Wisdom from the son of Armenia.
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- The Prince, the Princess and the lusty guru
- Your desires overstep your sense of honor
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- The errors of the fool are lessons for the wise
- If you cut off the tail of the dog, it doesn’t become an innocent lamb
- The poor who wait for the gifts of the rich, will lose the little they have
- Riches for the rich and an asses’ tail for the poor
- Patience and wisdom are destroyed by sorrow
kohrdzeen uhssgeezpeen ou vakhjahneen naihyehtzehk
yehrgou mardt noueen kohrdz guhnehn, paiytz noueen kohrdzuh cheh
All things are not equal and all workers are not equal. This saying recognizes that among people that work, there are different degrees of excellence in their work performance.
kahruh nehdtetz, tehvuh hohnehtzahv?
This saying is used to indicate that inexperienced (or ignorant) people do not appreciate the value of hard work. The irony of saying, “After throwing a rock, he says his arm hurts.” implies the person is lazy. By doing such a small effort, it seems improbable that his arm hurts. Therefore, the person lacks a good work ethic and does not understand the effort required to perform a task successfully.
ahbahkayit hahmahr ahskhahdeh, ahbah dehs eench pakhduht guh pehreh
kohrdzuh lourch ahskahdelohv vehrcha-tzuhnehss neh, oughdeen bohcheen nuhmahn eh, yehrpek chee yehrgahrnahr
The easiest way to finish a task is to work hard and to complete it expeditiously. Not concentrating to finish a task and not mustering the willpower to work hard to do it will only prolong the endeavor and waste time.
ashkhadankuh kheghestzgahnoum eh marhtuh – hard work makes a person beautiful
This proverb was part of the work ethic wisdom made popular by communism. The government wanted to encourage the people to work hard. It glorified the factory or farm worker that toiled to make the communist state a shining success.
The Armenian penchant for banter and irony soon responded to the communist ethic with the following.
yeteh ashkhadankuh mahrtoun guh kheghetzguhneh, ourehmuhn ehs-sehkuh ahmenen kheghehtzeekn eh vohrovhedehv pohlor ohruh ehsou bes guh kohrdzeh – if hard work makes you beautiful, then the donkey must be the most beautiful being because it works hard all day like an ass.
The sarcasm of unequal remuneration is also echoed in another Armenian proverb.
hahst ou pahrag noueen kin, vahyee anor vohr pahrag guh puhrteh
(if they pay) the same wage for gross (mediocre) work and fine detailed work, then too bad for the worker that produces fine detailed work.
Due to the lack of incentives such as accumulation of personal proprietorship and entrepreneurship in the communist state, the workers eventually maintained a low level of productivity. This was further complicated by corruption and pilfering of state assets and a black economy. No wonder the Soviet Union collapsed economically after nearly eighty years.
sehruh guh lahtzuhneh (ahrtzounk), tzahvuh guh khosatzuhneh
kohdz uhrahv, tahdahrg nuhsdahv
Tzeehn hehdzneh ahstuhvahdz guh mohrnah, tzeehn eechnah tzeehn guh mohrnah
A family of poor farmers were blessed to have a baby boy. They had prayed together for three years to have such a blessing. God graced them with a wonderful child. The boy unexpectedly died while asleep in his crib. Early the next morning, the mother and father discovered the dead boy. They were overwhelmed with grief. They carried the child’s body to a field where the dead were buried. They sat together looking at the lifeless boy and cried their eyes out.
A vulture that lived nearby approached them and said, “Everyone in this world has a share of happiness and distress. You should not consider your grief as unique. All of us are born with a mixed destiny that is a result of the choices and activities of our previous lives. We suffer or enjoy today due to our actions in past lives. There is not much we can do to change that. Man is the architect of his destiny. But, we can act now to secure and improve our future. What we do now determines who we will be in the future life. Don’t waste a minute lamenting for the dead. You cannot bring your dead child back to life. The child’s destiny was to die today. You cannot change it. Leave the child for burial and go home to work for a brighter future. Learn to forbear your present and future in this life. But, act in such a way as to construct a better destiny for your next life. No one can restore life for one who has died. Go home now and renounce your love for this dead child that you only knew for a very short time.”
The grief of the poor couple abated with the sobering words of the vulture. They heeded the advice and left the child’s dead body in the field. As they walked toward their cottage a jackal appeared and began to speak.
“God is all merciful. You are a poor family with an only son. Alas, he has died unexpectedly. Your love for him has no bounds. Stay with him and grieve. The tears of love will fall on the earth and purify it. God will hear your sincere pleas to bring him back to life. The sun is shining brilliantly and can heal even the worst of illnesses. Pray to God for mercy. Pray under the light of the healing sun. Your child may regain his life. The power of faith and prayer can move God to spare your child from cold death. God hears the prayers of His faithful servants.”
The jackal’s words touched the hearts of the parents and gave them new hope to renew their faith and offer prayers for the child’s recovery from death by the intervention of a miracle from God.
As the couple walked back to the burial ground, the vulture appeared again and spoke.
“Why are you listening to this treacherous jackal. Learned persons with spiritual knowledge lament neither for the living or the dead. They know that the temporary body is destined to die, but the soul lives forever. Therefore, we should preoccupy ourselves during life to doing work for the benefit of God and all beings. Such meritorious work will help us to always remember God in our daily lives. We purify our life and thought by pious activities. We should live in such a way as to minimize our material needs and maximize our unselfish service to God. Go home now and engage in acts of goodness. At the same time, in your personal life, perform acts of penance because by voluntary self sacrifice one can attain all desirable things in life and at the time of death remember God. We suffer or enjoy because of our own actions either good or bad. We are all subject to the laws of karma that reward or punish us. Concentrate now on making a bright future by your present acts. Don’t waste a moment here lamenting.”
As the couple turned to leave, the jackal spoke up with passion. “How can you leave your beloved son when hope is not exhausted? God can reverse the destiny of anyone. His mercy and will are all powerful. Put your faith entirely in God and pray for His mercy. He can work a miracle by His will.”
The vulture spoke again. “Don’t be misled by that dull-witted jackal! He has a hidden purpose behind his innocent sounding words. For all my years, I have never seen a person revive from death. Our lifespan is determined before our birth in this world by higher authorities such as the superintendent of death. You can not do anything to bring this child back to life. But you can act effectively to work for your salvation while you have heat and breathe in your bodies. This child’s fate is sealed but yours is still to be determined by your works.”
The mother and father became convinced by the words of the vulture and turned to leave.
The jackal spoke loud and clear again. “The vulture is purposely trying to dishearten you about the possibility of a miraculous revival of your son through faith and prayer. Don’t be fooled by him. Faith can move mountains. Faith in God is the foundation of holy life. Your love for your son and your faith in God should go hand in hand. Didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus back from the dead? Jesus is the one who gives life. We must put our faith in God’s love, even in the midst of adversity that we must endure by our sincere prayers and patience. Lord Krishna saved his friend Arjuna from certain death by helping him bring back from the dead the eight sons of the brahmana-priest. Never forsake your faith and hope in the mercy of God.”
The mother held her dead child in her arms and prayed with ardent tears along with her husband. The jackal and the vulture continued expressing their contrary points of view. They both based their statements on scripture. The vulture resorted to trying to scare the parents by talking of the wild, carnivorous beasts that would infest the burial ground after the fall of darkness to feast on any dead bodies not yet buried.
God heard the sincere prayers of the frightened mother and father. He took pity on them by bringing their son back from the dead and blessing him with long life. The parents were thrilled to see their boy open his eyes. They praised God and hurriedly left the burial ground.
The jackal was one of the carnivorous beasts who wanted to feast on the boy’s dead body after sunset. With the darkness of night the vulture would be obliged to leave. But as long as there was light, the vulture could feast on the dead body if the parents left. Both the vulture and the jackal were disappointed when the boy came back to life. They both spoke truthful words backed by scripture but for attaining their selfish purpose of eating the dead body of the boy. Sometimes good counsel is given with selfish motives. How can we know who is genuine and who is false?
It is said that the “The devil can cite scripture for his own purpose! An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek.” (Shakespeare) But there must be a way to know if someone is speaking the truth for a vested interest rather than the pure purpose of helping others? There is a Vedic aphorism that says, phalena paricyate – judge from the result. This is a full proof method but if we wait for the result the damage will be done. Can we discern before it is too late if someone is genuine or not when speaking truthful statements?
The most trustworthy criterion for testing someone is the Vedic triangle of verification. There are three points of the Vedic triangle of verification: the sastra (scripture), previous recognized saints (Sadhu) and the present bona fide teacher (guru). Sastra refers to the original statements of God or His prophets in the holy scriptures. Sadhus refers to the recognized saints in the line of parampara or disciplic succession coming from Lord Krishna. Guru refers to the present teacher in the disciplic succession who repeats the words of sastra and sadhu without any change.
If the present teacher such as the vulture or the jackal contradicts the statements of the previous authorities or the scriptures then they can be rejected. However, they may sometimes repeat the words correctly but for a vested interest like the vulture and the jackal. We must also consider the qualifications of the bona fide teacher that we may accept in the present. They are the following.
The bona fide teacher simply repeats without any change to the original words of Lord Krishna spoken to Arjuna. His purpose as a teacher is to enlighten the disciple in the original words of Krishna so that the disciple can use the Vedic triangle of verification (statements of Guru, Sadhu and Sastras) to validate every point of knowledge.
The bona fide teacher strictly follows the teaching himself. He cannot say “don’t smoke” and then smoke himself. Just as in Christianity there are the Ten Commandments that every good Christian must follow. In the Vedic path, there are four regulative principles: no intoxication, no meat eating, no gambling or philosophical speculation and no illicit sex. Every teacher of the Vedas must follow these basic rules in order to have the purity to teach properly. Beside the four things one should not do, there are four things one should do which are also regulative principles for daily practice. They are: chant and meditate a prescribed number of names of God, read and discuss the revealed word of God in the holy scriptures, eat only sanctified food that has first been offered to God and visit a temple of worship and offer unselfish prayer and service in the company of other rightfully striving devotees.
Using the above criterion we can understand that the vulture and jackal were meat eaters. They spoke the truth, but did not visibly practice the truth as described above. Therefore, they did not back their words up with genuine practice of the teaching, nor did they have sincere and unmotivated faith in the teaching. They were adept at using the teaching to achieve a selfish purpose.
What is interesting in this story is that the mother and father listened carefully to the words of the vulture and jackal with faith. They became convinced that they should pray ardently for their son. Their sincere prayers were heard by God and by a miraculous intervention the son came back to life. Although the vulture and jackal were impure in their motives, they still were instrumental in helping the parents. By accepting the words of scripture with faith and sincerely praying, the parents were blessed by God. The vulture and jackal, however, were disappointed in achieving their selfish purpose. Therefore, faith in God’s words and working with the unique intent to please God is the best course for the genuine seeker. Even if one is surrounded by insincere individuals like the vulture and the jackal, God will protect and deliver his sincere devotee.
Once upon a time there was a rich man whose wife died on giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. When the girl became sixteen, she was afflicted by a severe headache that no one could cure. The father despaired. He set out to find a healer.
On his search, he met a dervish who spoke to him, “You have a daughter who has a chronic headache. You cannot find a cure for it. Take my advice. Go to the mountain near your town. On the trail leading upwards, you will find a big black rock.Chip off some of the rock and grind it to a powder. Mix this powder with water and give it to your daughter to drink. She will be cured of the headache.”
The rich man could hardly believe the words of the dervish. He was determined to try anything that might help her. He hurried to the mountain, found the black rock, chipped some pieces off and ground it to powder. He mixed the powder with water and gave it to his daughter to drink.She gulped it down and soon after her headache disappeared.
A side effect of the magic potion was that she became pregnant. The father was perplexed. He knew his daughter was chaste. He could not understand how she became pregnant.The daughter gave birth to a son. The rich man sold all his possessions. He took his daughter and grandson away to a far off town where he introduced his daughter as a widow.
When the grandson was 8 years old, his grandfather took him to a polo event to teach the boy the manly art of riding a horse in competition. The grandfather seated the boy on a horse. He also mounted a horse and a courtier friend of the grandfather also mounted a horse to begin the polo game. When the boy pressed his thighs against the sides of the horse he perceived the horse to be in foal or pregnant. “This horse will soon give birth to a colt in three weeks. The colt will be blind in the right eye. Please help me get off this horse.”
The courtier and the grandfather were intrigued and puzzled by the young boy’s remark. They helped him get down. The courtier decided to wait and see if the little boy’s prediction was correct.
There are rare occasions when children are born with extraordinary powers. They can remember their previous lives or they can foretell the future.
After three weeks the horse gave birth to a colt that was blind in the right eye. The courtier became convinced that the young boy was blessed with visionary powers. He gave gifts to the boy and marveled with the grandfather about the boy’s gift of prophecy. The courtier returned to the royal court.
A strange thing happened. One day a fisherman caught a beautiful fish. He thought the king would appreciate such a rare specimen. Seeing the colorful fish, the king wanted to show it to his beloved
queen. The fish was placed on a golden platter and taken to her private quarters for her viewing. The king’s servants knocked on the queen’s inner chamber and said, “The king has sent you a
colorful fish for your pleasure.” Covering her face, the queen opened the door and asked if the fish was a male or female. When she said this, the fish began to jump up and down on the dish and made sounds that sounded like human laughter.
The king’s servants were shocked. They called for the king to witness this unusual sight. On seeing and hearing the strange fish, the king was so alarmed that he called his counselors and many wise men to explain why the fish was jumping up and down and laughing like a human. No one was able to give a plausible answer.
The courtier who witnessed the powers of prophecy of the the young boy, spoke to the king, “Your Majesty, this occurrence is perplexing even to the best wise men in your kingdom. I know a young boy who has exceptional powers of prophecy. I witnessed the boy predict that a horse was with foal and would bear a colt with a blind right eye. What he said came true.” The king was impressed. He summoned the young boy to the palace.
When the boy came into the assembly of the king, he said, “Your Majesty, I can perhaps explain the bizarre behavior of the fish. But, you must first promise not to get angry at anything I say or do.”
The king agreed.
The boy asked the king to order the queen’s forty maids be summoned into the assembly. The king sent his guards to bring the maids. When the forty maids were brought into the assembly, the boy ordered the two guards to take off the clothes of the maids. The guards were reluctant to do as ordered. The king, however, ordered his guards to unclothe the forty maids. It turned out that the forty maids were actually forty handsome young men. Everyone was shocked. The king became very upset.
“The fish laughed and jumped up and down and rolled on his side because of the outrageous question and feigned modesty of the queen. What did it matter if the fish was male or female. The queen already had forty males in her bedroom.”
The king was outraged. He ordered his queen and the forty men to be hanged for their immoral charade. The king married the young boy’s mother. The boy, his mother and grandfather lived happily in the palace.
Ahprogheen ahproustuh behdk eh
There is a story that explains this saying.
The wise old grandfather
There was and there was not a good king. One day this monarch said to his vizier, “Vizier (minister or political advisor of a king in a Muslim government), I want you to accompany me to visit all the states of my kingdom. I want to examine first hand the condition of my subjects. Our purpose will be to study and learn how is the economic condition of the common folk who are artisans and farmers, their work conditions, their opinion of their state and local town government leaders. Further, I want to understand how the government bureaucrats of the large cities and small towns perceive the benefits that are dedicated for the development of the government and the people. Finally, I want to understand the relationships between the leaders and the people, the exploiters and the exploited, and so on and so on. To understand all this, my dear Vizier, you need to note all the minute details of our journey in a daily journal with particular attention to accurately write down every detail on a daily basis. You must chronicle every conversation with official and lay persons, the educated and the illiterate, the noble and the common people, the business men and the laborers, the landowners and the farm laborers. We will be disguised not as peddlers or beggars, but as noble, higher class men of stature.
Prepare passports for both of us to traverse the different states, have two horses saddled and withdraw whatever necessary funds are required for the trip from the government treasury. To secure our safe passage draw up every sort of official documents to facilitate our discussions and appointments with the rich or the poor, with the officials or the lay persons, the noblemen or the commoners.
I repeat that you have to keep a proper daily journal of all our conversations and encounters.”
When all was arranged and ready, the king and his Vizier set off on their journey. They traveled from one state to another until they reached the most distant state called Ahmit. They settled in the surroundings of a far off town in that state. They stopped with the onset of night in a field where a very old man was laboring hard to plow it.
When they approached the edge of the field, the king heard the old man commanding his oxen with the following: “Hey, my dear oxen, forward, the living must make a living.” (The Armenian phrase is, ahbrogheen abroustuh behdk eh).
On hearing this wise statement, the king asked the Vizier.
“Did you here that?”
“Yes,” said the Vizier.
“Let us approach this old man. We will relax and we will encourage him also to relax a little. It is not good for him to work so hard at his age.”
The king and his Vizier entered into the field and got off their horses to rest themselves under the shade of a tree while they waited for the old man to approach them.
The old man continued to plow his field and make furrows as he gradually approached his visitors. He continued to repeat, “Hey, my dear oxen, forward, the living must make a living.”
When the old man approached them, the king and Vizier addressed the old man with a respectful greeting, “Good evening, father.”
“May the goodness of God be with you,” answered the old man. He came right up to them. The king implored the old man to take a break from his plowing and join them for conversation.
“Very well,” said the old man. “Not only I will rest a little, but my oxen will also rest.”
The following question and answer ensued between the king and the old man.
“Father, do you live alone?”
“No, I live with my daughter.”
“Father, you must begin early.”
“I began early, but others took him.”
“Father, how are you relating to the distant?”
“I have reduced the distant to be close to me,” said the old man.
“Father, how are the two of you together.”
“The two of us have become three.”
It being late in the day, the old man invited his guests, whose identity was already guessed, to his house. To arrive at his house, they had to pass through a small wooded area.
When they approached the wooded area, the king said, “Let us enter singular and exit plural.”
The Vizier did not understand the meaning of the king’s statements. When the king and the old man reached the end of the wooded area, both had cut the branches of trees and they were holding mighty sticks.
They reached the old man’s house. His daughter had prepared the dinner table. As she served dinner, the king looked at the old man and said:
“Father, your house is very nice, but the chimney of your fireplace is crooked.”
The old man replied, “smoke rises straight.”
The next morning, after breakfast, when the guests were about to leave, the king said to the old man:
“Father, if I send you a goose, can you remove its feathers?”
“Oh, I am an expert at plucking geese,” said the old man joyfully.
The king withdrew from his pocket a royal present and placed some money in the palm of the old man and departed.
The two returned to the royal capital and after resting for a week, the king called for his Vizier. He commanded him to organize his daily journal of their trip by separately distinguishing the events that occurred in each state, indicating which encounters were with government officials and which ones were with the common people. He expected to see the full report in two weeks time.
Two weeks later, the king perused the vizier’s daily journal and according to his needs made known his management decisions along with his royal orders. After these urgent and necessary organizational decisions were made, the king summoned the Vizier and said.
“I am very happy that you so expertly noted down the conversation I had with the old man who lived in the state of Ahmit in the district of Chounkoush. Now, you must describe that conversation by revealing the meaning of my questions and the old man’s answers. My first question to the old man was the following.
“Do you live by yourself.”
He answered, “I live with my daughter.”
You must reveal the meaning of this question and answer. The old man has only one daughter in the house. I then asked the next question.
“Father, you must have begun (your day) early.”
“I began early, the others took him.”
What is the meaning of this question and answer?
I don’t understand said the Vizier.
The king continued.
“How are you relating to the distant?”
“I have reduced the distant to be close to me,” answered the old man.
What is the meaning of this question and answer?
“I don’t know,” said the vizier.
Without repeating all the questions and answers, the king finally said.
“Therefore, my Vizier, I’ll give you one month so that you can understand the meaning of those questions and answers. If you fail to do so, I will have your head cut off.”
The next day, the Vizier loaded a saddlebag with gold coins and mounted the horse and galloped briskly until he reached the outskirts of the old man’s village. He rushed to the old man’s field, where the he was plowing in a similar manner as before. The Vizier sat under the shade of the same tree.
The old man approached the Vizier with a derisive smile and after greeting him settled his oxen to rest and came to sit next to him.
After the customary “Good evening,” and “May God confer goodness on you,” the Vizier addressed the old man.
“Father, I have come to you to obtain a very important request. My life depends on you.”
“Tell me how I can serve you,” said the old man. I am ready to satisfy your request.”
The Vizier began: “Do you remember, Father, two men, myself and another, came to see you two months ago?”
“Yes,” replied the old man. “The second man was our most noble king. You are his Vizier.”
The Vizier was amazed and surprised by this answer of the old man. He continued: “Oh wise Father, I have brought you a precious gift of gold coins.” The Vizier opened the sack laden with gold coins and placed it before the old man. He implored the old man: “Now I beg you to describe and explain to me the meaning of the question and answer discussion you had that day with the noble king.”
“I’ll be happy to do it,” said the old man. “Now listen.” When the king first asked “Do you living by yourself?” I answered “I live with my daughter.” Then he said, “You must begin early,” and I answered “I began early but others benefited.” The meaning of this follows. The king seeing that in my advanced age, I have a young daughter implied that I should have married at a young age so that my children would have been mature by now. They could take care of me in my old age. My reply to the king was that I did marry at a young age and had one daughter after another. All but the youngest are married and have left me to live their family life.
The second question that my noble king asked was “What is your relationship with those who are distant.” I answered that I have rendered the distant very close to me.” He meant the following by his question. “Are you able to see into the future?” My answer to him was “No, I have become shortsighted.”
The third question by the king was “How are you both doing.” I replied, “I have turned two into three.” With this question, the king wanted to know how is strength of your legs?” “I answered “Not very good, I need a cane to walk.”
“When we entered the forest”, said the old man, the king said, “Let us enter singular and exit plural.” He meant by this statement that we should gather branches from the forest trees and make ourselves walking canes. “Did you not see that when the king and I came out of the forest, we were holding canes made from the branches of trees?”
“When we reached my house, my daughter prepared the dinner table and began to serve dinner.” The king noticed that the eyes of my daughter were crossed. He remarked, “Father, your house is very nice, but the chimney is crooked.” I replied, “The smoke rises in a straight column.” I meant to say that my daughter’s vision is straight (although her eyes seem crossed).”
The next morning, when you were ready to leave, the king asked, “If I send you a goose, can you fleece its feathers?” I answered, “Oh yes, I am an expert at fleecing geese.”
“Honorable Vizier, you are the goose referred to by the king. He threatened to cut off your head unless you decipher the meaning of the conversation. You have brought on your own accord a sack of gold coins which represents the goose’s feathers.”
“I pray that God bless you and our noble king with long life. Who knows how many wise or poor men like me live in the kingdom that are waiting for the opportunity to share their wisdom with the noble king and receive a reward like this from him.”
“Again and again, I give my blessings to the noble king and to your good self. May you both live long and happy lives and in peace manage the affairs of government in this great kingdom.”
The wise old man achieved his wishes. I wish that the readers of this story likewise achieve their most cherished dreams and wishes.
mahrt yehrp yerchaneek guhlah – yehrp vor chee pakhcheer kordzeh
bahrahb muhnalou dehgh, bahrahbee ahskhahdeh
This saying emphasizes that laziness is never good for a person. There is a play on the word bahrahb which means literally empty.
The proverb translates, “In place of remaining empty (meaning not doing anything or being lazy), work for nothing (barhahbee means for emptiness or nothing).
papakehl kordzeen gehssen eh meeayn