Monday, January 28, 2019

The unhealing hurt

Theeyinal sutta pun ullaarum aaraadhe naavinaal sutta vadu - Thirukkural

The body heals from the burns caused by fire; the mind, when burnt by words, does not - Loose translation

This one, I am sure, Tiru wrote after a heated argument with Vasuki. I mean, after hearing from her about how he hurt her by what he said twenty years back about her sambar, how he derided her dress eleven years back and so on and so forth, he must have been convinced that the hurt caused by words linger forever while burns heal sooner or later.

But, then, is it not really true of everyone? The male sex may not be able to pull it out like that in an argument but is it really because the wounds have healed or is it just that the data retrieval jams at crucial times? Or is it just that ideas differ on what is truly hurtful and what is not?

Be that as it may, I know very few people who do not have a few hurtful incidents which they cannot get over all through their life. The wounds seep blood every time they are reminded of it. AND, you know what, MOST of those incidents have to do with words, not action.

For once, Tiru got it spot on. But, then, in THIS case that mental orientation thing does not get in the way. Here he is talking of the hurt YOU feel and THAT is something that we all vibe with. We prefer to think of ourselves and our own well-being, so when he talks of THAT, he can never get outdated. It is when he seems to think that we need to consider moralities or other people that he sounds quaint.

But then, maybe, what he was saying here is YOU should be careful not to cause OTHERS hurt with YOUR words.

Let us give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was only talking about how others should not hurt you with THEIR words. Can't have the poor chap feel all depressed about failing to strike a chord every single time!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sweet speech?

Allavai theya aram perugum nallavai naadi iniya solin - Thirukkural

If speech be sweet, motivated by good intentions, your vices diminish and virtues flourish - Loose translation

Aha! At last. This is one of Tiru's sayings which vibes with the modern world. Flattery gets you everywhere as we all know. I mean, what earns you more friends on Social Media than 'Likes', 'Shares' and praise in comments, all of which is the modern equivalent of 'sweet speech'? Perhaps, Tiru is not totally outdated, after all.

But...wait! What exactly did the chap mean when he said 'motivated by good intentions'? I mean, yeah, I go wholesale praising people all over facebook and Instagram because I want them to come back to do the same to me. Does that count as 'good intentions' and will that diminish my vices and allow my virtues to flourish?

Knowing Tiru, I am afraid not. The chap probably knocked off flattery with that phrase, counting any intent for back-scratching as a 'bad intention'. For that chap, the only good intentions that would probably count are ones that benefit THAT other guy who is getting praised, or society or some such thing. Really, he is harder taskmaster than any boss of mine ever was.

So, yes, Tiru actually wants me to be a sweet spoken chap for the sake of the happiness of others. Yeah, if I were careful with my words, using them only to benefit others or make them happy, obviously I would really have no bandwidth to indulge in any vices. I mean, come on, is it possible for you to simultaneously want the happiness of the other guy AND stab him in the back? Really, how self-deluded could you be to think that poking around a knife between the shoulder blades is calculated to make him happy?

Got to agree with Tiru there...that WOULD diminish vices and allow virtues to flourish all right. Which of you is aiming for it, now? You can practice it on me.

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


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!