The Muse

The sheer variety of symbols and artefacts in use across the ages and geographies does not necessarily point to a multitude of assumptions and values from which they spring. The study of mythology and folklore then, is a reverse approach to anthropology. This blog is dedicated to my favourite symbols, tales and artefacts - both ancient and contemporary.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's only words... Part II - वान्ग्मयम तपः

Words are constituted of two parts - the phonetic, or sound, and the intrinsic meaning. The phonetic part is manifest- it can be heard, recorded in writing/audio, and reproduced. The meaning is unmanifest- it can only be perceived or understood.

One ancient school of thought described God the same way. Divinity was expressed in the manifest form as Creation, and as the Unmanifest form that was the Spirit or Paramatma or whatever one might call it. In fact, so strong was their concept of duality, that their official language had a singular, plural and dual form.

Seeing this similarity in between the nature of God and words, they held words sacred, and professed that  the art of good speech was tantamount to penance - वान्ग्मयम तपः

The school of thought is of course the Shaktha/Shaiva school, whose credo is:
वागर्थविद सम्वृत्तौ, वागर्थः प्रतिपत्तये |
जगतः पितरौ वन्दे, पार्वती परमेश्वरौ ||

Salutations to the parents of all Creation, Parvati and Parameshvara, who are inseparable, just like the sound and the meaning (of a word) are inseparable.

Divinity theories aside, there's no denying that words are powerful tools in the aid of mankind. Wielding them skilfully requires true penance. But using them well is penance too.

Long before Socrates' triple test, our scriptures defined that anything to be said must satisfy three criteria: सत्यम्, प्रियम्, हितम् - It should be true, it should sound good and it should be well intended. Such speech is truly an offering to God, and pleases all who hear it, and never fails to fulfil it's intentions.

So with the best of intents, I pray that this Deepavali, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, bless us with the power to win over the recruiters with our words (and deeds, but mostly words).

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