What’s in the name?

It was one such day when you have nothing to do. A day for which everyone craves and when it finally arrives, we understand how better it is to be involved in some work. After an unsuccessful attempt at burning daylight with my cell phone, I ended up on the couch flicking through the channels of the TV. With nothing eye-catching in the sports section and my limited tastes for movies, the Discovery and the National Geographic were the only rescue. At the end of an hour long documentary on the lives of tigers, I had a ridiculous question in my mind. “Why are tigers called tigers?” Although the question was as lame as one can be, the answer definitely wasn’t.

My findings were quite startling. I found that the word tiger actually originated from an old Iranian word ‘tigra’ meaning ‘sharp’ or ‘pointed’ which is used as the Persian counterpart of the English word ‘arrow’. Tigers are extremely swift for short distances which they employ efficiently for their kills. This sudden burst of speed for their kills; just like that of an arrow is what connects them to the old Persian root and gets them their modern English name.

The day no longer was the same. It was extremely fascinating to know how the big cat was named. With over a few million species on the planet, I just had sufficient of them to explore the rest of my life. It was turning out to be an interesting activity. When I felt that I was done with every possible creature visible within the circumference, I decided to concentrate on the centre. Why am I called Rishikesh? This time around, the answer was as lame as the question- Because my parents decided to call me so. This was going to be the most interesting findings of them all.

Etymologically, the word ‘Rishikesh’ derives from its Sanskrit root ‘Hrisheekesh’ which means ‘Lord of one’s senses’. It has direct references to Lord Krishna who is always a master of his senses irrespective of the surroundings and circumstances. Senses like touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. “Well I am definitely a master of my senses!” I exclaimed. “Or am I not? I have to be. After all I control them. Or is it the other way around on occasions?” A proper understanding of the entire issue thus becomes very crucial.

I find great parallelism between the concept of ‘Hrisheekesh’ and few verses of the 11th chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam wherein Krishna goes on to describe the 24 gurus.

The elephant which is one of the gurus contributes greatly to understand the entire concept. The elephant as we know is the largest creature on land. Despite this, a human is able to exploit it to his benefit because of a single weakness – the sensation of touch. In order to hunt elephants for domestication, hunters use a cunning strategy. They employ trained female elephants to lure the tusked giant by her body into a nearby ditch prepared to trap him. Mesmerised by the female touch, the elephant loses his control and he falls into the ditch. It is a classic example of how dangerous the situation can be when an individual is driven by his senses and not the other way around.

If touch happens to be the elephant’s weakness, sound is for the deer. Deer are immobilized by melodious music. Hunters in olden ages used to play the flute to attract the deer to their vicinity. Unaware of the danger along with a strong urge to enjoy the music, the deer has a bad ending. Similar is the case with a fish for whom, the taste of the bait tangled in the fishing hook is irresistible. It is ironic how the inability to control your taste buds could lead you to please someone else’s.

We humans consider ourselves to be the most complex of organisms on the planet. Such a consideration is mainly because of our ability to think. Although this claim is more related to mental supremacy, we do not fall back even in the physical aspect. One of the main reasons for such claims is the fact that all our systems and organs are highly developed unlike other creatures. The bat has a great sense of hearing but lacks in visions. The eagle has unmatched eyesight but lacks in the other senses.

Humans boast of having equally well developed senses. This claim makes me think – ‘If creatures like the elephant, fish and deer have  horrifying endings because of an over affiliation towards one sense, how dangerous a life is a human being living who has all the senses well developed, intact and more importantly each having their own pleasures to be satisfied’. Hence, the concept of ‘Hrisheekesh’; having mastery over ones senses becomes extremely crucial.

The ones who fall prey to their senses experience misery and get tangled in the spiral of pseudo pleasures gained through the fulfilment of sensory affiliations. The greatest hindrance in getting out of such a tangle is the fact that an individual gaining such temporary pleasures is unable to identify the underlying greater problems as he is mesmerized by the lower pleasures he gains.

Everyone is aware about the message carried by Gandhiji’s three wise monkeys- ‘See no evil’, ‘Hear no evil’ and ‘Speak no evil’. Although this concept of the wise monkeys carries a great philosophy in itself, in light of the aforementioned discussion, I am able to find the supreme level of ‘Hrisheekesh’ in it. When can someone see, hear and speak no evil? Only when he has supreme mastery over his senses. Not to forget mentioning that it doesn’t mean one should ignore or overlook matters of concern.

Mastery of one’s senses in its true sense would thus mean to employ ones senses to identify, analyse, understand and imbibe the most appropriate facts so as to gain knowledge which would enable one to act in the most appropriate manner.

On gaining insights to the magnanimity of the 9 letter word I carry along to describe myself, I actually doubt if it is appropriate to call myself the same. An honest and totally unbiased self introspection gives me several examples wherein I have failed to employ the qualities which my name preaches thereby leaving myself and Rishikesh to be two separate entities and not one.

It is when such a doubt crept in my mind that I returned to square one. I happened to think about Hrisheekesh only because I was named so by my parents. And also when I doubt if it is appropriate to call myself so, since I fail to fully live up to my own name on occasions, I remember that my parents are humble people. It’s not just the name that they gave me; they gave me this birth; this life; the opportunity to live such a great name. In fact, they have given me an opportunity to convert my name from being a noun to an adjective to my individuality.

Just remember one thing. We all have beautiful names. Know your name, love your name, live your name.

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