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In this article, Swami Veda Bharati tells how the use of the word "please" can helps one's spiritual advancement.


"Please!" is one of the commonest expression in English language. The word is used to mean (a) a request, or (b) response to a thanks. In the (a), it means "(Please do, if it pleases you". In (b) it means “ no need to thank me; let this please you as it has pleased me to do for you.

Different European languages use similar word, for example, the French "s'iI vous plait" meaning, "(Do this) if it please you". Here, in English translation of the French, "please" is in subjunctive mood.

The word please cognate to the Sanskrit verb root pri (pronounced pree), which has a dual meaning of pleasing and loving; for, nothing pleases like love. It also when one loves that (a) on does pleasing things for others, and (b) accepts the favors done by others as pleasure. Hence the word for love, derived from the same verb is preman (nom.sing. prema), a state of pleasure. Some one beloved is priya, also derived from pri (pree); something pleasant is also priya. All this  ancient information is concentrated in the English word "please" or the French "plait".

Here we are not aiming to analyze all the European expressions for "please". Not "por favor", not "per favore", nor the Dutch "als't U beliefd".These expressions are derived from other backgrounds. We are looking only for 
the spiritual content of some of the expressions, to lead us to a sublime conclusion.

The German "bitte" for "please" is a derivative of "I bid thee", a form of prayer. It has the same meaning as the Shakespearean "Prithee", I pray to thee. This "prithee" for "please" is not cognate to "please" but to pray, same as German "bitte", related to bidden, to pray. It goes back to the Indo-Aryan habit of thought according to which you give the same honor to the divinity in the human being as to the divinity in His Incarnation or to the Absolute One. "I pray to thee", "prithee" is addressed by Shakespeare  to Human beings.  As the habit of prayer has been dropped, and the unity of divinity in the human and the Supreme has been forgotten, we no longer pray to human beings with "prithee", we only do favors out of the pleasure of human love, this pleasure and love both inherent in the original Indo- European origins of the expression.  Lost in English, the "prayer" survives in German.  Not quite lost in English, though; it remains alive in  the former of "prayer" to a judge in the courtroom.

"Bitte" reminds us of its other cognate "to bid" as in an auction. There also, it is probably sort of "requesting" "praying" that what one is offering may be accepted. Imagine everyone during a  Sotheby's auction entering into a state of prayer !! But that is what "to bid" means. The same verb is thought to be related to "bead", and it appears then that "prayer bead" is redundant expression : it means the "bead" "the seed like something for prayer" that is to be employed for prayer, to make it a prayer bead – double emphasis, lest we forget !! Is it possible that this bead  is actually "bija" the seed word of a mantra used as a repeated prayer ? 

"Bitte", I pray, prithee, please, s'il vou plait – all expressions of pleasure in love and in prayer. But the Italian does not "pray" for favors. But when someone expresses thanks, gratification in grace, gracias, the reply is "prego" , I pray; not "piace me", it pleases me. The Germans howe ver pray for favors by saying bitte, please, and respond to thanks also by saying "I pray", bitte.

So in one form or another, a prayer is inherent in the basic exchange of civility expressed by various words, and the pleasure of love, divine and human.

In Sanskrit, however, the words used have a slightly different dimension. "priniyat" (pronounced preeneeyaat) means may s/he be pleased, prinatu (prrenaatu), may you(r honor) be pleased. But it also implies  may you(r honor) thereby love me). This can be used towards a human or a divine being. So, also "pra-sidatu"(pra-seedatu). As in 

    pra-sidatu maharajah : may your royal highness be pleased, and 
    devah pra-sidatu : may God be pleased.

This, pra-sidatu, is a peculiar expression derived from the prefix pra and verb root sad > sid (seed), to sit.  If we separate the meaning of the prefix and the verb, it would mean "to sit forth".  This thought does not seem to have a connection with pleasing, or loving, or praying or bidding. But the Sanskrit grammarians have decreed:

    upa-sargena dhatv-artho balad anyatra niyate 
    (upa-sargena dhaatv-artho balaad anyatra neeyate)

A prefix perforce carries the meaning of verb elsewhere,

So that the separate meanings of a a verb and the prefix is completely lost, and a completely new compound meaning emerges. As mercuric sulfide is neither mercury nor sulfur, but a compound with entirely different effect. So also, pra-sad (pra-seed) is neither "pra". Forth, nor "sad" "to sit", but to please, to be pleased, to be in a pleasant state.

But, looking at it differently , the separate meaning of the prefix and the verb may not have been lost completely. Pra-sannam vari (vaari) is not pleased water although "pra-sannam manah" is a pleased mind.  Prasannam vaari is clear water which is thereby looking pleasant. Then it must mean that water that has settled, or the one in which all dust and debris has settled. This reminds us of the Buddha and Ananda story. Then pra-sanna is settled, that which has "sat forth", has "settled down". By analogy, then the "pra-sannam manah" a pleased mind, a mind in a pleasant state is the mind that has settled down, has become clear. This analogy and the analogous are reversed in a verse of Valmiki's Ramayana where, in the Aranya-kanda, Rama showing a clear stream to Sita says "Look at the prasanna stream, like the mind of a noble person".

Based on  such a unity of the analogy and the analogous, practices of the means to be employed to stabilize the mind (sthiti-ni-bandhana) are referred to as chitta-pra-sadana , that which makes mind clear, settled, pleasant (YS .I.33).   And what are the practices that make the mind so? Four, such as amity (maitri) (Pali, metta) and compassion (karuna) and so forth.

In asking for a favor we invoke the other person's compassion, as in a prayer to God, so that his mind may be pleased to grant us our request, our bidding, our prayer, and if we thank him he gives us the response "prego", I pray; this my act is also an act of prayer.  Thus prayer becomes n intrinsic part of our communication which is not reduced to a mere politeness and civility. It is in the same category as a telling the beads of a rosary, the prayer beads.  Hence. in eastern countries, this "please" in all its alternative expressions, is said with hands joined as in a  prayer.

Well,  not in all the eastern countries but in the countries of Hindu-Buddhist civilization. India, Southeast Asia, China, although the Chinese sounds are not cognate to the Sanskrit sounds. 

Talking of Sanskrit sounds, it is interesting to note that different countries of Asia have chosen different Sanskrit synonyms for "please".  In India, people have abandoned the ancient Sanskrit expressions like "prinatu" and "pra-sidatu" for "please", even though the "prema" remains as the common expression for love, and anyone pleased is still "pra-sanna"in all the North Indian languages. The common expression for "please", of recent usage, is "krpaya" (instrumental singular of krpa, kindness), out of kindness.  Simhala (of Shri Lanka) and Thai use Sanskrit karuna, compassion.  The Thai airline stewardess request you to tie your seat belts out of "karuna". Malay, used in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore uses  completely unrelated Sanskrit word "sila", a derivative of "shila" which otherwise means virtue. 

Let us look at these words. The word krpa, according to the lexicons has the same meaning as karuna (compassion) or anu-kampa (empathy, sympathy, lit. to tremble with someone). The encyclopedic lexicon, Vachaspatya defines it as

    Anu-graha-icchayam praty-upa-karanapekshaya
    Para-duhkha-harana-icchayam,

With a desire to do a favor (anu-graha), without expectation of a benevolence in return, the wish to remove the pain or discomfort of the other.

Karuna is shown as a synonym of krpa. But in Sanskrit usage, krpa is an act of grace, karuna is compassion. 

Shila is derived from two verbs

(1) Shila, meaning samadhi. Samadhi can mean the state of highest meditation, but it also means reconciling of any opposites, merging of conflicting forces, or in social usage, 

Someone walking must slip somewhere and fall, it is inevitable; The low-minded laugh, but (sam-a-dadhati sajjanah) the noble ones Help reconcile). 

The prefix and the verb used here, sam-a-dha, means to solve, to bring together, German samen-platzen, to place together. This is shila, this virtue, this is the prerequisite for as well as the state of samadhi.

(2) Shi, to sleep, to rest. That in which all come to take rest. By implication, there can be no rest in society, community, family, and in communication without virtue.

In Southeast Asian countries, the word was introduced with Buddhism. The five basic vows in Buddhism are called pancha-shila. On the basis of that the five principles of polity adopted by the Indonesian nation are also pancha-shila. And the Bandung Conference, the first conference of the non-aligned nations  adopted also the doctrine of pancha-shila, five virtues, to govern the relationships among the non-aligned nations, and to this day the leaders of Asian nations, including Communist China, invoke this doctrine of Asian international law. And the Public Works Department in Borneo (Malaysian and Indonesian) invokes the sense of virtue of the car drivers, shila (please), to slow down where road repairs are going on.

So, now, shall we take all these inherent meanings of the synonyms of "please" and paraphrase it as a philosophy guiding our communication, exchanges of favors and gifts, and so forth, as follows :

I wish to please you because I love you. I ask you for a favor because I love you and trust your love for me. As I invoke the grace of God in my prayers as I turn the beads of my rosary, so do I invoke the grace of the divinity in you, without which grace no love would exist between us, nor would it be granted or exchanged. I accept in silence your statement that in doing me this favor out of compassion you are only doing an act of prayer. I know you have an intrinsic quality of compassion. You tremble when I tremble. You do this act without expectations of  anything in return. Such is your virtue arising out of the clarity of your mind, the settled state of your mind, the pleasantness of your mind that comes only by the practice of such virtues. You would not be so loving and kind if you had not practiced such virtues. Without such pleasantness of mind, without such unselfish  kindness, without such virtue we would all be restless, would have no place to find rest. Even when I slip and fall, you offer solace and reconciliation. May such virtue lead us into reconciling all conflicts of our minds, merging all opposites, leading us finally to our ultimate goal of the highest meditative state, the samadhi. May it be so for us, I pray to the divinity in you, please !!