Sep 17, 2013

Good Critic, Bad Critic

My pathbreaking research has revealed that the Bollywood blockbuster "Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge" ("The possessor of a heart carries away the bride") was named after a mantra from the RigVeda. I know you think I'm a bullshitter, but at least everyone agrees that Bollywood's dons of doggerel are plagiarists. If you don't believe me, I can show you. Its from the RigVeda's Saraswati Suktam:
उत त्वः पश्यन् न ददर्श वाचं , उत त्वः श्रृण्वन् न श्रृणोत्येनम् ।
उतो त्वस्मै तन्वं विसस्रे जायेव पत्य उषति सुवासाः ॥ ऋग्वेदः १०.७१.४ 
"One man looks at the Word, yet he does not see Her; One listens but does not hear Her.
But to another has She shown Her beauty, like a fond well-dressed bride does to her husband."
- RigVeda 10.71.4
The enlightened person, whose ignorant heart has been set alight by knowledge, who becomes an intoxicated bard in pursuance of the Veda, is often called kavi in Sanskrit - a poet. I'm told that this is not your cheap Urdu poetaster, churning out cliched or mawkish rhyme for a bit of notoriety or wallow, but rather someone whose transactions are of a different type, whose fame is of a different frequency.

But the mantra is not about the Poet, it is about the hearer, about ways of listening or reading. Shravanam.

This word "dilwala" is Persian pidgin in north-India. The Sanskrit word is "sahridaya" - "companion or possessor of a heart". I came across this thoughtful editorial in the Sanskrit language Sudharma newspaper of September 11, 2013 - A translation:
कविसहृदयाख्यं तत्त्वम् । The reality of what is called 'Poet' and of the 'Possessor of a sincere, learned heart' 
"The reality of Saraswati (Goddess of Speech, Knowledge) is won by the Poet, and by the Possessor of a heart", said Abhinavagupta. "Those who, by constant practice and devotion to the poetry acquire the ability to identify and become part of (something) in the clear, illustrative imagination of the heart's mirror, they become participants in the relationships of the heart and are possessors of the heart," said he. In the hands lies creativity, so also in the possession of a heart lies the ability for bliss. But its not as if all who read poetry or all who watch theater are knowers of the poet's heart. Only some have that ability. Thus it is heard: 
"One man looks at the Word, yet he does not see Her;
One listens but does not hear Her." 
In the world, as poets are rare, so also are possessors of hearts. Just like poetic talent, the ability for critique and reflection is also obtained only by the Grace of God. By the ability for critique and reflection, the possessor of a heart knows the inner state of the poet, and discovers new meanings, too. What the sun doesn't see, that the poet sees; and what even the poet doesn't see, that the reflective critic sees. But some critics turn into academic commentators. They only seek the faults in the poet. Where the meaning is complex, there they say it is obvious and literal and cast it away. Where the meaning is clear they re-describe it in complex ways. They increase the readers' perplexity. In this way, many an interpreter has perverted reality. They aren't possessors of hearts. Only he is a possessor of a heart who sets aside envy and emulation and reads poetry for the joy of poetry. The reality of Saraswati is in, both, the poet and the possessor of a heart. If there were no possessors of hearts, then the poet's work is wasted. If there was no poet, then the possessors of hearts would have no bliss. May both increase!
So the devoted practice and duplication is not blind admiration, says the editor; it is a sympathetic, reflective critique.

Secondly, this line was intriguing: "What the sun doesn't see, that the poet sees; and what even the poet doesn't see, that the reflective critic sees." It reminded me of a verse famous in the Mahabharata:
अष्टौ श्लोकसहस्राणि अष्टौ श्लोकशतानि च
अहं वेद्मि शुको वेत्ति सञ्जयो वेत्ति वा न वा 
"Eight thousand and eight hundred verses there are,
That I know and Shuka knows but Sanjaya (the author) may or may not know." 
      -Mahabharata, Adi Parva 1.81
Around this verse is built the theory of the "Hidden Bharata", one that isn't available in the popular epic's text. Now if I were an Idiot, or a clever Nazi or colonial Western Indologist, or a traditionalist upper caste Hindu clansman, I might go digging for the relics of this 8800 verse Holy Grail in Tibet or Turkey, or deep in the family archives of a particular caste-collective. Nothing wrong with that, of course - after all, "What one has not yet learned to use, one must first learn to waste", be it time, money, energy or intelligence. But this Hidden Bharata seems to have been pursued more as an idea by those Hindu spiritual leaders who worked with the fundamentals. For example, one finds an echo of it in the texts of Bengal Vaishnavism, where Lord Shiva says:
अहं वेद्मि शुको वेत्ति
व्यासो वेत्ति न वेत्ति वा ।
भक्त्या भागवतं ग्राह्यं
न बुद्ध्या न च टीकया ॥ 
"[Lord Śiva said:] 'I may know; Śuka may know; and Vyāsa may or may not know the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. For the spotless Purāṇa can be grasped only through devotional service, not by material intelligence, mental speculation or philological commentaries.'"       
                   - Chaitanya Charitamrta, Madhya, 24.313 
If "dilwala" is pidgin, the above tried to address the Indian side, the sahridaya. The Persian equivalent would be saheb e delaan. Its a phrase that is found in Persian mysticism going back to Zoroastrian and Mithraic times, they say. And so is the word khudaa, which means Self-evident (khud aashkaar) according to the mystics. Some of its best expression is in the poetry of Hafez:
دل می‌ رود ز دستم صاحب دلان خدا را
دردا که راز پنهان خواهد شد آشکارا 
"My heart is slipping out of my hands, O possessors of hearts, for Self-evidence's sake!
Alas, the hidden secret will become manifest!"
As the editor said, "In the hands lies creativity, so also in the possession of a heart lies the ability for bliss." Here, our man is moving beyond creativity and 'doing' (service), towards an encounter that the possessor of a heart is entitled to. (Conversely, in a condition of confusion and disorientation, "dil pey mat ley, haath mein ley!").

Control + Duplication = Communication;
Control + Communication = Having [ref. Be Do Have: Creativity, Faith, Works and Witnessing]

Its probably better to draw close to the original Veda before one spends time on academic interpretations and the theories of linguists, archaeologists and other "researchers" who have little identification with the Veda, or instead have an attitude of envy, usurpation or malice towards Vedic civilization or India. In other words, if they haven't paid their dues at the altar of the Veda and Vedanga, duplicating its practice as per its own clear native specifications, then their theories and critiques are worth nothing - or more harmful than useful.

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