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!

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