Pearls of Wisdom

Avvaiyar’s pearls of wisdom - 6

Moothurai - 6

ஆழ அமுக்கி முகக்கினும் ஆழ்கடல்நீர்
நாழி முகவாது நால்நாழி - தோழி
நிதியும் கணவனும் நேர்படினும் தத்தம்
விதியின் பயனே பயன். 19


Azha amukki mugakkinum AzhkadalnIr
nAzhi mugavAdhu nAlnAzhi – thOzhi
nidhiyum kaNavanum nErpadinum thaththam
vithiyin payanE payan - 19

If one submerges a pitcher in the deep waters of the sea, the pitcher can accommodate its measure only and not four times its volume. Likewise, even if a woman begets wealth and a good husband, she can experience (enjoy) only as much, which is the result of her fate (karmA of earlier birth).

The words of this poem appear to address a friend (female companion) and is on an advisory mode. The words entirely reflect a fatalistic view. In effect, the poetess says that even if one has all the wealth, etc., one can only enjoy what one is destined for.

This fatalistic view can be debated with some thoughts from the Gita.

Such statements are very frequently heard, especially if one is in bad times. The karmic theory makes most of us become destiny’s children. The idea by itself could be debated but to no conclusion. It will be wiser to adopt this idea for practising the neutral, dispassionate mind we are all trying to cultivate. Good or bad results of our actions (in life) may be assumed to be a consequence of the past actions and one may condition one’s mind being aware of this. The extended effort would be to surrender these acts to Krishna and our ego-self may be distanced.

But one should not despair when things go wrong.

Even the supporters of fatalistic theories advocate effort and continuous action.

PanchatantrA says that Lakshmi favours zealous men (Fortune favours the brave).

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, scorns idlers who depend on luck, chance and fate.

PanchatantrA’s advice is to brush aside destiny and take efforts with all the might one may garner. If one faces failure, one should find out what went wrong. And more important is that one should take efforts.

A part of a PanchatantrA-story illustrates this:

At a distance from the city of Mahilaropyam (Location: South India), there stood a big tree where many kinds of birds and creatures lived. The big tree provided shade for many travellers. One day, Laghupatanaka (a crow) saw a hunter stealthily creeping towards the tree with nets and lots of rice grain. Laghupatanaka hurried to the other birds and told them not to eat the grains and get caught. The birds stayed away but then came Chitragreeva (the king of doves) with his dove flock, looking for food. Laghupatanaka warned the doves but they did not listen to his words and got caught in the nets.

PanchatantrA quotes that when fate is hostile, one gets into trouble. Nobody is to be blamed, for, when disaster is imminent, a man’s mind is confused and his wits fail him.

But Chitragreeva does not despair.

He tells the doves that when one holds his courage in the face of danger, he can overcome all the obstacles by his intelligence. Smaller units when united, form a strong body similar to how the delicate threads of cotton when woven together into a thick rope become difficult to break. So, the doves fly united with the net and get their freedom.

Mere sulking and shifting blame on destiny will yield only to tiredness.

உடன்பிறந்தார் சுற்றத்தார் என்றிருக்க வேண்டா
உடன்பிறந்தே கொல்லும் வியாதி - உடன் பிறவா
மாமலையில் உள்ள மருந்தே பிணிதீர்க்கும்
அம்மருந்து போல்வாரும் உண்டு. 20

 
udanpiranthAr suttrathAr endrirukka vENdA
udanpiranthE kollum vyathi - udan piravA
mAmalaiyil uLLa marunthE piNithIrkkum
ammarunthu pOlvArum uNdu


Disease, which is inherent in the body since birth, stays and kills the body. The medicine for cure can be found only in the big mountain (which is not born with anybody/which has no birth and death). Likewise, one may not consider that those they are born with (brothers, sisters) are near and dear (one may not think that they will only do good). There are others (who are not blood relatives like brothers and sisters) who could be of good help.

AvvaiyAr’s words bring about two strong interpretations.

One is straight forward - Brothers and sisters need not be the ones who may help. On the contrary, they might stay with you and cause your downfall. There could be others (who are not relatives) who might provide great help. Friends are indicated here.

The other interpretation: One is born with the effects of previous birth. “The cure for this lies in the big mountain…” brings a metaphor that the lord of the mountain (Shiva and other gods?) only can cure this disease of birth (and death cycle). Likewise, help may be expected of others rather than the close brethren …….

Let us establish few advisory words from these verses….

Though destiny brings what we deserve, we should not despair if it is bad.

One should continue actions dispassionately.

One need not depend on his brothers and sisters for help. Help can be from elsewhere.

We may even extend the dispassion towards brothers and sisters also. Jean Paul Sartre’s words can add strength to our spirits… “Man can will nothing unless he realises that he is all alone in this world…”

We are all alone but together. Are we?

Let us ponder here for a while …….

 

Rajoo Balaji

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

Jul 27, 2010
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