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Sunday, July 27, 2014

guropAkhyAnam: shaDrasa

guropAkhyAnam: shaDrasa-05
Pages 267-270

Even those who like the other five of the six kinds of tastes ascribe madhuram (sweetness) to the qualities of goodness and beauty; Sri Maha PeriyavAL gave a beautiful reason for this.

"It is good for health only if the saliva is secreted, (because) what is taken would digest then and there. How difficult it is if the tongue goes dry? This is known in prat^yakSa (perceptibly)! Among the shaDrasas (six tastes) only if things like sugar, jaggery, sugar candy and such other things that are the root of the taste of sweetness, when placed on the tongue make the saliva get secreted instantly. Things like chilies and pepper would absorb even the little amount of saliva that is there. Don't we say, 'nAkku pattai v-i-t-t-u vittathu'? (my tongue has gone dry and parting). Tamarind also goes only in that direction. Salt also joins this list. Things that are astringent or bitter do not absorb saliva but they do not also help its secretion. This is why, since it is only sweetness that helps in the secretion of saliva which is essential for guarding the life, people who have taste in whatever other tastes [relishing and smiling at his own pun on the word taste], use the term sweetness as a simile for things that are good and beautiful."

SriCaraNar who is always a dharma niyAya nirata (one attached to dharma and justice), when continuing his talk, pointed out a speciality for saltiness that is not there even for sweetness and said that it was one of the reasons that occasioned wise sayings such as 'uppittavarai uLLaLavum ninai' (think about the one who gave you the salt[ed meal] till your last breath).

"It is vAstavam (a fact) that only sweetness helps in the secretion of water in the tongue. But then if you look at the tooth, there this sweetness is a thing that does only hAni (harm). This is a thing that is well known to those who suffered from toothache and inflammation of the gums. Things that do the help here are only those that have salt added to them! A man told me that a dietitian of America has given us a cerificate in this matter. We have buttermilk rice and buttermilk to drink at the end of a meal after taking bhakSaNam, pAyasam (sweets and sweet porridge), right? This was what he celebrated and said: 'This buttermilk cancels the harm that is done to the teeth by taking sweets. Not only that; it is a good kirumi nAsini (disinfectant). It won't be of use to have just sour buttermilk; that would only damage the teeth. Only by the salt that is added to it' [laughing] 'it gets this healing characteristic.' He said appreciatively, 'Since your ancestors were well-informed they have taken care of even these minute things.' He also said, 'If in the western countries, people who are just twenty or twenty-five have decayed teeth and replace them with dentures, the very reason for it is the sweet fruit or eatable that is given as the last item (in a meal) as a dessert. Another reason is that they always keep a chocolate in their mouth and chew it, without seeking an alternative for it.'

"Don't we gargle using salted water when we have toothache or inflammation of the gums?"

The dharma niyAya nirata returned to madhuram. "We should point out an exception here. Jaggery, suger ityAdi (etc.) are of course hAni to the tooth. But the honey that is ultra sweet? It is not at all harmful. Just as I said that (the fruits) nelli (Amla fruit, fruit of emblic mycrobalan) and mAtuLai (pomegranate) do not have the harm of sourness, in the same way the impairments arising out of sweetness are not there for the honey! If honey is smeared over the tooth or gum that has pain or inflammation, even though it is sweet, it does help as a medicine that cures the ailment.

"Much speciality is there for the honey! We do it as tenabhiSeka (ablution using honey) to Swami! While other sweet things are harmful to the throat, honey reamins as the medicine that cures that harm! And we say it is a voice of honey when the tone that issues from the throat sounds very sweet! Many of the Ayurveda lehyas (electuaries) have honey added to them. They won't let the sugar come near at all! They would ask all the electuaries they give for cure to be taken after macerating with honey. They have now started in the foreign countries to make use of the honey for various diseases and ailments in the name of Honey Therapy.

"One surprising feature of the honey is that it remains as a cure for ailments that are directly opposite (in nature) to one another! If one who is sleepy takes it, it would stir him of his sleep and give him utsAham (energy). We speak of a proverb 'thEn kudittha nari' (the fox that drank honey)! If one who suffers from lack of sleep takes it, it would let him have sleep. If people who are obese take it with lemon juice, it would help them reduce. If those who are puny take it with milk it would give them good puSTi (nourishment). The generally know thing is that honey constipates. But a country vaidya (physician) told me that it acts as a laxative when added in a certain quantity to certain other medicinal substances. Giving uSNam (warmth) to those with shItala sharIra (cold body) and reducing uSNam to those with uSNa sharIra if taken in the correct measure, the honey reamins as a medicine for both these conditions.

"Because of all these things, usages such as 'oozing honey', 'a mind of honey' have cropped up to refer to being very anukUla, prema (friendly and loving."

guropAkhyAnam: shaDrasa-06
Pages 271-277 (concluding part)

"There is an opinion that even diabetics may add a little of honey to their diet.

"I said diabetes. While saying it, I was reminded of how doctors use the tastes of sweetness and astringency that I said were the most special of the shaDrasa, to add strength on the one hand, while on the other advising patients of some other diseases to not at all go near them. We call diabetes 'sugar disease' (laughing); such a name for a disease that can't afford to have the sugar anywhere near it! The name might have been used to indicate the excess of the stagnating sugar nutrient in the body! If it is (a case of) B.P. or 'heart' (disease), they advise avoiding salt altogether. If it is ulcer, there should be no sourness or hotness! (laughing) Only the (tastes of) bitterness and astringency that are not liked by our tongue are kept without avoidance medically! Most medicines--the English medicines too--are bitter. The 'suger-coat' (they have) is for us not to push them out (again with an attractive laugh), but to push them in! Even though the sugar-salts are meant to be avoided by one or two types of patients, generally if somebody goes anemic and the body gets dehydrated, then only those two are preferred as glucose, saline solutions in drips given straight into the blood. When we say glucose, we only know about the chemical (powder) form in which it is sold. That sugar nutrient is one that is naturally available in many padArthas (things). It is specially available in the drAkSA rasam (grape juice) and honey. And only these two are referred to as madhu.

The term 'madhuram' was formed using 'madhu'. The 'mAdhuryam, madhuram are only the nature of 'madhu'. As for the direct meaning of that 'madhu', we think it is the toddy. It is the thappu samAcharam (wrong thing) extracted from the coconut and the palm (trees). In vAstavam (reality), madhu is not anything we thus make it out to be, but only the honey that issues on its own from flowers. The first meaning of madhu is honey.

Based only on that honey, which among the things of sweetness remains without any sort of harm as taste-for-taste, medicine-for-medicine, and not only just these, but as one that is prayojana (useful) for gunAbhivR^iddhi, AtmAbhivR^iddhiH (growth of natural characteristics and the Self), the word 'madhuram' itself has been formed."

Maha PeriyavAL thus spoke about and wound up the discussion about the mahAtmiyam (greatness) of madhuram (sweetness).

*** *** ***

Let us also wind up this feast with a dessert which is a fruit and then move on to the next part of this serial that ventures to narrate the different madhurams under the title 'Sol-Sindhanai Selvar' ('An Expert on the Riches of Word and Thought').

SriCaraNaaL asked Sri Balu--who had the fortune of closely attending on SriCaraNar for a long time--during the intitial days when Balu started his work, how the ARanju (orange) fruit got its name.

"Don't know," came the answer.

"Alright, peel this orange," said SriCaraNar and dropped an orange fruit kept before him in Balu's hands.

The disciple peeled the orange. "How many individual pieces are there inside? Count them," said SriCaraNar.

Counting, the disciple said, "padhiNoNNu (eleven)."

"All oranges thus will have typically eleven individual pieces," said SriCaraNar. When the fruit is parted in the middle casually, it will so divide that one section will have ARu (six) pieces and the other anju (five). The name ARanju (orange) came up with this (equation), ARu plus anju."*

Is Tamil the root of the English word 'orange'? SriCaraNaaL has of course explained on many occasions that it is not proper to classify languages into Arya-Dravida languages, showing the Tamil roots of many English words. That part of his is among his many madhurams, one that indicates his knowledge of several arts and sciences, and is fit to be included in the section that deals with that. We will continue here with only the part related to the dessert, the orange fruit.

On a later occasion SriCaraNar asked a man who did 'honours' in English, "The abhiprAyam (opinion) that only the ARu plus anju became the name orange is not correct, right?"

"Yes," said the man to whom this question was put.

SriCaraNar started speaking generally to everyone there: "The word 'nAratthai' we use, is one that came from the Sanskrit root 'nArangi'. Orange belongs to that nAratthai jAti. Our 'nArangi' became 'nArange' in the Arabic language and reached the Englishmen. They adoped the word as it reached them, gave it the same pronunciation and the English spelling 'norange' and called a single fruit 'a norange'. What happened in due course was that--will not the 'a' before a vowel become 'an', adding an 'n'? Thinking that the 'n' at the start of 'norange' was one such usuage, they changed the usage 'a norange' to 'an orange', adding the initial 'n' to the previous 'a'! Thus it was the Sanskrit 'nArangi' that became the English 'orange'!"

Looking at the English graduate, he asked him, "There is a term in linguistics to denote the addition of the last letter of a word with the following and coin new words; what is it?"

The graduate did not remember. "Have a look when you come later," said SriCaraNar.

We too shall see this matter 'later' when we look at Sri PeriyavAL as one well versed in many arts and sciences.

Thus we finish the virundhu (feast) of meals served by PeriyavAL, with the satisfaction of having shown it at least to the extent of marundhu (medicine). The feast is served only on a banana leaf? Can we finish without his words about the banana crops?

"The vAzhai (banana) is only of a small size among the jAti of trees. But then while even the large trees have only small leaves, for this small tree, leaves large enough to serve dinner on them! Since the banana tree thus serves sAdam with the heart of a mother, it is kept in a high place in our sampradAyam (tradition).

"There are many fruits that are tasty, give dehArogyam (physical health) and puSTi (nourishment). But then can we eat any of them except the banana in lieu of a full meal? Of the three fruits, even with the remaining mango and jackfruit, can we eat them till our stomach is full? May be the apple is one such fruit; but it would be suitable only for the rich. Only the banana is for sarvajana (all the people), four of which they can buy and eat and fill their stomach satisfactorily. (laughing) Only that is the "people's fruit"!

"If the banana fruit is AhAram (food), the banana flower is medicine. That which tastes sweet when it is a fruit, is astringent when it is a flower. Only the astringent varieties are very good for the body. For weak bowels, the banana flower is a good medicine.

"The other flowers are fragrant. Not so the banana flower. It remains as an indicator of what they call 'vAsanA sahitam, vAsanA-kShayam' in Vedanta. One more Vedanta in it: it sprouts without the need to sow any seeds. It is from the seed of karma that the Jiva is born again and again, sowing the seeds of its acts birth after birth and going on taking punar janma (rebirth). The banana reminds the jnAnam of that seed having withered.

"To say this is not to mean that it is no sambandham (relation) to life. It is only the banana tree that teaches lessons in life, during all the time it lives its own life.

"The term 'vAzhai' (Tamil for the banana) is itself related to the term 'vAzhvu' (Tamil for life). Is it not that an 'ideal life' is one that has no waste vRthAs (false pleasures)? The vAzhai is one that proves that ideal. Is it not that its sarvAngam (all parts)--its leaf, flower, raw fruit, fruit, including its bark, stem and the fibres--are useful to us? Therefore, only in the abhiprAyam (opinion) of connoting 'vAzhkkai, vAzhvu', it is given the name vAzhai'.

"We call it the banana tree. The very name a tree indicates a rough bark. Only this remains very smooth and shining! That smoothness teaches us that we should not have any unrestrained roughness in us and be as smooth towards all sorts of manuSyas (people) and occasions, and make ourselves anukUla (agreeable) to them! It may be that the name vAzhai was given also based on its vazhavazhappu (Tamil for smoothness).

"Countless seeds appear in the mango, banyan and several other vRkSas (trees) that do their vamsha vRddhi (family growth) by seeds. If each of the seeds sprout then the this whole bhUmi (earth) will not be sufficient even for one vRkSa jAti. Since it is not happening, we can conclude that most of those seeds do not sprout. Even the saplings that sprout remain without indication of which sapling came from the seed of which mother tree. Only with the banana, since the saplings sprout around the mother tree, it is decisively known that this sapling came from this mother tree. After the sapling is born, the mother tree ends its life. If the dharma shastras teach us that after a satpraja (good citizen) is born, sanyAsam (renunciation) should be obtained remaining without any dAmpatyam (coitus), vAzhai goes one step further with more jnAna (wisdom), into the greater sanyAsam of demise. Here is Vedanta, and within it is the philosophy of life! Is it not that a good and useful banana tree that gives its offshoots to the world for the same use, identifies her offshoots to us as being been born from this mother? It is not the case with any other tree! That is why the blessing 'vAzhaiyadi vAzhaiyaga vAzh' (live like banana tree with its offshoots around it). As a symbol of that blessing, the custom of tieing 'vAzhai' trees in marriages and other mangala visheShas (auspicious occasions) has come up. The vAzhai maram (banana tree) is a mangaLa chinnam (symbol of auspiciousness."

With this, we too sing mangaLam to SriCaraNar's bhojana padaiyal (serving of food).

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