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From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Wed Apr 28 1999 - 22:36:36 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

Great philosophers like Sankara bhagavathpAdA or Swami Desikan were 
also great poets. They were known to flavour their poetry with 
philosophy and garnish their philosophy with poetry. If they resorted 
to  metaphor to make a point they did so meaningfully and not merely 
for the sake of poetic form or affectation.

If in Verse#4 of the LNKS and in Verse#10 of the "abeethi-stavam"… 
Sankara and Desikan both chose to use the motif of "fish" and "nets" 
to denote Man's "fear of the senses" they seemed to have not only 
thought of it as poetically elegant but also philosophically 

In the last post … LNKS-9 …the philosophical, or rather Vedantic, 
significance of Sankara's metaphor, "jAla-pati-tasya", was briefly 
dealt with by alluding to the message of Lord Krishna in Ch.3.Verse 34 
("indriyasyEndriyasyArthE …etc….. tau hi asya paripanthinau!"). 

Now we proceed to examine how "jala-pati-tasya" is also an 
exceptionally apt poetic metaphor.

*****         ********        *********

Fish as a species are said by biologists to be about 450,000,000 years 
old. If the biologists are right, then fish have been around in this 
world long, long before Man first set foot on it. (Long before His 
human "avatAra" as Sage Parasurama, the Lord Narayana we know chose to 
descend upon earth first as  "matsya"… fish.)

It is because they are so senior to us on the evolutionary time-scale, 
fish have come to possess highly developed sense-organs…. 
"sarvEndriya-s"… a few of which are far, far superior in design and 
function to our own.

Fish have no eyelids. Hence they know no such thing as "sleep". Now, 
because they do not sleep, fish are known to possess an extremely 
heightened awareness of their surroundings. (Tondar-adi-podi AzhwAr 
who we know lamented that "half a man's lifetime is wasted in sleep"… 
"pAthiyUm-urangi-pOgUm… etc." .. on this score at least, he would have 
been so happy indeed for these little creatures of the water!!)

Because fish have no eyelids (and do not "sleep" in the physiological 
sense in which we normally do) their senses of "sight", "hearing" and 
"touch"… in Sanskrit, "chaksush~Endriyam", "srOtriyEndriyam" and 
"sparshEndriyam"… are all so highly developed indeed that some of them 
can easily accomplish the following which the "sarvEndriyA-s" of no 
member of the so-called "highly evolved" species of 'homo sapiens' can 
ever do:

(a) fish can "see" full 360 degrees around them as against man's 
approximately 100 to 150 degrees of focal and about 30 to 40 degrees 
of peripheral vision. In other words, fish do not have to turn around 
on their heels, as we do, to see behind them. 
(b) their eyes can automatically correct for "light refraction" to 
clearly perceive objects above water-level. 

There is a specie interestingly called "archer-fish". From below 
water-surface it can "fire" or spit out a thin jet of water aimed at 
small insects clinging to overhanging tree-branches above. The little 
"liquid-missile" stuns the insect momentarily. It falls into the 
water. The archer-fish gobbles it up …!

In order to do this the fish does the following: (i) From its position 
under water it first carefully scans its environment above. (ii) Next, 
using its eyes like a high-powered, laser-visioned, under-water lens, 
it "zeroes-in" on an unsuspecting insect; (iii) It corrects its field 
of vision for refraction. (iv) Then it adjusts its aim over the 
refracted distance. (v) Then it shoots its "jet" of water in the right 
quantity, at the right velocity and at the right instant. (vi) After 
the insect has been "shot-down" the fish quickly darts across and 
picks up the prize before any other predator in the water gets to it! 

All this is accomplished in a fraction of a second with military 
precision and ruthlessness.

(c) Fish can "see" even in extremely turbid water. 

If you have taken a dip in the "teppangkoLLam" (water-tank) of some 
village-temple in India you will have noticed how turbid and murky its 
waters are because of the numerous uses to which people put it. And 
yet no sooner than you have stepped down a few feet into the tank and 
descended into the dark waters, you will see your feet being besieged 
by swarms of little fish eager to nibble at your  "tiruvadi" … your 
heels and toe-nails!

I had the same experience some months ago when I visited Tiruvellore … 
to offer worship to Lord Veeraraghava perumAl there… I stepped into 
the temple-tank there and immediately felt the fish gnawing my feet. 
It made me really wonder how the fish could "see" my "tiruvadi" 
through all that turbid water? 
(It also made me momentarily pause and wish silently: "How wonderful 
if, like fish, I too were enabled to "see" through the turbidity of 
this world ("samsAra") and with the aid of some special sense-organ 
such as theirs, Veeraraghavan's "tiruvadi" were revealed to me as 
easily as mine own had been to these creatures!".)

(d) Fish have extraordinary "sense of hearing"… "srOtriyEndriyam".  
They can pick up sound frequencies and over geographical distances 
that no human can ever imagine would be possible. In the deep Pacific, 
fish are known to pick up mating-calls across 1000s of kms from 
another part of the ocean and follow their low-frequency sounds to 
unerringly locate the mate's whereabouts. Fish need neither wireless 
nor radar to navigate halfway across the world's oceans. Even today 
scientists have not fathomed how fish do it. It is only hypothesis 
that these creatures use some kind of celestial navigation system.   

(e) The "sparshEndriyam"… the sense of touch… of fish too is amazing. 
Below their fins and scales they are endowed with super-sensitive 
cell-sensors that enable them to adapt instantly to changes in water 
current, pressure, temperature and salinity.

********         ********          **********

Dear bhAgavatOttma-s, we are discussing the 
"lakshmi-nsrimha-karAvalamba-stOtram" and not ichthyology. Perhaps, 
you are all wondering what on earth the foregoing recital of various 
sensory abilities of fish has got to do with Verse#4 of the LNKS and 
Sankara's phrase "jala-pati-tasya"! 

Maybe it will become clear in the next post.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

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