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Empowerment through readings of the Thirukkural

by RB Sreekumar , 09 Dec 2015


 
Progressive ideas abound in the works of saint-poet Thiruvalluvar and other great thinkers from India’s past

 
The highest number of informal slaves (bonded labourers) in the world is in India.The country is categorized in a higher position than sub-Saharan African nations and many other underdeveloped places for volume of corruption, stashing away of black money in foreign banks,and gender prejudice. The triad of corruption,nepotism and abusive exclusivity has become an acceptable subculture among the political-administrative class at the Centre and the states, pushing the country into condemnable depths of degradation. The inclusion in school curricula of the classics of Indian literature, which contain ideas for the empowerment of the weakest, would be one way to remedy the country’s current climate.
 
The Indian education system has often been criticized for its failure to impart the essential values of life—ethics, compassion, inclusive thinking and broadmindedness—to students. This has resulted in a situation where highly educated people, who are engaged in public service, display little empathy for the real sovereigns of India—the common people. Thirukkural, by saint-poet Thiruvalluvar,should be incorporated in the school curricula across the country: the Tamil classic will help the coming generations to grow up as thinking, feeling, gentle citizens.
 
Sanskrit and Tamil are two classical Indian languages.Thoughboth have produced voluminous and enlightening literatures, encompassing practically all facets of human life, Sanskrit ceasedto be a vibrant and popularly spoken language from around 1000 AD. Even Buddha, who lived almost a millennia and a half before that, preached in Pali and not Sanskrit. Tamil, on the other hand, has sustained its literary eminence, depth, vitality and greatness with unbroken continuity and vibrancy from the 3rdcentury BCE.
 
Thirukkural, authored by Thiruvalluvar (estimated to have lived between the 3rd and 1st century BC), is one of the most remarkable books of Tamil literature. It is the synthesis of the best of Indian religions at that time. The poet has codified values evolved in the thoughts of Vedic Brahminism, Buddhism and Jainism, after filtering out religious, ritualistic, exclusivist and sectarian ideas. In this way the book can be seen as a secularism-based treatise, with sound logic and reason.
 
In the early 18thcentury, Western Indologists, highly impressed by Thirukkural, translated it into most of the European languages.  Dr. G.U. Pope, who translated it into English, had ranked it with the best of world literature of all languages.  He hailed Thiruvalluvar as the ‘Bard of Universal Men’.  With reference to this book, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, scientist and writer, in his book ‘Indian Thought and its Development’, observed,“There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find such lofty wisdom.”  M. Ariel, the great French savant, estimated Thirukkural as “A masterpiece of Tamil Literature, one of the highest and purest expressions of human thoughts”.  Tamil spiritual poetess Avvayar, a contemporary of Thiruvalluvar, who closely studied Thiruvalluvar, spoke in a Tamil song, “Thiruvalluvar bores an atom, pores the seven seas (of knowledge) into its cavity, and cutting the atom, offers its cross-section to us in the shape of the Kural.”  It is remarkable also that there is no criticism or adverse comment about this book whether about its literary style, craft, aesthetics or contents from any critics--spiritual or secular.

Thirukkural does not project an exclusive identity of any religion, ideology, dogmatic doctrines or system of faith. The 1,330 gnomic aphorisms in Thirukkural are comparable to the maxims of Gautam Buddha, the parables of Jesus Christ, the proverbs in the Bible, the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad and the teachings of Chinese philosophers Lao-Tse and Confucius.
 
Thiruvalluvar never took any dogmatic stand that could be seen as violating the laws of biology. Nor did he preach impractical spiritualism and celibacy.  The book has three parts dealing with (1) Dharma (moral code) (2) Artha (wealth code, covering politics and administration) and (3) Kama (love code). Comprehension and internalization of core values in Thirukkural could act as a tonic for the upgrade of the individual, family, community, society, nations and humanity. 
 
A few illustrative inspirational couplets (Kurals):
“Be pure in mind.  That is dharma.  All else is but pompous show.” (Kural No. 34)
“That body where love dwells is the seat of life; all others are but skin-clad bones.” (Kural No. 80)
“The crown of wealth is one’s compassion; all other wealth is found even among meanest of men.” (Kural No. 241)
“Water cleanses the body; truth cleanses the soul.”  (Kural No. 298)
“To track all things to their subtlest retreats is true knowledge.” (Kural No. 355)
“Strict inquiry,and impartial justice mark the rule of a just monarch.” (Kural No. 541)
“Verily the two eyes of a king are espionage and the celebrated code of laws.” (Kural No. 581)
“Those who labour hard, undaunted by obstacles will overcome destiny.” (Kural No.620)
“Most stupid is the learned fool who remains disloyal to his own noble teaching.” (Kural No. 834)
 
Unlike some religions that advocate the anti-biological dogma of  Brahmacharya, Thirukkural never advocated abstention from genuine and legitimate love.  Kural No. 1,102 in the chapter, ‘The Ecstasy of Love’s Union’, observes, “The remedy for a disease lies not in the disease but in some healing balm; but not so the loved one who is at once the disease and cure for the pangs of love.”
 
There has never been any controversy over the authorship or historicity of Thirukkural, which was produced in the historic period, unlike in the case of religious scriptures, which were penned down in pre-historic mythological times. Thirukkural also does not project an exclusive identity of any religion, ideology, dogmatic doctrines or system of faith. The 1,330 gnomic aphorisms in Tirukkural are comparable to the maxims of Gautam Buddha, the parables of Jesus Christ, the proverbs in the Bible, the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad and the teachings of Chinese philosophers Lao-Tse and Confucius
 
The incorporation of this work in the middle and high school curriculawill help instil basic moral and ethical values deriving from our own classics.

Empowerment through readings of the Thirukkural


 
Progressive ideas abound in the works of saint-poet Thiruvalluvar and other great thinkers from India’s past

 
The highest number of informal slaves (bonded labourers) in the world is in India.The country is categorized in a higher position than sub-Saharan African nations and many other underdeveloped places for volume of corruption, stashing away of black money in foreign banks,and gender prejudice. The triad of corruption,nepotism and abusive exclusivity has become an acceptable subculture among the political-administrative class at the Centre and the states, pushing the country into condemnable depths of degradation. The inclusion in school curricula of the classics of Indian literature, which contain ideas for the empowerment of the weakest, would be one way to remedy the country’s current climate.
 
The Indian education system has often been criticized for its failure to impart the essential values of life—ethics, compassion, inclusive thinking and broadmindedness—to students. This has resulted in a situation where highly educated people, who are engaged in public service, display little empathy for the real sovereigns of India—the common people. Thirukkural, by saint-poet Thiruvalluvar,should be incorporated in the school curricula across the country: the Tamil classic will help the coming generations to grow up as thinking, feeling, gentle citizens.
 
Sanskrit and Tamil are two classical Indian languages.Thoughboth have produced voluminous and enlightening literatures, encompassing practically all facets of human life, Sanskrit ceasedto be a vibrant and popularly spoken language from around 1000 AD. Even Buddha, who lived almost a millennia and a half before that, preached in Pali and not Sanskrit. Tamil, on the other hand, has sustained its literary eminence, depth, vitality and greatness with unbroken continuity and vibrancy from the 3rdcentury BCE.
 
Thirukkural, authored by Thiruvalluvar (estimated to have lived between the 3rd and 1st century BC), is one of the most remarkable books of Tamil literature. It is the synthesis of the best of Indian religions at that time. The poet has codified values evolved in the thoughts of Vedic Brahminism, Buddhism and Jainism, after filtering out religious, ritualistic, exclusivist and sectarian ideas. In this way the book can be seen as a secularism-based treatise, with sound logic and reason.
 
In the early 18thcentury, Western Indologists, highly impressed by Thirukkural, translated it into most of the European languages.  Dr. G.U. Pope, who translated it into English, had ranked it with the best of world literature of all languages.  He hailed Thiruvalluvar as the ‘Bard of Universal Men’.  With reference to this book, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, scientist and writer, in his book ‘Indian Thought and its Development’, observed,“There hardly exists in the literature of the world a collection of maxims in which we find such lofty wisdom.”  M. Ariel, the great French savant, estimated Thirukkural as “A masterpiece of Tamil Literature, one of the highest and purest expressions of human thoughts”.  Tamil spiritual poetess Avvayar, a contemporary of Thiruvalluvar, who closely studied Thiruvalluvar, spoke in a Tamil song, “Thiruvalluvar bores an atom, pores the seven seas (of knowledge) into its cavity, and cutting the atom, offers its cross-section to us in the shape of the Kural.”  It is remarkable also that there is no criticism or adverse comment about this book whether about its literary style, craft, aesthetics or contents from any critics--spiritual or secular.

Thirukkural does not project an exclusive identity of any religion, ideology, dogmatic doctrines or system of faith. The 1,330 gnomic aphorisms in Thirukkural are comparable to the maxims of Gautam Buddha, the parables of Jesus Christ, the proverbs in the Bible, the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad and the teachings of Chinese philosophers Lao-Tse and Confucius.
 
Thiruvalluvar never took any dogmatic stand that could be seen as violating the laws of biology. Nor did he preach impractical spiritualism and celibacy.  The book has three parts dealing with (1) Dharma (moral code) (2) Artha (wealth code, covering politics and administration) and (3) Kama (love code). Comprehension and internalization of core values in Thirukkural could act as a tonic for the upgrade of the individual, family, community, society, nations and humanity. 
 
A few illustrative inspirational couplets (Kurals):
“Be pure in mind.  That is dharma.  All else is but pompous show.” (Kural No. 34)
“That body where love dwells is the seat of life; all others are but skin-clad bones.” (Kural No. 80)
“The crown of wealth is one’s compassion; all other wealth is found even among meanest of men.” (Kural No. 241)
“Water cleanses the body; truth cleanses the soul.”  (Kural No. 298)
“To track all things to their subtlest retreats is true knowledge.” (Kural No. 355)
“Strict inquiry,and impartial justice mark the rule of a just monarch.” (Kural No. 541)
“Verily the two eyes of a king are espionage and the celebrated code of laws.” (Kural No. 581)
“Those who labour hard, undaunted by obstacles will overcome destiny.” (Kural No.620)
“Most stupid is the learned fool who remains disloyal to his own noble teaching.” (Kural No. 834)
 
Unlike some religions that advocate the anti-biological dogma of  Brahmacharya, Thirukkural never advocated abstention from genuine and legitimate love.  Kural No. 1,102 in the chapter, ‘The Ecstasy of Love’s Union’, observes, “The remedy for a disease lies not in the disease but in some healing balm; but not so the loved one who is at once the disease and cure for the pangs of love.”
 
There has never been any controversy over the authorship or historicity of Thirukkural, which was produced in the historic period, unlike in the case of religious scriptures, which were penned down in pre-historic mythological times. Thirukkural also does not project an exclusive identity of any religion, ideology, dogmatic doctrines or system of faith. The 1,330 gnomic aphorisms in Tirukkural are comparable to the maxims of Gautam Buddha, the parables of Jesus Christ, the proverbs in the Bible, the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad and the teachings of Chinese philosophers Lao-Tse and Confucius
 
The incorporation of this work in the middle and high school curriculawill help instil basic moral and ethical values deriving from our own classics.

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