Harry Terhanian.com

Wisdom from the son of Armenia.

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    • An Armenian fable – The wolf and the lamb

      There was a lamb that lived in a garden and shed
      She ate green grass and was well fed
      One day a wicked wolf entered her world
      Grabbed her soft body, but no one heard

      The lamb fell on her knees cried and said
      I have no strength to oppose you, I’m dead
      But before I go please grant me a last wish
      Which will give me solace before your death kiss

      “I’ve heard from my elders wolves can trumpet so sweet
      That the melodies they play and croon are a real treat
      Please, trumpet for me a tune that will prepare my eternal rest
      That I may go with the sound in my ears and be forever blessed.”

      The wolf was flattered, he curved his neck upward, began to howl
      Frightful sound that alerted the guard dogs who came with a growl
      The dogs bit the wolf who ran away as fast as he could
      Across the field, over the hill into the dark thicket and wood.

      The wolf circled this way and that lamenting his foolish vanity
      “When did a butcher become a trumpeter? What insanity!
      If I want to eat a tasty lamb, I shouldn’t be delayed by flattery
      But lo is me, I have been outsmarted by the lamb’s chicanery.”

    • Sugar has entered the mouth of the dog

      Shanuh peranuh shekerr eh uhnghel

      When someone flatters for a selfish purpose, this proverb is used to describe them.


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  • The horse and the mule were fighting and the ass went between them

    tzyeen oou choreen guh grhveen
    ehssuh metchdegh ghertah

    When two big people (or powers) fight, the little people suffer (the most).
    They get caught between the two antagonists.

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    • Be afraid of the man who always looks down (or avoids your eyes by looking down)

      vahr naihoghehn vaghtzeer

      Eye contact is important for communication. It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul.But, one who avoids eye contact by looking downward has something to hide. It may be due to a guilty feeling for having done something that they are ashamed of; or it may be because they have a sinister plan.

      There is saying in Armenian ahck ahckee, seerd seerdee, eye to eye, soul to soul – two people communicate with their eyes and hearts(souls). Another saying is seerdeh seerd jahmpah gah- from heart to heart there is a way(a connecting path).

      There is a famous song by Shehram, an Armenian minstrel, entitled “Naz Ahckeek – Pretty or Charming Girl.” The song’s refrain is the following.

      yeghneegee nuhmahn mahn kahlut
      With the searching eyes of a deer you gaze (longingly)

      gahkahvee nuhmahn bahr kahlut
      You (gracefully) come dancing like the partridge

      suhrtounkut lahl ou mahrjan eh
      Your delicate lips pout with the grief (of separation)

      naiyvadzkut hohkee guh hahnneh
      Your bewitching eyes impel my soul to run to you (take my soul out)

      Shehram’s poetry expresses the power of a beautiful woman’s glance.

    • The dog is lame until he sees the fox

      Shahnuh gagh eh meenchev vor ahghvehssuh dehssneh

    • Fear makes an ass run faster than a horse

      Ahhuh ehssuh tzeeyehn ahvehli vahzouhk guhneh

    • The one legged chicken

      Once Nasreddin Hohja decided to give a gift to improve his friendship with the king. The king had fought many great battles and had lost one leg which was seriously injured and cut off to save his life from the rapid spread of infection.

      The Hodja chose a prize hen and roosted it to perfection basking it with butter, spices, and more butter. He placed the roost on a large plate with fresh pilaf and many decorative garnishes. He walked toward the palace with his delicious gift. As he walked, the mouth watering odor of the dish wafted into his nostrils and he became ravenously hungry. He thought that there would be no harm if one of the legs of the hen were missing. After all, the king had one leg missing and he might consider it a complement that the hen is also missing one leg. He stopped and ate one leg. He couldn’t resist his own cooking.

      Arriving at the palace, he was shown into the king’s reception room and he bowed before the king and presented his gift. The king was pleased that one of his subjects wanted to please him with a delicious gift, But, on examination of the roosted chicken he saw that one leg was missing. He took this as a personal insult and angrily addressed the Hodja. “Is this a bad joke or a serious insult. How dare you gift me a one legged chicken, you imbecile,” said the king.

      The Hodja in a state of panic realized he made a big mistake. He composed his thoughts quickly and said, “Your Majesty, there is something you might not be aware of. All the birds in our land are one legged.”

      The king became even angrier, “You insolent fool, do you think I am stupid enough to believe your lies?”

      “Dear Sir, please look out your window to the lake. You will see all the birds are standing with only one foot.”

      The king looked out the window and saw many birds standing on one foot. He said, “You idiot, I will show you that you are lying.” He called one of his soldiers and ordered him to run after the birds with a large stick and beat them. The soldier did as he was ordered. When the birds saw the soldier running toward them waving a big stick they all began to run on two feet and fly away.”

      The king pointed out to the Hodja that his statement was wrong.

      The Hodja countered the king by saying, “Your Highness, you have misunderstood what just happened. If your soldier ran after me with such a big and dangerous stick, I would also grow two more legs to run away as fast as possible because of my fright.”

    • Fearless – ahnyehrgiough

      An old man once claimed that he was without fear
      Of ghosts, goblins or strange things that might appear
      Superstitions of the ignorant, old wives tales
      Made up stories to daunt and cause the mind to ail

      He boasted to his friends, “Send me anywhere
      Where there are evil spirits that might scare
      One friend asked, “Can you stay overnight
      in a graveyard without deep sleep or fright?”

      “Oh sure,” he said without hesitation
      “I’ll brave the night with no trepidation.”
      That night he stayed in that hoary, dark place
      til dawn no apparition, not a trace

      “Just see,” he said, “ghosts and ghouls don’t exist
      Though I stayed throughout the night in their midst.”
      He walked out the graveyard with happy mien
      Musing why silly folks fear the unseen

      Unnoticed were briars with thorns on the ground
      That caught his long cloak, pulled back without sound
      Shocked out of his wits as if dragged to death
      Imagined evil ghosts and exhaled his last breath

    • When fear comes, death is forgotten

      ahhuh (vahkhuh) goukah, mahhuh guh mortzuneh
      Another way to say this is: mortal fear makes one forget death.

      During the 1895 Turkish massacres of Armenians in Malatia, a large number of Armenians took refuge in the Holy Trinity Orthodox church. Near the church was a newly built school building that could possibly pose a great danger if the Turks captured it. They could easily damage and harm the church and its large number of refugees. Two Turks secretly entered the school. There was a local man named Ohmayentz Crazy Boghos (khent Boghos) who saw them.

      Crazy Boghos would walk the streets of Malatia and never spoke to anyone. He never spoke a word. But at that crucial moment, he miraculously shouted to the Armenians and alerted them that some Turks were in the school building. He saved the Armenians from untold danger. This is an example of how mortal fear can make one forget the dangers of imminent death and in the case of Crazy Boghos do something that he never did before that benefited many people.

    • One who has seen a snake, is afraid of a rope

      otzuh desnoghuh bahranen guh vaghnah

      A black rope was made from twisting thick black hair.This was called “bahran.” The fright of seeing a snake was sometimes so harrowing that just seeing a black rope would make someone afraid thinking it might be a snake.

      This fear is triggered by mistaken perception. Such a mistaken perception is the root of material life and material consciousness.
      Not seeing or hearing (touching, smelling, or tasting) something correctly is called a mistake. This can lead to mistaken decisions, and identifying wrongly or confusing something with another thing, or accepting one thing to be something else erroneously.

      When a person understands something wrongly due to imperfect perception, it is called a mistake. Due to such a mistake of perception, one may accept one thing to be something else . This is called an illusion. For example, on a dry, hot sunny day I may see slicks of water on the asphalt highway. Actually, there are no slicks of water. It is a visual mistake due to the heat, the asphalt, the distance, my imperfect senses, etc.

      Accepting a rope for a snake as the above proverb says, causes unnecessary fear. Due to this fear, we may do many rash things that may cause further complications and entanglements.

      On the other hand, I might mistake a snake for a rope. My sense of caution will be disarmed by my mistaken perception which could cause me to be bitten by the snake and suffer the consequences because of my mistaken perception. Such mistaken perception leads to accepting one thing to be something else. This is called an illusion. When one is definitely convinced that the illusion is true, he enters into a state of delusion or a deluded state of mind. Acting under such a deluded state of mind is the cause of great misfortune in life.

      The ultimate misconception is identifying our body as being our real identity. In other words, mistaking the body for the soul or thinking the body and the soul are one and not different. The bodily concept of life or thinking my identity is connected irrevocably with my material body and the extension of my body such as family, tribe, ethnicity, nation, land of birth, family or ethnic traditions, language, etc. All these identifications are at most temporary and not relevant to our real spiritual identity as an eternal individual soul. The body temporarily covers the individual soul for a short period. During that period the body continually changes from birth, to youth, to adulthood, old age and finally death. Our body changes many times during this period and death is an ultimate change of body.

      Identifying our self with the body is a serious error that causes us to accept many false concepts and engage in many activities that takes us away from seeking the truth about our existence.

      A classical example is that of a deer who observes water in the desert. He actually sees in the distance the reflection of sunlight off the hot sands. There is no real water but it appears to be because of the mirage. Is there a large lake of water in the distant desert? No. Yet, the deer can see it with his eyes and believes that the mirage is real. As it moves to approach the mirage, it goes deeper into the desert thinking it is ever so close and a few more steps will suffice to reach it. The deer wanders to its death looking for something in the wrong place. Becoming convinced that an illusion is real is the cause of a wasted life.


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    • Everyone else’s wheat grows straight, but they say mine is crooked

      ouhreesnehroun ahrduh tzahnahdzuh seedahk guh pouhssnee, eemeenuhs eepuhrteh dzour guh pouhssnee

    • Your rail bares my heart’s hidden nail

      Pahnuh guh hahneh seerdeen kahmuh

    • He is looking for a hair inside the egg

      Havgeetin metch maz guh puhndehreh

      There are always envious people who try to find fault with honest persons. They are characterized as trying to find a hair in an egg. There are no hairs inside an egg.

      There were two friend discussing the recent appointment of a third friend to a prestigious judgeship. One said, “Isn’t it wonderful that our friend has been appointed to such an important position.”

      The second said, “I think he was appointed because he agreed not to take a salary.” The envious friend tried to belittle the significance of the friend’s appointment by speculating that he was appointed only because he agreed to work for no salary. This, of course, was not true. The friend was made a judge because of his exceptional qualification.


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  • No man is without fault in this world

    Unshkhal mart chee gah ashkharkees metch

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    • The father always wishes his son to be more successful than himself

      hayruh guh papakeh vohrteen aveli hahchogh uhlah kan eenkuhThe

      I once accompanied my father on a visit to a relative’s house.He was arranging a marriage between a young Armenian man and the daughter of a relative. During the meeting in the house of the prospective bride, my father explained what it means to be a father. He gave the following example. If a father and son are both walking in the desert and are dying of thirst, if, by chance, they find a glass of water, then father means he will give the entire glass to his son to drink. I was only about nine years old at the time, but I was astounded by what he said. My father continued that parents must be ready to sacrifice everything for the welfare of their children. Many years later, I heard a story that helped me to understand even more profoundly why my father spoke in that way.

      My father and his brothers came to the USA in 1908 when they were in their teens. Their mother had sacrificed every penny she had to send them away from Turkey. In 1896, the Turks has perpetrated a massacre of the Armenians organized by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Hamid. They massacred about 300,000 Armenians in cold blood only because of their ethnic and religious difference from the Muslim Turks. After that horrible experience, it was evident that the Armenians did not have much of a future under Turkish rule. My grandmother realizing the precarious future made a huge sacrifice and sent her boys to America. She was a truly sagacious woman. A few years after her sons were safe in America, the Turks perpetrated the virtual complete annihilation of the Armenian people in Turkey in 1915. My father’s entire family in Malatia, Turkey was wiped out.

      Thus, he understood first hand the meaning of parental sacrifice for the well-being of their children. His mother sacrificed everything so that her sons would have a decent and peaceful life in the USA. My brother remembers seeing my Uncle Kevork and sometimes my father cry remembering the sacrifice of their mother.


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    • The dog cannot go farther than his leash and man from his fate

      Shounuh eerehn gahmkeetz hehrou chee yehrtahl mahrtuh eerehn paghteetz

    • Work virtuously to better your future, see how fate will be kind to you

      ahbahkayit hahmahr ahskhahdeh, ahbah dehs eench pakhduht guh pehreh

    • Bread, Watermelon, Fate and Interpretation

      One day Shiva and Parvati were traveling together. Parvati devi saw a poor beggar whose sight made her feel pity and compassion. She asked her husband to help the poor man. Shiva looked at the beggar and understood that he was unfortunate due to having a sinful and dishonest nature. Parvati ignored his evaluation of the man and insisted he help him. Shiva agreed but on condition that he offer the beggar a disguised treasure of great value. If the beggar was truly virtuous he would understand the value of the charitable gift and accept it for his long term benefit. Parvati agreed.

      Shiva disguised himself as a brahmin priest carrying a lopsided or crooked watermelon. He mysteriously placed precious jewels in the watermelon which did not reveal any trace of being open. As Shiva walked past the beggar, the mendicant called out to him: “Have mercy! Help this poor beggar. I need money to eat.”

      Shiva stopped and spoke to the beggar, “I have this watermelon. You can have it and quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger.”

      The beggar scoffed at him, “I don’t need or like a watermelon. Give me some money to eat.”

      Shiva left the watermelon beside the beggar and walked away.

      The beggar didn’t appreciate the gift. He said, “What am I going to do with your miserable watermelon. Have you no decency. I don’t want your watermelon. Give me money.”

      Shiva hurried away. The beggar looked at the watermelon derisively. He picked it up and noticed it was lopsided. He was convinced there was something wrong with it. He saw another man coming his way. He quickly began to praise the sweetness of the watermelon and offered it to the new passerby for a few coins. The passerby looked at the watermelon and thought, “I am thirsty and hungry. That watermelon will satisfy me tonight.” He offered a few coins for it and the beggar gave it to him convinced he had made a good deal getting rid of it for enough money to buy some cheap wine.

      Shiva and Parvati were watching the fateful doings and were amazed at what happened.

      Parvati said, “How is it possible that the beggar is so unfortunate?”

      Shiva replied, “He is offensive to holy men. Generally, he is ungrateful and is not at all interested in
      any spiritual understanding of the nature of life. His mind is consumed by the everyday striving for money, wine, meat, sex and a place to sleep. He is profoundly unfortunate due to his ignorance of spiritual knowledge.

      The beggar, however, was convinced that he made a good deal by getting a few coins for the watermelon. From his perspective, the watermelon was lopsided and useless. His objective was to get a few coins to purchase his daily ration of wine. He also disdained the kind gesture of Shiva who left the watermelon for his benefit. The beggar’s selfish and petty desires blinded him from accepting such a precious gift that would have solved all his financial problems. Selfish desires limit one’s vision of life and prohibit the possibility of loving exchanges. Such exchanges enrich one’s life with greater benefit than any monetary ones. Having the purity of heart to accept a gift given with love and compassion is a great blessing. Giving gifts with the same spirit of love opens one’s soul to a wonderful world of sharing. Poverty is no longer a problem when one is surrounded by loving friends. And God showers His mercy on such persons whose heart’s are pure, free from lust, anger, greed, envy, madness and illusion.

      There was and there wasn’t a king who wanted to distribute his wealth to the “deserving poor.” He wanted to also witness in secret how the deserving accepted his charity. He employed a baker who was a man of confidence. He asked the baker to make a loaf of bread with precious jewels mixed into the interior of the dough so as not to be seen.

      When the baker opened his shop, the king observed from an adjacent room. He asked the baker to give the loaf with the jewels to the most pious person entering his shop and a regular loaf to might appear to be an impious person. Two customers came in at the same time. One was a holy man dressed in his robes and the other a nondescript man with a tattoo of a skull on his hand. The baker assumed that the holy man was pious and the the man with a skull tattoo was impious. Ha gave the loaf of bread with the jewels to the holy man and the regular loaf to the other man.

      The holy man sensed that there were lumps in his loaf and he suspected that they might be lumps of uncooked wet flour. He prided himself on always getting the best value for his money. He looked at the other customer and thought that he was a person of lesser discrimination that he could manipulate for his advantage. While the baker attended to retrieving new baked loaves from his oven, the holy man smiled at the other customer and said, “Friend, I always want to help others who might be in need. This loaf that I have is bigger than the one you got. Why not exchange yours for mine and get a better value.” The second man, whose disposition was one of always accepting the generosity of others agreed. They exchanged their loaves.

      The king observed this exchange. He was surprised and somewhat perplexed at what happened. He tried to justify it by concluding that fate has its mysterious ways. Perhaps, the holy man was precluded from receiving the wealth to protect him from temptation of worldliness. The king was not sure.

      After the two customers left the king discussed the outcome with the baker, who defended himself by saying, “I simply followed your instruction.”

      The king accepted that Fate is mysterious and cannot be comprehended by ordinary men.

      The holy man was very pleased with the outcome thinking that he always was more astute in his judgment than others which resulted in his getting the best bargain.

      The man with the tattoo did not realize what happened until he returned home and began to eat the loaf with his family. While eating, he and his family discovered the hidden precious jewels. He went back to the baker with the jewels and showed him what he found. The baker, who was an honest man, insisted that the customer keep the jewels for it was his destiny to get them especially since he was honest and humble.

      There is an Armenian saying, ahgh ou hatz chem ghehrerr ou jahnabahr chem kuhnatzehr vor mahrtoun ahrjehkuh jahatchem – I haven’t eaten bread nor traveled on a journey with him in order to understand his true value (or character).

      One needs to have experience with a person to judge their character. What better experience than traveling with or eating with a person to understand their values and character.

      It is said in the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) that God is in the heart of every person and from Him come knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. When a person opens their heart to acceptance of an Almighty God and humbles himself before Him, then so many wonderful opportunities become manifest. Such a humble soul can accept God’s mercy which often manifests in mysterious ways that are unexpected.
      A person, however, who is atheistic and attempts to control destiny by material strategies will often make mistakes by overlooking vital details. For the faithful person, God gives the intelligence to make the right decisions in life. For the atheist, God gives partial knowledge and forgetfulness by which important decisions will often be mistaken and lead to missed opportunities. Ultimately, knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness are inspired or given by God, not by any manipulation of material

      It is also said in the Bhagavad-gita (18.61) that God is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy. God is present in the heart of every living being and directs their activities according to what they deserve by their previous acts and desires. The living entity gets what he deserves and is carried by the material body, which is created in the material energy under the direction of God. As soon as a living entity is placed in a particular type of body, he has to work under the spell of that body, which acts under the influence of natural forces such as goodness, passion, ignorance (lust, anger, greed, etc.). By the order of God, material nature fashions a particular type of body to a particular type of living entity so that he may work according to his past unfulfilled desires. The living entity is not independent nor is the material nature. One should never think that he is independent. God is always the Supreme Controller of living entities and nature.

      Therefore, by remaining humble and respectful, we will recognize the grace of God when it manifests.
      While waiting patiently, and maintaining our faith that God resides in our heart as the protector and guardian of our well being, we will be relieved of all miseries of material existence. Everything material is actually spiritual because God is the creator of all things and life. He is sitting in everyone’s heart. Once we realize the closeness of God, we should surrender to His almighty power and accept His Words as our guiding principle in life. Then, He will give us the knowledge and remembrance to come back to Him eternally. If our desires are materially oriented, then He gives partial knowledge and remembrance and at crucial times, forgetfulness so that we will miss spiritual opportunities and stay anchored in the material world of illusory pleasures, hopes and false interpretations of events. Such false interpretations keep us chained to continual reactive work with little hope of liberation.

    • What you put in your plate, will act upon your fate

      ahmahnut eench puhrtehss, tuhkahlut ahn gouh kah

      Literally,whatever you crumble in your plate, your spoon will scoop it up


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  • Is it possible to keep a fast with delicious paklava in your hand?

    Pahklavan dzotzuht, bahk puhr-nehl gahrehlee eh?

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  • This is mine, that is yours – destroyed the home (family)

    aiyss eemuhss, aiyt kouhgut – ahvrehr eh douhnu

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  • “Bless us father” is never heard in the married priest’s home

    dahnou dehrdehreen “ohrtnyahl dehr” chee gah

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