Tirukkural – on gratefulness

Tiruvalluvar – the composer of the Tirukkural

செய்யாமல் செய்த உதவிக்கு வையகமும்
வானகமும் ஆற்றல் அரிது.  

Seyyaamal Seydha Udhavikku Vaiyakamum
Vaanakamum Aatral Aridhu (101)

The gift of heaven and earth is not an equivalent for help that is given where none had been received.

अस्माभिरकृते साह्ये यस्तु साह्‌यं करोति न: ।
लोकद्वयप्रदानेऽपि तस्य नास्ति प्रतिक्रिया ॥ (१०१)

उपकृत हुए बिना करे, यदि कोइ उपकार ।
दे कर भू सुर-लोक भी, मुक्त न हो आभार ॥ (१०१)

ಬೇರೊಬ್ಬರಿಂದ ನಮಗೆ ಉಪಕಾರವಾಗದಿದ್ದರೂ ನಾವು ಅವರಿಗೆ ಮಾಡಿದ ಉಪಕಾರಕ್ಕೆ, ಭೂಲೋಕವಾಗಲಿ ದೇವಲೋಕವಾಗಲೀ ಪ್ರತಿಯಾಗಿ ಬೆಲೆ ಕಟ್ಟಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ. (೧೦೧)

നാം ചെയ്യാതെ, നമുക്കായ് ചെയ്തിടും സേവനത്തിനായ്  മണ്ണും വിണ്ണും കൊടുത്താലും സാമ്യമാകില്ലൊരിക്കലും  (൱൧)

Gibt einer Hilfe, dem zuvor nicht geholfen wurde, vermögen selbst Himmel und Erde diese kaum zu erwidern.

மறவற்க மாசற்றார் கேண்மை துறவற்க
துன்பத்துள் துப்பாயார் நட்பு. 

Maravarka Maasatraar Kenmai Thuravarka
Thunpaththul Thuppaayaar Natpu (106)

Do not forget the friendship of those with pure hearts, nor those who stood with you in times of trouble.

ज्ञानाचारसमेयानां सम्बन्धं नैव विस्मरेत् ।
आपत्सहायभूतनां मैत्रीं नैव परित्यजेत् ॥ (१०६)

निर्दोषों की मित्रता, कभी न जाना भूल ।
आपद-बंधु स्नेह को, कभी न तजना भूल ॥ (१०६)

ಕುಂದಿಲ್ಲದವರ ಗೆಳೆತನವನ್ನು ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದು, ಕಷ್ಟಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ನೆರವಾದವರನಂಟನ್ನು ತೊರೆಯಲಾಗದು. (೧೦೬)

സജ്ജനബന്ധമെപ്പോഴും ഭദ്രമായ്‌ നിലനിർത്തണം; കഷ്ടകാലേ തുണച്ചോരോടെന്നെന്നും നന്ദി കാട്ടണം  (൱൬)

Vergiss die Freundschaft der Guten nicht – gib Freundschaft mit solchen nicht auf, die in Widerwärtigkeit halfen.

எந்நன்றி கொன்றார்க்கும் உய்வுண்டாம் உய்வில்லை
செய்ந்நன்றி கொன்ற மகற்கு. 

Ennandri Kondraarkkum Uyvuntaam Uyvillai
Seynnandri Kondra Makarku (110)

There can be redemption for every sin committed, but there is no redemption for being ungrateful.

धर्मान्तरविहीनानां विद्यते पापमोचनम् ।
कृतज्ञताधर्महीने नास्ति वै पापमोक्षणम् ॥ (११०)

जो भी पातक नर करें, संभव है उद्धार ।
पर है नहीं कृतघ्न का, संभव ही निस्तार ॥ (११०)

ಯಾವ ಅಧರ್ಮ ಕೆಲಸಗಳನ್ನು ಮಾಡಿದವರಿಗೂ ಉದ್ಧಾರದ ಹಾದಿಯುಂಟು. ಒಬ್ಬರು ಮಾಡಿದ ಉಪಕಾರವನ್ನು ನೆನೆಯದೆ ಅಪಕಾರ ಮಾಡುವವನಿಗೆ ಉದ್ಧಾರವೇ ಇಲ್ಲ. (೧೧೦)

പെരും ദുഷ്ടത ചെയ്താലും പാപമുക്തി ലഭിച്ചിടാം; നന്ദി കാട്ടാത്ത ദുഷ്ടർക്ക്, മോചനം സാദ്ധ്യമല്ല കേൾ (൱൰)

Verletzte jemand auch eine Tugend, so steht ihm immer ein Ausweg offen – dem aber niemals, der die Dankbarkeit vergißt.

A friend in need, is a friend indeed…a familiar phrase. We all help our friends, our family, people who are known to us, and are close to us. But how many of us help those who are not known to us, with no expectation of return?

Continuing to speak about virtue, Tiruvalluvar says that giving with the expectation of return is not true giving. Helping those in need is counted as a virtue when you do not expect them to return the favour, and when you are not returning a favour that they may have done to you in the past.

Charity performed with an aim to get name and fame, or for publicity, is not true charity.

You still expect a return, even if it is not from the person you helped. And that is why all the charitable activities done for publicity don’t earn you any spiritual goodwill.

Valluvar says that the receiver of charity, or help, also has his obligations. To not be ungrateful, to not forget even a small act of kindness. Ungratefulness is the biggest sin, he says.

Ancient scriptures speak of the ṛṇa trayi, or the three debts that one has to fulfil during one’s lifetime. They are ṛṣi ṛṇa – debt to the sages, deva ṛṇa – debt to the devas and pitru ṛṇa – debt to the ancestors. Some scriptures also speak of a fourth debt – manuśya ṛṇa, or debt to mankind.

How do we overcome these debts? We can overcome ṛṣi ṛṇa by studying the scriptures, and working on elevating our consciousness beyond mere materialism.

deva ṛṇa can be overcome by sacrifice – a more spiritual ritual by sacrificing one’s selfishness and negativity, and engaging in positive acts, going about one’s duties and a karma yogi, without the expectation of the result.

pitru ṛṇa can be overcome by continuing the lineage of the family, being grateful to your ancestors for bringing you into this world and into their family, and ensuring that their name is not tarnished due to bad actions on your part.

manuśya ṛṇa is overcome by ensuring that you are helpful to the needy, and by treating everyone and everything with courtesy and respect. By believing in the concept of vasudhaiva kutumbakam – the world is one family, by discarding selfishness and embracing selflessness.

After the great battle of Mahābhārata was over, the victorious Pāndava brothers organized the Ashvamedha Yagna. At the end of this ceremony, King Yudhishthira gave costly gifts to the priests and donated very large quantities of food, gold, cattle and other forms of wealth to the poor and needy. Everyone praised Yudhishthira for his generosity and hailed him as one of the greatest Kings who had ever lived.

Suddenly, there appeared a strange mongoose at the yagna. Half the body of this mongoose was golden in color, and the other half was brown.

The mongoose stood in front of Yudhishthira and said “this yagna is definitely not as great as the gift of that Brahmana in Kurukṣetra.”

Everyone present was surprised on hearing this, because Yudhishthira had donated enormous amounts of food and money at the yagna. They asked the mongoose to explain his statement. The mongoose then narrated this story.

Long, long ago, in Kurukṣetra, there lived a poor Brahmana with his wife, son and his pregnant daughter-in-law. One year, Kurukṣetra was stuck with a terrible famine and there was no food for anyone to eat. The poor Brahmana somehow managed to arrange enough flour to make four rotis. As they all started to eat one  roti each, a hungry beggar appeared at the doorstep and asked for food.

The Brahmana, though hungry himself, offered his roti to the beggar. But the beggar’s hunger was not satisfied and he requested for some more food.

The Brahmana’s wife thought that it is the duty of a good woman to support her husband and help him in following Dharma.

Therefore, she too gave her roti to the beggar. But the beggar’s hunger was still not satisfied.

Now, the Brahmana’s son gave his roti to the beggar, saying that a good son must always support his parents in practicing Dharma. Even after eating three rotis, the beggar was still not satisfied and asked if he could have some more food.

Then, the pregnant daughter-in-law came forward, offering him her own roti. The Brahmana protested and said that she would have to take care of the baby inside her, and so she shouldn’t offer her roti to the beggar. But his daughter-in-law disagreed, saying that according to the Vedas, we are to see God in our guests and therefore guests must be served. She argued that her unborn child will also get the benefit of her charity to the beggar and therefore she would go ahead and give her own share of food to the beggar.

As soon as she gave the roti to the beggar, his hunger got satisfied. But all the four family members, tired and weak from hunger, fell dead.

And then the miracle happened. The beggar was none other than the Lord of Dharma in disguise. Pleased with the generosity of the Brahmana and his family for giving away all of their food even though they were themselves dying of hunger, he brought all of them back to life and took all of them to Heaven in a divine chariot.

The mongoose then said, “I happened to be in the kitchen of that Brahmana, watching all this. I happened to roll on the floor of the kitchen. The particles of flour that the kind Brahmana had used to make the rotis rubbed against my skin and turned it golden. But there were only enough particles to make half of my skin golden. Since then, I have been roaming all over the world to find someone who is as kind and generous as that Brahmana and his family, so that I can rub the other half of my body against their food and turn my entire body golden. Unfortunately, I still have not found someone as great as that Brahmana of Kurukṣetra and his family.”

Upon hearing this, King Yudhishthira and his brothers were humbled. Even though they had given away large amounts of wealth in charity, they had not exhausted their wealth, and this was a tiny portion of what they owned.

Whereas, that poor Brahmana and his family had given away all the food they had, quietly and without complaining, even though they were themselves dying of hunger.

The Pāndava brothers realized that the charity is greatest in which we give away something that is irreplaceable and unique, something that is really dear to us. Not just something extra that we have with us.