Tirukkural – On virtue

Tiruvalluvar – the composer of the Tirukkural

மனத்துக்கண் மாசிலன் ஆதல் அனைத்தறன்
ஆகுல நீர பிற. 

Manaththukkan Maasilan Aadhal Anaiththu
AranAakula Neera Pira (34)

A mind free of impurity, is the basis of all virtue. Everything else is empty show.

यत् कृतं शुद्धमनसा स धर्म इति कथ्यते ।
हच्छुद्धिरहितं कर्म केवलाडम्बरार्थकम् ॥ (३४)

मन का होना मल रहित, इतना ही है धर्म ।
बाकी सब केवल रहे, ठाट-बाट के कर्म ॥ (३४)

ಮನದಲ್ಲಿ ನಿರ್ಮಲನಾದರೆ ಅದೇ ಧರ್ಮ ; ಮತ್ತೆಲ್ಲವೂ ಬರಿಯ ಆಡಂಬರ. (೩೪)

Den Essenden lässt der Regen Nahrung wachsen und ist ihnen Wasser zugleich.

I was reminded of the story of Kanaka Dasa, a renowned Carnatic philosopher and poet who lived in the 16th century. Since he was from a lower cast, Kanaka Dasa was denied entry into Sri Krishna’s temple in Udupi. Undettered, Kanaka Dasa camped behind the temple and prayed to his beloved Krishna. The kirthanas (songs) that he composed during this period are still sung today. Legend has it that his devotion was so intense, his heart was so pure, that the deity of Sri Krishna turned around to face west (deities in Hindu temples traditionally face east), and Kanaka Dasa was able to have a darshana of his Lord through cracks in the temple walls. The deity still stands this way today.

Virtue and devotion are from the heart. All the other outer rituals, bhajans and charity are of no use if the heart is not pure, and the intent is not right. Tiruvalluvar puts this beautifully in the Kural above.

This Kural is also relevant in a work context. Efforts put in with a pure mind, and with intense passion and devotion to the task at hand, yield the best results. Appearing busy, but not doing your work with dedication, is of no consequence, both to the task, and to your development.

அறத்தாறு இதுவென வேண்டா சிவிகை
பொறுத்தானோடு ஊர்ந்தான் இடை. 

Araththaaru Ithuvena Ventaa Sivikai
Poruththaanotu Oorndhaan Itai (37)

The fruits of dharma are evident in the difference between a palanquin’s rider and the ones who carry it.

शिबिकावाहकं हष्टवा तत्रत्यञ्च समक्षत: ।
धर्मप्रभावे सुज्ञेये कुत: शास्त्रं कुत: श्रुति: ॥ (३७)

धर्म-कर्म के सुफल का, क्या चाहिये प्रमाण ।
शिविकारूढ़, कहार के, अंतर से तू जान ॥ (३७)

ನೀರಿನಿಂದಲೇ ಲೋಕಾಚಾರ ಎಲ್ಲ; ಮಳೆ ಬಾರದಿದ್ದರೆ, ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಆಚಾರ ನಡವಳಿಕೆಗಳೂ ನೆಲೆಯಾಗಿ ನಿಲ್ಲುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. (೨೦)

Die Früchte des dharma brauchen nicht beschrieben zu werden; sie zeigen sich beim bloßen Anblick des Sänftenträgers und des Insassen.

I read this Kural on two levels. One – with the reference to karma. The second – with the reference to one’s spiritual progress.

Cause and effect – forms a major part of Indian religious thought. What we do today accumulates an effect, which may be felt today, tomorrow, next year, or even in our next births.

It is believed that those who are virtuous, accumulate enough goodness that result in their present prosperity, and likewise, bad deeds done earlier lead one to a life of struggle in this birth.

However, another way of approaching this is Kural is to think of it as a reminder that the way of dharma is the same regardless of your social standing or your level of prosperity. It is the same for a rich man and a poor man. The path towards righteousness is essentially the same for both.

Your present circumstances may be a consequence of your own doing, some of it in your previous births, but that does not preclude you from moving towards moksha in this birth. You just have to work harder towards it, with honest effort and a pure mind, and you have the potential to raise your spiritual awareness to a higher level. Later in the Tirukkual, Valluvar describes human effort and stresses on the fact that while having lower intellectual capabilities is not your fault, not putting in your best efforts certainly is. And so, the learning here is that we all have the ability to rise above our present circumstances, if we stop thinking about why we are this way, and think more about what we can do in order to make it better. The power of positive thinking!