TAMIL POET VALLUVAR AND WESTERN THINKERS ON RIGHT CONDUCT (Post.4914)

TAMIL POET VALLUVAR AND WESTERN THINKERS ON RIGHT CONDUCT (Post.4914)

 

WRITTEN by London Swaminathan 

 

Date: 14 April 2018

 

Time uploaded in London –  20-31 (British Summer Time)

 

Post No. 4914

 

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The greatest of the ancient Tamil poets, Tiruvalluvar had composed ten verses on right conduct or discipline. As it is the main topic in religious scriptures, we have lot of verses in religious books. But by comparing the verses with other western poets we learn that great men think alike irrespective of the race, religion and geographical location.

 

Let us compare a few verses: –

Right conduct makes one great; hence right conduct is greater than life (Tirukkural 131).

Mathew Arnold said,

Conduct is three fourths of life and its largest concern.

Dr S M Diaz, I G of Police in Tamil Nadu says,

“And that is precisely why in the National Police Academy at Hyderabad where officers of the Indian Police Service at all levels are trained, I had prominently placed the following inscription: –

No Niagara is ever turned into light and power

Until it is tunnelled and confined

No life ever grows great until It is Focussed,

Dedicated and Disciplined

According to Plato, what is to be feared in life is disgrace and not death.

 

Tiruvalluvar, author of Tirukkural says elsewhere,

Hair lost, the yak lives not.

Honour lost, noble men leave their life (Kural 969)

 

Noble men do not outlive loss of honour. The world hails their glory (970).

 

xxx

 

In another couplet, Valluvar says

Right conduct is true nobility;

The absence of it is just ignoble (Kural 133)

 

The great French dramatist Moliere said that ‘Virtue is the first title of Nobility’, while Benson and Forster would rate ‘sincerity’ and considerateness’ as the determinants of true aristocracy.

 

In Kural/couplet 134, Valluvar says,

The Brahmin who has forgotten his scriptures could read them up again;

But if he neglects right conduct he will lose his birth-right.

 

This couplet in fact is an amplification of the previous Kural 133, Moliere’s statement that ‘Birth is nothing where virtues is not” is relevant here.

S M Diaz, has given lot of comparisons from The Bible (Proverbs) for every couplet in this chapter.

 

In the couplet 140, Valluvar says

Even men of learning will be as ignorant as men,

If they do not live in tune with the world.

 

The following passage from Lord Chesterfield could be considered a felicitous alternative translation of this Kural:

“A man of the best parts and the greatest learning, if he does not know the world by his own experience and obligation, will be very absurd and consequently very unwelcome in company”.

What Indian Scholars say about conduct?

It may be sandal paste, incense or water lily or jasmine. The fragrance of good conduct has nothing superior to such perfumes – Dhammapada 4-12

 

As one acts according to one’s conduct. so does he become.

The doer of good becomes good; of evil, evil.

One become virtuous by virtuous acts.

-Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad 4.4.4

 

Do nothing to others which, if done to you , would cause you pain;  this is the sum of polity.

–Mahabharata, 5-1517

 

Forget not the good done to you;

Despise evil friends

Give not false evidence

And depart not from the truth.

Fail not to join the assembly of the learned,

Strive always to escape from the company of the lawless;

Abstain from others’ wives

Help the dying.

-Tamil Epic Silappadikaram

Conduct renders a man virtuous, a coward or her, transmuting purity into purity.

Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 108

 

Source books: Tirukkural Translation by S M Diaz

The Golden Treasury of Indian Quotations R N Saletore

–Subham–

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