Moothurai - 4
கவையாகிக் கொம்பாகிக் காட்டகத்தே நிற்கும்
அவையல்ல நல்ல மரங்கள் - அவைநடுவே
நீட்டோலை வாசியா நின்றான் குறிப்பறிய
மாட்டாதவன் நன்மரம். 13
kavaiyagi kombagi kAttagaththE nirkum
avaiyalla nalla marangaL – avainaduvE
nIttOlai vAsiyA ninDrAn kurippariya
mAttAdhavan nanmaram - 13
Trees with branches and twigs that grow in the forest are not the real trees. That person who stands in front of an audience (sabha) unable to read the given script (palm leaf used for writing in olden days) is truly a tree.
The poet brings out the importance of being literate. Though endowed with intellect, a man truly is a tree if he is not literate. Of all the wealth that man possesses, knowledge is the greatest. Ignorance is the severest punishment a man can beget. Being given an intellect, man should use this and improve his status by educating himself.
“kattrArkku cendra idamellAm sirappu” The learned are respected, wherever they go.
கான மயிலாடக் கண்டிருந்த வான்கோழி
தானும் அதுவாகப் பாவித்துத் - தானும் தன்
பொல்லாச் சிறகைவிரித்(து) ஆடினால் போலுமே
கல்லாதான் கற்ற கவி. 14
gAn mayilAda kaNdirundha vAnkOzhi
thAnum aduvAga bAviththu – thAnum than
pollA siragai viriththu AdinAl pOlumE
KallAdhAn kattra kalvi - 14
Watching the peacock dancing with the plume in the forest, the turkey also danced, imitating the peacock. This can be compared to the poetic speech of the illiterate.
Many portray an image of a scholar by quoting phrases learnt from here and there. Their knowledge and understanding will be shallow. But they try to portray an image of a learned man. But one can never equate the knowledge of the real learned man.
AvvaiyAr brings out the importance of literacy and gets critical of the intellectual hypocrisy.
Two interpretations can be stretched from these lines…
To act knowledgeable is an act which we all put up. This hypocrisy should be cut asunder. One should accept in all trueness, what one is aware of. However small the matter could be, one should not put up a show that he is knowledgeable because this act is going to be as unimpressive as the dance of the turkey. In simple words, he shall be exposed soon. This is applicable to one and all.
Another viewpoint could be for those who are educated, knowledgeable and intellectually aware. Danger for these persons lies in the pride due to the knowledge they have acquired. This harm is projected in many great writings, including the Gita. The culmination of all knowledge is in its ultimate sacrifice by dissemination or by developing humility.
We must work to bring humility in our character as there is never a stage when we could have learnt enough. This is brought about in the lines “kattradhu kaimaNNaLavu, kallAdhathu ulagaLavu” (what is learnt amounts to a handful of sand while what remains is the rest of the world).
The purposelessness of pride filled knowledge is brought out in the following story…
A learned scholar visits Sri Ramakrishna. He exhibits his knowledge of the texts and scriptures and tells Ramakrishna that he has gained great yogic powers with his knowledge and meditation. His powers are such that he can walk on water and cross the river. Sri Ramakrishna replied, “Why waste all the yoga for this? If you give an anna or two to the boatman, he will ferry you across the river.”
The next verse is on helping the wicked or rather the unworthy. This has a lot of significance for present day life.
வேங்கை வரிப்புலிநோய் தீர்த்த விடகாரி
ஆங்கதனுக்(கு) ஆகாரம் ஆனால்போல் - பாங்கறியாப்
புல்லறி வாளர்க்குச் செய்த உபகாரம்
கல்லின்மேல் இட்ட கலம். 15
vEngai varippulinOy thIrththa vidakAri
Angadhanukku AgAram AnAlpOl – pAngariyap
pullari vALarku saidha upagAram
kallinmEl itta kalam - 15
A vaid (medicine man) cured the striped tiger of its fever but he became the food for the tiger. Likewise, help extended to the mean/cheap-minded will be equivalent to putting a mud pot (forcefully) on a boulder.
AvvaiyAr brings two examples herein. The first one is from the PanchatantrA where the example is straight forward: Helping the unworthy can be dangerous to the helper.
The poet extends another not-so-direct example. In the second example of placing the pot on the boulder, it is implied that if one tries to take help from the unworthy (whom one has helped expecting a return help) not only the help will be unavailable but also that it might turn to be the cause of destruction.
The mud pot represents the weak moment in one’s life and if one wants to forcibly offload this weight on to someone (thinking he would support) the result is destruction.
Everyone will have a story to tell on these lines of ingratitude.
So then, who is a worthy man? A man who does not forsake the path of righteousness even in times of calamity is a worthy man. A man who is grateful to another who has helped him when he was in need is a worthy man.
Righteousness is not only the scripture-ordained dharma but also the duty bound action one should perform. Karna’s life is a paradigm of righteousness and gratitude. He could have survived and won riches. He could have cleansed the disrepute which was stuck to his name. He could have easily been part of the winning team. But he chose to remain with Duryodana (who had supported Karna in his bad times) though he was vicious in nature. He also fought the war which was to be his nemesis.
Righteousness lay in the grateful nature and duty in performing an action for the sake of the action (in this case the battle).
Let us ponder here for a while…
Revised from earlier version published in ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’