From the Jacket VOL I
Wondrous Whispers of Wisdom from Ancient India, Vol I, is a sampling of the vast unsavoured treasures of the Literary Heritage of India.
Bequeathed by the Great Sages over 1000 years ago, the five hundred odd verses offer a code of conduct, a philosophy of social and ethical relations and a lively teaching of morals all so crucial to the modern society, caught up in a turmoil of decaying values.
The selections include words of wisdom orally handed down the centuries and known as Subhaashitaas and works of three Great masters of Sanskrit language: Vedavyasa, Sankaracharya and Bhartrihari.
No aspect of life has been left untouched by these Great Maestroes.
This book will give practical guidance and lift up the spirits of all-business executives and professionals, educationists, social reformers and public men and women who are stressed out by the intractable problems and immobilized by the frightening dilemmas facing society.
A subjectwise, alphabetical index facilitates easy reference.
From the Jacket VOL II
Wondrous Whispers of Wisdom from Ancient India, Vol II, like its predecessor volume, picks out the pearls of wisdom from ancient literatures of India, which offer a code of conduct, a philosophy of social and ethical relations and a lively teaching of morals so crucial to the society in the new millennium caught up in a turmoil of decaying values.
The selections in this volume include maxims from four great works of antiquity: Panchatantra, Hitopadesa, Tirukkural and Sukraniti.
Every aspect of life has been touched in the maxims of these four works.
The book gives a rich and varied fare to give practical guidance and lift up the spirits of all: business executives and professionals, educationists, social reformers and public men and women who are stressed out by the intractable problems and immobilized by the frightening dilemmas facing modern society.
Introduction VOL I
At the outset, I would like to clarify what I mean by "Ancient India".
The Vedas and their later part known as Upnishads mainly belong to the Pre-Christian era, Western and Eastern scholars disputing among themselves the actual periods: viz. 1500 B.C. or 2500 B.C. or 200 B.C.
But there is hardly any difference of opinion about these literary texts existing before the beginning of the first millennium after Christ.
The Great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are also claimed to have been composed by the venerable sages Veda Vyasa and Valmiki before the beginning of the first millennium. The classical period of Sanskrit literature may be taken to have extended up to the end of the first millennium or the beginning of the second millennium.
The giants of Sanskrit literature: Bhartrihari, Kalidasa, Sankaracharya, Chankya, Vishnusarman, the author of the famed Panchatantra, and Narayana the author of Hitopadesa, all lived and composed their invaluable works during the first millennium, indisputably before 1000 A.D.
Apart from these Sanskrit maestros, there lived in the South of India during the same period Tamil poets like Avvaiyyar, Tiruvalluvar and Kamban, besides many savants like the Alwars and Nayanmars.
Just as it is impossible to attribute major works of art in Western civilization, before the Renaissance period, to individual artists, it is difficult to find out the authors of hundreds and thousands of Sanskrit verses of wisdom, which have been handed down the centuries and become part of the Indian psyche. These are generally known as Subhaashitaas or well spoken words of wisdom. There is no doubt that these also are over 1000 years old.
Hence the ancient India I am referring to is an India which existed from the misty beginning s of the Vedic period upto 1000 or 1100 A.D.
In the present volume I hope there will be many more volumes I have included the anonymous verses of wisdom and selections from the works of Veda Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata, Sankaracharya, the great Vedantic philosophers, and Bhartrihari, renowned king of Ujjain, in whose verses, Sanskrit language attained the summit of majesty.
According to Sri Aurbindo, Veda Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa are the Indian Equivalents of Dante, Homer and Shakespeare.
The literary output of Vyasa, the son of the Brahmin sage Parasara nd the fisherwoman Satyavati, is truly amazing. It was he who collected all the Vedic passages, codified and divided them into four parts: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda and taught them to four disciples.
He composed the famous Brahma Sutras, distilling the essence of the Upanishads and Propounding Advaita, the oneness of all.
Veda Vyasa is also the author of Bhagavata, and epic dealing with the life of Krishna.
But Vyasa's lasting fame rests on his immortal epic Mahabharata a romantic tale of feuding clans and heroic men and women, which includes in its vast canvas a whole literature: a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations and speculative thought on human problems. It used to be said: what is not in the Mahabharata is nowhere. Professor Sylvain Levi has remarked" the Mahabharata contains throughout a lively teaching of moral under a glorious garment of poetry.
The invaluable gems included in Vyasa's epic are: 1. The famous Bhagavatgeetaa, wherein Krishna teaches Arjuna the warrior a total philosophy of life on the battlefield; 2. Vidura Niti, a discourse on code of conduct for rulers and 3. Yakshaprasna, which is a series of questions, asked by a spirit of Yudhishtira the Pandava Chief at the enchanted pool. Through this question-answer session, Veda Vyasa has conveyed several truths covering various aspects of life.
I have chosen to include the selections from Yakshaprasna to convey the wisdom of Veda Vyasa.
Sankaracharya or Adi Sankara, as he is often referred to was a Nambudiri Brahmin from Kerala, who though he lived for only 32 years, was one of the greatest sons of India. He was a poet, philosopher, scholar and saint. His literary output was prolific. He wrote commentaries for the three words which form the cornerstone of Hinduism: the Upanishads, the Bhagavatageeta and the Brahma Sutras. He composed several beautiful devotional hymns like the Saundaryalahari and Sivanandalahari and great philosophic treatise like the Vivekachudamani.
The two works of Sankaracharya included in this volume are: selections from Bhaja Govindam which gives a code of conduct for good living in simple verses, and Prasnottara Ratnamalika which supplies answers to complex questions regarding ethics, morality and spirituality.
Bhartihari, the poet-king of Ujjain who probably lived in the 7th century A.D. is well known for his three Satakas on love, renunciation and correct conduct.
Biographical details about Bhartrihari are very scanty. But his works are very much with us, conveying is wisdom on the transience of life and the ethical and moral standards that have to be maintained in order to make life meaningful. Selections from Bhartrihari included in this volume are from the Niti and Vairagya Satakas.
The fare offered in this book is just a sampling of the vast unsavoured treasures, which constitute the literary heritage of India bequeathed by the Great Masters, who embodied in themselves the wisdom of the ages.
Introduction VOL II
Wondrous Whispers of wisdom from Ancient India volume two continues the picking of pearls from the vast unsavoured treasure of the literary heritage of ancient India which commenced in Volume One.
The selections in the first volume included words of wisdom orally handed down the centuries known as Subhashitas and works of three great Masters of the Sanskrit language: Veda Vyasa, Sankaracharya and Bhartrhari.
The selections in this volume include maxims from four great works of antiquity: Panchatantra, Hitopadesa, Triukkural and Sukraniti.
The Panchattantra is a collection of stories and legends, in five books compiled by an author known as Vishnusarman. Dr. Hertel, the famous indological scholar, believes that the original works was composed in Kashmir, about 200 B.C. though many of the stories in it were already well known.
Panchatantra was first translated from Sanskrit in the 6th century A.D. by Buzerchumihr. There have been several translation and revised editions since then, one of the most wellknown being that by Arthur W. Ryder, the wellknown American Oriental Scholar.
The Panchatantra stories like the Aesop's fables, have tried to preach codes of conduct that make life richer and happier and more meaningful.
In the words of Ryder, "The noble ideal of the harmonious development of the powers of man, a life in which security prosperity, resolute action, friendship and good learning are so combined as to produce joy, is presented in an artistic form of perfect fitness, in five books of wise of witty stories, in most of which the actors are animals.
The Hitopadesa whose authorship is attributed to Narayana, is mainly derived from the Panchatantra-though it draws upon other works as well and aims at teaching the principles of polity, guided by ethics. According to Prof. H. Morley, the Hitopadesa comes to us, from a far place and time, as a manual of worldly wisdom.
The Tirukkural, the third work form which selections have been included in this volume, is an ancient Tamil Classic, created by Tiruvalluvar, who lived in the second century B.C. according to Oriental scholars and 5th century A.D. according to Western critics.
Tiruvalluvar was a weaver by profession and lived a contented householder's life with his devoted wife Vasuki.
Biographical details about Tiruvalluvar's life are scanty but his work has been with us for nearly 2000 years, preaching moral values of a high ethical order.
The Tirukkural contains 1330 Maxims, in 133 Chapters of tem couplets each.
Albert Schweitzer, the great philosophers said of this Tamil magnum opus: with sure strokes, the Kural draws the ideal of simple ethical humanity. On the most varied questions concerning the conduct of man to himself and to the world its utterances are characterized by nobility and good sense. There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find such lofty wisdom.
Mahatma Gandhi considered the Tirukkural as one of the highest and purest expressions of human thought.
Sukrniti or Sukranitisara is an ancient work attributed to Sukracharya, an ancient sage well versed in the art of polity, but the work has undergone several recensions and the work in its present form is assigned to the 8th century by scholars like Dr. Altekar.
Though like the other three works, Sukraniti also offers advice on the general conduct of life, the emphasis is more counsel for rulers and how they should conduct the affairs of state, which would be equally valid and valuable for modern chief executives and tycoons of business.
In short we have in this volume a rich and varied fare, which will give practical guidance and lift up the spirits of all: business executives and professionals, educationists, social reformers and public men and women who are stressed out by the intractable problems and frightening dilemmas facing the society.
About the Author
V.K. Subramanian is an eminent scholar, whose life mission is to present to the world the treasures of ancient India, in the fields of art, literature, philosophy and religion.
He has already translated several ancient texts into English.
These include: Saundaryalahari, Sivanandalahari, Sacred Songs of India, Maxims of Chankaya and Sri Rudroprasna.
As a consultant for holistic health and spiritual development, he has spelt out the Hindu regimens in this regard in his popular books: The Holistic Way to Health, Happiness and Harmony.
His prolific literary output covers a variety of subjects ranging form astrology to art. He has been an astropalmic counselor for over 35 years.
A retired officer of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service, he is also a reputed painter, who has held 22 one-man shows and whose paintings have won wide acclaim from leading art critics of India.
Subramanian who has traveled extensively in India, now lives in the United States of America.
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