Sunday, March 20, 2011

Da Da Da.......Said The Thunder

DA, DA, DA—What The Thunder Said.

In the fifth chapter of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad there is an interesting episode which deals with three cardinal virtues. These virtues are represented by the syllable “Da’ which is repeated three times and in doing so it reminds one of the bursting noise of the thunder. This is how the story goes:

Once upon a time the gods, men and demons, after having completed their tutelage under Prajapathi Brahma, approached their preceptor for a parting advice. To the gods, Prajapathi communicated the syllable “Da” and asked them if they had understood what he meant. The gods told Him that by the syllable “Da’ they understood it to mean
‘Daamyata’-.that is, they should exercise self-control. Prajapathi was satisfied. To the men also, he gave the same syllable ‘Da’ as parting advice. The men replied that they understood the syllable to mean ‘Datta’—that is, they should practice charity. Prajapathi was satisfied. When the same syllable ’Da’ was given to the demons, they understood it to mean ‘Dayadhvam’—that is, that they should practice compassion. Prajapathi was satisfied.

Even though Prajapathi imparted the same instruction, the import of the instruction was understood differently by the three categories of disciples according to their capacity to understand and judge what was right for them. Gods are generally addicted to luxury and pleasure. In heaven they remain indulged in various types of enjoyment. There they have voluptuous and beautiful heavenly nymphs like Tilottama, Urvashi, Menaka, Rambha etc with exceptional gifts in music, dance. They can also enjoy various types of food delicacies and intoxicating drinks all the time. They have no worry either about the present or about the future. That is why Prajapathi advised them to be self-restrained and keep their sense- organs under control.

Human beings are selfish by nature and they are least bothered about their neighbors. They want all comforts and all happiness to themselves, sometimes even at the cost of others. To achieve this they go to any extent and practice any misdeed. Because of this Prajapathi advised them to be kind, considerate and sympathetic to others and share their good fortunes with them.

Demons are generally malevolent, hard-hearted and cruel by nature. They find pleasure in harming others and destroying them. They have neither compassion nor affection. Therefore Prajapathi advised them to be compassionate and kind-hearted.

Acharya Shankara in his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad makes the significant comment that the message which Prajapathi gave—Datta, Daamyata and Dayadhvam- all these instructions apply in toto to human beings, since the qualities of gods and demons are also found in human beings, apart from their own qualities. It is not the appearance that makes one god, man or demon but it is their nature that counts. So the world is full of gods, men and demons. Those who are good-natured are gods, others who are greedy and selfish are humans and those who are cruel and destructive are demons. When the celestial voice, the Thunder, repeats ‘Da, Da, Da,’ it intends to communicate and remind man of the three different sets of virtues namely Self-Control, Charity and Compassion so that he should not lose sight of them but continuously practice them. To those, who like gods, occupy an elevated position in society, the divine voice says “Be self-controlled, for, otherwise, out of your elation you might do acts of unkindness:.
To those who are in the position of men, equals among equals, the divine voice says “Be charitable and love your fellowmen”. To those who, like demons, have the capacity to harm others, the divine voice says “Be kind to those with whom you would be otherwise cruel”

When T.S.Eliot [1888-1965], the famous English poet, published his poem ;”The Waste Land’ in 1922, there was a stir in literary circles both in the East as well as in the West. He concluded his revolutionary poem with a section captioned “What the Thunder Said” and included in it the three words Daamyata, Datta and Dayadhvam. from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. He also repeated the Shanti Mantra three times at the end.
Though Western critics found most of the passages in the poem obscure and charged the poet with making an incoherent collection of phrases and quotations, many in India were struck with the relevance of the quotations from the Upanishad in a poem lamenting the decay of modern civilization. It seemed to conform to Arnold Toynbee’s view that the East would show the way for the redemption of the world when the West failed to do so.

B.M.N. Murthy

ARTICLE No. 373---Da, Da, Da---What the Thunder Said
Created: Friday, June 1, 2007


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