in post

Look to this day

(from a friend in India)

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
lie all the varieties and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendour of beauty.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision.
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness.
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day!


Response to my friend who sent this:

A beautiful poem, which I hadn't seen before, so I have looked now for the source of it. It seems that, like the Vedas themselves, no one can give its origin. According to a certain Don Davis, a professor in the dept. of Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of Michigan, such a poem is mentioned 'in Harvey Cushing's The Life of Sir William Osler (London:Oxford University Press; 1940): 1041, indicating the poem was inscribed in a copy of Osler's 1913 Silliman Foundation address, with his note indicating he didn't know who wrote it. Cushing, in a footnote, comments: "Said to be from the Sanskrit, the poem was published, as an inserted frontispiece, in 'Words in Pain', Lond., G.M. Bishop, 1919."' (

There have been attempts to do a reverse translation of it back into Sanskrit, q.v.

My only conclusion is that, like the Veda and all the other scriptures, it must have come down from God and been transcribed by a Risshi.

Meanwhile in our Holy Land, it is Spring. I have attached some pictures of wild mustard, wild chrysanthemum and anemones, taken on my afternoon walk with the dog. The ruins are of a nearby Hellenistic site, left exposed after an archaeological dig. Yesterday may be "but a dream", but around here there is hard evidence of so many past civilisations that have followed one after another, layer upon layer, with the obvious message to us that our own civilisation is bound to suffer the same destiny.

Some young person perhaps, with a stronger than average literary penchant, by today's standards, has scrawled on the underpass of the highway through which we pass to get to our village: "CARPE DIEM" (seize the day). The only question is in what way it should be seized.

Now is the time of carnivals, for my grand daughters in Italy, as well as of Holi and Purim. This week in our hotel we had an Azerbaijani group who celebrated one of four occasions, one for each element, that lead up to the March 21 holiday of Now Ruz. The Jewish holiday of Purim, which is celebrated with fancy costumes and much inebriation, is said to owe its origins to the Jewish community in Persia, where the story of the Book of Esther, upon which the holiday is based, takes place. It's thought that many of the motifs of the holiday are based on Zoroastrian customs associated with Now Ruz. It's very interesting that all of these Spring holidays have similar traditions, in Europe going back to Bacchanal or Dionysian rites from which the Carpe Diem idea of course comes.

Otherwise, the Book of Esther (on which Purim is based) is one of only two books in the Jewish Bible that never once mention God - the other being the erotic bhakti poem "The Song of Songs". Esther itself comes from the Hebrew root for "Hidden", so it is thought that despite all the revelry the book has a mystical intent. But isn't it always this way? Omar Khayyam singing about wine and

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly---and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

Indeed the Salutation to the Dawn would fit very nicely into the Rubaiyat.

So Carpe Diem and Carpe Noktum! Out of all the varieties and realities of our existence, the sage, I think chooses those that suggest the eternal. My teacher Swami Vishnu Devananda used to laugh and snap his fingers; and he would say that with every snap of his fingers a person dies. "Every day is one day closer to death," he would say, "But for the Yogi, he is one day closer to immortality". Swami Vishnu had a great belly roll of a laugh that was utterly infectious. But I think he wanted to die. At every opportunity he would say that he simply wants to burn his karma as quickly as possible. Eventually he hastened his death by living through winter in a cave above Uttar Kashi, returning with frost bite. So he passed on fairly young, and I hope he found joy, the life of his life.

I wish you a happy Now Ruz, if you remember it at the same time as Iranians and Azerbaijanis, and if not so later. My birthday, this month was once the first day of the year before the Gregorian calendar came into effect; and the Jews formerly celebrated their new year in the Spring; so once everyone was in line with the Hindus. Spring; a time of renewal and growth.