Monday, January 14, 2019

The Blame Game

Edhilar kutrampol tan kutram kaangir pin theethundo mannum uyirku - Thirukkural

If you could see your faults in the same way as you see others', you will be safe from evil - Loose translation

I think that there is a problem of mental orientation when it comes to Tiru. Like I have had occasion to muse before, maybe it is that the people of his day all suffered from the same problem.

You see, when Tiru says that seeing your faults in the same manner as you see those of others will keep you safe from evil, there is a problem of exactly what evil he is talking about. What do you think of immediately? Yes, right, you are thinking of the evil that others can do to you and wondering how this attitude will keep you safe from that.

It is like saying that, if you are involve in an automobile collision, you should see that you turned right without indicating the turn and that was as much a problem as the other guy traveling on the right lane when he wanted to go straight. And you should not barge out of the car screaming, "Dimaag hai ki nahin. Seedha jaanaa thaa tho is lane mein kyon aa rahe ho?" ('Do you have any brains? If you wanted to go straight, why were you driving on this lane?'). Instead, you should admit, "I should have indicated a right turn. And you should not have been traveling in this lane." And THAT will keep you safe from evil? Fat chance!

But then, what Tiru sees as evil is, you see, a totally different thing. He is talking of a mental state of virtue. Of YOUR mind being free from evil, free from anger, hatred, greed and the likes. He talks of your ability to see your own faults with the same clear eye as you see those of others as a remedy for feeling superior to OR angry with others for their faults; as a barrier against unreasoning hatred, since hatred arises when you see your 'pure and innocent self' assaulted by vicious others; and as the first step to redressing your own shortcomings.

See what I mean? The chap, and possibly the people of his period, actually seem to think that the evil that you need to cure is the one within you. When any sane modern person can tell you that the only important thing is to ward off the evil that others can do to you.

After all, ALL the evil in the world is caused only by other people!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Holiness?

Vaanuyar thotram evanseyyum thannenjam thaan ari kuttrappadin - Thirukkural

What's the use of acting and appearing holy when your mind dwells on what you know is sinful? - Loose translation

There are times when one truly despairs of Tiru. I mean, yes, he lived in a different age and all that but, really, were people not more interested in appearances than in the truth, even then?

Take this one for example. If a man is steeped in sin in his mind, Tiru would have it that it is no use to appear like a holy man. When everyone knows that, in modern India, appearing like a holy man is exactly what has helped so many people to actually be able to indulge in their sins. To the extent that the holy men, who actually ARE holy in and out, are now being tarred with the same brush. And Tiru would have it that it is no use to appear holy if you are really a sinner in your mind.

But, then, perhaps he was not talking of 'usefulness' so much in terms of what you can get out of it. Maybe what he was talking about of is that a external acts of virtue, when the mind steeped in sin, would be useless in actually MAKING you virtuous. Maybe, in those weird old days, people were really concerned about whether they were really moral and virtuous people. If so, things have changed rather radically since then.

First, we said - in the metaphor of Christianity - "'Though shalt not get caught' is the only commandment', thereby ensuring that power and/or cleverness is all there was to morality. Then, we expanded the ambit of the only morality we respected by converting it to 'Though shalt not be caught AND legally or morally convicted' which essentially meant that you are moral as long as you are caught but your crime is not proven OR your crime is legally proven but you are not caught. Either way, you are still good.

Then, of course, we realized the essential stupidity of adding 'morally convicted' when the whole of morality is a question decided based on whether you are caught and legally convicted. After all, as long as there is wiggle room, there will always be people who will believe and vehemently uphold your innocence, especially if you are rich and/or powerful. So, of course, we binned that too.

So, yes, it is rather cruel to be blaming Tiru for it. His advice was probably good for his times, when people still wanted to BE moral themselves. It is dated nowadays, now that we have decided that we are as good as we have made the world think us to be.

Even if we have to buy or beat that opinion out of those who cohabit this planet with us!