Pearls of Wisdom

Avvaiyar’s Pearls of Wisdom - 11

Moothurai - 11

 

சந்தன மென்குறடு தான்தேய்ந்த காலத்தும்
கந்தம் குறைபடா (து;) ஆதலால் - தம்தம்
தனம்சிறியர் ஆயினும் தார்வேந்தர் கேட்டால்
மனம்சிறியர் ஆவரோ மற்று. 28


chandana menkuradu thAnthEntha kAlaththum
kandham kuraipadA AthalAl – thamtham
danamsiriyar Ayinum thArvEndhar kEttAl
manam siriyar avarO mattru 28

The soft sandalwood piece, though worn by rubbing, will not diminish in its good fragrance. Similarly, kings whose wealth is reduced will not become disheartened or mean-minded.

 

Kings who rule over kingdoms with armies and are decorated with garlands, etc., are a symbol of wealth and abundance. They might fall into bad times and lose their position of power and wealth but their generosity does not diminish. There are many legends, historically documented in many poems, describing the generous nature of kings. The kings of Tamilnadu like Pari, Began and KumaNan are examples of this nature. AvvayAr herself has written in praise of a few kings.

The classic story, of course, is that of Karna from the Mahabharata.

Even in the face of death, he donates all that is left including the karmic effect of his good deeds.

Extolling the virtue of generosity, our scriptures say that it is better to serve a rich man though low born, instead of miser who is of high birth. Though the caste factor is brought in, the emphasis is on a donor with a generous character.

Inference: Irrespective of birth, poverty does not belittle a big heart.

மருவினிய சுற்றமும் வான்பொருளும் நல்ல
உருவும் உயர்குலமும் எல்லாம் -திருமடந்தை
ஆகும்போ(து) அவளோடும் ஆகும்; அவள்பிரிந்து
போம்போ(து) அவளோடு (ம்) போம். 29

maruviniya suttramum vAnporuLum nalla
uruvum uyarkulamum ellAm - thirumadanthai
AgumpOdhu avalOdum Agum; avaLpirinthu
pOmpOthu  avaLodum  pOm   29

Dependent (and dependable) sweet relations (friends and relatives), sky-high wealth, good looks and high birth… all these remain as long as Goddess Lakshmi stays. When she leaves, all these also go with her.

This poem, on the face of it, sounds very fatalistic. Life is equated to luck and chance. But if one gives it a thought, it portends the temporal nature of wealth, prosperity and all other associations.

Material wealth accumulates and also dissipates. This is the essential nature of materials in any form. Man, because of his possessive nature, fears the dissipation. If only a man could develop the nature of letting go, it would bring peace to his mind. The karma theory addresses this aspect and goes a step further by even letting go the (results of) actions one may perform.

சாந்தனையும் தீயனவே செய்திடினும் தாம்அவரை
ஆந்தனையும் காப்பர் அறிவுடையோர் - மாந்தர்
குறைக்கும் தனையும் குளிர்நிழலைத் தந்து
மறைக்குமாம் கண்டீர் மரம் 30

chAndhanaiyum thIyanavE saithidinum thAmavarai
Anthanaiyum kAppar arivudaiyOr mAnthar –
kuraikkum thanaiyum kuLirnizhalai thanthu
maraikkumAm kaNdIr maram 30

The trees though cut and shortened by men, will provide cool shade for men. Likewise, the scholarly people will protect even those who might mortally harm them, as much as they are able to.

The essence of this poem is that noble, learned men do good even to those who try to harm them. This might sound quite old-styled in the present-day thinking. But similar idea is reflected by Tirukkural also with “innA seithArai” where Tiruvalluvar says that if one does harm to you, then you make him feel ashamed by doing good unto him.

Whereas Tiruvalluvar looks for an after-effect of shame-feeling, AvvayAr simply observes it as a character of good men. While AvvayAr brings in the element of sacrifice, Tiruvalluvar is more clinical by mentioning the idea, as a maxim.

If we observe these three poems, we can see a thread with a pearl attached.

The first and the last poem bring about the idea of sacrifice while the second (middle) poem shows subtly the karmic dispassion one should practise.

The strong messages that emerge are:

1        Do good, even to those who wish you harm.
2 Do dharma, be charitable and give unto others, whatever state you are in.
3 Have it firm in your mind that wealth and material are temporary.

The trick in all the maxims is that one should let go material as well as the sense of egoism (sense of possession and feeling harmed). This brings us to the old south Indian monkey trick which may be equated to our lives.

To catch monkeys, hunters employ this trick.

They empty out a coconut shell by making a small opening over the dark markings on the shell. Then with a small scalpel, the coconut pulp is shredded out. The shavings are mixed with sugar and some portion is put back into the shell. The hunters then leave the shell near to trees where the monkeys frequently move about. The monkey comes and attracted by the smell, inserts its hand into the shell-hole and clutches a handful of the coconut-sugar mixture. But now, it cannot remove the fisted hand from the coconut. The monkey struggles to free its hand and jumps about with the hand caught in the coconut shell. By then the hunters come and catch the monkey.

If only the monkey had let go the sugared shavings, its hand would have been free.

If only we let go our desires…

(Concluded)

 

Revised from earlier version published in ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’

A note from the author:

We all must have read and will read some literature again and again. Some write-ups always appear relevant, at whatever stage of our life we read them. Some would mean the same while some would give a very different meaning. This is because their meanings are only a reflection of our maturity. And then, there are some writings which are refreshing whenever we read them.

The writings of Avvaiyar are meaningful for any age group, refreshing and strikingly inspirational. One of the primary reasons for this is the brevity of the ideas and the compilation. This short Moothurai collection is proof enough for her ‘brilliance in brevity’.

I bow in reverence to Avvaiyar and to all of you who have partaken of these reflections on her pearls of wisdom.

Oct 11, 2010
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Rajoo Balaji

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