R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Friday, August 31, 2012

Driven by a common passion for Sankara Nethralaya

Enduring physical strain and fatigue and putting in a great deal of physical effort for a cause close to one’s heart, besides exhibiting one’s conviction and passion for it also helps to spread awareness and raise funds to support it. The last fortnight witnessed two such noble initiatives by two different sets of people at two entirely different locations driven by a common passion for Sankara Nethralaya.

Ms. Vanitha Char a long time friend and well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya and her family participated in the ‘Sevathon 2012’ a 5 kilometer awareness walk organized by Lion Dr Raj Rajaram to raise funds for various social and charitable causes at Chicago. A week later it was the turn of members of the Sankara Nethralaya family to strain their muscles for a cause they hold close to their heart. Consultants, Staff and their family members joined a host of likeminded participants at the ‘Terry Fox run’ being organized for the fourth year in succession by the Rotary Club of East Madras at the IIT Madras. The run is organized in memory and honour of the courage and grit of Terry Fox who fought cancer with admirable courage and fortitude and raised huge funds for cancer research by walking thousands of kilometers in spite of one of his legs being afflicted by cancer.

While the funds raised for Sankara Nethralaya at the Chicago ‘Sevathon 2012’ by Ms. Vanitha Char would go towards treatment of indigent patients the funds raised by the ‘Terry Fox run’ would be dedicated to Cancer Research at the Vision Research Foundation.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

RVR - Venkataramanan Ramasethu @ SNK Assorted Moments

Bihar Observer on Sankara Nethralaya

Sankara Nethralaya Academy takes the humanitarian route to create familiarity

As the academic arm of an eye care institution based on the principles of compassion, care and service, the Sankara Nethralaya Academy decided to take the humanitarian route, when it wanted to tell the world that it has relocated to a new, larger and well equipped premise at Vanagaram. What better way to open the eyes of the people around to its new address and activity than conducting a free eye screening camp at the new location. The Jaslok Community Ophthalmic Centre (JCOC) its sister unit chipped in readily with its expertise in community ophthalmology to conduct a comprehensive eye camp for the locals at the new Sankara Nethralaya Academy’s premises located at 9, Vanagaram Road, Aynambakkam,Chennai – 600 095.

More than 100 local residents were screened and those diagnosed as needing spectacles were prescribed the same, 15 of the screened found suffering from various eye ailments were referred to the Jaslok Community Ophthalmology Center for further evaluation and cost free treatment.

Eye screening for the future citizens of the nation

Close on the screening camp for the elders and senior citizens on Independence Day, it was eye screening for the future citizens of the nation, the Elite School of Optometry in association with the Sri Srinivasa Sankara Nethralaya and the Tiirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam conducted a massive eye screening camp for children at Tirupati on 17th August, 2012.

The programme was inaugurated by Shri L V Subhramanyam (EO – TTD) in the presence of Dr C Prabhakar (CMO –TTD), Dr S. Kumaraswamy (SMO –TTD), Dr P V Vishnu (Ophthalmologist – SSSN), Shri N D J Renganath (Advisor – SSSN) & other dignitaries.

A dedicated team of Optometrists & Optometry students led by Dr R.Krishna Kumar (Principal–ESO) and ably assisted by Ms.N.Anuradha, Lecturer, Vision Screening Coordinator, Elite School of Optometry formed themselves into 6 groups, each headed by an optometrist and spread into different directions to cover 10 schools. The camp had an overwhelming response and a total of 3427 school children from across 10 schools were successfully screened in a single day.

While 112 students found to be needing spectacles were prescribed the same on the spot, 54 children were referred to the base hospital for the following eye ailments

1 Cataract/ Aphakia/PCO 6
2 Neuro Clinic 3
3 Cornea 4
4 Squint 9
5 Oculoplasty 4
6 Cycloplegic Refraction 6
7 Pediatric Clinic 1
8 Orthoptics 1
9 Retina/ Further evaluation 20

The screening camp was co-ordinated by Shri Suresh Kumar, Manager, Projects, Sankara Nethralaya and the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam made excellent arrangements including stay, food, local logistics and a wonderful Darshan of Lord Balaji for the entire group.

66th Independence Day celebrated at Elite School of Optometry

The 66th Independence Day of the nation celebrated recently became a day of significance to many who had lived during that time and witnessed India becoming a free country that many years back. The Elite School of Optometry in association with the Indian Bank conducted a special eye screening camp for senior citizen patrons of the Indian Bank, Mylapore Branch and senior citizen residents in the neighborhood. A total of 84 elders were thoroughly screened at the camp held on the 15th of August, 2012, at the bank’s premises. Exhaustive tests to ascertain ophthalmic history including refraction, anterior segment examination using hand held slit lamp, measurement of intraocular pressure through non contact method and retina evaluation using a Non Mydriatic Fundus Camera were performed.

Out of the total of 84 senior citizens screened, 26 were found needing spectacles and prescribed with the same on the spot, 9 members were diagnosed as suffering from Glaucoma, 4 members were diagnosed as needing Retinal surgery and 19 members were diagnosed as needing Cataract surgery and referred to the base hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Sankara Nethralaya Eyeing a cure for retinal blindness

Scientists have successfully grown stem cells isolated from cadaveric human eyes in the lab. Hema Vijay explains that one day, a patient’s own stem cells from the eye could be used as a source of donor cells to cure retinal blindness.

It is a huge step forward in the challenging path leading up to the development of an autologous (from one’s own body) stem cell transplantation cure for so-called ‘irreversible’ blindness arising from retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, cone dystrophy, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, retinopathy of prematurity (Leber congenital amaurosis), age related macular degenerations, and glaucoma.

For the last several years, Srilatha Jasty, Priyadharashni Srinivasan, Gunisha Pasricha, Nivedita Chatterjee and Dr Krishnakumar Subramanian of the Chennai-based Sankara Nethralaya Radheshyam Kanoi Stem cell Laboratory, Kamalanayan Bajaj Research Institute, and Vision Research Foundation have been working under a grant from the Stem Cell Task Force, Department of Biotechnology, to grow retinal cells in the lab. To put things in perspective, the retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the inner eye, which receives the various colours of the light rays and transmits as electrical impulses to the brain, resulting in vision. When the retina is affected, vision is consequently affected, and can be restored only when the retinal cells are restored.

Autologous advantage

This team of scientists has successfully grown in the lab, stem cells isolated from cadaveric human eyes. The scientists have also demonstrated that the cells thus grown maintain their self-renewal properties and also have the ability to differentiate along various retinal cell lines.

What this indicates is that one day, the patient’s own stem cells from the eye could be roped in as a source of donor cells to cure retinal blindness. The research has been published in the prestigious Stem Cell Reviews and Reports journal.

This research holds hope for millions of Indians who suffer from loss of vision because of retinal degeneration or damage. Moreover, doctors note that retinal ailments such as diabetic retinopathy, degeneration and detachment are on the rise.

“What holds promise is the fact that stem cells isolated from the adult tissues have the properties of self-renewal and the potential to produce large numbers of retinal neurons in the lab.

Their path of differentiation along retinal lines is also assured, unlike stem cell lines from other organ sources,” says the principal investigator Dr Krishnakumar Subramanian, Vision Research Foundation, Sankara Nethralaya. Adds Dr Vikas Khetan, consultant oncologist, Medical Research Foundation, Sankara Nethralaya, “Since the stem cells could one day be isolated from the patient’s own eye, they would also not cause rejection reactions, and eliminate the need for immune suppression.”

World over, scientists are pinning their hope on stem cells in reversing retinal blindness, and various kinds of research have been taken up from how retina of rats could be created in the lab from its own stem cells to using embryonic stem cells to improve the sight of almost-blind persons.

The value of this research lies in opening a way to culture retinal cells from the human cell line itself, which eliminates a host of concerns.

Growing retina in the lab

The target was to derive retinal cells. But since the retina is the inner most layer at the posterior segment and so would turn out to be an inaccessible source for stem cell isolation practically, this team decided to isolate pigment cells from the iris (circular structure in the eye) and ciliary body (circumferential tissue around the eye ball). The iris and ciliary stem cells were isolated from cadaveric (donated) eyes, after the donated cornea was transplanted into corneal-blind patients.

The team cultured the isolated cells in a petri dish, adding growth factors. “We found that the isolated cells produced more cells and also generated neurosphere (NS) containing progenitor retinal cells,” shares Dr Krishnakumar. It is from the progenitor retinal cells that the actual retinal cells of different types are derived. The team then proceeded to evaluate the growth characteristics of the cell lines produced.

The cultured cells were induced to differentiate using mitogens, and the differentiated cells were analysed by various methods that included RT-PCR, immune-cyto-chemistry, calcium imaging studies and microarray studies. In differentiation conditions, these cells express various specific markers, indicating their differentiation along varied retinal lines.
Meanwhile, the investigation of the functional differentiation of cells were done by Ca+imaging studies, and it revealed the differentiated cell lines had properties consistent with their retinal cell types that differentiate normally within the body.

Sankara Nethralaya Academy launches Allied health science courses in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University

The Sankara Nethralaya Academy (SNA) in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University has launched allied health science courses for this academic year. The courses offered are diploma in ophthalmic nursing assistant, diploma in operation theatre and anaesthesia technology and B.Sc in medical laboratory technology.

For further details, contact Academic officer, SNA. Email:snacademy@snmail.org. Website:www.thesnacademy.ac.in. Phone: 044-4908 6000.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Illustrious editor of the highly respected Tamil journal Amudhasurbhi, Shri Thiruppur Krishnan @ Sankara Nethralaya

The Nation’s 66th Independence Day was celebrated with joy and patriotic fervor at the Sankara Nethralaya Main campus, the day also marked the acknowledging of services and contributions of Sankara Nethralaya employees at different levels. Just as the preceding year when the towering presence of Shri V.Kalyanam a veteran freedom fighter and a man who lived during the tumultuous days of the freedom struggle and post independence era and served as the personal secretary of the Father of the nation captured the spirit of the day and took the participants back in time, Sankara Nethralaya was fortunate to have another veteran of the times, the illustrious editor of the highly respected Tamil journal Amudhasurbhi, Shri Thiruppur Krishnan taking them back to a bygone era of struggle, sacrifice, nationalism and integrity. Shri Thiruppur Krishnan delivered a most inspiring speech interspersed with his personal interactions with great leaders and his first hand observations of the nation’s political scenario spanning more than 5 decades. He expressed his high regard for Sankara Nethralaya and its founder Dr SS.Badrinath and remarked that he considered it his good fortune to meet with him in person and preside over the function.

The day’s proceedings started with the customary escorting of the esteemed Chief Guest to the dais and flag pole by Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, accompanied by Dr S.Bhaskaran, Chairman, Dr TS.Surendran, Vice-Chairman, Dr Vasanthi Badrinath, Director Clinical Services and Shri PR.Ravindran, Chief General Manager, Sankara Nethralaya, this was followed by the glorious moment of the day, the hoisting of the national tricolor by the Chief Guest and an enthusiastic rendering of the national anthem by the gathering.

Dr. Sripriya Krishnamurthy, Consultant, Jaslok Community Ophthalmic Centre extended a warm welcome to the Chief Guest, the senior management team, Consultants, employees, volunteers of Swan after which Dr S.Meenakshi, Director, Academics introduced the Chief Guest, paying rich tributes to his high principles, maintaining high editorial standards and remaining a shining example of journalistic ethics and standards in the face of rampant commercialization and glamorization of the print media and how Amudhasurabhi remains an island of high literary standards in a world of literary and ethical decay. This was followed by the honouring of the Chief Guest by the Chairman Emeritus and his address. A well choreographed dance program by the children of Consultants trained by Ms Kousalya Appukutty, Trustee of SWAN to the accompaniment of a patriotic song added colour and entertainment to the day’s proceedings.

The awarding ceremony started with the Man of the Year award to Shri Kuppa Rao of Maintenance Department and woman of the year award to Ms. Latha Suresh of Surgery fixing centre by the Chief Guest followed by a brief thanks note by them. This was followed by awards to staff members who have completed 10,15,20,25 and 30 years of meritorious service at Sankara Nethralaya and the in-house cricket trophy by the Chief Guest, Chairman Emeritus, Members of the Senior Management and Consultants. While the best department of the year was awarded to the Nursing Department, this year witnessed the institution and awarding of three special awards, ‘Outstanding Performer’ awards to Shri D.Venkatesan of OT Department and Ms V.Usha from Medical Transcription department. Ms Shyamala Selvaraj, DGM, Sankara Nethralaya Centers, Customer Care and Quality Management was recognized for collecting the maximum number of eye donation pledges for 2011, on the occasion. The function ended with vigorous handshakes to the winners by their colleagues and breakfast at the cafeteria.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Brahma valli The Final Knowledge by Dr. R. Nagaswamy

This work will come to a close with the important Taittiriya Upanishad which is a part of the Taittiriya Āranyaka, appearing in three parts as the seventh, eighth and ninth Prapataka, which go by the name Sikshā valli, Anandavalli and Brighu valli. They were also called by other names like the second one called as “Brahma Ānandavalli”. Yet another names for them are Samhitā, Yajna, and Vāruni vidyas, but the most popular one for the first one is Sikshā-valli, several hymns in the firsr part associated with a number of seers like Maha camasya, Rathitara, Pauru Sisthi, Nāka the son of Mudgala and finally Trisanku each emphasizing one or other aspect of discipline as for example Mahā-camasya emphasized Brahmam (Mahah), Rathitara emphasized Satyam, Paurusishti emphasized Tapas, and Naka emphasiseed Learning and teaching (svādhyaya and Pravacana). The sage Trisanku experienced that the I in the individual is like the life in the tree, the fame of it is like the peak of a hill, is extreme purity in existence; It is resplendent as the brightness of sun and the abode of truth in soul.” All these experiences of the sages are one and the same and that is the truth about Brahmam. Having taught this the teacher advices the student with a remarkable counseling

Then Taittirya Upanishad belongs to Taittiriya school of the Yajurveda,. It is divided into three sections called Vallis. The first is th Sikshā valli. Sikshā is th first anga-subject of the six Vedāngas (limbs or auxiliaries of the Vedas).The second is the Brahmānanda valli and the third is the Bhrigu valli. These two deal with the knowledge of the Supreme self -Parmātma Jnāna.” According to Sanskrit traditions the six limbs of the Vedic studies are the 1) Sikshā, 2)Vyakarana, 3)Chandas,4) Niruktam, 5)Jyostisahm, and 6) Kalpam. Thus Sikshā is the first and important limb of Vedic studies and relates to Phonetics, and Pronunciation. It begins with the statement “we now begin with explaining Sikshā: Varnas (letters) Svara, its strength, Mātrās, and their continuity and combination are the rhythmic recitation”.

Sikshām vyākhyāsyāmah; varnas svarah; mātra balam; sāma snathānam.

Radhakrishnan translates this passage as “We will expound pronunciation of letters or sounds, pitch quality, force or stress, articulation, and combination; This is called the section on Sikshā” According to this, the first lesson on Vedānga begins with the study of letters.

The most ancient Tamil Grammar Tolkāppiyam incidentally begins with “Eluttu” the letters. A study of this chapter shows Tolkāppiyar wrote his work when Brāhmi script had already come into vogue in Tamailnadu for he wrote about both the written script and phonetic sound. How Tolkāppiyam deals with the phonetic sounds is brilliantly analyzed by P.S.Subrahmanya Sastry, in his work “An Enquiry into the relationship of Snaskirt and Tamil, published by the University of Travancore, 1946, Chapter II. His following remarks are worth recalling at this point.

Many technical terms relating to Phonology, Morphology, Poetics and Prosody had already existed before his time and Tolkāppiyar should have made use of them. His text tells us not only this, but he has also made use of his knowledge of the Vedas Sikshās,the Prātisākhyas, the Nirukta, Sanskrit grammar, Sanskrit science of poetics, Dharma Sāstras, the Kāmasutra, the Artha sāstra etc. In the chapter on the production of Sound he refers to the four phases of speech sound Parā, Pasyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikahari mentioned in the Rg Veda and tells us that in his work he deals with only the last Vaikhari and those who wish to learn them from Antanar Marai (Vedas of the Brāhmins). Prof Sastri refers to Sutra 102 of Eluttatikāram of Tolkāppiyam.

Ellā eluttm ----

ahattelu vali isai ariltapa nādi alavir kodal Antanar maraitte” It is necessary to note that PS Sastri wrote when much inscriptional material especially about the script was not discovered. A large number of Brāhmi inscription have come to light in recent times and need to be studied in relation to Tolkāppiyam. The earliest inscriptions are found in Brāhmi script that may be ascribed to first cent BCE. As Tolkāppiyar mentions script he may be assigned to first cent CE. The following sutras of Tolkāppiyam refer to written script.

meyyin iyarkai pilliyodu nilayal ie. The natureof consonant is to appear with a dot.
Pulli illā ellā meyyum uru urvāki akaramaodu uyirttalum, enai uyirodu urupu tirindu uyirtalum āyir iyala uyirtal āre. All consonants without dot, appear with modifications to their forms except the syllable of the first varga like “ka” which has only its basic form without any change.

The graphic form of script is “Eluttu” in Tamil which is also used to denote its phonetic sound. So Naccinārkkiniyar, the commentator says that Eluttu stands for both written and phonetic form. “Elutap-paduvatālum eluppap-patuvatālum eluttu”. i.e Eluttu is so called because it is written and is also pronounced. The root “Elu means both raise (sound) and write/draw.

The Vedic Brāhmanas were obliged to serve as judges in village courts and that calls for a knowledge of Dharma Sāstras for him. 18 major Dharma Sāstras like that of Manu, Yajnya valkhya, Vasishta, Nārada, Brhaspati and others were available for study then. The Dharma sāstra insists on the written document for ownership rights and other transactions for deciding disputes. Similarly knowledge of Numerals and Arithmetic is required for all transactions like laying yaga kundas, construction of residences, trade, Royal treasury and administration, etc. The Vedic brāmhanas were to study both written script and numerals. They were also considered as effective ambassadors. When they learnt the Vedas, the knowledge of phonetics and pronunciation was necessary. There is a tradition of calling the Vedas “unwritten text” Elutākkilavi which some scholars mistook and wrote that (Vedic ) Brāhmanas were against written script. This Elutākkilavi applies only to the learning of Vedic texts and not against other subjects -vidyas like dharma sāstra, mathematics, astronomy, royal administration etc. There are three words in the Vedas namely Bhuh, Bhuvah, and Suvah which are used extensively in Vedic recitations and rituals. A certain Maharishi Cāmasya realized and introduced another Vyāhriti called “Mahah” as the fourth Vyāhritih. These terms had multiple layers of meaning given in the Upanishad itself. The meanings of each layer are:- a) Bhuh means earth Prithvi; bhuvah means space ākāsah; Suvah means the whole universe and Mahah means Aditya - sun. It is from Sun all beings grow b) Bhuh means Fire Agni; Bhuvah means Wind Vāyuh; Suvah means Sun and Mahah means Moon Chandramāh. It is from Moon all luminaries shine brightly. c) Bhuh means Rig veda; Bhuvah means Sāma veda; Suvah means Yajurveda and Mahah means Brahmam It is from Brahmam everything attain pre-eminence. d) Bhuh means vital breadth - Prānah, bhuvah means apāna out-breadth air vyāna diffused breadth and mahah means Annam food
These four Vyāhritis are explained as above by the Upanishad and in which Mahah stands for Aditya, Chandrama, Brahmam, and Anna the four vital requirement of men. Veda stand for lerning process. So the ultimate in Veda is called Brahmam. All these are called as the mystic utterance of the Veda “OM”. This Upanishad praises everything as Brahmam identical with Om. This shows that the first prsna of this Upanishad is devoted to emphasizing Brahmam and is therefore rightly called Brahma valli

Omiti brāhmanah pravakshyan branhmopāpnavan brahmaiva bhavati
It is because of this unity, the Vedic scholar is called a “Brahmana”. The student who studies this concludes the first part of this Upanishad as “I salute Brahmam Om namo brahmane”.

In this connection there is interesting information provided by Naccinārkkiniyar in his commentary on the study of Vedas and Vedāngas by Brāhmins of Tamilnadu. According to Naccinārkkiniyar the six limbs studied by the Tamil Brāhmins were Nirutta (Niruktam)study of vedic terms, Vyākarana that deals with the grammar of Vedic terms and also worldly usages like Aintiram, Kalpas like that of Bodhāyaniyam, Bhāradvajam, Apastampam, Atreyam,and others; Ganitham Mathematics like that of Nārāyaniyam and Varāham; Chandam classical poetics, and Brahmam standing for Eluttu āraycci”. In this list Ganitham stands for what is called in sanskrit sources as Jyotisham that satnds for astronomical calculations. But the most important point for our study here is the name is “Brahmam” (piramam) mentioned standing for Eluttārāycci which means both written and phonetic sound. This is a clear example of Tamil Brāhmins learning both written script and phonetic letters. The question arises what is the connection between Eluttārāicci and Brāhmam?

We have seen that the first lessons on phonetic letters is called Sikshā-valli in Taittirya Upanishad. We have also seen that this section teaching Varna letters emphasizes “brahmam” So Naccinārkkiniyar gives the name Brahmam to Sikshā valli which by this time included written script as well – Eluttu. Naccinārkkiniyar is an extraordinary commentator who cites hundreds of examples for the sutras but almost all of them are from Sangam literature and none from later period there by showing his primary concern as a stickler to tradition. The tradition of calling Sikshā valli as Brahmam two thousand years ago, is preserved for us by Naccinārkkiniyar, because of the importance given to Brahmam in that first section. It is certain that the study of script and Phonetic letters were very closely and largely used in the learning of Vedic Brāhmanas and so the script itself is came to be called Brāhmi i.e of the Brāhmanas. It naturally was also called Bammi in Prakrit.

Scholars who have studied the Brāhmi script has shown that it was designed for Sanskrit phonetics like the varga sounds and invented by those well versed in Sanskrit. There is also a 7th Cent Chinese annals that mentions the Brāhmi and Kharoshti scripts were invented in India which shows that Brāhmins who used to study the phonetics of Sanskrit invented this script. We may add that Panini’s Vyākarana came into vogue in the North West Frontiers of India and this school was very active in that region.

Asoka Maurya (3rd cent BCE) in whose time the script emerges was the Governor of this province when he started his career as a young prince before he went to Avanti and then became the Ruler of Māgada. He was an enterprising king who had already the knowledge of writings in Greek (Balkan states) and Persia that had Aramaic script. It is not unlikely that he was responsible in encouraging the Sanskrit scholars to invent a script for his administrative and judicial functions. Asoka’s edicts have been found in Greek and Aramaic characters are known. Also he used Kharoshti script which also emerges in that region from that times onwards. So he preferred the use of Brāhmi in his kingdom upto Māgadha and Kharoshti in NWFP. Asoka’s instruction to enter all the gift made by his queen should be entered in her name, in one of his edict, shows that he was using it in his administrative and judicial systems. I have shown in the chapter on “Brāhmins and Brāhmi under Asoka”, that the Dharma he preached was the same as the Sikshā valli of the Taittirya Upanishad, which teaches the study of letters.

It is necessary to point out that the Tolkāppiyam has a prologue Payiram written by Tolkāppiyar’s co student Panam pāranar who categorically states that Tolkāppiyam fully followed a grammar named Aintiram “Aintiram nirainta Tolkāppiyam”. We have seen that Naccinārkkiniyar says the Vyākarana studied by the Tamil Brāhmins in their study of Vedas was Aintiram which deals with Vedic tradition.
Aru angamāva (Shadanga) ulakiyal collai olittu Vaidika collai ārayum Nirukta; avvirandaiyum (ulakiyal and Vaidikam) udan arayum aintiram todakkattu vyakaranamum; bharadvajam, bodhayanaiym, Apasthambam, Atreyam mudaliya karpangalumNarayaniyam, Varhammudaliya ganitangalum elttārāycyākiya biramamum,, Ceyyul ilakkanamākiya Chandamum ām (Naccinārkkiniyar ‘s commenaray on Tolkāppiyam sutram 75, in Purattinai).

Also Naccinārkkiniyar in his commentary on Ahattinai of Tolkāppiyam mentions that the nomenclature used by Tolkāppiyar was the ones used by Agastya in his Tamil grammar Agattiyam. He further state “These technical words were coined by Agastya”. So the terms Ahattinai, Purattinai, etc used in Tolkāppiyam were wholly Vedic terminology. It should be remembered that the Early Pandyas repeatedly claim that their ancestors learnt both Sanskrit and Tamil from Agastya. All evidences in Tamil and Sanskrit point to the fact that the Tamil and Tamil society followed Vedic Tradtions.

‘Business and Compassion can go hand in hand’

It was a proud moment indeed for Sankara Nethralaya when it received a request from the National School of Management that students from the University of Albany, New York with which they have partnered for an Executive MBA program would like to visit Sankara Nethralaya for a first hand perspective of how ‘Business and Compassion can go hand in hand’ and to observe the principle of ‘bottom of the pyramid’ at work. While visits in the past by students from premium institutions to study its processes, advancements in eye care and various developments was a testimonial to its expertise in its chosen field of specialization, a request from a premium US University to bring its Management students on a study tour to understand the concept of doing ‘business with compassion’, the driving spirit of the institution was a rare compliment and a recognition of its adherence to this lofty principle and an indication that the institution’s reputation for such service had spread internationally..

A team of 40 members comprising students pursuing their Executive MBA program at the University of Albany and the National School of Management, Chennai its course collaborator accompanied by their Associate Dean Dr. Sanjay Putrevu and Provost Dr Ray Bromley were taken on an exhaustive tour of Sankara Nethralaya by Shri A.Mahalingam, Academic Officer, Sankara Nethralaya Academy . The students and the faculty had a highly interactive exchange with the Heads of the various Departments, Researchers and Administrators at different levels and had many of their queries clarified as they went along the tour. The onsite visit concluded with an in-depth Question and Answer session at the Sri VD Swami Auditorium between the students and the Sankara Nethralaya senior management team of Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Dr.S.Bhaskaran, Chairman, Shri PR. Ravindran, Chief General Manager and Ms Akila Ganesan, Senior General Manager.

The senior management team answered queries relating to various facets of Sankara Nethralaya like its research facility, educational programs, business model, what inspired its inception, future goals, role in society etc. Responding on behalf of Dr SS.Badrinath to a query from a student on why ‘Eye Care’ was preferred by him over the other organs of the anatomy, Dr. Vasanthi Badrinath, Director, Nathela Sampathu Chetty Clinical Laboratory took the audience back in time with a highly spirited and moving account tracing Dr SS.Badrinath’s thoughts and passion from the time of his completing his specialization in the area of Vitreo-retina in the USA to the inception of Sankara Nethralaya with the help of friends and well-wishers. This poignant and spontaneous presentation capturing the spirit of selfless service of the founder of Sankara Nethralaya evoked a thunderous applause from the students, members of Sankara Nethralaya including the senior management team on the dais. The study visit by the Management students concluded on a very positive note with each of the 40 students pledging their personal contribution to fund a free cataract surgery, evidence that they were truly convinced on the principle of business and compassion going hand in hand at Sankara Nethralaya! The topic of their study.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sankara Nethralaya has in abundance – Friends and Well-wishers

It was a day of celebrating the spirit and joy of giving, a day of acknowledging, thanking and honouring the noble men and women who have a place in their heart for Sankara Nethralaya and the cause of banishing blindness and providing compassionate eye care and those who have contributed and supported the cause and growth of their passion most generously. The overflowing gathering on the evening of 4th August 2012 at the Sri V.D Swami Auditorium reflected one thing that Sankara Nethralaya has in abundance – Friends and Well-wishers.

The celebration of the spirit of friendship started with a spirited invocation to the Lord of prosperity and abundance Lord Gajanan Ganesan by a bubbly young singer bearing his name Master Raja Ganapathy. Dr. Smitha Praveen extended a warm and hearty welcome to the Chief Guest Padmashri Dr. Nalli Kuppuswami Chetty, dignitaries, recipients of the ‘Friend of Sankara Nethralaya’ award and all the friends and well-wishers assembled in good numbers. She got the proceedings started with an interesting note on ‘what qualities should one possess to be a friend of Sankara Nethralaya? She cited creating social capital, triggering the virtuous cycle and abiding by the principle of paropakaram, idham, sariram as essential traits of a true ‘Friend of Sankara Nethralaya’. This was followed by an introduction of the Chief guest Dr Nalli Kuppuswami Chetty by Dr. S.Bhaskaran, Chairman, Sankara Nethralaya who recalled his old association and support of Sankara Nethralaya and gave an interesting account of his versatile personality after which he was honored by Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya.

Dr. Rashmin Anil Kumar Gandhi, Director e-learning and the Sankara Nethralaya Academy made a highly absorbing presentation of Sankara Nethralaya from the days of its inception, touching on its governing principles, watershed achievements and most importantly its friends and supporters. Speaking next Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus expressed that he was highly moved by the overwhelming response and thanked everyone in the gathering profusely, he had a high word of praise for the OM Trust and Shri KG. Venkatraman its joint secretary who had come all the way from the US for their role in mobilizing significant funds for Sankara Nethralaya. He reiterated that Sankara Nethralaya is a public institution and did not belong to any individual. He explained that the institution was served by dedicated, full time doctors who worked for a fixed salary, an example which is very hard to come across. He explained the Sankara Nethralaya model where money accrued through patient care supported research and education and community ophthalmology impressed the Late Nani Palkhivala to such an extent that he bequeathed his life savings to its cause. Dr SS.Badrinath explained that the Vision Research Foundation is engaged in dedicated India centric research. This was followed by an introduction of a long time well wisher and donor of Sankara Nethralaya Shri JV. Ramani from Hong Kong by Dr TS.Surendran, Vice Chairman, Sankara Nethralaya and honouring of him by Dr SS.Badrinath.

The day also witnessed the introduction of one of Sankara Nethralaya’s most dedicated friends and supporter and constant companion, Lion Harinarayanan by Lion GV.Raman and honouring of him by Dr SS.Badrinath and the honouring of Dr Dave from the eye bank

The pleasant surprise of the evening was the recognition and honouring of employees who had given a sterling performance through the distribution of cash awards to them. It was time for the music program and Shri KG.Venkatraman, Joint Secretary, OM Trust who had organized the concert introduced each of the performers of ‘Sankara’ the ultimate musical ensemble to the audience. Shri Venkatraman made a fervent appeal to everyone assembled in the auditorium to become a friend of Sankara Nethralaya.

Delivering the Chief Guest’s address Padmashri Dr.Nalli Kuppuswami Chettty recalled that the spirit of service and sacrifice were evident in Dr SS.Badrinath right from the days he knew him as a mate in the Ramakrishna Mutt School and it was this quality that made many like him support his cause and his dream which is Sankara Nethralaya. Dr Kuppuswami Chetty observed that Dr SS.Badrinath had walked the golden path when he was young; adding in lighter vein that the path he took from his home to his school is quite literally the golden path today with a mushrooming of Jewelry shops.

This was followed by the event of the day, the awarding of the ‘Friends of Sankara Nethralaya’ by the Chief guest to a thunderous applause from the audience, the awarding ceremony was followed by an enthralling ,music concert by ‘Sankara’ and dinner at the roof top

Leveraging technology and laboratory practices for better patient care

In keeping with its firm belief that accurate diagnosis is the very basis of effective treatment and cure the Sri Nathella Sampathu Chetty Clinical laboratory, Sankara Nethralaya and the Sankara Nethralaya Academy took the next step in pursuit of diagnostic perfection through a Continuing Medical Education (CME) programme comprising an in-depth seminar on diagnostics and lab practices at the V.D Swami Auditorium to share and explore the latest developments in clinical diagnosis. Titled ‘Leveraging technology and laboratory practices for better patient care” the seminar sponsored by the ortho- clinical diagnostic division of Johnson&Johnson provided a great platform for diagnostic and clinical professionals belonging to different branches and developers of diagnostic aids to take a fresh look at the efficacy of existing diagnostic practices and tools, improving the same and the scope for bringing about advancements in both products and processes for better and quicker diagnosis.

The seminar evoked a strong and enthusiastic response from a cross section of diagnostic professionals comprising pathologists, microbiologists and biochemists representing leading health care and diagnostic centers like Madras Medical College, Sri Ramachandra Medical College, Madras Medical Mission, MV Diabetes clinic, Sundaram Medical Foundation, Dr Mohan’s diabetic clinic, Sri Muthukumaran Medial College, Child Trust Hospital, Madras Diabetic and Research Foundation, Micro Therapeutic research, Hitech labs, Post Graduate Institute of behavioral and Medical Sciences.

The proceedings started on an auspicious note with the lighting of the Kuthu vilakku by Dr S.B Vasanthi, Director, Sri Nathella Sampathu Chetty Clinical laboratory. This was followed by an inaugural address by Dr S.Bhaskaran, Chairman Sankara Nethralaya highlighting the institution’s commitment to diagnostic perfection and the significance of conducting the seminar. Senior General Manager, Sankara Nethralaya and Registrar, Sankara Nethralaya Academy Ms Akila Ganesan extended a warm welcome to the dignitaries and attendees and gave an interesting note on the diagnostic and clinical services offered by Sankara Nethralaya. Dr HN Madhavan, President, Vision Research Foundation extended a special welcome to Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya and the driving force and pioneer of its diagnostic initiatives after which the Chief Guest Dr Cheirmaraj, Technical manager-TM, Ortho Clinical Services, Johnson&Johnson was honoured.

The seminar witnessed the delivery of in-depth lectures on their respective areas of specialization ranging from State of the Art equipment, approach to error calculation in diagnosis, various diagnostic processes, and importance of genetic testing by experts in these fields. A good number of participants took a tour of Sankara Nethralaya’s diagnostic facilities after the seminar, they were highly impressed by the State of the Art equipment and processes and evinced great interest in ‘The Manual for Laboratory techniques’ an authentic and authoritative work on the subject published by Sankara Nethralaya.

This first of its kind meeting on diagnostics was very well received by the participants and drew rich appreciation from Johnson&Johnon the sponsor of the event. It also helped in creating high degree of awareness for the Sankara Nethralaya Academy, build a good database of clinicians and diagnostic professionals and gave a high degree of exposure to the BS and MS MLT students to the world of advanced diagnostics. The Mittal family sponsored the snacks and lunch on the occasion and came for praise by all the participants for their thoughtful gesture.

Diabetic Eye Disease - Diabetic Retinopathy

What is Diabetic Eye Disease?

The eye functions like a camera. Light enters through the front of the eye, the cornea and gets focused by the lens to the retina. The retina changes the light into nerve signals and sends them to the brain. So without a retina, the eye cannot communicate with the brain, making vision impossible.

Diabetic eye disease refers to eye problems developed as a complication of this disease. Cataract – clouding of the lens, Glaucoma – increased fluid pressure in the eye that leads to optic nerve damage and loss of vision and Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the blood vessels in the retina. In addition, diabetes can cause palsies of the nerves that supply the muscles of the eye.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

The retina is a thin membrane, covering the back of the eye. This membrane receives light and converts it to signals to the brain. The retina gets its food supply from various blood vessels that are present in it, but in patients with diabetes, the retinal blood vessels develop tiny leaks which cause fluid or blood to seep into the retina, which becomes wet and swollen and cannot work properly. This is called Diabetic Retinopathy.

The earliest phase of the disease is called background diabetic retinopathy. The vessels in the retina become weakened and leak, forming dot-like hemorrhages leading to edema in the retina and decreased vision.

The next stage is known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy caused because of decreased oxygen supply. New, fragile blood vessels develop as the circulatory system attempts to maintain adequate oxygen levels within the retina through neovascularization. Unfortunately these delicate vessels hemorrhage easily. Blood may leak into the retina causing spots, large scars and decreased vision and retinal detachment.

Signs and Symptoms:

Some symptoms of diabetic retinopathy are: Blurred vision (this is often linked to blood sugar levels), appearance of floating objects in front of the eye, flashes of light when closing and opening the eyes and loss of vision.

All diabetics are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. During pregnancy, it may worsen. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Nearly half of all diabetics will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.

Why are we concerned with Diabetic Retinopathy?

1.Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness
2.Nearly 20 percent of diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy
3.It often has no early warning signals or pain. Vision may not change until the disease becomes severe.
4.Trained ophthalmologists are required to detect and treat diabetes related retinal disease

Even in advanced cases, the disease may progress a long way without symptoms; hence regular eye examinations for people with diabetes are very important. Diabetics can reduce the possibilities of eye complications by routine examinations with the ophthalmologist. Many problems can be treated with greater success when caught early.

Monday, August 6, 2012

“Between the devil and the deep sea”

The Tele-ophthalmology team at the Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya reached a new milestone in outreach and community ophthalmology by conducting a two day eye care camp in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the State. The camp co-ordinated by Shri Kaushik Adhikary, Senior Optometrist, Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya was conducted at Dayapur, Kosaba in the Sunderbans region which is among the most economically and socially backward regions with the lowest literacy rate and an alarmingly high instance of water borne infections caused due to non-availability of clean water. The area selected typified a no man’s land with the nearest tarred road ending miles away at the 24 parganas, and no supply of electricity. The fact that there were no roads in sight, would help us gauge the availability of eye care, which made it a challenge to the Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya Tele-ophthalmology Team

The outdoor team travelled for 3 hours by motorboat and when the water level was too shallow for a motorized boat to sail they switched over to a smaller boat for a 20 minute sail in the swampy marshlands between the thick mangrove forests, a place which is a real time illustration of the idiom “Between the devil and the deep sea” since the mid-stream of this waterway is infested with huge salt water alligators (gharial) that prey on humans and the royal Bengal tigers lift unsuspecting boat passengers venturing close to the shore by making a sudden appearance from behind the mangroves.

A huge crowd of 700 villagers waiting expectantly with hopes of gaining better vision, unmindful of the heavy downpour made the day for the Tele-ophthalmology team and made their arduous ordeal worthwhile, the hope and faith reposed in them by the simple villagers who had no other means to eye care filled the members of the Tele-ophthalmology team with a strong sense of purpose and infused them with new energy levels. The outdoor team examined 330 people in strict adherence to protocol and the rest were given an alternate date for their screening. Over 80 spectacles were distributed free on the spot and specifications noted for 230 pairs and 61 patients were identified as needing cataract surgery.

July 28th and 29th would be remembered as red letter days in Sankara Nethralaya’s community ophthalmology initiatives and a strong example of the spirit of reaching out passionately. The Gosaba camp in close proximity to the Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve forest was an ultimate challenge to the will and resilience of the Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya Tele-Ophthalmology team and triggered the spirit of adventure in them for a noble cause.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sanaatana Hindu Dharma accords more importance and honour to a woman than to a man

The duality of man-woman was created right at the beginning of the creation of the universe. Certain qualities and certain actions are naturally associated with every creation of the Lord. We should not interfere with this principle of creation; rather we should act in accordance with it. All actions that go against these principles, though they may seem to be successful in the beginning, turn pernicious later.

Man and Woman, who are a part of creation, are endowed with certain qualities common to both and certain others unique to each gender. For example, “sthyaayathi garbho asyaamithi’ – Motherhood is unique to women. This cannot be changed, nor is womanhood to be considered inferior because of this. The Vedas refer to the mother first – “Maatru Devo Bhava” – and only then refer to the father – “Pitru Devo Bhava. The Vedas also show how a woman, who enters into a big family (consisting of relatives such as mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law) after marriage, should lead her life: “May you be the Empress, the Protectress of all your kin, such as the father-in-law, in your marital home.”

Samraajnee shvasure bhava – samraajnee shvashruvaam bhava
Nanaandari samrajnee bhava samrajnee adhidevrushu||

It may even be appropriate to claim that the Sanaatana Hindu Dharma accords more importance and honour to a woman than to a man.

The life of a householder (grihasthaashrama) is like a chariot. The husband and wife are its two wheels. Women have a greater role to play in the performance of the rites of a householder. “Yatra naaryastu poojyante ramante tatra devataaha|” (The Gods rejoice in the household where women are venerated.) “Piturdashagunam gauravenaatirichyate|”
(The mother is more worthy of respect than the father.) The house is called “graham” after the ‘grihini’ who is the Lakshmi of the household (Grihalakshmi) and the deity of the household (Grihadevataa). (Na gruham gruhamithyaahuhu grihinee gruhamuchyate.) The smrithis say that the husband is to earn the money for the upkeep of the household and hand it over to the wife. The wife must spend it appropriately. She is responsible for saving some of it for future use, and for using it to do charitable deeds, to provide peace and comfort to the husband, and to entertain guests. It is also her duty to provide and safeguard the materials needed to maintain the grihastaashrama.

Arthasya samgrahe chainaam vyaye chaiva niyojayet|
Shauche dhamai annapaktayaam vaa parinaahasya chekshane||

When one studies the lives of chaste women such as Sita, Mandodari, Damayanti, Nalaayini, Savitri, Sushenai, Gaargi, and Maitreyi, one can understand the greatness of the Sanaatana Dharma, of the Hindu dharma, through their achievements, their glory and the status accorded to them.

When Rama is unable to bear the separation from Sita in the forest, he laments her loss recollecting how she had always stood by him and assisted him at various junctures in life: “She was like effective medicine during sickness. She was a delightful companion at play, an able wife when I performed dharmic rituals like the Agnihotra, a valorous associate when I fought with enemies, an efficient disciple when I performed duties to be discharged with reference to Gods and my dead ancestors, and a companion in times of distress. It is such a Sita that I am separated from today.”

Aadhau siddhaushadiriva hitaa kelikaale yasyaa
Patnee tretaa yajanasamaye kshatriyaanyave yuddhe|
Shishyaa devadvijapitru samaaraadhane bhanduraarthau
Seethaa saa me shishiritamahaakaanane kaa na jaataa?

Does this not go to show that a woman was not treated as an object of pleasure but as a companion and associate in all aspects of life?

The greatness of women has been extolled thus in the Sanatana Dharma, in Hinduism. Our Vedas and Shastras hold not merely that a woman is equal to man but rather that a woman is greater than man.

Without a proper understanding of all this, we are influenced by what foreigners, who have a mere nodding acquaintance with our culture, say and people from our own community find fault with our culture.

Here is an excerpt from what a woman has said in a recent issue of a Tamil magazine: “All our laws regarding the rights of women are based on the Sanaatana Hindu Dharma. Where is equality in this Hindu dharma? It is in our blood, in our culture to oppress and enslave women.” In response to this, Thirumati Ramaa Venugopal has brought out the greatness of our religion clearly and lucidly. If one understands the lines from the Vedas and the smrithis quoted in this article and also other such utterances and ideas in our religious texts, one will be able to understand the pre-eminent position accorded to women in our religion. It is only because there is a faulty understanding of these principles and ideas that there are such perversions in our country today. Whenever we talk of rights we must also remember responsibilities. Those should not be forgotten. Our ancestors have laid down clearly the roles and responsibilities of everyone. All our problems have stemmed from the fact that we have ignored this and have begun to act as we please. Issues, thus, become complicated.

All these days, there were several instances of evil deeds such as murder, robbery and looting in our country. These do continue to occur. What has been added in recent times to these is the molestation of women. These acts of molestation, as reported in the news, are particularly gruesome and violent. It was our country that showed to the world the power of chastity. It is the land where meritorious women such as Kannaki, Thilakavathy and Meera lived. The deeds that are done now in this sacred realm of ours are enough to make us ashamed of ourselves. The cause for all this decadence lies in the neglect of our culture. We live a life of atheism, we speak, write and live in depraved ways and also showcase these in our movies. If this state of affairs continues, doubtless our future would be steeped in darkness. All virtuous people should make efforts to avert such a disastrous eventuality.

Common Dharmas

Manu’s Dharma Sastra defines dharmas common to all as under:
“Ahimsa satyam-astheyam soucham indriyanigraha:” (Manusmriti)
Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, purity, control of sense-organs- these five are very important. In Veda, devotion to mother, father, guru and God etc. have also been cited as common dharmas.

Let us consider the five dharmas.

Ahimsa: Non-violence is everyone’s requirement. We should not kill even an ant. We should not cause any trouble to the body of anyone. That is Ahimsa. This Ahimsa has been cited as an instrument of yoga.
What is Yoga? Yoga is stopping the mind.
“Yogas-chittavritti-nirodhah” (Yogasutra of Patanjali).
Desire sprouts in mind. Mind thinks of many things. Many difficulties arise from that.
“Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha-mokshayo:” (Upanishad)
The meaning is that mind alone is the cause of bondage and freedom. Mind does not stay the way we want. If we tell the mind to think of a particular object, it goes off somewhere else. If we want mind not to think of anything at all, it is just not possible. If we tell mouth not to speak, it will not speak. If we tell eyes not to see, they will not see. But if we tell mind not to think of anything, it does not do so. Mind is not under our control. If we tell mind not to think, it should not think. But mind thinks of something opposed to what we want it to think. A mad fellow does not remain quiet. He will keep mumbling something. We are unable to shut his mouth. In the same way we are unable to control our mind. We are mentally mad. If we have our mind under control, it should act as we instruct. If we say ‘think’, it should think; if we say ‘halt’, it should halt. Then only it can be said to listen to us. If we have pain somewhere in the body, the mind comes to know of it. If we then tell mind not to think it pains, it should listen. That is keeping mind under our control. We may think that if intellect is under our control, there will be no difficulty. If a tiger threatens us and if we tell the mind to be as if the tiger has not threatened, the mind will obey. If we tell the mind to weep, it will weep; if we tell it not to weep, it will not. Now our mind weeps even when there is no reason to weep. When the mind is under our control, if we tell it not to weep even in the presence of a reason to weep, it will not weep. That state is called ‘Nirodha’ (control). Then if we tell the mind not to get angry, it will not.

Now even our mouth is not entirely under our control. We talk something wrongly and then we feel sorry. There is little difference between us and a mad man. Even a mad man sometimes talks coherently. We are suddenly overcome by fear or anger. To get rid of these, we have to control the mind.

When the mind is under control in this manner, it is called ‘Tailadhara’ (continuous flow of oil). We have to look at mind as continuous attention. If mind has come under our control, it is better than even seeing Iswara. Joy erupts if we see Iswara. If we tell mind to remain in that joy, it stays. If we tell mind to remain as Iswara, it will remain so. Whatever we may instruct, it will listen. That alone is Yoga.

Now our mind thinks of objects other than that, the thought of which will give us comfort. What will bring this mind under control? If we tell it to get a little angry, it should do so; if we tell it not to, it should not. We have to seek a way for this. That too must be sought before death.
Veda says ‘Tamevam vidvan amruta iha bhavati’ (Purushasuktham).
‘One who knows Him thus becomes liberated even here (in this birth itself).
“Saknoteehaiva ya:sodhum prak-sarira-vimokshanat|
Kama-krodh-odbhavam vegam sa yukta: sa sukhi nara: ||” (Gita 5:23)
When there are sources of desire and anger, one should make efforts to control their passion in this birth. One who does so is alone ‘yukta’. ‘Yukta’ means one who is in yoga. Yogas are not for Rishis alone. Who requires medicine? Is it not the sick person? We suffer from the disease of the mind. Hence we need yoga. What is the method to control the mind? There are two ways. They are outer and inner methods. We have to ask persons who know about this; persons who have controlled their minds. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is ever in control of mind. Our Acharya is also in control of mind.

Some people are fair-complexioned right at birth. Some others go abroad and wear special dresses and show that they are fair-complexioned. Some creatures fly right at birth. Some others fly later. A fish swims right at birth. We swim after some time. Iswara is ever in control of mind from birth. He remains always. We have to put in efforts to make the mind steady. Vidyaranya, Sadasiva Brahmendra et al are of this category. These two persons have told us the ways to control the mind. Out of the two methods mentioned earlier, the outer method is one. This means helping from outside- Danam (ceremonial gift), dharma, Sandhya, Oupasanam, yagna, study of Vedas, helping others etc. If we do these sincerely, the mind will be controlled.

Inner method is helping from near. If we consider Pujas in temple, help is required from the porter, one who helps in lighting the lamp for waving before God, one who brings food being offered to God et al. Inner methods are close at hand like these persons. There are many inner methods. Ahimsa is one of them. There is nothing not achievable by mind. As it is not controlled, it is powerless. If elephant is not controlled, it is of no use to us; there will only be trouble. If it is controlled, many are the things we can achieve through it. This mind has the strength of many elephants. Visvamitra, Hanuman et al conquered their minds. That is why they had so much power. We have the same mind. If we can make our mind listen to us, we can also do anything. Vedanta says that the entire universe was created by one mind. This universe is not adequate even for the mind of an ant.

Mind is like a goblin. It is like the vetala in the story of Vikramaditya. Mind will do all the things which the vetala did when it was brought under control. Yoga is bringing that mind under our control. Ahimsa is part of that yoga. People have said that they adopted Ahimsa and the mind came under control.

Hence this Ahimsa is included in common dharmas in Manu dharmasastra. In Yoga sastra, it is mentioned as a part of yoga. In order to make the greatness of Ahimsa clear, it was expounded in such detail.

If we do something for a main purpose, there will be some additional benefits. They are called ‘Avaantara prayojanam’. We go to the Matham to have darshan of Puja. In addition, we are able to listen to the discourses of many Sastris. These happen on their own. Our primary aim is not those discourses. We see many people. We see many scholars and devotees. All this is unintended benefit. Darshan of Puja is the primary benefit; the rest are secondary benefits.

Ahimsa also has some secondary benefits. The primary aim of Ahimsa is control of mind. That is the prime benefit.
“Ahimsa-pratishthayam tat-sannidhou vaira-tyaga:” (Patanja Yogasutram 2:35).
If we have achieved Ahimsa with all three instrumentalities (thought, word and deed), all will attain peace in our presence.

One should not think of troubling another. He should not speak words that would hurt another. With body also, one should not cause any trouble to anyone. By nature none will feel like troubling another. But if another person commits an offence, it occurs to one to indulge in violence out of anger. If our child sets fire to the roof, will we get angry with the child? We will put off the fire immediately. We will see that this does not recur again. We should behave in the same manner with the person who troubles us. We should treat him like a child. That is Ahimsa. With that Ahimsa, mind comes under control; this is the primary benefit. In addition, even those who come with murderous anger will become peaceful in his presence. Even cruel persons will get peace of mind in his presence. That is the secondary benefit of Ahimsa; it happens automatically.

In Varnasrama dharmas, those who are born as brahmanas and have become sanyasis must practise Ahimsa in toto. While taking sanyasa, they promise that:
“Ahimsan sarvabhutan-yanyatra tirthebhya:” (Chandogya Upanishad VIII 15:1).
This means: ‘There is no fear for all creatures from me.’

Grihastha must practise Ahimsa in matters other than svadharma. There may be violence in actions stipulated in Veda. He should practise Ahimsa in actions other than those. Matters regarding Ahimsa have been mentioned in Gautama Dharmasutra and Chandogya Upanishad. Grihastha must practise Ahimsa in actions other than those stipulated in Veda. Sanyasi’s duty is to practise it fully. He should not cook; not pluck leaf; not do similar actions.

Satyam: Satyam (truth) has a characteristic.
“Vang-manasayor-ikarupyam satyam”
Satyam is mind and speech acting in the same form. Bhagavan has given us speech to express that which is in the mind. If speech is used for telling lies, he will give us bull’s birth later. Just as there is exception in Ahimsa, there is exception in Satyam too. The exception in Ahimsa applies only to grihastha; that in Satyam applies to all.

Suppose one keeps narrating the mistakes of others in the village and keeps saying: ‘So-and-so is a knave; he did this etc.’ Even if whatever he says is true and represents unity of thought and speech, it does not qualify as Satyam. It has been said: ‘Satyam bhutahitam priyam’. That which is in the mind should come out in speech is its general characteristic. All our actions are meant to generate good. Satyam should also generate good. If good is generated, it is Satyam. If evil is generated, it is not Satyam. Satyam should result in welfare of all creatures. Desire or anger should not be the base of Satyam. One’s fault could be mentioned and criticised. Words intended to bring down his honour are not Satyam, though true. Through Satyam we should not cause hurt or trouble to the other. We should generate good for ourselves or some other creature, as the case may be. When we utter words of truth, they must be said in peace. To the listener those words must bring good. This is Satyam with word.

Satyam should be practised with mind also. We should not wish to tell untruth.

Untruth practised with body is actions like pretending to have taken bath when one has not bathed. Satyam should be practised with all three instrumentalities (thought, word and deed). For ‘chittavritti-nirodha’ (mind control) that is also a cause.

There is a secondary benefit for Satyam too. If we make a habit of speaking truth always, the mind will think of Satyam alone. Speech will always utter Satyam. Then whatever is said will come true. Everything will be as thought out in the mind. The way speech turns into truth is through Satyam. This power is the power of blessing and curse. If speakers of Satyam say ‘today is Purnima (full moon day)’, the Moon will come immediately. The power of blessing and curse will manifest.

We feel we have no liking for money. What is the sign of it? If we feel even in dream that money is not needed, the detachment can be trusted. In a dream if someone offers money and we ask him to bring it, it is wrong. Satyam should be steady even in dream. Then Satyam will become powerful; whatever we say will happen.
“Satya-pratishthayam kriya-phala-asrayatvam”.
But Satyam should not be practised with this secondary benefit in view.

Vairagyam (non-attachment) is another internal tool. It is said to be very strong. Its secondary benefit is the power of visibility of treasures. If someone says ‘I am non-attached; but I do not see any treasures’, the degree of his non-attachment becomes clear. If he expects to see treasure, he is not truly detached.

Similarly we should not practise Satyam for its secondary benefit.

Astheyam: We should not have illicit desire. Astheyam means non-stealing. Another’s wealth should not be snatched through deceit or by force. Taking hold of another’s wealth through letter (false document) is the worst thing to do.

Soucham: Bodily cleanliness will result in mental purity. Actions for bodily cleanliness have been mentioned in Dharma Sastras. For the past 40-50 years, bodily cleanliness is not practised in our country as laid down in Sastras. Sastras explain that body should be cleansed using specified cleaning agents at prescribed times; vessels should be cleaned in specified manner etc. Cleanliness is primarily required in all karmas. It should be maintained properly. Even if we have forgotten now, we should learn and practise it. If we do not do even this, how are we to control mind?
There is no use listening or reading in books about all this; it should be brought into action. If we are to remain in comfort, we should maintain purity. From children right upto old persons, everyone should have a separate water-pot. That pot alone should be used for cleansing activities. Pot for drinking water should also be maintained individually. One should not drink from another’s pot. The vessel should be cleaned with cleaning agent appropriate to the material of that vessel, e.g. silver, copper etc. Wherever we go for eating, we should carry our water-pot. We should not drink from another’s water-pot. This should be practised by all castes. Everyone should maintain cleanliness in doing acts as per his caste.

Control of Sense-organs: We should not permit our sense-organs to go about uncontrolled. We should feed each sense-organ only to pre-determined limit. Actual experience should conform to that limit. If limit is exceeded, we should have the power to control the sense-organs.
The above mentioned five dharmas are primary for those who practise theism and Vedic religion. These are the chief common dharmas.

Our Duty

Nobody can deny that this Bharatadesa, celebrated as treasure of varnasrama and education from ancient times, is now denuded of wellbeing and afflicted with weakness and poverty. The chief reason for this is our having allowed the creeper of modern civilisation to grow in the garden of our ancient civilisation. There is none who is unaware of the destruction caused by this creeper of modern civilisation spreading vigorously in our garden of society and overwhelming the tree of varnasrama, the very base of our religion.

Even if we know this, we are indifferent and inactive owing to insincerity and laziness and thinking that everything is the manifestation of the cruel fate of Kaliyuga. When faced with such a dangerous situation, we are not attempting to save the tree of Sanatana Dharma by removing and throwing away the poisonous creeper of modern civilisation, which has spread over and gripped the tree. If this tree is destroyed, can we create a new one? If we allow destruction of Vedas and Sastras, handed to us by our ancestors, the Maharishis, who have laboured over lakhs of years for our welfare and framed those works in an easily understandable manner, it is certain that there cannot be any greater fools, waylaid with ill luck, than us.

Having got the rare human birth and there too, a position high in intellect and power, should we slide down from our position? We have no duty other than seeking a solution to avoid this downward slide. If we perform our duties properly, this will help us in future, like a treasure safeguarded in a box, incapable of being stolen by thieves. Reaching a mundane position in this world, we put in so much effort to retain that position for ever. But its benefit is meagre. That too, it will last only till this body remains. We know very well from experience that this is not linked with true joy. Should we, who work so hard for useless attainments, not put in at least a little work for wellbeing of Atma? Why should we not utilise a path, which would give us eternal joy? Though there are many such ways, the best way is to know the substance of Vedas and Smritis and act as instructed therein. It goes without saying that our ancestors studied Vedas and Sastras properly, did their duties as enunciated therein and derived great happiness. There appears to be no reason for our indifference to these matters, other than the cruel act of Kali Maharaja.

Vedas, which benefit us here and hereafter, are gradually disappearing owing to our indifference. We do not get even one student of Veda in every village these days. Sastra affirms that one who does not chant Veda is not a brahmana. Even people who have studied a little of Veda, if not in entirety, have become rare to come by. Earlier at least when we put our children in school, we used to teach them Samskrit alphabet. Now we just start with A, Aa; that is all.

Grihasthas should make effort to see that their children learn Samskrit at least for a short time every day and study Veda required for daily observance of karmas. They should be able to do their daily observances without others’ help. Every brahmana should perform every day Snanam, Sandhyavandanam, Japa, Homam, Puja, Brahmayagnam and Vaisvadevam. Srutis and Smritis reiterate that those who perform these rituals derive immense benefits.

Every grihastha should see that at least one of his sons studies Veda well. This is the duty of every grihastha. There is no difficulty or loss involved in this. Only seriousness is required. A Sandhyavandana class can be held in each village. This will lead to the habit of all joining together for a good cause. If those with knowledge teach with proper ‘swara’, the error of wrong intonation and consequent loss of benefit will be avoided for others. In addition to obtaining the spiritual benefit (‘sreyas’) by proper intonation, the habit of performing in time will also take root. Even aged grihasthas, who have not developed this habit so far, can learn with some effort within six months the mantras required for daily karmas properly. They can perform the Deva and Pitru karmas on their own properly without the help of Purohita. It will be a little embarrassing at the beginning to learn Sandhyavandanam at an advanced age. We do so many acts without embarrassment for mundane convenience. It is foolishness to feel embarrassed in doing one’s svadharma, which will bring spiritual benefit here and hereafter. All will treat with respect in a very short time, one who practises svadharma seriously without break. In fact they will feel sorry at their inability to perform the same acts.

Hence everyone should desist from considering observance of svadharma as an embarrass-ment and, ignoring constraint of time, place and circumstance, attempt to observe svadharma. Knowing fully well the duty assigned to him by Iswara, he should fulfil the same. Just as a carpenter or goldsmith or any other tradesman does not feel any reservation about working in his trade, brahmana should do his duty of chanting Veda with sincerity and without any embarrassment. Gautama has stated, ‘Vedokhilo Dharma-mulam’- ‘The basis of all dharmas observed by us is Veda’.
“Veda: kritsno-adhigantavya: sarahasyo dvijanmana|
Vedabhyaso hi viprasya tapa: param-ihochyate||”
It has been stated that brahmanas should study Veda completely along with Upanishads; for brahmana that is the noblest austerity.

Brahmana should study all Vedas. Some people may ask: How can we, past the age of 40-50, without the knowledge of even Samskrit alphabet, learn Veda. Let them attempt to perform properly their ordinary daily rituals like Japa, homam, Puja, Brahmayagnam, Vaisvadevam etc.

Each of us should spend at least a portion of our earning in dharma. If not done, there will be compulsion for many times higher expenditure on medical treatment and proceedings related to transactions. We should help those who have studied Veda to the extent possible with respect. We should not try to cut down on expense in this regard. As each one of us has got this birth in accord with the fruits of karmas of previous births, our paramount duty is to attain noble state by sincerely performing karmas assigned to us by Vedas.

May Iswara bless all with attainment of wellbeing through observance of their svadharma.


Jivas in the world are known as ‘Pranis’, as they have ‘Prana’, which means life. Hence all living beings are called Pranis. All living Pranis are always doing some act or the other. Ant is crawling; bird is flying or eating. Man goes to office and works, or ploughs the land and grows food. He does many acts like these. None sits quiet without doing anything. Bhagavan refers to this in Gita:
“Na hi kaschit kshanamapi jaatu tishthaty-akarmakrit” (Gita 3:5).
This means that no human being is inactive even for a second.

We see in the world man always doing some act or the other. One in a small place has fewer activities to do, whereas one in a large place has more activities to do. Why should everyone keep doing actions like this?

Only if we keep doing some action, we can avoid trouble. To avoid trouble, many acts have to be done. There is no trouble like keeping quiet without doing anything. There is something in us which propels us to do actions. Somebody has instituted hunger for everybody. That hunger makes everyone do actions. If we do not do actions, hunger strikes us. We have to do acts to seek medicine for the disease of hunger. If we are afflicted with headache, it disappears on application of medicine. It comes later only after a long time. This disease of hunger is not like that. It is very different from other diseases. This disease has to be treated with medicine many times in a day. Everyone has to act to seek medicine for this disease. Tiger attacking deer, cat pouncing upon rat and snake catching hold of frog are all for treating this disease of hunger only. Man wearing many disguises and earning money using his smartness is also for this only. If he is hungry, he seeks rice and cooks it. He works for rice. It is necessary to work if we have to maintain the body. It is not possible to be inactive even for a second.

If we don’t work, this body will become useless. It is not as if a rich man need not work. In fact he has more work to do. He is always worried about the safety of his money at the place where he has deposited. Hence he keeps working for that. In comparison with a ‘unchavritti’ brahmana (literally, brahmana who lives on foodgrains gleaned from field), one who has ten lakhs of rupees has to do more work. There is no end to his work.

Thus the types of work which man does are many. One is work he does for maintaining his body; another is work he does for the sake of his dependents. People like child, wife, father and mother have been entrusted to him. There are certain things he has to do for them. Further, he has things to do for his cattle, dog, cat if he has love for it, farm labourer who works for him etc. He has also things to do for the village society. It is the responsibility of those at home to swab and keep the house clean. Family is an assembly of ten persons. Village is an assembly of a thousand people. Just as family activities are necessary for a person, activities for village society are also necessary. There are then many activities to be done for the national society.

Out of activities divided like this, actions like brushing teeth, washing clothes, bathing, eating etc. are done for one’s own benefit. Actions like cleaning the house, swabbing, getting the articles required for the house etc. are done for the sake of the house; i.e. for oneself and his dependents. Digging channel, repairing lake, constructing village hospital, making arrange-ments for disease removal and such actions are related to the village society. Actions related to the nation are well known these days.

Out of activities being performed by us, in addition to those for appeasing our hunger, there are those intended for protecting others. It is but natural for the powerful to help the powerless. The powerless are entrusted to the care of someone who has the ability. The child is nurtured by the man, who is able. When he becomes old and weak, he is nurtured by the child, who has now grown into adult. This kind of change is natural in the world. This nature is observed not only in man, but also in other creatures like animals and birds. Birds and animals look after their young ones. This nature is also seen in all small creatures like worms and insects, cats and monkeys.

Activities are going on in the entire world. Man does many types of actions. He engages in them and seeks cooperation of others. He digs channel, sets up medical clinics, looks after government, and looks for ways to remove difficulties. Sacrificing selfishness, he looks after common activities in addition to personal acts. He also goes to the field, works in office and thus engages in many acts for earning money.

There are only three essential needs for man. He needs food to appease hunger; clothes to protect himself from heat, cold etc. and shame; a place to rest. These three are more necessary than all others. The articles he accumulates beyond these three are useful for looking after children, their marriage etc.

In order to obtain his essential requirements, man has to do many things. His essentials are to earn his food every day, construct his house if destroyed and sew his clothes when torn. But he also earns things necessary for certain persons entrusted to his care. He earns the medicine of food for the permanent disease of hunger of not only himself, but also for others. There is a speciality in calling hunger as disease and food as medicine.

“Kshud-vyadhischa chikitsyatam pratidinam bhiksh-oushadham bhujyatam
Svadvannam na tu yachyatam vidhivasat-praptena santushyatam|
Audasinyam-abhipsyatam janakripa-naishthuryam-utsrujyatam
Sitoshnadi vishahyatam na tu vritha vakyam samuchcharyatam|| (Sadhana Panchakam 4)
Sri Acharya instructs us in this verse to treat the disease of hunger. A sick person will only consume the amount of medicine required for treatment of the disease. He will not seek tasty medicine and keep on consuming it. Further if he can get low-priced medicine, he will buy that and consume. Similarly one should eat the quantity required for appeasement of hunger only. The import of the verse is that ordinary food should be adequate.

Apart from activities for oneself and his dependents, man performs certain strange acts. A few of those extra activities are now discussed. One wears a thing called cross; he constructs a building called church. There is no material to appease his hunger there. Another wears Rudraksham and Vibhuti; will his hunger go away by wearing them? Will they serve as clothes? Another rubs the ‘Namakkatti’ and wears ‘Tiruchurnam’. These are not part of the essential activities mentioned earlier. These do not help in matters of hunger, clothes or house; nor help the dependents. These are extra actions. One takes a ‘Panchapatram’ and ‘udhdharani’ and does something making some sound. He does something called ‘Sraadham’. He calls brahmanas and feeds them. Will all this appease his hunger? No. He fetches stones from hill and constructs temple. That does not help him for residing. They lock the temple at night. It is not useful even as protection from rain. Of what use is it?

Some others do a number of things in the name of religion. Some quarrel over religion and break their heads. Do these actions not appear as unnecessary extra acts?

Applying Vibhuti, wearing Rudraksham, constructing temple, performing Sraadham, doing brahmana santarpanam (feeding and honouring)- all this can be characterised as extra activity for man, is it not? What is the benefit of such extra activities? In some places people dance in the name of bhajan. It dries up the throat; it has no relation with work in office. That keeps happening unnecessarily. Don’t all these activities appear unnecessary? Let us examine whether they are necessary, why they should be done and what their benefits are.

Why does man earn? Is it not enough if he appeases his hunger every day? If he begs somewhere, he will get food; he can also eat in choultries. He does not keep quiet thinking as to why he should earn, when he could get food. If one is asked to choose between a bellyful of cooked food, a measure of raw rice and cash of ten rupees, he would choose the cash. Why? His need is cooked food. Why cash? Cooked food is adequate only for one time. Raw rice will last for two times. The cash will be useful for ten times. Man likes that which will help him for a longer time.

Mother packs cooked food for the boy who goes to school. When we go to a place at a little distance, we pack rice and other things. In earlier times, there was no train service. One could not travel as he liked. But the new conveniences cause only financial loss in terms of expenses on train fare, restaurant, bus, coffee etc. Apart from these, if one goes to a large town, there is expense of buying new things. All these expenses are incurred these days. In olden times, for the number of days spent in another place, one would save on food expense at home; also, gain strength of legs by walking.

A story was doing the rounds about a person who spent his time with little expense cleverly in this manner. There was one Krishna Iyer at Chittoor near Palakkad. He set up a large bank. Out of the profit from the bank, he established a Pathasala to train more than 70 boys in Vedas and Sastras. Those who studied in that Pathasala used to study later in the Samskrit college set up by V.Krishnaswamy Iyer. There was another person called Muthu Ganapathigal at Tiruvaiyaru, who had also started a Pathasala like that. He arranged for some 100-120 boys to study Vedas. He organised food for those boys somewhere. For this he used as capital the cash he would collect by way of fine from employees, who committed mistakes. He taught Vedas himself. One day an office employee came there, saw the boys and exclaimed to the Vedic scholar: “You are spoiling these boys unjustly! What is the use crowding them here like sheep for ten long years? You have done nothing for their livelihood! Had they studied English, they would have come to a good state.” A person sitting next to the scholar responded: “By crowding them here without sending them for English education, half the expense is avoided. Whatever they would have spent on dress, cropped head, bicycle etc. had they gone for English education, is all saved now. That expense would have eaten up half of their earning. As that is saved now, it is as good as earned. The remaining half we make them earn with our teaching. Further even if they do not learn here, there is benefit by their not turning to English education.” This makes it clear that there were people in those days, who spent less and lived a fruitful life.

Even in those times, while travelling to a place at a distance of 50 miles, they used to carry rice with them. With increase in distance to be travelled, there is increase in the things we have to carry.

We do not think that it is enough to earn for a day’s food and that we need not worry about the next day. We accumulate for the next day also as we would suffer if any difficulty arose. We would not need money if we do not care for the next day’s wellbeing. When cooked food was given to servants, there was no satisfaction. Then they thought of supplying rice to them. The servants could utilise the quantity of rice as required and sell the balance. Only an unintelligent man will accept that which would be adequate for a few days. A wise man will go for things which would be useful for many days.

When we accumulate things thus for future use, how long do we plan for? One day? One month? One year? How much do we build up? A thousand? Ten thousand? The more we collect the better for our welfare. None knows the time limit upto which one should plan to be comfortable. The day fixed by Parameswara is the limit for that. But we wish to remain comfortable always.

Is this money etc. adequate to keep us comfortable even beyond the time limit mentioned above? All this will help only till the body lasts. There is no use thereafter. We do acts for remaining comfortable in future. We should do acts which would keep us in comfort always. We should no doubt do the acts which we are presently doing. In addition we should do something in order to avoid being in trouble at any time. We do not die at any time; it is the body that dies. After death we do not have these limbs. Like insuring for future, we should do things even now for keeping us in comfort for ever.

Suppose we live at the foot of a hill. We have a thousand rupees in our hand. All the cash is in the form of coins of small denomination. The thieves arrive at that time. If we climb up the hill and reach the other side, there is no fear. At that time somebody comes and asks if we need currency notes in exchange for all the cash we have. What would we do? We will immediately pass on the bundle of small change to him, get the notes in exchange, run up the hill and reach the other side. But the notes should be currency valid in the area on the other side of the hill. Our situation is similar now. If we do things useful for future using our present ability, we will not face any difficulty.

Somebody may ask: We should remain comfortable here; what is the guarantee about our future life? In case we live in future, should we weep then?

The theist (asthika) says that we live even after this present life and that we should therefore do good things. The atheist (nasthika) asks what certainty there is that we live in future. The answer is: if we do good things now and if we live a future life, it will be good for us. If we do not have a future life, we lose nothing. In both cases, there is no difficulty for the asthika. In case we have a future life, the atheist will be in serious trouble!

Hence to do good things is always good. If we have to travel to some place, our mind should be happy. When we travel after leaving this body, we will face trouble, if we have not done such actions here, which would remove those difficulties. We can find out from the path of Gnana the acts which would so protect us after death. For the deeds done now, even if there is no fruit now, there will be fruit later. Our ancestors have told us the truth about Atma, which Newton has now unfolded about physics. Our Sastas tell us clearly that every action has a reaction.

Christians do not accept life after death. But certain things, which they tell, show that they accept life after death without even their own knowledge. They say that after leaving the body here, there is judgement day and that the jiva goes to heaven or hell depending on acts done here. Though the body, which could be subject to pleasure and pain, rests here in a box, they say that the jiva experiences pleasure and pain being in another body. We call the same thing as life after death. Just as actions done here in this life influence pleasant and unpleasant experiences later in another body, there must have been a life earlier than this and the actions done in that life moulded our present experiences, is it not?

It is necessary to do certain acts which would be useful to us after this life also. The acts done for remaining in permanent joy are what we reckoned as extra acts earlier. Wearing Vibhuti and Rudraksham, doing Sraadham etc. are acts which will help us to remain in perpetual happiness. The more such acts we do now, they will help us more later.

Apart from those acts which will help us during our present life in this body, we should do acts which would help us permanently for crores of years later. The currency of our country is not valid in Russia. If we have a king common to all places, his currency will be valid everywhere. There is a king common to all the fourteen worlds. He is Parameswara. There is a currency of his, which is valid in all the worlds at all times. What is it? That is dharma.

At the time Rama was leaving for the forest, he went to Kausalya Devi for taking leave. Is it not the practice for the mother to pack eatables for the child who is going to another place? What to give to a child who is going away for fourteen years? She did not know. She thought deeply and said:
“Yam palayasi dharmam tvam dhritya cha niyamena cha|
Sa vai Raghava-sardula dharmas-tvam-abhirakshatu||” (Ayodhya Kandam 25:3)

“O Raghava! I am unable to do anything to protect you. Dharma alone is there (to protect you). The dharma, which you have been protecting steadfastly and with discipline, will protect you. That is the only blessing I can give”, she said. Dharma, which we protect, protects us later. The dharma, which served as protection to Rama, is the one which is valid in the vast kingdom of Iswara. In addition to acts we do usually for children, parents, native place, country etc., we must do such acts which will bring constant happiness to Atma. Let us enquire as to what those acts are.

We should surrender our acts to Iswara. Parameswara is the final limit of all Gnana. Once we surrender our act to him, that act will fetch us permanent happiness. If that act is not new, but something done traditionally by our elders, it becomes very easy. Even if it were a bad act, if it is not done to satisfy our desire or anger or for our physical hunger, and is done as an extra act and surrendered to Parameswara, it is dharma.

What dharma to practise? We are well exposed to dharma, which our elders have practised traditionally for many years. They have practically experienced constant happiness. It is enough if we get hold of that dharma; if we invent something new, it will be wasteful effort; there will be doubt as to whether it is good or bad. Hence it is better to practise dharma, meant for us and which has been practised by our elders all these years.

This means we have got to do something extra. That must not be for our hunger, family, native place or country. It must have come to us by tradition. It must be surrendered to Iswara. It must be done with steadfastness and discipline. That is dharma. That alone will give us permanent happiness.

All acts done by us with our three instruments, viz. mind, speech and body, should be dharmas. We have to exchange our currency into the currency of dharma. We must expend all our powers in that dharma alone. Dharma done in this manner will be valid at all places and times. This is what Kausalya Devi invoked as protection for Rama. The dangers Rama faced were very serious; Rama crossed them all with dharma alone.

Man should always do acts which would help in his going upward. Among creatures, all except man grow across. They are known as ‘Tiryak (cross) Pranis’. Man alone grows vertically. His form shows he is superior. If he is in the path of dharma, even other creatures will respect him. If he is in the path of adharma, even his own brother will leave him. This is clear from the story of Ramayana.

As Rama was in the path of dharma, even animals like monkeys helped him. As Ravana walked the path of adharma, even his own brother left him. (Though Ravana was in his own kingdom, he was not protected despite vast armies). One who follows dharma finds happiness at all places.

Hence that dharma alone will serve as the armour. If we practise dharma, not for our desire or anger or livelihood, but as extra act, traditionally handed to us, with steadfastness and discipline, that dharma will give us permanent happiness.


These two personages who are among the early expounders of the pure Advaitic tradition were born in the beginning of this yuga. Of these two, Brahmanandi wrote a work called Vakya in sutra form and it was an exposition of the purport of the Chandogyopanishad. Dravidacharya embellished that work by his bhashya on it. On account of this, these authors came to be known as Vakyakara and a Bhashyakara, respectively.
In the Chandogyopanishad, from the first to the fifth adhyaya the following topics are expounded for the benefit of persons of inferior and not-so-inferior qualifications: three kinds of upasanas namely, angavabaddhopasana which leads to the fruits of karma, svatantrapratikopasana which bestows material welfare and ahangrahopasana which leads to krama-mukti. In the sixth, seventh and eighth adhyayas are expounded in order sadvidya, bhumavidya and prajapatyavidya. These have their fruition in sadyomukti or immediate release. These relate to the realization of nirguna Brahman which is sacchidananda and are expounded for persons of superior qualification. In the eighth adhyaya, for the benefit of persons of intermediate qualification, daharavidya which relates to saguna Brahman is explained again. Thus two kinds of Brahman are treated off in the Chandogyopanishad, the qualified Brahman to be worshipped and the Brahman free from any qualities which is only to be known and realized.
In his Vakya-grantha which is an exposition of the Chandogyopanishad, Brahmanandi too clearly brings out, in accord with the Upanishad, the two-fold character of Brahman. Dravidacharya also in his bhashya on the vakya, very clearly expounds the two-fold Brahman and his exposition is in line with the Upanishad and the vakya. Unfortunately, these two works are not available.
However, thirty statements of the vakya and twenty of the bhashya are available having been quoted in the works of early writers. Of these, eight statements of vakya-grantha and nine of the bhashya are found quoted in Advaitic works. Twenty-two of vakya-grantha and eleven of the bhashya are quoted in the writings of Sri Ramanuja and others. Thus from both the vakya and bhashya we are now in possession of only fifty statements. They have been set forth in the work entitled Dravidatreyadarsanam.
Sri Sankara and others have quoted in their Advaitic works from the bhashya of Dravidacharya in the context of the explanation of the madhuvidya and samvargavidya found in the third and the fourth chapters of the Chandogyopanishad. Sri Ramanuja and others quote from the vakya and bhashya passages in the context of the antaradityavidya set forth in the first chapter of the Chandogyopanishad.
Though Sri Sankara has not quoted verbatim from the vakya, yet in his exposition of the antaradityavidya in his Chandogyabhashya and in the antastaddharmadhikarana devoted to an examination of it in the sutrabhashya, he has expressed the same ideas in similar language. Thus, we find that Sri Sankara has given expression in his works to ideas similar in language to passages in the vakya and the bhashya and having the same meaning. Such parallel passages have been indicated in the work Dravidatreyadarsanam. They have also been separately tabulated in that work for purpose of comparison under the heads of Brahmanandi-Bhagavatpada-Vakya-Samarasyam and Dravidacharya-Bhagavatpada-Vakya Samarasyam.
The Vakya-grantha gives six meanings to the antaradityavidya passage in the Chandogyopanishad: tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikam evamakshini. In his Chandogyopanishadbhashya Sri Sankara gives the conventional (rudhi) meaning of the word kapi. In the work Dravidatreya-darsanam it has been shown that this interpretation is not affected by the criticism made against it by others. Sri Ramanuja and others adopt three other meanings of the word from the etymological (yaugika) point of view taking them from the vakya-grantha. It has to be emphasized that all meanings, the conventional and the etymological are those stated in the vakya itself.
In his vakya-grantha, the Vakyakara observes that for the anugraha of the aspirants, the Lord’s form which is resplendent (jyotirmaya) is unperceivable by the sense of sight, but can be perceived only by those of pure mind who worship concentrating on the form of the sun (aditya-mandala). This same meaning accepted by the Vakyakara is conveyed by Sri Sankara in the exposition of the antaradityavidyavivarana of the antastaddharmadhikarana and of the Chandogyopanishad. The Vakyakara says:
syadrupam kritakam anugrahartham tachchetasam aisvaryat; rupam cha atindriyam antahkarana-pratyaksham tannirdesat. Dravidacharya’s bhashya on this passage is: anjasaiva visvasrijorupam tattu na chakshusha grahyam manasa tvakalushena sadhanantaravata grihyate.
Sri Sankara writes in the antastaddharmadhikarana:
syat paramesvarasyapi icchavasat mayamayam rupam sadhakanugrahartham. In the Chandogyabhashya he says: drisyate nivritta-chakshurbhih samahita-chetobhih brahmacharyadi-sadhana-peksham.
‘It is seen by those whose eyes have been turned inward and whose minds are steadfast by reason of the practice of brahmacharya, etc.
It is to be noted that corresponding to the expressions of the Vakyakara, taccetasamanugrahartham, aisvaryat and kritakam, Sri Sankara uses the words sadhakanugrahartham, mayamayam and icchavasat. Similarly, where the Vakyakara says atindriyamantah-karanapratyaksham, the Bhashyakara explains it as na chakshusha grahyam manasa tvakalushena sadhanantaravata grihyate and Sri Sankara’s expressions for them are respectively drisyate nivritta-chakshurbhih, samahitachetobhih and brahmacharyadi-sadhanapeksham.
Thus, while the expressions in the vakya, the bhashya and Sri Sankara’s explanations are in accord, not disposed to agree to this, Sri Ramanuja and others have altered the words rupam chatindriyam into rupam va atindriyam. They also maintain that the statement syad rupam is the purvapaksha and that rupam va atindriyam contains the siddanta. They also say that the form of the Lord is not un-really assumed by Him, but that it is His real nature. The Vakyakara says in the previous sentence that it is assumed for purpose of anugraha and he follows it in the succeeding sentence that that form is super-sensuous, but perceivable in the antahkarana. There is nothing irreconcilable in the Lord’s form being the result of an assumption and also super-sensuous and cognizable by the pure mind. Where is the distinction of purvapaksha and siddhanta between two positions which are not contradictory to each other? Dispassionate consideration will show that this has not been taken into account in a partisan view of this matter. That the Lord’s form is eternal has nowhere been stated in the vakya. All this has been clearly brought out in the work Dravidatreyadarsanam.
In his bhashya, Dravidacharya says that bhagavadrupa, the Lord’s form is yathabhuta, that is, it is existent and goes on to observe that form is not spoken of a devata which is formless; for sastra speaks only of what is. It is yathabhuta-vadi. It informs us of what has satta. True, there is no instruction of rupa in respect of what is arupa, formless. The meditation on the form of the Lord is not based on adhyasa or supposition as in the meditation of mind as Brahman, etc., but it is the meditation of the existing rupa. Sri Sankara too following the same text speaks in the same manner. This is what he says: There is no non-validity in respect of the texts which refer to the subject of upasana. Hence Sastra which speaks of upasana refers only to the actually existing atma, Isvara and devata, etc. While explaining the third Brahmana of the first adhyaya of the Brihadaranyakopanishad, he observes, ‘As that which is indicated as Paramatma, Isvara and devata is non-empirical, it deserves to be spoken of as actually existing’. Similarly in the bhashya on the sutra––svapyayasampatyoh anyatarapekshamavishkritam hi Sri Sankara says: That where this Isvara’s nature is described, it refers to a different state like svarga, etc., and it is the locus of the sagunavidya.
The empirical reality of the Lord’s form subsists till the direct realization of Brahman. It is not transcendental (paramarthika), non-sublatable in all the three periods of time like the quality-less Brahman. This view is based on the passage laukikam tadvadevedam pramanamtvatmanischayat, given at the end of the bhashya in samanvayadhikarana. Sri Ramanuja and others maintain, however, that the Lord’s form is paramarthikam. They rely on the following passage in Bhaskara’s bhashya on the Brahma-sutra:
paramesvarasya sarvasaktitvat upasakanugrahaya rupopadana-sambhavat, kim mayamayam rupam? neti brumah, paramarthika-mevaitat, yathabhutajnapakam hi sastram.
Attracted by this view, they delude themselves into believing that the same may be the view of the Vakyakara and the Bhashyakara.
But that is not correct. Even as the Vakyakara upholds the theory of vyavaharika, so does the Bhashyakara too. In the context of the explanation of the sadvidya, taking up the Sruti vacharambhanam vikaro namadheyam mrittiketyeva satyam, Vakyakara discards the theory that a thing should be either sat or asat only and establishes on the basis of sruti the theory of the vyavaharikasatya of the world which is neither exclusively sat nor asat. na samvyavaharamatratvat. This conclusion of the Vakyakara is clearly explained in the Samkshepa-sariraka, in the commentaries on it and in the Kalpataru. It is pertinent to ask those who proclaim that they are followers of the position of the Vakyakara, why they have rejected the statements establishing the vyavaharikatva of the world and quoted in the Kalpataru and the Samkshepasariraka.
While explaining the sadvidya the Vakyakara says yuktam tadgunakopasanat. He considers that antargunaka brahmaprapti is a proper consequence of antargunakabrahmopasana.
The Bhashyakara too explains this passage as follows:
antargunam pratyakgunameva bhagavatim paradevatam bhajata iti tatra tadgunaiva devata prapyate.
Here the word tadgunakam in the vakya is explained as antarguna. And, the expression antarguna in the bhashya is explained as the pratyagatman. Antah (inner) is a correlate of bahih (outer), i.e., inner as opposed to outer. So we get the equation: tadgunakopasanat antargunakopasanat pratyagrupabrahmopasanat. By the ‘tatkratu nyaya’ it is proper to say tadgunaiva antargunaiva pratyagsvarupaiva. By this pratyagsvarupa the paradevata, the supreme deity which is parabrahma-rupa is attained. This reasoned conclusion of the Vakyakara and the Bhashyakara is established beyond doubt. That the consciousness of the non-difference of the pratyagatman and Brahman arises from the knowledge of the identity of the two which is the purport of the mahavakya tat-tvam-asi is expounded by both of them.
The same is explained by Sri Sankara in his commentary on the Chandogyopanishad. That this is the view of the bhashya of Dravidacharya is clearly stated in the Samkshepasariraka also.
Explaining the mahavakya tat-tvam-asi, the Vakyakara puts it in the form of a sutra siddhantu nivartakatvat. The Bhashyakara explains it thus: A prince brought up among hunters thinks that he is a hunter. But when he is told on the basis of proper reasons that he is a prince, he realizes his true nature. Even so the jiva thinks that he is a samsari. But when a guru tells him of his brahmabhava of which he was ignorant so long, he realizes his true nature upon the removal of that nescience. Thus is established the validity of the declaration tat-tvam-asi. The vakya is not to be understood as illumining what was not luminous itself. No other light can illuminate what is already luminous. Thus this elucidation of Dravidacharya in the form of the story is found in several Advaitic works.
The fact that Advaita sannyasins specially worship Dravidacharya at the time of Vyasapuja, proves his association with the propagation of the Advaita sampradaya.
And so, it is concluded with the prayer that every one may derive benefit according to his capacity by the study of the Advaita darsana which is the central teaching of the Upanishad, proclaimed in the Jnanavasishtha by the great sage Vasishtha, enunciated by Badarayanacharya in his Brahmasutra, clearly explained by Vrittikaras like Upavarsha, made definite by Gaudapadacharya in his Karikas on the Mandukyopanishad, established by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada who stands for the pure Advaita sampradaya in his bhashya, etc., annotated on in their tika, vartika, etc., by acharyas like Padmapada and Suresvara, by the authors of Samkshepasariraka and Vivarana and by Vachaspati Misra, expounded in Simple language by Sri Vidyaranya and which has been transmitted through a holy and beginning-less tradition and which dowers its votaries with supreme joy and eternal peace.



Sri Anantanandendra Sarasvati Swami

In the last part of the first Ullasa of the work Tattvachandrika1 by Vellalakula Umamahesvarasastri, we come across the following passage:
ekonasatam bhashyanyanarshani prithvidhara-abhinavagupta-pranitani tatkalam vidyamana-kartrikani chhinnaniti prasiddham.
It appears from the above that Prithvidhara, Abhinavagupta and ninety seven others, had written bhashyas on the Brahmasutra, that the authors were living in the time of Sri Sankaracharya and that those bhashyas were so completely refuted by Sri Sankaracharya that they ceased to gain further currency. In the opinion of the author of Tattvachandrika, Prithvidhara who was the author of one of anarsha bhashyas is more respected than Abhinavgupta; for he mentions his name first in accordance with the Paninisutra ‘abhyarhitam purvam’ which states that a revered person must be referred to first.
While we know of Abhinavagupta as the author of several works on Tantras, nothing is known of Prithvidhara or of his works. The only two references to him that have been traced are in the Catalogues of Aufrecht. In his catalogue2 of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Aufrecht describes a work Dvadasa-mahavakya-vivarana by one Vaikuntha-puri in which the name of Prithvidhara is found among the best of disciples of Sri Sankaracharya. Vaikunthapuri also ascribes to Prithvidhara the foundation of the order of sannyasins in Kaliyuga. The well-known ten orders of the Advaita sannyasins are : (1) tirtha, (2) asrama, (3) vana, (4) aranya, (5) parvata, (6) sagara, (7) sarasvati, (8) giri, (9) bharati and (10) puri. The sannyasins of these orders are the sishyas of Prithvidhara.
Prithvidharacharyah tasyapi sishyah dasa: -
sarasvati-bharati cha puri namani vai dasa.
He is also reported to have written a commentary on Sri Sukta published in Banaras.
From the above it may be inferred that after his bhashya was refuted by Sri Sankaracharya, Sri Prithvidhara like Mandana and others became a disciple of Sri Sankaracharya.
While the other disciple like Suresvara, Padmapada and Hastamalaka wrote Vartikas, Vivaranas and so on to expound the principles of Advaita as established by Sri Sankaracharya, the constitution along with the administration of the Advaita Sannyasins was undertaken by Prithvidhara in whom the great teacher apparently discovered the capacity for organization and all the qualities required to inspire reverence, obedience and faith necessary for the maintenance of disciple.
The other reference to Prithvidhara is found in Aufrecht’s Catalogue3 of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Leipzig University Library. In the course of describing the manuscript gurupadadinamaskara Aufrecht says4 that Anubhutisvarupacharya, Trotaka and Prithvidhara are mentioned in the manuscripts. By the kindness of Prof. Dr. Johs Schubert of the Leipzig University, a micro film copy of the manuscript was obtained. The reference to Prithvidhara in the manuscripts runs thus:

anubhutisvarupacharya – niratrotakacharya
Here too Prithvidhara is stated to have been one of the disciples of Sri Sankaracharya and from the context it appears that Prithvidhara after constituting the ten orders of Advaita sannyasins was himself ordained as the head of the Sringeri Math.
We have to pay homage to Prithvidharacharya who was held in such esteem by Sri Sankaracharya that he was entrusted with the organization and administration of the sannyasins who from his time to this day have so worthily discharged their function by writing works on Advaita and propounding the teaching of Advaita philosophy.
It is also, I think, necessary that further and careful search should be made to find out more about the respected acharya, Sri Prithvidhara and his work especially his bhashya on the Brahmasutra.
Whatever be the fact about Prithvidhara – having been the first head of the Sringeri Mutt, we have a definite and undisputed fact that Prithvidhara was the author of an anarsha bhashya on the Brahma-sutra, that he established the order of Advaita sannyasins and that he was very highly respected. Further research is however necessary especially to trace his bhashya which should have been considered so valuable that he was placed above Abhinavagupta by Umamahesvara when referring to the authors of the anarsha-bhashyas.