(Part III-Contents: Ceaseless Effort and Action; Fate and Free Will; Fighting Misfortune; On Learning (Education) and On Being Unlettered; Knowledge through Listening; Discriminatory Wisdom; Impermanence; Diseases and Cure; In Praise of God)


THIRUKKURAL, A Great Masterpiece in World Literature


(By S.G.V.Ramanan, Bangalore)



Part III  


Under this heading, I propose to illustrate further Thiruvalluvar’s wise sayings, by highlighting certain other general chapters concerning life as a whole.  

Chapter No.26 (a)

Life of Action (Ceaseless Effort and Action)

In an earlier Chapter, (Series # 16), I had presented Thiruvalluvar’s thoughts on the Law of Karma. In one of the Verses, the poet says:

OOzhin  peruvali  yaavuLa?  matRondRu

Soozhinum  thaan  munthurum


Meaning:  Is there anything mightier than fate?  Even as its victim plans to overcome it, it forestalls the thought itself.

In this chapter, in ten verses, the Saint lays stress on efforts rather than the results thereof.  He says that few can achieve success without strenuous and relentless efforts.

Oozaiyum uppakkam kaanbar, ulaivindrith

Thaazhaathu ujhaRRupar;

Meaning: Sustained and relentless effort will help a man to overcome the fate and make it flee away from him.

This is an important verse and needs to be taken seriously in life. Fate is a convenient excuse for many to run away from problems; they hardly make efforts to overcome its ill effects.

Though the latter verse # 620 (apparently) gives an opposite meaning to the one in the Chapter on Law of Karma (verse 380 given above), there is no contradiction in his thought. While recognizing the mightiness of fate, the Poet does not want men to cry over it and sit quite. The verses under the current chapter emphasize the fact that whatever may be the nature of the fate, sustained efforts are necessary to overcome it and such efforts bring their own rewards.

This brings me to the topic on “Fate and Free Will”. Very often, people get confused with what fatalism is and to what extent free will can be exercised to guide their life to get the best out of it in this world.

To understand and clear the apparent contradiction between the two verses of the poet, I would like to quote the wise advice of one of our well respected religious heads of Mutts, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswami of Sringeri  Sankara Mutt  in South India.

To what extent a man can change the result of his own past karmas or actions in the present life depend on the extent, nature and the severity of the past karmas. Free will can alter the fruits of bad past karmas easily if such karmas were not intense or strong. Where such karmas are very strong, sustained efforts are necessary to overcome them, including propitiation and intense prayers. Equally, it is possible to improve on the effects of good karmas.

“It is profitless to embark on the enquiry as to the relative strength of fate and free-will. ……..This does not mean to say that you must resign yourself to fate. On the other hand, you must devote yourself to free-will. Fate, as I told you, is the resultant of the past exercise of your free will. By exercising your free will in the past, you brought on the resultant fate.

By exercising your free-will in the present, I want you to wipe out your past record if it hurts you, or to add to it if you find it enjoyable. In any case, whether for acquiring more happiness or for reducing misery, you have to exercise your free-will in the present.

“It is not quite correct to say that fate places obstacles in the way of free-will…………………..  You must now exercise your free-will with re-doubled vigour and persistence to achieve your object. Tell yourself that, inasmuch as the seeming obstacle is of your own making, it is certainly within your competence to overcome it.” (Further thoughts and explanations on “Fate and Free Will” are presented in my web site:  http://sgvramanan.com/fate.html. Fuller excerpts of the Swamiji’s erudite explanation are reproduced in Appendix 3 given below- named Chapter 26 (b))

What Swamiji said in the Twentieth Century was emphasized by Thiruvalluvar in the present Verse No. 620 quoted above two thousand years back.

In the verses below, the poet further emphasizes the need to take continuous and relentless efforts to achieve an object. Let us see what the verses say:

MuyaRchi  thiruvnaiyaakkum;  muyaRchiyinmai

Inmai  puguththividum

Meaning: Industry is the mother of prosperity; lack of it brings in poverty or destitution.

poRiyinmai  yaarkkum  pazhiyandRu;  aRivu  arinthu

aaL vinai  inmai  pazhi.

Meaning:  No one will be blamed if fate is not in his favour; abstaining deliberately from exertion or making sustained effort is blameworthy.

Deyvaththaan  aakaathu  eninum,  muyaRchithan

Meyvarutha  kooli  tharum.

Meaning: What if fate (or God) wills its failure and the object is not attained, the effort pays its own reward.

Rajaji explains: “These couplets lay down that the world may justly blame you for not making the best of talents and putting forth your utmost effort, that sustained and courageous effort will overcome the course of past karma, and that even if you fail to attain your object, the effort raises your character and takes you forward in the course of self-evolution.”

The other important verses tell us:

Let not the magnitude or nature of the task unnerve you; strenuous efforts will give you the required strength and success. (611)

Do not leave any work unfinished; he who fails to complete allotted work is let down by the world. (612)

Only those who make ceaseless efforts can enjoy the pleasure of being useful to others. (613)

The man who does not seek pleasure but loves his work and exert, is a pillar of strength to his friends and relatives; he wipes out their tears of grief. (615)

The Goddess of misfortune dwells with sloth; the lotus-born Goddess (Lakshmi) resides in human effort (labour). (617)

In a complementary chapter on “Will in Action”, the poet advises that tasks which increase happiness should be completed even if they result in suffering in the course of their execution. Here is the verse:

Thunbam  uRavarinum  seyka  thuNivatRi

inbam  payakkum  vinai

eNNiyaa  eNNiyaangu  eythuba  eNNiyaar

thiNNiyar  aakap peRin.

Meaning: “Men of steady will, can achieve their aim and in the manner desired.”


ORoraal  uRRapin  olkaamai  ivviraNdin

Arenbar  Aynthavar  kOl.

Meaning: To avoid all actions that are bound to fail and not to turn away from action in the face of obstacles are the twin guiding principles of the wise.


Solluthal  yaarkkum  eLiya;  ariyavaam

Solliya  vaNNam  seyal.

Meaning: Preaching is the easiest thing; to put it in practice is difficult.

uruvukandu   eLLaamai  vEndum;  uruLperunthErkku

achchaaNi  annaar  udauththu.

Meaning: Do not judge men by their looks; for, there are men who are like the car’s axle-pin.

(To be continued in Chapter 27)

Chapter No.26 (b)

Life of Action (Ceaseless Effort and Action)- Fate and Free Will

Appendix 3.

A beautiful and erudite explanation to the theory of “Fate and Free Will” is given by one of the saints of India who lived in the early twentieth century, namely his holiness, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswami of Sharada Peetham at Sringeri in South India. This explanation was given by the Swami in the form of answers to questions posed by a disciple to him and was published in the June / July 1997 issue of “Tattvaloka”, a magazine published in Chennai, India, under the patronage of Sringeri Sharada Peetham. I have given below excerpts from the article published in that magazine:

“As a follower of our Sanatana Dharma, you must know that fate is nothing extraneous to yourself, but only the sum total of the results of your past actions.

“As God is but the dispenser of the fruits of actions, fate, representing those fruits, is not his creation but only yours. Free-will is what you exercise when you act now.

“Fate is past karma; free-will is present karma. Both are really one, that is, karma, though they may differ in the matter of time. There can be no conflict when they are really one. The present is before you and, by the exercise of free-will, you can attempt to shape it.

“The past is past and is, therefore, beyond your vision and is rightly called adrishta, the unseen. You cannot reasonably attempt to find out the relative strength of two things unless both of them are before you. But, by our very definition, free-will, the present karma, alone is before you and fate, the past karma, is invisible.

“The problem of conflict will get solved only at the end of the conflict. But at that time the problem will cease to exist. That is, before the conflict begins, the problem is incapable of solution; and, after the conflict ends, it is no longer necessary to find a solution. In either case, it is profitless to embark on the enquiry as to the relative strength of fate and free-will.

“This does not mean to say that you must resign yourself to fate. On the other hand, you must devote yourself to free-will. Fate, as I told you, is the resultant of the past exercise of your free will. By exercising your free will in the past, you brought on the resultant fate.

“By exercising your free-will in the present, I want you to wipe out your past record if it hurts you, or to add to it if you find it enjoyable. In any case, whether for acquiring more happiness or for reducing misery, you have to exercise your free-will in the present.

“Except to a very few highly advanced souls, the past certainly remains unknown. But even our ignorance of it is very often an advantage to us. For, if we happen to know all the results we have accumulated by our actions in this and our past lives, we will be so much shocked as to give up in despair any attempt to overcome or mitigate them. Even in this life, forgetfulness is a boon, which the merciful God has been pleased to bestow on us, so that we may not be burdened at any moment with a recollection of all that has happened in the past.

“Similarly, the divine spark in us is ever bright with hope and makes it possible for us to confidently exercise our free-will. It is not for us to belittle the significance of these two boons-forgetfulness of the past and hope for the future.

“It is not quite correct to say that fate places obstacles in the way of free-will. On the other hand, by seeming to oppose our efforts, it tells us what is the extent of free-will that is necessary now to bear fruit.

“Ordinarily for the purpose of securing a single benefit, a particular activity is prescribed; but we do not know how intensively or how repeatedly that activity has to be pursued or persisted in.

“If we do not succeed at the very first attempt, we can easily deduce that in the past we have exercised our free-will just in the opposite direction, that the resultant of that past activity has first to be eliminated and that our present effort must be proportionate to that past activity.

“If you do not succeed, tell yourself then that there has been in the past a counter-influence brought on by yourself by exercising your free-will in the other direction and, therefore, you must now exercise your free-will with re-doubled vigour and persistence to achieve your object. Tell yourself that, inasmuch as the seeming obstacle is of your own making, it is certainly within your competence to overcome it.

“If you do not succeed even after this renewed effort, there can be absolutely no justification for despair, for fate being but a creature of your free-will can never be stronger than free will. Your failure only means that your present exercise of free-will is not sufficient to counteract the result of the past exercise of it.

“In other words, there is no question of a relative proportion between fate and free-will as distinct factors in life. The relative proportion is only as between the intensity of our past action and the intensity of our present action.

“It is true that the relative intensity can be realised only at the end of our present effort in a particular direction. It is always so in the case of everything which is adrishta or unseen. Take, for example, a nail driven into a wooden pillar. The length (that has gone inside the wood) is unseen or adrishta, so far as you are concerned. Beautifully varnished as the pillar is, you do not know what is the composition of the wood in which the nail is driven. That also is unseen or adrishta.

Now, suppose you want to pull that nail our, the number and intensity of the pulls needed to take out the nail depend upon the number and intensity of the strokes which drove it in. But the strokes that drove the nail in are now unseen and unseeable. They relate to the past and are adrishta.

“Do we stop from pulling out the nail simply because we happen to be ignorant of the length of the nail in the wood or of the number and intensity of the strokes which drove it in? Or, do we persist in pulling it out by increasing our effort? Adopt the same course in every effort of yours. Exert yourself as much as you can. You will and must succeed in the end.

“There is nothing which is really unattainable. A thing, however, may be unattainable to us at the particular stage at which we are, or with the qualifications that we possess. The attainability or otherwise of a particular thing is thus not an absolute characteristic of that thing but is relative and proportionate to our capacity to attain it.

“Religion does not fetter man's free-will. It leaves him quite free to act, but tells him at the same time what is good for him and what is not. The responsibility is entirely and solely his. He cannot escape it by blaming fate, for fate is of his own making, nor by blaming God, for he is but the dispenser of fruits in accordance with the merits of actions. You are the master of your own destiny. It is for you to make it, to better it or to mar it. This is your privilege. This is your responsibility.

“Fate is a thing quite different from the other one, which you call a power. Suppose you handle an instrument for the first time. You will do it very clumsily and with effort. The next time, however, you use it, you will do so less clumsily and with less effort. With repeated uses, you will have learnt to use it easily and without any effort. That is, the facility and ease with which you use a particular thing increase with the number of times you use it. The repeated and familiar use will leave behind a tendency to use it.

“The power which makes you act as if against your will is only the vasana which itself is of your own making. This is not fate.

“The punishment or reward, in the shape of pain or pleasure, which is the inevitable consequence of an act, good or bad, is alone the province of fate or destiny.

“The vasana which the doing of an act leaves behind in the mind in the shape of a taste, a greater facility or a greater tendency for doing the same act once again, is quite a different thing. It may be that the punishment or the reward of a past act is, in ordinary circumstances, unavoidable, if there is no counter-effort; but the vasana can be easily handled if only we exercise our free-will correctly.

“The essential nature of a vasana is to seek expression in outward acts. This characteristic is common to all vasanas, good and bad. The stream of vasanas, the vasana sarit, as it is called, has two current, the good and the bad. If you try to dam up the entire stream, there may be danger. The Sastras, therefore, do not ask you to attempt that. On the other hand, they ask you to submit yourself to be led by the good vasana current and to resist being led away by the bad vasana current.

“When you know that a particular vasana is rising up in your mind, you cannot possibly say that you are at its mercy. You have your wits about you and the responsibility of deciding whether you will encourage it or not is entirely yours.

“The Sastras enunciate in detail what vasanas are good and have to be encouraged and what vasanas are bad and have to be overcome. When, by dint of practice, you have mad all your vasanas good and practically eliminated the change of any bad vasanas leading you astray, the Sastras take upon themselves the function off teaching you how to free your free-will even from the need of being led by good vasanas.

“You will gradually be led on to a stage when your free-will be entirely free from any sort of colouring due to any vasanas. As that stage, your mind will be pure as crystal and all motive for particular action will cease to be. Freedom from the results of particular actions is an inevitable consequence. Both fate and vasana disappear. There is freedom for ever more and that freedom is called Moksha.”

(Italics, highlighting etc are mine-SGVR)

(To be continued in Chapter 27)


 Chapter No.27

Fighting Misfortune (Fortitude)

Mind is a powerful force and it is the way we look at things or events in life that brings in the experience of sorrow or joy and their intensity. If life and its purpose are properly understood, life becomes enjoyable even in the midst of adversity. Here, the Poet wants us to understand that misfortunes are part of human life and we should have a balanced mind to overcome them. If every one of us will understand and practice this approach towards life, there will be no such thing as suffering in this world. This is one of the greatest contributions of the Saint Poet to the human world.

In the verses under this chapter, Thiruvalluvar extols the virtue of looking at misfortunes in a balanced manner and tells us how to face them with an unperturbed spirit and fortitude.

The first advice to us is that we should face misfortunes with a smile (laugh at it or laugh it away). There is nothing like this to overcome and mastering adversity. Here is the verse in Tamil.

idukkaN  varungkaal  Nahuha;  athani 

aduththoorvathu  ahthoppathi

It is the mind, which experiences the misfortune; the wise people’s resolute thought can overcome even a flood of misfortune and checkmate it. (See the following verse).

Vellaththanaiya  idumbai  aRivudaiyaan

uLLaththin  uLLak  kedum

How is this done? The Poet explains:

Inbam  vizhaiyaan,  idumbai  iyalpu  enbaan,

Thunbam  uruthal  ilan.

Meaning: He who does not crave for pleasures of life and thinks that it is normal or natural for a man to face misfortunes, will not experience the misery of adversities.

Meaning: One, who does not seek pleasure out of success or good fortune, will not suffer pain in adversities.

Rajaji explains: “Those who do not grieve over difficulties, thereby make them innocuous. By not yielding to grief, misfortunes can be overcome. Not to lose oneself in joy over good fortune is the means whereby strength is acquired to face misfortune.”


Ilakkam  udambu  idumbaikku  enRu,  kalakkaththaik

Kaiyaaraak  koLLaathaam  mEl.

Meaning: Recognizing that the body is the target of misfortunes, the wise will not be perturbed by them. (Here, the Poet once again emphasizes the power of mind to rise above adversities and stay cool.)

These thoughts are further highlighted in the other verses of this chapter.

In a beautiful poetic alliteration, the poet says: Those who are not troubled by troubles in life will bring in trouble to troubles. (623)

I quote the very verse here, as I am not sure I have done justice to the translation.

Idumbaikku  idumbai  paduppar  idumbaikku

Idumbai  padaathavar.

In another verse, the poet observes: The man who strains every nerve to wade through the misfortune like an oxen in a field, will send the obstacles away disappointed.(624)

(To be continued in Chapter 28)



 Chapter No.28

On Learning (Education) and On Being Unlettered

In this chapter and the next, the Poet forcefully brings out the importance of education/knowledge in a man’s life and the absence thereof.

He compares letters and numerical (literally mathematics and literature), with the two eyes of life (392) and says that only the literate can be said to have eyes; others have only two sores or wounds in their place. (And therefore, they are treated as blind). (393)

He further asserts that knowledge alone is imperishable wealth for a man; all others are nothing before it. (400)

Here are the three verses.


En  enba. Enai  ezhuththu  enba  ivvirandum

kaN  enba  vaazhum  uyirkku.


Kannudiayaar  enbavar  katROr;  mukaththu  irandu

Punnudaiyar  kallaathavar.


kEdil  vizhuchchelvam  kalvi  oruvaRkku;

maadalla  matRavai  yavai.

The Poet then begins to explain how the learning is to be done.

kaRkka  kasadaRak  kaRpavai;  katRapin

NiRkka  athaRkuth  thaha.

Meaning: Acquire sound knowledge of what is worth learning and live according to its tenets.

This is an important advice, as mere knowledge does not bring any results to the person concerned, till he translates all that he leant into action (practice).

Udaiyaarmun  illaarpOl  EkkatRum  katRaar;

kadiayarE  kallaathavar.

Meaning: The learner has to be humble before the teacher while learning, even as a beggar seeks alms before the rich; the lowest among men are those who do not learn.

Thottanaiththu  ooRum  manaRkEni;  maantharkkuk

katRanaiththum  oorum  aRivu.

Meaning: As the quantum of water oozes from the sandpit in the riverbed according to its depth of digging, knowledge increases in proportion to the efforts made to acquire it.

Eulogizing the virtues of learning, the Poet says:

Thaam  inbuRuvathu  ulagu  inbuRakkaNdu

kaamuRuvar  katRaRinthaar.

Meaning: The one, who has derived pleasure from the knowledge acquired by him, also derives immense joy when he sees this as a source of happiness to others who benefit by it.

Rajaji further adds: “While really the learned man finds in his learning his own pleasure, he sees the others look upon him as a benefactor, conferring pleasure on them. Hence the truly learned are in love with knowledge.

It is a festival of joy when learned men come together and it is painful when parting. (394)

For a learned man, every land is his native land; why then one shuns away from learning all through life? (397)

Knowledge acquired in one birth will sustain him for seven incarnations. (398)

The Saint then begins to denounce ignorance in the next chapter:

The wisdom of the man who has no learning will attract no value from the learned. (404)

The unlettered man’s conceit will get exposed when he speaks before the learned men. (405)

“The size and personality of a man who is externally grand but has not an intellect improved by learning is like the grandeur of large clay images made beautiful with coloured paste.” (407)

Though poverty of a learned man is a misfortune, greater misfortune to the world is the riches of an ignorant man. (While poverty cannot cause harm to the spirit of the learned, wealth in the hands of the ignorant is a danger to the world.) (408)

“Not the ranking by birth, but learning marks eminence and wins respect.” (Here, the Poet points out that the learned, even though born of an inferior class in the society, are superior to those who are born in higher class but have no learning.) (409)

“Nobler than beasts are men, and nobler than the ignorant are the wise.” (410)


(To be continued in Chapter 29)


 Chapter No.29

Knowledge through Listening

In ancient times, knowledge acquired through listening was considered as important as one’s own study and learning through books and educational institutions. Even today, this holds good. Listening to learned men has the advantage of getting to know the best of what they have learnt, which would have otherwise taken a long time and great effort for anyone to learn on one’s own.

The Poet says that listening will help even an unlettered man and help him in times of distress. Here is the verse:

katRilan aayinum  kEtka;  ahthoruvaRku

oRkaththin  ootRaam  thuNai.

The poet attaches so much importance to this method of learning that he considers taking food as secondary when compared to listening to learned men and acquiring knowledge.

Sevikku  uNavu  illaatha  pOzhthu  sirithu

vayitRukkum   eeyappadum.

Meaning: When the listening ear has respite, the stomach will be given some food for the body’s needs.

Some of the other important verses in this chapter are translated as under:

Words from the teacher who is leading a righteous life helps one as a staff helps the weak to walk. (Here, the emphasis is on the qualifications of the teacher. The man from whom one listens should have, apart from his learning, good conduct to guide the latter in the right direction.) (415)

Listening to useful things from the learned, leads one to humility of speech.  (Listening to the expositions of difficult and fine points sharpens the listener’s powers of research. This automatically develops humility. - Rajaji) (419)

Listening to learned men will save one from foolish statements even by error. (417)

(To be continued in Chapter 30)




Chapter No.30

 Right Understanding or Discriminatory Wisdom (Arivu)

The word “Arivu” does not have exact equivalent in English language. This word in Tamizh denotes discriminatory wisdom arising out of commonsense and right understanding of events and people in life.

Under this heading the Poet explains what is “Arivu.

epporuL  yaaryaarvaayk  kEtpinum  apporul

meyppOruL  kaaNpathu  aRivu.

Meaning: From whomsoever one hears about a thing, it is wisdom to understand the true import of it. (The Poet intends to emphasize the point that it is always better, not to take any utterance at its face value or be misled by the circumstance in which such utterance is made. It is wise to understand the real import and take only its right meaning.)

In a similar advice elsewhere in another chapter, the Poet says that whatever be the nature of a thing, or whatever nature it appears to be, it is wise to see the true nature (true import) of it. Here also, the emphasis is that one should not be misled by external appearances; discriminatory wisdom should help one to reason out and find the truth. (See the verse numbered 355 below):

epporuL  eththanmaiththu  aayinum  apporuL

meypporuL  kaaNbathu  aRivu.

evvathu  uRaivathu  ulagam  ulagaththOdu

avvathu  uRaivathu  aRivu.

Meaning: It is part of wisdom to conform to the ways of the world. (Here, by the word “world”, the Poet refers to the learned and highly respected people.)

Also see another verse in an earlier chapter, where he emphasizes this in negation as follows:

ulagaththOdu  otta  ozhugal  pala  katRum

kallaar  aRivilaathaar.

Meaning: Even though well learned, those who do not conform to the ways of the civilized world are not considered knowledgeable.

anjuvathu    anjaamai  pEthamai;  anjuvathu

anjal  aRivaar  thozhil.

Meaning: Fools do not fear what is to be feared and rush in regardless of danger; it is the nature of the wise to fear what is truly a danger. (Unlike fools, discriminatory wisdom helps the wise to know the real dangers of life and take due precautions.)

The other important verses are translated below:

Discriminatory wisdom controls thought and conduct from becoming wayward and keep them away from evil; it directs them towards the good. (422)

The wise foresee the coming events; the fools do not know what is before them. (427)

As the wise are forewarned about danger, they are safe against sudden shocks and thus escape stunning grief. (429)

Wise men speak clearly so as to be understood by all; also they gather the subtle meaning of all that they hear from others. (424)

True knowledge is armour of safety and an invisible fortress that enemies cannot destroy. (421)

Men with discriminatory wisdom have all the possessions in the world; those, who do not have it, have nothing in life. (430)

(To be continued in Chapter 31)


Chapter No.31

Impermanence (Nilaiyaamai)

One great mistake committed by men in the world is to think all things in the world are permanent and everlasting. This very thought is responsible for their attachment to worldly things and their miseries in life. In these ten verses, Thiruvalluvar points out the folly of such thought.

Nillaatha vatRai  Nilaiyina  enRuNarum

pullaRi  vaaNmai  kadai.

Meaning: There is no greater folly than to understand that all transient things are everlasting.

Kooththaattu  avikkuzhaaththu  atRe  perunchelvam;

pOkkum  athuviLiN  thatRu.

Meaning: Great wealth comes to one like a crowd, which assembles to witness a street play. It also vanishes like the dispersal of the crowd at the end of the show.

Since wealth is transient, the Poet advocates its use for lasting good things in life without wasting time. (333)

Having pointed out the impermanent nature of wealth which is most sought after in the world, the Poet talks about the shortness of life and mortality.

NeruNal  uLan  oruvan  indRillai  ennum

Perumai  udiththiv  vulagu

Meaning: The wonder of wonders in the world is that the man whom you saw him alive yesterday, is not there today.

Kudumbai  thaniththozhiyap   puLpaRanth thatRE

Udambodu  uyiridai  Natpu.

Meaning: The bird leaves the shell joyfully and flees away; such is the relationship of the soul with the body.

uRnguvathu  pOlum  saakkaadu  uRangi

vizhippathu  pOlum  piRappu

Meaning: Death is like sleep; birth is just like awakening from sleep.

The man does not know whether he will last the next minute; but his thoughts and plans are more than a million. (337)

The Poet exclaims: “Has the soul no home of its own that it seeks shelter in this worthless body.” (340)

He, therefore, implores men to do good things in life without delay, “before the tongue fails and the last hiccup ceases you.” (335)

About time (days) of life, the Poet says:

The time that seems innocent is actually a relentlessly moving saw, which saws a man’s life day by day. (334)

(To be continued in Chapter 32)


 Chapter No.32

Diseases and Cure ( Marunthu)

Two thousand years ago, when the Allopathic System of modern medical science did not exist in the World, India had good knowledge of medicine; this is proved by this Chapter.

In the context of modern medicine and knowledge gained there from, Allopaths have serious differences with the Indian Systems of Medicine. But here, what Thiruvalluvar talks about are the basic precautions for maintenance of good health and methods to be adopted in treating ailments. To these, I believe, the modern medical man should have least objections.

Let us now what the poet says on the subject:

The Poet has strong views on how diseases occur and what should be done to prevent them. He says:

Marunthena  vEndaavaam  yaakkaikku  arunthiyathu

AtRathu  potRi  uNin.

Meaning: The body does not require any medicine, if food is taken after the previous meal is fully digested.

If one eats moderately, diseases will not occur; they seek only men who eat excessively and who consume food that does not agree with them. (945 & 946)

In accordance with the Indian system of medicines, Thiruvalluvar believes that excess of humours like wind, phlegm and bile causes diseases. (See the verse below).

Mikinum  kuRaiyinum  NOyseyyum  NoolOr

vaLimuthalaa  eNNiya  moondRu.

He then sets some parameters for the physician.

NOynaadi  Noymuthal  Naadi  athu thaNikkum

vaayNaadi  vaayppach  cheyal.

Meaning: Consider the disease, its cause and the means of curing it and set about the cure with precaution.

utRaan  aLavum  piNi  aLavum  kaalamum

katRaan  karuthich  cheyal.

Meaning: Physician should take into account the nature of the patient and of his ailment as also the season when he sets about curing the disease.

(To be continued and concluded in Chapter 33)


Chapter No.33

In Praise of God (Kadavul  Vaazhththu)

This is the very first chapter in Thirukkural. It is normal to seek God’s blessings for one’s creation at the very beginning. Here the poet’s subject is naturally God, the Supreme Brahman. I have chosen to bring it at the end of my exercise for the following reason:

There is a controversy about the very religion to which he belonged. Some people had claimed his allegiance to Jainism and not Hindu religion. One reason for this could be that there is no reference in the Kural to any personal God, such as Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesh, and the three consorts of the Trinity. Most of what the Poet has brought out in all his verses is principles of Dharma which are common to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The absence of reference to personal Gods and Goddesses might have lead to the belief that he might have been a Jain and not a Hindu. I avoided discussing this controversial aspect at the very commencement of the Series. Be he a Jain or Hindu, through this erudite handling of the invocatory chapter, he has proved that all religious thoughts are similar to one another and lead to the same goal.

I do not like to commit the blunder of completely omitting the very first chapter of this great literary marvel.

In ten verses under this first invocatory chapter, the Poet brings out the importance of worshipping God. The words commonly used in these verses are “thaaL and  adi ” which denote the feet (of Lord). He emphasizes the principle of absolute surrender unto Lord, which was preached by Lord Krishna in the Bhagwat Geetha.

In the very first verse the saint poet says that as the word “A’ is the beginning of all alphabets, the primordial Supreme Lord is the beginning of the World. Here, unlike the letter “A”, he conveys a deeper thought that the Supreme Lord is the very beginning of the Universe and is responsible for it; the verse is quoted below:

akaram  muthala    ezhuththeLLaam; aadhi

bhagwan  muthatRE  ulagu.


 katRathanaal  aaya  payanen kol?  vaalaRivan

 natRaaL  thozha ar  enin.                    

Meaning: There is no use in acquiring knowledge, if one does not seek its source, the lotus feet of God, who is the very embodiment of all intelligence and wisdom.

Then the poet says:

Piravik  kadal  neenthuvar ;  neenthaar 

iRaivan  adisEraa  thaar

Meaning: Only those, who take refuge in the feet of God, can cross the ocean of births and deaths.

aRa aazhi  anthaNan  thaal  sErnthaarkkallal

piRa aazhi  neenthal  arithu.

Meaning: Only those who cling steadfastly to the feet of God, the epitome of (ocean of) righteousness, can traverse the worldly seas of sensory pleasures and mundane life.

The other verses convey the following meaning:

Those who take refuge in the lotus feet of Lord will live long on earth. (3)

By clinging to the feet of the Lord who is beyond preferences and aversions, one will never have any  sorrow and insurmountable problems resulting from ‘prarabtha karma”  in life. (4)

The karmic forces of good and evil will not reach those who sincerely pray and praise the Lord. (5)

There is no other method of preventing or overcoming sorrow except to surrender unto the Lord who has no equal or comparison on the earth. (7)

To sum up, in these verses, God is described severally as the possessor of all virtues and intelligence, as the one beyond all preferences and aversions and full of equanimity, as the one who has no equal, the Lord who is the very beginning of this universe, and the one who has eight Gunas (attributes) and the ocean of righteousness (dharma).

Those who worship him, according to Thiruvalluvar, will live long, be freed from the bondage of both good and bad actions in the world, escape from all sorrows and finally reach him.  


Compiler’s (Ramanan’s) End Note:

This exercise is not exhaustive and is only intended to create interest in further reading of the great masterpiece in the literary world. Out of three parts in the original text, the first two parts have 107 chapters; what I have covered here form about one-third.

I have carefully reproduced the original verses in Tamil at appropriate places. If there are mistakes, please do not hesitate to bring them to my notice.

On politics, the Saint Poet has given to rulers several advices on good governance. (I have not covered any one of them here). These advices are universal in character and are applicable even to politicians of today. The third part of the main text dealing with the emotions and feelings of man and woman (lovers), are equally interesting and beautiful.

I hope this humble attempt of mine leads the Internet readers to enjoy and benefit from the wisest of all sayings on the art of living, in the last two thousand of years or more.

 I hope this humble attempt of mine leads the Internet readers to enjoy and benefit from the wisest of all sayings on the art of living, in the last two thousand of years or more.



Selected Bibliography:

1.     Thirukkural: The South India Saiva Sidhdhanta Works, Publishing Society, Tinnevelley Ltd. (July 1935)- Tamil Version

2.     Thirukkural (Parimel Azhkar Uraiyudan): Sakthi Karyalayam, Chennai. - Tamil Version.

3.     Thirukkural by V.V.S.Iyer, Ramakrishan Tapovanam, Tirpparaithurai, Tiruchi Dt.-English Version.

4.     Kural -The Great Book of Thiru-valluvar, by C. Rajagopalachari: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay- English Version.

5.     Valluvar Vachakam by Rajaji: Bharathan Publications (Pvt) Ltd, Chennai - Tamil Version.

6.     Kuralum Geethaiyum by S.P.Ramachandran: Vasu Prasuram, Chennai.- Tamil Version

7.     Thirukkural Uraiththiran, a commemorative number published with Parimelazhagar Urai in 1981. -Sundaramurthy, Thiruppananthal Madam, Tamil Nadu.


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