Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rama and Seetha spoke Tamil (Spoken language of ancient India – Part 4)

Disclaimer: I hereby declare that there is no chauvinistic intention of promoting Tamil, which happens to be my mother tongue, in this series. The intention is to bring to the notice of readers, the presence of Tamil alongside Sanskrit in the Indian Subcontinent for many thousands of years. A deeper analysis might give us leads on why a fused Tamil and Sanskrit presence can be seen from India to Ireland to Ice land and from Polynesia to the Incas. 

Previous articles:-

“Madhu” or “Madhuram” – the other name of Tamil appears often in Valmiki Ramayana suggesting it to be a lingua franca of people across ancient India. That name appears predominantly in the conversation between Seetha and Hanuman as the human tongue (Manushya Bhasha). Numerous instances in support of this from different chapters of Ramayana were highlighted in Part 3.
In the current part, we will be focusing on a strong evidence for the presence of Tamil in a conversation in Valmiki Ramayana.

The context occurs in Ashoka Vana after Hanuman had caused havoc in the grove. After having met Seetha, Hanuman went about destroying the grove. Seeing his might and the gigantic body, the female-demons surrounding Seetha were terrified. They started taunting Seetha and wanted to know who he was and what she was talking to him.

Seetha gave a reply that contains a Tamil proverb!

She said,
“You alone can recognise who he is and what he does. A serpent only can recognise the feet of another serpent. There is no doubt about it." (VR: 5-42-9)

She said, “अहिः एव अहेः पादान् विजानाति

अहिः एव (ahi: eva) – serpent alone
अहेः (ahe) – of serpent
पादान् (pādān) – feet
विजानाति (vijānāti) – can know

“Ahireva ahe pādān vijānāti” means – Only a serpent knows the feet of the serpent.

This is the exact translation of the Tamil proverb,
“Pāmbaŗiyum pāmbin kāl” (பாம்பறியும் பாம்பின் கால்).

The word by word meaning of this proverb is,

Pāmbu – serpent
Ariyum – knows
Pāmbin – of serpent
Kāl – feet.

The exact replication in Tamil is surprising. One can say that the Sanskrit proverb had entered Tamil language. But this cannot be so, as this proverb is not found in Sanskrit.

Proverbs of this kind are known as ‘Lokokti’ in Sanskrit - owing to the fact that they have come up among common people. The beliefs and ideas prevailing among a group of people and coming down for ages get crystallized as lokokti. One can find similar types of lokoktis across many cultures, but the above one pertaining to serpent and its feet cannot be a common one across cultures and language systems, for, it is about the non-existent ‘feet’ of the snake. It is unlikely that people from different cultures and different places had conceived the same idea.

There is another proverb found in Valmiki Ramayana in the words of Hanuman. That proverb is in Tamil and also in English or perhaps in many other languages. The proverb is ‘face is the index of the mind’.  The expanded version of it is found in Manu smriti too where it is written that ‘the internal (working of the) mind is perceived through the aspect, the motions, the gait, the gestures, the speech, and the changes in the eye and of the face (8-26). Among the various features, face alone is picked out in the proverb in Tamil which says, “the nature of the inside (mind) is seen on the face” 
அகத்தின் அழகு முகத்தில் தெரியும்

The same expression is found in the dialogue of Hanuman in his justification for accepting Vibhishana into their fold. He says “It is not possible to hide expression of the face, even if it is concealed. By force, the internal intent of the persons certainly gets revealed.” (VR: 6-17-64)

आकारः चाद्यमानो अपि शक्यो विनिगूहितुम् |
बलाद्द् हि विवृणोति एव भावम् अन्तर् गतम् नृणाम्

The gist of this verse told by Hanuman is that antargatam will be revealed in one’s appearance or in facial expression. This can be rephrased as

आकारश्छाद्यमानोपि भावं व्यङ्ते मुखं नृणाम् 

to mean "Even if body language is restrained & covered, face will uncover/unveiled emotions that one tries to cover-up". {Rephrasing and meaning courtesy: Dr.S.Venugopalan , Professor, Dept of Sanskrit & Indian culture, SCSVMV University, Kanchipuram}

The Tamil proverb is an exact replica of this idea. However it is not correct to say that this was exclusive to Tamil speakers,  as this idea is about human nature and could have been picked up by any in any culture. But the proverb on snakes cannot be generalised like this.

Snakes do not have feet. But the way a snake recognizes the location of another snake or appears in a place where another snake is there had been perceived by the people of a common denomination as though the snake knew the steps or the feet of another snake and therefore had appeared suddenly from nowhere.

This kind of perception of the feet of the snake is not universal but had come up within a community. This perception found in Seetha’s words make it known that the community had spread across India from Videha and Kosala to Lanka where she has actually spoken this. This perception having its presence among the speakers of Tamil gives rise to another perception that this vastly-spread community had conversed in Tamil!

In other words, Tamil, in whatever form – crude or refined – had been spoken by people across India covering north and south India. This proverb appearing in the conversation with the female demons of Ravana reiterates the possibility that Ravana and his subjects also had spoken Tamil. This is not surprising given the fact that sea-bound Southerner (Thennan) namely the Pandyans had close proximity to Lanka. And there is an episode involving  Ravana and the Pandyan king in which Ravana bought peace with the Pandyan king. This is found mentioned in Raghu Vamsam and Sinnamanur copper plate inscriptions (read here).

The proverb in Tamil.

Lokokti or proverb is known aspazha mozhi’ (olden saying) or “Mudhu mozhi” (wisdom of the old or ancient sayings) in Tamil, thereby conveying the antiquity of it and the wisdom contained in it.
A Tamil Sangam composition (“Pazhamozhi 400”) exclusively on such proverbs describes 400 proverbs, each with an analogy. The analogy helps in understanding the exact purport of the proverb. The proverb used by Seetha appears in the 8th verse of this composition and it is reproduced here:

புலமிக் கவரைப் புலமை தெரிதல்
புலமிக் கவர்க்கே புலனாம் – நலமிக்க
பூம்புனல் ஊர பொதுமக்கட்(கு) ஆகாதே
பாம்பறியும் பாம்பின் கால்.

Meaning: The wisdom of the learned is palpable only to the learned, like how the feet of the serpent is known only to the serpent.

In a striking similarity Seetha uses the proverb in the same kind of comparison as found in the verse form Sangam text produced above. She compares the female-demons with Hanuman equating him with a demon (in an attempt to project Hanuman as unknown to her) and asks how she can know about the demons. Only the female- demons around her can know about him like how a serpent can know about the feet (movement) of another serpent.

This comparison by Seetha is exactly as in the above quoted Sangam verse on this proverb. This Sangam verse is more recent, say about 2000 years ago, but the idea it conveys is no different from what Seetha had conveyed in her conversation.  This shows that the idea appropriate to this proverb had been in vogue for all times in the past.

Probing further, a cross-check can be done in the Tamil version of Ramayana by Kambar (Kamba Ramayanam). When we look up for the same proverb in the same context, we are in for a surprise. Kambar did not translate that conversation of Seetha verbatim, but uses another comparison.

Seetha does say that the bad deeds done by bad people can be understood only by the bad people and not by pure persons like herself. But she does not continue to reiterate this with the snake-proverb. She gives a contrasting scenario - on how good people like her fail to understand the bad people. She says that only bad people understand the bad intentions of the bad people, whereas she being a pure person could not understand the bad intentions of Maricha and fell into his trap by desiring the golden form of Maricha. Thus we find Kambar retaining the same idea of Valmiki’s Seetha, but adding an expression of lamentation by Seetha by comparing herself in a similar situation.

தீயவர்  தீய  செய்தல் தீயவர் தெரியின் அல்லால்,
தூயவர்  துணிதல் உண்டோ, நும்முடைச் சூழல் எல்லாம் ?
ஆய மான் எய்த,அம் மான், இளையவன், "அரக்கர் செய்த
மாயம்" என்று உரைக்கவேயும், மெய்என மையல் கொண்டேன்,' (5476)

The omission of this Tamil proverb by Kambar is a bit intriguing, and can be interpreted to mean that Kambar did not see anything special with this Tamil proverb. But a search into other verses of Kamba Ramayanam reveals that the presence of Tamil in Rama’s times was taken for granted by Kambar or by the people of Kambar’s period (12th century CE).

Kambar had certainly taken note of this proverb but had felt that it may not do justice to the emotions that Seetha was undergoing at that moment. Valmiki’s was original –for, he had conveyed the actual conversation between Seetha and the female- demons. He did not tamper with any dialogue mouthed by the original characters – something known from the verses 3 & 4 of 3rd sarga of Bala kanda. So, one cannot doubt the presence of the Tamil proverb in Valmiki’s version as an imagined one.

Kambar uses the same proverb in another context – in the dialogue of Surpanakha. The encounter with Surpanakha is quite long in Kamba Ramayana and there are additional dialogues that are not found in Valmiki Ramayana. Surpanakha of Kambar tries to lure Rama by offering to help him in defeating the demons. She as a demon knows the tricks of demons like how a serpent knows the feet of another serpent. So she reminds Rama of the proverb ‘Pāmbaŗiyum pāmbin kāl’ (Ahireva ahe pādān vijānāti)

'காம்பு அறியும் தோளாளைக் கைவிடீர் எனினும் ,
யான் மிகையோ ? கள்வர்
ஆம் , பொறி இல் அடல் அரக்கர் அவரோடே
செருச் செய்வான் அமைந்தீராயின் ,
தாம் பொறியின் பல மாயம் தரும் பொறிகள்
அறிந்து , அவற்றைத் தடுப்பென் அன்றே ?
பாம்பு அறியும் பாம்பின்கால் '' என மொழியும்
பழமொழியும் பார்க்கிலீரோ ? (2967)

Surpanakha asks Rama, “don’t you know the proverb – the serpent knows the feet of the other serpent?’” This is a remarkable positioning of the proverb, as it conveys that Rama is expected to know of this proverb.

In Valmiki, Seetha is shown to have known that proverb and she used it in the context of the female-demons.

In Kambar, Rama is shown to have known this proverb from the dialogue of a female- demon.

This cannot be treated as a poet’s way of expression as there is yet another Tamil connection to Rama, given by Kambar. That occurs in the conversation between Rama and Lakshmana in Ayodhya Kanda at the time of exile. On coming to know of the exile, Lakshmana gets terribly angry and goes to the verge of harming his own father. Rama pacifies him in many ways. In that context Kambar describes Rama as one who has surpassed the limits of Tamil and has analysed the limits of Sanskrit literature!

நன் சொற்கள் தந்து ஆண்டு, எனை
நாளும் வளர்த்த தாதை
தன் சொல் கடந்து, எற்கு
அரசு ஆள்வது தக்கது அன்றால்;
என் சொல் கடந்தால், உனக்கு
யாது உளது ஊற்றம்?’ என்றான் -
தென்சொல் கடந்தான்,
வடசொல் - கலைக்கு எல்லை தேர்ந்தான் (1741)

The word given here is ‘Thensol’ meaning ‘southern word/ language’. It’s complementary word is ‘vadasol’, meaning Sanskrit (northern word / language). By bringing in ‘vadasol’, it is made clear that ‘thensol’ refers to Tamil, the language identified with south and southern Pandyas. There is no need to describe Rama as a knower of Tamil, unless that is what the people of the times of Kambar had thought so. Such a thought could have come up from the reference to Manushya Bhasha spoken by Seetha and Hanuman.  

There is likely to be a dispute here in this verse, that the word is not ‘thensol’ (தென் சொல்), but ‘thEnsol’ (தேன் சொல்), meaning sweet word/ language.

ThEn means honey or sweet. Honey or sweetness is precisely what Tamil was meant to be – something discussed elaborately in the previous part for “Madhuram’. If it is argued that ‘thEnsol’ does not refer to Tamil, but only to Rama’s sweet words, one can see that such a meaning is absurd in this context. In this verse Rama is questioning Lakshmana why he is so eager to ignore his (Rama’s) word of acceptance of father’s order (to go to the forest). An admonition of such a kind cannot be told in sweet words. So the word cannot be ‘thEnsol’

Another reason is this word does not align with the poetic measure called ‘monai’ (மோனை) if taken as ‘thEnsol’. On the contrary, ‘thensol’ aligns with the poetic rule of monai. Therefore it is very clear that Kambar had used the word ‘thensol’. Moreover the meaning of the line implies the knowledge of a language than the sweetness or otherwise of the word spoken by Rama.

Even if it happens to be ‘thEnsol’ it does not negate the reference to Tamil language as we have a parallel in Valmiki Ramayana wherein Hanuman describes Rama as one who speaks sweet language, like Vachaspati, the lord of speech. We established in Part 3 how this refers to Manushya bhasha, the language of the humans, which is nothing other than Tamil.

Having highlighted the presence of Tamil in Rama’s times, and in the speech of Rama and Seetha we will move on to the stronger evidence that can be established from the fact that Agastya, the originator of Tamil grammar was a contemporary of Rama. That analysis will be taken up in the next article.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Did Stephen Hawking know the mind of God?

One of the finest minds had left the world – I am referring to the demise of Stephen Hawking. I used the word ‘mind’ to refer to him – wondering what his ‘mind’ or to put it precisely, his consciousness must be thinking now after having left his body and the world. The more he was talking about a role or no role for God in creation and Universe, the less we saw him think about what would happen to ‘him’ – his mind or self or consciousness, once his physical existence ceases on the earth. As per law of conservation of energy, his consciousness also must continue to exist and can’t vanish when the physical body dies.

He had an explanation for it. He recognised mind or thoughts as a product of the brain and theorised only one life. He once told the Guardian,

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  

Accepting his computer analogy, the question comes how does the computer work? Computer is only hardware. It needs a programme, a software chip to make it work. If brain is a computer, from where does it get its programmed chip? From where did he get the programme for his brain that enabled him to explain the cosmos that no other person could explain?

Another problem with the computer analogy is that all computers are alike and the way they are programmed is also the same. Are all people the same with respect to their brain power?  There is yet another problem. Without power source the computer can’t work. For the computer the power comes from external source. From where did his computer- brain draw its power is a question that Hawking was not asked, and perhaps he did not think about it. If asked, he could have dismissed it as just an analogy, but the fact remains that no analogy can explain human existence.

Interestingly by his own words and his life he had left a strong message on the existence of God.  Quoting from the TIME article,  

Though Hawking rejected the conventional notion of God or a creator, he fundamentally believed that the universe and life have meaning, according to the New York Times.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist,” Hawking said of the meaning of life. “Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

He urged the people to watch the cosmos and try to make sense of what makes it exist. Shouldn’t the same logic be applied to our own existence also? He did touch upon it in the last line in the above quote, but made it a kind of self-improvement suggestion.

Life’s difficulties are different for different people. Everyone wants to succeed but reality may not be the same as one expected. Why is it so? Why does some people succeed and many don’t? Why do some people succeed with less effort or against all odds like how he himself could achieve, despite his ailment.

And there are those who never succeed and those who never even see the light of the day, say, the kids that die in the womb or die after birth. Can we say that the computer was bad or that the programme was bad for them?  Did he ever think of this kind of vast number of discrepancies among the people of all times in the past and the present? This doesn’t exclude the animals too that have brains. What for the animals are living and what have they exhibited? The most basic element of humaneness, namely compassion can be seen in animal mothers. The best survival instinct can be seen in the animal world. But why are they born as animals?

The issue is Hawking failed to see beyond the physical Universe. Even in the case of Universe there is a basic feature that establishes a need for God. Let me explain it with pot-analogy.

Mud goes into making a pot. The pot is the final product but the mud is not exactly the first product. It has come to the state of mud after having come through a series of changes that one can say, right from the primordial state of the Universe. The pot is made from the substances that were once in the cosmic dust. But what for are they made? Unless the pot has a utility, say for storage or for cooking, there is no meaning to its existence. Numerous pots can be made and they would be just piled up in a corner and someday would break up. Is it for that reason, the pot has been made - the pot that traces its existence right from the initial state of the formation of the Universe?

Only when there is a meaning to its existence, say, by way of some utility or expression, can we say that the purpose of the creation of the pot has been fulfilled.

The same with our body – which is nothing but the product of a series of changes and events that cosmic dust underwent for 13 billion years. Like the pot, our body has to have a purpose for existence.

The pot does not know that it exists, we know that we exist. That is where a qualitative difference comes between us, the sentient and the pot, the non-sentient – though both are the products of the Universe.

The pot does not know the utility that it has. We are supposed to know. And Hawking had given an idea about what to know (i.e., cosmos). But that is not the only one to know, as there are a plethora of factors that man should know.

The pot does not know how it was created, whereas we know, thanks to scientists.

The pot does not know why it was created; unfortunately Hawking also does not seem to know why he was there and why he had to endure the kind of physical suffering for nearly half a century.
Hawking once said,  

God is the name people give to the reason we are here,” he said. “But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God.”

He merely harped on the physical existence of the Universe. By knowing the physical laws of the Universe, one can say that we know the mind of God, said he. Science can explain what and how of the Universe, but why the Universe came into existence and why we are here thinking about it has no answer in science.

No science and no religion of the world except VEDANTA can tell us why we are created, why the Universe was created.

If the pot has a purpose behind its creation, so too man has a purpose in his creation, or shall I say, in his existence. Hawking does recognise the strong anthropic principle for a divine purpose in creation in his book A brief history of time while outlining the minute changes in the values of electrical charge of the electrons and the four-dimensions that make possible for creation to have come so far. He raises objections to these but then they are weak. Perhaps a long history of Biblical teaching on earth centric creation had made him sceptical.

He does concede that the solar system is a pre-requisite for our existence and this is further linked to a chain of cosmic events in the past. But his doubt is why there should be so many galaxies. He wonders,

“But there does not seem to be need for all those other galaxies, nor for the universe to be so uniform and similar in every direction and on the large scale.”

If only he had thought about how human life springs, he would have found a reason for this situation. Human life is seeded by a single sperm, but it needs nearly a million sperms per cc as companion, to be able to fertilize the egg to give rise to life!  

Every question he has raised on origin and fate of the universe has an answer in Vedanta and in the form of different deities of Hinduism.

The Universe was hot in the beginning and it continues to be of same temperature as known from the microwave background radiation.

The reason is that the Universe thrives in the womb of God – the Hiranyagarbha

The womb analogy has been given by sages for, it is said, whatever is there in macrocosm, has its replica in microcosm too. The mother and her womb growing a life inside it, is a replica of the cosmic womb of Creation.

By this womb analogy, a basic question of role of God is solved. God is not like a potter who creates a pot from mud - in which case the potter is different from the mud and the pot. But the cosmic womb is part of God and not different or away from God.

The womb analogy shows that whatever is there is part of himself - and it receives the vital food from his own body! He as a mother supplies all that is needed for its growth.

As mother, he is perfectly aware of what is happening inside the womb, its growth and the supply to be given for its growth.

The fact is without him there is no womb and there is no growth of Universe.

Hiranyagarbha Shaligram.

Now looking at the way the womb gives room for life to grow, in the beginning there was singularity, to use the term of cosmic science. From that the foetus grows into a mass of cells. At that state the cells were together, were close enough - but as they continue to grow they move part from each other to form different organelles. That is comparable to how quantum mechanics and general relativity seem to be incompatible with each other, but are supposed to be unified at one time (in the beginning).

As the mass within the womb grows into specific shape having distinct functions, the atmospherics inside the womb does not change – an explanation for the uniformity in background microwave radiation.

A full grown foetus must be born as a child and expelled out.

The beauty of Hiranyagarbha is that it is not the physical form, but a full grown consciousness – call it a soul (but it is atman in Vedanta) – will exit the womb when it is ready, meaning, when it is aware of why it was trapped inside the womb and had prepared itself to exit.

So this womb is an eternal womb in existence. It exists because its mother – the God exists.

God does not ‘create’ it out of something. It is part of him that keeps growing and germinating life. This is one dimension of creation - that is personified in the form of Narayana in reclining posture. Etymologically Narayana means who exists in everything and in whom everything exists. The womb of Narayana perfectly fits with this etymology.

Every being, both sentient and non-sentient is part of this womb and inside this womb. Someone who is part of the whole cannot grasp the whole while being part of it. He has to come out of it to see how it looks. For this happen one must know that ‘one’ is different from the part, that is, the body. What we call as one self, or consciousness is not the same as the body or any part of the body, even the brain – as Hawking thought! It is different from that and has come to occupy that body. It comes out at death and gets into another body as birth until it realises what it is actually.

Therefore the first realisation needs to be identifying oneself as different from one’s body. Sadly, Hawking could not go beyond an identification of himself with his brain. But after death, he would have realised – not an afterlife – but life as an eternal force!