idea of attribute caste to Vedic civilization is either to make them easy scapegoat or to make the concept as being divine and foretold by Gods. Rig Veda (RV) mentions broad classes like árya and dása. Possibly árya could have been Vedic settlers and indigenous tribes being dása. But Vedas does mentions something very similar to the current social order. It states in the below lines [bráhman, ksatram, viš] which could relate more to the realm of occupation that groups of people are engaged in rather than a strict societal order. These lines are from RV -

promote the bráhman (language) and promote poetic inspiration,
promote the ksatram (power or dominion) and promote able bodies men
promote the viš (the common people) and promote cows.

These words were to later become brahmin, ksatriya and vaishya which now are the three higher castes (varna). Note that there are only 3 words mentioned[bráhman, ksatram, viš] and RV does not clearly state what could these words mean or if they actually meant social order. Multiple references in later works display no fixed social hierarchy and it looks like order did not matter initially and sometimes these words have no settled meaning or the meaning seems to shift. Also in the Vedas itself, there are references of a united front of brahman-ksatriya against vaishya who may have been indigenous. bráhman was still a flexible term and does not seem to occupy a fixed place in rigid system of classes or caste. That hardening happened much later. In early Vedic sense, varna could have referred to the state of a person like being royalty or learned. RV has no word for social classes but has a word 'varna' which meant color and this word is mentioned only once in RV, on the other hand jati (birth) was not even mentioned in Vedas. In RV's famous purusha sukta,[10.90] is the only place where a four layer social order is mentioned. In this hymn, purusha is a primordial man that is being sacrificed and it assigns the four varnas brahman, rajanya, vaishya and sudra to his mouth, arm, thighs and feet. This is the only place where four layers social order instead of three are used and most linguistics and scholars agree that this sukta(hymn) is a late addition to RV as it does not resemble any other RV myth (in form and diction) and is not in accordance to early Vedic social distinction. Most likely it was added later in RV to give weight and justify the new social order. So what originally started as an order to classify people into árya and dása groups later became three layered (middle Vedic) and then four layered (later Vedic) and then to a complex conundrum of varna and jati (British age) by cooperating priests-royalty combine.   

The book also broadly touches on the Vedas and their context. There are 4 Vedas and each Vedas has four different layers. The core is the samhitas which are verses and mantras, mostly in praise of Gods. The next layer is aranyakas (which literally mean 'produced in forest'). This layer mainly deals with ritual (maybe rituals in the forest as possibly forest are seen as a mysterious place where mantra and ideas originate). The next layer is brahmana which are broad commentaries on many topics. The last layer is called upanishads which is a open category and deals with philosophy and spiritual ideas. The Vedas are not one piece and never composed as one piece. They have constantly evolved over the times. The chief division of Vedas is sakhas(school) from where they originated. Each school goes back to a clan or tribe in a particular area and each sakha would memorize a specific Veda (and all it layers). The Vedic text itself of these sakhas would be slightly different from other schools of same Veda but the difference is minor. Most of these text of these schools have now been lost, but still some survive. In a settled village based Vedic civilization, cattle and cow was the primary means of wealth. Society transformed from a nomadic lifestyle to a village based. Spoke chariot building were specialized skills and the builders had a high place in society. They were called rathakára. RV does not mention them, but taittiriya brahmana states rathakára in line with other three castes. It looks as if the three caste did not have the same meaning in RV as in post Vedic works, rathakára occupied high status in Vedic times before the actual codified caste came into being where it got lost. RV was composed in upper Indus valley and the other three in upper (kuru/pancala) and middle (kosala/videha) courses of the Ganges. In midst of this geographical migration towards east, there is an evolution in Vedic Sanskrit thought and culture besides language. (Early, Middle and late Vedic)

Rig Veda [RV] is the oldest and mostly composed in Indus valley area [Early Vedic period, 1800 - 1200 BC] mostly by clans. The importance of some Gods seem to change within the Vedas itself and some ideas of early RV were discarded by the time the other Vedas were composed. In this sense, we can say the RV was probably most alien with ideas and discourse closer to nomadic culture than to the settled cultures of later Vedas. In RV, there are 12 invocations of varuna, 23 invocations for varuna-mitra, mitra is not only a friend but personification of contract (he is something similar to mithra of iranian religions). These deities have a much smaller cult compared to indra who pervades the RV. In later works, mitra no longer appears. Most likely mitra was part of old folklore of nomads wandering around Asia as mitra is present in Iranian and Mittani religions as well and was discarded later on. Also present in RV is the battle of 10 kings who were tribal chiefs. Bharata won this battle due to mantra power. This was the age of mysterious mantras and sublime language. The indigenous tribes may have also adopted the language partly because of its alleged mantra power. Here language became a tool for political ends. RV emphasized male lineage and the transmission of Vedas was also patrilineal. RV was the world of men, by men, for issues of men. RV is most ancient, venerable, obscure, distant and difficult to understand and easy to misinterpret. The composers of RV composed it mainly for their family and clan and that is why so much remains obscure to outsiders. It started with a smaller set of poems which were gradually expanded. The nomenclature the poem in the Vedas follow a circle.poem.verse. naming convention. The early reciters needed three additional information about each poem - deity, composer, the meter. The most common deities were agni, indra, soma, and though agni & soma were impersonal divinities they were concrete as well and both are ritualized while indra has more personal traits.

The other three Vedas were composed in the Middle Vedic period [1200 - 700 BC]. The heart of Vedic culture had shifted east from the Indus valley to upper Gangetic plains. While RV was more inward looking and mysterious, the other three became more outward looking. Sama Veda come from indigenous sources and most likely from non-Indo-Aryan lineage while Atharva Veda is full with local cults. The RV was the poetic high point of the Vedic culture and by the time Yajur Veda was composed, it looked as if composing Veda becomes routine, like it being part of a job. kuru/pancala is most important kingdom/tribe in this age and Kuruksetra was now the heartland of brahmanical orthopraxy. A section of kuru/pancala compositions from their schools became the three later Vedas. During middle ages, soma was combined with agni into vast complex rituals (both these being material as well as deity). The rituals were huge and tedious and explains why middle Vedic age was not poets but scholars doing mundane stuff. The vision of RV is replaced by pedantry. Vision would return with Upanishads.

Sama Veda [SV] is made from sáman which means chants and it consists entirely of the verses of RV set to music. SV has to be heard as it is more of melody of the same RV verses. Usually the words of first lines of most hymn are carefully selected to fit the melody but the rest of the lines were forced into the same format. The forced words are changed or transformed or embellishments are added which are called stobha which is just a meaningless text. It could be that melodies were earlier sung to a different language before Vedic settlers came to India. In this transformations, phrases were added removed, repeated, changed to make it fit a melody. The core of SV is ritual chants and it exhibits two types of chants - 'to be sung in village' and 'to be sung in forest'. The village ones are accessible while forest/wilderness ones are complex and more powerful. It supports a theory that forest is dangerous and a place full of powerful chants and it point to indigenous origins that were settled long time before. Both parts stressing the village and forest being the two sides of the Vedic life. Atharva Veda [AV] survives in two schools and it mainly consists of sorcery chants, speculative and mystical poems, fragments of rituals and compositions that relate to art of healing. Yajur Veda [YV] deals with the ritual. It is said that YV provides the space for RV and SV to display their beauty. It incorporates RV verses and SV chants in its ritual framework. Yajur Veda created more school then all three Vedas put together as they created the concept of school and the other three Vedas were assigned to a place. Yajur Veda thus become the assigner that will occupy the center.

Later Vedic Period [700 - 300 BC] - In this period, Vedas were refined and reworked and the final canonization of the four Vedas were done. Also during this age, from Yajur Veda, a newer version was extracted and made into white YV and old unrefined one was called as black YV which found refuge in South India. It was called white as it separated mantra and brahmanas portions from the old and thus returning to the purity of RV which consists of poetry only.  Most of the Vedic canon was closed by now. Caste was gaining ascendancy as Vedic culture was becoming caste obsessed and ritual driven. Primarily against a reaction to this caste and ritual over zeal, the reformists ideas like Jainism and Buddhism came to fore in the Indian subcontinent during this age.

What we have discussed above is the mostly the core layer of the Vedas which is the samhitas that are widely read and translatedThere are three more layers [brahmanas, aranyakas  and upanishads] to each of the Vedas. In RV, SV, AV and White YV, the samhitas and brahamans are distinct, while in in Black VY there is this continuous series to which brahmanas, aranyakas  and upanishads are attached. So while all Vedas have the samhitas, brahmanas and the upanishads layer, only RV and YV have the aranyakas layer as well. Both the brahmanas and aranyakas layers are large reservoir of comments, observations and interpretations, stories and speculation but they also seem mostly meaningless. They are huge and inaccessible and can support any theory and most of the times they do not make or convey any sense. Upanishads is the final layer of the Vedas and they are also called as Vedanta (end of Vedas). The end could mean the final piece of writing or it could also be interpreted as the ultimate aim or goal. The literal meaning of the word upanishads means sitting close to the teacher. There are 108 Upanishads of which 12 to 13 are classical which were written first (before 600 BC) and are the most important. The non classical upanishads continued to be added later on. In a broad sense of any society it can be said that humans are bound by ritual and freed by knowledge. In Vedic context, the karma or ritual is brahmanas/aranyakas and jnana or knowledge is upanishads.

This brings us to the end of my write up on this book. I must admit, I haven't read much on very early Indian history so it was a informative read but it has opened up a lot more questions than it has answered. What does the voluminous Vedic literature contain? Is there anything we can deduce or meaningfully understand. What was the significance of such extensive ritual and mysterious mantras? What of caste? How did caste became so central to Indian society?