Tirukkural – on non-attachment

Tiruvalluvar – the composer of the Tirukkural

இருள்சேர் இருவினையும் சேரா இறைவன்
பொருள்சேர் புகழ்புரிந்தார் மாட்டு.

Irulser Iruvinaiyum Seraa Iraivan
Porulser Pukazhpurindhaar Maattu (5)

Those who are content in God’s praise, are not affected by the delusions caused by good deeds and bad.

माहात्म्यमप्रमेयस्य ज्ञात्वा तं भजतां नृणाम् ।
अज्ञानमूलकं कर्म द्विविधं चापि नश्यति ॥ (५)

जो रहते हैं ईश के, सत्य भजन में लिप्त ।
अज्ञानाश्रित कर्म दो, उनको करें न लिप्त ॥ (५)

ಮನದ ಇರುಳಿಂದುಂಟಾಗುವ ಒಳಿತು, ಕೆಡಕುಗಳೆಂಬ ಎರಡು ವಿಧವಾದ ಕರ್ಮಗಳೂ ಭಗವಂತನ ಮಹಿಮೆಯನ್ನು ಹೊಗಳುವವರಿಗೆ ಸೇರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ (೫)

Die zweifachen Taten gehen von der Finsternis der Einbildung aus – sie haften denen nicht an, die sich des wahren Gottespreises erfreuen.

Indian philosophy believes in renunciation as a path to liberation. Moksha is the goal, not heaven. Freeing oneself of the bondage of the fruits of one’s right action is the objective. And good deeds are as much a bondage as bad ones – they just create an illusion of happiness, and the more they do that, the more we cling on to them.

Fans of cricket would observe this in the best batsmen – they do not break into wild celebration just because they hit a six, nor do they despair if they miss a good shot. It is all about the concentration on the game – a good hit or not, the next ball is a new challenge and they gear up for it by not attaching themselves to the result of the previous delivery.

यो न हृष्यति न द्वेष्टि न शोचति न काङ् क्षति |
शुभाशुभपरित्यागी भक्तिमान्य: स मे प्रिय: ||

yo na hṛiṣhyati na dveṣhṭi na śhochati na kāṅkṣhati
śhubhāśhubha-parityāgī bhaktimān yaḥ sa me priyaḥ

Those who neither rejoice in mundane pleasures nor despair in worldly sorrows, who neither lament for any loss nor hanker for any gain, who renounce both good and evil deeds, such persons who are full of devotion are very dear to Me.

Srimad Bhagvad Gita 12.17

Life also throws us a lot of deliveries – some of them throw us off balance, others we are able to navigate well. Happiness and sadness follow a pattern, in some cases, we oscillate between these states during the course of a day. Tiruvalluvar echoes the Bhagwad Gita when he states that one should be distance oneself from the ‘illusions’ of good and bad, and instead, focus on freeing ourselves from desires.

Does this mean that one should not do anything at all?

No. Karma, or action, is inevitable. Even not doing anything, or inaction, is a kind of action in itself. And so comes the concept of Nishkam Karma Yoga – which is the central message of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita – perform to the best of your ability, and do not attach yourself to the fruits of your actions.