Learning Sanskrit by Fresh Approach – Lesson No. 106

Learning Sanskrit by Fresh Approach – Lesson No. 106
संस्कृतभाषायाः नूतनाध्ययनस्य षडधिकशततमः (१०६) पाठः ।

In the textbook for कोविद – examination of the सरल-संस्कृत-शिक्षा-series of भारतीय-विद्या-भवन there is a chapter on हंसः The Swan. In the chapter there are 14 verses, which are sort of सुभाषितानि. I know one more, which will make as many as 15 सुभाषितानि with the swan as the main theme. As many as 15 सुभाषितानि on हंसः The Swan, as the theme !
I shall start with the one, I know. It is possibly the simplest one in the lot.

हंसः श्वेतः बकः श्वेतः । को भेदो बकहंसयोः । नीर-क्षीर-विवेके तु । हंसो हंसः बको बकः ।।
संधिविच्छेदान्कृत्वा – हंसः श्वेतः बकः श्वेतः । कः भेदः बकहंसयोः । नीर-क्षीर-विवेके तु । हंसः हंसः बकः बकः ।।
अन्वयेन – हंसः श्वेतः (अस्ति) । बकः श्वेतः (अस्ति) । कः भेदः (अस्ति) बकहंसयोः ? नीर-क्षीर-विवेके तु हंसः हंसः (अस्ति), बकः बकः (अस्ति) ।
Translation – A swan is white, a crane is white. What (then) is the difference between a swan and a crane ? In distinguishing between (or, in separating) water and milk a swan is a swan, a crane is a crane.
Moral – Every creature is endowed with some special characteristics. For example, swans are supposed to be endowed with the characteristics of distinguishing between (or, in separating) water and milk.
Notes – The implied moral that every creature is endowed with some special characteristics, brings to mind the common misconception about castes practised in Hindu society.

  1. It seems that one aspect of Arjun’s confusion at the beginning of the war was also related to such misconception which is evident in his argument दोषैरेतैर्कुलघ्नानां वर्णसङ्करकारकैः । उत्साद्यन्ते जातिधर्माः कुलधर्माश्च शाश्वताः ।।१-४३।। Study of this shloka is detailed at http://study1geetaa2sanskrit.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/learning-together-sanskrit-and-geeta-chapter-1-verses-40-to-44-post-23/ It seems that Arjuna had some misconceptions arising from not distinguishing between the concepts of वर्ण and जाति. That is why he alludes in one breath both वर्णसङ्कर and जातिधर्म.
  2. The concept of वर्ण is clearly explained in चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः (४-१३). The system of चातुर्वर्ण्य has for its basis the considerations of only the special skills गुण inherent in every individual and the kind of jobs or tasks कर्म-s he should be doing.
  3. This is further detailed in ब्राह्मण-क्षत्रिय-विशां शूद्राणां च परंतप । कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणैः ।।१८-४१।। Yes, there is clear mention here of all the four वर्ण-s, ब्राह्मण-s, क्षत्रिय-s, विश-s and शूद्र-s. It is to be noted however, that the basic purpose of the system of चातुर्वर्ण्य is to systematize division of labour, distribution of work – कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि. The purpose was never one of division of society. The considerations behind division of labour also were only the special skills inherent in every individual स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणैः.
  4. Possibly the most important message of गीता is श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुणः परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात्. I consider this as the most important message because it is this single line which occurs without any change at two places, first in 3-35 and again in 18-47. The message is that one needs to understand oneself and undertake such tasks, which are appropriate to one’s inherent skill-sets. This implies that everyone is endowed with some special skill-sets. Most of us do not understand ourselves, the skills, we are endowed with. Philosophy of गीता is the philosophy of self-realization, which philosophers also call as philosophy of God-realization, realizing the Godhood residing in us. Godhood in each of us is different, because Godhood means special skills and each one of us is endowed with unique special skills. One aspect of realizing Godhood is realizing those special skills inherent within us.

शुभमस्तु ।


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