Saturday, October 25, 2014


    Nobody who has the least insight into the pages of the sacred Kural will fail to endorse the remark of the veteran Tamil scholar Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope that this is a work unparalleled in any language. The merits of the work are so apparent that even at its very birth, it received the highest encomiums of the proudest scholars of the day, the Pundits of the far famed Madura College or Sangham. The tradition that the author was of low birth only heightens the value of the appreciations thus showered on him. One of the Collegians compares it to the Veda, and another says, unlike the Veda, Tiruvalluvar's words don't lose their merit by anybody repeating them. One speaks of it as containing everything worth knowing, and another that there is nothing which is not contained in this work. One says that the words are sweeter than the Heavenly Ambrosia, and unlike the latter, can be partaken of by everybody. And as the poet utters these words even our own mouth begins to water. Another says they are sweet food to the mind, sweet to the ear and sweet to the tongue, and the great panacea for the ills of Karma. One compares it to the sun who dispelling the deep darkness of ignorance makes the lotus of the heart bloom forth. Another compares it to the lamp dispelling our mental darkness, with the oil can of Dharma, and wick of Artha, and ghee of Kama, words of perfection, the flame, and the short metres the lamp-stand. Its brevity, not bordering on unintelligibility or ambiguity as do most of the sutras in Sanskrit, its perfection of expression and style, its deepness are all matters taken up for praise by these learned Collegians. And what is more, the poet Kalladar brings out in his verse its most prominent character, its universality. People wrangle about this or that being the truth, and they range themselves into various schools, but all are agreed about the truth of the words uttered by Tiruvalluvar. And since his time, all religionists, Buddhists and Jains, Saivas and Vaishnavas have all claimed him as their own. And we need enquire wherefrom he derived his truths. It is enough to acknowledge that it is perfection of Truth, if one can say so, a Perfect Ethical and Religious Code, a perfection of art and thought. Indeed, a close study of the work will bring out its perfect scientific basis, and each part, and each chapter, and each verse is placed one after the other in a perfect chain of logical arrangement and argument. And may we hope that some ardent student of the Kural will work out from it a perfect theory of ethics, both private and international.

    One more remark, and this will introduction us to the chapter of the book we have taken up for translation and elucidation. It is usually remarked following the main divisions of the book into Dharma, Artha and Kama
அறம், பொருள், இன்பம்
, that the author has left out the discussion of the last Purushartha or Moksha, வீடு
on the ground that religion is a matter which will give room for difference and dispute. But is it true that there are no universal truths of religion and did our author leave them unsaid? His own contemporaries did not understand him as doing so but have stated in their encomiums that he has explained all the four Purushartams and that he has shown the path to Moksha. And the Rev. Dr. Pope in his short paper on the Ethics of Kural holds that Tiruvalluvar bases his ethics on the grand truths of Thripadartha, Pathi, Pasu and Pasa. In fact his creed is not a godless creed like that of the Jains or Buddhists. In this respect, there is disparity between the Naladi and this work. Our author's God is the first Cause and Lord 'ஆதிபகவன்
..,' 'He is 'Intelligent,' வாலறிவன்; He resides in the heart of his creatures 'மலர்மிசையேகினான்,' He is Immaculate, untainted by likes and dislikes, 'வேண்டுதல்
,' He is the 'Lord of Lords' and 'king of kings' 'இறைவன்,' He is 'incomparable'. 'தனக்குவமையில்லாதான்,' He is the source of all Dharma and Beneficent, 'அறவாழி
.' He has eight attributes. எண்குணத்தான் (i.e. self-dependent or self-possessed, the Pure, Self-Luminous, the All-Knowing, the Ever-Free, the Beneficent, the Infinitely Powerful, and Infinitely Blissful. Parimelalagar rejects all other interpretations of எண்குணம்) and the Eternal Truth மெய்ப்பொருள் and the Perfect and good Being. 'செம்பொருள்.'* [* Pandit Savariroyan derives 'Sivam' from 'செம்,' and our Saint uses
very frequently.] No amount of learning is of any good unless a man believes in the existence of God and worships His feet in all love and truth. And without such knowledge and such conduct, the mere attaining of ethical perfection is of no use ("
ஐயணர்வெய்தி" &c.) The true way to get rid of our bonds is to reach the feet of the Ever Free. And these bonds are not mere myths but they are caused by our own ignorance. Avidya, Ahankara or Anava which is eternal, Anadi. And then, the chain of causation following karma into endless births and suffering is worked out, and the means or Sadana required to get freed from these bonds are fully shown, and of all the means, the greatest Sadana is to reach Him who is past all thought and speech and unless this is done, it is useless to hope to get our cares destroyed. And as all these principles are fully explained in the chapter 36 on 'மெய்யுணர்தல்,' 'How to perceive truth,' we have translated the same below, adopting almost the language of Dr. G. U. Pope, together with the famous commentary of Parimelalagar, with some running notes, to show how far this is embodied in the Advaita-Siddhanta. Of course the language of the Kural is the language of the Saivite writers of the past 2000 years; and no wonder, the truths expounded by all of them should be the same.

How to Perceive Truth?

    That is we know the truth when we know the nature of Birth and Freedom (Moksha) and the causes thereof, free from error and doubt. This the Sanskritists call Tatvagnana. As this knowledge arises after desiring the desire of Him who has no desire, this chapter is placed in consequence after the chapter on 'துறவு,' 'Sannyasa.'

    1.    பொருளல்லவற்றைப்



    The delusion whereby men deem that the truth which is not,

    That is the cause of hapless birth.





Parimelalagar's Commentary.

    This delusion consists in believing such books and doctrines which hold that there is no rebirth, no fruits of both kinds of Karma, and that there is no God and such like, to be the true books and doctrines. This delusive belief is same as when one mistakes one thing for another, a block for a man, shell for silver.
மயக்கம், விபரீதம், உணர்வு,
error, அவிச்சை, Avidya or ignorance are all synonymous words. As it is only sorrow that is reaped in all the four kinds of birth as Devas, men, animal and astral, this couplet explains that birth is sorrowful and Avidya or error is its cause.

    By altering only a single letter in the first line a ',' 'a'' into ', 'i' (பொருளல்ல into பொருளில்ல) the meaning of the whole passage will be altered, and we will have a new system of philosophy directly opposed to our author's. Instead of it being then the truth, it will become the opposite of it. This is the same question which has arisen in interpreting the negative prefix in the word 'Advaita.' This 'a' or 'us' is interpreted in two ways either as meaning 'அல்ல' 'not' or இல்ல
'no,' though the distinction in the English equivalents will not be very apparent. This is its 'அன்மைப்பொருள்' or 'இன்மைப்பொருள்.' Siddhantis, of course accept the former interpretation, and most followers of Sankara prefer the latter one. This latter view involves the negation of one of the two or may be both of the postulates in 'Advaita.' With this question, a huge war has raged and volumes have been written by the late Sri-la-Sri Somasundara Nayagar and his followers on one side, and the late Ratna Chettiar and of his ilk on the other side. Anyhow, Saint Tiruvalluvar's meaning is clear. He does not mean to repudiate anything as unreal or non-existent. To him, delusion or error consists in mistaking one existent thing as the shell, for another existent thing as silver. To him, to know the truth, is to understand the true nature of each one thing. The question of reality or unreality does not come in. Only one must not mistake one thing for the other or doubt its nature. It will be sufficient requirement of the definition, if one understands the true nature of God and man and the world, and one need not believe any of these to be unreal. One of such truths is that birth is sorrowful. This can be proved to be true. But one's ignorance or delusion comes when he take this actual sorrow as happiness. You think that with the body, there is an end altogether when in fact there are future births. Believing that there is no future life and future birth, one does not believe that there can be a soul' and if there is one, he thinks the body itself is the soul and believing so, all his energies in this world are directed solely towards what would procure the greatest pleasure and gratification of his sense, and he does not care what means he adopts provided his passions are gratified. As it is, the whole foundation of morality will be undermined and one need have neither feat of men nor God. All this is the result of want of knowledge of the true nature of his body and himself, and this ignorance is the cause of his birth. This ignorance is a fact and to believe that this ignorance is itself unreal will be error or false knowledge. It is only when a man known that he is ignorant, that he will learn and try to remove his ignorance. But can this ignorance be removed! Yes. If so, how? This question is answered in the next couplet.





        Darkness departs and rapture springs to men who see

        The mystic vision pure from all delusion free.


Parimelalagar's Commentary.

    இருள், darkness is hell. The mystic vision pure is the supreme object of knowledge. By this couplet is explained that by freedom is meant Niratisayananda and the Nimitta Karana, for this the Supreme Being.


    Darkness and ignorance, Light and knowledge have at all times and in all climes been used synonymously and no two things are so analogous in nature as these two pairs of words. When will darkness vanish? When the sun rise? After the night is past. When will ignorance cease? When the source of all lights arises in his heart? When will this be? When he has attained to a well balanced mind (இருவினையொப்பு). The Pasatchayam and Pathignanam are distinct facts, though the first is not possible without the second. This couplet answers all those who say if the ignorance was eternally attached to the soul, it cannot be removed, and even if it b removed what follows is only a blank and that no Divine Power is required to give one freedom. This couplet and verse 4 below which gives a most distinct reply to the Buddhist view will remove all doubts as to whether he is a Siddhanti or a Buddhist or a Jain. But some of these truths even when known to a man, doubt often opposes him, environed by a host of dogmatic who each assert his own dogma is the only truth. In the next couplet it is stated that even this doubt is the cause of birth, and the means of getting rid of this doubt is also stated.

    3.    ஐயத்தினீங்கித்



        When doubts disperse and clearness is gained,

        Nearer is heaven than earth to sage's soul.


Parimelalagar's Commentary.

    Doubt (ஐயம்) is knowing a thing variously. That is doubting if there is or is not God and Karma and Rebirth and without definite belief in anything. This is the same as doubting a thing as water or a mirage, rope or a snake. As it is natural to every system to refute other doctrines and establish its own, the doubts arising from such a multitude of doctrines, those sages well practised in Yoga will remove, by their Svanubhuti or experience, and attain to real knowledge; and hence they are called ஐயத்தின்நீங்கித்தெளிந்தார். As they reach higher and higher Yogic experience, their attachment to the world will grow less and less, hence, the author's statement that "heaven is nearer" etc. By this couplet is explained that doubtful knowledge is a cause of birth.


    Yoga is a means and not an end. Till Yoga merges into knowledge, no real knowledge is gained. Even the highest Yoga is no good unless the final goal is reached from whence there is no return. The attainment of Yoga is really difficult, but this not all. One can subdue his passions and desires, and control his senses, but unless he has the "Vision pure," 'The only Truth,' then this attainment will be only for a first time, and the man will again be a prey to his senses. To meet this special Buddhist view that the attainment of mere extinction of all desires is Nirvana and that there is no such thing as Brahma-Nirvana, is the special object of the next couplet.

    4.    ஐயுணர்வெய்தியக்



        Five-fold perception gained, what benefit accrue

        To them whose spirit lacks perception of the true.



    Five-fold perception is the Manas. By 'gained' is meant, the controlling of the manas and concentrating of it in Darana. As training of this alone is not sufficient, the author says there is no benefit, and he brings out by the 'உம்,' how difficult a feat even this attainment of Darana is. By these two couplets, the greatness of Pathignana is explained by pointing out that without this attainment, no Moksha is possible. (And the nature of this Pathignana is the subject of the next couplet).




        Whatever thing, of whatsoever kind it be,

        'Tis wisdom' a part in each the real thing to see.



    That is, one must perceive the truth immanent in everything, after getting rid of our ordinary notions of them. In the phrase "கோச்சேரமான்
," the words may mean ordinarily the name of king Seraman of a particular description, but they may mean more particularly the Tatvas from earth to Purusha. When examined and rendered into their final causes, what finally remains is none of this cause and effect, but the Highest Truth and His knowledge is the true knowledge. By this couplet, is explained the nature of this true knowledge.


    This is one of the most oft-quoted couplets of Kural, and is put to more general uses than what is intended here. One has not to go far to discover the Supreme Being and know Him. He is in everything; but one must lose light of the apparent to gain the real. God is in the earth but the earth is not God; God is in water but water is not God, and so through every Tatva, and lastly, God is in the soul, but the soul is not God. When one has so learned to discriminate and distinguish, thereby will he attain to Pathignanam. In the next three couplets, the Sadana required for attaining this Pathignanam is given. And the first requisite is hearing or learning.

    6.    கற்றீண்டு



        Who learn and here the knowledge of the true obtain,

        Shall find the path that cometh not again.



    By 'learn,' the author means learning from every body and at all times. By 'here,' the author brings out the greatness of human birth wherefrom alone one can attain Moksha.

    "The path that cometh not again" is the path to Moksha. The means or Sadana for knowing The First cause, the cause of one's attaining Moksha are of three kinds, they are கேள்வி, Hearing or study, விமரிசம், Reflection, பாவனை Bavana or Realising. (In Sanskrit, Sravana, Manana and Nidhidyasana). This couplet explains Sravana.


    Though the commentator's idea of what is to be learnt is very large, yet the correction conveyed in the following stanza of Naladyar is important.






    "In this matchless verse, says Dr. Pope, "not a syllable could be spared; while almost every word is common and easy, yet is the very fittest, and is used in its exact meaning. It is somewhat archaic; - has a fascinating air of mystery; - pleasantly exercises and amply rewards the student's ingenuity; - seems dark at first, but once lit up, sparkles for ever.

    "This கரை– shore suggests a metaphor: 'learning is a shoreless – infinite – ocean.'

    "Then comes the simple antithesis, 'the learner's days are few.' In Tamil the use of the same root twice (in கல்வி and கற்பவர்) and again in the third line (கற்பவே) imports an added charm.    

    "Into these perfectly (to Tamil ears) harmonious lines is compressed a whole chapter:

    'The subject of study (கல்வி with a plural verb) are infinitely numerous; but the learner's days are few; and if it be calmly thought out, men ae liable to many diseases. [பிணி natural infirmities or "bonds" that enfeeble and restrict]. Youthful enthusiasm may lead men to anticipate great and varied triumphs; calm reflection teaches them their natural weakness. So, men should learn with discrimination (தெள்ளிது) examining closely (ஆராய்) things befitting (அமை suit, satisfy, gladden) them, with intelligence, (தெரிந்து) like that of the bird (the semi divine Hamsa) that drinks only the milk and leaves the water when these mingled are presented to it?"

    7.    ஒர்த்துள்ளமுள்ள



        The mind that knows with certitude what is (First-Cause)

            and ponders well

        Its thoughts on birth again to other life nee not to dwell.



    This explains manana.

    8.    பிறப்பென்னும்



        When the folly of desiring birth departs, the soul can view

        The exalted Home of The Good Being, this is wisdom true.



    Birth and ignorance, and Exalted Home and Truth are really related as effect and cause, they are given inversely in this couplet. Of the five faults, as ignorance is the cause of even the other faults, the author has stated this as the cause of birth. As Moksha is higher than all other things, it is spoken of as the 'exalted.' The First Cause is spoken of as the 'Good Being,' inasmuch as He is eternal without birth and death, as all other things are too significant to taint him by their contacts, and as he remains the same without change or taint at all time, though immanent in all things. Hence also He is spoken of above as the 'True Being' (மெய்ப்பொருள்) and the Existent (உள்ளது). The "viewing" is the soul losing its Mala and constantly realising or practising, (பாவித்தல்) so that it may become one with God (ஒற்றுமையுற்). This Bavana is also called Samadhi or Sukla Dhyana. As it is commonly held by all schools of people that the soul when it leaves the body becomes that which it fancied at the time (அதனால்
) (i.e., is born assuming that body to which it yearned at the time of death), and so, too, as it is necessary for people who aspire after Moksha to contemplate in the Transcendent Being so that their thoughts on birth may cease, there is no better means than this Sadana for practice beforehand always. Thus Bavana is explained in this couplet.


    The commentator proves his thesis by taking the common form of belief held by all people. Every one believes that the form he sees, the object he is after, the idea which possesses him at the moment of one's death will give him a similar form at the future birth and stories are current about a rishi who was fondling a deer being born a deer etc. But these do not know on what principle this is based; and except in the Siddhanta works this principle is now here expounded. The principle involved regards the nature of the soul, which is stated briefly and tersely by St. Meikandan as 'அது
' "that, that becomes" as 'சார்ந்ததன் வண்ணமாதல்' "that becomes that to which it is attached" by St. Arul Nanthi, which is paraphrased again by St. Thayumanavar as




    Like the dirt-removed crystal which becomes of the nature of that to which it is attached. St. Tiruvalluvar himself has clearly expressed this principle in Kural verses "பற்றுகபற்றற்றான்
& c" of the last chapter, and second verse of this chapter and in the next verse (சார்புணர்ந்து
& c) and verses 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the first chapter, wherein he shows that unless the soul leaves its clinging to one, it cannot cling to another from whence is deduced the principle (பற்றுக்கோடீன்றி
) that the soul cannot have any independent existence or form unless it is clinging to one thing, (the world or body is Bandha) or the other (God in Moksha), and while so attached, it identifies itself so thoroughly that it is impossible to discover its separate personality. Hence it was that a Tyndal, a Huxley, a Bain with all their minute anatomical, biological and psychological analysis were not able to discover a mind in the body different from the body, though they could not feel that the result was not very satisfactory. The express language used by the commentator "அதனால்
" as will appear from the beautiful stanza we quote below from St. Arul Nanthi, will show to whom he is indebted for the explanation.









    "The word பாவனை (Bavana) is important, Bavana, Sadana, Dhyana, Yoga are all move or less synonymous terms. It means practice by symbolic meditation or realization. You fancy fixedly you are one with that and you become that. And this is the principle which underlies all the Mahavakyas 'Tatvamasi" &c for fuller treatment.

    See Sivagnanabotham; and Siddhanta Deepika Vol. II, the article 'Mind and Body.'

    9.    சார்புணர்ந்து



        The true support who knows – rejects support he sought before

        Sorrow that clings shall cease and cling to him no more.



    ஒழுக்கம் 'conduct or practice' here means practice of Yoga. This Yoga is of 8 kinds: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratiyakara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Their explanations are too long to be given here. See them in the books on Yoga. 'The sorrows that cling to us' are the fruits of Karma which have yet to be experienced, which are the result of infinite Karma performed in births dating from eternity, and which give rise to fruits already eaten in past births and in the present births. "Shall cease and cling no more," as they will vanish before Yoga and Gnana like darkness before Light. This Jains call 'உவர்ப்பு.' As even Good Karma is the seed of birth, it is called a 'disease.' The author holds that birth will cease when the supreme is perceived by the above mentioned three means. When the births cease, what can all the ills do, as they cannot cling to these gnanis well practised in Yoga, and there being no support, they will die. This is the purport of the stanza.


The word 'சார்பு' in this verse and 'பற்று,' in the previous chapter mean a support or hold. The soul has two such supports, one in Bandha and one in Moksha and without such supports it cannot stand. This may be compared to a piece of iron held between two magnetic poles one positive, and one negative, or better still to a fruit growing on a tree. The fruit is held up by the tree so long and so long only as it is raw and immature (undeveloped) but so soon as it is ripe it reaches the ground (Force of gravity) fruit as such plant be united to the tree or the ground. What happens is, as the fruit grows riper and riper, the sap of the tree does not rise up to the twig and the twig dies, and it falls off. So too as man rises higher, and his desire of the world decreases, and the bonds are sundered, he drops into the Feet of the Lord. பாசங்கழன்றாற்பசுவுக்கிடம்பதியாம்." The author of திருக்களிற்றுப்படியார் explains சார்புணர்வு as Dhyana, and சார்புகெடஒழுக்கம் as Samadhi, the highest Gnana Yoga practices. In the next verse this Pasatchaya is further explained.

10.    காமம் வெகுளி மயக்கமிவை மூனற

னாமங்கெடக் கெடுநோய்


The eternal ignorance, avidya, the consequent achankara, the feeling of 'I' and 'mine,' the hankering which desires this or that, the excellent desire of this or that object, and dislike or hate arising from unsatisfied desire, these five faults are enumerated by Sanskritists. The author enumerates only three, as 'Ahankara' can be brought under 'Avidya' and 'hankering' can be comprised under 'Desire.' As these faults are burnt up before Gnana Yoga practices, like cotton before a wildfire, so the author speaks of the disappearance of the very names of these three faults. As those who do not commit these faults, will not commit good or bad Karma caused by them, the author states accordingly in this verse that they suffer no pain therefrom. As a result of the attainment of True Knowledge, the ills of past births and of future births are destroyed, and thus there two verses find a place in this chapter. We learn from this also, that what remains to those who have perceived the truth is the present body and ills attaching thereto.


    And the next chapter discusses the means of even getting rid of this bare bodily infirmity and of guarding against what is called Vasana Mala.

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